no matter what belt level i’ve ever been promoted to, a few weeks into it i get that feeling that i’m in over my head. there’s so much to learn and often i try to do it all at once. but that’s not what we’re supposed to do. it’s what we want to do, but it’s impossible. and the more i want to go forward and progress, the more i realize i still need to reflect and refresh what i already know. the process is never-ending.
this recent belt promotion is no different. i promoted to the rank of blue belt back in July and i’m over half way through learning my new techniques. and while practicing them either in class or at KG, i see just how poorly i perform them. i see how long it takes me to remember the sequence (and if i remember all the hits or not). i see this pretty long form that i only know part of and know that i’ll have to learn it completely and be able to do it on the opposite side as well. i see a whole new group of saying that i have to be able to learn and recite. i feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.
then i remember i felt this way right after i got my yellow belt. and orange. and purple. so this feeling isn’t new. i’m still fascinated by how much there is to learn, how much i’ve already learned, and how much tweaking and perfecting everyone does … even the 7th and 8th degree black belts are always reviewing and seeing if there isn’t a better way. that’s what makes this art so incredibly cool. even after putting 20, 30, or 40+ years into it, we’re all still students.
then to add to this feeling of overwhelmed-ness, i recently accepted a pastoral position at a small church in crandall, tx. i’ve been in and around ministry for 30 years (on and off). but i’ve never been the ‘point man’ at a church. it’s stretching me. i’m being pulled in directions i’ve never been pulled before and being forced to trust more than i ever have. it’s all good, but it keeps me a bit out of my comfort zone … kind of like when i have to spar. i’m not comfortable on the mat even with all the protective gear. i want to be at my best, but i’m not sure how it’s going to go when the bell rings and the fighting begins.
new experiences. new goals. new challenges. new tests. but with proper preparation, new achievements. i just have to stay the course. but i’m also reminded no matter what challenges i face in life, i can do all things through Christ.
— chunky ninja (and no, i’ve not told the congregation of my nickname yet)
i’m not sure how true that is, but i do know that i’ve got “black and blue” down pat. just give me a good KG session or a typical kenpo class, or even a sparring session in mckinney and i can prove that black and blue comes very easy to me.
a few weeks ago we tested and i advanced from purple to blue. it felt strange. i remember the days not too long ago where i was “duped” into coming to class, stayed for a few weeks and then began to realize just how incredible those yellow belts were. “someday,” i thought to myself, “i’ll be good enough to get my yellow belt.” then i did and i began admiring the talented skills being demonstrated by those who had already attained their orange belt.
granted, it helped that we only had a couple of brown belts in class then a huge gap down to the orange. so looking at the brown belts was like looking at someone other than my instructor who also had been in the art for ‘decades’.
now i’m at blue and beginning to work on my green. i still feel like a newbie. and i guess that’s the beauty of this art because i’ve heard the same thing from my own instructor (a 5th degree black) … “this is an ever learning art and we’re all students”. i grow more amazed at this art with every class or KG session.
my daughter recently left for college, but before she left for college i forced her to take a few weeks of kenpo just to gain some knowledge of self defense. i wish she would have taken more, but i was thankful for the few weeks she did participate.
she ended her few weeks with some sparring and surprised herself more than anyone else. she started so timid, but there’s a tiger under there waiting to pounce if you tick her off. hopefully no one will.
and now some spiritual humor at the result of my daughter at a baptist college …
This was posted from FaceBook:
kelcy to her friends upon hearing someone trying to play music using an iphone – “when did God start playing music on a crappy iphone?”
kelcy – Was definitely not the music. It twas the akward surround sound buzzing
they didn’t get it. i hope you did.
me – i later added – i could have taken it a step further and talked about how the “apple” caused man to sin and God redeemed us and didn’t want to have to go through that again with His phone. or that the “apple” industry was created by a man God bragged about (Job(s)). but that would have taken it even deeper.
here’s a picture taken with my baby girl at her last class:
– chunky ninja
CHUNKY 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.
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.
and 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
three decades without a physical altercation. then came kenpo. i hadn’t planned on it. if you’ve read some of my very early posts, you can see i felt duped into it. but i’m here. i’ve been trying to learn kenpo karate for two-and-a-half years now. it’s not pretty. matter of fact, it’s downright ugly. i’m not good at this sparring thing either. i don’t like doing it, but i’m starting to get more comfortable on the mat even if my skill is only moderately improving.
our class has been working on various sparring drills. like the half-wit dog that you wonder how many beatings he’ll have to take before he learns his lesson, i don the gear and await my punishment. last night was a slice under my right eye. i knew it was coming. i knew exactly the attack: left jab, right cross. i knew i was supposed to pat the jab down and weave the cross, then counter the right cross with a left hook to the face. so jab, pat-down. cross, weave, oops! didn’t move in time. i was nicked under my right eye and the blood trickled.
every few minutes one of the other students in class would say, “hey, did you know your eye is bleeding?”
“um, yeah. i’m a slow, bumbling ox that can’t get out of the way of a known attack. thank you for noticing.” ugh.
but i’m thinking. sometimes in the office i’m thinking about sparring and how i would, could, or should counter an attack while sparring. i have great ideas. i have thought about various situations and how i would want to counter them while applying my own attack. and yet my body doesn’t react when i see it coming.
i’m a dinosaur. i think it takes 15-30 seconds for me to see the attack, and tell my hand to move. by that time, i’m bleeding.
so later during class i’m throwing the combinations. left jab, right cross. i know his counters. he’s going to pat-down the jab, move to my right and come across my jab with a hook. but since i’m inept at that, my instructor makes a change … instead of going over the arm, it’s now a shot to the arm, then a right hook to the liver. so now my job is to drop the elbow to block the ribs before the hook.
ridiculous. i looked absolutely ridiculous trying to get my elbow down in time to block the punch i know is coming. so it gets down there AFTER the shot and my KG buddy taps me with a left hook to my pumpkin for added effect. thanks, vince, for reminding me how slow i am.
i’m not good at this. i’m too slow. i’m too old. i’m too out of shape.
and yet i don’t quit. it’s like when you know you’re losing a grappling session, but you just won’t give up until you’ve tapped out. it’s like that. i don’t know how to just quit. so i continue pushing myself until i’m too exhausted to continue on.
allegedly, and i use that word very loosely, i’ve improved. my buddy and cohort no longer tells me my kicks suck. now they’re just not that good. believe it or not, that’s an improvement.
i recently sparred my six-foot, 17-year-old athletic nephew with vince there to observe. his response after watching us? “dude, you’re getting better.” compliments don’t flow from him easily, so i take every one of them like a cherished piece of cheesecake from my favorite deli in NYC.
i’m careful not to let them go to my head. i realize that i’ll never be chuck norris, john sepulveda, david jenkins, or even vince siller. but i do want to be better than the idiot that thinks he can bully or victimize someone in my family if not me personally. i will want to show him how hard my elbow can hit his face or how painful my not-so-good kicks feel when his knee snaps backwards.
i’m working hard on developing the skills of a blue belt in kenpo. i know i can hit with power without trying (thanks to my “viking fat”). but i need to refine my abilities to not just be able to dish it out, but to defend myself. a charging bull can be dropped with a parry and a sword. defense is required.
a few minor tweaks last night for my techniques and now further refinement. i like the insight i receive from my instructor. i’m better for it. my movements, strikes, checks are all better for it. i can tell the difference. i can see the difference. and those that went through the technique line felt the difference.
i will not give up. and that itself is a victory.
— chunky ninja
the end of last year and the first quarter of 2013 has been busy. it seems life never really slows down and just keeping up becomes a chore. i’ve continued my trek towards becoming the next jackie chan — well, apart from being in shape, knocking the USA, and being able to perform anything that looks remotely close to karate. so what does that leave? comedy. and if you’ve seen me on the mat, i’m sure your time would be filled with raucous laughter.
but i’ve been continuing my pursuit to learn the art of kenpo. a couple of weeks ago i attended my first kenpo karate camp (or should i say, “kamp”?). i was a bit intimidated. i was not the lowest ranked belt there, but i did come in the bottom three and then about 25 brown and black belts. my buddy vince was there, so i had someone to pair up when working techniques (more on that later).
the head of our association, mr john sepulveda, was in town. this was my first chance to meet him and i was not disappointed in the least. he completely lived up to the hype and then some. i’m pretty much in awe of my own instructor and his abilities. my instructor feels the same about mr sepulveda; with good reason. the man knows his stuff. but beyond that, he’s personable, likeable, and impressed me with his ability to captivate and teach. i was impressed during lunch as he sat and ate with some of the lower belts and just told stories of his life in kenpo. it was very, very cool. i didn’t say much. i was too busy trying to make sure i didn’t make a complete fool of myself. no need embarrassing myself or my instructor.
mr tommy burks was there as an instructor also. mr burks is my instructor’s instructor. i’ve had the opportunity to work with him a couple of times at his dojo. he’s what some would call ‘nit-picky’. truth be told, he just sees how some are sloppy with their art … even some of the upper ranks. and it bothers him (as it bothered mr parker). below is a story i’ve heard of mr parker sending out one of his black belts to teach at a karate seminar for upper belts:
the black belt asked him what they should teach and mr parker said, “start with the basics … work their stances”.
“but mr parker, this is a seminar with all black belts,” she replied.
“you’ll see what i mean when you get there,” said mr parker. she did. he was right.
well, mr burks is kind of like that. and i like that about him. sure it gets tiring working on the exact same thing for an hour, but at the end of that hour, you’ll be hard pressed to forget the lesson that has just been ingrained.since i had last seen mr burks, he has been promoted to 8th degree black. he seemed to be very relaxed and enjoying himself. while he was teaching i noticed he was smiling at vince and i a couple of times while we worked our techniques. (i told you my version of kenpo brings smiles and chuckles to people, even mr burks). but my instructor, mr jenkins, said mr burks was impressed with his [mr jenkins] students (which means me!). it may be one of the coolest feelings to have your karate instructor be proud of your growth as a student. i always tried to convey that to my players when i used to coach baseball. now i’m on the flip side of it and i can’t begin to tell you how that makes me feel. only those who’ve experienced it can understand.
i’m anxious for future camps. i feel like i learned so much and yet it made me realize just how much more there is to learn. the art seems endless which may explain why my instructor always considers himself a student.
mr hazelwood, a 5th degree from the colleyville school was the other instructor during the camp. he had us working on several drills and then moving from those drills into techniques. while i couldn’t attend the entire camp (missed the sunday portion), i was really impressed with the instructors and fellow students.sunday after the final camp class completed, vince called to tell me some of the upper black belts were wondering where his “bruiser buddy” was and he told them i was at church. for some reason, we earned some recognition because we were “banging on each other pretty good!” so while i was watching all the black belts, it seems they were a bit surprised/impressed on what vince and i were doing (at our belt levels). vince was told, “you guys were going at it pretty good” and “you guys were showing a lot of power”. for vince and i, we weren’t doing anything different than we do at our school and KG.
after i heard what they had to say, i remembered mr burks smiles. man, it just makes me feel good! i first met him when i was a white belt. so i have improved.
after my day at camp was over, i was toast. in some of the hardest classes i’ve attended with my school, i come home drenched in sweat, physically wore out, and in desperate need of some kenpo kandy (ibuprofen or other pain ‘chillers’). those are two hour classes. my camp day was an all day even with seven hours of that same intensity. i was sore for two days with meds in my system. but it was so worth it. i’m anxious for the next camp.
~ * ~ * ~
i’ve continued on with KG (kenpo garage for anyone new to this blog). it’s something vince and i started nearly two years ago to supplement our thursday classes. the extra workouts are also for two hours and we continue to work on our techniques, sets, and forms. sometimes we’ll add some drills just to mix things up a bit. while it started with just vince and i, we periodically see others join in.
i don’t have much more to add for now, but it had been a quarter of a year since i had given any updates. this one was over due.
— chunky ninja
i try to keep a balanced, accurate perspective of myself. it doesn’t always happen. in fact, it almost never happens. here are some examples …
my weight. it’s an ongoing battle of the bulge that i’ve fought my entire life. people have offered their unsolicited advice over all the decades of my life. then because i’ve not lost weight, or at least enough to match their expectations, i’m a failure.
it’s a horrible struggle for anyone that is trying to drop pounds. everyone is different and while some may lose weight faster, others (i include myself here) find it a lifelong labor of pain … both physically and emotionally.
but the truth is i have been working. i’ve been active my whole life. over the last two years, since i started kenpo karate, my workouts have entailed six hours of kenpo training per week, walking, bicycling, hiking, and a variety of other things keeping me very active.
i’m busy doing something almost every day. whether it’s climbing the stairs at work or bicycling 30 miles or playing disc golf, i’m busy. i’m active. and while the body shape is changing some, the scales just don’t respond the way i wish. i feel i might be in the best shape of my life (if you don’t look at the outside package). my doctor was very happy with my latest checkup. i’ve improved my health in every area except my hairline. its a great feeling when you leave the doctor’s office and he says, “whatever you’re doing is working great … keep it up!”
all the extra work i’ve done this summer and fall has been with one true goal in mind — improve my cardio. while i can’t go out and jog five miles, i have seen positive results.
my cardio is one of the areas i have felt weakest when it comes to sparring. not only am i not good at defending myself, i was quickly winded and my poor defense became even worse. improving my cardio should help my sparring which will also help my confidence level.
i may never be spartacus, but i’ve never liked being afraid. and that has always been the case when stepping on the mat to spar. so i push myself in sparring and learning this art to change my mindset. and sparring is a good barometer of improvement or not. i can say assuredly that i’ve vastly improved since i began this journey two years ago, but i’m just now seeing some small incremental steps in confidence. don’t worry, i won’t let it go to my head.
kenpo class and kg sessions always have me feeling young(er) at the beginning. it doesn’t last very long. as the workouts crank up, the wear on my body quickly feels every birthday multiplying exponentially on itself. before long i’m having to seriously push my body.
a good example was last thursday’s when we did cardio at the end instead of the start of class. i was looking at myself in the mirror and seeing how red my face was becoming. i remembered taking my blood pressure med that morning and decided not to pay attention to what i was seeing since it was only my lungs that were feeling the strain. had i felt anything else, i would have shut it down, but i want/need to push myself. so i did.
but without fail, the next morning after ANY of my workouts, has me moving slow. i feel every ache, pain, fatigue. every muscle and joint are screaming at me that i’m 47. they remind me how out-of-shape i am. but i press on.
i was thinking the other day about where i want to be at my half-century mark. that’s just 30 months away and it will arrive faster than i expect. i’d like to be closing in on my black belt. i’d like to be somewhere in the path of the three browns. and of course, i’d like to be skinny.
but today, i think i’ll just be content to be moving, learning, and practicing my kenpo.
— chunky ninja
in my last post i talked about being called VIKING FAT and how we had a belt test coming up soon. then that very night i tested for my purple belt. the minnesota vikings wear purple, but i wasn’t even thinking about that when i wrote the blog. someone else had called me viking fat and i was relaying that detail. i am not a viking’s fan. i refuse to disclose my NFL allegiance, but it isn’t the vikings.
on the tuesday night prior to my belt test, we met with our instructor. it was our whole KG group (ok, there’s only three of us, but it sounds bigger and more official when you call it a group). our instructor, Mr Jenkins, had said we were getting close to being ready to test and wanted to work with us a little bit. first he worked with john and vince (my KG cohorts) as they’re learning blue belt techniques and the appropriate forms and sets that come with it. i stood by and absorbed the knowledge being shown and taught.
then came my turn to show the techniques i’ve been working on. mr jenkins still had the blue belt techniques in mind and asked me to show him twin kimono. i smiled at john, who was going to dummy for me on the first technique, and started going through it. half way through i turned and smiled at my instructor and asked if he wanted me to finish this blue belt technique or do the purple belt ones instead. being the KG boys’ spotter (formerly called ‘dummy’) has given me immense benefits. i’m able to learn my techniques faster because i already know where the pain is being inflicted from all the months of practice with them. mr jenkins laughed and said i’d better do the purple techniques instead. so i went through them all.
vince told me after our session that i was rocking and rolling. “dude, you’re clicking on your kenpo. there was a time when your feet and hits weren’t always in sync. you could tell you were still learning and having to think about your moves. but tonight, something seemed to click in your brain and you were rocking through them. they all looked solid.” from vince, that’s a great comment. but he wasn’t done.
“you’re a big dude and can put a hurting on someone just because you’ve got a lot of back up mass [aka viking fat]. but when you’re kenpo started clicking it’s like …” he paused for a moment. “you used to hit like a semi-truck. but then your kenpo started clicking in your brain and now you’re rocking through them, it’s more like being hit by a freight train. you don’t even have to try for power, it’s already there.”
thursday’s class found me going through all the steps for testing. my short form 2 was a little sloppy in my opinion, but i guess it was good enough for promotion. stance set and coördination set were solid. i had my sayings and pledge down. the only thing left was the sparring.
i still hate sparring. but i have made conscious efforts to improve — and was told it showed. i’m trying not to charge in all the time. i’m working diligently on being patient and staying back. my defense still has a long way to go. i continually discuss how my reflexes seem slow, but there IS improvement. i worked combos and continued to pace myself and pick specific moments to move in or out. my wind was better and i rebounded from each sparring match quicker than i have in the past. the last fight i had was with my pastor. he made me work. i was able to land a few punches and kicks.
at the end of class i was told to kneel and was handed my purple belt. i had such a feeling of satisfaction for what i had accomplished and an awe of how much more there is still to learn. the longer i’m in this art, the more i appreciate the vastness of the knowledge and the beauty of its complexity.
now on to my blue belt techniques, form, set, pledge, and sayings. i’m anxious.
special thanks to vince, john, and especially to mr jenkins of whom i can proudly call my instructor, pastor, and friend.
— chunky ninja
we all have those moments when someone from your past calls you. they used to be one of your closest friends. one that knew everything about your life and then as time passes, things change, lives move in different directions, and other things clutter and steal away the closeness you once had.
then they call you out of the blue. you’re surprised to hear from them because it’s been months (or years). you are happy to hear their voice and for about 45 seconds it seems like you guys haven’t skipped a beat … everything is just as it was when you were the best of buds hitting the town. but then second number 46 hits and you suddenly realize you don’t have much in common with that person at all anymore. what do you talk about? you no longer have any common friends. all of your interests have changed (and so have theirs). and you get into this arduous phone call that just ensures the next one will be even further out …
you: hey! how’s it going?
them: good, you?
you: good. staying busy. trying to stay out of trouble.
them: you? you were never good at that!
you: ha! you’re one to talk. so what’s new?
them: not a lot. same ol’ same ol’. how about you?
them: yeah, a whole lot of the same here.
that’s kinda where i’m at with kenpo. it’s been a couple of weeks since i last blogged and i was feeling sorta bad that i hadn’t updated any of you here in the “new” month (now almost two weeks in). things aren’t really changing and yet they are.
i’m still keeping up with my three-day-a-week kenpo workouts. each of them are about two hours. so six hours a week working on my purple belt techniques. i know them all and am in the process of tweaking them — refining them. i still have to work on my forms.
in my spare time, i’ve taken up cycling to help build up some cardio. i really like it and am glad i jumped back into it. i try to get in several rides a week that are 10-30 miles long. and while i may not be winning any distance or speed records, i can tell that there have been subtle [read: SUBTLE] changes. nothing that others might notice, but i notice them and that’s what’s important to me. a bit more leg strength. a bit more stamina. and now that i’ve been doing this for a month, a little less saddle soreness.
but regarding my kenpo, i still love it. my kicks are still bad (though improved over the last 20 months). and there’s nothing new to report.
and that brings us to second 47 of this blog post. so now the awkward, “i’m glad you stopped in to check” to which you’ll reply, “yeah, me, too. i’ll have to find out how you’re doing in your next write-up.”
i fully realize this wasn’t really a good or funny post, but at least it was different. and before you leave you read this one last line that gives you hope that my next update will be a little bit funnier and/or more informative. but until then everything is changing even while we insist everything is the “same ol’ same ol'”.
— chunky ninja
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.
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!
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.
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
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