Grappling, With Words

Monday by Rieshy

Coulomb's Law, spinning orbit; pulling braids and bruises for later.
Personal space turtled with heartbeat slowed, arms T-rexed.

Take rest in dipole-dipole interaction.

Unequal breathing equals advantage and humidity is in motion.
Random limbs misplaced and found,

Blessed, cursed lock-location.

Round the flow of fields, full feints, grips playing chess until;
with a sudden flip of polarity
                             potential energy finally

Posted in Labels: , | 0 Comments »

Dojo Road Trip: Part I

Saturday by Rieshy

About a month ago I had the opportunity to stop at a few BJJ schools and Karate Dojo's while on a road trip.  It was an unusual opportunity for me, as a mother of 7, to be in a car alone for days (wahoo!) and because I have very little experience with martial arts outside my home dojo.  I did my homework; I found some places that looked reputable; I contacted them ahead of time and made arrangements for dropping in and got some advice from my sensei at Family First Martial Arts about how to stay safe.  I also got a heartfelt request from my husband to, "Please Do Not Get Injured".

And away I went.

The first school, Atos North Dallas, Team Pedro Mello, was amazing.  This was my first time ever inside a purely Brazilian Jujitsu school.  The place was massively intimidating to walk into.  Torture devices (cross-fit equipment) ranged along one side of the gym and loud music shook the ceiling tiles.  Very fit looking men were standing around waiting for class to start.  The mat was chain-link fenced from the rest of the gym.  Something about the chain link seemed very serious and reminded me of the book, The Outsiders, or maybe a scene from West Side Story.  Not that whistling and dancing are all that scary... but I digress,  all I could think was, "I am about to die amongst strangers."  And when I found out there were no changing rooms or showers I mentally amended that to, "I am about to die sweaty and amongst strangers."

Limbering up was also intimidating, driving 5 hours straight after a day of driving 10 hours straight tends to make arthritic knees revengeful, and I was the only woman on the mat at first, not to mention the only person well over forty.  To be honest, my hands shook but the mat felt familiar and the atmosphere seemed casual and team or family-like rather than ego driven.

The professor was welcoming and explained the shrimping and rolling warm-ups completely. When the rest of the class, who were all advanced belts, didn't roll their eyes or act annoyed at such basic explanations I started to relax.  I have to say watching a bunch of BJJ black belts do shrimping warmups is really beautiful.  When we paired up to drill I was specifically matched to a purple belt who was patient and helpful and long-suffering.  It turned out that he coaches some of their kid's classes.  I bet he's fabulous with the kids.

I had the time of my life and learned an amazing amount.  It was fascinating to experience a martial art's culture so different from my own.  I bowed at the wrong times, I hustled at times that everyone else sashayed.  I responded with a couple of instinctual and loudly misplaced, "Yes Sirs."  Yet the similarities were striking: the respectful intensity with which the participants listened to their professor, the sense that we were all there to work hard, the way that I was placed specifically with a partner unlikely to accidentally hurt me, and, equally important; how I was given a partner savvy enough to avoid being hurt by an unknown and probably spastic white belt.  Even the sense of fun that I love about my home dojo was a part of the work out.

Atos North Dallas with Padro Mello

The experience psyched me up for the next school on my list, 300 odd miles to the West.  I had picked this school partially because my 13 year old son loved the name, Zombie Jujitsu.  As he put it, "How can you not want to work out at a place called ZOMBIE?".  Bolstered by my Atos experience I walked in this school with a modicum of confidence, or at least enough confidence that my hands didn't visibly shake.  Once again the culture difference.  Jujitsu schools seem a much quieter experience than a mixed martial art school and I missed the constant kiai and the inherently satisfying thwacking sound of bagwork. In fact, the quietness actually made me a little homesick.

At Zombie, with Joseph Tonche, we did some self defense work using a padded wall; it was a blast slamming and being slammed into the wall.  Yes, there is something very theatric and wrong with me. We don't have a padded wall at my home dojo so the drills were all new to me and they seemed quite practical.  Later I got myself very very squashed free-rolling an experienced white belt who completely controlled me with just her grips; I think she actually had 4 arms.   Once again I learned a lot.  It was a pleasure to work hard with people, even though they were absolute strangers.  It was also interesting to see a similar gentle demeanor that I'm used to seeing in my three sensei at home in the professor and coaches at both jujitsu schools.

Zombie Jujitsu 

Martial Arts and hospitality intertwined on this trip.  I am grateful that both Atos North Dallas and Zombie Jujitsu were kind enough to let me drop in on their worlds.  To my husband's relief I even came home uninjured.

Part of the reason I came home uninjured is because I choose not to stay to work out at a third school (which will remain unnamed) that I also visited... but that's Part II.


Posted in Labels: | 0 Comments »

Growing Up On The Mat

by Rieshy

Some nights our dojo's schedule means that it's just my 7 year old son and me taking classes.  This means he does his karate class and then sits and waits for my two adult classes to be over.  He's good about waiting, though sometimes he hears more gory chitchat about the best ways to dislocate random body parts than the average boy his age.  The other night my last karate class was an unusually small group, all of us jujitsu enthusiasts, so our sensei asked our jujitsu coach to lead the work.

I learned several lessons, not all of which were actually part of the drill-work.
  1. Kimura's are fun, and working them from the bottom is a great tool.  If your partner is a StrongFirst Kettle Bell instructor who is at least six inches taller than you- forget about trying for a Kimura because except for during drill-work, it's not going to happen.
  2. When rolling to get the mount and your partner weighs considerably more- always remember where your kneecap is, and where you would like it to remain.  Seriously, this was an injury-free aha, during a moment of sloppy technique, where I realized just how badly things could and would go if I didn't learn to pay closer attention and apply leverage properly.  
  3. Play is work and my youngest child is growing up.  This takes more explaining.  When class ended I realized my 7 year old had sidled up next to our sensei and was sitting on the mat watching the class intently.  We had time for some free rolling so I invited my son to roll with me before I rolled with the other adults.  He leaped at the chance and we started rolling, complete with my verbal encouragements and occasional sound effects, just like we do when we play grapple at home.  After a moment he leaned close as he worked for an arm-bar and whispered, with a glance to the other groups of working students, "Mom, please don't make noises, you're kinda embarrassing me." As his request was politely and rather vulnerably made I complied.  It made me a little sad for how seriously he takes himself, but at the same time I felt like I got to know my youngest a little better.  I think I may have a budding fellow enthusiast.  And our "playing" at jujitsu at home?  - It's all important work to someone growing up on the mat.


The Basics

Monday by Rieshy

I'm a habitual questioner.  For instance, I sometimes question why I love to run.  I'm not fast, I'm not efficient, I don't run races or with friends, I don't run impressive, brag-worthy mileage and I don't have cute running clothes.  When it comes right down to it I just run because it makes me feel 7 years old to have the wind whip past my face- and because no one talks to me when I run.   It's been a frustrating couple of months because I sprained my toe and have desperately missed my runs.

The sprained toe?  That leads nicely to my real topic.  My other loves are knitting and martial arts.  I did not sprain my toe knitting; I sprained it trying to do a spinning hook-kick.  My body turned, my foot rotated but my toe stayed put.  Ouch.  Turf-toe.

So why do I love martial arts?  Goju Shorei Karate and Jujitsu particularly?  I'm not young or naturally talented, I'm not Olympics or UFC bound.  I'm not ever going to be a Worlds anything but I love martial arts.  I love it with enough passion to not terribly mind a hyperextended elbow or the current huge bruise I'm sporting above my left eyebrow.   I love it enough that I hope I get to tap out for at least another 40 years.

But why?  And does knowing the why matter?  I've been pondering both these questions for a year or so and have finally come to some conclusions and happily none of the reasons include insanity or a higher than normal propensity towards violence.

To the Why of martial arts love:

For the sheer joy of movement.
For the sheer joy of doing something hard.
For the sheer joy of learning.

Knowing the why does matter, because of weeks like last week:

Weeks when I go to class with a sore toe that makes me feel clumsy.  Weeks when I go to the class and am asked to do a move that I know, that my sensei has spent endless time and energy covering and teaching, yet my body rebels and refuses to execute.  Weeks when I forget the sequence of a simple kata in front of everyone.  Weeks when I fail to stripe for testing and I feel like I've let my sensei down.  Weeks when I feel deflicted and awkward and every second of my 48 years.

Because I know why I love martial arts, weeks of failure don't steal my joy.  They don't make me quit.    Looking back on last week's failures, I still had a blast;  I moved through the air, I worked and failed but I worked hard, and I learned.

All in all it was a great week and the whys give me tenacity and determination.

Posted in Labels: | 0 Comments »

Secret Lives Of Children

Saturday by Rieshy

One of the joys of teenaged children is the solving of family mysteries.  Who broke your antique cookie jar ten years ago might be confessed during a family dinner as your teens choke on their green beans with laughter.

 I was given a rag doll when I was two.  Forty five years has not been kind to it, yet it is the only childhood toy that I truly loved and when I look at it I feel cozy inside.  Think Jessie Doll feelings of attachment.

Evidently when my children look at it they see a crazed murdering figure that may or may not come to life at any moment.

My youngest daughter once told me that she liked it too so I gave it to her and told her she could play with it at anytime.  Yesterday it was revealed to me that she only told me that she liked it because at the time she was afraid it had heard us discussing it.  She was trying to flatter and appease it so it wouldn't exact horrific revenge.

Doll appeasement, and at great price because I was so excited that she actually liked it that for a time I placed it lovingly on her bed.

My 8 year old son heard our conversation and revealed that he and his younger brother both find it, "really freaky, especially the way it sits high up on the bookshelf and looks around," furthermore he confessed, with a nervous head-twitch towards my bedroom door, it is why neither of them like to go into my bedroom.

Ah, another mystery cleared.  I had noticed the mad dash my two youngest always use when they have to fetch something from that side of the house.

So- young mothers, one day probably at a holiday dinner, you will discover how and why your son really cut his hand (perhaps while making carrot puppets with a butcher knife) or how that the garage trash can "spontaneously" caught fire (spontaneous- meaning tennis-can cannons)  Most importantly, if you want your kids to stay out of your bedroom; buy a doll.

I submit to you a lovely photo of "Boopie".  Freaky?  I think not. 



Monday by Rieshy

For reasons that I cannot presently remember I decided to cut back to 2 cups of coffee a day.

Today was the day.  I tried to relish my first cup, to truly be, "present in the moment" as I sipped my (nectar of the gods) french roast.  I burned my tongue.  Seriously?  I haven't burned my tongue since I first began drinking coffee at the ripe old age of 5.  My children call me Asbestos Woman.

That's been the high point of my day.  I am also out of chocolate and didn't have time to go running.  So I decided to go outside and breathe while my boys took a break in their fort.

I saw.

Not exactly the authorized storage facility for those tools.

 Is any child's play place complete without a rusty can o'nails handy?

I headed back inside so my head could explode in quiet.  Luckily I turned to take a couple more shots.

My kids helped me plant this tree when it was small enough to fit in my car's back seat.

Happy mistreater of tools that they are, I love that they have the time and place and imagination to build in fresh air.  

I made tea, my head didn't explode, they cleaned up the tools, my 13 yo scouted for loose nails.
Sometimes it's all about where you point your camera.


Unintended Consequences

Tuesday by Rieshy

With the exception of a hiking trip, Fall Break at my house this year is not very sexy; it's yard winterizing,  less limited movie/computer time and slightly more festive food, and pumpkin carving.

It's also paper writing time.

Is there anything more fun than writing research papers over fall break? What about teaching children how to write research papers?

Actually,  I love research papers... if only a pesky moral base initially inculcated by my upbringing and then later internalized hadn't interfered I would have loved running a business writing other people's research papers.  I even think teaching my own children how to do a research paper could be fun.  Except it's usually not.

They may attempt a smile (or not) but I'm not feeling the joy.

Winterizing the yard- what's not to love?  Wind, slight rain, mud, that earthy autumn smell, sweat and sore hamstrings. Some of us felt the joy. My 6 yo in begged me for all of us to work together in the yard again this morning.    I got to say, "You will have to wait until tomorrow to work in the yard."  My 19 yo (piano performance major and thus hand-selfprotective) had fun working with her little brother digging up bushes, plus the bonus of enjoying a joyous adrenaline rush when said 6 yo missed her hand by an inch while chopping at a stubborn root ball.  Give a 6 yo a pick axe...

Personally, life is fun.  Even the nitty gritty paper writing.  Having a week "off" is fun- even if it is a lot of work.  Long ago I learned that well-rested, well-fed, and underworked children get bored and fight.  Whereas well-rested, well-fed, and tired-from-work children appreciate life.

But in the end it boils down to deciding to love life.  I can't make my children love life; I can't even make them be happy but they can look around and see concrete things that they know they accomplished or learned and feel competent.  It's a step.

At the very least they can look forward to the relaxation of starting back to school... and my yard looks tons better.