Monday, June 30, 2008


Paula, among many others, talks about spirituality and martial arts. This may not be the spiritual aspect she means, but certainly martial arts teach humility when you come up against a compatriot who can do something so much better than you.

For me, in grappling, it's my buddy Larry. Larry by his own admission gets nervous at the black belt test, and so hasn't done well on defense moves that are memorized. But he knows so much about grappling--he knows so many moves I've never seen, and remembers more of the ones we've both been taught--that it's a real exercise in humility grappling with him. I can't blame an age or size difference, he's maybe two or three years younger than me, and the same size basically. He even had ACL reconstruction before I did.

Moreover, he does his excellent work with a modest and unassuming attitude, which itself is a commendable spiritual discipline.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

There Is Just No Time...

... to post anything much. It's read my friends' blogs or post, and right now reading is more enjoyable....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A 60th Anniversary; A Black Belt Test (Neither Were Mine)

Wow, it's been a while, and there have been a couple of milestones.

On June 14, I was in Virginia for my parents' 60th wedding anniversary, a real achievement. They were tired--heck, they're 88 and 89--so we just had a quiet dinner out. Their faculties are in decline--things like short-term memory and staying on task are difficult--but they're living on their own (with lots of help from my brother, who lives near them), they're enjoying life despite some ailments, and it was great to celebrate their big day with them.

Today I attended the black belt test of two of my friends. Neither passed. They were both disappointed of course.

A brief explanation may be necessary here. My school (a large one in several eastern U.S. states) once was a Shotokan karate school, but it has since morphed into a mixed martial arts school. I just learned this week the school is actually dropping the gi top (there will still be a uniform, but the top won't be a gi). It has retained some elements of karate, such as belts and a big test for the black belt. We're tested for strength (men 50 and older must do 50 pushups in good form, and 50 situps in a minute); for form and power on punches and kicks; for knowledge, form and speed in self-defense moves from various grabs; for kickboxing skill, and grappling skill.

My friend the Hulk was being tested for grappling. Hulk is, as you might guess by the name, incredibly strong; he's in his late 50s and in amazing shape. From what I understand, he didn't pass grappling because he relied on his strength, and didn't demonstrate enough knowledge of grappling technique. He was pretty blue about it.

My friend Larry of the family that fights together, in his late 40s (he gets to do even more pushups and situps in the test) did well on the punches and kicks, but he said was so focused on form in his self-defense routines that he wasn't fast enough, according to the senseis judging him.

It's always easier to see as an outsider that a set-back can be a learning experience; it's much harder to feel that optimistic when the set-back happened to you. Still, I have confidence my friends will join me in September, when I hope to test again.

I have tested twice; what I have left is the pushups and situps (you always have those) and grappling, the test in which I got hurt.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Eye

In grappling Monday night, my buddy Larry, while very careful about my reconstructed ACL, was less careful about my eye, dragging it across his shoulder (I know, it's kind of hard to picture how it happened). Result: My first eye injury, mild as it is, in martial arts: See the abrasion below my eye in the photo.

I haven't gotten a black eye previously in kickboxing, thanks mostly to protective gear and the reach advantage I have over many of my opponents. I've gotten lots of bruises and abrasions on my skin in grappling, but not in the eye until now.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On Wednesday, I'm 52

Tomorrow (as I write this) I will turn 52. I'm still alive, I'm still kicking. I will return for that black belt in my 52nd year.

I was so stressed out today, from work and from dealing with a stressful person outside work, I thought I was going to fall over. But I survived.

I have to travel on my birthday for work, ugh. But my wife and daughter will join me a day later and we will take a mini vacation in Florida. With luck, the new alarm system will keep our home intruder-free while we're away. On Monday, I'll be back in grappling class.

I thought life would get easier as I got older. It hasn't. But I've got my family, I've got my health, I've got two titanium screws in my leg bones that I didn't have before, plus an ACL that is probably stronger than I give it credit for.

Osu, all you fellow martial artists.

Hang in there, all you fellow ACL folks.