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its been awhile

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).

akts-kenpo-campthe 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.

[L-R] mr sepulveda, myself, and mr burks

[L-R] mr sepulveda, myself, and mr burks

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.

[L-R] mr sepulveda, mr burks, mr jenkins, mr waggoner, vince, myself

[L-R] mr sepulveda, mr burks, mr jenkins, mr waggoner, vince, myself

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

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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

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.

no more blurred vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

— chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!