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tickling toes and stiletto elbows

stiletto

i don’t know how he does it, but my instructor, mr jenkins, must have stiletto elbows. i was in class last night and he was having some fun teaching some extensions. obviously this was way past our pay grade, but when the boss man wants to teach us some cool stuff, we’re anxious to learn and try. i say try because i can assure you i don’t remember any of them (or won’t by the time this is published). and sometimes they weren’t true extensions, but merely grafted things that you could do at the end of techniques just for your own amusement.

[side note: i think it’s strange that as we’re learning our techniques we often hear, “you probably won’t be able to finish this technique because the assailant will already be on the ground.” so the extensions are for ??? people on PCP? the zombie apocalypse? an alien invasion (think ‘war of the worlds’, not mexico)?]

anyway, repeatedly he would add in a sharp downward elbow to the sternum. over and over. and then again. today, it hurts to take a deep breath. i swear i felt his elbow slip between a couple or ribs once when the hit was slightly to the left of my sternum. ugh. his elbows are very bony, pointy, and hard. and he uses them very well. so much so that i became more concerned with the elbow than the eye pokes he was adding (because i knew he wouldn’t actually poke my eye, but the elbow was coming regardless).

i remember at one point he said to the class, “let me show you this on a body. rick, c’mere for a moment.” in flash i was doing a step through punch only to be hit several times, spun around and now he’s behind me. i could see the rest of the class watching intently. i was on display for all of them to see. in their eyes i could see amazing wonder at how fluid and quickly he made his strikes. accurately, too. and then i heard him say (from behind me), “and then you arm contours up his spine and you shoot your forearm into the back of his head.” a split second later, his actions mirrored his words.

grimacewhen i was able to open my eyes i saw their faces again. each one had a painful grimace on their face as if they had just witnessed a bad car wreck. if it were just one face, i wouldn’t be so worried. but it was the entire class. and he wasn’t done yet and i just gritted my teeth and tried to keep from falling (unless that was his intent, but at this moment, it wasn’t).

“you keep the motion going and then we can reverse it. when coming back through we’ll claw the face before mmpphttrrrttss …” ok, i didn’t really catch the end of his sentence. next thing i remember it was over. just as quickly as it started, he finished. i’m on the ground and he’s saying, “thank you, rick.” just like larry tatum.

later in class he was demonstrating some extensions (or more grafted stuff) on a different technique. this one ended with some kicks. the one specific kick i remembered was a ball kick to my left ribs. unfortunately for me his kick was just below the ribs and then up and under the rib cage. i’m only half kidding when i say it felt like his toes tickled my left lung. sharp pain shot through and my eyes flashed WIDE open. the demonstration was done and i limped over to my KG buddy.

“i think he punctured my lung.”

vince smiled, “yeah, i saw that. it looked like it hurt. a lot.” then in a mocking tone came the famous larry tatum line again, “thank you, rick”. haha. very funny. not!

parker-tatum

in case you don’t know what is meant by this, you should take a moment to watch the “larry tatum thank you rick” video at the end of this blog. you’ll be able to appreciate the inside joke a bit more. rick gets pummeled repeatedly and at the end of each maneuver mr tatum is always thanking rick for helping him demonstrate. in fairness to mr tatum, he was once ‘rick’ to mr ed parker (that’s mr tatum getting kicked and hit by mr parker on the Black Belt cover).

i’m sure mr parker said, “thank you, larry” on more than one occasion and it’s a lesson mr tatum was happy to pass on to poor, crippled, rick.

so, yeah. you’re welcome. glad i could donate my body to the science of kenpo for the demonstration last night. and today its kenpo-kandy time. all day long.

— chunky ninja

p.s. for the fun of it, here’s the “thank you, rick” video …

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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

i love me some orange!

yesterday was the day!  we thought the testing might be pushed out another week due to some unforeseen circumstances, but NO.  it happened.  my two Kenpo Garage cohorts, vince and john tested.  they were going for their purple belts.  then trevor and i tested for our orange belt.  the best part … we all passed.

the last week and a half i’ve been battling allergies.  wednesday it got bad enough that i went to the doc only to find out that i might have strep and definitely had a large, squishy measure of bronchitis.  it was time to heavily medicate.  and he did.  inhalers, cough meds with codeine (yum!), and four little antibiotic pills that, according to my doctor, “should kill anything you have”.  the nurse had told him she thought i might have strep.  he looked and said, “maybe, but you definitely have a lot of wheezing and congestion.  i’ll give you something that will knock that out and will take care of any potential strep.”  good enough for me.

the KG crew with our instructor

before i left his office, i was also given a shot with two other meds to help “jump start” the healing process.  the nurse asked which cheek i wanted to flash her, stabbed the needle, and waited for the blood.  no blood, no band-aid.  i half-thought to tell her i’m a karate guy and we’re all about control, so i was holding my blood inside and refusing to let it leak.   as i’ve gotten older, though, i’ve stopped going out of my way to look like an idiot so i kept that comment to myself.

last week i went through my kicking set for my instructor.  he was pleased and had only one minor tweak for me to make.  the biggest surprise came from my friend vince (dude, you’re kicks suck), who said (and i quote), “dude, you did ok.  you could tell what each of your kicks were.”

MAN, i about passed out.  it was a pseudo-compliment about my kicks – FROM VINCE of all people.  in fairness to me, and because this is my own blog and i can say what i want, i’ve worked my tail off to improve my kicking techniques.  they are in no-way-shape-or-form great, but they are better.  i still can’t back kick higher than your knee caps, but i’ll make sure you hurt when i’m done.

Vince “dude, your kicks suck” Siller – Purple Belt

so back to last night.  i’m there early.  i let my instructor know that i have bronchitis and will be hacking up a lung (probably the left one) during the evening, but i’ll go as far as i can.  with one of the guys who was supposed to test potentially missing class, we all figured no test.  well, he showed up.  and we were greatly surprised when he separated us and started making us go through the techniques.  vince rocked through his.  because of his years in taekwondo and his OCD, he learns very quickly and has very good control.  so when he’d throw a knee to the face and stop it just before making contact, it was scary good.

John “its all good, bro” Grant – Purple Belt

while vince is the KG’s “overachiever”, john is the normal one of our group (if there is such a thing).  he did very well on his techniques.  it was really cool to see how some of the “tweaks” we’ve helped in the last few KG sessions have really helped him.  it showed and he did very well.  he should be proud of his test and his accomplishment.

then there’s the comic relief from the KG … that would be me.  i don’t intend to be the comic relief. but watching me, the old, bald, fat guy, trying to learn this art, always ends up being comical.  i felt i did ok through my techniques.  there are things i could have done a bit better and i definitely need to work on my cover-outs, but all in all, i felt pretty comfortable.

(L-R) Trevor, CN, John, Vince, (instructor) David Jenkins

one technique that threw me off just a tad was Dance of Death.  trevor, my session partner, stepped through with his punch instead of a rear cross punch.  i didn’t hesitate, blocked the punch, made the groin strike, then cross stepped in so my kick would be to the right spot and i wouldn’t end up with his leg coming up between mine.  i’m sure i could have been smoother, but his doing the attack wrong didn’t stop me from the result.

then came the sparring.  i think i did better than i have in any of our sessions.  and i owe a LOT OF THANKS to Mr Bowley, of Bowley Kenpo Karate in McKinney.  his invites to come and spar with his class once a month has really benefited me.  we don’t do a lot of sparring in our classes partly because we can get a little rough.  it’s not good advertising when an ambulance has to show up to a karate school every few weeks.  (no, that’s never happened, but i’m just saying we do make contact.)

anyway, i thought i did pretty good. the three responses that i heard or noticed are below:

  • vince’s: “dude, you charge in like a bull.  you rush in all the time.  i’m making contact with you and it’s not slowing you down.  i’m gonna have to light you up a bit to slow you down.  this is supposed to be light contact, but light contact doesn’t stop you.”
    .
  • john’s: “i can really tell you’ve improved a lot.  you’re a LOT better than even the last time i saw you spar.  if you could see yourself on video, you’d see how much you’ve improved.  you’re making good blocks and good shots.  i think i’m gonna have to try and go with you to this sparring practice you’ve been going to because it’s really paying off for you.”
    .
  • my instructor’s:  we’ve been working on setting up our opponents for fake kicks.  seeing how they’ll respond with a repeated style of attack and when we see that they’ve gotten used to it, fake and use something else to our advantage.  i did this against one of my opponents (honestly, i can’t remember which one).  i threw a front snap kick a couple of times and noticed that he’d drop his right hand to block.  then i shot the the fake front snap kick and about the time his right hand dropped, i swiveled and turned it into a round house kick instead.  i heard my instructor yell, “nice kick!  that’s the way to fake him!”
    .
  • CN with my instructor/pastor

    also, when sparring with my instructor, he came at me with the same attack three times.  i knew he was trying to set me up.  he had already hit me with it before where he baited me with his left and hit me with a right.  this time i saw the set up, and after the third left jab, i immediately blocked the right and stepped in with my own left jab.  i didn’t make contact, but he immediately started laughing because he saw that i was starting to catch on.  that made me feel good.  i’m a slow learner, but i AM learning.

all in all, i felt i did well in earning my orange belt — even with my bronchitis.  i’ve worked hard and it’s nice to see this work recognized.  my instructor doesn’t just give out belts.  there are some that have been stuck at a belt for a couple of years.  you get out of it what you put into it.  i may have started this just a year and a half ago, but i’ve come along way and i’ve got SO much further to go.

One becomes great when he comes to the realization that what he knows is very little.

i realize that i don’t know SQUAT!  and that means i’m on my way.  one thing i do know is when i showed up to class yesterday i was a yellow belt.  when i left it was orange.

— chunky ninja

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

incrementally better, or maybe not, but probably

KENPO time

every class i attend i can see some improvement on skills i’ve already been working on.  then we’ll get some instruction on something i’ve never done before and i can’t seem to wrap my brain around it.  on tuesday we spent quite a bit of time working sparring combinations and drills.  then we moved into some non-technique-specific moves that required me to parry, cross-step, stance change all while striking in various places and keeping appropriate checks in place.  even typing that out i was having difficulty.  i think this weekend i’m going to practice chewing gum and walking at the same time [someone pick me up when i fall down, please].

we found out on tuesday we are moving back to one class per week (still two hours).  that simply means more Kenpo Garage time (with my instructor’s blessing).  several of us from class will continue our tuesday workouts, but move it from the dojo to my garage.  we don’t want to let up on working and improving.  we’re even going to invest in some real pads, mats, and i’m fully cleaning out the garage to make it more user-friendly for us.

i can tell a good class when i come away with some aches and pains.  i don’t want serious pains like my current finger injury, but i do want to know that i worked.  that’s what i had after tuesday with sufficient bruises and tender areas.  this morning my leg muscles were sore from a full night of kicking drills in thursday’s class.

i can assure your safety if i need to do a spinning-back-crescent-kick.  you’ll have nothing to fear.  when i’m done i’ll even lay right down for you to start stomping and kicking.  not intentionally, of course, but it’s just the way i end up — lightly tapping you and then falling straight to the ground.  and my kick is so weak all it will do is tick you off.

i’m beginning to think if i ever have to use my kenpo, i’ll be better off not trying to kick at all.  i’ll be more apt to stay on my feet and let my deadly elbows do some damage.

it's just a snack, brother

we ended the night with about a half hour of stomach and core work.  i’ve worked on my core for over 45 years.  trust me, you don’t get this kind of body by pushing the plate away.  i pride myself on my one sit-up per day routine … half in the morning and the other half at night.  so when my instructor decides we’re going to do some stomach work, i cringe.  and i know why he does it at the end of our workouts instead of at the beginning, too … he’s sadistic.  actually, it’s harder.  i realize that.  because we’re already tired, the work is harder and probably more beneficial.  but that doesn’t mean i have to like it or him at that moment.

what i did notice, though, was as weak as my three-time-hernia-operated stomach is, there is some strength improvement.  i can do more crunches, leg lifts, dying cockroaches, and other routines than i could before.  by jove, i think i’m on to something … working out is making me stronger!

not 13, but she scares me

so while my kicks are just as horribly bad as ever, there is improvement in technique.  while i’m still in shape, which round is a shape, i’m discovering strength i didn’t know i was developing.  and while i remain uncoördinated, with all the sparring training we’ve done, i may actually be able to defend myself against 13-year-old girls now.  trust me, though, i’ll still try to talk myself out of the fight first.

— chunky ninja

saga of the wounded finger

the breeze stirred up dust on the hot summer night not so long ago. the streets of the sleepy little town east of fort worth were silent. people were in for the night, sprawled under whispering ceiling fans while sipping iced tea and wishing for double-digit temperatures and not the triples they’d been suffering for nearly two months.

but in the confines of an old warehouse on the edge of east main, in the back room behind closed doors, six men and their instructor stood around the edge of the dojo watching two of their fellow warriors spar.

back and forth the fight went. combos, kicks, jabs and chops. skinny sumo and chunky ninja, gel gloves in place, traded shots. skinny was the younger, more nimble fighter. chunky, the more experienced, but also with a unique, uncoördinated way that usually made him pay dearly.

and then there it was. the kick. it came as a surprise. skinny sumo attempted a right round house kick and chunky threw a block. the kick was knocked away, but not before the ninja winced in pain. recoiling his hand and ignoring the pain, he charged in with a backhand to skinny’s forehead followed by a left hook to his ribs. it was over as the instructor stepped in and stopped the duo.
— an excerpt from “When I Wasn’t So Ninja-Like”
a soon to be released memoir from Chunky Ninja

i’m coming up on four weeks since i injured my right index finger while trying to block a kick. the kick didn’t hit the intended ribs, however it did damage my pointer which was obviously not tucked into a nice tight fist. hopefully this is a one time lesson.

cookies, anyone?

after two weeks of a swollen, painful, motionless finger, i dragged myself to the doctor for some x-rays. the 24-48 hour wait became a full week as inept office help were unable to get the results back, read, and passed along. i got the call on tuesday that the finger was not broken. but with the continued swelling and pain of the useless digit, they’ve now recommended me to see an orthopedic surgeon. odds are, by the time you read this, i’ll have already been to the doc.

meanwhile i’ve not let the wounded phalange keep me from kenpo class. this past tuesday was a fun night. it always amuses me when i think i’ve got a routine down only to have the routine altered. i feel like a buffoon, but in this case, everyone else was one, too.

my instructor generally starts out with jumping jacks before going into some stretches. 100 of them. we give a shout out on the tens. and like habit, we all stopped at 100. except our instructor, mr jenkins, didn’t. so we tried to “catch up” and we got another 10. then another 10. we hit the 125 mark and quit again … only he didn’t. some just gave up and started doing some stretching.i tried to get back into the jumping jacks, but whatever momentum i had for the first 100 was gone and i just started hopping around. i thought in my head that i was still doing them correctly, but the mirror reflected an oxygen deprived old man bouncing around. i jumped back in at 140 and stopped again at 150. he didn’t. mr jenkins did the last 25 or 30 all by himself. he’s 59 (and two-thirds). we’re all wimps. he’s not. not by a LONG shot.

i’m always thankful that my instructor is also my pastor. i think he feels an obligation not to kill some of his parishioners and shows us what mercy is all about.

we went into some kicking drills and worked the kicking set. i remembered the order of the kicks, but i really need to keep working at this because, as i’ve said in previous blogs, my kicks are horrible.

after a good dose of humility, we moved into parrying punches and some sparring drills (without real sparring). i seriously need stuff like that because, as i have mentioned before, i’m very uncoördinated. i had so much icy-hot on my arm over the last few days, though, that my partner’s arm wasn’t sliding easily when i would parry his punch. instead of easily sliding with a nice parry, my bare arm would grab hold of his and kind of jerk it. i thought he wasn’t sweating and he said, “no, dude, your arm is like sand paper with all that icy-hot crap on there.” i tried it with my left arm and, lo and behold, he was right! my left arm slid right through the parry without a problem where the right arm would practically attach itself and scrape down his forearm.

the rest of the night was technique lines where we got to work on four or five of our techniques and did that for the last hour. i love doing that! it’s probably my favorite thing because i feel like i get the moves ingrained in my brain.

we always end class the same way we start it: meditative horse stance and the kenpo salute. my pre-class meditation horse goes something like this: spread my feet to a horse position, bow my head and whisper this little prayer, “Lord, help me to learn well tonight and please don’t let me get hurt.” why don’t i include asking for protection for the others in the class? well, they should be doing that themselves … they have the same opportunity to pray. so if they don’t pray for their protection, it’s their own fault, right?

maybe i’m not fully sanctified after all.

— 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

kenpo kandy, here i come

hello.  i’d like to talk to you about advil.  God’s gift to old, fat guys like me who think they can learn a young man’s art.  i’m a practitioner of kenpo.  i’m old.  i’m fat.  i’m sore.  and i take pain medication to help me cope.

last night was the hardest night i’ve had in kenpo.  my instructor worked our cardio, in kenpo fashion, for nearly an hour.  every 5 minutes i’d look to the clock hoping it would have moved more and that he’d change up our routine.  but i guess the extra cardio WAS a change in the routine.

we almost always start with the jumping jacks and last night was no different.  i did fine keeping up for all 100.  we went to various punches and kicks.  he mixed in some push ups.  then some deep training horse stances and more punches or blocks.  push ups.  various kicks.  more push ups.  some crunches (i didn’t get chunky by doing crunches, mr jenkins). even more push ups. deep squats and coming up with specific kicks followed by punches.  push ups.  ugh!

i didn’t quit, but i wanted to.  my instructor has a saying, “you don’t quit!  you can pass out. you can fall down. but you don’t quit!”  and i didn’t.  he gave us a 30 second break after about a half hour.  while others were sprinting for water, i stood in one place and my lungs sprinted for oxygen.

i just knew the 30 second break would be a transition into our next portion of class, but it was truly just a quick break before we got back into cardio.  i hate being wrong.  and i hated it especially the moment we went back into more cardio. kicks, push ups, blocks, push ups, punches, push ups, varying stance changes, push ups. all these were given quickly and without interruption.

mr jenkins shirt was soaked in his own sweat.  he mentioned that the front row wasn’t throwing sweat off with their punches so he worked us harder.  i was on the back row.  if he had walked back there, he might have drown in the pool of sweat puddled at my feet.  even nick, our former MMA guy, was perspiring.  HE NEVER SWEATS!!

the last hour he split class up by belts and started working our techniques.  the brown belts went off and started working with each other.  we had four white belts in class and they were given the instruction for attacking mace.  then the three new orange belts were being taught a couple of new maneuvers.

i was the only yellow belt there.  i knew he’d eventually get back to me, but there’s only one instructor and many belts to help teach.  so i went and worked with the white belts on attacking mace.  i went one by one and helped them learn the technique then started a technique line so they could practice it over and over on someone instead of just doing it in the air.

then came my turn to learn a new technique.  mine, for the night, was scraping hoof.  i got going on that while mr jenkins mingled around the class helping everyone.  then he came back to me to emphasize some points (and fix what i was already doing wrong).  on one of the pivot-back-kick-front-kick-scrape-stomp moves i didn’t get my leg lifted high enough and jammed my toe into the carpet.  crack!  i think it was just because my round-shaped body wasn’t used to all the cardio and my legs felt like they now weighed a ton.  i was already exhausted and now a very sore big toe.

dummying for mr jenkins on Calming the Storm

later i was used as a dummy for a couple of orange belt techniques.  on one of them, i think the official kenpo name of it is “dude, you just ripped off my arm, please give it back“, i was thrown after having my elbow hyper extended.  if i hadn’t gone with the take down, AND if he had done it at full strength/speed, it would have broke.  but for now it was just another banged up part of my body.

i was excited about kenpo class starting.  i was almost equally relieved when it was over.  i got home, took some little, white, pain-relieving tablets.  after a couple of hours, a protein shake (triple chocolate, YUM!), i went to bed.

in the middle of the night i got up for some bodily business only to discover i was in desperate need of some more ibuprofen.  every step ached.  my toe hurts.  my knees ache.  my arms and legs feel like lead weights have replaced whatever muscle i thought i had.  my hand is still sore from tuesday night.

when i can feel it like i am, it was a GOOD night at the dojo.  i need to heal up some before i settle into the ‘Kenpo Garage’ this weekend with a couple of my fellow classmates.

but for right now, i’m headed back to bed to sleep another couple of hours.

— chunky ninja

p.s. the technique that nearly ripped my arm off is really called Locked Wing.  it can be violent.

my spidey sense says, “OW”

my instructor was demonstrating some general kenpo concepts to a couple of new white belts.  i was minding my own business, off by myself, working on two new techniques i’m learning.

“rick, c’mere for a second.  let me borrow you please,” he said.  mr jenkins doesn’t call me chunky ninja … well, maybe chunky, but not ninja.  i quickly ran over not knowing what to expect.  i heard him talking and i had that tingling feeling … the one that says, “adjust the cup, get the mouth guard in, prepare for a smattering of hits”.  but i didn’t listen.  i didn’t adjust the cup.  i didn’t get the mouth guard.  and i thought i was ready to be used to dummy some techniques.  but i wasn’t.  i never am.

i have to tell you right now that i’m extremely thankful that my instructor is very well-trained.  his control is phenomenal.  if it wasn’t, i’d be at the ER right now having to explain that my kenpo instructor, who happens to also be my pastor, beats on me for demonstration purposes.  that’s always embarrassing.

he did this figure eight thing where he hits my stomach and then to my face then back to my stomach and repeat, repeat, repeat.  with his other hand he’s slapping the side of my face, circling it around and back-knuckling my stomach, then back to the face.  so both hands are going at the same time.  face and stomach both being hit at the same time by different hands.  then alternating with a nice, easy fluidity.

“this sounds louder than i’m actually hitting him,” he tells them. but not from my vantage point.  he’s pointed out to me before that if he were really doing the technique, he’d be using fists instead of open hands.  when he started and i realized what he was about to do my mind screamed, “oh, crap!”  i clenched my teeth since i wasn’t wise enough to listen to my senses.

slap, hit.  slap, hit.  faster.  slap, hit.  slap, hit.  faster yet.  slap hit slap hit.  the rhythm picking up momentum and i’m trying to stand in one place, but my body is on autopilot and starts backing away.  he follows me.

slappittyhit, slappittyhit, slappittyhit.  the “oo’s” and “ahh’s” only egg him on and i wish they would just shut up.  i’m wincing with each stinging contact.

slappittyhitslapppityhitslappittyhitslappittyhitslappittyhitslappittyhitslappittyhit.

should i fall down?  should i start covering with my arms to try to stop the hits?

and then it was over.  he pats me on the shoulder, fixes my mussed up hair (all seven of the ones i have left), and goes back to talking to them.  that’s my cue to go back to what i was doing … thankfully.

honestly, it’s usually vince who gets “demoed” (which could stand for demonstration or demolition … your choice).  tonight it was my turn.  in a strange way, i was proud he was willing to call on me to be his “dummy” in every sense of the word.

truth be told, i’d endure, and have endured, lots of bruises, fat lips, ringing ears, sore knees, and bloody noses just to keep learning from my instructor.  we’re reminded often there is intentional and unintentional injuries.  he’s not the type who would ever purposefully inflict pain.  he’s teaching and that’s just part of the learning process.  and while he occasionally makes us “feel” it, he also is fully open to having us try the various techniques on him. for him to allow that when we don’t have his control is very courageous on his part.

i think the world of mr jenkins.  there’s nothing i wouldn’t do for him.  he’s a man of great integrity, extremely knowledgeable, full of mercy, and an all around good person.  that he’s my pastor only enhances all of those opinions i already hold.  he lives what he believes.

and next time my spidey sense starts tingling, i’m grabbing the mouth guard and remembering where i put the advil because i’m going to need it.

— chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!