Saturday, December 26, 2009

Making the Most of the Midlife Crisis

I've told people over the years that martial arts was my midlife crisis.

Martial arts, which I started in my 40s, changed my life. So I like this description of the "midlife crisis" in a Wall Street Journal article from this past week:
A growing number of researchers are defining middle age more broadly and in positive terms, as a good time to reassess life goals and chart a new course. "Midlife is your best and last chance to become the real you," declared an article on the topic last year in the Harvard Business Review, which drew thousands of emails in response, says co-author Carlo Strenger, an associate professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel and a researcher and consultant on midlife change.
This week I'll be taking a lot of classes to make up for holiday feasting.

Friday, December 25, 2009

ACL Peace

Merry Christmas! You know your children are growing up when you wake up on Christmas morning before they do.

I started this blog when I was recovering from ACL surgery. I've been very lucky so far (knock on wood) because my ACL has been okay.

Last night, at my wife's family's huge, fun Christmas Eve gathering--we rent a hall, there are so many people--I saw my teenage niece Gina, who one week ago had her second ACL replacement surgery. This time, she got a piece of her quad muscle removed and used as the ACL replacement--I hadn't heard of that procedure much, she said her doctor avows it's stronger than even a patellar tendon ACL. Gina's a real athlete--I think her first ACL surgery was following a basketball injury, and this one was in conditioning camp preparing for lacrosse. Poor baby.

Meanwhile, Black Belt Mama has been having recurring problems with her knee where she had ACL surgery, and they've been interfering with her karate training, and she feels very frustrated.

Unknown at this point for me are the statuses of Hack Shaft, who's had two ACL tears, and Black Belt Blues.

Here are Christmas wishes for healthy ACLs all over the martial blogosphere, and beyond.

And, yeah, peace on earth would be nice, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Work V. Life

Aaarrrgh! Missed my MMA class tonight because work popped up right as I was heading for the door. Grrrr.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Non-Quitting Spirit at 6 AM and 22 Degrees Fahrenheit

I've lately been following a martial arts blog called Indomitable Spirit, and my school urges people to have a non-quitting spirit; I tapped some of that spirit at 6 AM today.

Yesterday's snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow on my town on Long Island. I got up at 5 AM this morning to head to the gym before going to work. As I suspected, a snow plow had piled up snow around my car after I cleared it yesterday, so it took a lot of work to get the car out on the road.

Once on the road, I eventually heard a "thump thump thump": The telltale sign of a flat tire.

It was about 22 degrees outside (below freezing, for people accustomed to the sensible centigrade thermometer). First official day of winter.

I considered my options--drive to the mechanic's on a flat? Call for a tow? And realized that just changing the tire was my best option. I was a little worried somebody would slide into me on the icy road, but it was so early (about 6 AM) that only one car drove by.

Would I have had the spirit to change the tire, and the strength to loosen those lug nuts, if I weren't studying martial arts? I don't know; but I did get the tire changed, drove to the station and got on the train to work.

It's got to get easier from here on this winter.


Friday, December 18, 2009


I went to sparring class Wednesday night. Now, while I was taking a three month break from my school, I did spar at another school, but in a very different style, so in some ways it was like going back to sparring after a three month layoff.

Indeed, we were doing things in sparring I hadn't done before--practicing ducking under punches and going for a takedown, MMA style.

Most of the class was drills. But I kept wondering how I would feel, and how my classmates would react, when it came time at the end of class for free sparring and (per my discussion with my sensei) I wouldn't start sparring with the other black belts but go into the beginner area and work on drills. Would my pride be able to stand it?

My sensei found an out for me that saved face. He asked me to spar with three women in my class, a red belt and two blues (one at a time of course). They needed a fourth person to even out the numbers, and we just rotated partners. I encouraged them to throw combinations and I worked primarily on defense. I would jab lightly to the head if they dropped their hands.

Even just doing that light sparring, I realized afterwards that I do need to move more. And I realized that too much of my drilling with pads is stationary. Of course, if I drill in one place, I will spar without moving also. So I need to build that movement into my pad practice.

When I was leaving, however, I heard a very strong 30-something brown belt say to one of the 20-something black belts--with a bit of pride in his voice--"Hey, I still have a headache from sparring with you last night." That was discouraging--I'm looking for challenging sparring and a good workout, but not headaches from sparring an unbeatably fast and strong 24-year-old black belt.

I didn't have to see how that would fare on Wednesday night. One of these days I will.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I don't know about my friends, but I think one reason I am drawn to martial arts is I want to be a hero, or at least have the ability to be one. It's not something I generally think about, but I do think it's buried in my psyche.

I recently learned about my daughter's memory of a sad event when she was little. A relative was in the hospital, when my daughter was in early elementary school. Although it was hard for my daughter to understand what was going on, she understood the tension and sadness in the family.

While we were visiting at the hospital, she and I were separated when a fire alarm went off and a door between us automatically closed and locked. We could see each other through the door's window.

As soon as the alarm was over, I pushed open the door and went to her, I remember. But her (metaphorical) memory of the event was that I "ran like a hero through the flames and took my hand and saved me."

I do hope I can get back to sparring. This week I had a frank talk with the sensei at my old school about how at-risk I was starting to feel in our sparring classes when I took a break from the school three months ago. He listened attentively, we talked about what he's been trying to do to rein in the hot-heads, and we worked out a plan for me to start getting accustomed to my school's style of sparring again, a step at a time.

But it's deeply satisfying to know, whether sparring works out or not, I'm already a hero in somebody's eyes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dark Season

I recently heard the idea of treating Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, as a dark time. The bright lights wait for Christmas.

This idea makes emotional sense to me.

Now is a time of increasing darkness; shopping and seasonal preparation are hectic, which I don't enjoy. I'm still working, and it's not until Christmas that I'll have time off. With my parents' difficult straits, and my son's struggles, it doesn't feel joyful right now--this is probably one of the issues of middle age. This weekend, I'm skipping a party on an evening my wife is out of town, and I'm planning just to read.

On Christmas Eve, I will attend a joyful Christmas Eve service of singing at my church, and then join my wife's family at a huge party bringing together relatives from all over. That, to me, is when the season of light begins.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Return of the Black Belt

I wore my black belt today for the first time in three months, because I returned to my old school for the first time in three months.

It was cool to put on the black belt and black pants again. It was great to see some old friends at the school. It was a good workout--what we used to call a "core" class, without sparring.

I'm going to have a talk with my sensei on Thursday to, in his words, "find out where you are, and where we're going."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tough Day

Beat up at work.

Beat up in sparring.

Learned things both places.

In sparring: jab and pivot inside or out; in close, try fake jab, pivot inside, hook and cross.

Jab while moving to get out of tight spot.

Hand moves first in jab.

Don't use up energy with useless stressed out movements in tight quarters getting hit.

To bump: Pivot to weak spot, bump, punch.