Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Aloha, and farewell my students

The Party was a wonderful success! The dojo was filled with parents, siblings, and students. The group had brought so many healthy alternatives to snack on: vegtable platters, Melon platters, grapes. Also, we had enough junk food to satisfy an army: Chips, cupcakes, cookies.

We gathered around and watched action clips from classic Martial arts movies such as "Enter the Dragon" with Bruce Lee ( his fight scene with Ohara.. Wow.. It's nearly inhuman how fast Bruce Lee moved!), "First Strike" with Jackie Chan ( the Ladder scene! Fantastic display of using so many unusual objects to defend himself effectively. I can never look at drywall, brooms, or ladders the same way.), "The One" with Jet Li ( This movie really didn't do him justice to his skill, but wow.. I couldn't resist the special effects scene of him fighting himself in the shower of electical sparks.), and "Ong Bak" with Tony Jaa ( The "running away from the bad guys" scene. I chose this as the final clip because I could teach my students that we train really hard so that we can run faster than our opponents, and get away from the fighting as soon as possible. Tony Jaa made jumping over moving cars, and over/through crowds look like simple actions. I made it a point to tell my students not to try this at home.). I made sure that the clips contained minimal violence, well as minimal as a Martial arts fight scene could have :-), and no swear words or adult content. Wow.. that was a challenge, but I was successful.

My students gave me a wonderful card which had a prose that truly touched my heart.

"Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer, and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird's delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning, and that laughter is life's sweetest creation." ( I was told that these words reminded my student of me, and of my teachings during class.)

I was also presented with a lovely Lucky Bamboo planter. It's beautifying my dining room as I type. I was rewarded with so much moments of appreciation, and overflow of gratitude from these students. Little moments of just meeting each others eyes, recognizing the sorrow within us, understanding that this is a moment that needs to happen, and respecting the ongoing path of each person. I was warmed by the wonderful moments of interaction between my students parents and myself. Truly, it felt like a community had gathered together for these brief moments.

I didn't cry. Not there.. not in front of my students. I was able to control my mind, and present a joyful, supportive, and encouraging face to them. I introduced the name of the next black belt that will be taking over this dojo after the renovations will be finished on the facility, and gave the students a brief introduction to what a kind, knowledgeable, and enjoyable Sensei he will be for them. The students walked away with faces filled with hope, and expectation for the future.

But now.. at 3 am in the morning.. the tears fall, and I let them because they are a sign of how much this past half year has meant to me. It was such a great experience, and I will cherish the memories.

I was approached by the supervisor of my facility, and asked how long it will take for me to reach black belt in Kyokushin so that I can instruct. I had to smile, and respond that it may take a few years. I was told that as soon as I am able to teach that it is expected that I return and open a Kyokushin dojo in the facility. What a compliment!

Who knows.. perhaps I am being called to walk down that path, but right now it is time for me to focus on my training and improve my knowledge.

Goodbye Mizu Dojo, and Aloha to all of my students:

A Aloha = love, friendshop, hello, good bye
L Lokahi = working together for a common goal, sticking together as friends, as family, as a nation
O = Ohana, family, not necessarily blood-related, everyone helps everyone, noone is left alone ( remember the movie Lilo and Stitch : Ohana, means family, noone is left behind or forgotten )
H = Ho'oponopono = a problem is discussed and all sides are heard, either there is an agreement after that or not, but after all has been said and heard, not matter what, there is ho'oponopono, people don't talk about it anymore ( pono means righteous in Hawaiian )
A = again Aloha

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Animation of the "Boot to the head" skit by the Frantics

A short comical piece about a Martial arts master in "Tae kwon leap", and a very annoying student that gets to learn an important lesson about patience, and skill.

This movie was made using characters from the Warcraft video game and is based on a skit done by The Frantics ( a Canadian comedy troop.)

Deep thoughts with my daughter

Daughter being sick with a cold, and Mom spent the early morning hours, where the sun, and moon both stay out of the sky, talking deep thoughts together. What a special moment!

One of the greatest things that our discussion helped reveal to me was a greater understanding of the concept that "the eyes are the window of the soul."

She and I spoke at length, and worked ourselves into the realization that a person with a compassionate spirit will see compassion in others. A person filled with distrust will see the negative in others. A person filled with anger will see insult, and derision in the words and actions of others regardless to the reality of what is happening.

AND then suddenly, we both understood where violence, and bullying comes from.. It comes from the thoughts, and energy within the person. I had an AHA! moment as I thought of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi's maxim: "There is no first strike in karate." I don't believe that Sensei Funakoshi is speaking against pre-emptive attacks, I believe that he is talking about the attitude of the mind, and heart of a black belt in karate. I think that he expects that someone who has trained in the Way ( Do) of Karate would not be seeking to express violence, and aggression as a "bully" would. The actions of a Martial Artist would be centered in controlling the moment through perception of possibilities, clarity of thought, and reaction to the best alternatives.

A fulfilled Martial artist would not need to show forth superiority towards others, they would be comfortable within their own skills accepting both their strong aspects, and weaker parts as just "who" they are. "The out come of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength." A Martial Artist following the Way ( Do ) would not need to harm others through physical strikes, or verbal insults to prove that they have the ability to do so, nor to harm themselves with the same weapons because they feel inadequate.

My daughter and I puzzled over the thought that bullies must be living in a world where they see an insult in every person who challenges their view of reality. Bullies would not be able to understand, nor recognize, the goodness in others since they live in a world of violence.

My greatest question that came out of our discussion was: How can a bully change their world view so that they can escape this kind of personal negative environment?

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's not happening

"This morning I placed a large book on the floor, put my head on it, and my hands beside it on their palms, and proceeded to "pretend" to my body that I was just doing another head stand. The intense sounds of distress that erupted from me as I kicked up my legs attracted my husband's attention. I sounded like a whimpering puppy, but I achieved an inversion with my weight on my hands and head instead of on my forearms and head. I held the position until the fear dissipated, and then gently allowed myself to go back down into a huddled position of security with my knees on the ground.

It is my goal to do this action many times a day..."

I'm not achieving this goal this week. Sure, I managed to do the exercise on the first day, but as soon as the second day rolled around, I'd just have to walk near the usual place that I do this activity for terror to swirl around in the pits of my stomach, and suddenly washing dishes seemed like such an important thing to do. I'd convince myself that I have all day to face that inversion moment, so I should go and fold laundry right now. Then, when there was enough time to invert, and I had no excuses, I'd stand there, consider inverting, and just turn around and walk away. It was beyond my mental strength to force myself to do this activity. I'd argue with myself as I walked away saying "If it was a headstand, you'd be up there, and back down by now. What's your problem?"

My problem is memories. I have memories ingrained within me. Nasty horrible memories from when I was a child of being suspended upside down by my ankles over a lake with my fingertips touching the cold water, and knowing that I don't know how to swim, and hearing the taunting laughter, and begging to be allowed to go back safe to the shoreline where the water wasn't so deep, and feeling that sickening feeling of being tossed into deep water, and feeling the panic of bubbling water rushing around my whole body, and flailing my arms and legs in an attempt to get somewhere safe.. anywhere safe.. and then feeling the cold wet sand at my toes finally and knowing that if I'm lucky I can push myself with my legs closer to where I can stand up and breath.. Trying to run away from the danger in the water against it's resistance only to be captured again, and suspended again to the cruel torturing laughter. The moment happening over and over again until panic and fear became cemented in my being. Upside down on my hands means childhood horror that tastes as fresh as if it was happening again right at this moment.

I've studied about this phenomena in Psychology. Our minds make special chemicals that it attaches to memories of extreme moments to make them more permanent. I have to blame the Amygdala in my brain for this heightened memory. Those little bundles of neurons set deep within my brain helped create this hard wired memory to protect me from future moments of similar nature. Fear, pain, and negative emotions caused this memory to be created in my head, and it surges out each time that I invert on my hands. The panic is real. It's not just an echo of my former fear.. it IS my former fear.

Somehow, I have to convince my body, and mind that achieving a handstand is not the same action as being suspended over a lake by the ankles by someone 3 times older than you. I have managed to convince myself that a headstand is not the same.. now how do I go about it with a handstand?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wow... what a wonderful last class with my students.

We enjoyed ourselves. Inspired by Sensei Jean Frenette, I decided to bring in some music from the Japanese Anima cartoon "Naruto". There are some fight songs that last exactly 2 minutes. I had the students doing their basics to the rhythm of the fight song to give them a feel of what a sparring session could be like. First, I found that the students didn't feel the rhythm of the song.. the 1, 2, 3, 4 beat. We worked on that together, and then I had to adjust the basics to involve 4 movements forwards and 4 movements backwards. I found that the students, and I moved more in fighting stance than in strong set front stances.. but that was o.k. It introduced them to the idea that if they ever had to use their karate in a quick manner that they wouldn't be ending up in a perfect stance. I learned that direct stepping is far faster than C stepping. This was a revelation to me as I was always told that C stepping would bring me more quickly into range of my opponent.. but when I tried to C step to the music, my feet were too slow to keep up with the pace. I could see how C stepping is an important movement to cultivate when doing self defense, and looking to throw your opponent, or to spin around them, but if you want to close the gap really quickly direct stepping gets you there solidly, and efficiently.

My students were able to grasp doing the kata to music, and the more advanced students were able to work together as a unit to achieve almost a team kata moment as they did continual kata to the song. There was a feeling of unity of purpose, and movement. I had 5 students constantly checking each other for what each was doing, and adjusting to make the kata happen.

I learned that one truly needs to relax throughout the movement, and tense only at the end of it to achieve a good technique when attempting to match the flow of the music. If you try to throw the technique too tightly, you miss the beat.

It was so much fun to do the kata to various types of songs. There was a light hearted song, a sad slow song, a fighting song, and a lovely song. Each one gave a different feeling as you did kata. I could see the students respond to the fighting song with deeper stances, and more concentration on kime, yet with the light-hearted song there was more smoothness, control, and flow to the movements.

Every single student, including Sensei, came out of this class flushed, and covered in sweat, and yet one of the students remarked to the other in shock "NO Way! That wasn't an hour, was it? It felt like 10 minutes..."

At the end of class, I looked at each student almost to memorize their faces. I explained that musical kata is not part of most Martial arts styles, in fact, it can be considered an abomination of kata by some Martial artists. I went on to tell them that I feel that using music while training is a tool that can make a kata more aerobic an activity, or to help one to learn to relax, and enjoy their karate, but that it should not be the way that one trains in kata all of the time. Kata, I told them, is designed to teach our bodies how to move in a self defense situation, and needs to be done with that mental attitude. However, the challenge of trying to do a kata to music, as my students had experienced, made one quite aware of how easy it is to become lost, and make mistakes, and want to give up. There will be many moments in their lives when they will be faced with a challenge such as a really hard math problem, and they will want to just give up. One of the things that karate teaches is that they can succeed against such problems, they only need to continue trying, and working towards their goals. The first time that they did a front kick it felt awkward, was weak, and didn't look too good, but in time, after practice, and correction, and more practice they achieved a front kick that was effective. If they treat that math question with the same type of attitude, they will learn how to be victorious over it, and will progress. I finished my class telling my students the quote that a black belt is a white belt that never quit, and that each one of them has a bright future ahead of them, they only need to keep working towards the promises that they make to themselves each time that they say the Dojo Kun: that they seek perfection of character, will be faithful, will endeaver to excel, will respect others, and will refrain from violent behaviour.

My supervisor came to visit our class just to tell me how much she will miss my presence at this facility. She assured me that as soon as I am ready to teach Kyokushin karate she would request, and even expect, for me to come to her and open a Kyokushin dojo as a Sensei. She wants me to come back as soon as possible.

Next week, my students and I will gather together for one last time. I have chosen to have a farewell party that day. All of us are bringing treats to eat, and I have chosen little Martial arts clips from various fantastic actors such as Jet Li, Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Lee to show the kids as we party together. I smiled and said to the kids "Yes.. these are movies that you normally wouldn't have access to because they are restricted. So if you tell your parents that Sensei let you watch "Enter the Dragon" at class.. holy cow.. Sensei would be in trouble.. but I'm not letting you watch the movie.. I'm just showing you a clip of the Martial arts that I've already previewed for content. So for our last class together, the parents are welcome to come watch movies, and eat treats with us. Hopefully that way I won't get into too much trouble."

Yes, I'm going to miss these students. Wherever they go, I will keep them in my heart, prayers, and memories. For a short while we trained in karate together, and learned more about ourselves, and about each other. I am grateful to have had this experience in my life.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Refusing to accept negative labels by others

I've had a recent understanding about my life, and where I came from, and where I want to be.

As a child, there have been many people who have labeled me into what they thought I was, I've been called malicious by some, useless by others, weak, stubborn, stupid, or ugly. It took quite awhile before I understood who I really was because I had allowed the opinions of these people to infect my vision of myself. I realized that sure.. these qualities can exist in anyone at anytime of their lives, but they are not what makes a person who they are. No one is perfect, and no one is evil. In reality there is no such thing as a "good" guy, and a "bad" guy. There are only choices that one makes in their lives. Some people make choices based on their pride, some make choices based on emotion, some make choices based on money, and other reasons. I had to ask myself what do I base my choices upon.. and the answer was "peace". I have to do that which brings peace to my soul. Now, peace does not mean that it is an easy choice. Sometimes a peaceful choice hurts quite alot, but I know within me that it is the right choice, and I feel secure about my decision.

When I had to make the difficult decision to put in my resignation as a Sensei, I stood upon the solidity of "who" I am on the inside. Sure.. many people have jumped to different assumptions as to what the reasons are, and why things are happening the way that they are.. but they do not know the whole story, and neither will they be able to know it. Sometimes they are not ready to see the reality of what is happening around them. I keep hearing one of my favorite Paul Simon songs "The Boxer" playing in my head " Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." Many people are looking for the "bad" guy, looking for someone to blame for the fact that this event happened. In the main center of all understanding, I can say that there is no "bad" guy. There is only the truth that things have followed their path until this event became the result. Yes.. I love Shotokan karate. Yes.. I invested years of training, and money into it. I do not regret doing so. I have learned many things that I will carry with me into the future. Regardless to which style of karate I belong to, I will still be "me". My love for kata still exists, my joy has not ceased, and my energy hasn't lessened.

I know who I am, and what I want to be, and I know that I continually struggle for my goals. Perhaps the struggle involves moments where things do not happen as gracefully as I would like them to happen, but I continue the struggle. It reminds me of the ending of Paul Simon's song:

"In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him ’til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
"i am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains."

Monday, August 20, 2007

What a wonderful Hangetsu!

I LOVE it! I LOVE it!

The sand, the incoming waves, the quietness of the kata, the strength and focus of the Artist!


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Here we go.. working on handstands again.

Having achieved the ability to do a headstand without total inner panic,
You can follow the progress here:
Positives, and negatives,
2 1/2 minutes achieved
Things that I have learned...
Benefits of Inversion
Sickly Green Dragon of fear
5 minute headstand achieved)

I have now challenged myself to work upon achieving a hand stand.

This morning I placed a large book on the floor, put my head on it, and my hands beside it on their palms, and proceeded to "pretend" to my body that I was just doing another head stand. The intense sounds of distress that erupted from me as I kicked up my legs attracted my husband's attention. I sounded like a whimpering puppy, but I achieved an inversion with my weight on my hands and head instead of on my forearms and head. I held the position until the fear dissipated, and then gently allowed myself to go back down into a huddled position of security with my knees on the ground.

It is my goal to do this action many times a day until the panic subsides, and then to raise the height of the books up another inch so that more weight is onto my hands, and my arms are farther extended. Hopefully within a few months, I will be able to do this action, and then remove the books after achieving a headstand. Then, perhaps.. just perhaps.. I may be able to do a handstand with no crutches to help me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Big wide eyes of inspiration, and well..almost adoration

Sensei Jean Frenette from Montreal

This traditional style kata done to such lovely music has not failed to mesmerize me. I've watched it more than once, and each time I keep thinking "Oh.. I want to be able to do that!" Watching Sensei Frenette perform this kata reminds me of my inner hunger to bring kata to the point where it comes alive, and where my whole body feels each move as it's own point in time. I've been brought to tears of appreciation more than once. I want to move swiftly, decisively, cleanly, powerfully, and yet gracefully.. just like he does.

In this musical kata, we see Sensei Frenette's "Joie de vivre" expressed in his Martial arts. There is such a joy, freedom, and fluidity in the performance. In my eyes, this is not a fighting kata, although the movements can be used for fighting. This is a celebration of movement. It is a display of ability, and a wonderful one at that.

I hope that I can develop my kata to the point where I can show forth the same amount of spirit, and energy, and inspire others to applying themselves on their path.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I don't know what to call myself now.. :-)

I realize that I still have my Shodan certificate from the J.K.A. Organization. Therefore, I must be a Shotokan karate-ka. It's just that I do not have a place that I train in right now.

In addition to this, I belong to the International Kyokushin Organization #3 with a Green belt ( 4th kyu ).

BUT to top things off, and to bring a big wide smile on my lips, I have been officially invited, and accepted as an Associate Black belt member of H.R.G.B ( Hikaru Ryu). Check it out!
Thank you Shihan Colin.

Also, I have been officially invited, and have accepted joining M.C.L.A.A. (Molum Combat Arts Association) as an affiliate Black belt from Canada. Check it out Thank you Sigung Tim White.

I am so honored, and humbled. Domo Arigato Gozaimasu

It feels like one door closed, but 15 doors were blasted open by the sound of the slamming.

I don't know what to call myself now.. I guess I could say that I'm a black belt that studies Martial arts. If someone asks me which style, I'll have to say "whichever one that I'm in at the moment."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Yes, I've been quiet lately

It's been a week since my last posting on this blog. I've been quietly going through the moments, decisions, and actions that will change my Martial arts path onto new avenues. There have been moments of heavy sadness, and moments of surprising warmth, and support.

Being a Martial artist can bring alot of fun to one's day. For example, I have requested that my children each get one chance a day to "scare" their Mom. As part of my training, I am learning how to become comfortable with the adrenaline surge that accompanies a sudden sound/ action, and to learn how to breath through it so that I do not freeze. Therefore, 2 of my kids can scare me on Fri., Sat., Sun., and 2 other children are allowed to frighten me Mon, Tues., Wed.. I get to take Thursday off.. it's my "free" day.

Now, my kids have tried and tried to scare me, but their sneaking skills are not quite up to scale yet. I've heard them setting up, or heard them giggling before their attempt, and I wasn't caught off guard. If their attempt fails, they have to wait until the next day to try again.

Well.. my daughter successfully frightened me to the point of looking like a cat hanging off of the ceiling by my claws this morning. I screamed out at her sudden appearance, and kiai, and I felt adrenaline surge through me. I forced myself to breath it out.. and my daughter took off running for the kitchen victoriously laughing all of the way. Once I could gather my wits, I called out "You.. OH YOU!..." which brought even more giggles of laughter from the kitchen.

The more this goes on, the more I feel like Inspector Clouseau defending himself from Kato. ( from the Pink Panther movies..)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

If life was like a movie at least it would make some sense

I'm still working through the emotional rollercoaster ride of grief. I'm going through all of the stages,( anger, sadness, denial, bargaining, and then acceptance ) over and over in spirals.

If only life was like a good movie, sure there are sad parts in a movie, but usually in the end there is a reason, or a hero, or a conclusion. But life isn't like that.. it's like randomly interspaced events that happen sporadically due to outside forces.

When I accepted the position of Sensei, I embraced it fully, and with all energy that I possessed. I built up my surroundings to support this new life. I started saving up money to be able to represent my dojo in Montreal next year. I made leaps of personal choices, and sacrifices to live up to the position of Sensei. I set up a dojo website, and two webpages to keep in contact with my students so that they can be informed on the latest news. I started planning my schedule based on what I could do to support my dojo.

Then, in one epiphany of understanding this week of how all of the various threads tied together, I KNEW that I could not continue as a Sensei, nor even continue training in Shotokan. I ask myself.. Why did it take so long for me to see all of this? I already knew that these issues were there, why did I accept the position of Sensei in the first place? Did I think that the issues were going to disappear, or become less relevant? No.. I had the silly notion that the issues weren't that important as long as I knew what my goals, and values were in my life.

Being a Sensei meant that I could do something that I loved to do, and receive payment for it. It meant that I could say something to others at a party when they asked me what I did for a living. Normally I would answer "I'm a homemaker.." and I'd get the response "That's it?" Being able to say "I'm a Sensei of a dojo..", well.. their eyes would widen, and suddenly I'd see their faces change from bland to interested. It meant that I could bring home some extra money to help with sudden expenses. During the month of July, our water bill had tripled due to the negligence of my children. It was my Sensei money that paid for this sudden drain on our finances.

Gosh I'm going to miss them... my students. I only had a handful of them, but Wow.. they were great. They deserved better than me as a Sensei.

When I tell my family and friends that I'm not a Sensei anymore.. I see the disappointment in their eyes, bodies, and responses. They believe that I chickened out, that I "didn't have what it took", that being a Sensei was too hard for me, and that I ran away from the responsibility. They don't understand why I did what I did, and it's very difficult to explain it to them. The words "I have to stand up to my values" just seem to fall flat in front of me because I cannot explain every single issue, and detail that built up into this important decision. They would have to watch the movie to understand the ending. Heck.. I'm IN the movie, and I barely understand. I just know that I have to do what is right for me to be able to live with myself no matter how much it hurts. I really wish that this moment had a happy ending for everyone.. but it's not going to be that way at first, maybe with time things will end up happy, but right now, at this moment, many people are hurting.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

No longer am I a Sensei

I have had to make a severe choice in my path as a Martial artist. I could not continue walking as a Sensei without feeling a deep responsibility as to what I was offering my students. Due to this inner motivation, I have had to sacrifice everything to be true to myself.

I put in my resignation as Sensei of Mizu Dojo today, and I am going to keep to this commitment. I am walking away from Shotokan karate, and embracing Kyokushin Karate fully.

It has always been difficult to chase two Arts at once, and the demand on my body, on my family, and on my financial resources has been immense.

It has not been an easy decision to stop being a Sensei as I have already developed a deep bond with my students. They have been a joy to teach. Their positive attitude, their willingness to learn, their energy, and effort have blest me each time I entered the dojo. I looked forwards to every class. I will cherish the lessons, the experiences, and the memories that these moments have given to me. I loved being a Sensei. Ah well.. such is life, love, and the pursuit of the Martial Arts.

I will still continue walking the path, but now I will do so with more experience, and with higher selection as to what I allow to influence me. I seek to climb no more mountains, but chose rather, to understand myself, my personal expression of karate, and my contribution to the future of Martial arts.