Sunday, October 26, 2008


I had a good sparring session Friday night--it was fun, I learned stuff, and I did well.

I had two opponents who particularly posed challenges. Anthony is maybe an inch taller than me at 6'3.5"; usually I have a reach advantage against opponents. I'd say he's late 30s or early 40s.

Mitch, a brown belt in his 40s, is a southpaw, very fast, technically very good, and has usually posed real difficulty for me in sparring. His punches and kicks seem to be coming from the wrong direction to me since he's mirroring my stance.

With both, I was trying to move my head while I threw my punches, which helps avoid getting dinged at the same time that you punch somebody. I do remember at least a couple of times when an opponent's punch sailed past my ear while my punch landed, which was a thrill.

With tall Anthony, I was trying to get inside at times. I would throw a jab while moving my head to the right, and step inside. Often at that point he would clinch me, but I worked on continuing to throw punches from the inside, or working to get a knee kick. Honestly, one of the things that helped me was that he was very tired, he was on his third hour of working out.

Sensei was showing Mitch and me that, as a righty-lefty pair, our power sides (right for me, left for him) were very open to attack, requiring us to be SURE to move our heads when throwing a power punch; and that we should try to position our front feet outside our opponent's front foot (which can lead to an interesting dance when you're both moving in the same direction).

It occurs to me that this is probably all too technical for people who pursue very different martial arts, but I guess one function of this post is to remind me to do these things in the future.

I was able to keep Mitch, who's a bit shorter than me, at the outside of my range with my punches and kicks; sensei mentioned this to me afterwards and I felt like a million bucks.

One thing I really need to work on is keeping my hands up, which can get tiring when you're wearing 16-ounce gloves. Often I hold my hands about at chin level when I'm sparring, which in our school (where you can punch to the head, though in class we do take it easy) is too low. I don't know why I do that, because in drills I do keep my hands up higher. A bad old habit, I guess, but one that I now know I need to work on.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Black Belt Blues (apologies to the similarly named blog)

(You should know that Black Belt Blues is the name of a blog by a recoveree from ACL reconstruction, and an excellent place to visit.)

It's been a busy fall so far for me. Last weekend was the first time in six weeks that I haven't worked on a Sunday--but I did go to Virginia to take care of my parents. A tree had fallen on their porch--and on my Dad's beloved 20-year-old pickup truck. The pickup was crushed, the porch was heavily damaged.

So my Dad, at 88, went out to try and clean things up. Instead, he fell, impaled his arm on some wreckage, and got a nasty, nasty puncture wound.

So I went down to spend the weekend. He needed more stitches, and he needed reminders to take his antibiotics every day.

Between work, family and the trip to Virginia, I am pretty sure that last week was the first time since recovering from my ACL injury that I didn't attend a single martial arts class (apart from vacation weeks spent out of town). That's how busy it's been.

When I got back, I went to class on Tuesday--and found that two of my contemporaries, Warren and Larry, both 51, had gone to the black belt test on Sunday and had gotten their black belts. I was thrilled for them, and they were so happy.

I would be less than totally honest if I didn't also say I was feeling a bit blue that I wasn't there to get my belt with them. They both said I should have been there to get the belt also. Between work, hurting my shoulder and just not having time to train, I knew I wouldn't be able to test this past Sunday. With everything still going on, I do wonder when I'll be able to test.

Tonight, I go to sparring class. We'll see how much of a hindrance my lack of consistent conditioning poses.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Shoulder Improving; Dance As Exercise

After my doctor visit, resulting in the torn labrum diagnosis, I spoke with some friends from my martial arts school who said this particular doctor is something of an alarmist. So I have been planning to visit another orthopedic doctor, but haven't had time to see one yet--the financial crisis is having me working six days a week and long hours each day. (My own view is that we're going to see what the Great Depression would have been like had regulators back then known more and acted faster.)

Due to this work demand, and due to my desire to also spend time with family despite all this work, I also haven't been able to make many of my classes. And in class, I've been mostly avoiding using my left shoulder whenever possible--not doing two-handed push-ups, for instance.

The good news is that the shoulder is getting better, whether due to this benign neglect or in spite of it. I actually recently started doing two-handed push-ups again, and my shoulder didn't hurt. I'm not going nuts and doing tons of push-ups, I don't want to push the envelope. I stopped Saturday at 50.

If things continue this way, I may not need that second doctor visit (or a $300 co-pay for an MRI) at all.

This past week I was only at two hour-long martial arts classes. The week before, only three hours. That's not enough to improve, and not enough to maintain a very high state of cardio, but It's enough, I hope to keep the rust off me.

And some of my off day time with family involves fun, moderate exercise.

On a couple of Wednesday nights, for instance, my wife and I have gone to dance class. The first 45 minutes we work on salsa--which really gets your feet moving--and then next 45 we work on a different dance--tango one night, waltz the other. According to this interesting calorie calculator, half an hour of salsa would burn (at my weight) 210 calories, and half an hour of waltz or tango would burn 140 calories. (I'm not calculating the whole 45 minutes because of instruction time.)

While this is only moderate exercise, there's a lot of evidence that moderate exercise leads to huge health gains--indeed, this article in Science Daily says there are huge health benefits to regular moderate exercise. I wouldn't use dancing to prepare for a tournament or black belt test, but if your goal is to be healthy, regular moderate exercise, from what I read, is really great.

Plus, dancing is fun.