goodness, life, martial arts, work

I love you, Fiat

I hit 12,000 miles in my Fiat the other day, and I’m as much in love with it as ever.  My little Fiat is the best.  I’m such a fan.

But I’ve only had it eight months, which means I’ve been driving 1,500 miles per month.  Of course this is probably because I live on the Westside, work near downtown in the morning, and in Redondo Beach in the afternoon (about 50 miles) an average of three days a week, plus the weekend Redondo Beach drive (35 miles round trip).  That’s almost 750 miles per month just for work.  And that’s assuming I’m not covering for any other Sensei’s, or attending an event on a day off at Office Job.

This is part of the reason why I bought this car; I was doing a ton of driving, and hating every second of it because I hated my car.  Now, driving is a pretty pleasant experience.  Thank you, Fiat.  I love you.

driving home from karate job

goodness, life, martial arts, school, work

A quit and a launch

i'm flying!!

I had a big day.

I bought my ticket to Dublin, Ireland!  So exciting!  I’m leaving May 31st, coming back June 13th.  I’ll have to head straight to work the next day (no recuperation time), but it doesn’t matter!  I’m going to spend some time in Ireland, see Edinburgh, visit a friend in Scotland who I met in Romania, and maybe visit another friend I made in Romania (who is a native of Arad, Romania, and lives in London now, and works as a freelance translator).  Who knows, maybe I’ll take the chunnel to France, and visit anyplace at all, because I have two weeks to bum around Europe.  It kinda depends on whether Diminutive Roommate and come along or not.  Either way, I’m going abroad for two weeks!  It’ll be my first vacation since London with my family, more than three years ago.

thanks fer sneezin' on meh!

After I bought the ticket, I put in my letter of resignation to Karate Job.  My last day there will be May 18th, giving me time to go to Sister’s law school graduation and cover for my coworker at Office Job who could definitely use a day off.  I’ll miss the kids, that’s for sure.  They’re so funny.  I’ll miss getting their drawings, and hearing all the weird nonsense that goes on in their heads.

The other day one of the kids wouldn’t stop clearing his throat.  When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “There’s a frog in my throat!”  I said, “What’s his name?”  The boy thought for a second, then said, “Coffee.”  I asked him why, and he said, “Because he makes me cough!”  Naturally.  That’s the stuff I’ll miss.  My bosses were nice enough, and pretty straight forward kinda people.  I mean, they all have their own eccentricities (anal-retentiveness, hyper-controlling, obliviousness to the plight of the sensei’s, etc.), but I’m beyond complaining about it today.  I’m leaving soon, and after that I’m going to spend two weeks in Europe, and after that I start grad school.  I have nothing to complain about today.

humor, martial arts, work

Bad birdie

lol noobs

I teach a range of kids from 2.5-18 years old.  Starting at 3.5, the kids take class without their parents, and it becomes my job to enforce the rules (don’t pick your nose, don’t hit each other, I already said don’t pick your nose, fingers out of your mouth, what did I just say?, that’s right, don’t pick your nose, etc.).  I can’t be everywhere at once, though, and the kids will occasionally run smack into each other, fall down hard, or intentionally misbehave while they think I’m not looking.  This is equal parts doom and hilarity; the invincibility they feel while my back is turned is instantly crushed into a fine dust when they discover that the mirror that extends across the entire room is nothing but a shiny taddle-tale.  Then they get busted and I laugh (on the inside) as the bravery drains out of their faces, and a murmured, “Yes, ma’am” is all that remains of their conquest.  Better luck next time, kid.

At the end of class, the kids line up and we all clap for them.  I talk about what they learned, what they’re working on, and so forth while the parents smile and nod and gaze lovingly at their kids (or pantomime standing up straight for their kid who has lost interest in my monologue).  About 90% of the kids I teach are great, so most of the time, it’s pretty dull.  But every now and then, when the kids think I’m not looking…

I have a hapa student (let’s call him Sam) who has a tough time standing still for more than a few seconds, and takes corrections pretty hard (he pouts whenever I don’t praise him).  But overall he’s a happy kid who has a good time in class.  A few weeks ago the kids were all lined up in front of the parents at the end of a normal class.  Just as my hand came to rest on the door handle, I glanced at the kids to make sure they were lined up straight, and what do I see but Sam, way at the end of the line, flipping off every parent in the lobby with both hands and a huge smile on his face.

Flipping the bird to a bunch of adults in front of your classmates is a pretty ballsy thing to do at any age, but it’s not something I expect a four-year-old to know how to do.  I froze, with my hand on the door, and said, “Sam,” in a sharp, level voice.  His hands dove behind his back, and his smile disappeared, replaced by a mask of fear as I walked away from the door and asked him to step out of line for a chat.  Once we were far enough away from the other kids, I crouched down and asked, “What were you doing over there, Sam?”

Sam: [eyes to the ground]
me:  Sam, eyes up here.  What were you doing?
Sam: [lip trembling] I don’t know…

And then he collapsed onto my shoulder and started crying.  I rubbed  his back a little, then pulled him away and asked him if he knew that what he had done was bad.  He nodded (of course he knew), so I asked, “Can you say sorry please?” to which he immediately responded, “Sowwy pwease!”  Fuuuuuck, so cute.

I put him back in line, said my piece to the parents, dismissed the kids, and watched Sam collapse onto his mom.  She hadn’t seen him do anything, but knew better than to accuse me of mistreating her son in some way.  She had no idea where he picked up this behavior, and was just the right amount of bemused and displeased.  She is a good mom, and a nice lady with a good sense of humor (thank god).

goodness, humor, martial arts, work

Radioactive isotopes aside, this might be fun

My Friday classes are pretty cool at Karate Job.  The kids are all pretty excited that the week is over, and they behave like a class full of happy, dopey kids, which is always fun to teach.

it looks something like this

A couple weeks ago, they noticed I had my toenails painted.  This is a new thing for me.  I got a pedicure for the first time in mid-December, so I painted my nails again when it started to wear off.  The kids could not stop staring at my toes while we were in our meditation circle, but they’re a really focused group, so I have the luxury to let them get a little distracted, then refocus them on the class without too much trouble.

I said they had done an excellent job in class so far, and if they kept it up, I would paint my toes any color they wanted.

One kid immediately shouted, “Green!”  A chorus of, “Yeah, green!” started up, and I had no choice.  Green it is.
“Ok,” I said, “light green or dark green?”
The response was instantaneous and unanimous, “Light green!”

I found some cheap metallic green polish at Target.  I plan on putting it on Thursday night so I can put off making my toes look like they’re rotting away due to radioactive exposure for as long as possible.  Who knows, I might love it.  I’ll upload a photo of the damage when it’s done.

The deed is done.

equal parts horrifying and fun


goodness, martial arts

Word of the day: atlatl

find the face on the left half

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The ancient Maya were amazing.  What an incredible culture.  Just super cool.  I love their writing style in particular: so many animal faces and allowance for creativity.

They weren’t the only ones to figure out how to use an atlatl.  Pronounce every letter: atlatl.  It’s a spear throwing device that basically ads another joint to your arm to allow a small spear to be thrown farther, and a whole lot faster than is normally humanly possible.  This device was used at some point in every continent except Africa for a long-ass time.

the last thing you see before you die

Aside from being an amazing way for an otherwise unarmed person to kill a fucking mastodon, atlatls are amazing because they’re still used today, all the time!  And people don’t even know that they’re doing it!  You can even buy one on Amazon.  It’s an arm extender called ‘Launchit!’ to allow dog owners to throw a ball farther, more easily.  And its design rooted in something the ancient Maya used to kill jaguars.  Awesome.

"c'mon, lady, just pick up the ancient weapon, mimic your long-dead ancestors, and throw the fucking ball."

badness, martial arts

Cold comfort

The western world seems to be generally unaware of the “comfort women” of World War II, Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese forces.  I didn’t learn about it until I started training in Korean forms of martial arts.  My instructors were from South Korea, and for a while they wouldn’t admit Japanese students to our school.  One of them explained that his grandmother had been a “comfort woman,” and that many Koreans still harbored anger against the Japanese.  Though many formal apologies have been formally issued by Japanese administrations, the compensation paid to Korea by the Japanese in the 60’s–meant for the Korean people–was instead directed to other people (which is pretty messed up).  As a result, Koreans are still up in arms about the issue.

A bronze statue of a young Korean woman was erected in South Korea recently.  She sits facing the Japanese Embassy with an empty seat next to her for others to join her vigil.  This is a pretty serious issue over there, and has pissed off plenty of Japanese people who believe the issue closed (or at the very least dealt with through the proper channels).

I can’t believe I still haven’t visited Korea or Japan.  Gotta fix that.

goodness, life, martial arts, nerd

From the mouths of babes

I’m starting to get the feeling that when people talk about putting their lives “in perspective,” we all mean something different.  I tend to try to figure out how my childhood self would feel about my current life.  I think she would be pretty pleased.

I loved that outfit

Stuff that would impress younger me:
-I teach martial arts for a living.
-I work in an office, and have my own desk.
-I dress like an adult (and occasionally quite stylishly).
-I’m college-educated.
-I have a handsome boyfriend who treats me like a princess.
-I have a variety of friendships.
-I live with cool roommates.
-I give good advice.
-I am loyal.
-I still dress up for Halloween.

I was struck recently while spending time with a friend at her job that my younger self would think I am just super cool for doing that.  Little Iron Friend works at a rock climbing gym, and part of her job is to set up climbing paths on the walls.  I went over to keep her company, pick out bolts that fit each piece, and climb the paths to make sure they made sense while listening to an N’Sync inspired Pandora station (every time the next song came on, one or both of us would go “Oh my god, this song!  Hahaha!”).  I left the gym around 1am, feeling like the kind of adult my childhood self would look up to with big, shining eyes and think, “Wow.  She’s so cool.  I wanna grow up to be like that.”

While we were hanging out at the gym, Little Iron Friend randomly asked me, “How does someone who tends to get into abusive relationships break that cycle?”  It’s something I’ve given a good amount of thought to, so I said something like, “People tend to seek out what’s familiar, even if it hurts them.  People find comfort in the predictable, even if what they can accurately predict is abuse.  Breaking that pattern takes determination, focus, confidence, and a lot of support from people you trust to have your best interests at heart, even when you don’t.”  I suggested a safeword between friends to let the other know that a significant other/boss, etc. has crossed the line into abusive territory.  Little Iron Friend said, “I’d be comfortable having a safeword with you.”  I said, “That sounds a little sexy, but I’m honored.  Likewise.”  She doesn’t seem particularly happy at either job, so she said that in a year, if she’s still complaining about her jobs, that I should use our safeword: Kung Fu Ninja.

Kate Beaton did a whole bunch of comics about encountering her younger self and the opinion said self would have of her as an adult.  I could take my younger self to the dojo, to rock climbing, to the beach, I could show her the cape I’m making myself, watch Home Movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation with her, eat Japanese food and coffee ice cream, hang out on the balcony of my apartment, play board games… Yeah.  I think she would be pretty pleased with the way she’s turned out so far.

goodness, life, martial arts

Small improvements

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t drink in excess, I don’t smoke, I’m not overweight, I’m already strengthening my foreign language skills and keeping in touch with people.  But there are small improvements that can be made every day, so that’s what I’ll do instead: no big resolution for huge change, just little adjustments to make me healthier and (hopefully) sexier.

Ballerina Friend has amazing posture. the above is me at age five, in my purple leotard and tutu. LOVED IT.

Sit the fuck up
When I was training, I was also in a choir and slept on a firmer bed.  My posture was fantastic.  It has since gotten… not so good, which is uncomfortable, lazy, unattractive, and doesn’t give the impression of confidence I’d like to trick people into thinking I have.

Stretch your shit out
I used to be more flexible, and it was awesome.  Not being able to touch my toes is just embarrassing.  So I’m going to stretch a little every day and see what happens.  Couldn’t hurt, right?

Stop eating so goddamn much
I need to stop eating when I’m full.  I don’t even realize when I’m going it; I’m so used to “clearing my plate” that it doesn’t even occur to me that I should just stop eating when the hunger goes away.  I would probably be healthier, and I would have more leftovers to snack on later when I actually am hungry.

And also I will apply to graduate school.  The end.

goodness, humor, martial arts

Tae Kwon Do

This video has been making the rounds the past couple of days.  Instant classic.  Look at these kids, bouncing around like little bunnies.  Notice they have a pretty standard fighting stance before the fight starts, but as soon as it starts, their hands drop like all Tae Kwon Do trained fighters do, because they’re waiting for their opponent to kick them so they can dodge and kick back.  No hands involved, just lightning-fast feet and brutally strong legs.  Unless you’re an adorable child, like one of these little monsters.

hop hop *twirl* hop hop hop

martial arts

Get dangerous

Since I have more fight training than the average person, I’m always looking for ways to teach people how to defend themselves.  I think it annoys my friends.  Sorry guys.

But what’s the point of having useful knowledge if you’re not going to share it?  Seriously.  It has to be shared.  So I’m going to post a few short lessons on how to fight without injuring yourself.

pictured: incoming ass-whooping

Basic tenants of fighting:
-Keep your eyes open, even when under attack.  Most people close their eyes when they see a hit coming.  Fight that reflex.  You need to see what’s going on.
-Keep your hands up.  Protect your face and head.
-Most people don’t know how to fight, but that doesn’t make them harmless.  Be cautious.  You never know who you’re up against, how much training they might have, how many friends they have with them, or if they’re carrying a knife (or worse).
-AVOID FIGHTS.  The best way to keep yourself from getting beaten up is to avoid fighting at all.  Keep an eye out for trouble before it happens.  Make friends, not enemies.  Be polite to the barkeep.  Don’t start anything.  Period.

Lesson 1: How to throw a punch
A lot of people (children and adults) instinctively hide their thumbs under the rest of their fingers when making a fist.  DON’T DO THAT.  All the pressure of the punch will travel straight to the first knuckle of your thumb and break it.  Which means that you just broke your own thumb, and you don’t get to brag/complain about it later.

Step One: Make a proper fist
Fold down all your fingers (excluding your thumb) until all your nails are hidden against the palm of your hand.  Place your thumb across them like ribbon on a present, making sure that when you throw your punch, your thumb will not make contact with the target.  Don’t clench your fingers; fold them into place.

yuri sakazaki has excellent form (no, really)

Step Two: Keep your wrist straight
The force of the punch should travel straight through your hand and wrist without any nasty snapping sounds.  Throwing a punch with a bent wrist is a great way to injure yourself, and make your opponent’s job all that much easier.

Step Three: Prepare your body
A solid punch starts in your feet.  Get in a solid, relaxed stance; left foot in front (if you’re a righty), both hands in fists near your face with elbows pointing to the ground.  Bend your knees a little.  Drop your shoulders.  Keep your eyes on your target.

Step Four: Crack the whip
I often liken throwing a good punch to cracking a whip.  The motion starts by pushing off from your back foot.  Next, swivel your hips so they turn to face your opponent.  Throw your right shoulder forward.  As you throw your fist toward your target, your elbow should be behind your fist, so that your forearm defines the trajectory of your punch.

Step Five: Obliterate your opponent
Contrary to what you see in movies, your fist should travel in a straight line, not in a curve across your opponent’s face.  Think of the target in front of you as an obstacle your fist needs to get through in order to reach your real goal.  Punch straight through your target to your imaginary goal.

Step Six: Repeat
My personal motto: If you’re going to hit him once, you might as well hit him twice.  If you’re in a position where you’re forced into physical confrontation, fight to win.  The first hit is to warn them that you’re not going to surrender.  The second one lets them know the first one wasn’t a fluke, and yes, you’re dedicated to winning the fight.

After all this, book it!  Your objective should be your safety, not making your opponent bleed as much as possible.  Once you’ve won, walk away.  Fast.  Long fights are the worst.  End it before you accidentally give them an opening to inflict some damage.  Even amateurs get lucky.