Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Pause

Things are developing that I'm getting a break from training in the last week of the year. The blizzard on the U.S. East coast kept my school shut Monday; I've been out of town on a mini-break with my wife since Tuesday. On Friday and Saturday, the school is closed for New Year's.

It's not an unwelcome break, given that I'm nursing a bruised rib. Last week I did train, including running two days, though I concentrated on "core"/bag training classes and not grappling or standup sparring, which would have hurt my rib. Time off also gives me time to reflect.

I'm becoming increasingly interested in the practice of mindfulness,a concept from Buddhism that also is growing in psychological circles. I associate it more with traditional martial arts than with my mixed martial arts school. One aspect I'm very interested in is the idea of not judging or trying to push away suffering and troubling feelings, but embracing them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I don't think I have a torn pec, I think I have a bruised upper rib. Took a punch there from Anthony while infighting; it hurt so much I couldn't move, even though the Joshu was yelling at me, "Punch back! Punch back!"

From an Internet article on bruised ribs:

Bruised ribs are notorious for their long healing time. Unfortunately, there is little you can do about bruised ribs as they tend to heal on their own. Typical healing time for bruised ribs is anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks. Once, you are diagnosed for bruised ribs, it is important that you prevent them from any further damage.

Tonight: Naproxen. Ice. Stretch. Hot shower.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pec Pull

I seem to have a strained pectoral muscle.

It might have gotten hurt Friday dueing kickboxing when I blocked a high kick with my arm. It's been a little sore, but tonight when I was grappling, when people put pressure on my chest it was intensely painful. Then in sparring it was mildly sore and not an issue.

I've never heard of a strained pec, but I suppose any muscle can get pulled.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Violet KnockOut and the Judgment-Free Zone

I went a few Saturdays ago to my first Roller Derby. I was there accompanying my wife, who was running an outreach table for her her organization, which is in the mental health field. It was a charity event unlike any other I've attended.

One of the female contestants, I was told, was a clinical psychologist; her moniker for Roller Derby was Freudy N. Slip, and her "number" was DSM4 (shorthand for the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders). Other good names: Serial Mom, Jenny Bangs!, Whiskey Lullaby. Two of the best skaters were Violet KnockOut and C-Roll.

It was really fun. Everybody attending and participating looked exhilarated. One interesting thing was how non-judgmental the atmosphere was. Some of the skaters were big and some were big and butch and some were petite and limber, and nobody seemed to care how they looked. People were just having fun.

Fun, that is, plus knocking the other skaters onto their asses. But I didn't see anybody get mad about getting knocked down (though I'm sure it had to happen at some point).

There is also also a non-judgmental atmosphere in martial arts schools at their best. Unlike gyms, everybody wears the same outfit in a dojo, which tends to muffle some of the differences in wealth and build. There's often a very encouraging spirit (if also a very challenging one.) Certainly I give credit to everybody showing up, no matter what their body shape, because the easiest thing to do would have been simply to stay on the couch at home.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Commodity In Short Supply

A college friend in touch with me via Facebook and old-fashioned telephone said to me, "It sounds like you don't do much beyond work and 'grappling.'"

I did figure out a while back that, on average, I have two hours a weekday night for everything I need to do--eat dinner, talk with my wife, do chores or bills or whatever needs doing. This two hours is what's left after work, commuting, martial arts training, an hour to get ready in the morning, and 8 hours of sleep.

And sometimes work intrudes into those two hours. At the very least, I'm checking the BlackBerry.

At a certain point, I can't keep this schedule up, and that happened last week. I missed class Monday because I worked late. Wednesday, I was exhausted but took two hours of class. The first hour, standup sparring, was the best sparring I've done in a long time. It showed that putting in two hours a week on sparring, and paying close attention to instructors, is paying off.

The next hour, grappling, saw me getting crushed by everybody, including some of the people I picked apart in sparring. But I did ask my sensei about why I keep getting put into a cradle by the big guys (weighting 30 or 40 pounds more than me), and he showed me that I stay too rigid when they pass my guard--I need to switch to a looser, more flexible defense at that point. Being rigid just lets the big guys manhandle me easier. Interesting; I'll see how that pans out. I'm sure it will take some trial to get it right, but definitely what I'm doing now ain't working.

But Friday, I missed class because of one of the few work-related parties I attend each year. I vowed not to get plastered, and indeed, I was able to hold the wine to a single glass, so I could get up in the morning for the Saturday 8:30 AM yoga class I enjoy with my wife--it's fun to share a form of exercise we both enjoy. (I did also get time in on the rowing machine at work Tuesday and Thursday.)

This coming week, between Thanksgiving and travel plans, I'll get little training in. But maybe a bit of a break will help me enjoy it more when I return.

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the martial arts.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Good Week Of Training

In training, you make a plan, things get in the way, and you come up with another plan.

Monday: An hour of grappling.
Tuesday: Rowing machine at the gym at work.
Wednesday: First setback: Had to settle for one hour of sparring; couldn't stay for the second hour of grappling.
Thursday: Rowing machine again at work.
Friday: Worked late, got to class late; so I just took 3/4 of an hour of "core" class (bag workout, cardio, strength training) and one hour of sparring. Was reminded that when I'm jabbing, it's not enough to keep my right hand at my cheek--I need to move it in front of my face for protection.
Saturday: Two hours of training: First hour, grappling; second hour, sparring, which included among my first two rounds of actual MMA fighting--starting in standup, transitioning to grappling but with punches allowed.
Today: Blessed Rest.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Grappling: Psychological Questions

1. I was paired with a woman in our class Monday night, a lower belt who's doing well at grappling. My sensei said, "Don't crush her." I'm rarely paired with women. I wanted to let her work on her grappling. At first, I got her into an arm triangle forcing her to tap out. But then I let her go for submissions; twice she went for guillotines, and while I didn't give her the submissions, I also didn't try to power out of them or use really rigorous defense; I just tapped out. I thought it would be good for her to get the tapouts.
   Later I wondered, did I do the right thing? My sensei and very skilled black belts like Anthony don't allow themselves to be tapped out. Did I lose standing in the eyes of some classmates by tapping out to a lower-belt female? Or is it in my head?

2. I've come to realize I have a psychological block in grappling: When an opponent has good side control, is putting a lot of weight on me--especially when some of that pressure is on my mouth--I find myself becoming short of breath, worrying that I won't get enough oxygen. In short, I panic. And I tap out, even though I'm not in a choke or lock. It's happening with increasing frequency.
   I'll certainly talk with my sensei about it, but: How do I break that debilitating panic reaction?

Standup sparring is going well, I feel like I'm learning a lot by going to two classes a week. There's always lots to learn, but I no longer feel like I'm stuck on a plateau, not making any advances.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Funny, But...

A couple of younger guys at work--too young to have made the realization their health depends on what they do--have a joke about themselves: "Every day is the fattest day of my life."

I trust they'll figure it out eventually, and it will no longer be true. I hope so, anyway.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dialogue: Husband and Wife

Bob: slaps his stomach repeatedly and quickly
Jeanne: What's that sound?
Bob: (stops slapping) I was slapping my stomach.
Jeanne: Why are you doing that?
Bob: I saw a boxer on TV. To get him ready for matches, his trainer hits him in the stomach with a round stick.
Jeanne: Please don't get any more weird about physical fitness!
Bob: heh heh heh.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I've been doing more double-class nights--a "sick workout" one of the instructors, a 24-year-old, called it.

Monday night, a single grappling class, I did really well. Got that instructor in an arm triangle and he really had to work to get out of it. (Then he quickly tied me up in knots, but it's the first time I ever got anything good on him.) Did well against other classmates, including two who weigh 30-50 pounds more than me. One I got into a kimura. One I just got out of a bad position and survived.

Tonight: Double class, standup (kickboxing) then grappling. Two hours. Kickboxing, I did well. Grappling, I did terrible. And I was up against some of the same people.

Amazing the variation.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Two instructors in my school were talking about a guy they train with at the school's headquarters. If this guy doesn't respect your jab, he head-butts it.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taking Blows

Martial arts helped me get through a difficult day.

Without going into detail, I was getting beat up at work. Decisions made several levels above me were putting me in a difficult, unhappy, frustrating position. It all weighed heavily on my mind. I do tend to brood on things.

I left work, came to my martial arts school a bit early, and went to a standup/kickboxing class, not my normal one. Even at the stage of drills, the exertion, the effort to react quickly, the effort to keep good form took my mind off my frustrating day. Then came actual sparring--and there certainly was no time to brood.

I did say to the Joshu instructing the class at one point, while we were putting on our gear, "I don't care what happens here, I can't get beat up as bad as I was at work!" And yeah, at one point a speedy 20-year-old sempai did clock me a bit with a good hook. But in the grand scheme of things it only hurt briefly, and I fought well overall.

At the end of class, the Joshu was reviewing front kicks we had worked on, and he talked about how well I throw the front-leg push kick, how I use it like a jab. I don't get that kind of praise every day; and coming at the end of day like this one, I felt really grateful to hear a good word about myself.

Here's hoping everybody has smooth and un-frustrating days; but when you don't, it's good to have an art to fall back on that can take your mind off your troubles, and give you rewards in terms of health, camaraderie and the satisfaction of occasionally mastering difficult skills.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Philosophy and (A) Martial Art

People sometimes say that I seem like the last person they would expect to be interested in boxing or contact martial arts. The implication is that I'm a thoughtful person, why would I be interested in such violent, thoughtless pursuits?

Here's an interesting answer from an instructor of philosophy and boxing, in an opinion piece he wrote in the NY Times. He says in part:

In much of Eastern philosophy, in contrast, the search for wisdom is more holistic [than in the West]. The body is considered inseparable from the mind, and is regarded as a vehicle, rather than an impediment, to enlightenment. The unmindful attitude towards the body so prevalent in the West blinkers us to profound truths that the skin, muscles and breath can deliver like a punch.
While different physical practices may open us to different truths, there is a lot of wisdom to be gained in the ring. Socrates, of course, maintained that the unexamined life was not worth living, that self-knowledge is of supreme importance. One thing is certain: boxing can compel a person to take a quick self-inventory and gut check about what he or she is willing to endure and risk. As Joyce Carol Oates observes in her minor classic, “On Boxing”:
Boxers are there to establish an absolute experience, a public accounting of the outermost limits of their beings; they will know, as few of us can know of ourselves, what physical and psychic power they possess — of how much, or how little, they are capable.
In a different essay, this author, Gordon Marino, writes:
The capacity to tolerate fear is essential to leading a moral life, but it is hard to learn how to keep your moral compass under pressure when you are cosseted from every fear. Boxing gives people practice in being afraid.
I think part of the appeal of a contact martial art is facing up to your fear; learning, as Oates says, something about your limits. I'll likely never know the kind of outermost limit that competitive boxers and martial artists know--but I sure felt a lot of fear before my one tournament; there I learned that I can take a really powerful kick to the gut and keep fighting. And in its own way, I felt fear testing for my black belt--that's where I got my ACL torn, after all.

Even sparring against a young, wicked-fast black belt in class can present fear that needs to be conquered, even if that person has good control and you know it.

I'm happy that a philosopher is backing an interest in contact martial arts.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Maybe it was the big cookie I ate at lunch;

maybe it was the class I missed last week; maybe it's sunspots; but whatever the reason, I just had the worst night I've had in grappling in months. Ugh.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

To Repair ACLs--Or Not?

Wow--Michele of Just A Thought posted on a really confounding study, cited by the New York Times earlier in August, that found people who just went through rehab after tearing their ACL had just about the same outcomes in terms of pain and function of their knees as people who, like Michele, me and lots of others, went through ACL reconstruction surgery.

My first reactions were 1) that can't be true, and 2) I went through all that pain for nothing?

I don't know what I think at this point. I do know that I was repeatedly collapsing on the floor in martial arts class due to the instability of my knee--and it's highly likely that those collapses contributed to the meniscus tear that also got repaired during my ACL surgery. Perhaps immediate physical therapy would have strengthened my leg enough I wouldn't have had those collapses.

There's no question that a leg with ACL reconstruction is more stable, it seems. The question is just how important that stability is.

Part of the back and forth about ACL surgery in the article was:

“Most subjects can do in-line activities” like running or biking “without an A.C.L.” He [an ACL surgeon] adds, “On the other hand, we believe that A.C.L.-deficient subjects that do return” to sports involving cutting, pivoting or planting the leg “can consequently injure the meniscus” or other cartilage in the knee and would benefit from a replacement A.C.L.
The authors of the study are less sure. “On the basis of our study results, we’d tell patients” that “there is no apparent downside of starting a good rehab program and waiting with the surgery decision to see if it is needed or not,” the authors wrote to me.

Well, I've done ACL surgery, and I feel it allows me to pivot, balance on one leg, and absorb blows better than I would have been able to do. But there clearly are some downsides to ACL surgery, including intense pain and a long recovery period. As Black Belt Mama's horrific experience shows, not all ACL surgeries work out--she just had to have new surgery to repair damage from unsuccessful ACL surgery.

And frankly, it's a little creepy to me that my left leg has never quite grown back in size to match the right leg--it's not that I look like I had polio or anything, but if you look closely you can usually see the difference.

There's one black belt in our school who had a torn ACL years ago and who never got it repaired. She's a terrific black belt, and has all her functionality in sparring (she's a "little thang," maybe 5'3" or so, but she can kick me in the head!). She does wear a brace when she spars. She doesn't grapple, where I assume the brace would get in the way.

I'm not going to regret getting ACL surgery and having a more stable knee. But I think I will advise my friends who have injured ACLs and who haven't gotten surgery yet to consider physical rehab before they decide on getting the surgery.

Many thanks to Michele for pointing this article out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

End of Summer

A lot of changes are in the works here. Our daughter moves into her dorm in New York City on Sunday, and it's going to be really tough seeing her go, though she's nearby. Our son is starting to take a full course load farther out on Long Island, along with work and his own apartment, all of which is great.

To help pay for all this college, we're trying to live a bit more simply. For one thing, we've gone down to one car, which I kind of like; my wife gives me a ride in the morning to the train, and it's nice to see her even if she's sleepy.

New beginnings for my kids, and the fall season, call for new beginnings for me. In martial arts, my goals are to improve my close-range sparring, boost my conditioning, flow better in grappling, and shave off a few more pounds to get down to a fighting weight below 190. I'm not specifically aiming for my second-degree black belt--that may require more effort than I can put into training right now, given the growing commitment my work is requiring.

Cheers to everybody, and enjoy the end of summer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Was planning on going to grappling class last night. Long Island Railroad exploded instead. Made lemon out of lemonade--took the subway to my old neighborhood in Queens, my wife and daughter met me at a restaurant there. But got home way too late to make it to class.

I figure if I shoot for exercise six days a week, I'll get there four or five days.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back from Vacation: Training

Back from vacation, I plunged into work, where it felt like I was two weeks behind after one week of vacation. But I also got in some good training, including a couple of mornings running in the gym at work on the treadmill as cross training.

My school has new students from another school nearby that combined with ours, so there are new folks to spar and train with. I got a brown belt in a triangle choke, woohoo!

I put in extra time after my two grappling classes, working on my jab on the heavy bag and trying to practice close-range sparring. Last night, did standup sparring, and my jab and head movement were a little better; but I'm dropping my right hand (from exhaustion? from feeling like my opponents are juuust out of range? from concentrating on other things?) among other flaws.

I wouldn't keep coming back if there weren't always things I could improve, I guess.

Friday, August 6, 2010

DudeBro Bob

Second day of surfing lessons. I got up early while Jeanne slept. Waves were much bigger today.

I didn't stand up all the way, best I did was get one leg up under me. It occurred to me that my reduced flexibility after ACL reconstruction probably makes it a little harder to bring that left leg up under my body the way it's supposed to.

I was nervous. I kept thinking about an older man I know who, some years back, broke his neck body surfing and is paralyzed from the neck down. I learned how to use the surfer's helmet (both arms cradling the head to cushion any impact), and that I should tumble with the wave instead of fighting it. I wiped out repeatedly. The first time, I actually felt my gorge rise from tumbling and nerves.

Surfer dude Matt, my instructor, said if you're not wiping out, you're not trying.

I don't think I'Ll be trading in my day job for the surfing circuit anytime soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Surfing Lesson

My wife wanted to take a surfing lesson on vacation and I joined her. While waiting, I saw a guy come out of the water with half a board and joked, "ooh, a shark bit it!" And my wife looked me right in the eye and said,"Don't scare me any more than I already am," and I realized how nervous she was.

We were the only two students. Chris, our instructor, was right out of central casting, a blond California surfer dude with sunglasses and, he told us, a girlfriend from Spain.

We wore wetsuits due to the surprisingly cold water this season. On shore, he showed us where to lie on the long surfboard, how to paddle (arcing the chest and head up as in a "Superman" stretch) and safety practices like protecting your head with your hands when you've fallen off and come out of the water. We learned about wind, tide and how they effect waves for surfing. To our surprise, high tide was bad for surfing, but good for our lesson, because the waves are so close to the shore--you could break your neck falling off the board surfing, but it made it easier to get past the breaking wave zone for our lesson on the boards.

For me, the scariest moment was after I had first paddled past the breaking waves and the instructor went back in to bring Jeanne out also. I was in deeper water than I'd been in absent a boat, and while the waves weren't breaking there were a lot of big swells. The board felt unstable. I wondered how deep the dark-green water was and what was swimming under me.

In the water, we practiced paddling, turning the board, sitting up on the wobbling board and, of course, getting back on after falling off.

My wife got tired and the instructor brought her to shore. We had drifted, so I started paddling against the current and wind, parallel to the beach. Man, that's where I realized what a good workout you can get from surfing.

Back onshore, the instructor showed us how to pop up to actually ride a wave. The stance is sideways--closer to what I saw in a kenpo class (even more sideways than that, however) than the more forward-facing boxing/muay thai stance I naturally took.

As for actually riding a wave--maybe tomorrow when I take another class!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"The Amputee's Guide To Sex"

In the past two days of my fresh vacation, I read a book of poems called "The Amputee's Guide To Sex," by the young poet Jillian Weise. In this blog, I wrestle with physical limitations in the martial arts like deepening middle age and ACL surgery. This poet (who is an amputee) is struggling with recurring pain, extreme reactions from other people, self-image issues, you name it. I couldn't read too many of the poems to my wife while she was driving, they were too emotionally raw.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Uses of Being Flustered

"Music is a gas," my old band teacher used to say, "because all you have to do is go around a corner and you run into somebody better than you." What a great attitude he had.

I was flustered last night in sparring class--my last before vacation--because the new sempai was just so much better than me. I found myself going back to bad habits from two or three years ago--bending down to avoid punches, narrowing my stance, even turning my back. To be sure, he had great control, he was not hitting hard enough to hurt me, but it did sting a bit, as it should. He would close the distance between us and I would get totally flustered.

In contrast, when I sparred with a couple of lower belts--even though they were much bigger than the new sempai, and roughly my height--I felt in control of the situation, able to spar at the distance I wanted. I felt safe.

So, when class was over--it was the last one of the night--I went up to Sensei and asked him for some things to think about over the next week, while I'm on vacation. Things he said:

1. When I jab, I should protect my chin with my shoulder, or move my head to the side.
2. He noticed that, when the sempai closed the gap with me, I would jab but move my front foot back so that I was standing on a very narrow base, and lose balance as he kept attacking. I had no idea I did that. So I need to move backward while jabbing by moving the rear foot back first. Basic stuff, but I don't do it when I'm flustered.

I said I need to practice, practice this stuff so that I can do it even when I'm flustered.

Beyond that, he said:

3. Stand my ground at times, don't back up. As he's closing the distance, I should even move forward sometimes, jamming his punches.
4. If he's in real close, push him away and throw a quick uppercut or hook as he's off balance. Sensei showed me how he practices that on a heavy bag.
5. And, as always, move my head, keep covered up.

Things to think about on vacation, and to practice, so I can do them even when I'm flustered or nervous about somebody closing the distance with me.

It was great that Sensei took the time to talk with me after class. I'm sure he wanted to get home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Black Belt in the School

It's always interesting when a new black belt arrives from outside the school. On Monday, I met this new sempai, and he was a credit to his belt--he was polite, respectful and amazingly skilled. I would guess he's in his late 20s; he's training with my sensei for competitive fights, and he's going to be in our school for a while.

He could tie me in knots in grappling, but he was deliberate and safe in his movements--he stopped at one point when I grunted to make sure I was okay. (I make a lot of noise when I grapple, unfortunately!)

I'm sure I'll learn a lot grappling with him, I just have to retain it in my head. One of the most challenging things about grappling is retaining/calling up when necessary what I've learned--it's a very technically complex art. There's also the challenge of embedding what I've learned into muscle memory.

Standup (kickboxing) also has a muscle-memory element. But much more so than in grappling, the biggest challenge for me is getting past sensory and emotional overload (excitement, fear) in order to do what I have learned to do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Workout Interruptus

Missed grappling tonight; daughter is not feeling well, wife out at a class.

Tried starting up the 100 pushups project... again. Started at Week 3.

Then went into the basement, wrapped my hands, put on bag gloves and did some punching, slipping, kicking on the heavy bag. Spinning back kick keeps missing. Trying to train myself to throw/kick in combinations, to move my head, to move to the side instead of straight back.

The bag fell onto the ground. I spent some time screwing the supporting hook into the rafter again and getting the bag up again.

Started boxing, kicking, slipping, moving again.

Boom! Bag fell off again a few minutes later. The hook isn't working. I need a real connector now!

End of workout. At least I worked up a little sweat, and maybe drilled a few good habits.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Doc to Bob: "We're Getting Old"

I had my annual physical this week. I still need to get blood work done, but the report was very positive, she said I'm doing great. Weight's good, blood pressure's good, etc.

I, being a worrier, told my doctor I was worried because I still have a cough left over from being sick last month.

Doc to Bob: "We're getting old. You were really sick last month," things tend to stay inflamed or take longer to heal when we get old. She said not to worry, I'm doing great.

Of course, it's a little jarring being told I'm old by somebody my age, as opposed to, say, my kids.

I think, technically speaking, she was jumping the gun. I'm still in middle age. I think next year, at 55, I'm in "late middle age."

Late-Middle-Aged Martial Artist?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Benefit of Aging

I finally got back to two classes Friday night, for the first time since I was sick last month. It felt good, though I was ready for bed when I got home.

I am often unwise enough to complain about the encroachment of age. But lately, the thought has occurred to me that I've lived long enough that some defects have turned into positives--or, to put it another way, some curses have turned into blessings.

Take my build.

I recently found stuck in a book of poetry a health certificate I got from the city of Houston when I was 19, something I needed for a summer job in construction. I weighed 165 pounds, and I was 6' 2" tall (well, 6' 1.5"). In metric terms, I was about 1.87 meters tall and weighed 75 kilograms.

I was really, really skinny.

I had a few kind people in my youth suggest that I needed bulking up. A coach at a basketball camp suggested heading to a gym and working out with weights. In my sophomore year of college, the first girlfriend I really, really liked gently dropped me after we had dated a few weeks; years later she told me one factor was I was just so ... skinny.

Eventually of course I gained weight, and ended up in a state where my cholesterol was too high and my waist line was pushing 40 inches. I started training in martial arts because it was a form of exercise I figured I would enjoy enough to stick with it. I lost close to 30 pounds, and was able to go off cholesterol pills. I weigh around 190 lb. now (~86 kg), a lot more than when I was 19, but a lot less than I did 10 years ago at 44.

I'm not very muscular. But recently three different guys who are trying to lose weight have remarked enviously on my slender figure. And it occurred to me that I've lived long enough that my build, which once seemed a hindrance to getting on the basketball team and keeping a girlfriend, has become an asset.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Job Taps Bob Out

Well, no grappling tonight, I had to work late, got home without dinner with less than half an hour before class, wife out, daughter has friends (including a couple of boys) over.... It just didn't work tonight.

On the plus side, it was nice to spend a little time with my daughter, and we reminisced about an old show we used to like called "MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge," in which a goofy Japanese game show called "Takeshi's Castle," full of weird contests and pratfalls, was dubbed into hilariously incongruous English. A U.S. version called "Wipeout" is on now, with Americans speaking English. While it's funny, it's no MXC.

My daughter's here only here a few more weeks before college, I can miss a class now and then.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Running: Maybe This Will Work!

Well, I did run Sunday AM at a local school track, and I also ran today, Tuesday, in the work gym on the (blah) treadmill. The limitation on my running at the moment is my legs and feet; I felt fine in terms of cardio, but my legs are hurting and I don't want my plantar fasciitis to flare up. I consulted with Marathon Michelle, a running colleague at work and former member of the Jersey City Fight Club. She says; 1) get really good running shoes, the right ones for YOU (as fellow martial arts blogger Sue C suggested); 2) start with short distances; 3) increase no more than 10% per week.

The good things about running: 1) you pack in more cardio training and calorie burning per minute than lots of other cross training; 2) I really like how much stronger my legs feel afterwards, even though they hurt. Running outside can be interesting; at work, at least there are TVs near the treadmill. And I can't really keep my BlackBerry on call while I'm running, so it's a real, true break from work.

It would be awesome if I could consistently run as cross training for my martial arts, and my feet and legs stayed healthy. Fingers crossed. At some point I will consider whether one of my three days a week of running should be interval sprints, but first I want to just get aerobic running down.

Tomorrow night, back to grappling class.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cross Training Question

Happy 4th. Question for the day: Does it make sense to run once a week as a form of cross training?

I'm getting cardio workouts at the gym on a bike or elliptical machine, aiming for twice a week. I'm getting good workouts three days a week (more anaerobic) for four hours in my MA training.

So is running on my Sundays going to help build my cardio in addition to all this? Or is it going to just be an opportunity for injury? (I suppose I could run on a treadmill at the gym, but yawn.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Karate Kid

I got back to my martial arts school this week, for three hours, almost the four hours I usually shoot for. I also made it once to the gym at work, though I spent so much time stretching I didn't work up much of a sweat--my legs felt sore.

I've also switched to moderating comments since I've been getting so much Chinese spam in the form of comments. So apologies if any comments take time to show up.

This afternoon, my wife and I saw the remake of Karate Kid with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. I loved the original movie and hated the sequels, so I really wondered how I would like this one. I also stayed away from the reviews, which I didn't read until just a few minutes ago.

Well, I liked it a lot--much more so than a couple of reviews I read. Much of the plot structure is familiar, but it's transformed by moving the boy to China instead of to California. One of the coolest things about the movie actually was China; the vastness of the terrain, the modern busy-ness of the urban settings were really striking; it made me want to visit.

There are places where the elements of the plot change quite a bit. For instance, there's a car in this movie belonging to Mr. Han (the Mr. Miyagi character), but it serves a very different purpose. I thought Jaden was great, though it was really tough seeing him get beat up; his mom, played by Teraji Henson, was excellent.

Jackie Chan played a very different character than he normally does, and his Mr. Han is fairly different than the Mr. Miyagi planed by Pat Morita, which was probably a good thing, though both characters do fulfill the same function in the plot.

Definitely worth seeing for martial artists. It won't replace the original, but it's enjoyable.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fragile Father

Physically, I'm feeling fragile today. I'm on antibiotics for sinusitis--very high white blood count indicated a bacterial infection. (My doctor doesn't hand out antibiotics like candy, she needs a reason to prescribe.) I was really sick early in the week, left work half way through Monday, and didn't do any work until Friday--and then from home.

I've also got a very stiff neck, and I'm starting to wonder if there's a pinched nerve or something. We were working for two weeks in grappling on D'Arce chokes, and I think they weren't good for my neck.

I haven't worked out in a week and a half. Times like this it's hard to picture getting back on the mat, though I know I will.

Interesting boxing match Saturday night. There's a very interesting tournament being hosted on Showtime (not PPV, either) where six excellent 168-pound boxers compete. Last night, the tournament leader, skilled boxer Andre Ward, out-hustled and out-thought Al Green, a dangerous knockout puncher. Green had a long reach advantage, but Ward would duck in and begin infighting, and he won every round.

While I train at a MMA school, and find the ground element (grappling) to be complex and interesting, I prefer watching standup, whether it's boxing or Muay Thai or what have you. Call me old fashioned.

It's been a nice Father's Day so far....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

When I'm 54

I turned 54 yesterday. I was 44 when I first joined my school; at the time it was called a karate school, but was transitioning to the mixed martial arts school it is today. In January, it will be 10 years since I first joined.

I had a nice birthday. I took the day off from work, and when my wife got off at noon, we went to a local beach town, had a sinfully good burger lunch (Five Guys Burgers--I'm not a burger person but it's great). My wife's joke was that I was very Buddhist in ordering my hamburger: "Make me one with everything." Then we spent time poking around the town and hanging out on the beach. In the evening, I went to my usual two-hour Friday classes, first a kind of cardio class and then kickboxing, which I enjoy a lot. My college-bound daughter made me delicious lava cupcakes.

Since my last post, I have been training pretty consistent lately--an hour of grappling on Monday and Wednesday evening, and the two hours on Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday, I get to work a little early and go to the nice, inexpensive gym there--I usually do lunges, pushups, crunches, planks and 25 minutes on a bike. The theory is to take Saturday off and, on Sunday, do some type of workout (that hasn't been so consistent).

Part of the idea for this schedule is that at my age it's best to be very steady in terms of working out--not take breaks of multiple days between working out. I think its working. I feel like I'm in better cardio condition than a couple of months ago. I've lost a little weight--for the first time in years, I've dropped below 190 pounds this week (I know that sounds like a lot, but I'm 6'2" and I'm happy with my weight).

I do feel a bit frustrated this week about the skill level I am reaching in grappling and kickboxing. I am getting better at grappling doing it two times a week, but it isn't an art that comes naturally to me. When presented with new situations, I have trouble finding a solution. In kickboxing, it's easy to forget about the need to focus on moving (feet and head). I need to look at how I'm improving more than how I fare against classmates.

Later this month I will get my annual checkup; I'm wondering how my cholesterol is. There was an interesting article in the (subscription) Wall Street Journal about how to calculate your arteries' age; I would like to see what mine are.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stepping It Up

It's been very hard to be consistent lately with MMA classes and other workouts. Last week was my 28th anniversary and my son's birthday; I've worked both last weekend (made it to Saturday class, guiltily) and this weekend (missed Saturday class, guiltily).

I will boost my classes to four a week; Monday, Wednesday and, on Friday, two classes in a row, to try and build conditioning more. I'm going to schedule an hour out of work to be at the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Sunday, I'll try to find something to do at home. I know this will be very tiring initially, and work and life will interfere. But you set goals, and you shoot for them.

My main focuses are 1) health, and 2) getting better at MMA.

Point 2 is simple: In striking, I need to move more, especially laterally, and relax a bit. In grappling, I will be taking two classes a week, which should help me really learn more techniques, at the muscle memory level; there too, I need to relax more, my sensei says. Another focus, picked up from a friend at work who used to do Gracie jiujitsu, is to either give the other person no space, or to take any space he gives me.

My Saturdays will be free. I'm hoping this means I can spend more time doing things with family. My Saturdays have been very hectic.

It would be nice to have a Saturday where I don't have to work. Pray for a slow news week.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I told my wife the other day that I felt like my entire career had been spent NOT preparing for my current job. Her response really caught my attention: She said her image was of the young guy she married, taking her on a canoe trip, being excited about the whitewater rapids we were about to head into. I'm excited by challenges--even if at times I feel like I'm going to drown in them.

Now I'm thinking of challenging myself in martial arts.

My job has been extremely demanding, time- and mind-consuming, but I feel like I'm getting a handle on it. At my MMA school, the schedule has changed, right at the time when I'm feeling like three classes a week just isn't enough.

Now, rather than take any "core" classes that are very focused on conditioning, I'm planning on taking two stand-up sparring and two grappling classes, for a total of four a week.

In grappling, I simply need more practice to get more techniques in muscle memory. In sparring, I need to learn how to move better (forward, sideways, not back), and to develop more combinations in muscle memory, which again will take repeated practice WHILE sparring. (These classes do provide a real workout, and I am trying to supplement a couple of days a week at the office gym.) I really want to improve in both areas.

I'm also going to talk with my sensei about whether to take steps toward the second degree. I don't know if I want to commit to that while my job still is very demanding, my daughter is preparing to leave home to go to school, and I need time with my wife. But it's a challenge I want to consider at least.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Two Hours

One reason I haven't posted frequently lately is that, by my count, I have about two hours a day on weekdays, after commuting, working, commuting and working out to do the things that need to be done in life like eat dinner, talk to my family, deal with whatever needs to be done on a work night.

Happy President's Day. I'm going to bed!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


A classmate once observed the tradeoff for not having the ills of a sedentary life--aching back, diabetes-related ills, heart troubles--is having lots of little acute pains.

Today I still have a sore thumb which I jammed a couple of weeks ago, but I also have aches from three days in a row of class, including my first grappling class since August.

And, weirdly, I'm sore from falling out of the shower for the first time in my life. Yesterday, after grappling class, I was taking a shower at home, and I lost my balance; my feet slipped out from under me, and down I want, pulling the shower curtain down with me.

Fortunately I didn't do any serious damage--I didn't hit my head, and my knees bent normally, so no knee injuries. I remember putting a chair in the shower after my ACL surgery to avoid falling and tearing my new ACL.

But I definitely got bruised up. I don't know why I fell, but I quickly thought of how my father, at 89, fell a few months ago and ended up in the hospital. It felt like a foreshadowing of what's to come when I get old, and I didn't like that feeling.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How Much Wood Would A Nunchuck Chuck

Tough week; I strive for 8 hours of sleep even on work nights, and got only 6 hour Monday night (after Martin Luther King Day) due to a combination of crises involving work and my elderly parents.

I did have a good sparring class Wednesday--I forgot my helmet, which required consideration by my partners, and in any case they were considerate sparring partners. One was my buddy Larry, the other was a joshu who is incredibly skilled and who was giving me tips as we drilled and then sparred.

On Saturday, I varied my schedule by attending a class where my sensei went back to our MMA school's karate roots; he was teaching nunchucks to the black belts (we don't do forms/kata any longer to get a black belt). I never used them before. I didn't think I would be able to get the hang of them at first, but I did eventually, even if I was very slow. We worked on one of the forms the school used to teach.

Interestingly, my knee with the repaired ACL was more sore after doing those forms than it usually is after sparring.

I told sensei that my goal was not to become the next popular YouTube video of a nunchuck accident, and he laughed.

Today I've got a slight fever and I'm going to just rest. Busy week of work ahead. My wife's friend in Italy said everybody she talked to in America is ill with something, and I think she's right. What a winter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Sparred tonight. I don't like getting hit in the head by people who don't know how hard they're punching. I don't like that I still have a hard time dealing with people who rush in. I feel like I don't know how to spar right now and wonder if I'm past the age where it's fun. Blah.