Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interview Meme

This meme has been circulating the internet for a while now. Here are the rules if you'd like to play:

1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview Me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the questions and answers.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview readers in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Here are the questions Amber asked of me:

Before I answer the questions, I would like to warn you (if you don't know this by now) that I type out essays and novels when I respond to things. For the convenience of my readers, I will provide a condensed answer first, and then an expanded version for those brave souls that have time on their hands.

1. When and why did you begin your journey in the martial arts? (oh, a 2-parter!)

Condensed answer: When? Feb 2003 Why? I fell in love with Kata.

Expanded version: In the year of our Lord 2002, I was placed in a very difficult situation at home. My autistic son was struggling, and suffering in school. His behavior was worsening at home also. Something drastic had to be done. I had used every support and resource available in the school system, and it had brought us as far as we could go. In an act of desperation, I chose to homeschool my son in an attempt to help improve his academic skills. My other children asked if they could homeschool also. I was on my own. The school system did not offer me much in helping me to know which each grade of student needed to know. Filled with trepidation, and lack of experience, I embarked on the challenge of creating a syllabus for 6 grade levels. Grade 6 down to Nursery school. The internet became a valuable resource. I gathered up my finances, and started going from used book store to used book store looking for text books to help provide material. I joined various homeschooling groups. My main problem was that I wanted to provide some sort of Physical Education aspect to our schooling. However, I was quite overweight, out of shape, and totally negative about exercise. I had promised myself that once I was out of grade school I would not go near any sport or physical activity again. All of those negative, enforced embarrassments, and rejection that I had felt in Gym class had turned me so against any form of exercise. I had kept my promise to myself, and now faced the consequences of such inactivity. I weighed 190 pounds, and I could not climb one flight of stairs to go do laundry without having to hold the wall, feel dizzy, and breath hard. I didn't want my children to have such a negative view of sports, but I couldn't provide them with something that I lacked myself.

One day my daughter came up to me with a flyer from the local community center that talked about "free" karate classes available to the area. I inwardly groaned at the thought of my little girl learning how to fight, but she was adamant. I reluctantly agreed to escort my little 8 year old to and from the dojo. This was in September of 2002. Each week, I would force myself to face the 20 minute walk to the dojo, sit there with a novel in my hands, and pretend to ignore the class when in actuality I was watching the Sensei's every action, and statement with protective eyes. The Sensei impressed me with his patience, kindness, humility, strength, and knowledge.

My daughter was pulled to the side, and taught her testing kata. Heian Shodan. Suddenly, I placed down my book, and was entranced. The kata spoke to me. There was so much poetry, mathematics, patterns, and positive energy that just rolled up in that kata. I desired to be able to perform kata... yet I felt that there was no way that I could train like all of the other students.

I went home feeling sad that I would never be able to perform a kata, and spoke out this feeling to a friend of mine. He was studying Tae Kwon Do at the time. My friend asked me what was stopping me from learning kata. I thought about the answer and I realized that it was "me". I was stopping me from pursuing this avenue. My friend stood up, and taught me the beginning Tae Kwon Do pattern. I think that he called it "Il Jong". ( Did I get that right Colin?) In the space of 15-20 minutes I had grasped the basic movements of the pattern, and I realized that I could do this, if I really wanted to.

At the next class wherein I escorted my daughter I approached the Sensei with the question "Is it possible to learn karate without learning how to fight?"

I heard him make a startled sound, saw him do a quick look in my direction, and his eyes widened a little, but he just respectfully asked me the reason why. I explained my attraction to kata. He told me to listen to my body, and to take it easy when I needed to, and allowed me to join the class.

Everything was difficult for me. I was so out of shape. I was 39 years old, and filled with a list of physical ailments. Thyroid problems, circulation problems, weight problems, skin problems, hip problems, you name it.. I had it. But I wanted to learn how to do kata. Don't ask me why I loved expressing myself in kata, it's hard to describe. Ask a painter why he paints, as a carpenter why she builds, as a skater why they skate.. and the answer could be the same as mine.. "It fulfills me."

2. You practice 2 different styles of martial arts. How do you keep them straight in your mind?

Condensed answer: With much effort.

Expanded answer: Oh my gosh.. cross training is INSANE! I have to dedicate close to 48 instructed hours per month, and just as many practice hours at home ( more if I can find it) just to keep the two arts separate in my mind, and body. So many times, I'll find that my Kyokushin "accent" will affect my Shotokan performance. I have to force my hand to chamber at my hip during Shotokan because it always wants to come up to armpit level. I'm a halfbreed. I'm too Shotokan to be fully Kyokushin, and I'm too Kyokushin to be fully Shotokan. I'm slowly succeeding in separating the two arts , but it's always a mental effort. I have to stand there, and focus really hard on imaging the feeling, the attitude, the philosophy of that particular art in my mind, spirit, and body before I move. It was easier at the lower belt levels, but now that I'm advancing in both arts into the higher kyu the little intricate details that are needed to make a technique work start to demand so much more from me. A front kick isn't just a front kick anymore. I have to know how to do it with Shotokan speed, and recoil.. and at the drop of a hat I have to be able to do a similar kick with full power in a thrusting manner for Kyokushin. Don't get me STARTED on the little intricacies of the various side kicks, and chambering! It's like being able to speak two languages like french, and english. Sometimes my french wants to intrude on my english, and sometimes I can think of the english word, but I'm at a loss to remember the french word. Yes.. sure.. all of the main ideas are the same. A punch is still just a punch, and a block that isn't well executed is just a flailing of the arms. There are basic natural laws in body movement, and every martial art has this central point to unite them. As I continue training, I've noticed that my two arts are supporting each other.. but I have to be willing to invest four times the amount of time, and energy to achieve this positive result.

3. How many of your children have shown an interest in martial arts?

Condensed answer: All of them.

At one point all seven of my children, my husband, and I would all go train in karate together. My family swamped the dojo with our presence. My oldest son went up to 8th kyu, and decided to pursue other avenues. My oldest daughter achieved 5th kyu, but stopped training when our Sensei stopped teaching karate. She just couldn't train under anyone else. My autistic son couldn't handle the loud noises of the dojo, he only trained for a few months. My three younger daughters are still training. The teenager is focused on her Kyokushin training, she is 8th kyu (Blue belt) in that dojo. My middle daughter is involved in Shotokan, and is facing her 5th kyu (Green belt) test soon. My youngest daughter is a 10th kyu (Orange belt) in Kyokushin. My youngest son popped in and out of training. It all depended on how he felt that week. I asked him to make a commitment in one way or another. Either he wants to train, or he doesn't. He chose to stay home at this point. My husband (1st kyu) comes to the dojo that I teach at to support me by being another lead belt there that I can ask to help.

4. Have you tried to foster interest in the martial arts with your children, or do you just wait and see if natural curiosity develops?

Condensed answer: It happened naturally.

Expanded version: My children chose to train in karate. I just support their efforts as best as I can. If they chose not to continue training, I would support that choice also. It is nice to be able to share my interest with my kids, but I don't demand them to be involved in it.

It's hard for the kids not to be curious, or interested in karate since their mom is so involved in it. I'm always training at home when I have a few spare minutes. My daughter came downstairs one day to see me passing my roundhouse kicks over the dining room table. I was working on keeping my knee, and heel up. She looked at me quizzically and asked "Mom? is this a new way of cleaning the table?"

The day that I found out that I had earned the rank of Shodan I came home to see my oldest son standing in the living room all apologetically. There was a huge 6 inch hole in the drywall of the room. "Uh.. Mom" he said sheepishly "I was just working on my side kick.. and I was just tapping the wall with my foot, and.. well.. I tapped too hard and my foot went through.. I'm sorry.."

I just stood there with the happy glow of self-satisfaction of the rank that I had just earned.. I looked at the gaping hole in the wall.. smiled.. and said "Oh.. that's o.k. son.. it's just a hole in the wall.. we can fix it."

To this day, my oldest son laughs and says to the other kids "If you ever wanted to get away with murder, you just had to do it on the day that Mom achieved her black belt..

Oy.. my kids will have the strangest stories to tell my grandchildren.

5. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? (I know, that was totally random. That's how my mind works.)

Condensed answer: Brown

Expanded version: Brown has always been my favorite color. I love the warm beiges, the deep sandy colors, the dark comforting earth brown. Chocolate, (my favorite treat) is that color. Brown is a color that supports the other colors. It doesn't stand out asking for attention. It quietly exists, and does what it needs to do. It's the branches of the trees that holds life for the leaves, and fruit. It is the soft cuddly fur of an animal that protects, and provides warmth. It's a basic central color.


Steve said...

Seven kids! Wow. Very interesting answers. I've seen everyone doing these, and so I guess I'd better bow to the peer pressure. Would you mind interviewing me?

Anonymous said...

I'm generally not this open, but what the heck...interview me.

Great answers, especially when it comes to cross training. I had it easy, as Wado Ryu and Shotokan are so similar (seeing Funakoshi and Ohtsuka had the same teacher) with only a few stylistic changes to be made.

[Mat] said...


And the ask a ninja video was funny :)

Ok... interview me then :)


supergroup7 said...

Steve: Yep.. Seven kids.. It seems like just yesterday that they were little.. now they are adults, working full time, moving out.. sigh.. what happened? * wipes away a tear* Oh well.. one step closer to a personal dojo like Mat has..

Sensei Michael: Thanks. I've seen how Wado Ryu is quite similar to Shotokan.. but the movements seem to be more flowing in Wado ryu. Is that just my imagination?


Yes.. I love how witty this comedian/actor is while he does the Ninja character. You should see how he describes podcasting to people over 14 years old. "It's like we are a factory giving away apple pies to whales.." I nearly couldn't breath I was laughing so hard at that.

Alright Gentlemen.. Get ready, because I've sent out your questions. I can't wait to see your answers. Thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...


Steve said...

Wow... seven kids. That's... wow.

Okay, got your questions. I answered them the best I could. :) Seven... wow.

[Mat] said...

:) I posted my answers. But I also found, quite by inadvertance, some chito-ryu kata on youtube.

Your questions are under those. :)

[Mat] said...

"If you ever wanted to get away with murder, you just had to do it on the day that Mom achieved her black belt."


that reminds me of the top ten list that says you're hooked on karate.

Every wall becomes a makiwara :)

Colin Wee said...

Alright, Mir.

I'm ready for this.

I've started a new personal blog at http://www.colinwee.com. It's a mix - part-time parent, part-time executive, house husband, etc.

It is for that blog that I request you Interview Me. :-)