As we begin another year of Soo Bahk Do training, Patrick and Eric are ramping up for their test for Chodan, while I'm readying myself for Eedan!
Tonight we did something interesting -- Sa Bom Nim Bannard bought some glow-in-the-dark bracelets from the Dollar Store. We put 'em on and turned off the lights!
Once our eyes adjusted to the dark we could see, but the multi-colored glowing bracelets certainly stood out. Doing hyung, il soo sik, and partner drills in the dark was VERY cool. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely -- we'll be doing this again.
Tonight I started the 6PM class out with kicking drills. I had planned to go through vocabulary using an old Dan shimsa script, but switched. Instead we did kicking, where I worked everyone HARD on technique. I picked apart and pointed out a lot of basic mistakes people are making -- trying to avoid picking on anyone. Typically I see a mistake and make a general comment to everyone rather than to a particular person. That avoids making anyone feel singled out. At the same time I do make personal comments, especially to compliment people on what they're doing.
At 6:30 I morphed into hyung training, originally planning on going through all hyung as a refresher. During Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu I spotted a number of significant mistakes, so that lesson shifted into fixing problems. Using the same techiques as the kicking, I helped people fix a LOT of problems.
Right after we finished Ki Cho Hyung Sam Bu, SBN finished his last patient and kept us going on the hyung training. I started working with Maria on Jung Jool, but a muscle injury in my groin forced me to stop. So I helped Maria with a few minor points and shifted to work with Patrick, Eric, and Pascal on Du Moon. We spent the next 30 minutes working that hyung!
Again we fixed a lot of minor points, some of which they will remember for next time! One thing I need to do with the boys is to get them practicing more consistently at home. while it's their responsibility to practice, I need to push them more. Home class will benefit them as much as regular class, even if I lack SBN's experience in teaching SBD.
Our testing is coming up in 4 months. I'll admit I don't feel ready for it, but SBN has asked us to determine which weekends we can do Dan shimsa prep classes on. I'd like to do them at least every other weekend! My last testing was too stressful as I felt under prepared. I want this one different, not only for me, but for the boys as well.
We did some interesting exercises tonight -- first blindfolded self-defense.
This was definitely interesting -- each person in turn was blindfolded and stood in the middle of a circle of people. SBN Bannard would pick a person who would grab the "victim's" wrist, who would react to escape the grasp. This was harder than I would have thought, as we rely so much on visual cues. Getting free wasn't hard, but moving successfully with the energy of the grab was tough. Typically everyone would react to the grab by pulling away instead of moving with it. Yeah, people used their huri rather than their arm to make the break-away, but it wasn't by moving with the attacker's energy. Even for Maria and I that will take more practice.
The second exercise was reacting to sound. SBN would point out people who would snap their fingers, and the blindfolded person was required to turn quickly to look towards the sound. In general this was relatively easy, especially in a silent studio.
The third exercise was the most difficult. The blindfolded person stood in a fighting stance and had to try to sense people walking around them, the idea to move out of the way of an interloper. Most of the time people stepped out of the way, but in a few cases blundered into the path of the walkers.
Overall an interesting set of exercises!
Today we had our first Dan class of the year, something we're going to try to do several times each month. In May Maria & I test for Ee Dan and Patrick & Eric test for Cho Dan. In the fall Pascal tests for Cho Dan. His sense of urgency is less than the rest of us, but it's better to get him ready earlier than later.
The classes will normally be general Dan training, practice we're not getting in the regular class. A truism is that a class "travels" at the rate of the slowest student, so Dan members don't get everything they need from a non-Dan class. SBN tries to focus on us, but with him divided by so many students it's not as effective. So it makes more sense to have a Dan class where we can focus exclusively on our material, while in the regular class we work on the more general concepts. We get the same lessons as the Gup members, just a more detailed focus.
Right now the focus of the Dan classes is the upcoming May Dan Shimsa. The four of us who are testing are NOT prepared for it. Yeah, we're close, but there's a LOT of tweaking that needs to be made prior to then!
Today's class was an indication of things to come. Sa Bom Nim Bannard expected us to get most of the way through a sample Shimsa script ... in reality we barely made it through basics in the 2 hours. We hit a LOT of clean-up work in basics, mostly minor fixes, but a few things that weren't quite as minor. Future classes will get farther.
Interestingly enough the testing requirements have changed, generally eliminating a few things. The Pyung Ahn and Nai Hanji hyung are removed from the testing ciriculum, meaning I don't have to demonstrate Pyung Ahn Ee Dan nor Nai Hanji Ee Dan, and the boys don't have to do Nai Hanji Cho Dan. This is a minor relief as I can focus more on other things.
Everything else is about the same.
I've been writing 2009 journal entries for a month, but haven't got around to posting the 2009 page! I made a commitment to myself to get that done tonight!
In reading through the entries it appears that SBN is spicing class up, doing some interesting exercises in addition to the normal "stuff". This is good, as it keeps everyone interested. I'm looking forward to what he dreams up in upcoming weeks.
Tonight SBN Bannard told Maria and I that the Tanto (knife defense) we've been practicing for over 1-1/2 years has changed. We still have the 5 basic attacks to defend against, but the responses are all different, some radically so.
Yes, I agree that the new responses are better than the old ones. But I am a bit spooked having a change like this 3 months before the Shimsa.
There are other changes, some of which are not bad. The Na Hanjai and Pyung Ahn hyung are being removed from the testing curriculum, so Maria & I have only 3 hyung to perform instead of 5. For Patrick & Eric it's 4 (no Na Hanjai Chodan) instead of 5.
Il Soo Sik & Ho Sin Sool are the same. Sparring for Maria & I is same as Chodan candidates -- two 1-minute rounds. Two-on-one is now reserved for the SamDan candidates.
We worked on sleeve grips tonight -- four cross grip and four same side grip. This is not going well. I'm learning too many things at once and mixing 'em up.
I'm not feeling good about this Shimsa. I don't feel prepared and am learning too many things too close to the testing. While I want to test with Patrick & Eric ... I'm thinking I may be better off delaying my testing to the fall. As long as I'm diligent about training I'll be in a good position then.
Patrick & Eric are a bit freaked about testing. I can sympathize -- I am more than a bit freaked by the upcoming Shimsa.
Eric has his material well memorized, but I've been working him on stances and use of huri. He's deficient in both areas and isn't happy I'm working him so hard! Oh, well -- better me riding him now than a failed testing!
One big problem is his intermediate postures -- he doesn't have 'em! Well, he does ... but he's rushing things. This means when moving into a front stance he flings his leg out, producing a stance that's too long and narrow. So we're working to fix that.
Patrick, OTOH, needs work in a LOT of areas. He's always one to do things HIS way ... another thing I can sympathize with. But as I've learned, in many situations that is a recipe for failure -- martial arts is definitely one of those situations. I'm having trouble getting it through to him that if he does things his way he's going to fail his testing.
I'm feeling a LOT better about Patrick. His biggest issues are like Eric's -- stances and use of huri. Until now Patrick has resisted my help, continuing to do things his own way. Now? Testing is rushing up on him and his sense of immediate concern has kicked in.
This is not a bad thing -- he now understands that he has to match the model and is really trying. In a very short time he's turned himself around and is showing good promise. I'm honestly startled by the change, although not disappointed.
Eric is also doing well. For the most part his stances are better and he's working on proper contraction and expansion.
Me? I'm not doing so well. My back has been bothering me, and it's starting to affect my training. The problem appears to be muscular, but it's definitely a problem.
Patrick and Eric are continuing to improve while I'm not getting better. I'm REALLY thinking that I won't be able to test. Training properly is hard to do and without it I won't do well. Plus I'm wondering if I'm going to do something bad to myself if I try to hard at testing without proper preparation. Magic Eight Ball says, "maybe".
Patrick is now finishing up his Dan essay. Eric beat on his early on, but Patrick has been spooked by it. The essay for ChoDan is a minimum of 1,000 words on the subject "What Soo Bahk Do Means to Me". It's the length of it that spooks Patrick.
Last night on the way home from SBD class we discussed it. The problem is he had no idea of where to start. The problem appears so enormous!
So we discussed an outline -- listing the ideas he can write about. It took us about 5 minutes of discussion to come up with about 10 items. Patrick got excited -- he's sure he can write 100 words about each item, plus an introduction and a conclusion! Yeah, breaking the problem down into manageable pieces always makes a job easier!
Of course, now he has to actually do it. I've given him a deadline of the end of this month to get it done. I imagine even with his current enthusiasm he'll run up to the wire ...
While I've made huge headway with both Patrick and Eric, we've hit a plateau -- both have excelled in preparing for the test, but we're running into relatively minor things that we can't get past. Eric has a bad stance in Chil Sung Sam Ro Hyung, near the beginning where there's a big turn followed by two ahneso phakero mah ki. In slow practice he makes the turn properly, but once he gets into full speed he flings that leg around and lands in a chungul jase that has his feet 135 degrees from his original position with his blocks at 90 degrees. kind of hard to explain -- his feet are twisted too far, they should line up with the blocks. I'm honestly surprised we didn't spot this earlier.
This is affecting how I work with beginners. In the past I'd let a lot of "minor" things slide so it didn't interfere with the primary lesson. But in helping Patrick & Eric hone their techniques during the past 2 months I'm fighting through a lot of long-term bad habits that haven't been previously corrected. It's the deep-seated bad habits that are proving to be so difficult to change.
So in working with Mark, Katey, & Emily (new white belts) I'm addressing some "minor" things sooner than I would otherwise.
The Gup testing material has changed as well as the Dan testing material. LOT of things White & Orange belts formerly learned are deferred -- LOT more on the Red belt shoulders. Given that the average student spends 1-1/2 years total as White, Orange, & Green while spending 2 years as Red, this isn't as bad as it sounds.
For White and Orange belts one hyung is learned per rank (Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu, Ee Bu, & Sam Bu, plus Pyung Ahn Chodan). Only Pyung Ahn Chodan hyung remains in the testing curriculum.
These four ranks also focus on Il Soo Sik #1-#4 and Ho Sin Sool Cross Grip #1-#4. At first I thought they (SBD senior Dan members) were dumbing the curriculum down ... but in thinking about our beginners the past few years, this all makes sense. We're focusing on the essential concepts, not new material. Once the concepts are learned it will be easier to teach new material.
The Shimsa is 2 weeks away ... and I've decided to defer testing. SBN Bannard has been treating me for my back and I'm feeling a LOT better ... but the lack of sufficient and proper training the past 6 weeks is showing. I am NOT up to snuff on anything.
So I've been focusing on helping Patrick & Eric prepare, and Maria as well. In some respects this is for the best -- since I have no worries about myself I can concentrate on helping them.
For Maria it's the same problems I had -- tanto and sleeve grips. For the most part it's not a matter of "learning" anything, it's practice to make the performance effortless. In the case of tanto we do 5 defenses and 4 "hidden" defenses, meaning that we demonstrate each of the 5 defenses ... then we are attacked 4 times without knowing ahead of time which we are defending against. IMO this is the REAL test of ability to defend ourselves.
For Patrick my biggest concern is his self-critical anger. When he goofs something up he gets angry with himself, then he goofs up the next 2 or 3 things. A minor mistake cascades into a series of major mistakes. I recognize this -- I had the same problem when I was on a bowling team 15 years ago -- I'd throw a bad ball and it would affect my throw of the next several. It's a hard thing to defeat.
The Shimsa is tomorrow. It's funny -- I'm not testing so I have no concerns for myself ... but I'm worried about the boys. While I believe they'll do ok, they've made such great strides in the past few months in terms of cleaning up their technique.
Happy birthday to me! I turned 46 today!
I think the Dan Shimsa went well. Maria looked really good. While she had difficulties with her boards she broke them. I have hopes she passed.
Eric & Patrick both failed to break their boards. This isn't all that surprising -- probably 2/3 of the ChoDan candidates failed to break. I think the wood was [b]VERY[/b] hard! But the boards are not really an issue -- they'll have to break in the dojang, something they've done in the past.
I watched their basics & hyung. Both looked good! Eric was RIGHT in front of the Kwan Jang Nim, while Patrick was just behind Eric. The KJN had a great view of both boys ... which was nerve wracking for both! ROFL! But the basics & hyung looked really good -- I think they passed that part with flying colors!
A bigger concern is Ho Sin Sool, which I didn't see as I got called into the room with the EeDan & SamDan candidates to hold for board breaking. Patrick forgot his last two Ho Sin Sool and couldn't do 'em, while Eric had problems with technique on at least one. I fear they'll have to repeat those.
Along with board breaking this means they'll have to demonstrate for SBN Brown, the regional examiner, in 3 months or so. I'm not looking forward to paying hotel prices in Myrtle Beach in August ... maybe we can talk SBN Brown into visiting Cary ...
Sa Bom Nim Clyde taught the Dan clinic prior to the Dan Shimsa held last Saturday. His topics were Visualization and Creative Il Soo Sik.
I'm typically good at visualization, but he brought it to a new level. We performed Il Soo Sik Il Bon a few times, following which he asked if we were visualizing an attacker. I was, but not at the level he was asking. We did Il Soo Sik Sam Bon, then Il Soo Sik O Bon ... and I got the idea he wasn't getting what he was looking for.
Next he asked if we were visualizing a real attacker? Like a drunken, stoned, 300 lb biker who was going to take our lives? Looking around the room I easily noticed that everyone's initial move of O Bon, Ahp Cha Nut Gi, snapped out and DROVE the imaginary attack's belly button through his spine.
While to non-martial artists this may sound extreme, it's not. It's good training -- in a life-or-death situation we will get *1* chance to save a life (ours or someone else's). As Mr. Gailes, my former instructor said, "the way you practice is the way you are". Practice slow, low power kicks and in a crisis situation you'll execute slow, low power kicks. This is a good lesson to remember.
Next we did "Creative Il Soo Sik". Although it's not fully explained yet, starting at the next Dan Shimsa in the fall, Ee Dan candidates will have to create their own Il Soo Sik and demonstrate it. This means we each have to come up with a good counter for a given attack.
I imagine some people will come up with some really imaginative ideas. Me? I'm thinking I'm going to keep it basic. While fancy stuff will impress some, I'm expecting the Kodanja (masters) who lead the testing panel to look for solid application of proper technique.
When the full description is published I'll have a better idea of what I want to do.
I do feel foolish about one thing -- at the end of the clinic SBN Bannard did a small unit on moving with the energy. He needed a test dummy ... and of course I'm typically the best choice, especially since I'm used to playing that role.
When he asked me to help I was surprised and ran straight up through the ranks to him -- instead of walking down my row an dup the side. I got started running and realized I had screwed up protocol ... a bit late. At least when SBN Bannard was done with me I remembered to go around instead of through the people.
SBN Bannard confirmed that Patrick & Eric will have to demonstrate board breaking & Ho Sin Sool for SBN Brown. He was also receptive to the idea of getting SBN Brown to visit us, maybe teach a Saturday morning clinic. It would be good for everyone to watch Eric & Patrick demonstrate, giving the lower rank an idea of what to expect while giving E & P a chance to show off. I'll have to follow-up on this with SBN Bannard in a few weeks.
So my goal for the next month is to help the boys clean up the Ho Sin Sool. I also need to focus on MY testing ... October will arrive quickly enough and I want as little stress as possible going into it ...
Last night's class was a killer. We practiced Ho Sin Sool ... live action style. We formed a circle with one person in the middle. SBN Bannard assigned each person a number, and called out numbers for people to attack with Wrist grabs.
That wasn't the killer part -- that was the instructive part.
Second part of the class was two people got in the middle. Person 1 executed kicks and the Person 2 reacted by sliding back out of range. The goal here was for Person 1 to push their partner back by way of the kicks while Person 2 reacted to the kicks and avoided 'em.
Nope that still isn't the killer part.
Those in the circle dropped into a horse stance and executed a punch timed with each kick. The goal was timing ... plus it kept us busy instead of standing there.
Nope ... still not a killer.
Next we executed 3 punches in time with the kicks. This was harder to do as our punches had to be faster than the kicks (since we did 3 technique to their 1).
Ugly started to creep in ... do 3 punches then front kick with one leg, then with the other ... do 3 punches, squat, kick with one leg, squat, kick with the other.
Nope. Still not the killer yet ... but we're getting there ...
Do 3 punches, squat, kick with one leg, squat, kick with the other, jump front kick with the first leg, jump front kick with the second.
THAT was the killer part! Excellent training, though!
Last night's class was an interesting one -- we worked on a number of interesting practical applications.
In warming the class up I progressed into working on practical combinations -- in this case ideas of what to do if an attacker steps forward with an overhead strike. My practice combo was to shift weight back from a front stance to a side stance, blocking high. Then shift back to a front stance, striking the collar bone with a reserve yuk sudo, followed by a strike to the other collar bone with a Ahneso Phakuro Chagi. This was working out well ... and SBN Bannard took what I started and ran with it.
He had Maria & I block, punch to the donjon, then move under the attacker's arm and sweep the back leg out. It's an elegant move, one that will drop the attacker on their face! As I mentioned to Pascal, the floor is the hardest thing you can hit someone with.
Next we moved onto avoidance and counter-attack. Assuming the attacker steps forward with a punch, from a fighting stance hop to the side landing on the back leg, contact, and skip forward onto the front foot and strike the attacker with a reverse punch. Sound complicated? It's not -- if anything it's more like a dance move.
Hop to the side, landing on the back leg (front leg can be in the air), contracting during landing. Then expand forward onto the front leg, striking during landing, twisting sharply to multiply power. Finally slide back out of the range of the attacker.
I started out doing ok with this, but my back stiffened up. After a minute of this I could barely sidestep, must less hop.
This is frustrating -- I thought we had cleared my back problems, but this exercise, which I didn't think would affect it, locked me up. Last night and this morning I'm stiff as a board. It's not exactly painful ... unless I try twisting, bending, or breathing.
This is not boding well for my Ee Dan shimsa in October ...
In yesterday's entry I spoke FAR too soon. Last night really sucked -- back was stiff and I got a terrible spasm in my left hip (piriformis muscle). When Lorraine got home from bowling (summer league) I asked her to massage my hip to reduce the spasm, but her hands were a bit wrung out from bowling.
Lorraine came up with a brilliant idea -- she used her feet to work on the spasm. One physical therapy technique for dealing with a large muscle spasm is to use the point of the elbow to break it up. Since it was in a large muscle group with lots of padding (my butt!) she used her heel to do the same thing. If anything she was able to put more pressure on the spasm.
Not that Lorraine would use this on a patient, but I'm her husband and subject to no such constraints! ;-)
In any case it worked and the spasm was greatly reduced. Not gone by any stretch of the imagination, but reduced. This morning I'm stiff, but not as much as yesterday and the pain is mostly reduced to discomfort.
No way I can train tonight. I'll do stretches and some light work, but nothing strenuous. Yeah, this doesn't bode well for the October shimsa.
I've been diligent about stretching my legs, back, and piriformis muscle in my hip ... until yesterday. Didn't stretch and did a light stretch before class tonight.
I paid for that lapse dearly, my lower back locked up 2/3 of the way through class and I had to bow out. Stretching then relieved the pressure, but I was unable to rejoin class. It's clear I MUST be 100% diligent in stretching my legs, back, and piriformis.
I googled "periformis" (my misspelling of the word), found the correct spelling, and found out about Piriformis Syndrome. This is a syndome in which the piriformis is tightly tied to the sciatic nerve, and inflamation of the sciatic refers pain through the buttocks and into the lower back. From my symptoms this is a likely candidate.
Interestingly enough medical providers question if this syndome actually exists. I'm not a medical expert, but if enough people fit the symptoms it's real enough.
Treatment? Physical therapy, stretching, deep massage. Last resort is surgery to relax the tendon that's in there, not a minor surgery. I'm going to stick with the PT, stretching, and massage until proven that it's not helping ... thankfully I'm married to a PTA!
Last night after I had to bow out of class SBN Bannard had the class working on creative combinations. Everyone was directed to take moves from several il soo sik and ho sin sool and combine them in new ways.
Eric & Patrick were paired, sometimes a dangerous combination given their sometimes inability to work peacefully with each other.
What surprised me? Two things:
1) They worked well together. When one accidentally hurt the other there was no fits of anger or attempts at striking back (something they would not do with anyone except each other). They cooperated like real partners and would have been impressive to people that don't know them, much less those that do!
2) They chained 4 il soo sik & ho sin sool together, alternating attack and defense, and made it all flow very neatly! It looked really impressive, and this was with 10 minute's practice!
They don't know it yet but they are going to continue practicing that combination, cleaning it up more, and making it more interactive (more blocking by the attacker than is normal for the original il soo sik or ho sin sool). This is something they could use at a demonstration.
In the past month I've been practicing my material for the next Dan shimsa in October. Got some clean up to do on EVERYTHING, but in general I've got everything down well. Only real problem, from my POV, is the hidden tanto defense. No matter what I do I seem to anticipate rather than react to the attacker's energy, meaning I do the wrong thing.
Everything else needs cleanup, I can certainly use more practice and more feedback on every other technique ... but I know my one great weakness for this shimsa.
As I write this I'm sitting at the dining room table at my Dad's home in Upstate NY. I'm having a relaxing week of vacation, away from all stresses.
Last week SBN Bannard made some changes in the way I'm practicing the hidden tanto with Maria. He noted that we're starting VERY close together and that gives me no time to make a good decision on which defense to use.
To the casual reader the idea may quickly arise -- an attacker is not going to telegraph what they're doing nor intentionally give me time to react!
While this is a good point, in fact an excellent point, it doesn't relate to the shimsa. My job at the shimsa is to react in a given fashion to demonstrate technique and understanding. Should someone actually try to stab me the job is different -- don't get stabbed!
I react well enough to not get stabbed the vast majority of the time. For practical purposes starting close is good practice. But starting a bit farther apart makes for a better shimsa showing ... so I'm going to practice both ways.
Wow. Four months since I last updated my journal, not a good thing.
Well, since my last entry Patrick, Eric, & I quit Bannard Soo Bahk Do. The reason? It's a personal one I'm not up to talking about yet. Maybe some time in the future.
The bad thing is that I have done NO training since quitting at the end of September. This is really bad for me, as the lack of exercise has enabled me to put on 10 lbs I don't need to be carrying. The goal now is to get off my butt and re-start training.
I need some time to get myself back in shape and knock off that "bonus" weight. That's goal #1. And not just martial arts training -- I need to get back on track for the Bowflex.
The problem with my last stint at Bowflex training is that I made the program too robust, it was taking more time than I was willing to put into it around my other activities. That made is easy to walk away from it. The program covered too many bases, I need to reduce it a bit and get back on track. Tonight sounds like as good a time as any!
At some point before Christmas I need to start interviewing schools. I think, initially, I want to stay in the Tang Soo Do family and have identified 3 schools within a reasonable commute distance. A fourth one looked really good, but a 45 minute drive to get there won't fit into the family schedule. I'll post my results ...
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