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.