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  I caught up to her pretty quickly and now outrank her by one belt (the picture is a little out of date).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.


Trash Talk Tuesday: Equivocation

Time once again for us martial arts bloggers to learn:
1) How NOT to make a case for or against someone or something
2) Why certain comments set our teeth on edge
3) How to stay focused when discussing our arts

It’s Trash Talk Tuesday!

One morning, Jim answers his door to find an oddly dressed stranger standing on his front porch…

Cultist: Master Trik-Kee Woo is a master of all martial arts, therefore he is your master.  You must bake cookies for him, do his laundry, mow his lawn, and wash his car.

Jim:  WHAT?!?  I don’t have to be a slave to that shyster.  Now get off my property before I call the cops.  Didn’t you see the “No trespassing” sign?!?  Beat it!

Cultist:  OK! You asked for it!  [The Cultist punches Jim’s “No trespassing” sign repeatedly] OW!  OW!  OW!

Jim:  Weirdo.

The cultist changes the meaning of the word “master” mid-argument.  The cultist thinks he’s being clever.  He’s hoping to trap Jim with what he thinks is brilliant logic, but Jim isn’t stupid.  Note that a better use of equivocation is for humor.  As the author of this little dialogue, I used an equivocation of the phrase, “Beat it!”

If you’d like to learn more, you can follow along in the book The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn


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…

Trash Talk Tuesday: Circular Reasoning

Time once again for us martial arts bloggers to learn:
1) How NOT to make a case for or against someone or something
2) Why certain comments set our teeth on edge
3) How to stay focused when discussing our arts

It’s Trash Talk Tuesday!

Just Curious:  Why do you do all those choreographed moves in Karate?

White Belt:  We do kata to improve our fighting.

Just Curious:  Uh, you’re not actually hitting anyone when you do that whatchamacallit…

White Belt:  Yeah, but kata improves our fighting because it’s good for our sparring.

It looks like White Belt is resorting to circular reasoning because he doesn’t know enough to explain why kata can help someone learn how to fight.  Let’s try another example of circular reasoning:

Sensei Rockum Sockum is a 12th degree black belt because he is the head of his own style, and he’s the head of his own style because he’s a 12th degree black belt!

GROAN!  I’m not sure pointing out the fallacy would do any good…

If you’d like to learn more, you can follow along in the book The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn

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!!!