I had dinner with Little Iron Friend about a month ago, and really enjoyed it. I made the ramen, and we chatted about how I got my ass kicked at that one sparring class at the kung fu studio. She’s a solid person. Plus, we drank Lo Han Guo, which I love and haven’t had since the old days of tae kwon do training! Hooray, so good!
As I’ve mentioned before, Saturday is the only day I have completely off. On my other day off I spend four hours at the Kung Fu studio teaching, sweating, and learning ancient ways to become even more of a badass. There weren’t many people around for Thursday night’s intermediate class, so it morphed into a wrestling/sparring class. It was pretty fun. I got roped into doing the Saturday sparring class.
When I mentioned to Diminutive Roommate that I’d be sparring for the first time in five years, she was confused. She thought sparring took place during regular classes. She couldn’t figure out how I’d been teaching all this time, and hadn’t sparred even once. So let me take a moment to describe sparring the way it’s generally taught at martial arts schools. Traditionally, sparring is when two trained martial artists throw on some gear (gloves, shin pads, head gear, mouth guard, chest padding, etc.), and exchange controlled hits to test their reflexes. No one’s going for a knock out, or even attempting to injure their partner. To do so would be disrespectful, and defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Or so I thought when I said I would be happy to attend a Saturday sparring match. I was mistaken. Before this class, I had never attended a sparring session where it was acceptable behavior to:
-intentionally and repeatedly aim strong punches to the head of an opponent not wearing head gear
-offer no apology for incurring even a simple injury like a bloody nose
-the majority of the class completely ignore instructions to use only 30% power
-a high-rank student is permitted to intentionally use more power than an equally-ranked partner (against that partner)
The instructor was very helpful and gave me some really excellent pointers. He was very engaging and clearly interested in watching his students improve, which we did over the course of the class. So I’m pretty heartbroken to say that there’s very little chance that I can go back to that class. I have since learned that my partner of equal rank (who we’ll call Kris) is apparently known as “No Control” Kris. Yikes. Why is she allowed to spar? Why intentionally injure your classmates? Is your training really so important that things like restraint get lost in the process?
Maybe I’ve just gone soft. It’s been five years since I sparred last, I’m not in my best shape, and I did well considering. Frankly, I’m feeling good about my performance, but I have a lot to learn and a lot to improve, but… I won’t, because I can’t go back to that class if that’s what will be allowed from her and other students.
I don’t want an apology. I want to train. I don’t want a concussion, but I want to learn. Gotta make this happen.
I started my Kung Fu training about six months ago, and received a brown sash this month. It’s a big deal. I’m one of maybe five brown sashes in the entire school. I’m trying not to stress too much about it, the burden of being a leading female in a hard core martial arts school (again), and so far, so good. It’s a title I’m used to holding, just not in a group of almost strangers. I’m doing well so far, making friends, keeping my mouth shut when I should–mostly (still perfecting that one)–and taking constructive criticism with open ears and a grin.
One aspect of the training I’m still getting used to is the constant meditation; 10 minutes per day, sitting in a specific posture, utilizing specific breathing exercises, etc. It’s not difficult but it takes some planning, and life tends to try to get in the way. So far the biggest obstacle isn’t finding the time, it’s forcing myself not to eat/drink before and after. You’d think I could just overeat beforehand to take care of the allotted no-eating/drinking-time that precedes and follows meditation, but you’d be wrong. When you have a metabolism like a hummingbird, eating every couple hours becomes essential, lest that wold-class tantrum that’s been building up behind these gentle hazel eyes finally gets unleashed. In which case, good luck, unbroken bones of the people around me, it’s been nice knowin’ ya.
I had an interesting conversation with Diminutive Roommate the other night. She mentioned that I always seemed confident in myself. I corrected her immediately. I don’t always speak up when I should, which bothers me a lot. I have to correct myself often when I have thoughts like, “I’ll never be as good at this as her,” which happened most commonly at my old real estate job (and it was true). I had that thought tonight at Kung Fu. Watching the way the instructor moves when he’s instructing, doing the techniques at 10% speed is so educational. The essence of the technique comes out, and I think, I’ll never be as good as him at this. Ever. Oh well.
I really, really need to stop thinking like that. Who the fuck am I helping? I get these thoughts during the cardio workout class there, too. But it occurred to me tonight that I jumped into that cardio class after years of doing zero training or working out of any kind. And I’m doing an awesome job keeping up. A small group of students have become kinda friends, and they really appreciate the extra experience I bring to the studio. So SUCK IT, LIFE. I will stop silently putting myself down all the time.
I told the instructor that I think I’ll have all the material for white, yellow and orange sashes mastered in a week, which is true, I think. I’ll just have to practice every day, especially at the dojo. I can do this. One piece at a time, I will master kung fu like I mastered tae kwon do and hap ki do. I’m good at this. I can do it.
Yesterday was an exciting day for three reasons: Poker, Car, Kung Fu.
Diminutive Roommate and I went to college together. I get the feeling we’re going to be friends our whole lives. I sure hope we are, because we have so much fun together. We used to play poker at least once a week in college, and decided recently that we should start doing that again. Sister bought me a poker table years ago, and I just got it back last week from Chinese ExBoyfriend’s household (we broke up… wow, over five years ago).
Hooray! I got it back! But we’ve been borrowing poker chips from them too, so I thought fuck it, I’m getting my own chips. Imagine my delight when I discovered that you can order any number of any color chip you want. So instead of the traditional set of 500 white, red, blue, black, green poker chip set, I got 650 yellow, orange, gray, purple and pink. CANNOT WAIT TO PLAY WITH THEM SUPER EXCITED THEY’RE GETTING HERE MONDAAAAAAYYYY!!
Apparently entry-level automatic cars are not sold without all kinds of bells and whistles, so yesterday I custom-ordered my car. It’s going to be a white Fiat 500 with brown and white interior and no extras (who the fuck needs a engine block heater in LA?). It should be ready in 45 days (Is that business days I asked? No one knows. Apparently this is top-secret info the Chrysler factories churning these things out in Mexico aren’t telling anyone). I’m not as excited as I should be, because I’ve been attempting to buy this damn car for weeks now. No one at the dealerships or credit union are doing their job despite the fact that I’m attempting to buy a car at full price, and in the meantime I’m stuck in that damn deathtrap 98 Exploder that inhales gas at an alarming rate (I’m getting maybe 11mpg. Maybe). When the Fiat arrives I’ll lose my mind. Meanwhile, I spent $372 on gas last month. But fuck it! I’m getting a new car! It’s gonna be so fucking cute, hahaha!
I was invited to train at a kung fu studio by a friend of mine (let’s call her Little Iron Friend- she has completed her Iron Palm training; high-fiving her is painful). I’ve only been taking classes sporadically for six months. I’ve chatted with the instructors, who have made it clear that they’re willing to put me on the fast track to obtaining a black sash. I told them I’d like to earn a brown sash first, then work for black. The head instructor seemed very pleased with that decision. He said, “You move like a black belt. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t earn your black sash within a year.”
I figured that meant that I would attend class without rank until I tested for brown. Imagine my surprise when I arrived early yesterday to watch Little Iron Friend teach class, and one of the instructors approached me with a brand new, folded, shining brown sash. He held it out to me with two hands, in the traditional style, and said, “This is for you.” I didn’t reach out to take it; I just stared at it, and said, “What’s that?” He grinned, and informed me that I will effectively hold the rank of brown sash while I learn all the material leading up to that rank. This means I’ll be the highest rank in the intermediate class, which will likely cause some tension. I’m not too worried about it; I have no ego associated with my rank, and I think most people know that. I have one more black belt than the only black belt student in the school (that I’ve seen), and he’s uber serious for some reason. No sense of humor to speak of. It’s really a shame.
The point is, I have a kung fu brown sash. And that’s amazing. Little Iron Friend and I had dinner last night and chatted about it. She’s a green sash, so I out-rank her now which could be awkward. I told her if she feels weird or if this starts to put a strain on our friendship, I’ll give it back and walk away. She said it’s not a problem, and we’re good. She has a lot of respect for me as a martial artist, and vice versa, so I think we’re going to be fine. I told her I was nervous about how the other students would react now that I technically outrank them. She said, “I’ll stand by you. Don’t worry about it.” I was touched. I’m so glad we found each other and became friends.
I went rock climbing in April of last year with some friends. We had a blast, and what a weird sport to get into. The people who are really into it tend to be hippies, or at the very least like to grow their hair long and talk about their auras. Regardless, watching someone do some serious bouldering is totally awe-inspiring. I got to know a couple people there, who warned me that the rock climbing gym is a “meat market,” and to watch out for guys who offer to help too eagerly. They were right, but everyone else was super cool.
One of the women who works at the gym also does Kung Fu (southern style; that means fast hands, no flying kicks or big fancy swooping gestures). She and I have become buddies, and when she learned about my martial arts background, she invited me to take a class at her gwoon where she also works. I took a few beginner’s classes before one of the head instructors took me aside and said, “Why are you in the beginner’s classes?”
me: Uh, I dunno, gotta get the basics down, starting at the bottom…
him: You should be taking intermediate level classes. You’re obviously having no problem learning the moves, let’s move you up. You’re picking it up really fast, you have a natural talent for this, so lets get you in some upper level classes.
me: [probably blushing] …Ok. Thanks. Sounds good.
[Little-known fact: I blush at the drop of a hat. You could say, “Hey, nice shoes,” and I would turn three different shades of scarlet. Ok that’s a little extreme, but I radiate radish red in the face of even a little genuine embarrassment.]
So I’ve taken… three intermediate level classes, and I’m not having any trouble keeping up with the moves or the pace. But I am… I think the technical term is “really fucking sore.” Driving to work today, I winced turning on my blinker. My shoulders are taking the brunt of the abuse (loads of pushups, punching, blocks). My forearms are covered with bruises from three star training. Iron palm doesn’t bother me for some reason. You’d think jabbing and slapping a punching bag filled with sand would cause me some discomfort.
I saw my buddy break a coconut with her bare hand the other night. Craaaaaazy. And she’s totally fine today. So weird. I told my dad about it, and he said, “Don’t do it.” lol
EDIT: I saw my buddy today, and she pointed to her chin and said, “See this?” It was a bruise from when I kicked her in the face during class two days ago. We were doing spinning back kicks, and she was holding the pad at her chest level (being significantly shorter than me, the pad was actually at about my waist level, and I’m used to kicking high, so… yeah). My foot glanced off the pad, and my heel landed square on the lower left side of her chin. Apparently the pain radiated up through her skull and ended at the opposite eyeball. While I feel really bad about this, I wasn’t really trying too hard, so I’m feelin’ pretty good about my kicks, lol.