Category Archives: Kung Fu and more

Kindred spirits

I rode my bike to work this morning in my effort to add a little less congestion and pollution to Austin.  It’s the 4th time I’ve ridden to work this year.  The last time I tried out this bike commuting thing was in 2005 — well before Luke was even a glimmer of my imagination. Yeah… it’s been a while.

Back then, I would see only a few fellow commuters on my way to and from work.  Now, I’ve noticed a lot more.  Mixed in with the guys and gals in their spandex — obviously out there riding recreationally — are kindred spirits, weighed down with saddle bags and backpacks, just trying to get around town with their own energy.  Most of them stop at the lights and patiently wait for them to change, stop at stop signs and politely signal their way to the nearby cars.

Back then, motorists seemed angry by my attempts at non-motorized travel and my co-workers seemed confused.  These days, I get a lot less of that.  In fact, I have more inquiries about my ride to work.  “How far do you go?  How long does it take?”  They often make comments about how they would, but they live too far away and would have to cross major highways.

Completely understandable, but sometimes I think they think I’m judging them.

I know I’m fortunate to live so close to work.  It just happened like that.  I’m hardly hardcore, either.  I stopped riding before because time changed, and I felt nervous riding in the dark.  Then I got pregnant, and I was banned from the bike.  Then Luke was born, and I hardly had any extra time in my day.  Then my bike died, and I neglected to have it fixed up for months.

Finally, I can ride a few times a week again.  I’m not saving any money, because the babysitter has to come in a little earlier so I can leave for work.  But there’s something about being part of something that more and more people are catching onto.  Je ne sais quois…. but it feels good.

Best pre-Birthday ever

Cindy and Luke with the bikeWhat a day!  And it’s not even over yet!
I have to work on my birthday, so we’ve been celebrating my birthday this weekend, and it’s all about the little things.
Like sleeping 8 hours.  It’s very rare for me, and it was nice to feel rested when I woke up.  Then we had pancakes for breakfast, I was presented with a DVD set of one of my favorite TV sitcoms, and then… best of all… Andy told me break out my bike and go for a ride.

It felt so good to be back in the saddle again… it was like I hadn’t taken 2 1/2 years off… and that I was hanging out with an old friend.  And I was felt I was riding much stronger than I used to.

I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get a bike trailer so that Luke can ride with me.  Andy offered to watch him, but riding is something I want to do often, and eventually, I’d like to take Luke to school on the bike. 

After my ride, we decided to go out to lunch at a restaurant we haven’t visited in years — Mother’s.  It was delicious, and it was nice to have a full menu to choose from, rather than search through looking for items without meat. Luke had a blast eating and then visiting the fish in the little pond in the restaurant.  We stopped by the UT turtle pond on the way home.  Unfortunately, Luke needs his nap, and we’re home while Andy is competing in the Shaolin in-school Sparring Tournament.  I had hoped to see him compete, but it’s nice having a quiet house and time to do what I want.

I’ve realized as I’ve grown older that the simple things in life are the most precious gifts of all.

No more morning Kung Fu? I would be sad

I’m really worried that I won’t be able to attend my morning Kung Fu practices for a while.  And since it’s more than just exercise — it’s time to hang out with my friends — I’m really sad and bumed out about the possibility.

Luke is out of school, and I need to watch him in the mornings before I go to work because Andy needs to leave early.  I took him all last week, and it seemed like the classes were a zoo.  Luke did pretty well, but he wasn’t the only kid, and there were definitely some issues with boredom and sharing and what not.  I felt really bad for the people who came who didn’t have kids.

It made me reevaluate whether I should take Luke with me at all, because it doesn’t seem fair to anyone involved — them, Luke or me.

I cried this afternoon when I realized it might not be possible to go.  I kept thinking about how much I love going and how unfair it is to be faced with such a choice — seemingly silly, but important to me at this point in time , no less.  The morning Kung Fu has been my escape — my 3 hours a week to be free of responsibility and do something just for me.  Missing that would be very tough.  I still feel sad.  Not angry with anyone — just sad.

It’s not the end of Kung Fu.  Just some particular classes that have become very important to me over the past few years.  And I’ve always had trouble with change. 

The bike is back

I have no more excuses.  My schedule is more amenable, it’s summer, I’m not pregnant and now, a friend at work has taken it upon himself to fix up my bike so I can now ride to work at least two days a week.

I’m nervous and excited.  It’s been so long since I’ve been on my bike, I hope I don’t fall.  Also, I’m not sure how I’m going to safely transport my laptop.  Andy says not to worry about it.  “Fall the other way,” he told me.  He pointed out there are so many ways the laptop could be damaged that are a million times more damaging than if the computer is riding in my saddlebags.

Good point.

My goal is to ride to work at least two days a week until time changes, then I will reevaluate — I’m not a big fan of riding in the dark… I just don’t trust anyone out there.

Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve ridden my bike.  Now it’s got all new tubes and tires, adjusted brakes, a clean chain… very cool. 

Working out… hard

A few weeks ago, I told Andy I would go through this workout plan with him.  I figured I would get stronger and get to hang out with him.  I thought, “Oh, it will be tough, but I can handle it.”

Ha!

Andy has us on the 50-day workout plan in Ross Emanit’s “Never Gymless.”  We’re three weeks in.  I’m waiting for the next torture to start.  Sprinting and medicine ball slams.  I’m so dead.  My muscles ache.  And the next night, we’re working on explosive strength.

Andy says it looks like I’m more muscular.  I think he’s delusional… probably from fatigue.

Actually, it’s not that bad.  We’re changing the schedule as we need and adjusting.  Like last night… the prescribed workout was to use a deck of cards to decide the workout. It was supposed to be burpees for red, pushups for black… and whatever the number on the card — that’s how many you do.

But we had to workout inside, so the burpees became squat thrusts (no shaking the house with jumping), and we made one exercise per suit — so diamonds were squats, hearts were bicycles, spades were squat-thrusts and clubs were pushups.  I survived, even after digging up the front yard all day with a really heavy pick (that — on top of two days of tough Kung Fu!).

And I am getting stronger.  It’s takes a lot more for me to work up a sweat these days, and my punches are way harder than when I started Kung Fu.  I can even do a pushup, (and a pullup with rubber bands) which is no small task for me.  Thank God I’m able to do more… the black belt material I’m learning has front rolls, back rolls, double smash kicks and even cartwheels! 

Just the beginning

Cindy with black belt 0221

I think this picture says it all….

The test went very well. 

The grandmaster congratulated all of us and said our test was wonderful.  I could critique how well I did, but you know… it really doesn’t matter now, does it?  I made it.

Been a long journey to get here, and as Grandmaster Sin told us tonight, it’s just the beginning….

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pre-test down… test to go

I passed my pre-test with what I think were flying colors last night, and now I’m breathing a sigh of relief.  The worst is over.

I changed into my uniform before I left work last night, and walked slowly to the car with my bag, trying to remain calm and not overexcite myself.  Once I arrived, I was really early, so I had time to find a place to stash my bags and weapons and settle into the groove.
There was a group of brown and black belts practicing in the smaller studio, but I decided not to do the same — why psych myself out?  I know the material… and I wanted to make sure I would be able to call on it when I needed.  I stood there talking with one of my classmates when my two sifus from the morning class walked in.  They had come to watch us test, and that meant a lot to me, especially since Andy and Luke couldn’t be there.
We all sat down on the benches, laughing and talking (and interrupting the poor lower belts trying to learn their katas).  I started talking with Master Joe about another local studio in town because the owner only lives two blocks from my house.  He put me instantly at ease, and for a few minutes, I forgot why I was there.
Then, we got down to business.  Master Joe told us to start warming up and stretching.  I realized my hair was falling into my face, and headed for my bag when Sifus Bren and Hugh told me I better put a bandanna on so they would be able to pick me out…. I always wear a bandanna on my head to workout, so my Kung Fu friends rarely see me without one… With the brown bandanna (in honor of my current belt rank) tied securely around my head… I was ready.

Master Joe wrote down our names and ranks.  There were 3 to 5 of each group: 3rd brown, 2nd brown, 1st brown and black.  We sat along the wall and waited for him to call us up.  It seemed like everyone else went first.  They were asked to do all of their current material as well as some of the old stuff — even lower belt katas.  I noticed a lot of them were nervous, which made me feel better, because at least I wasn’t the only one.  I caught myself thinking through the moves in my head and stopped at once.  When I felt myself getting nervous, I would close my eyes and breathe.

Then, it was my turn.

Four of us stepped up on the mat.  “Ching Kang” he told us (well, there was more Chinese in the title.) Everyone watching us disappeared.  I could hear nothing but my own breath as I hit and kicked my way through the kata.  I finished before everyone else and stood still, trying to slow down my breathing.  My throat was dry and tight.  I wondered whether I had left out something, then told myself to stop thinking. 

“5 directional palm.”

This had been my weakest kata, but everyone disappeared again, and I watched my arms and legs swing and kick.  I landed both double-smash kicks and almost yelled out “wow!” when I realized I had.  Again I finished before everyone else.

“Connecting fist.”  The third tiger form.  I wasn’t even thinking.  There was only action.  My muscles knew what to do.  I slowly bowed at the end, as the others finished the form.  My lungs were burning.  I was breathing fast.

Master Joe called out a 2nd brown form in Chinese.  I wasn’t exactly sure which one it was, so I snuck a look at one of the other testers.  It was the one I suspected and I plowed through, forgetting the bird call the first time, but making small squeaks when it was called for after that.  I did the same for the next form, which is very similar.  Our last open hand form tested just one of the forms from 3rd brown, and I felt very comfortable.

“Kwan Dao.” More Chinese.  At first I didn’t understand, until I saw the others headed for their weapons.  Oh, Kwan Dao.  I walked quickly across the floor to where mine was stowed against the wall.  It’s much taller than I am, heavy — weighing 8 pounds — and has a little furry red poof hanging from the blade.  I walked it back across the floor and found a place to begin, hoping I was far enough away from the others so I could swing the blade freely.  We began, and I could feel my arms burning from the weight of the blade, but my hands and feet were sure, and there was no way I was going to drop it.  Swinging, spinning, jumping, the blade swung through the air.  I could see everyone watching me, but I tried to focus my concentration.  During the three spinning jumps, I landed a little short because a black belt was sitting close by on the mat where I was moving.  It didn’t make enough of a difference in the rest of the moves.  I was performing the kata well… I could tell.  The last move… the blade swung over my back and I let go as always to grab on the other side with the same hand.  I have always had trouble with this move… but as I grabbed it this time, I felt elation.   I finished out the kata and bowed, facing away from everyone.  I stepped back as everyone finished the form.  I was breathing really hard now.  The sickness that had set me back last week was making my lungs burn and wheeze.  I struggled to slow down my breathing….

“Seadragon cane.”  I swapped the kwan dao for my staff and found another spot on the floor.  This was my best form.  And the one that always makes me laugh, ever since my husband sent me an old Saturday Night Live clip of Chris Farley, dressed as a clown, sweeping “racists” off the set for Chris Rock’s character Nat X.  Andy says the sweeping reminds him of the first three moves in Seadragon.  Again, everyone disappeared, and I swept around with the staff.  I remember hesitating once, as I realized I was about to take a wrong step, but I quickly recovered.  Counting swings in my head, I paced back and forth, until finally, I spun around, staff in my left hand, and bowed.

It was over.

Master Joe sat us all down and told us we passed the pre-test.  He urged those of us testing to black to attend the black belt banquet to be recognized.  Then, after several of his stories, we bowed out.  I turned to Bren and Hugh, “Did I look okay?”
They assured me we did very well and there were hugs and congratulations all around.  I felt a rush of relief, and a couple of people told me I looked good out there.  I packed up my bags and weapons and finally headed home.

Going through the pre-test was pretty intimidating, but I made it.  In the test, there will be more people watching me, but I feel better about it, because I’ve already been able to tune out the audience once.  I feel like… well, I’ve already proven I can do the moves once… so doing them again won’t be any big deal.
Even so, I practiced my material during my Tai Chi class today, and, because I have an early appointment tomorrow, I’ve already arranged to show up to class 30 minutes early.  I want it to stay fresh in my head.

The test is the same night as the Democratic debate at UT.  I’ve been asked several times if I can work — to which I reply, “My black belt test is that night.”  That usually ends the conversation right there.

Stomachs can do amazing back-flips

I just double-checked the Kung Fu pre-test schedule for probably the hundredth time.  It’s tonight at 7:30. 

I’ve been telling myself for weeks that I’m not nervous and have no need to feel that way.  I know the material.  I’ve been reviewing for months.  I’ve never felt so confident in my jump landings or double-smash kicks.  But for some reason, I woke up anxious this morning.
I’ve been forcing myself to eat little snacks, even though I have no desire to eat.  I can feel my stomach twirling from my nerves.  I’ve spent the past few hours trying to absorb myself in work or other activities to keep my mind active.  I sought the advice of a black belt master from another martial arts discipline to help me center myself and remove all the doubt and uncertainty that’s been bothering me.

Now I wait.  My bag is packed.  I’m praying it won’t take all night.  I hate missing Luke’s bedtime.  I just want to move beyond this step and go through the door.  Unfortunately, this is an important part of my journey through which I just can’t fast-forward.

Countdown to the test

I am so excited about my black belt test!

I get up in the morning, and I think about the test.  I sit at work and daydream about the test.  I talk to Andy at night and talk his ear off about testing.

Man… am I annoying.

But I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ve been training really hard these last couple of weeks.  Andy and I have been doing interval exercises like squats, dumbbell snatches, sledgehammer swings and jump rope to increase strength and build conditioning.  I have so much material to test on that I want to make sure I don’t exhaust myself before the end of the test.

We cut the conditioning sets in the new material classes so we have more time to review.  I got through all the brown belt material Monday morning, but I was a little rough on a couple of the open hand forms for 1st Brown.  I need to review so badly… I swore to Andy Monday morning that I would practice all of my material every night.

Another thing to add to the list.