Wearing With Pride

Little things make me so happy…like the victory my school won in getting a sweatshirt with their name on it.  The overarching brand generally doesn’t allow it, but I think we – the students – asked enough collectively that our instructor was finally heard by the powers that be.

We all have a sense of pride surrounding the quality of training, instruction, and of students who attend, so in a way this is like a show of support to sport the hoodie.  For a Martial Arts school, you always hope that’s the case – the friendships forged there are meaningful because you are in the thick of it together.  Even if you don’t hang out with everyone all the time, you know you can count on mutual respect and feedback when in the dojo.  Since it isn’t ALWAYS the case, it’s a special thing to find that kind of environment.  And as a result…wearing our name out an about puts a huge smile on my face. 🙂

BJJ Gracie Hoodie

BJJ Gracie Hoodie

More Martial Arts fun!

Gothiness – Halloween Macabre, By Illamasqua

Leave it to Illamasqua to hold a Halloween course… I can’t say MAC wouldn’t either, but Illmasqua isn’t just edgy – a la MAC – it has a deeper, subterranean, curiously-otherworldly vibe.  Always.  To manage a full-on scare for your Fright Night revelry, they’ve got you covered…

Remarkably, the creepy harlequin-clown work (pictured) is a lot harder to achieve than one might think at first glance – try doing performance makeup even just once, and you’ll have an idea.  The deconstructed, paint-peel look reminds me of an abandoned, antiquated-Venetian mural (or maybe a mask from Carnivale that got left behind to gather dust through the centuries…) – I’d love to see the array of products used to create it, a plethora no doubt.  (PS, I can’t stand clowns, but I can appreciate the work done here!)

Anyway, you needn’t want this kind of facepaint to join in the fun – whatever form of haunt you take, sin you prefer, or wickedness you’re aiming for, I’m sure Illamasqua can help you achieve the desired eerie effects (don’t forget, your tools will matter as much.)  The course is only $67 too, which is a lot less steel than I’d have expected. For the best day of the year EVER?  Yeah, it’s worth it!

 

More Halloween

Martial Arts Humor – I Have No Idea

It kind of makes me feel better to proclaim this – as emphatically as I’m able (thanks, large-scale font!) – because in Life, in general, I often feel like I have no clue.

It isn’t that I feel like it gets me off the hook, so much as it accounts for potential (let’s be honest, likely) foibles. Yes. . .I falter, fail, trip, tumble, aaand sometimes fall flat on my face.  (Ever see a dancer fall?  We aren’t always so graceful!)

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Oh, I know, it’s always important to act like we know what we are doing – don’t get me wrong, I think we need to make plenty of room for that:

Presenting to the President and VP of a Company?  OWN it.  

Competing for a title in your sport? Walk onto the floor like you have trained harder than everyone else (it beats talent, you know!)  even if you haven’t.

Testing in your sport, or in school?  Act like you have it ALL under control and that YES, you meant that move, and believe in that answer.

In other areas, though…it’s okay to admit you aren’t on top of your game.  There’s nothing wrong with being new – it’s whether you are willing to learn and make it happen.  It does make me feel better during Master Cycle class, for one, though, to say I’ve got no idea – You go through the Combatives curriculum and testing feeling – for once, FINALLY – like you aren’t drowning.  Then, WHAM!  It’s like swimming with sharks all over again – minus, mind you, having any fins.  In that case. . .I have n o   i d e a   what I’m doing.  And admitting it says “I’m here to learn.  I’m here to review.  I’m not here to get mauled, or *try* to disassemble you.”

I wonder if they make this saying on Gi patches. . . Fair forewarning?

 

Martial Arts – Progression

I’m super thankful that I have been able not only to do five different Martial Arts thus far in Life – having, mind you, only started in my 30’s (I’m currently 38) – but also to have achieved some ranks in each one.  Mastery in the Arts is a lifetime pursuit – belt color doesn’t mean much when you look at the larger picture!  But taking tests – and passing – is a really awesome feeling.  I always like to be as prepared as possible, and feel blessed to have the opportunities to demonstrate my knowledge every so often.

I’ve been doing Ninjutsu for just over 8 months – I set a lofty and ambitious goal (from the get go!) of making every single testing cycle no matter what.  There are days where that’s not easy to do – I’m either physically not around to be IN class, or I’m flat-out exhausted.  That said, I keep in mind – always – that I have these opportunities NOW.  I may not always.  I want to take advantage of the learning, and progression while I can.

I most recently took my 6th Kyu test, and with that came a second “initiation test.”  The initiation essentially boiled down to one hour of my classmates testing my knowledge of all the techniques from the tests I have done up until this point, and doing it in a less structured, “real life” way – I have to say, it was maybe the most fun I’ve had in any Martial Arts test yet!  

The honor of receiving my Genbukan patch – one aspect of passing my initiation before 6th Kyu – was a big one. I come from a background in Korean Arts, so re-learning, adapting, and working within an Ancient Japanese structure has been a challenge, to say the least (maybe not AS severe as my Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but difficult all the same!) 

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While I have a LONG way to go – and yes, I have goals in place to pass my 5th and 4th Kyu by the end of the year! – I appreciate the steps along the way.  

Earning ranks, and the responsibility that goes with them, is an honor in my book, and a blessing.  I work hard for it, no question, but I also feel grateful because not everyone can.  Some simply are physically unable.  Others, less able to apply this level of discipline to an activity that’s “extracurricular” and supposed to be fun!  For me, though, learning IS fun – I enjoy the challenge and putting myself in places where I am not at all comfortable.  It’s in that zone where the good stuff happens. 🙂 

More Martial Arts fun!

Martial Arts Humor – Jiu-Jitsu Disrobe

I love that my instructor caught me in class, gi totally strewn to the side in utter disarray.  I guess that means I was working! 😉 

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Martial Arts – Taking Notes

Learning Martial Arts is something you can’t do online, folks. I’ve seen a ton of programs, and even heard about people who have purportedly reached high ranks by completing and online curriculum.  Really!?  I don’t know…I’d be highly uncomfortable claiming a rank without the experience.  It isn’t so much the being found out when you roll with someone at that level who far surpasses your skill and knowledge, but rather the inability to react quickly should you need to rely on your muscle memory in a rough situation.

You have to be in the thick of it, or you simply won’t be able to replicate the techniques the way they are intended.  You might conceptually understand the movements, but without doing them – repeatedly (read: thousands and thousands of times) – those motions will not serve you as you might want – or worse, NEED – them to.  It is both an injustice to yourself, as well as to the Art, to endeavor to attain ranks this way.  

Books, DVDs, online seminars and video tutorials – all of those things are WONDERFUL…as supplemental tools.  I use them often myself (though, more importantly, so have many of the “Greats.”)  Simply put, you have to come to the Dojo and be hands on, or you just aren’t going to “get it.” Martial Arts isn’t just about a sucker punch to the gut, or a kick that sends a heavy bag reeling.  And it’s definitely not about saying “hey, check out my new black belt (that I didn’t have to earn.”)  

Videos are often not permitted at Martial Arts schools either – my Grandmaster (8th Taekwondo, 9th Degree Hapkido, Swordsman, knife throwing, Kumdo etc) is the real deal.  And, he won’t stand for it.  NO VIDEO. Period. You have to show up and put in the dues in order to progress – relying on a video of someone who you replay over and over in effort to imitate isn’t going to get you there. And, as above, on that principle it is forbidden.

The idea is that you learn in the class from an instructor, you practice what you can, and retain what you are meant to retain in that time (everyone is different.)  

Each class allows you to build on previous lessons – with each one, you string more of the “words” or “vocabulary” together until finally you begin to make “sentences” with your movement (I like to refer to the movements in this way – the Art is very much a language where each small piece is a word, or a form of punctuation – once you are able to connect them into fluid meaning, you have your sentences.  As with your own native tongue, the options are endless!)

While in Taekwondo and Hapkido, I relied a great deal on memory, I still had to write a lot of things down.  I would also take videos of myself after learning a movement so that I could refer back when I had a question.

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These days, I never show up to a class or lesson without a notebook – it’s either my Curriculum, or a notepad, and the notes are ample. There is ALWAYS a new detail to pick up, and always improvements to be made – I like to take note of any “Kuden” (secret knowledge in Ninpo / Ninjutsu), tips, tricks, or feedback on what I’m missing…not just the steps of the drill at hand.  

The act of taking notes itself helps to solidify some of the details discussed, but it is also a great resource when needing to refer back.  Sometimes I am the only person jotting things down – we all learn differently and “doing” may be enough for others.  I don’t mind taking an extra moment with my book if I have to, though – I never feel awkward about it.  

Personally, I’m a choreographed athlete – skaters and dancers create routines in advance much of the time, so we know exactly what’s coming.  You show me, and I’ll repeat.  It won’t be perfect, but I’ll have the broad gist, and I can recreate it pretty quickly.

But life doesn’t exactly work that way, does it? Most of the Arts are not designed to be staged (getting mugged on the street isn’t going to play out the way you might think!)

Movements are complex and are there to give you a framework that can help you deter or alter an attack, let’s say – while you need to recreate those steps, they aren’t always going to come out so scripted. It is therefore important to pay as much attention to the details so that you have as much “vocabulary” as possible at your disposal in a non-choreographed scenario. . .which is MOST of the time!  

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I encourage students to take the time to take notes for that very reason – if you can sneak them in during a demonstration, do it.  If you have to take five minutes after class, take a seat and get to it while it’s still fresh.  You won’t regret taking them…but you might regret not doing so.  When you review a technique down the road that you are SURE you had before, it is incredibly frustrating to start over – with detailed notes, you can always catch back up to speed leaving room for further learning, and assimilation of more detail.  

When push comes to shove – and in a rouge altercation in the street, it will! – you want to have as many neural pathways laid down.  Doing is KEY – you have to be present and physically doing the activity.  Taking notes while you’re there will take you deeper into the experience of learning as well, making those memories even stronger.  

DEFINITELY look to additional sources of information for more angles or tips about application, failures, etc.  But don’t expect an online-only course to deliver a certification that’s worth its purported weight – you need to show up first.  Go the extra mile while you’re at it – you will be thankful you did.

 

Lips 101 With Besame

If you are in California at all, and free from 1 to 2:30 tomorrow – I only just saw this newsletter! –  you should check out Besame’s Lips 101, a class to teach the basics of lipstick, including the history, production and application techniques.  It’s only $10, which is pretty fabulous.  Sadly, I’m not in range for the class, but I’d enjoy it for the historical and production portions for sure – terribly interesting!  

I know a whole handful of pinups, dancers, performers and pinup photographers – this would be terrific for any and all, as well as ladies who simply love makeup and love to get glam! 😉