Mother and Daughter

Karate Kid and MomR

I’ve been training with my daughter for seven months now.  Because I’d trained for about 3-4 years when I was a little younger than her, I was able to promote at a fairly rapid rate after I started training again.  I caught up to her pretty quickly and now outrank her by one belt (the picture is a little out of date).  My daughter is working hard to catch up to me.  It would be fun to promote together some day.  However, if we never promote together, we’ll at least know there’s someone cheering us on!

I love it that there’s someone I can geek out with.  At dinnertime, we probably bore my other daughter and my husband with our karate talk.  But then again, they do get to listen to some funny stories from time to time.  It’s nice to have someone who was there when the funny thing happened – that way if the others don’t think it was all that funny, at least my daughter will laugh.  We spar some of the same people, then later we pick apart their preferences and go over strategies.  It’s great to have a buddy!

Our practice times together are fantastic.  Sometimes we’re in the garage, other times if there’s a studio empty at the YMCA we’ll be there.  My daughter coaches me in kumite, I coach her kata.  We want to learn partner stretches.  It’s not always easy to get practice time together because of her school schedule, but it’s worth it.

There are challenges to training with my daughter.  I have to fight my own urges to control her life.  There is an ogre in me that wants to really be on her about this, that, and the other.  She’s a teenager, so that would backfire rapidly.  I don’t like fighting the ogre, but it must be done.  I know I’ll be a better mother if I do.  That said, I have intervened once or twice outside the dojo to steer her back on course.

We’ve had little tiffs outside the dojo about things that relate to and affect Karate (like nutrition).  It’s rough, but we eventually work through those things.  Inside the dojo it really, really, really helps that the Senseis are in charge.  I’m supposed to be loosening the leash anyway.  If Sensei is in charge, I can let my daughter make her own choices and mistakes and allow her also to learn the consequences.  The good part of me backing away like this and acknowledging Sensei’s authority is my daughter’s accomplishments are really and truly her own.

I think we’re becoming more than just mother and daughter – we’re developing the friendship that comes when the relationship is good between mother and adult daughter.  At this stage in my daughter’s life, it’s great to have something we can do together.  Karate is giving us skills that are serving us well through this time of transition as my daughter matures into a young adult.



Happy New Year, everyone!  In the spirit of this joyful holiday, I offer three bruise stories for your entertainment and amusement.

black eye 2015 Joelle White
Bruises are fun!!!

Here’s my favorite bruise story from when I trained as a teen.  I was sparring and ran my face right into my opponent’s fist.  This resulted in a spectacular black eye.  The guy apologized profusely both to me and my father.  I laughed so hard at my sparring partner – the guy was apologizing to my Dad for something that was my fault, carrying on as if my Dad would tear him apart even though he outranked Dad considerably.  I didn’t even feel pain because I was laughing too hard.  Three days later, when the shiner was at the peak of its color, was school picture day.  Yeah.  I actually did manage to pull it off with some heavy duty makeup, and the photography lab did their magic with their airbrushes too.

Here’s three more recent bruise stories for you.

A couple of months ago, the weather was warm enough to allow me to wear a cute 3/4 sleeve cranberry-colored blouse I’d just bought.  At the last minute before I left, I saw a livid bruise on my right forearm.  There wasn’t time to change to a blouse with longer sleeves.  During the church service, I sang in choir.  Front row.  Dead center.  Holding up a music folder.  Everyone in the small church saw that big purple, blue, black, yellow, and green splodge against my pale skin.  Oh golly.  It’s a good thing everyone knows I’m not being abused by my husband – I’m taking Karate.  But they don’t have to know that bruise was in the wrong spot on my arm.  The bruise should have been lower down for the block I was using.  For that matter, I should’ve either dodged, caught the kick and swept, or used a block better suited for use against a kick to my upper midsection.  What the congregation doesn’t know won’t hurt them 😉

A few days later, Sensei gave us the option of sparring or continuing to work on kata.  I chose sparring because class time is limited and I can work on kata on my own.  Only three of us chose sparring, so Sensei himself made a fourth.  I’d never sparred with a black belt before.  Sensei and I bowed to each other.  I fought down nerves and launched an attack – or that was the idea, anyway.  WHOOMP!  Sensei landed a kick to my gut.  I felt it but didn’t think much of it.  A few moments later I went for Sensei again – WHOOMP!  Another kick to my gut.  I called a halt and asked what I was doing wrong.  Sensei spent a few minutes coaching me, then it was the end of class.  I didn’t think I’d been hit hard – it didn’t hurt much and I hadn’t had the wind knocked out of me!  But next day in the locker room before swimming I discovered a deep bruise.  Fortunately the bruise was covered by my swimsuit.  Every time I felt that little ache throughout that weekend, I reminded myself of what I’d learned when Sensei coached me.

Earlier this week I discovered four little bruises just above my ankle.  No doubt these were from four human fingers.   I was sparring with a tall guy who outranks me and he caught my kick.  Message received – speed those legs up!  I had no idea I’d been bruised while hopping around on one leg – in fact, I was laughing at the time.  I’m kinda proud of those bruises because we were the only ones actually doing something before class (my daughter was sick, otherwise she’d have gleefully asked to have a turn).

This is karate, not knitting.


If I get hurt, I try not to think much about the other person or to stew about what he or she did to me.  I think about what I could have done differently.  I think about how badly I could get hurt in a fight for survival.  Those thoughts put bruises in perspective in a hurry!  I remind myself that I am building skills and next time I’ll hopefully do better.  Bruises eventually fade, but the lessons stay.

Please pass the arnica gel while you share your favorite bruise stories…

The Tree

The tree
The tree in front is much taller than the building now

1974.  I was in preschool then.  Outside the library I passed a little Douglas Fir tree growing in the small plaza outside the library.  I inhaled the scent of books and library paste as Mom and I walked towards the doors.  Once inside the doors I ran several steps straight to the window of a courtyard and watched water trickle down an abstract metal sculpture fountain.  I lingered for a few minutes, fascinated.  After awhile, Mom and I turned right and walked through another set of doors and into the library proper.  On the right were books, books, and more books.  I ran to pick out my favorites from the shelves under the window you see in the picture behind the tree.

2014.  I passed the trunk of the fifty foot (15.24 meters) high tree growing in the little plaza outside the community center that once was the library.  I knew the scent of books and library paste was long gone, but I smelled the air anyway.  Once inside the doors I took three strides to the window of the courtyard to see what had replaced the old fountain.  I turned away after a quick look then turned right and walked through the other set of doors, noting the button that would open them if needed.  On the right was a wall and a door – a closed off space with no shelves, no books.  Behind the door was a big empty room waiting to be filled with people, food, and good memories.  It was time for me and my new friends to set up the room for the annual Christmas party for the organization of dojos we belong to.


I worked hard with friends – most of whom outrank me, two who have taught me and my daughter.  As the time for starting the party approached, more people helped to set up and I found myself coordinating one part of the efforts – people who outranked me had asked how they could help, then they cheerfully fulfilled my requests.  After helping a family with three toddlers get food I went through the buffet line myself and sat down at a table with a new acquaintance and his family.  I ached for the company of my daughter, home sick with the flu.

We were given a chance to eat and fellowship, then awards were presented.  Right in the spot where some of my favorite picture books had once awaited me under the window by the tree, my Senseis honored me and gave me an award.  I about cried – the recognition meant so much to me.  I accepted another award on behalf of my sick daughter, remembering how she had picked out books from the same spot, remembering the Empty Bowls charity event she and I attended a few years later in the same room I was standing in now.  So many happy memories rooted in one spot just a few yards from a tree that has grown up with me.


All too soon the Christmas party was over.  Many hands were available to help clean up and most of the work was done in the space of half an hour.  Those of us who had been there from the first stayed on until the work was done to the satisfaction of the community center’s manager.

As I helped clean the floor, I took a moment to look out the window at the trunk of the tree.  I imagined my four-year-old self standing in the exact same spot.  That little girl could never have imagined her grown up self – a student of karate mopping a floor alongside two mop-wielding instructors.  A mother wishing her nearly grown child had been healthy enough to be there to hear the affirmations and the challenge for the new year, and to receive the award herself.  A woman striving for personal growth, physical health, and the means to defend herself and others if need be.


At last the work was done and the manager signed us out, remarking that we were remarkably quick and thorough workers.  She made it clear we were more than welcome to hold future events there anytime.  Outside, I took a moment to look up into the night-darkened branches of the tall Douglas Fir tree.  Fog obscured the night sky.  The tree was enchantingly beautiful in that moment.  I started to think about how I’ve changed and how that tree has changed.  My thoughts were interrupted by the welcome voice of one of my Senseis.

“Is that the tree?”

“Yes it is, Sensei.”


I guess at some point I had told Sensei about how small the tree used to be.  I was flattered he remembered.  I took one last look up into the branches high above me and wondered what changes the tree would see in the years to come.  Then I fell in step behind the people I’ve trained under and worked with so I could participate in the lingering chatter and wish them well on their journeys home.

On the way home I passed by the storefront that had once been the dojo I trained in when I was a teen.  I wished my parents and I could remember my old Sensei’s last name.  The dojo was part of a different organization.  Last Spring at a tournament I took the opportunity to talk to the head of that organization.  He doesn’t know where my old Sensei is now.  I wish I could find her and talk with her again.  I wish she could meet my daughter.  I wish I could thank her.

Merry Christmas, Sensei, wherever you are.

P.S. – I actually wrote this article several days ago.  Since then, while visiting a sister dojo I met another student of my old Sensei who had started after I left.   He remembered her last name.  What a great pre-Christmas present!  Hopefully I’ll find her soon!!!

Caring for your Weapons


Some of us pursue training in bo, sai, etc.  But all of us karate-ka train to use four very important weapons.  I’m talking about our hands and feet.  Many of you dear readers probably already know good methods of caring for your weapons.  If that is the case, you might want to pass along this article to some of your students.   I know I didn’t just figure these things out on my own – many people shared tips with me (including my  Mom, one of the Senseis at a sister dojo, and a few people in a Google+ Martial Arts community).  If this article can help someone, I’ll be happy.

Finger Nails and Toe Nails: This is a no-brainer, right?  Wrong.  Every once in a blue moon, a student will have to be reminded to cut fingernails and toenails.   My nails grow pretty fast, so I have to keep after them about once a week.  My nails are a bit tough, so I use big toenail clippers on my fingernails and big toes, then little fingernail clippers on the rest of my toes.   I leave just the tiniest rim of the white part of my nails.   If you’re having problems with your nails, ask your doctor for help – sometimes you just have to eat more carrots (Jesse Enkamp would probably say to eat more carrot cake).

Appealing Feet:  When I was a teenager, the other kids and I would peel our feet and Sensei would make us clean it up and do pushups…  Ah, the memories!  Fascinating as it was to peel our feet, the newly exposed areas were tender and painful.  When I resumed training, I knew better than to peel my feet, but my left big toe would slough skin from time to time anyway.  That was fixed mostly by correcting foot position while moving in fighting stance.  I achieve further prevention on my big toes and heels by the use of a Ped Egg, which is basically a small cheese grater for feet.   It beats pumice stones hollow.  I use the Ped Egg once a week after I trim my nails.


Dry Skin:  Lotion, of course.  But it’s not so simple if your skin gets severely dry in the winter, like mine does.  This recommendation comes originally from some fishermen:  Gold Bond Ultimate Intensive Healing Hand Cream.   The fragrance is not too bad – definitely not flowery, so guys, you can use this stuff.  I tend to be allergic to perfumes and fragrances, but this lotion doesn’t bother me.  Every winter night right before bedtime I use this on my hands.   If I skip a night, I’m usually sorry the next day.  Hydration of the body helps, a humidifier helps, but nothing beats this lotion for healing and prevention.

Shoes:  If your shoes hurt your feet, spend loads of time to find the best deal on shoes that fit you properly.  You should be able to run, stop quickly, and change direction instantly in any pair of shoes you wear.  Ladies, ditch the heels.  If you’re not convinced, go to a nursing home sometime – spines and feet get misshapen and crippled from decades of wearing heels.  Replace shoes as needed – my sneakers wear out every three months.  I know it’s time to replace them when there’s either a structural failure or my feet start hurting.

That’s it for basic weapon care.  Check with your doctor if you have more severe problems, and take good care of your body as a whole.

Using Karate On Myself

karate ladies

I’ve found out a lot about myself in the past six months since I began training in Karate again.  I suspect I’m in for more surprises both pleasant and unpleasant.  I’ve had one person ask, “Have you ever had to use Karate on someone?”  I think the answer is, “Yes – I’ve had to use it on myself!”  I say that because so far, I have been my own worst enemy.  That said, I’ve taken some baby steps in the right direction and I’d like to share them with you.

Knocking Out Self doubt

Assuming you’re not suicidal, would you deliberately ingest poison?  An absurd thought, right?  Well, that’s what self doubt does.  It poisons your spirit.  It took months for me to get over self doubt and resume Karate training after some 27 years away from the dojo.  After quite a bit of wheedling and coaxing from three Senseis and my daughter, I decided to give it a try.  Sure I about died during warm up, sure I flapped around like a spastic duck, but after that first class, I stopped drinking the poisons.  I stopped thinking of myself as old and medically unfit.  My performance was laughable, but trying – simply trying – was a triumph.  Over time, I discovered if I start doubting myself, I should try to engage the challenge.  I might fall flat on my face, but then again, I might be pleasantly surprised.  For instance, I found out at Gasshuku (extended training over a weekend) my endurance is way better than I thought.

Leg Sweeping the Bad Attitude

I used to have a bad attitude about sparring.  I’d tense up, throw sloppy technique, get clobbered, be short of breath, and walk away sulking.  Yes, I’m way old enough to know better, LOL.  My daughter and I were visiting a sister dojo a couple months ago.  The Sensei there called for two-against-one sparring.  Sensei gave some guidelines, then my teenage daughter and a new friend gleefully looked at me.

My daughter said, “Let’s get her!”

I didn’t much like sparring, was not all that good at it, and Sensei was asking for two against one sparring.  To top it off, there were two teenage girls grinning mischievously at me!  Suddenly I realized how ridiculous this really was, and I had to laugh.  It was like light was infusing my soul, and something dark was slinking away never to be seen again.  I had tons of fun.  My daughter literally kicked my butt, and she and I still laugh about it.  Best of all, analyzing it later, I figured out gosh, there really is a connection between kata and kumite.  Fighting against two was more like kata, that’s probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much!  Since then, I’ve been a lot more willing to work on my kumite skills – which is good because, well, um… I need to build those skills.

Sparring with Circumstances

If I ever have to fight for my life, I’m going to have to learn that circumstances won’t always be in my favor.  The very first workout at Gasshuku, the sun was in my eyes.  I told myself to deal with it because maybe that might happen in a real fight.  During promotion at Gasshuku, I slipped on dewy grass a few times.  I told myself to keep going – I won’t always be able to choose the terrain.  In fact, I’d already practiced kata a few times on sand and shingle, so slipping wasn’t anything new.  At home, I hesitated at the idea of practicing karate in the garage because of the hard concrete.  Then I hit upon the idea of training in what I wear every day – shoes and all because that’s probably the most likely scenario for a fight.  I seriously doubt an attacker would let me pull a gi out of my purse as I run to the nearest telephone booth to change!  Likewise, with each new little owie (including a contact lens going wonky after a tap to the eye), I told myself to just keep on because everything I experienced could happen in a real fight for survival – that and more.  Granted, sometimes we are overcome.  For that situation, I’ll refer you to my article on Success (trust me on this).


Bowing to Leadership Responsibilities

“Hi, is our Water Fitness instructor going to be here?”  I asked the Aquatics Manager as I dripped my way into her poolside office.

“No, she called in sick.  Would you like the list of exercises?”

I thanked the manager as I took the laminated printout from her hand and stepped back to the pool.  My daughter and I started the workout as people started showing up for class.  I explained in simple English the teacher was sick and I had a list of exercises.

“You teach!”  A Hispanic woman who doesn’t speak much English piped up, smiling trustingly at me.

Three or four more ladies who don’t speak much English overheard the first lady’s request.  They all smiled at me, looking at me expectantly.  I drew in a deep breath as I realized all of us had driven or bussed to the Y, changed into swimsuits (with some body types this is a challenge), showered, endured cold air and cold water…  If nothing else, we needed to generate some body heat!  I smiled and said, “OK.”  I proceeded to lead by example and demonstration (often hopping out of the water) while working with the additional challenge of language barriers.  Ever since then, I’ve been the substitute teacher for Water Fitness class.

Just the other day our instructor was sick again, but this time I wasn’t able to get the outline of the workout.  The ladies asked me to lead anyway.  They trusted me more than I trusted myself.  I was surprised to find I remembered almost everything.

Why do they look to me for leadership?  I’m so very different from most of them! I’m one of the younger members, I’m white, comparatively athletic, and I speak only English fluently.  I think I have an inkling thanks to a good article about character qualities that Martial Arts gives us.  You can read Jaro Berce’s article, “Learning Leadership from Martial Arts – II” if you want to learn more.  It seems people are drawn to these characteristics.  This is sometimes difficult for an introvert like me!  I define introvert as someone who expends energy while with others and thus is drained after awhile, as opposed to an extrovert – one who gains energy from everyone around them.

As an introvert, my first inclination was to deny the empathy I felt with these ladies about the situation, to shy away from the responsibility and to not use the gifts I’ve been given to lead the class.  These ladies are struggling with some severe medical issues – weight, pain, surgeries, arthritis…  What kind of person am I if I’m in a position to help and I ignore their needs?  I’d undermine my personal development for sure if I avoided my responsibility.

What’s Next?

I expect I’ve quite a lot ahead of me, and maybe it’s best that I don’t know everything that I will face in the years to come!  I’m sure most of you black belts are chuckling and saying, “Wait until she has to deal with students!” and some of the rest of you black belts are poking the others in the ribs and saying, “No, wait until she has to deal with some of the students’ parents!”  I’m laughing at the thought, and I’m very grateful I have a few years to develop the skills I will need!