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.

 

Thankful In The 2nd Degree

I recently had the good fortune to complete my 2nd Dan promotion in Taekwondo, Hapkido and Kumdo – Our curriculum includes all three Arts, though we focus primarily on the Taekwondo, and Hapkido (both of which I adore!)  I hadn’t actually stepped foot in a dojang until my early 30’s – but despite zero background in Martial Arts as a whole, I maintained the belief that anything was achievable.   

My personal athletic history includes classical training in ballet for a decade, competitive figure skating for about sixteen years, and competitive ballroom dancing for about seven.  I supplemented my training with weightlifting and some cardio from the age of 13 on, and certainly gave other sports a try over the years (many of which, I confess, were under duress.  Still, it was to my benefit, as I learned what did…and didn’t...work for me!) 

The school I attend is run by the phenomenally accomplished Grandmaster Ik Jo Kang of Korea – not only an 8th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, but also a 9th Degree in Hapkido, as well as highly skilled in knife throwing, short stick, long stick, and nunchucks (among other things.)  He’s most definitely a force to be reckoned with, and someone I looked up to from day 1.  

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Kwan Jang Nim (the appropriate term for Grandmaster) welcomed me warmly, encouraging me in spite of my very dancelike habits and lack of experience.  He generously took me under his wing, and I spent countless private lessons trying to learn as much as I possibly could retain.  Most Grandmasters at his level are no longer teaching, not to mention teaching lower belts – we, his students, are very blessed.

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During one of my more intense lessons, in which we practiced nearly and hour of jump kicks and combinations (yung seuk chagi), my foot rolled into a divot in the mat, changing my athletic career in less than a second.  As I took off for a spinning, jumping back kick, my knee jolted left to right, severing my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), tearing the meniscus, tearing the hamstring (at the gastrocnemius tie-in), and severely contusing the bones.  

I literally saw stars (I describe it as the Cinderella, Fairy-Godmother-effect from my skating days – spin super fast, and that is precisely what when down!)

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Kwan Jang Nim, seeing that I couldn’t move, helped me put pressure to assist with the pain (the hamstring tear was likely the most intense part – popped ACLs cause swelling, but not the dramatic wave of pain I was experiencing.  In a fit of cold sweats I tried not to be sick, and to get myself to my feet.  I was able to do so within a minute or two but there was something clearly amiss – athletes (of whatever kind!) get used to the bumps, bruises, and muscular pain – this was something different.

Sad to say…I was diagnosed with a torn hamstring only.  The trauma within the patellar region was severe enough that the swelling prevented the Lachman’s test from divulging what was really going on (typically, it’s a failsafe – the knee pops forward and it’s pretty darn clear that the ACL is damaged, or no longer intact!)  We didn’t think the MRI was required – though it was painful, stiff, and swollen, I could still bear my weight.  I could still LIFT weights at the gym.  I could do everything pretty much as normal except that I “felt” like something wasn’t right.  There was a hair of instability that I didn’t believe I’d had prior and, four months later, without signs of abating, an MRI confirmed I wasn’t crazy.  (Bottom line: YOU KNOW YOUR BODY!  If it doesn’t feel right, check it out immediately!)

I read the MRI report and burst into tears…  Two months prior I had won two titles at the World Championships in ballroom – I was right at a peak age, and ready to revamp my routines and push myself as far as I could go… But in the fell swoop of one, poorly-supported moment…my competitive dreams were taken away.

I was in surgery days after receiving the news. The recovery itself was the most painful physical situation I’ve been in, not to mention one of the more trying (though not the worst) on an emotional level as well.  My parents are saints for having put up with me – the prospect of not dancing was already devastating, and to know that physical activity was off limits for months did NOT sit well.  I lost three inches around my thigh – my quad was actually concave when the swelling subsided – and about eight pounds on that side.  Let’s just say it was eye-opening.  

Perspective…

I remember meeting my friend Roger for the first time.  Roger was a Sergeant, SWAT Team member, pilot and badass Harley-rider who had been diagnosed with ALS some years earlier – he has since passed, but will ever be remembered as a hero…and an inspiration.  When we were introduced, my best friend mentioned that I was a dancer.  Roger’s face lit up like a sun and he smiled larger than the room (I have goosebumps recalling it.)  He typed (with his eyes) into his computer, “do you watch Dancing With the Stars?” “My old teacher is on the show!” I replied.  The warmth, excitement, and genuine care Roger’s face expressed nearly moved me to tears – in that moment I remembered my first day at physical therapy after my knee reconstruction…

I remember that I was asked to “fire my quad” and I couldn’t do it.  Confused, I looked at my thigh, sending the message to it to contract.  Nothing.  It was like a dead limb…and it was terrifying.  When I spoke to Roger I thought “my God…he wakes up every day knowing it won’t get better…  He wakes up and something else doesn’t work, and it won’t come back.”  There I was acting like a big baby…and my leg WAS going to heal.

That moment stayed with me, and it’s something I think about when I’m feeling down – I am SO blessed.  He would smile and tell me to be careful, despite his own circumstance – I will never forget the bravery, nor his ever-present selflessness.  He affected me so much that I agreed to do the Tri-State Trek in his honor – we knew his time was limited and I wanted to repay him for the gift of sight and perspective he gave me while he was still with us.

I didn’t have my first Black Belt at the time, but Roger and I, and one of my best friends Rick, would always share smiles and laughs about my Martial Arts training – I was determined to become a badass one day!  I would say the training (road bike) ride was exhausting and I was going to kick Rick’s butt for it…adding a “KIYAH!” along with my kicking motions.  Roger would always giggle and say that Rick would have to “watch out! She’s dangerous.”

The knee recovery derailed my competitive ballroom dancing…but I was as set on getting my black belt no matter how hard it would be, or how long it took to get there.  When I was able to finally get up one stair – ten months after surgery – my Grandmaster allowed me to come back to the school to start training again.  He was incredibly patient, and always mindful of my injury.  I took baby steps and modified where necessary – while I couldn’t do everything, I still could do SOMEthing.  I wasn’t giving up…

The only aspect of the Black Belt promotion I had some trouble with was snapping a side kick and breaking boards – the emotional paralysis you can sustain from traumatic injury can really stick with you, and it was quite prevalent at that moment!  Fortunately, I was permitted to do breaks with my hands.  PHEW!  The new rank meant the WORLD to me…because it represented my persistence, my perseverance, my dedication…  It represented that I could achieve anything I set my heart to – just like the 300 mile bike ride for Roger.  

I continued my training with Kwan Jang Nim, eager to perfect what I knew…and to learn even more – in Martial Arts, the learning NEVER stops!  I managed to tear my right knee along the way – again with a kick – but I refused to reconstruct it and kept forging ahead (despite the chagrin of my orthopedic surgeon!)  

After maintaining the rank a while, students were getting excited for the next big promotion.  But, while they usually occur at quarterly intervals (maybe more), the schedule shifted dramatically.  Kwan Jang Nim was given an opportunity to finally shoot his Screenplay– a long-time dream of his.  While we were sad we couldn’t do our promotion, we were incredibly excited for him that his dream was coming to fruition.

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Within that time, though, I met the Love of my Life…who had apparently lived just yards away from my Dojang all that time… He was moving away from our town two weeks after we met and…fast forward six months, I was following him out of state too. The promotion loomed over me – I was ready to test, but I was no longer at the school to participate in classes, to practice, to learn, to perfect… 

I stayed in touch with Kwan Jang Nim, eager to hear about any set dates for the testing.  I practiced on my own, as I always did back home…but it was so much more important without others to work with me.  My hunnie kindly “stole my wallet” many nights as he grilled dinner so I could practice my Hapkido defenses.  And I never gave up the hope of getting back home to take my 2nd Degree test.

In January I got a call that the promotion was set for early February – I wasn’t sure I could get back for the actual date, so Kwan Jang Nim…very generously…agreed to meet me privately and do my test earlier.  FINALLY, the day came, and I was overjoyed.

Seeing Kwan Jang Nim again was amazing – I realized how much I missed my classes, and the Dojang, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to “do my thing.”  The test went amazingly – I feel like I’m still glowing from the experience.  I feel so blessed, and so thankful to officially be a Kyo Sa Nim. ❤ 

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It’s funny because sometimes people assume that getting a belt is something that you just “pay for.”  There is a business aspect to many schools that allows for that to occur…but there are a lot of us who work HARD to get where we are.  We get their early, do chores we aren’t asked to do, practice on our own.  We go to class, ask for feedback, and repeat until we can’t move.  

Some of us – MOST of us – have had debilitating injuries over the years, and we push through them with determination to reach our goals.  It is EARNED, NOT GIVEN for many of us, and there is a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears along the way.  

My friends have achieved incredible things – feats I look up to with deep reverence.  Overcoming personal setbacks, in particular, is something I have profound respect for – whether emotional, physical or spiritual.  For me, this was one of those things… I refused to give up my Arts because I destroyed on knee – it had already taken so much away.  I refused to give them up when I tore the second one – my passion never diminished.  

I have modified, and persisted, and kept my eye on my goal – those two stripes will forever remind me that I have what it takes, no matter what.  Having the heart is more than half the battle – never give up on you, or what brings you joy.  

Martial Arts Humor – My Mom

Leaving to head back home after visiting my parents for the weekend…

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Mom: It’s going to start snowing, you better get going!  I don’t want you to have any trouble.

Me: Okay! I’ll let you know when I get there.

Mom:  Do you have your sword, Bunny?

Me: I do! 

Mom: Okay, good!  Drive safely! 

😀

Can’t forget the important things!

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Change of Pace…

The point of this post…

My main passions (beyond the Love of my Life and my family!) are Martial Arts, and living a happy, healthy Life (with animals around! 🙂 )  I care about taking good care of myself as I get older – internally and externally.  

Fashion was my career for over a decade, and I LOVED it.  By the age of 23 I was managing over 200 people in Cosmetics and Fragrances in a massive NYC department store – serious fun, and serious education!  By 24 I had forayed into ladies footwear, where I’d stay and grow for many more years – here and overseas.

But while I know those worlds intimately, and cherished that time, I feel like those topics are wildly saturated these days.  When you do Fashion Trend Analysis, the concept of “fast fashion” and obsolescence isn’t novel…  But I have so much “new” to share on here that I can’t seem to disseminate it quickly enough!  

So I’m shifting my focus a bit, and hope that’s okay – I know that “newness” will be covered in spades by some AMAZING bloggers out there.  I’m so grateful to all of you who read and enjoy – I love connecting with the larger Universe, and appreciate the kind support. ❤

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I feel like in many ways I am a dichotomy – a proverbial oxymoron, as it were.  I blame my zodiac most of the time…  Scarcely a disservice to other Gemini – we all know just how multi-faceted we can be!  

Because of my, er, celestial classification I have a habit of taking on seemingly highly opposing activities (boredom is a kiss of doom for us!):

  • Figure Skating —> Takekwondo
  • Classical Ballet —> Hapkido
  • Ballroom Dancing —> Ninjutsu 
  • Hip Hop —> JiuJitsu
  • Aerial Yoga —> Kumdo

In my own mind, of course, EVERYTHING is a dance.

EVERYTHING.

Still…not all of my sports are focused on grooming the way many of my childhood ones entailed – Martial Arts?  Looking pretty is the last thing on my mind!  I didn’t grow up to be a glamorous girl – I admire those who are, absolutely – but glam won’t work for me on a daily basis.

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I am far too active to maintain a quotidian routine of lipstick and updos.  I strive for “natural.”  I want to enhance, not hide.  I want to look the same when I wash my face at Night (lest my other half wonder what happened!) 😉 

Having been trained to perform most of my Life, I was bombarded with notions of grace, beauty, polish, and sophistication very early on.  There are worlds revolving around skincare, makeup artistry, hair design – if you haven’t been exposed to it, you’d be wowed! Those things mattered enormously in the sports in which I was predominantly trained in growing up.  You wouldn’t dare take the ice without your “war paint,” or the stage without the proper bun and shimmer!

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As a result, I know a TON about those arenas – makeup artistry was essentially required for my sports.  I was drawn to it as a child because it was openly creative and there really wasn’t a “wrong way” to do it.  It also took a lot of skill to pull oneself together and, most importantly…

Grooming boiled down to taking your performing sport and competition seriously (not to mention the judges taking YOU seriously at the same time.)  

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At the root of all that, skincare was therefore a big deal – my mother always told me that the canvas matters the most (painting over a blemished surface is much more of a challenge, and means you forego “natural” in pursuit of a hard-to-obtain perfection.)  So, I also know TONS about skincare too, and am often asked about my own regimen.  Having good habits starting early will make a big difference down the road and I’m incredibly thankful I don’t appear to be 37.

As an athlete, taking care of our skin is vital – we are often covered in sweat, rolling on mats, or using communal equipment at a gym / school / dojo etc… So unless cleanliness doesn’t matter, we have to be a bit more mindful. 

I also L ❤ VE being a woman, and I care about aging as gracefully as I am able (I probably own every product known to man! 😉 )  I will never run about in complete shambles, and when I am going out somewhere, I will pull it together! I love Fashion and I loved working in the field – I can’t say I don’t miss it!  And I love womanly things – gowns, pencil dresses, lace, stockings, glitter…  So while “badass” and “edgy” work…so do sexy and beautiful.

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When I’m training, though, I’m probably going to be a ruffled mess…so I always felt like “If you can’t handle me like [this], then I’m not for you!”  I mean… I used to live in a town where people would say, “you should wear your hair down when you workout!  You look so different!  It’s much prettier!”  

“Uh…Excuse me?!”

For me personally, the gym is for working out, staying fit, pushing my limits – not impressing anyone with looks…or anything else!  Superficial doesn’t fit in my scheme of things – I’m there to work, and to do something kind for myself.  There is always room to get dolled up later.  

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The great news? Most of my friends are furiously hardworking – whether in their career, Martial Arts, extreme sports (rock climbing, for one, blows me away!), lifting, or seriously skill-perfecting  sports like shooting, I am always in awe, and ever-encouraged to learn more.   

I’m blessed and thankful to be surrounded by supportive people who could care LESS if my hair is a mess, and I’m purple-cheeked and sweating.  Even if we are doing different activities, there is always respect and support.

I need to make a point to also say that the support of my other half is huge. He inspires me every day with his work ethic, talents, eagerness to learn, and his phenomenal heart, among many other things. ❤  

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The point is…going forward, my posts will reflect more of this aspect of my Life (a huge part of it!) than they have in the past.  As much as I am asked about my skin, and the “outward”…I am also asked on a regular basis about what I do for sports, what my routine looks like, what my nutrition consists of etc…  I feel like I can be most helpful in this way.

I love to inspire, I LOOOOVE to encourage, and I find that there is strong community in sharing… So that’s my plan for now. 🙂

As always, many thanks – I love the wonderful comments, and I appreciate the time all of you take out of your day to spend a moment with me. 

XX ❤ X

*Pascal*

 

 

Martial Arts “Dork” Debacle

Actually, I’m not sure if I’m a dork, a nerd...or something else?  I vaguely recall a contemplative conversation I had with my uncle discussing the nuances of geekery and nerddom, etc.  (We felt he was solidly in “geek” territory himself, though my designation wasn’t wholly clear.)

I’ve discovered that there’s an alarming number of charts, graphs, even venn diagrams to explain the key differences – in combination with countless online quizzes, it sounds like my uncle and I were onto a still ambiguously-answered topic.

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I’m mulling over the below, as one example, wondering whether there is a happy ground anywhere…or at least one less, er, pejorative and vehement than “psychopath”?  Maybe I’m in Martial Arts Geekland?

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ORANGE…

  • Obsessed is a possibility… I have an ardent passion for Martial Arts – one which, I daresay, teeters on the verge of “obsession.”  Not partial.  Full-fledged.
  • I’m also a “workaholic” and “fanatic”…when it comes to sports, career, school…I work incredibly hard, and care about results. Strike-true, chart!  As I always say, however, there is a fine line between dedication and stupidity!  Sometimes those of us with this level of zeal – nigh insatiable at times – push a little too hard.  So while it’s off-putting to see some negatively-leaning attributes in that orangey-pink sphere, they might be fair to say.  
  • Anxiety I struggle with sometimes, but not so much with my Martial Arts – my practice is very much my sanity, and a place where I am very happy to be.  Because anxiety runs in my family, calming and centering activities are a must.
  • Mad Scientist gives me visions of Dr. Finklestien.  Science fascinates me.  I love the intellectual humor.  I was elated over a microscope that I got for Christmas when I was a kid… But I don’t tend to do any experiments these days.  No bunsen burners, no haphazardly put-together, resurrected beasts.  Just kicks, punches, sparring, chokes… I’m straightforward.
  • Nerd.  Therein lies my question… Am I?  Am I NOT?!
  • Dork.  Maybe yes, maybe no.

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BLUE

  • Emotionally unstable? Not in the certifiable way! Emotional?  Absolutely.  Many Martial Artists I know are able to handle stressful situations, but we are human at the end of the day, so emotions are underlying all we do – they are the reason we have the drive to do what we do at all.  We have fire in our souls, eagerness in our bodies, and love in our hearts.  I’ve seen anger too, no question, but rarely. Though I am an ESP (Extra Sensitive Person / Empath) I have gotten more grounded though my practices – I am still very sensitive, but I don’t agressively fly off the handle like I once used to.  I do shut down sometimes (not proud of that) but I’m working on it! Always room to grow and improve!
  • Crazy?  Well…I love vampires, sparkles, and kicking things, so I think I qualify somewhere in there, all the way out in the blue zone!
  • Irrational doesn’t really apply for me.  My old boss once said “you are so responsible, I feel bad for you.”  I know, I had the same “I’m sorry, what?” reaction.  I can be a wild card, but I’m not careless or unsound by any stretch.  Opponents often are, but we can’t afford to be.
  • Psychopath.  No, can’t say that I am.  (Not to say a person bearing said diagnosis is going to totally admit it, but I can safely say I’m not in the psychopathic sector!  Been with too many NPD-afflicted individuals (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and sociopaths so…let’s just say I’ve done my research!)

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YELLOW

  • Socially Inept.  MAJOR nope.  I’m a Gemini – most of the planet thinks I’m a social butterfly.  I can talk to anyone, and am often approached by people who spill a ton of personal information, but as an Empath, I’m more like the elusive butterfly.  I adapt easily so social situations are a breeze. Most Martial Artists I know are warm and very socially capable.  We also know when to shut our traps at the Dojang / Dojo / Academy.
  • Clueless?!  I LOVE to learn, and I believe awareness physically, emotionally, and spiritually is vital.  So this is a big no.  Martial Artists must be aware of his or her surroundings – it’s part of our training, and it is engrained.  I don’t know a single one who is clueless.
  • Sociopath, see Psychopath above!
  • I looked up Dweeb and found “a boring, studious, or socially inept person.”  Ouch.  Well, I’m not at all boring, but I get bored in two seconds.  I’m studious with my sports, but as above, not inept.  1 of 3?

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GREEN

  • Intelligent.  I like to think so! 😀
  • Inventor.  In some ways (in figure skating, in dance, and in Fashion…)  But in the traditional, more mechanical sense?  Not so much. 

Now…There are six designations in each of these circles, so if I was being mathematical about all this:

  • Orange – At least 3 of 6
  • Blue – 1, possibly 2 of 6
  • Yellow – 1, possibly 2 (Nerd / Dork conundrum) of 6
  • Green – 2, possibly 3 of 6

This didn’t solve my problem.

😁

I looked up Dork and Nerd to see which made more sense…but the definitions feel kind of boorish.  Given that Dork falls in the orange, and that’s where I mostly am… I think I’m more Dork than Nerd, which falls (evidently) under the larger umbrella of the almighty “GEEK.”  

So for the sake of ending this novel*… I’m a Geeork.  It sounds kind of Star Wars, doesn’t it!? 😉 

*Nerd is a close contender.  Close to a tie.  So if you call me a Neek, I won’t be offended. 🙂

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I’d Rather Be A Ninja

I have heard a lot of discussion lately about children and gender roles – I won’ delve into the topic so much (as it could quickly become a novel!), but what I will say I am particularly thankful for is the support I had growing up.

Yes, I wore light colors…even pink.  (My tendency towards all black would have those who know me in full ~gasp~ envisioning it!) I had dresses and bows, just like most little girls. And I still wear heels and get glam when the occasion calls for it – rather happily – being a woman is quite a lot of fun!  🙂

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But I was never a real “girle-girl.”  I enjoyed running and playing outside, having a big brother, watching He-Man and Thunder Cats.  I wanted to be a Ninja, with cat-like reflexes and the ability to escape without notice.  I wanted to be in all black, and to be athletic, above all – for me, all those things were real super powers.  

Skip ahead 30+ years, with a background in Ballet, Ballroom, Figure Skating, lifting…and exposure to countless other sports… I marched into a Dojang with nary a clue about what to expect, and zero experience in the arena.  I was nervous, and a bit shy…but Martial Arts felt like a natural progression for me, so I bit the bullet and signed up – Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Kumdo later on.

Off I went, white belt in tow, falling in love from first punch!  I’ve been at it for some years, and am as driven as day 1, if not more so!  

My parents have been incredibly supportive of my Martial Arts, even when I tore the first knee in two places, the hamstring in one, and contused the bones.  They supported me when I said I wanted to continue, a year later when I finally could walk up stairs…  And they supported me after tearing the second ACL, refusing surgery, and picking up new Arts along the way (Ninjutsu, JuJutsu, Brazilian JiuJitsu.)

For me, that support started early – I was embraced for who I was, and for the interests I had – I didn’t HAVE to be girlie.  We joke about it still today – I was the girl who wanted to go to the Armory in museums, and wanted to watch Martial Arts movies with my brother.  It was okay then, and it’s okay today.

We don’t have to fit a mold to be masculine or feminine.  In fact, I’d wager that not a single friend of mine would say I’m not “womanly.”  They’d more likely say, “she isn’t girly-girl, but there’s no question that she’s incredibly feminine.”  Yes, you CAN be both!

I love seeing parents who encourage and support their children no matter what – whether they fall into the traditional “girl pink” and “boy blue,” as much as when they are outside those lines.  That, to me, is real love – supporting what makes our loved ones’ happiest, whether it fits the scheme or not!