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big wheels keep on turning

my bike

there’s nothing more frustrating than to be in the middle of a sparring session, having your butt handed to you by some kid nearly thirty years younger, and then running out of steam.  unfortunately, that’s the story of my kenpo ability (or inability, as the case may be).

i’m hoping to change that.  a few weeks ago i bought a bike.  my thinking was since i hate running (read: HATE RUNNING!!!!), bicycling may be a good way for me to get my cardio up, lose some weight, and help me last longer in the sparring matches.

not me

but i used to ride bikes all the time.  they say once you learn, you never forget.  similar to kenpo where they say slow to learn, slow to forget.  well, i have not forgotten how to ride!  my rear end has forgotten how uncomfortable the seats can be, but even that is starting to pass with the miles (i’ve logged over 170 in the last three weeks).

Q. what’s funnier than watching an old, fat guy try to learn kenpo?
A. an old, fat guy riding a bike!

i like that i can stop for a break whenever i want to.  i’ll pedal for a few miles then stop. the sweat just start POURING off me and then when i start pedaling again, the breeze makes it feel like i just stepped in front of an air conditioner.  AWESOME!  well, at least for the first 3 or 4 minutes.

i started somewhat small treks … about 5 miles.  then i decided to push myself a bit.  my legs were stronger than i thought, so the problem was more with fatigue from distance or saddle sores.  i pushed myself a bit more the second week.  then i went out of town and everything got out of whack.  but as soon as the dust settled, i was back in the groove.

last friday i went out after work.  it was about 103°F … a typical july day in texas.  i loaded the bike up on the car and went to a local bike trail park.  i knew from where i was starting i could do quite a bit of mileage.  i rode from one park to another via a bike trail connection.

seriously not me

on a side note, i like the bike trails because there are no extreme hills in either direction, so i don’t have to get exhausted climbing mt everest or find myself “cheating” by coasting for five miles either.  they’re pretty level and that allows me to pedal, pedal, pedal. it’s about staying busy with the legs and trying to build some endurance. AND i don’t have idiot drivers running me off the road or screaming obscenities at me because i’m going about 30 miles under the speed limit.

anyway, last friday i hit the trails and went for 9 miles before i took my first five minute break.  from my stopping point i knew i could go to the end of the second park trail and back and it would be another 14 miles.  but could i do it without stopping?  YES.  so my second stop was at 23 miles.  the only thing left was the ride back to the car.  another 9 miles.  i was tired.  my speed (which is not fast to begin with) slowed some, but not as drastic as i thought it might.

i needed this after friday’s ride

for the most part, i stayed very consistent throughout the ride.  about 12.5 miles per hour.  i’m not trying to win any races, just build endurance.  when i pulled up to the car i dug out my iphone and took a look at my bike app … 33.68 miles!  i contemplated turning around and doing another 1.4 just so i could get to 35, but my legs were exhausted and i was desperate need of fluids.

so i walked, stretched, texted the two people who were checking to see if i was alright after being gone for two-and-a-half hours.  then went home.

saturday my legs were TIRED.  no riding.  but today i’m back on the neighborhood streets.  putting in 7-10 miles.  i’m trying to ride about 50-70 miles a week to go along with the three kenpo work outs.

six hours of kenpo a week and 50-70 miles SHOULD help my stamina.  we’ll find out in a few weeks after i’ve gotten accustomed to the routine.

—chunky ninja

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weather or not

the kenpo garage is still a “no-go” for this week.  slowly its returning to its usable [read: tolerably usable] shape, but there is still much to do.  unfortunately, none of the stuff that clutters it is my own.  my daughter, the marine, has been working 60-80 hour weeks and hasn’t had time to really start going through and finding places to hide her stuff.  then there’s the washer and dryer that are in the middle of the KG and not in the middle of craig’s list.  but, in time, it will be back to the KG i need in my life. [side note: need a washer and dryer? contact me!]

it’s easy for me to come up with excuses.  i’ve done it all my life.  food’s too good.  working out is too hard.  trying to do the right thing with both at the same time takes too much discipline.

but i am determined to learn this art.  i often need to give myself a kick in the behind to do what needs to be done.  i let little things like a house that you can’t hardly walk in to prevent me from eating right.  instead, for the last four or five weeks, i’ve been eating a lot of take out.  then i start feeling bad about it and use ice cream to push down those pangs of guilt.

i’m still walking daily.  i’m still running the stairs at work (even though i don’t tweet it all the time).  and i’m still attending my kenpo classes.  it seems, right now, i’m half way in.  and looking at it like that, i’m ready to give myself a good swift kick in the pants.  unfortunately for me, my kicks still suck and it hardly motivates me.

so what DOES motivate me?  cooler weather.  i pushed myself hard during the heat of the summer.  this past summer wasn’t just hot, it was borderline ridiculous.  months with temperatures over 100.  weeks with temperatures in the 107+ area.  several days where it was 112-114.  evening temperatures that would drop into the upper 80’s before skyrocketing back up the next day.  there were even a few days where the temperature never dipped below 90 AT NIGHT!  the folks up north would be dropping over like snowmen in a microwave.

but over the last three weeks or so, cooler temperatures have returned.  i’m LOVING it.  we haven’t turned on the heat in the house yet and i’m not sure when i’ll be ready to.  even my beautiful mrs has gotten used to the cooler temperatures.  what does this have to do with kenpo?  well, nothing other than the fact i should be able to focus more on my training without the fear of dropping dead from heat stroke.  i just have to do it.

this coming thursday will mark one year of my martial arts training.  45 years of nothing and now one year of kenpo.  it’s been a fun ride.  i’m enjoying all i’m learning and have a great desire to continue on.  eventually, i’d like to start teaching it, but that’s years down the road.  so today, on a nice cool day, i’m going to go for a good walk, watch some kenpo videos on youtube, then go through my techniques and forms.  time to move into year two with a fresh, rejuvenated approach … work it!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

funny story (to me, anyway) on the way home from picking up my daughter last night after the high school football team.  no, she’s not a linebacker.  she’s in the color guard.  if you had asked me ten years ago which of my kids would have been on the football field on friday nights i would have gotten it wrong. my son, the six-foot, 230 pound, kid-with-the-golden-arm, opted to stay in baseball only and it’s my daughter (the youngest of the bunch) that is out there marching every friday.

anyway … my son and i picked her up from school and she says, “daddy, i think i’m having growing pains.”

without even blinking my son looks back at her and says, “it’s pronounced, GROIN.”  he cracks me up.

— chunky ninja

the kenpo garage

in the kenpo garage, there is no climate control; just a fan precariously setting on a dusty, old soloflex machine in the corner.  i bought the used soloflex from a friend knowing the bands had lost some of their elasticity and never got around to using it.  but it’s still out there taunting me.

“hey, do you remember me?  you got me so you could get in shape.  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!”

the two car garage hasn’t been used for it’s original purpose in nearly five years.  years ago after my parents passed away, their belongings were moved from a storage shelter to my place.  the two car garage was packed from wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling.  it took us months to go through it all and decide what really needed to be kept.  shortly after we finished that process my daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter moved in with us.  the garage had long since lost it’s identity and became a storage/junk container.  add another grandchild living with us and some more junk.  then my son’s van engine went out and the old block (cherry picker and all) took up residence in the garage.  it looked sad.

then one day my kids got a place of their own!  four people moved out of the house.  we got a new engine and the old one was given in trade.  a little bit of cleaning and de-cluttering and i finally had some room out there again.  not much, but enough to work out and potentially use my heavy bag.

when the belt tests were coming up this past july some of us wanted to do some extra work to try and prepare.  i volunteered my partially cleaned up garage.  during july we had only ONE day where the high temperature didn’t break 100.  that was on the first and it still reached 99.  i had originally named it the sweat box, but the name has been officially changed.

sunday night the door was opened, the fan cranked to high, and the Kenpo Garage was in use for a couple of hours.  aside from myself, vince is the only other consistent member.  i’ve had others stop by, and they’re always welcome, but sometimes life just doesn’t make time for our hobbies.  it helps that vince is a belt level above mine and he knows what i NEED to learn.  so true to course, we went through my forms as a warm up.  we then proceeded to all of our techniques (28 for me and 44 for him).  and lastly we spent a lot of time on my weakest part of this art … my kicks.

i’ve said all along they were weak.  i’ve said all along that my kicking looked goofy.  so this weekend we spent a lot of time going through my kicks.  what he discovered was exactly what i already knew.

i started working on the kicking set.  after he finished giggling and pointing he said, “dude, your kicks suck.”

thanks, vince.  while tact may not be his best asset, i really do value the honesty behind it.  fortunately for me, vince is a good friend and good friends can tell you the truth.  and a really good friend will do what they can to help you.  i may not ever be a great kicker, but there is room for improvement and we spent a lot of time working on that.

my favorite little drill he had me doing was standing facing an old grill that’s just a bit taller than my waist.  feet spread shoulder-width apart.  i’d do a deep squat and come up with a crescent kick over the grill.  after just a few i could feel the leg muscles starting to whine.  but with the flames whipping up from the white-hot coals i didn’t dare get lazy on swinging the leg over.  i had no desire to become grilled chicken.  the hotter the coals got, the higher i kicked.

i’m just kidding … we didn’t light the grill, but i’m sure it would have given me greater “encouragement” to kick higher.  i only hit the grill once (stupid handle).  we did a bunch of other kicking drills and i’ve definitely got my work cut out for me.  i don’t mind work as long as i can see improvement.  the next person i want to see improvement will be my instructor.

tonight’s kenpo night and i’m looking forward to it.  i always do.  my finger is still jacked up and i can’t make a fist.  i probably should get to a doctor and have them x-ray it.  but my free time has had a strangle hold and it will be sometime later this week before i can make my way to the doc.

so maybe tonight we’ll work on kicking.  who knows … maybe i’ve improved.

— chunky ninja

walmart bill and other thoughts

before i get into the blog below, let me encourage you, my extraordinary readers, to subscribe to this site by entering your email address on the right, and confirming the email that will be sent to you.  it’s free, hopefully entertaining enough to justify the subscription, and i promise not to bombard you with 17 posts per day.  it’s usually just one or two per week.  now onto today’s scatter shooting …

i spent last night in the “kenpo garage” … it used to be the sweat box, but the new name sounded cooler.  i just wish the garage was.  these 100+ degree days in texas can be brutal.  the garage is always about 5-10 degrees warmer.  sweating is not a chore.  it comes as natural as breathing.  we had four last night and spent a good chunk of time working with one of our newest white belts (same body shape as me, so he was sweating, too!).  he’s coming along great.  but watching him reminds me of me and forces me to re-think all that i’m doing.  posture is important and my belly (my excuse) always had me leaning forward for all my techniques.  i’m watching ‘skinny sumo’, our newest white belt, leaning on everything and it’s reminding me over and over to watch my own posture.  i used to be HORRIBLE with the leaning.  now i’m just bad.  so improvement, eh?

speaking of ‘skinny sumo’, aka pastor chris (notice how everyone now has a name … they can all thank ME for starting it), we may have pin-pointed why last thursday’s class was so hard.  seems there was a facebook trail that went something like this:

Chis’s Wife:  I did zumba and i’m so tired now.
Wife’s Friend:  what’s zumba?
Chris:  you wouldn’t be able to do it … it’s an even harder workout than kenpo.

chris was being sarcastic when he replied, but we’re now thinking that our instructor, who is on facebook, read that and got to thinking, “hmm … i’ll show them what a hard workout is!”  part of the reason we got this impression was in church on sunday morning.  our instructor (also my pastor) plays lead guitar in our worship band.  [side note: he’s very, VERY good and loves to play classic rock and blues, even in church]  chris plays our drums.  after the praise team was done playing mr jenkins pointed out that chris has lost 20 pounds in the last four weeks … and then said, “probably from all the zumba.”

A-HA!!  i tell you, if we weren’t at church, AND if my finger wasn’t probably broken, i might have just punched chris square in the face.  just kidding.  but still … just goes to show we better watch what we make public knowledge.

a thought i had about my kicks and knee checks this weekend was prompted by a self-realization from last thursday’s kenpo class.  i was helping the white belts with attacking mace and i have always had a tendency to land my kicking foot (post kick) in the middle of my opponents feet instead of near the inside knee so i can check his lead leg.  i think it’s because i’m doing more of a thrusting kick instead of a snapping kick and letting the leg come back so i can set it down.  so instead of thrust it should chamber, snap, pull it back, set it where it’s supposed to go.  i get so hyper sometimes that i’m lunging and leaning.  practice, practice, practice … only practice the right way now.

a thought i had about mr jenkins.  he’s kind like superman.  he comes in, explains what to do, shows us what to do, then can’t figure out why all of us “jimmy olsens” can’t do what he does.  duh … HE’S SUPERMAN and we’re not!  🙂

my kicks are horrible.  but hopefully not forever.  vince, the orange belt who comes over to the kenpo garage on weekends, is going to start helping me with my kicks. he’s got about 8 years of taekwondo before he moved to kenpo and his kicks look fantastic.  i realize it’s a very weak part of my skill set and i’m hoping to improve.  time will tell.

my ugly toe 5 days after jamming it

i’m still so sore and banged up.  hoping for the pain to subside before i add to the growing list. a week ago saturday i twisted an ankle with a knife edge kick.  vince asked me, “how the crap did you do that!?”  i don’t know.  these are the type of things that happen to old, fat guys that are trying something they might should have started a couple of decades ago.  but i did.  i still wince a bit when i pivot quickly.  then there’s the potentially broken index finger on my right hand. the whole first two knuckles are swollen and i can barely move it (making a fist is out of the question).  my toe (picture on the left) is 5 days after the injury.  the swelling has gone down considerably.  this happened last thursday after a full hour of cardio.  my legs felt like they weighed a ton and i couldn’t perform scraping hoof without seeing if i could dig up some carpet padding in the process.  then there is the general soreness in all my muscles still from last thursday.  i’m thinking i’ll be just about better (muscles) tomorrow … in time for my next class.

and now to walmart bill, as he’s affectionately known in our dojo.  to know bill is to love bill, and to want a different partner than bill.  he’s over 70 and is a brown belt.  from my limited interactions with bill (he was out of class for several months with a torn up knee), he’s a nice, old guy who did martial arts for years before discovering kenpo.  he loves kenpo.  mr jenkins calls him a missionary for kenpo.  he’s always trying to bring other people in.  most often it doesn’t work out too well.

a few years ago he was working out in class and went pale.  mr jenkins noticed and asked him if he was feeling ok.   after sitting for a few minutes and then saying he was feeling better he started again.  mr jenkins noticed his color was getting worse and sent him to the hospital.  bill had had a heart attack.  but bill doesn’t like to quit, so he wasn’t going to.  bill has hard-headed syndrome.  it’s not generally dangerous unless combined with “i-drink-way-too-much” disorder and/or “i’m-an-arrogant-jerk” complex.  fortunately for us, bill is just hard-headed.

when he’s in class he’s notorious for moving at a moderate speed for someone his age, but doesn’t hold back his power very well.  my first class that i got to meet him we were doing a drill where we block a punch, pass the arm to the other side, and then move into a wrist lock.  nice and slow.  easy does it.  nope.  not bill.  i made contact, passed it over and applied the lock.  he stopped me and said, “you don’t want to hammer them, just meet with the block and pass it over.”  i thought that’s what i did.  so he decides to show me what to do.  when he met with the block he crushed my forearm and gave it a bruise lasting for several days.  i thought to myself, “what the heck, you just hit me three times harder than i was doing!?”  that’s bill.

now, here’s how he got the nickname “walmart bill”.  one day after class he was talking to mr jenkins and mentioned that he likes to park in the back corners of walmart, in the areas that aren’t lit too well.  then he likes to limp and shuffle across the parking lot all the way to the door.  with his elderly look and his gimpy walking, he said, “i’m hoping someone will jump me and i can use my kenpo techniques!”  he was serious. there are a couple dozen other stories, but i haven’t known him long enough to have all the details down.  suffice it to say he’s quite a character.

don’t forget to subscribe on the left and confirm your subscription when the email arrives.

one more thing and then i’ll leave you alone.  below is a youtube video on dance of death.  i LOVE this guy’s commentary.  i hope you enjoy it, too.

— chunky ninja

no more blurred vision

it’s about focus.  i’ve been working on my kenpo for a little over nine months now.  during a huge chunk of that time (february until this past weekend) i wasn’t able to focus 100% towards kenpo because of my baseball schedule.  i coach little league baseball, and have for over 14 years, but my team played their last game of the season this past saturday morning.  we finished with a tie to end a long, grueling season.  i reminded the team after that when they’re older and have their own kids they can tell them they played ball in the hottest recorded summer in texas.  it was draining.

but with baseball season behind me, and no fall season for the first time in four years (for me), i’ll be able to focus on learning my techniques.  i want to build on what i’ve already learned and get a grasp of these as quickly as possible.  my goal would be to test in january or february.  OR, more correctly worded, be prepared to be tested.  when mr jenkins decides i’m ready is when i’ll be ready.  so i intend to work hard to get to that point as quickly as i can.  i want to go hard after that orange belt and now my focus is crystal clear.

vince, one of my cohorts from class, came over saturday night.  we worked for a couple of hours on some basic drills designed to make me sweat before moving into techniques.  the sweating was not a problem.  when he got there it was 105 outside (at 7:30pm) and we were working out in my non-air-conditioned garage.  i swear it was 110 or 115 in there.  the sweat came very quickly.  by the time we moved into working techniques my shirt was totally drenched.

at one point vince was demonstrating the proper way to perform clutching feathers.  when he shot the heel palm to my chest (supposed to be to the face, but we’re not trying to kill each other), the sweat from my shirt literally sprayed him.  it was nasty gross and i’m glad the sweat hit him in the face and not me.  fortunately, he was wearing his glasses, or “protective goggles” in this case.  sorry, slim.

i really appreciate vince’s help and he’s pushing himself, too.  he’d like to get his purple belt by year’s end.  so having a workout partner in addition to the twice a week kenpo sessions with mr jenkins should really help propel our abilities forward.

for the next six months, i should have minimal distractions.  baseball took three days of my week away … now i’m getting those back.  so i’m fired up about becoming less chunky and more ninja.  we’ll see.

— chunky ninja

sometimes heat is a good thing

from my car while driving to kenpo

here’s something most thought they would never hear from me:  HOORAY FOR THE HEAT!  officially our area hit 109 yesterday on the thermometer, but unofficially it was as high as 113 in my neighborhood.  when i stepped outside it was like climbing into an oven.  the heat was simply suffocating.  i may have mentioned this before … i’m built like a walrus (only shorter tusks).  walruses don’t do well in anything but cold weather.  and i’m no different.

too hot to play ball

so why the “hooray for the heat”?  well, i was supposed to miss kenpo last night.  i coach a little league baseball team and we had a game.  to my utter surprise, i got a call at 5:30 calling the game off due to the extreme heat.  I’ve been coaching kids through our local YMCA for 14 years and have never seen a game called due to excessive heat.  ever.

i quickly sent out a message to the team so they wouldn’t bother showing up (two still did) and then gathered my kenpo stuff together.  then off i went to kenpo.  i just earned my yellow belt last week and am anxious to start learning my orange belt techniques.  missing class always bothers me.  it bothered me more when i wanted to get started in learning my new techniques.  fortunately, i didn’t have to miss.  and this morning, my right knee was wishing i had missed.

not really my knee, but this is how it feels

while my instructor was demonstrating a technique to a couple of other students i was used as his “dummy”.  i gave it my best fake right cross to his face.  he used an inward block, cross step through and then a knife edge kick to the back of my knee.  he actually did it pretty gently.  but for whatever reason, my knee buckled and i felt a slight pop.  nothing major.  matter of fact it didn’t bother me at all until this morning.  i was able to finish the evening at kenpo without problem.  but this morning … UGH!  it aches.  i’m moving so slow today.   today i feel 46.

i’m actually bummed it’s bothering me so much today.  if you’ve read any of my tweets, you know i’ve been trying to get back into working out.  i’ve been doing some extra walking and have been running stairs for about four months.  not a lot, but what i can do, i do.  the last two days i’ve gotten up extra early, leashed the dog and headed out to pound the streets.  that’s in addition to the work-walk our department does every day.  i’ve also been seriously watching what i’m eating and logging all the data.  today it hurt just getting out of bed.  slight turns or bends make me cringe.  i slept in.  i’ll probably still try the work-walk, but there will be no stair running for me today.  i guess taking a day off would help, but since i just started, i don’t want to do that.

i have a daughter that is a marine.  the marines have a saying:  pain is weakness leaving your body.   so i guess i’m expelling weakness from my right knee today.

a friend of mine, rick faulkner, is a taekwondo instructor and former marine.  he says, sounding like a gravelly voiced drill instructor, “pain is your friend.”  if you met rick, you’d see that he appears to have seriously embraced this friend.  his nose is as crooked as a washington politician.  fortunately for me, his heart is huge and he’d give you his right leg if you needed it.  and in light of this highly respected friend and martial art instructor’s saying i can tell you that, well, i hate my new friend.  he’s a jerk.  pain sucks mud.

while i did get to go to kenpo class yesterday and am suffering for it today, i will also have to endure the heat tonight as it appears they won’t cancel tonight’s baseball game.  the temperatures are actually supposed to be slightly higher than yesterday, but i got a call a few minutes ago saying they don’t want to cancel tonight’s.  so i’ll be limping along like hop-a-long cassidy from the dugout to the third base coach’s box all while enduring 110 degree heat.  um, hooray?

— chunky ninja

kenpo in the cold

i had a couple of fellow students come over sunday night to work on our techniques together.  i need it.  what i also need is some cool air.  we worked out in my garage.  with the outside temp tipping 105 degrees (40.5 celsius if you must have that info) was stifling enough.  in the garage it seemed to be closer to 110 or 115.  we opened the garage and cranked on some fans, but it was still incredibly hot.

so this morning i was thinking back to when i started this little adventure.  it was November 11 of 2010.  the temperatures were in the low 70’s in the day and mid-50’s at night.  i couldn’t even keep up with the warm ups.  my instructor likes to warm up with 100 jumping jacks and then a combination of kicks and punches for a bit … just to get the blood pumping.  my cardio was SO bad when i began that i was able to keep up for only 40 or 50 jumping jacks before i just started hopping around or quitting altogether.  i kinda looked like the old bouncing ball from the old cartoons.  now i must tell you that my instructor doesn’t do normal jumping jacks.  he tries to whiz through all 100 in about 45 seconds.  it was a breakneck speed and there just was no way i was going to be able to do them.

it was several weeks before i was able to actually make it through the warm up portion without stopping.  i was so proud of myself for the small achievement that i was going to mention it except we moved so quickly into the next routine that i didn’t have time.  by the end of class i had forgotten it.  the next morning i received a text message from my instructor telling me congratulations on finishing all 100 jumping jacks.  he noticed!  for a brief moment i felt like little rudolph when he realized clarice, the female reindeer, had noticed him.  there’s just something cool when others notice you’re getting thinner, smarter, recently shaved, or simply finished 100 jumping jacks.  i felt like i scoreboarded that night.

as the winter months wore on, i think my cardio improved tremendously.  it helped a lot with the cooler weather.  i felt like i could breathe.  now when it’s 105 or hotter outside, it feels like you’re scalding your lungs with each deep breath.  that seems multiplied when you’re working out and desperately trying to pull in oxygen.  nights like sunday make me wish for a night of kenpo in the winter.  i love learning kenpo.  i think i’d love learning in cold weather even more.

on a side note: mr jenkins hurt his shoulder a few months ago when he was testing for his 5th degree black belt.  since then his jumping jacks have become more … reasonably paced, though still a cardio work out for a fat guy like me.

-chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!