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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

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11,358 days

198211,358 days. i don’t know if that number is accurate, but it’s probably within 365 or so. it represents the number of days i went without being involved in a fight. that’s approximately 31 years.

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.

at least i'm thinking about it.

at least i’m thinking about it.

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.

cheesecake-carnegie-deli

carnegie deli cheesecake … YUM!

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

all in perspective

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 …

dinner-time

this is how i feel before dinner (left) and after dinner (right).

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.

on-the-mat

when i step on the mat i feel fit and good to go (left), but really more closely resemble butterbean (right).

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!”

sparring-view

i should be like spartacus when sparring (left), but i fight fright and insecurity when facing an opponent (right).

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

before class begins i feel so young (left). the next day i feel and move like the guy on the right.

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

viking fat

i am VIKING FAT.
yes, i said, “viking fat.”

.

i’ve been fat, well, almost all of my life.  starting in fifth grade my mom quit her job to stay home after the birth of my youngest sister.  i would come home from school to the smell of homemade cookies, cakes, etc.  within a few months i was shopping for clothes at sears or montgomery wards and had been officially relegated to the ‘husky’ section for boys.  ugh.

that was the beginning and my life has pretty much continued down that path for the last 30+ years.  it’s always bothered me, but never enough to do all the work necessary to become skinny. don’t get me wrong, i still tried the occasional 2-week to 6-month diet and/or exercise routines, but never stuck with them.  i used all sorts of things as excuses over the years, too.  things like …

i hated the ‘husky’ section

  • it’s too hard to work out all the time
  • i like food too much
  • i don’t have enough time
  • it’s too hot to do any exercise
  • it’s boring to work out by yourself
  • it’s too cold to do any exercise
  • i just don’t feel like it
  • i would if it didn’t feel so much  like work
  • the weathers too perfect to do any exercise
  • i’d have to work out too much to make up for that gallon of ice cream i just ate
  • if i ever needed to, i could last for years on chemo because of my fat

but now i’ve heard this latest description of me, it makes me want to embrace my chunky ninja self.  viking fat.  i like it.  and no, i didn’t give myself that description.  one of my KG cohorts did.

at first, being sensitive to my apparent fatness for the last third of a century, i asked for an explanation.  so he ‘splained …

“dude, some people are what i call ‘powder puff’ fat.  they’ve got the weight, but it’s all soft.  no muscle there.  you’re not powder puff.  you’re like freaky strong in your arms and chest.  you’re a big guy, but you’ve got a lot of muscle behind it.  you’re like viking fat.”

then i thought of my perception of the vikings (not the football team) and visuals like Liam Neeson in Rob Roy, Mel Gibson in Braveheart, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, or Gerard Butler in 300.  now before you quickly correct me, i’m well aware none of these characters were vikings, but they were all skilled warriors who fought with great passion and heart.  so take these characters and add a horned helmet and a beard and that’s the image in my mind — kinda like the modern-day biker gang

the inside of my cranium

truth be told, while i do like the ‘viking fat’ label (as opposed to powder puff, jelly soft, marshmallow, and fluffy), i don’t want to stay here.  i’ve been more consistent at losing weight (or inches) than i have at any other time in my life.  i know i could work harder at it and become obsessive about what i eat and how hard i’m working, but i also know that i’d quit pretty quickly if i did.  it’s just how i’m wired.  but i am making progress and that’s what matters.

i’ve continued working my kenpo 4-6 hours per week. i also find myself thinking about techniques or general concepts more and more even if i’m not physically practicing my techniques.  all of this is leading up to an upcoming belt test.  a few of us have been given a bit of warning that the test is coming soon.  i’m guessing in the next month or so and i’m going to do whatever i can to be ready.  fortunately, my instructor is the one who gave us the ‘heads-up’ which means he must think we’re close to ready, too.  that always gives me a bit more confidence.

i’m continuing to ride my bike to also help prepare me for my ongoing kenpo life and to help get into better shape.  i can say i’ve gone from a 2x shirt to a 1x.  and i’ve gone down 2 inches in my waist.  so while i still look like a big guy, i’m gradually getting smaller and it’s proportionate which would make it less noticeable if you’re just looking at me.  but i know and can tell the difference in how i feel.

example: while i may still get winded sparring, it’s not nearly as fast and my recovery time is also quicker. (i’m still not a fan of sparring, but my instructor has started having us spar more and more.)

i don’t think i’ll ever be ‘skinny’.  ever.  but if i can reduce my overall size, have more wind, and make progress in this wonderful art, i will be satisfied.  hopefully soon i’ll be tying a purple belt around my waist and begin working on a news set of techniques and katas.

for now, i’m embracing the term ‘viking fat’.  where’s my helmet?

— chunky ninja

keeping things in perspective

yesterday i took a look back at myself from just a few years ago.  it was scary.  it was sobering.  and i was able to realize that there has been a significant change in me over the last several years.  often we can’t see the forest for the trees.  and when i’m feeling down about where i’m at, these kind of moments are a pick-me-up.  take a look at the picture below.

the picture on the left is me in august of 2006.  this was taken just a few months after both of my parents passed away.  i don’t remember myself looking like that.  at all.  it’s scary for me to see just how bad i looked.  and to think how busy i still was makes it all the worse.  at that size and as active as i was coaching baseball, i could have had a heart attack!  i was eating for comfort … trying with all i could to eat away the pain of losing both my parents within two weeks of each other.  but in truth, it had started long before that.  you don’t jump right from 200 pounds to 300 in just four months.

the picture on the right is me, now.  this morning, in fact.  i’m still not skinny by anyone’s stretch of imagination.  but i’m over 60 pounds lighter and much healthier.  i started kenpo eighteen months ago.  and while the scales show only a 10 pound difference from the time i started kenpo until today, i’ve also dropped 5 inches from my waist, have tons more cardio and stamina, and generally feel pretty well.  i’ve also had my blood pressure medicine dropped to a quarter of what it was just two years ago.  so while not a significant weight loss, there has been some body re-shaping.

it’s not the great big jumps that i’ve always hoped would happen, but it is continual small steps towards better health.  the key in that last sentence was the word continual.  i’ve been consistent in working out, changing routines periodically, and eating less (if not better).

i’m working towards my purple belt and hope to have earned that by the end of this year.  but if it’s not this year … if its next year OR even the year after that, i’m ok.  it’s about hard work.  it’s about persistence. it’s about stepping back periodically to see that all the small goals are paying off in the long run.  seeing the forest instead of just the trees.  getting a wider scope — which is what was needed to take my picture of me six years ago.

i’m not where i want to be yet.  but with a bit of perspective, i’m on my way and have to keep the long-term goals in sight.  little by little i’ll eventually get little.  ok, little-er.

— chunky ninja

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

beware of ruts

it’s easy to get into a rut. we often times don’t see it coming. we’re just going as fast as we can and somehow we lose focus on the direction we’re headed. it doesn’t have to be a big distraction either. next thing you know, you’re being thrown and left dazed as to how you got there.

maybe it’s like texting and driving and BAM you hit the curb. or in this case, you’re busy with life, putting out proverbial fire after fire, and you have life slam into you. maybe.

it’s easy for it to happen. but how do you get there? how long will you stay there? how will you get out? lots of good questions and looking at them, i’m not sure i have any good answers.

i have a lot going on in my life. kenpo is one of them and is a pretty big part of it. i was “duped” into class initially and discovered that i liked it. i liked it enough that i’ve stayed with it for the last 18 months and i have NO intention of quitting (for those that thought i might after getting this far into the blog).

my wife and i a few years ago (and 25 pounds ago for me)

i have a wife, five kids, three grandkids, one dog, and a yard full of fleas. i have a couple of fantasy baseball leagues that have captivated me for nearly 15 years. in the midst of all that, i’m being drawn deeper into my faith with a calling to become a church planter.

and as life goes we all face those challenges that come up from time to time. the most recent one for me was an A/C unit that gave up the ghost early last week. as if finances weren’t difficult enough, now that. i’m hugely fortunate to have a very good friend in the industry who has been a blessing to my wife and i. [shout out to JOHN! you da’ man!]

sometimes we face challenges and we’d rather skip right over them than to face them. we all have them. i have my share and then some. for now i only want little challenges. i want to move from jogging on the treadmill to a leisurely walk on it. at least for now.

am i where i want to be physically? no. have i done all i can to drop my weight? no. do i work on my kenpo as much as i could? no. i’ve managed to drop a couple of inches from my waistline from the start, but the scale says i haven’t moved much. so i’m re-shaping. i’m ok with that. and i’m also to a point (right now) where if someone were to try and “fire me up” about getting serious, i’d tell him or her to take a hike.

incremental steps will eventually get us there

i may not be where i want to be, but i’m not in any mindset to be pushed or even to push myself more than i have over the last 18 months. it’s hard to change course from what you’ve been doing for 45 years. not impossible, but pretty close. i think it’s the incremental steps that lead to ultimate change and i’ve been taking incremental steps.

while i have some that want to push me harder now, i kinda like where i’m at and i don’t have the desire to push. so i guess i’m in a rut. give me my routine. give me the same amount of challenges. but don’t take me to the place where you can see if i’ll break. i don’t want to be broken. i just want to learn.

i’m rambling. i feel like i’m in a rut. and i’m ok with it. i’m still moving forward. maybe not as fast as others wish, but they’re not me. i am. i don’t want to be sometimes, but the fact is still the same. so give me some challenges. toughen me up. but don’t bother seeing if i can break because i have no desire to find out where that point is. and THAT indicates my weakness.

now, give me some time to shake myself out of this rut and you’ll get an entirely different response. but for now, here i am. tonight will be Kenpo Garage … and i am looking forward to it. it is, after all, part of my routine.

— 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

new year, old man

the year is still young and yet i feel old.  i just finished a sparring class with Mr Sam Bowley of Bowley Kenpo Karate in McKinney, TX.  i appreciate his control and mercy as much as my own instructor’s.  without those, i would have come home broken, bloodied, and bruised.

my nephew went and got some video of Mr Bowley and myself.  i’m amused and yet frightened by how often i drop my hands and use my face to stop his punches.  my gosh, i better learn before i get involved in a real confrontation.  i’m pretty sure in a real deal on the street i won’t have time to put in my cup or mouth guard.  i’ve got to learn some defense.

the scary part is that i think i’ve improved over last month when i visited his saturday sparring class. Mr Bowley is a fine instructor and, like last time, gave me some pointers during and after the class.  he’s fully aware of my novice abilities as i demonstrated them on both occasions.

our classes so far this year are still on thursdays only.  but i’ve continued to workout most tuesdays and sunday evenings with a couple of guys from class.  i’d love to earn my orange belt by summer.  but if it takes another full year, i’m ok with that, too.  for me it’s all about personal improvement.  if i can tell that i’ve improved, then i’m going to continue to give everything i have.

most golfers cringe when someone gets thrown into their foursome and they’re told, “yeah, i’ve only been doing this for a few months.”  but almost every kenpoist i’ve met has been very generous with their time, patience, and stories of when they first started.  those are part of the reasons i’ve wanted to continue.  will i ever make it to black belt?  maybe. maybe not.  it’s definitely a goal of mine.  but they have made me feel at home in my learning process and for that i’m hugely indebted and forever grateful.

while i may be becoming an old man (depending on where you’re at in your own aging journey), it’s a new year and my approach isn’t going to change.  my commitment level is the same or greater than it was last year.

now if i could just improve my kicks so my buddy could throw me a partial kudos, i’d be a happy camper.

— chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!