Friday, December 07, 2007

Here's a riddle...

Q: What do you get when you mix four black belts, one brown, one green & one yellow belt?
A: An impromptu advanced class and one very confused yellow belt

When the class started I didn't really know that it would be any different until we started Tai Sabaki practice. The subtle hesitation I have at the end of each step was accentuated at the faster pace and I quickly tried to correct it at every turn.

Then, most of the class was spent training in a way I've had not yet seen in this dojo: One straight line of attack after attack to Tore for two rounds per drill. Lucky for me, that this structure provided 12 good examples (6 students, 2 sets) of how to do a technique before it was actually my turn. However, even with that head start, I needed all of my focus just to keep up

It took me a while to transcend my own ego and accept that I am the newest and thereby least experienced and sloppiest person in the room. It can get embarrassing when expectations are high and every technique feels ineffective and needs to be adjusted. At the same time, that experience brings a lesson in humility which is never in excess. In truth, I think that the lessons learned on the mat provide more motivation to be a martial artist than self defense, or physical fitness.

When I finally did get over myself, IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! During one of the drills with Zhenya, I did Koto Gaeshi (10). After being told that I had to relax and be softer about ten times, I managed to spin her around by by not tensing my arm & just using my hips. It is just another baby step, but after two months of consistent training and an equally consistent plateau, it feels more like a breath of fresh air.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Ok, maybe its not a Miracle but it's definitely a good sign of progress... Actually, I have a few things to write about, so I think I'll just divide them.

1. I was working with Dixon on a technique taught by Sensei Steven.

The Technique:
Uke would punch the solar plexus and Torre would hitch step in, deflect the punch with both hands. Torre's front hand would slide down to and connect with (but not grab) the wrist. At the same time Torre's rear hand should shiuto Uke's neck and from their in one movement as Torre's hips turned 180° the hand holding the neck would bring it to the ground as the hand connecting with the wrist would bring it up. From there a quick step through gets rid of Uke.

The Point:
For the first time ever, I did it very well! As Dixon moved in, I moved as well. When his fist reached its destination, my arms were out - firm but relaxed. I moved my hips to deflect the block and my arms were one with my hips. I rotated back to bring his arms behind him, but always in front of me. Then as I turned 180°, everything was already in place so it was remarkably easy!

Of course, as quickly as it came into place, it disappeared. After two great techniques, I did another two that were not up to the same standards and the drill was over. Ok, so I'm not a black belt! But I'm finding my way and that's pretty exciting.


2. We got a chance to do a little ground work today. I was paired with Rafael and we began back to back a few times as well as from Kesa Gatami. I noticed a little growth here too because I was able to heed the advice that Youval and Woody gave me on groundwork. I never let Rafael get my arm (for an armbar) and I took a few for myself. I realized that I am just strong enough to buy me enough time to do a technique but not quite strong enough to overpower him. Every time it came down to pure muscle, he gave me a good reason to go back to the gym!


3. The injuries that seemed to gang up on me in that two week period are finally beginning to dissipate. If ever there was a life lesson to protect my thumb it was that experience with Woody almost two months ago. Youval - you have excellent kicks. After our kicking match 3 weeks ago, my quadriceps (particularly the left) hurt every time I get up and sit down. I wanted to be strong enough to withstand Sensei David's roundhouse kicks, but I'm not sure if the remedy is worse than the disease! I can breakfall on my foot, but I still can't kick. Considering how I already broke my toe once on the same foot, I probably have no business picking it up until I learn to use it. My elbow also finally feels close to 100%!! I still plan on wearing the elbow wrap for another month or so just to be sure but I won't shy away from being an Uke unless I feel pain.

We can't always encounter a fight when we are in perfect health and learning to fight with these limitations is the best way to learn how to handle that. I'm not particularly grateful for any injury but I now understand the importance of training while injured as opposed to waiting until everything is working perfectly.