Friday, November 8, 2013

This Is Something Only Sammy Sosa Could Do

Moving on up to green belt has been a bit more challenging, especially in the kicking department. Travis warned me, "You will not like the jump ax kick." Understatement. Have you seen an ax kick? It's weird to begin with by bringing the one leg towards the other and then and then you have to stop mid-way and bring your foot straight down.  So for a guy who is as coordinated as a drunk baboon, a jump has been added to the mix. We did about 10 or 12 kicks on the right and then switched to the left. Second to last kick of the set ... OUCH! I pulled a muscle in my rib cage. With a kick? C'mon! This is something out of the Sammy Sosa school of injuries. In 2004, Sammy ('roid using slugger on the Cubs) pulled a rib cage muscle sneezing and had to go on the disabled list! I feel your pain Sammy.

Drunk baboons are even worse with hand techniques. There is a resisting block that requires slowly moving your arms like a windmill and then throwing one of them out in front to make the block. I looked like a marshmallow covered pretzel. The eye injury is separate story.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Another Belt Test!

It's been too long since my last post. Promises, promises ... I'll try to be better about posting more often.

We had an awesome belt test tonight at Jin Shil Martial Arts this evening. There were 30 kids who tested! My 5 year old, Andrew, tested for the first time and the girls tested to advance from blue to high blue. All did great!

I continue to set my personal record for stick-to-it-iveness, 9+ months working hard at Jin Shil. We have a great group of people in the adult class which ranges in age from 12 to  ... well, if you know how old I am then that's the top of the chart. I didn't botch anything too badly, though I got confused during my form and we had a do-over. It was funny, I'm currently the only orange belt, so I'm usually doing my form alone. During the test nearly all of us did it and it threw me for a loop, but I was much better on the do-over.

We sparred, always interesting. Dr. Shirley and I went at it first and that was fun. Then I sparred Kim, he's really very, very good, but I've been better at protecting myself lately, which is good, because I have to do a lot of that sparring Kim. I did manage to make contact ... with his eye and his contact lens popped out! Me being a recovering Catholic I felt terrible and I apologized, Kim being a pro was totally cool and appreciated the solid hit. See, it's a fun group!

The photo is me breaking a board using a side kick which is a little up the ladder in terms of difficulty versus the ax kick I used last time.

I have some other wacky stories that I'll whip up. Most involve me falling over, nearly dropping dead, or sparring Kim.

Have a great week end!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Where have I been? Sparring, working on forms, crazy with work...

I'm still going strong at Jin Shil Martial Arts. Tonight is our belt test. My girls are working on earning their blue belt and I'll be going for orange.

It's been a crazy month or so with work, renovations, and kids being home for summer that the blog has taken a back seat. Here are some highlights (or low lights) from Taekwondo:

Sparring! We've done a lot of sparring lately and we're really working on being aggressive, not shy about making contact and being ready to hit and be hit. That is me on the left. Sparring with Kim is an experience, he has done other martial art disciplines and is a strong dude. I felt brave and worked in a crescent kick. He grabbed the heal of my foot and flipped me on my back. Good times!

I didn't fair much better with Dr. Shirley. I blocked a round house kick and ended up having to ice my hand later.

Brandon is one of the younger guys in class and is a black belt. It was fun to spar with him. He is a good sport and was very encouraging in terms of being directive and making our bout an opportunity to teach me a few things. And that is the great thing about our class, we all help each other out and take the time to ensure everyone is learning and having fun.

Gotta get to work! Will post a report from the belt test this weekend and do a better job of posting more consistently.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ouch!! Times Two!!

So I hadn't been to class since the belt test and thought, "Ok I'll catch up and go two nights in a row, Thursday and Friday."

Good idea, right? If you're a masochist it was a great idea. If you're a normal person not so much. One of the things we did was to intentionally hit a board with our hands to toughen them up. We did this because Travis noted, "Skulls are hard, if you hit one you want to be ready." Hitting a board 20 or 30 times even if you try not to hit it that hard still hurts.

Yellow belts learned two new kicks, the ax kick and the front jump kick. The front jump is fun and I received a compliment from Travis for picking it up quick. But it is an intense move and the next day ... oh baby, my hammies were barking!

We also learned to do an open hand punch to the jaw which we did about 40 times on the target. When you jam your weight -- and I have some weight to jam -- into a target there is some force jolting through you!

So all three moves, hitting the board, front jump kicks and open hand punch have me sore all over today. All good, it's progress!

Check out Jin Shil Martial Arts on FaceBook!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

1 Down, 13 to Go.

Wow! So I completed my first belt test. The process was pretty intense, but I felt ready. I really ramped up my own intensity level to match the moment and that felt really good too. Great news, I didn't fall down or crack up laughing at an inappropriate time... makes for a less exciting blog. Sorry.

Overall the belt test was not intimidating. We were all prepared, encouraged each other and it mostly felt like an amped up class ... with an audience. Usually some of our kids are playing or doing homework during the teen/adult class but for the belt test there were folks watching us. However as I mentioned in a previous post, I zoned into my own world and didn't even notice them most of the time.

The white belt form, Chun-Ji, is typically led by the instructor, however Travis let us go on our own and we did really well.

The big news is we got to break some boards after the test. Both Juliana and I smashed through a wood board with our fists. Oh yeah! Breaking the boards was pretty cool. My girls, Frances and Olivia, did great on their belt tests as well and are now green belts. Also, Olivia broke a board with her fist and another with her foot.

Lastly, I'm not a big fan of working out, going to the gym, running, biking, swimming or anything that could be a considered a healthy activity. I've tried  a few things over the years hoping I'd like it or that I'd stick with it, and nothing ever stuck. But holy crap, here I am three months into Tae Kwon Do and I'm still going and I really like it. Travis and Jin Shil Martial Arts make all the difference, thank you! Thirteen belt tests to go!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cheat Step!

We're getting ready for the belt test on Friday. This will be my first one, so I wonder if I will:
a) crack up laughing at an inappropriate time
b) fall flat on my face
c) fall flat on my back
d) all of the above

Vegas shows 7 to 4 on "d) all of the above" ... easy money!

The last few classes have been pretty intense and Travis has ramped up his intensity level as well. We did 100+ kicks in five minutes on Thursday, not that easy! Getting the forms down pat, not only making the right move at the right time, but also doing each move properly has been a bit of a challenge. I'm not at all graceful, a terrible dancer and can barely walk straight most days, so these forms are tough. Travis gave me some good tips on "staying square" and facing front for the front stance with a down block, that has helped a lot.

I find I talk to myself during the moves and having a focal point on the wall is good for concentration. I almost feel like I'm alone. For round house kicks I make sure I talk through each part of the kick as I do it, "Cheat step, chamber, kick, chamber." The bad news is I have no short term memory anymore so the trick is losing its effectiveness little by little each ... day, right, each day.

Wednesday is another forms review class and an opportunity to work on nailing down Chun-Ji.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm the Paddy Cake Champion of the World!

In order to learn balance and control Travis had us line up face-to-face about one foot apart from each other with hands out, palms facing each other. The idea was to push on your opponent's palm and push them off balance. Sort of like paddy cake with more purpose.

So I lined up against Travis. Little did he know that by having three small kids I've learned the art of quick hands. He caught me several times, but I got him off balance far more often. The great thing was I got to use all of my silly "Karate Kid" jokes such as "Focus Daniel-san" and, "Now the student has become the teacher." Bad news for me is this drill is hardly life-saving. So far I'm the best at the most useless Taekwondo  skill.

Next time I'll have some details on sparring girls.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Time off, take-downs, and kicking it up!

It's been a while since my last post. I've been busy working with a group of concerned Oneonta residents about a potential new development that will destroy our local economy. Find out more at

I'm back to writing about my experience with Taekwondo ...
In the past month, here's what happened:
1. I missed a week, but went back! It was so important to get back at it and to my surprise, I missed it.

2. We did a lot of sparring this month. I took on Big Dave one evening while we practiced self defense moves. Travis encouraged us to go for the full take down. That was fun until my head an neck made a crunching noise I never heard before. The big lesson, always keep going!

3. I saw Big Dave the next week. He was relieved to see me walking under my own power.

4. Travis is stepping up the foot work drills with the ladder. Iggy-Shuffle, reverse Iggy Shuffle, backwards Iggy Shuffle ... I never hated a retired football player more.

5. More sparring! The higher belts that invested in sparring gear did full contact sparring. I would have been jealous, except that gear looks totally ridiculous. Someday I'll hop into some and hit real people. Anyway, I sparred my wife and a 15 year-old dude Seth. Seth is a nice kid, but by the end I was pooped. I had to remind him I'm almost three times his age.

6. Running. I thought there was no running in Taekwondo? No there's running. We run in a circle around the mat. It's crazy! Then the 15 year old boys start to lap me. Little punks. I lapped them right back and then pulled some old Route 287 moves to keep them from passing me. I pulled those crafty veteran moves until my heart nearly exploded out of my chest.

7. We're preparing for out belt test. I have the moves for my form pretty down pat. The key now is not just doing the moves, but doing them well, being crisp and being in time with the group. This is when I think dance lessons at a much younger age would have come in handy.

8. So I learned how to do an ax kick. Then I proceeded to forget five minutes later. I asked Travis, "What is the point of this kick?" Travis is always great about answering my painful questions and getting me back on track.

No more three weeks between posts!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tweeting for a Kidney

Had a lot of fun at class tonight! We're back to sparring which is always awkward. We try to pair up by height. Technically Juliana (wife) should spar Olivia (our 10 year old)  in the kids' class. But I digress ... So I was paired up with a young lady, a fierce young lady, a fierce young lady who takes sparring very seriously. Good thing I aggressively blocked her kicks otherwise instead of blogging tonight I'd be Tweeting for a kidney donation.

Travis always tries to incorporate things about the sport we need to know both in competition and if a situation presents itself in real life. Today he told us there are two ways to engage in competition, Olympic style and continuous points. In Olympic style teakwondo once you score a point the match stops and then you reset and begin again. Travis made the point that in real life you don't hit someone and then take a time out to adjust and then go back to the fight, so he is teaching us more in the continuous points style. I hope this training doesn't have an adverse impact on my Olympic dreams.

And finally, I pulled a muscle in my foot. What a dork. We'll see what else is pulled when I wake up tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Leaning Back = Breaking Bad

I'm ba-ack! I missed all of last week due to travel for work down to the Big Easy, tough assignment. I did have the intention of watching a YouTube video of Chon-ji and practicing my form. Not so much.

Monday was a little rough, but at least I looked official in my white belt uniform. We started off with some kicking to warm up. I have a bad habit of leaning back after a kick. Travis was holding the blocker and when he moved I kicked, missed, and landed flat on my back. It was very graceful and I needed the laugh. That's what mats are for!

Next we worked on the brush block grab self-defense move. I did ok from the right side, from the left was a disaster. Seth my practice partner for the evening (who I think is 14) was a good sport while I muddled through. Afterwards Josh spent a few minutes with me to get in some extra work too and that helped a lot.

We have a really cool group of people taking the class. We all applaud each other after we bow out which is very supportive and affirming.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Even if you don't get hit, sparring hurts

So here we are in week three! More running and more push ups, but that is ok. The newbies now have 8 moves to work on in our white belt Chon-Ji form. I have them down pat after a refresher from the 10 year old.

I saw the kids class earlier and knew we were in for the rope ladders. With that exercise Travis puts rope ladders down on the ground and then gives us drills for foot work going down the ladder. I got high marks for making up my own drills.

We did a lot of sparring on Monday night. And then we sparred some more. And then right before I thought I was going to drop dead we sparred again. It is very intense to go at someone with just a few moves. Then there is a trust factor on both sides. We don't want to hurt each other but you are supposed to go at your partner as if you will hit them. I just kept hoping I'd get out of the way in time!

For my last round of sparring I was with Travis. He is really intense and it was interesting up close to see how crisp all of his moves are ... while trying not to die at the same time.

At the end Travis talked to us about putting the energy out there during our sessions and then we would get that back in increased energy in other areas during the week. I know it'll happen!

All in all a great class, very sweaty and it felt great. The next day wasn't as bad as I thought it would be either. We'll be back tonight!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Went back for a 2nd class

So, I did go back for the second class. This time my wife Juliana joined. But this blog isn't about her. She can write her own.

Anyway, thought I'd like teakwondo because I hate running and exercise and want nothing to do with either. Dang it, Travis made us run, do push ups and sit ups. White belts had to do 20 push ups. I haven't done 20 push ups since 1987, but I toughed it out.

We did not add any moves to our Chon-Ji form, but we did work on four self dense moves as well as front kicks. The class was a lot of fun, but I feel those push ups and sit ups. We're all going back tomorrow for our Friday afternoon class.

Admittedly I like to get a little obsessive with whatever I'm into and now you're likely to find me an Olivia in the middle of the living room practicing moves. Correction, she is correcting everything I do wrong.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My First Teakwondo Class at Jin Shil

My two girls ages 10 and 7 have been taking Teakwondo at Jin Shil with Travis Conover, 2nd degree black belt, for about 9 months. They are now orange belts and they love it, especially Olivia the 10 year old. Lots of parents hang out and watch the kids's class and then take off as the adult class is starting. I'm one of them.

As 2013 and the "resolution season" kicked in, I've been pestered to try Teakwondo. I'm fortunate to be a just a little overweight, but I don't take any medication and generally feel pretty good. At 42, I'd like to keep it that way!

Usually I feel pretty stupid in group participation things, and like many I have FOLS, fear of looking stupid. I got over it. Good news, I know one couple in the class, Drs. Joe and Shirley Rufrano. Joe and I are on the board where our kids go to school together. Shirley was cool, she hung out in the back with the newbie white belts.

The biggest hang up for me was toe nails. Mine looked pretty cruddy. So I promised myself not to look at other's toes and that deal would ensure no one would look at mine.

Travis is great, he started class by welcoming Kara and I (Kara is the other grown up newbie) and the others in the class cheered for us. Then we lined up and learned how to punch the bag. It only took me two hits to break a sweat. And it was fun!

As white belts we learned our first kick, two blocks, ready position and "how to walk." This sounds silly, but it was important! Travis encouraged us and he gave me specific feedback on technique and positive reinforcement along the way. Towards the end of class we learned the first four of nineteen moves of our white belt form called Chon-Ji which means heaven and earth. Then I consulted with my 7-year old, Frances, to make sure I had it right.

I quickly learned the keys to success for this class:
1. Have fun, but take it seriously
2. Let yourself go and get into it!
3. When Travis shows your belt rank your move, take the time to work on it over and over while he moves up the ranks to explain their moves. Using that time to work on what he just showed you is vital.

I'll go back on Tuesday!