I cannot stay silent.  This desperate plea tugged at my heart strings…

Todd Woodland is, as Jackie Bradbury says, the world’s best uke. And he’s still pretty low ranked.  Heck, even I’ve passed Todd in rank.  That’s just not fair to Todd, who obviously has been training longer than I have.

The guy gave up his left eye just so Master Ken could demonstrate a few techniques to the world.  His groin has been stomped and re-stomped up to 100 times,  which means Todd has given up any chance of having any children ever.  What more do you want, Master Ken?

I hope you’re reading this, Master Ken, because it’s obvious even to a 5th kyu beginner like me that it’s high time Todd was promoted to Pink Belt.

I hear all the rest of you out there sniggering about the color.  Stop it.  What’s wrong with Pink?!?  It “soothes lady pains,” and believe me, that alone is awesome. Pink is such a powerful color that even Jesse Enkamp, well-known blogger and Karate entrepreneur, has given people pink belts to wear at his prestigious Karate Nerd Experience seminars. I think the honor of wearing a pink belt is long overdue for Todd.

So here’s what I want all you martial artists out there in the world to do.  Spread the word.  #PROMOTETODD

Please do the right thing, Master Ken!!!



150430_MedalIf I include the two Karate tournaments I competed in as a teen, I’ve participated in a total of nine tournaments without a coach.  Saturday (4/30/16), my 10th tournament, I found out that having a great coach gives me a wonderful boost.

I’m not talking about a coach who screams about what you should’ve done two seconds ago, or who runs you down.  I’m not talking about a drill sergeant, although I must admit I had fun pushing myself just to spite Sempai Drill Sergeant and I actually do miss him.  I’m talking about someone who provides “… a familiar voice, just like in the dojo,”  to quote the Sensei who generously offered to coach me.

While sparring in previous tournaments I often haven’t been able to tell who’s cheering whom, assuming I even hear individual voices above the general noise.  I’ve been too busy fighting my opponent.  Unless it’s obvious (“YAY Sempai Mommy!”) I don’t pay much attention.  I know I kinda hurt one friend’s feelings when I honestly told her after one match I had no clue as to who was addressing whom.  So when Coach Sensei sought me out and offered to sit for me, I admit I was a little scared that I’d tune him out too.  On top of it all, I have Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which means that if there’s a lot of ambient noise, quite often speech sounds like the adults in the Charlie Brown TV specials.

I needn’t have worried.  Proximity helps – Coaches are allowed to sit ringside.  Also, I’ve been in class under Coach Sensei many a time, so I’m used to listening for his voice.  Because he and I have a good student/teacher relationship, it never occurred to me to doubt his ability to coach or to dread what he might say.  This meant I was ready and receptive to hearing him.  Also, Coach Sensei knows how to “project,” a term used by singers and actors to describe the act of making one’s voice carry clearly over distance.  Every little bit helped to overcome my worries and my APD.

Within ten seconds of starting my first match, I learned having a good coach was a real boost for me.  Throughout both my fights, Coach Sensei talked me through everything.  He reminded me to fix my weaknesses.  Coach Sensei encouraged me to use my strengths.  He told me to watch for patterns in my opponents’ movements.  I almost never get enough time to look at the scores when points are called, so it was helpful when Coach Sensei gave me updates.  Best of all, I heard him cheer before the points were officially awarded to me.

My very last score in my second match was a three-point roundhouse kick to the head.  I only needed one point to win the match, but I went for three points partly out of a sense of mischief and mostly due to wanting to please Coach Sensei by finishing decisively.  I got it – a good clean technique that did no harm to my opponent, and I heard the crowd roaring approval along with Coach Sensei.

“YAME!”  The Shushin (head judge) yelled.  As is my habit I froze, still on guard, keeping my eye on my opponent and making sure she stopped fighting too.  I was on autopilot for awhile as I went back to my place and bowed to the Shushin when he awarded me ippon (three points) and declared me winner.

I was stunned – I had won both my fights.  Gold medal – my first at the Intermediate/Advanced level.  I’m on the low end of intermediate and both opponents outranked me.  This was my fourth tournament in the Intermediate/Advanced division.  In two tournaments I didn’t place at all, in the other I got third just for showing up and getting spanked.  Gold.  I went through all the post-competition stuff in a fog – I couldn’t believe it.  After all was said and done and my gear was once again packed neatly, I sought out Coach Sensei and thanked him profusely.

Coach Sensei had some feedback for me and yes, I have things to work on.  I hear you black belts chuckling out there – you know exactly why it’s important to give both positive feedback and some challenges to grow more in specific areas.  I wish there were more words to describe how wonderful it was to have an extra pair of eyes and a voice to give me direction and encouragement.  One of my Senseis has challenged me to learn more about coaching so I can do this for other people.

I’m sure there are loads of applications off the mats.  I mean life – you know, the stuff we do that doesn’t involve punching and kicking people.  Yeah – stuff like paying the bills and dealing with small children.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a friend or even a professional be an extra pair of eyes and an encouraging voice for your “real life.”  I’m not very talented at writing about this, but I am acquainted with someone who is.  She also happens to be a life coach, and I’m betting she’s a darn good one too.  So click on over to Andrea Harkins’ website and give her blog a read.  You’ll be glad you did.

Dipping My Toes Into the Flow

graduation-hat-cap-md5/2/16 – College Dojo

Pushing hands.  Hubad-lubad.  Sensitivity drills.  I’m not quite sure what the Karate organization I’m training with calls ’em.  The label doesn’t really matter – as Grandmaster Remy A. Presas would say, “It’s all de same.”

The first time I did anything like this was in a black belt’s garage-dojo.  She had invited a few of us out for training and lunch, and I was by far the lowest ranked.  I was introduced to this fun game of deception, luring, escaping, trapping, and generally, as my stick-playing FMA friends would say, “going with the flow.”  We started out with arms only then moved on to using our whole bodies.  Now I have a better idea of how to work when someone is in my space!

I found out very quickly that trying to use brute force and strength only gave my opponent a huge advantage.  I had to stay loose and keep in motion – adjusting and re-adjusting as needed to work towards a goal.  I also learned that sometimes it’s OK to yield to my opponent – that in doing so I might set him up for what I want to do to him.

In College Dojo today we did a little of this as well.  College Sensei only had us use one arm today.  I smiled as the young man I was paired with tried to overpower me with strength.  It didn’t work.  I figured out which direction he was “aiming” his strength and simply directed it aside and tagged him.  Patiently I started working, getting him into a rhythm, then abruptly broke the pattern I’d woven.  Tag again.  We didn’t have time for more because class ended.

After class, another young man of low rank challenged me to a one-armed match.  A challenge from a lower ranked karateka is a breach of etiquette.  I chose to deal with it indirectly and with a good bit of mischief, grace, and humor.  I said, “I’ll do you one better.  Let’s play this with two arms and the goal is to trap one another.”

Sometimes being Sempai is a lot of fun.  I found out he is good at this game.  Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the few minutes we had to play.  I think we are equally matched skills-wise, so if we play together more we’ll both get better.  I learned that rather than yell at the kid for daring to challenge his Sempai, it’s a heck of a lot more fun to “punish” him by challenging him to grow in skill.

Click here for a great article on going with the flow!

Role Model

RoleModelWhen I started training in June 2014 I couldn’t imagine being where I am now.  I thought if by some miracle I didn’t die of a heart attack, I’d still be pretty low-ranked.  I’ve trained hard, had tons of fun and…  Now I find myself in an interesting position that I didn’t think would come until, at the earliest, brown belt.

I am a role model.

Little girls see that women can do this Karate thing too.  Teenage girls see someone who has trained for a shorter time than they have pass them up in rank – and they are starting to take more interest in their own training.  College women see me as a very strong, capable leader (I am Sempai to that dojo) who is herself growing in skill and who freely shares what she knows.

Sure, the limelight is kinda nice, but it’s a lot of responsibility.

I have to be better.  I’m not talking about having to have incredible speed, unstoppable power, textbook form, and all that jazz and having to have it all right now.  I’m on my own timetable with that – like everyone else I have my strengths, my weaknesses, things that challenge me, and things that come more easily to me.  When I say I have to be better, I mean mentally better.

StaringThey’re watching me.

What do I do when I’m punched a little too hard?  What do I do if I accidentally hit to hard?  How do I teach someone who is struggling with something simple?  If I myself am struggling with something simple how do I handle it?  How do I react when I lose a sparring match to someone who is lower ranked than I am?  What do I say and do when I win a sparring match against someone who is higher ranked?

As the only grown woman in one dojo, as Sempai to a dojo full of young adults, and as one of few grown women in a third dojo, I’d better watch myself.  If I make a mistake, do I accept responsibility for it?


I will make mistakes.  I will tread on toes, I will be obnoxious, impatient, snarky, angry, and whiney.  Sensei might assign me push-ups.  Yes, folks, I am human.  But will that make me less of a role model?  No.  Not if I work to make things right and accept the consequences with grace and humor.That, friends, is what being a role model is all about.  It’s not all about your achievements, it’s not about being a perfectionist, it’s about helping others realize what they themselves could be some day.  Because “some day” might come sooner than they think, and they might suddenly find themselves in the spotlight.

For those of you who were and are still role models to me (and there are a LOT of you)- thank you.  I appreciate you greatly.  And guess what?  Some of you who look up to me are also role models for me.  I’ve watched your progress, I’ve seen you overcome obstacles, and I admire you.  Rock on!  I’ll help you as much as I can 🙂

When Someday is Today

RainThis, that, and the other was dragging me down today (4/23/16), and I found myself sinking deeper as I drove to Affiliate YMCA.  The instant I started moving in Zumba, I started feeling better.  Later, during the Affilate YMCA Dojo’s Saturday practice time, something beautiful happened.  One of my “some days” was today.

It took me several weeks to learn Bassai Dai, my first advanced kata after some thirty years.  I was fully expecting to take several weeks to learn Nijushiho.  Today, all I needed was a bit of reminding of what comes next.  Suddenly, I realized I had Nijushiho memorized.  I then spent at least an hour hammering that kata into my brain.  Now I can begin refining it.

01_Graphic1Learning any kata is a triumph for me because I have directional dyslexia.  So this felt really good, especially as the process of learning Nijushiho was one of the things I was discouraged about as I drove to Affilate Y.  Once I had that kata solidly memorized, I realized 24 movements (the translation of the kata’s name) makes for a short kata.  So Nijushiho isn’t quite the bear I’d imagined it to be after all.

Some day…  Two words that give hope.  Some day I’ll be rid of the shoulder tension.  Some day I’ll be consistent with throwing from my core.  Some day I’ll learn Rohai Shodan (the second kata I’ll be tested on for my next rank).  Some day I’ll be a black belt.

Ceinture_De_Karate_Ou_Judo_clip_art_greenHow do I know that one day I’ll find a “some day” has turned into “today?”  I have faith in my “some days” because I’ve reached so many milestones already.  Some of these milestones are belt ranks.  Some are tournament medals.  Some milestones involve learning something I’ve only read or heard about.  The most precious milestones of all involve my instructors trusting me with their safety.

SunCloudThe trick to countering discouragement is to remember all the days when a “some day” became “today.”  Many of those milestones were reached in spite of numerous challenges.  I ran into someone’s car in the parking lot before my last belt test.  I am dyslexic.  Last year, I won first place medals in a tournament despite an injury.  I had 22 pounds of fat the day I started my first Karate class in 27 years.  And let’s face it, I’m not exactly a spring chicken.  In spite of it all, I’ve had many, many “some days” come true.  That should give me hope next time I’m bummed about some aspect of my Karate or my life.