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back in the dojo

injuredthe last year has been difficult for me due to other areas of my life pulling attention away from my kenpo adventures.  last september i took a pastorate position an hour away from my home in addition to my regular full-time job.  it was a challenge to work about 80 hours a week and still stay focused on kenpo.

then i started dealing with some health issues that needed to be ironed out and it didn’t allow me to get in and “bang” the way i had become accustomed.  it also slowed down how much kenpo i could do without putting undo stress on myself.

i had surgery in july to fix the issues and recovery is still ongoing, but with clearance from my doctor, i was able to don the gi and belt and take to the mat.  so yesterday i was back in the dojo and working techniques.  it felt good.  rusty, but good.

i was amused to see the last three months off due to surgery and recovery didn’t clear my mind much, though.  i had plenty of opportunities to hear my instructor, Mr Jenkins, tell us what to do only to (re)discover my body hears, but does not obey.

“the jab comes in and you pat it down.  when the cross comes in, parry the punch while moving up the circle and follow it with a backfist with the other hand to the bicep.”

rhinoand like a stumbling rhino i don’t do anything remotely close to that.  it’s as if i had never used these long stick things hanging from my shoulders before.  i think they’re called arms.  i’d like to say their faulty, but i think it was my sub-processor that was having the problems.  it reminded me of my early days in kenpo when i was continually being told …

“no, your other left.”

*sigh*

my goal is to be that student that hears, anxiously absorbs, and repeats the given instruction.  but i think i inadvertently find myself being a source of amusement to my instructor.  that’s not my intent, but the result, nevertheless.  it does help in keeping a humble spirit while attempting to learn.

it makes me laugh to realize my pledge for my next rank includes the line, “… to learn the skills of a teacher which will enable me to teach my skills … ,”  but my skills, by my own opinion, are junked-up.  my skills.  MY skills.  HA!

edparkerthat’s why the pledge goes on to say, “… in the prescribed manner outlined by Mr Ed Parker.”  i just have to make sure to concentrate on how he taught and not how i learn.

i found the picture on the left and it just seemed to encapsulate how i think Mr Parker would look from heaven as he’s watching me attempt to learn his art — amused.

but i am learning.  i realize that.  it may take me longer to recognize my left from my right.  it might be some additional weeks before i understand what some terms mean not just in my mind, but my body’s reaction to the instruction.  it might take me months longer than most to attain my next belt.  but i persevere.  if anything, to prove to myself that i can do this.  i can learn.

it was a good night.  it felt like old times.  good to bang on my fellow students and to be banged on.  this morning wasn’t too bad.  a twinge here and there, but not enough to reach for the kenpo kandy.  i’m sure next week will be much different.

but i’m back!!

— chunky ninja

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happy 2nd bloggy birthday!

2nd-birthdayCHUNKY NINJA turns two today.  it’s been a fun two years of blogging and seeing just how goofy it is for an old, fat guy to try to learn a martial art.  i’m sure the blog has amused a few, but not near as many as those who have actually seen my version of the “art”. i’m sure somewhere up above Mr Parker is slowly shaking his head and saying to the angels, “that’s not quite how i had intended American Kenpo to look … bless his heart.”

so what’s happened during the two years?  well, let’s take a brief look …

when i started this blog i was preparing for my yellow belt test. just a couple of weeks before that yellow belt test the famed Kenpo Garage began.  my classmate and KG cohort, Vince, asked if i wanted/needed to do some extra work outs prepping for the belt test.  he was being kind because he knew i needed help.  probably more than even he could supply, but he was willing to take on the challenge and see if there was any hope for me.  he quickly discovered there wasn’t, but didn’t give up on me either.

Kenpo Garage in 108 degrees

Kenpo Garage in 108 degrees

i somehow earned my yellow belt it in spite of my deathly fear of having to spar.  when i finally tested my instructor toyed with me like i was a four-year old on the mat reminding me time and again that my hands were down (yes, i still remember the kicks to the head).  that was the first time i heard him say, “my feets loves hair.”  that’s funny if you’re watching it or hearing it.  but i was on the receiving end, though.  it’s funny now, but i felt completely silly then.

i’ve gone from bull-rushing everyone in sparring (ironic that i hate sparring and yet rush in to get my brains beat in) to learning to stay back, pace myself, and pick my spots.  my kicks were described as tragically sucking.  they’ve been upgraded to bad and now to “not pretty, but useful”.  trust me, those are improvements.

over the last 18 months i’ve met lots of great people involved in Kenpo including Mr John Sepulveda, Mr Tommy Burks, Mr Damien Wilson, Mr John Guzman, Ms Oscar Steele, and Mr Sam Bowley.  there are many more, but those were the ones that stand out in my mind as having taken some time to teach and help me learn this great art.

blue-beltand lastly, during the last two years i’ve proceeded from white belt to yellow to orange to purple and finally to blue (last night’s promotion).  each level challenges me both mentally and physically.  i haven’t lost much weight since i very first began kenpo, but where i’ve lost fat i’ve gained muscle.  i’m more solid with some fluffy (viking fat, as vince calls it).

with each class, i feel my age more and more.  i’m closing in on my 48th birthday.  having never done any martial art training before in my life and then starting at 45 i’d say i’m doing pretty good for myself.

if you’re new to my blog, let me encourage you to go back into the archives and pull out some random posts.  a couple of great blogs to read would be the kenpo garage and ketchup, please, both from September 2011.  yes, i was that bad. i’ve try to be realistic with myself and keep it lighthearted along the way.

i’m hoping the next year of chunky ninja’s obtuse corner of the interweb is still entertaining the masses while demonstrating a continual progression of improvement for those who never give up on a dream.

— chunky ninja

. . . . . . . . (yes, that’s the title)

ee-flat-linethe blog title pretty much summed up last night’s class for me.  i got there early, stretched, went through a couple of forms and sets to help focus, and recited my sayings to further ingrain them in my mind.  you see, i’ve been preparing for a belt test … one that has been hinted at for a several weeks now.  i felt ready for whatever the class would bring.  BUT instead of a belt test, the test yesterday more resembled an electroencephalograph to which i flat-lined.

we started class with some cardio.  maybe that was my problem.  somehow i physically exhausted my brain.

then we moved on to some sparring (yea, my favorite [sarcasm freely inserted]).  i felt like i was doing pretty good.  mr jenkins made some comments that were positive and encouraging, as well as, interjecting some advice along the way.  it was a learning session, not a fight for your life (well, that’s how it looks when i do it) session.

then vince and i knocked gloves.  he said i was heavy legged.  he said i was heavy-handed.  he said i lacked control.  and on some of those accounts, i think he’s right.  in fairness though, he got in a great shot to my ribs that took my breath and landed a solid left hook to my noggin. (psst, i didn’t complain. matter of fact, i told him they were good shots.)

it’s possible that i fight him differently than i do the others in class.  either way, i do need to re-evaluate my thoughts, intents, and actions against him and every other opponent.  he even called me this morning to thank me for giving him a black eye.

eye-lashesi have this tendency to follow a fighter when they turn away.  it’s bad.  it’s dirty.  i shouldn’t do it.  and i’m going to make a conscience effort to quit doing that.  but on one of those where he turned his back and moved away, i followed and tapped him in the face when he turned towards me.  he said, “dude, i don’t know how you did it, but you pushed my eyelashes into my eye and now i have black eye.”  i blame the eyelashes, not my ridiculously bad sparring abilities.

in all seriousness, i did tell him that if i’m kicking too hard to stop the fight.  make me verbally acknowledge that i’m hearing what he’s saying.  otherwise if done while we’re still going at it my mouth may say, “ok” while brain doesn’t listen.  kinda like when you tell your kid to take out the trash while he’s in the middle of watching tv and you get the “ok, in a minute” response knowing full well it didn’t really register.

exhaustedby the time sparring was done, so was i.  between cardio to begin with and then sparring … i was physically exhausted.

then we went through some forms and sets.  all refresher stuff.  that means, in theory, i know the ones we were asked to do.  or so i thought.  brain-dead.  coördination set was the first one that i blanked on.  i’d get half way through and just forget where i was at.  my focus was gone.  i probably needed to be standing in the back sucking a gallon of gatorade.  instead, i’m out there looking like a walrus on skates and forcing my fellow purple belt to go through it over and over and over and over because my brain had checked out 20 minutes prior.  i felt so bad for him and completely embarrassed for myself.

“let’s work on some of your techniques,” mr jenkins announced.

rex-kwon-dothe technique line was fine as long as he called out which technique he wanted.  i performed them relatively well.  then he changed it up and announced a type of attack and told us we could do any techniques we wanted or improvise.  *sigh*  i can’t even begin to tell you how foolish i looked.  nothing i did looked like a complete technique, but they all ended up with the attacker on the ground.  i would start with a technique and then just grab and sling them to the ground.  not good.

i was talking to vince yesterday morning about the upcoming test that we all know is coming.  when i was about to test for purple i knew it was coming, but didn’t feel ready for it AT ALL.  i felt i needed another month or two.  i wasn’t comfortable.  i didn’t think i was ready for it, but he tested me anyway and i passed.

now for my blue belt test that is upcoming, i’ve felt ‘ready’ for the last three or four weeks.  BUT between the last two week’s classes, i’ve felt completely lost out on the mat and realize i’m not ready.  not by a long shot.  so now i’m hoping the test is at least another three or four weeks out so i can refocus on what i need to be doing.

humble

yes, please. may i have another?

it frustrates me when i deal with people who act as if they’re brain-dead.  last night, however, the EEG on me was __________________

maybe next time i’ll be a lot more understanding when others have their moments.  if not, then i hope someone reminds me of last night’s class.  i got a big, heaping dose of humility dumped over the top of my head.

time for me to get back to work.

— chunky ninja

ps … i lost 3.2 pounds during the workout … probably all to be regained today.

happy bloggy birthday!

it’s been one year … officially.  it’s been one year since this blog began.  the chunky ninja blog turns one today. so happy bloggy birthday to the chunky ninja site!

during this last year you’ve shared my path from white to yellow to orange and now working on purple.  you’ve read how bad my kicks are and how ridiculously silly i am at sparring.  hopefully you’ve been amused at various classroom narratives from my own unique perspective.  you’ve seen glimpses into my relationships with my friends and family.  many of you were encouraging when my son passed away 11 months ago.  we’ve been through a lot over the last year here at the chunky ninja blog stop.

in this past year we’ve had over 1,100 visits.  that’s not much, but then again, i’m not advertising or doing anything extra to get word out.  partly because i’m often as embarrassed of my writing as i am of my “proficiency” in kenpo.  though i know both are improving.

there aren’t many that have actually subscribed to this site, but those who visit return often to see if anything is new.

Kenpo Garage in 108 degrees

a year ago i started kenpo garage and have documented much of my awkward bumblings over the months.  these are my extra work outs away from class.  it was just vince (dude, your kicks suck) in the beginning, but john (it’s all good, bro) joined a few months later.  we get together a couple of times a week aside from our class just to help learn and tweak our techniques.  each session is about two hours long.  sometimes the techniques seem brutal and other times the weather does.  but we haven’t quit and i can personally attest to the extra workouts helping me improve.

during the last year i wrote 43 blogs and have had people from 28 different countries stop in for a visit.  that means my blog is internationally known!  ok, that’s a stretch, but it’s technically true.

since no one is jumping up to stop me, i’m assuming you all want to have some more boring details.  so here are some stats!

  • as i’ve already mentioned the site had 43 blogs in the first year.  not quite one per week, but close on average.
  • over 30,000 words have been written with an average of 704 words per blog.
  • 106 pictures have been used during the last year.  most are found on the al-gore-created world-wide web and used ninja-like (if asked to be removed, i will gladly comply).
  • busiest month was last july with 10 blogs then august with 7.
  • leanest month was a tie between january, february, and march with 1 each.
  • chunky ninja twitter was set up at the same time and had 281 tweets during the last year and dovetails with this site.

my favorite blog(s):

i was really torn on this.  there are two blogs that i really, really liked.  the first is Ketchup Please from september of last year. the other was Woolly Bully from february ’12.  if you missed these, i would recommend them for their amusement quality.  they did, after all, make me giggle.

.

my favorite quote:

i had several that stood out to me, but the one that seems to epitomize my learning process comes from Mid-Month Review Is Late published in december ’11:

Mr Bowley was very gracious and complementary.  he even maintained a straight face when i told him, “but i AM trying” when i was in serious battle [sparring] against his nine-year-old, junior green belt, daughter.

to close this blog post, i want to say a thank you to all who have stumbled across this blog and have been faithful readers.  this site is for my own enjoyment and historical tracking of my foolish adventures into American Kenpo. the fact that you continue to come back confirms its either entertaining or you’re just a sick, sadistic individual who enjoys watching me hurt myself in a wide variety of ways.  🙂

also a special thank you to my instructor and pastor, Mr David Jenkins; my friend and sparring “nemesis”, Mr Sam Bowley; my KG cohorts, Vince and John; and to my beautiful wife who is an extraordinary fighter in her own right with her sarcastic jabs and witty punches.

— chunky ninja

jack of all trades

there’s an old saying: jack of all trades and master of none. i have in NO WAY mastered anything. heck, i even have problems putting on my underwear in the morning (one leg into each of the holes, duh!). but at last night’s Kenpo Garage, we had a couple of white belts from our kenpo class show up. my sister was one of them and she’s been to a half-dozen classes. my 16-year-old nephew was the other and he’s been to one class.

but there i was teaching them some of the basics. foundational stuff. things like proper stance, practicing techniques slow and correct, and how to dummy when someone is doing a technique on them. ok, i have mastered the art of being a dummy. but that’s about it.

while teaching and watching, it reminded me that i was just like them 19 months ago. anxious, clumsy, and eager to learn. only i was probably a lot more awkward than them. yes, i was that goofy. but like john (one of my KG cohorts) and i told them, “we all start there.”

no one is immune to the bafoon-ery of being a first time practitioner of a martial art. some will grasp it quick and look like a pro their second class. but the vast majority will take months or years before things start to ‘click’. i’d like to get mine down to years, but right now i’m on the decade-and-a-half plan.

martial artist: a person who has achieved a proficiency and skill in any of several arts of combat and self-defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.

nineteen months, 44 techniques (haven’t tested for the latest 16 of those, though), a couple of sets, and now learning my third form. so here i am, nearly 47 and trying to become a martial artist. unfortunately for me, my “art” still has a lot of glue and macaroni. i’m not quite a picasso with my hands or feet yet. but i am getting there.

hours before KG my sister went out to eat lunch with my wife and i right after church. when we got home from the restaurant we stood in the driveway and talked about how our pastor/instructor has said repeatedly that he’s always more concerned with the white and yellow belts because they lack control. that was the topic. i’ve known for quite a while that i had very little control, but i’ve also noticed over the last three or four months that i’m developing it. i know, i’m as stunned as you, but it’s true!

anyway, we’re talking and my wife is standing there listening. as i’m trying to explain what i mean by control to my sister, i did one of the stupidest things i’ve ever done in my life. i demonstrated.

i can hear you now, “no, rick, please tell me you didn’t … ” i could tell you that, but i’d be lying. i did it. here’s how it went. i’m explaining how our instructor can throw a crescent kick to the side of someone’s head and stop it a fraction of an inch from someone’s head and then slowly lower it back down. (i’m always scared and impressed when he does it to me.) then i started saying that as we learn control, we should be able to do the same thing with our punches. we should be developing the body control to be able to show power with our moves and yet be able to avoid injuring the other person. (yes, you upper belts are going to LOVE correcting me on this, but it’s how i understand it as of right now.)

my wife is politely standing and listening to all of this because she really has no interest in anything related to kenpo. since i can’t kick high enough (or with enough control) to stop a fraction from someone’s head i threw a punch. at my wife.

let me just interject that i have never and would never, ever hit my wife. i find violence against women both abhorrent and indefensible. i was in full “teaching” mode and just wasn’t thinking the whole thing through. now back to my story.

i snapped my arm out to full extension and my fist … stopped micro-clicks from her chin. she didn’t flinch because she’s thinking the whole time, “my husband loves me and would never hit me.” and i just wasn’t thinking. honestly. i was teaching and felt i had enough control to do that. and i did! but i’ll never do it again.

in hind sight, it was a very foolish and dangerous thing to do. i am learning control. and while i’ve noticed it in all of our KG sessions where we’re showing full power, but without crushing each other, this was my wife. even now i feel a huge weight of guilt for even putting her in that situation. what if i had been off? there wouldn’t have been enough apologies to save the day or my face.

so in the middle of a lesson, i learned a lesson. maybe when i’m a black belt (if i ever make it there) i might consider myself to have enough control, but then it would be to a student with a mouth guard and who is prepared, not to my wife.

i’m so thankful to God that He kept me from doing something so ridiculously stupid and kept me at just moderately stupid. talking to my beautiful mrs well after the fact she never even gave it a thought. she just assumed i had enough control to demonstrate the concept.

yeah, i’m still a “macaroni type” of martial artist. and fortunately for me i did have the control or my wife would make sure i’d be eating dinner through a straw for the next several months.

— chunky ninja

not just weird, but strangely weird

i’m strange.  i know that.  i have these weird little quirks that pop into my head that just aren’t normal for other people.  and that’s one of the things i like most about myself.

i was going for our departmental walk the other day.  our small group goes for a 25 minute walk every work day.  it’s our way of trying to be healthier along with just getting a break from the computer.  sometimes the conversations will be about family, vacations, television.  other days it turns towards work where we can problem solve in a different environment.  there’s no set discussions.  it’s a free for all.

before i get back to the topic from the first paragraph, i must divulge a touch of OCDness that i have.  when we walk, there are form lines in the concrete.  every 10 foot or so, another form line.  there are also parking lines and directional arrows painted on the surface.  for years, and i don’t know how or when it began, but i refuse to step on the “crack” or on any painted part. and you only thought i was mildly bizarre.

anyway, back to paragraph one about this strange little thing i do … when i’m out for our walks, i’ll see a crack coming up ahead of me or maybe a painted arrow for cars to know the direction, and i’ll automatically adjust my stride to make sure i won’t end up stepping on them.  sometimes it’ll be so close that i find myself turning my foot ever so slightly just to make sure my toes don’t accidentally touch the crack.  i do it without thought and have been for years.  i do this so effortlessly that i have to MAKE myself actually step on a crack or paint.  (and for the record, my mom’s already dead, so i’m not worried about her back.)

only recently have i started wondering if any other kenpoists (or any other version of martial artists) have, in the back of their minds, this control of body within the environment they may be placed.  i don’t think others have my weird “don’t step on a crack” mentality, but just the concept of throwing a punch at full power and being able to stop the punch just prior to impact.  another example, and my instructor is very good at this, is throwing a round house kick to someone’s head and stopping it just prior to contact, then slowly lowering it back to the ground.

while i don’t have that kind of control over my punches or my horrid kicks, i can, without thought, walk through our parking lot and avoid those stupid form lines and painted parking lot lines/arrows.  it makes me think that someday i can have more control of my body whether it’s while sparring or teaching techniques to lower belts.

i’d like to think so … or it’s quite possible this is the kind of thing that will land me in a straight jacket someday.

— chunky ninja

flailing wings

it’s the second saturday of the month and that means sparring time. my friend and fellow kenpoist, mr bowley, invited me up again to work out with his students. this time i took my KG buddy, vince. my sister went along, too, but her reason was so she could watch the 10 year olds kick my derriere. what she REALLY said was, “hanging out with my big brother will be nice, but getting to watch kids kick your butt is a bonus.” family. gotta love them.

flailing wings is my “kenpo explanation” for what i call sparring. its generally quickly followed by the techniques: snapping skull and leaking eyeballs. i’m doing the flailing and they’re making me do the other two. i like to think i’ve improved over the last few months and am told by most that its noticeable (i hate you vince). but i’m sure my abilities against the upper belts still brings much laughter to their day. (you’re welcome gentlemen. i do what i can for your amusement.)

but i did not give up. i did not quit. and while i hate sparring, i always come away from these sessions feeling proud of what i was able to learn and do. i can tell a difference from one month to the next and for me, that means i’m learning. i never want to quit learning.

mr bowley’s instructor, mr wilson, came to today’s session. it was an honor to meet mr wilson (black belt). though truth be told my initial response when it was announced he had just pulled up in front of mr bowley’s dojo, was to groan inwardly and sneak back into my car.

he was just another upper belt person to kick my, and i’ll use the official term here, rotundus butticus. and he did. but honestly, we talked a lot after sparring class was over and he’s one of the nicest kenpoists i’ve met. mr bowley hangs with a very good group — mr gonzalez (black belt) last month then mr wilson this month.

between last month and this month i did my best sponge impression. BESIDES soaking in the punches and kicks, i tried to soak in the knowledge that they freely offered. it’s one thing when upper belts have the knowledge. it’s an entirely different aspect when they have the skill to articulate their knowledge in a way that’s understandable and applicable to what i’m trying to learn. these guys are the future old guys of kenpo and they serve their wisdom with a humble friendliness that just made me want to push myself harder. so a special thank you to all three of them.

so now i’m home and my muscles are more tired than my mind. sometimes that’s not saying much, but today it really is. i’m ready to hit the shower, do some light stretching, then take an 8 hour power nap. since it’s mother’s day weekend, i’ll probably have to limit that to an hour or so.

i hate sparring. i’m not sure i’ll ever like it. but i am getting better and i’m glad i went.

— chunky ninja

getting closer

my instructor is out of town this week, but we’re having class anyway with one of the upper belts running it.  i try to never miss and tonight will be no exception.  i’ll be there.  i have to be there.  i have to continue preparing.  there is a belt test looming on my horizon.  and i’m nervous.

when i took my yellow belt test i felt, foolishly in hindsight, overly ready.  i feel just the opposite for the upcoming orange belt test.  i’ve worked and worked on my techniques.  i’ve worked and worked on my forms and even the dad-blasted kicking set (pattern is not a problem, but my kicks are).  i’m working on my sayings, but have the creed down.  and i’m still nervous.

i will add to all of this that part of my nervousness is the sparring for my belt.  i hate fighting.  so why am i doing this?  why bother taking kenpo at all if i hate to fight?  because i enjoy learning how to defend myself.  i know, i know.  sparring will help me better defend myself AND it gives me a barometer of how i’m improving.  i still don’t like it.  honestly, do i have to like it to do it?  i don’t like going to the dentist, but i do because it’s good for me.  and in this case, i don’t like to fight, but sparring will be good for me.

fortunately, or not-so-much (as the case may be), i get to do some sparring this weekend with my instructor/twitter-friend, mr. bowley.  i’m always thankful that he’ll let me come work out with his group.  he’s given me very good pointers that have been beneficial.  he’s patient, works well with his students and also with the lunkheads that drive 60 miles just to prove they drop their hands all the time.  but he also has a black belt coming to this class.

and i feel the pressure mounting.  you would think that being a buffoon for 46 years would make me feel comfortable with humiliation, but there’s just something about appearing foolish that still bothers me.  trust me, i’ve seen my fighting (video from last sparring session) and it’s just downright embarrassing. and i’m sure i’ll have a full course of humiliation at the hands of the 14 year olds as well as mr. bowley and his black belt invitee.

but i’ll be there with a smile, will do my best, and most importantly, i’ll have my ears wide open to absorb every bit of advice, insight, and instruction mr. bowley and the visiting black belt will have for me.  my thinking right now is deflect the attack and absorb the knowledge.

i have to remind myself of a saying my instructor says often:

“if it were easy, everyone would be doing this.”

of course he also says things like, “keep your hands up or you’ll end up on the floor and girls will laugh at you.”  i have the feeling they’d be laughing for one reason or another.  my wife does anyway.

always the counter-encourager she either giggles, rolls her eyes, or throws out off-the-wall comments regarding my attempts at this art.  just the other day while i was getting ready for class she texted me to remind me that my “costume” was in the dryer.  funny, i couldn’t find my cape.

— chunky ninja
(this post wasn’t my funniest, i know.  so to help make sure you don’t feel cheated, the clip below is of my last sparring adventure.)

woolly bully

i’m in the office on friday morning and feeling shame.  why?  well, i’d like to blame it on allergy season, but it may go a bit deeper than that.  i am a bully.  unintentionally (and trust me, it was unintentional) i became one yesterday.

i live in north texas. i’ve been told by reliable sources (people on the internet) that north texas is the allergy capital of the U.S.  i believe them.  so much, that i continue to propagate this “fact” to anyone who will listen.  the typical allergy season in this area lasts about 51 weeks, give or take a day.  usually around January 6th to about the 11th or 12th, i get a reprieve.  you’re probably wondering what this has to do with the price of tea in china.  well, i’m getting to that, so keep your gi on.

the last week or so have been pretty tough for us allergy sufferers. i generally wear contacts because without them my vision is less than stellar.  i’ve been wearing corrective lenses since i was ten and finally moved to contacts about eight years ago.  but there are days/weeks where i just can’t wear them.  my allergies get so bad that my eyes are continually red and oozing a fresh supply of ‘eye juice’.  yeah, i know.  gross.

this was the case this week and OUT came the contacts.  i put on the old coke bottle glasses and wore them to class last night. my glasses didn’t stay on very long as i found myself sweating like crazy and i didn’t have any super glue on the bridge of my nose.  after a hard warm up (for me), we moved into what was supposed to be light sparring.  i’m not light.  and apparently everyone else found out quickly.

before we started sparring, i took off my glasses.  they were NOT going to stay on with all my sweat and then starting to spar … it just wasn’t happening.  so i’m legally blind without them.  and THAT is my first excuse for everything following this paragraph.  i couldn’t see.  i was just moving towards the moving mass of blur before me.

my first opponent in class is a green belt.  big guy.  tall.  ex-football player. his muscles have muscles.  but his achilles heel is located in the front of his foot and they look more like ingrown toenails. severely so.

we begin trading light punches.  he’s being a good sparring partner and making me work.  telling me when i do something good.  at one point he said something like, “come on, keep going” and i moved in.  yep, you guessed it.  i stepped on his foot and he was down for the count.   i didn’t mean to do it, but i did and i felt HORRIBLE.  i seem to always step on my opponents feet.  i always apologize and they always say, “in a real fight, that would be good … but this ain’t real.”  there was some blood, but it eventually stopped. people can survive a pint or two short.

my next opponent is one of my good KG guys.  he’s the one that has super kicks and loves to talk about his modified “thrusting glock” technique.  again, he’s an upper belt and is making me work a bit and i’m starting to get winded.  at one point i threw a kick (yes, a typically bad kick), but somehow i ended up frogging his calf and he crumbled. two fights, two down.

we switch opponents again and i get my other KG buddy.  he’s the one that had a crushed foot and was put out of commission last June/July because i stepped on his foot during some sparring. so we were doing ok.  he didn’t go down.  that wasn’t the object.  he made me work and the only thing i was trying to concentrate on, at this point, was sucking oxygen into this oxygen deprived body.

one of my last opponents was a kid.  he just got his yellow belt.  very full of confidence and a generally nice kid.  i could hear my instructor yelling at him, “he’s a big guy and that can be intimidating, but he’s also old.”  true.  and true.  at one point he goes to throw a left round house kick to my abdomen and i’m throwing a left hook to his ribs about the same time.  he’s close enough that when he bends over to fire off the kick, my gloved hand nails him in the nose.  not hard, but enough to start the blood trickling.

“Great! Now I have guilt!”
— Rex, Toy Story

we had several more fights and my gi was SOAKED.  i can’t remember the last class where i sweated more.  i was exhausted.  over and over, though, my two KG pals kept saying, “dude, you don’t realize how hard you can hit.”  and i don’t.  i swear i wasn’t trying.  i swear i was just trying to tap.  i’m thankful i was wearing sparring gloves.  but i realized at that moment, looking around the dojo and the battered class mates, that i was the class bully and i felt such shame. i wanted to take my glasses back off so i couldn’t see what i had done.

if you’ve read this blog for awhile you’ve probably heard me mention walmart-bill.  bill, one of the nicest brown belts you could possibly meet, hits like a mule even when he tries not to.  he’s been practicing kenpo for about 15 years or so and is in his 70’s now.  i really like bill a lot and value him being in the class.  he loves to help teach and i try to always be a respectful, learning student.  but he doesn’t realize how hard he hits and everyone around him pays for it. and when my fellow students said i was the “new bill”, i knew.

as we went through the line at the end of the class we thank each person.  instead of saying ‘thank you’, i said, “i’m sorry.”  i’ve got to learn control.  and leave it to my KG buddy, vince, to remind me of that as we were passing down the hits to end our session.  he nailed me.  usually the hits are solid, but his had “LEARN” all wrapped behind it.

hopefully i have.  i didn’t intend to be a bully, it just happened.  i’m sorry.

— chunky ninja

this turkey is (over) COOKED

it happens once a year.  we get that special holiday that requires us to gorge ourselves for four straight days.  some people have discipline.  i’m NOT one of those.  i want to be.  i always say to myself, “THIS IS THE YEAR!” and the following Monday with, “THIS is my new diet.”

i’m talking about … thanksgiving.  a time when we come together with those closest to us.  our families, friends, and that strange relative that half the attendees point and whisper, “who is that guy over there?”  and that strange “uncle bill” will drink himself under the table before the Lions have had a chance to lose.

it’s intended to be a time of reflection and giving of thanks.  a time when we can look back at the blessings we’ve received both personally and as a nation.  yet it’s been (as long as i can remember) a time to push as much food into our pie-hole as possible.  it’s been taught to us all our lives.  “EAT, there’s more.”  even the most resilient find it difficult to say “no” to turkey, cornbread dressing, candied sweet potatoes, three-bean casseroles, cranberry sauce, dozens of rolls, dollops of butter, a full gravy boat of creamy goodness, and pumpkin pies with a mile of whip topping to cap off the first go-round.

this year i found myself in the same predicament (for the 46th time in my life).  after all, i didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by telling them ‘no’ when they asked me if i was ready for thirds.  i found myself in desperate need for two or three full heaping helpings of self-control.  but those didn’t look as good on my plate, so i overlooked them in lieu of some more fried turkey and grandma’s homemade coconut cream pie.

one of martial arts key components is discipline.  i’m wondering if that concept will ever take hold within me.  it’s not about others mandating what i can and can’t do.  i have a saying i picked up over the years (a quick google search didn’t find it’s origin either), but have tried to instill it into my kids.  it’s usually about behavior in public or in school, but maybe i need to apply it to my own habitual struggles:

“doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it’s always right.”

it’s about me doing the right thing because it’s right.  doing something because someone is making me do it is not real discipline.  it may be an outward force of discipline, but i’m looking for SELF discipline.

i used to laugh at myself and others who had unusual thanksgiving habits.  one of strangest i’d ever heard (and witnessed first hand) was from my best friend, mike.  he would mound his plate to overflowing.  then he’d eat it all as fast as he could so he could repeat the process.  by this time he’d be pretty full, but somehow knew he could cram more in there.  to do so, he’d grab a couple tablets of alka seltzer to “clear the gas bubbles” for more food.  then he’d manage to eat another plateful or two.  by the time the second Thanksgiving Day football game would start, he’d be ready for dessert.  i recently asked him about this and he said he had long forgotten those days.  somewhere he either developed some self-discipline or realized the public embarrassment of packing food in until you were ready to burst.

my own personal philosophy was, “no pain, no gain. eat until your back hurts.” and that’s just what i did.  i ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate some more.  even after all that i had people coming to me and asking, “you are going back for some more, right?  there’s plenty out there.”  this morning the scale was scary.  let’s just say it’s a setback.

all this to say, i was thankful for the days away from work, but now the real work is ahead of me … losing what i’ve gained and then showing SELF DISCIPLINE for the next holiday.

thanksgiving and christmas are my favorite holidays due to the tremendously good food that’s served.  but i’m realizing it’s time for me to grow up instead of out.  it’s time for me to realize it’s ok to embrace the quirky character of chunky ninja, but not the shape of chunky ninja.

baptist preacher’s often say there’s a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge.  what i want to do is take this concept of self-discipline and move it from head knowledge to gut knowledge.  it would be like eating healthy because self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.  fruits are good, no?

God give me strength.

— chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!