Monday, February 22, 2016

We're back!

After way too long a hiatus, we're finally back to regular karate classes. Hooray!

The break was long - too long, actually - mostly because it proved a bit more difficult than originally thought to secure a new location that was easy for students to get to and that wouldn't cost them or us an arm and a leg.

We found it - via a local church - but lots of stuff happened in the interim, including Training Partner Ed and his family moving to South Carolina in October.

Training Partner Ed's "Farewell Workout"

Posing with the U-Haul truck just before the family pulled out of their driveway for the last time.

The move happened Columbus Day weekend. By the end of October, the new space had been approved and were able to get the new dojo up and running. It was only one day a week instead of three (as I am the only one teaching and have Squirrel's tuition to pay, I must work), but it was a place to train again.

Because of the church programs in place, Friday night has become our regular time to gi up and play. Some of my students have sports team practice or work commitments and are unable to make it, but we gained some new students and now start the class begins with a belt-tying tutorial before we fall in.

Our youngest student, Allyanna, is 5

Kata with Jovanni and Tyrone
Nia - mid-kata

The first class in late October

Nate's new belt (Yes, I stole it from his IG feed)
As this past Christmas and New Year's Day both fell on Fridays, the dojo was closed for two weeks. When our bare feet hit the mat in January, I ran a few of my senior students through some kihon and kata. They didn't know it, but it was a grading. They did very well and we now have three new third kyus in the building, including a dad who first entered the dojo when he'd bring his son to class. After sitting and watching for about six months, he kicked off his shoes and joined in. His son stopped training, but he didn't. He's worked really hard over the last year, including solo training at a local gym with Ed and me every Friday morning through the dojo hiatus. 

It's been a year of unexpected twists and turns, but we're still moving forward. Isn't that what the martial journey is all about?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Look What I Found!

Searching through my hard drive for photos of a long-ago event, I found these pictures, taken through the years...
Sensei E, Stephanie and Sensei Felicia after a
tourney in Herkimer, NY.

Grand Master Sam McGee of the Hrlem Goju Association with
a few Newburgh Goju students after a grading 

Master Kelly Rice and Sensei Felicia

GM McGee and Sensei Felicia

Monday, June 16, 2014

It Ain't Her Fault

What do you get when a few journalists together in a newsroom and a poorly written press release about an attempted rape comes off the fax machine?

Lively debate.

Here's the scenario: the police beat reporter mentioned that the release included a comment from the district attorney's office about the party the victim went to the night she was attacked and that she may have - GASP! - actually consumed alcohol at said party. The release said she was asleep when her attacker snuck into her room and tried to rape her. Yep - asleep. Not "passed out." Not "highly inebriated." Not "sloppy drunk." Just. Asleep.

Allergic to nonsense...
The reporter and I had the same question: why was it necessary to mention that she'd gone to a party and possibly drank the night she was a victim of a violent crime?

We saw it like this: had the crime been an attempted robbery and she asleep when it occurred, would the fact that she drank have been mentioned? Honestly, I was surprised they did not mention the type of nightgown she was wearing during the attack.

The other two editors didn't agree. They did not see the terms "alcohol" and "party" as faulting the victim, but only as indicators that she was unable to defend herself. "It just goes to illustrate what a scum this guy really is because he attacked someone who obviously could not defend herself," the desk editor said.

Remember, the information said ASLEEP.  Not DRUNK. Another editor said the wording used probably showed that she was drunk because if she wasn't, she might have been able to fight back. A sleeping person, he said, would surely have been able to react.

But nowhere in the info we got did it say she was unable to react. Or that she didn't. That seemed to me to be total speculation.

And as a result, the reporter did not want to include it in the story. The desk editor overruled her - but suggested that she discuss it with the managing editor if she still had a problem with it. The words were still hanging in a bubble above us - like in a cartoon - and the reporter was out of her chair and on her way to do just that. And guess what? It was decided it was OK to include the info about the party as long as it was attributed to the DA who said it.

And my mouth is still hanging open.

Let me fill in some blanks: the other two editors and the managing editors are male. The reporter and I are not.

Did that have anything to do with the idea that the three of them didn't quite seem to get the victim blaming/slut shaming the DA was trying to push via the release? I'm sure it had a lot to do with it.

And I was HOT for the rest of the daggone day.

Just so we're clear, it is never ok to make the victim of any crime the reason s/he was the victim. I have a real problem with the idea that women in sexual assault situations are somehow the exception. What she wore, what she consumed, whether she kissed the assailant are TOTALLY irrelevant when force is involved or a "no" is ignored.

Asleep in your bed in your own home seems like a place to assume you are relatively safe. The assumption of fault on the part of the sleeper is a stretch in my book.

But, I'm sure the DA is betting that more folks in the possible jury pool will be swayed to think that somehow, the victim does bare some onus because, well, she had the audacity to go to a party and possibly drink the night she was attacked. And you know what? The DA might be right.

And that's a total, total shame, IMHO...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

So Long and Farewell...

Today, a training partner tested for Nidan while many of the instructors I've trained with over the years came to watch. It was followed by our annual Holiday Party (called such because not everyone who trains with us celebrates Christmas) and gift exchange. A bittersweet day for all of us - but not just because it was the last class of the year. It also marked the last class at our current location.

Sensei Ed and Crew on Day One
We started at the Salvation Army three and a half years ago. From the first six students who walked in that day, we've grown to close to 50. We've trained hard in our tiny space, sweating through kihon and kata and prepping for tournaments and gradings. We've laughed as much as we've cried - over birthday cakes, farewell parties and even a few funerals.

It's been a beautiful almost-four years, it really has. But we've outgrown our space – both physically and emotionally - and will be moving to a new location in January. It's sad, but it's time to move forward.

We've truly had some great times in the Salvation Army and seen some incredible growth from our amazing students, some of whom have trained with us since the beginning. We even started an adult class that focuses more on self-defense after a parent of one of our teens suggested it because he'd always wanted to train as a kid but his family couldn't afford it and he felt sort of odd starting next to his 12-hr-old son whom he'd have to call "sir." Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly before we could get the class up and running, but I think of him every time the adults bow in.

Karate isn't something Training Partner Ed and I do a few nights a week - it's truly a way of life. Out mission always has been to pass that ideology onto others. We understand that all of them won't be training for the rest of their lives, but the hope is that a few will. Someone has to be around for us to hand the reigns of the dojo over to!

I wish we could stay - because that space has become a second home to so many - but we can't. The environment has changed as have the number of folks who are interested in what we do there each week, so we have to move along to bigger and hopefully better things. It's just time.

The group after we bowed out for the last time at the SA :-(

We'll miss you, Salvation Army. We really will.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Grading 2013

Good news to report: our school recently promoted its first student to shodan :-)

   Meet Andrew. He'll be 20 in a few months and began karate about five years ago. We met at my old, old school (two senseis ago). He followed Sensei Ed and me to the Salvation Army about six months or so after we began. He's a wonderful young man - hard-working, dedicated and in love with all things martial, despite the slight mental challenge he has. He is, by far, one of the hardest working and most resilient folks I've ever met - often arriving early and staying as late as he can - even when he has to get to work (although it exasperates his mom - who, I'm sure, often wondered how she would drive from the dojo to his job site in the five minutes he'd given her because he wanted to get just one more kata or self-defense technique in before he bowed out and changed clothes).

Andrew is one of the only folks in the dojo who is as tall as I am (he's actually a little taller - about 6'3"). When we spar, I try to encourage him to use his length, the one thing that seems to be hard for folks with long limbs to realize is a true advantage. Like me, he tends to want to fight "small," choking his kicks and punches in order to blend in and look like everyone else. Been trying to have him extend and do what those long limbs of his are totally capable of reaching someone who thinks they are "safe" and out of striking distance. We've been saying this for a while now: when that young man learns how to reach out and really touch people, not too many folks will want to stand in front of him for kumite, that's for sure.

He worked his butt off during his three hour grading. By the time sparring was to begin, he'd been through a thoroughly cup-emptying warm-up, bunches self-defense techniques, every kata in the syllabus and tameshiwara against three boards that snapped like twigs and a cinder block that did not even wiggle when he tried to go through it. Suffice to say he was pretty exhausted - so much so that his gi was so wet from his sweat that it was dripping.

Still, he had 18 30-second to one-minute fights to get through. At one point, I had to pull him aside and remind him to conserve and reserve, because he still had quite a few folks left to spar and he was going at everyone like it was the last round. The black belts on deck were literally salivating...

Quite a defensive fighter who normally waits for the attack then counters, he was so tired near the end he could barely keep his hands up. But then a wonderful thing happened: he stopped thinking and began re-acting. Here is fight #16 - against a 9th-Dan - where he simply did what his instincts told him to do, resulting in a near joint lock of Hanshi McGrath's ankle. It was so very cool to watch because a fresh Andrew never would have seized that opportunity (and yes, that's my big mouth you hear during the round; I always forget that cameras record sound, too!).

So, yeah, a good time really was had by all - including Andrew and the 27 other students who graded that day. Congratulations to them all - and welcome to yudansha, Andrew!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's That Time Again

Our semi-annual grading is just around the corner. Between the bustle of getting belt sizes, spelling names correctly for certificates, drilling everyone on kata and self-defense techniques and making sure the political end is covered (inviting all the folks from the clan who would be upset if we left them out), Senseis Ed and Felicia are worn out - and we're still a month away from the action!

One of the issues we always seem to go around and around on deals with attendance. The cirriculum is specific about how long a student must have been at their current rank to be considered for the next rank, but being a fourth kyu for six months and coming to six-months worth of classes are two totally different things. Hence, when some sponges - you know, the students who absorb movements and techniques quickly - seem to have a kata down but haven't been around consistently for a minute, the senseis go a few rounds on his/her testing eligibility (and yes, Sensei Felicia is usually the one arguing for NOT moving them on - meanie!). It's a good thing we only do this twice a year...

Another problem is the question of where to put everyone. Our space is tiny and the overflow is tough to manage for the students and their parents, much less the karate folks there to support and grade. We might have to staple some chairs to the ceiling...

We've got less than a month to go. Have you been training?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"The Way to Black Belt": Moving Forward

Although one of our students finished "The Way to Black Belt" by Lawrence A. Kane and Kris Wilder a week after she got it and others are in the throws of finishing the first few chapters, no one has been able to put their thoughts about it on paper yet. So for now, let's start with mine.

It's interesting reading the first two chapters as both a karate student and an instructor - especially since I instruct and get instruction in two different schools. And as I'm currently looking for some way to change my learning environment (specifically: expanding into more kobudo and eventually traditional Okinawan Goju-ryu), the book came at just the right time for me.

I'm currently a nidan in USA Goju so earning a black belt is not my goal, but the information detailed in chapter one - on knowing what you are looking for in a potential school and setting/reaching goals - is most useful. While I'm transitioning, Iain Abernathy's SMART technique - or creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound - has fast become my mantra. It and the "action plan" listing at the end of chapter one are also helping me figure out whether my current struggle in my learning environment is simply a training plateau or something else all together. I'm a bit more earnest in jotting down specifics in my training log as a result.

Next week marks my foray into seeking additional instruction by visiting area dojos. Reviewing "Chapter 2: Find a Good Instructor" has between helpful - mostly because I found my first school (which I left shortly after earning my black belt) by total happenstance as the class met weekly in the community center where I worked. But it's also helping me when I wear my "Sensei" hat as I strive to ensure that I embody those "characteristics of an exemplary instructor" outlined in the chapter.

I'm just starting to move through "Chapter 3: Know How You Learn" but for me, it's been so far, so good :-)