Hit rock bottom and started digging

Yeah, I’m still in the hole.

Kung Fu Tuesday:
After formwork (regular speed and "combat cadence"), and some extra time spent on a variation in Sil Lum Tao, we worked on the White Crane sequence from the retreat. I had gotten the last piece that I was missing from JM just before class started, so I was able to stumble along. Then we worked on the Tiger sequence that we’d worked on last week, with a few variations, and then did applications with partners. Then the rest of the class worked on three more short Tiger sequences that I haven’t learned yet. I was pretty tired and my knees were screaming, and I just sat on the sidelines and watched till CN booted me back up and started helping me with the first sequence. DD seemed to be expecting me to catch on and join in, and I was frustrated, because anyone else would have been able to. All of the people in that group can look at something twice and then imitate it perfectly, and remember it forever after. My brain just will not *do* that. I have to have somebody walk me through it real slow, several times…. then explain apps… then answer questions…. then do a million reps… then get corrections…. then do a million more reps… and only **THEN** am I in the place that all the rest of those people are in after watching a thing twice. I don’t think any of them has the first clue what a struggle it is for me to have to go through this process with every little F’ing thing. And I’ve got this pile of new stuff from the retreat to try to catch up on, and it’s just mentally exhausting. I was feeling particularly moronic and defensive with DD looking at me and expecting me to catch right on and join in… and I was thinking, I must have been insane to think for a single second that I could cope with trying to be in DD’s advanced class with CN and SK. I want to say no. But I am aware that I am in a bad mental space right now with a lot of emotional crapola clogging up my clear-thinking apparatus, and I need to just refrain from making any serious decisions (or saying much to anyone) till I can get out of this mental hole and get some clarity.

Should’ve gotten the A1

I got my brand-new blue A2 Gracie Barra gi back from the tailor. The sleeves fit now and are no longer dangling down by my shins. I’m noticing, though, how low the hem of the jacket is. I wonder if I can still roll in this? I look ridiculous- not that I care as long as it’s functional. I don’t want to pay more to get it hemmed.

My 3 current gi’s are all A1’s- and even though I have been careful to wash them only in cold and hang them to dry, they are still shrinking. Enough that two of them are starting to feel a bit snug. But the A2 is ENORMOUS… I think I could fit four of me into the gi!

I’m going through a little of the retreat stuff, Hurricane Hands, Leopard At Dawn, and Leopard Three In the Mirror while I’m standing at the counter at work. Even though I am doing what we call "micro-fu" so as not to make a spectacle of myself, doing the reps still helps me memorize the sequencing. I analyzed about 3/4 of Leopard Three In the Mirror. It is much easier than Five Animals In the Mirror was. maybe just because it’s Tiger? thumbsup It’s a short form, anyway.

Dramatis Personae

Someone mentioned that they are having trouble keeping track of all the people mentioned in my blog!

I was trying to delineate the Kung Fu people by using initials and the BJJ people by using first names. Also, when I started my blog, I didn’t really expect other people would be reading- so I wasn’t concerned with making it reader-friendly to anyone but me. If I had it to do over again, maybe I’d give them aliases or something. Anyway, here’s the cast list, for anyone who might care.

(RS): The exiled Grandmaster of the order. There was a political and interpersonal schism some three years ago wherein the board of directors removed RS and eliminated the title of Grandmaster altogether. The two sides of this conflict do not associate much, except for CK, JoE and me who lurk within the scorched middle ground. I started studying with him in late summer 08, but didn’t get very far before he moved out of state. He passed my leash to CC in his absence.

(CC): RS’s pet student, a Training Master. He is a Dragon stylist. I studied with him for a year consistantly, then in late summer 09 he decided to stop teaching regular classes. For the last several months, I have been seeing him maybe twice a month for an hour.

(CM) The Tiger Master. He lives out of state, so I don’t see much of him.

(SF) Tiger Disciple. Also out of state. I barely know her, but she does pop up in my blog from time to time because she is a Tiger.

(DD): Black Crane practitioner. IIRC, he is the rank *above* Training master, whatever that is…. although once you get above Disciple, all these ranks sort of blur together in my mind, so I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, I have been studying under him for three years come spring, although much of the teaching has been delegated to his high-ranking students (CN and SK).

DD’s students in descending rank order are:

(CN): Dragon stylist, Disciple rank. He has been the primary instructor for DD’s basics class for 09 and much of 08, and DD’s intermediate class 09 to present. He earned Disciple rank summer 08.

(SK) The Snake Guy. Mr. Green Earned Disciple rank Nov 09. He is now teaching DD’s basics class.

(MM) Four stripe white sash student, leaning toward Mantis. he has been out of state for the past year at some Ivy League college working on some crazy genius postgrad project involving neuroscience and robotics and Gods only know what. he’s done karate of some kind in the past, and is studying some Wing Chun at college. He comes back here a couple times a year to stay for a few weeks and come to class.

(Nemesis) Four stripe white sash student, leaning toward Crane. Comes from an aikido background. He is freakishly tall with inhumanly long arms and legs, has gigantic hands with an iron manacle grip, and his Kung Fu ain’t bad either. Hence the moniker.

(Kitsune) You already know her.

(CK) Three stripe white sash student, Dragon practitioner. Whom I technically outrank at this point, which is hilarious. I started studying Chen Tai Chi under her in (I think) 2004. She is also a Wushu student. She brought MM, Nemesis, me, JoE, ES, and JB from her Tai Chi classes to DD’s Kung Fu class, so she is responsible for the bulk of DD’s class being there. She moved out of state two years ago to work on some crazy genius postgrad project involving…proteins and sea slugs. (No kidding!). She also comes back here a few times a year for visits and training.

(JoE) Three stripe white sash student. He probably ought to be a four-striper at this point, but he is cross-training at this intense mutant-Hapkido school, which is his primary art, and also missing a lot of Kung Fu classes this past year. he was studying under RS before I was, then under CC with me, and now I think he is still driving down from time to time to get a lesson with RS.

(JB) Three stripe white sash student, leaning toward Monkey (which is a subset of Tiger, so she is technically a Tiger practitioner like me, if she decides to stay with that). She and I are the only Tai Chi students of CK’s who continued to study, so we are both probably intermediate-level Chen people right now. She will be leading the Chen portion of our informal women’s "Chenjitsu" group.

(JM) Three stripe white sash student. She is the best grappler in the class; I can’t wait to start working on some BJJ with her in the Chenjitsu group.

(MG) Two stripe white sash student, leaning toward Crane. He shows up a couple of times a year and comes to class for a few weeks, then vanishes again.

(JaE) Two stripe white sash student. Already liking MANTIS a lot, although it is really too soon for him to be picking a style. We don’t see him in class a whole lot, because of his nasty work schedule.

(ES) White sash student, she started in the summer. I think she has one stripe now, but I’m not certain. She will also be in the Chenjitsu group. I don’t know if we are going to be able to keep her- she just lost her job, and is talking about lighting out for New York.

(R) New white sash student, he started a few months ago. I don’t even know his last initial! He is our newest student. we’re not going to see him at all this semester because he has a class that conflicts with our basics class.

The complicated question of Wednesday evenings

Well, I got an e-mail from DD today asking what my Wednesday evening schedule looks like.

It is *still* not EXACTLY an invitation to the advanced class… he references thoughts of working on some Tiger in the advanced class at some ethereal future point (which- knowing him- could be in two weeks or in two decades). But it’s getting close enough to a sort-of-potential-invitation that I need to start figuring out what I want to do (and more immediately, how I want to respond to the schedule query).

The only thing I know that this point is that I need to do some hard thinking for at least a few days before responding….

It’s still not clear whether DD’s planning on bringing me in there just long enough to go through the "Rain" Tiger form and then booting me back out and leaving me pretty much in the same place as before, plus one form. That would not be terribly helpful. It might even be worse.

This also does not solve the problem of the four other people who are in a very similar place in their training and also really need some specialized work- including one who technically outranks me.

The last time I was invited to one of these- umm- extracurricular- classes, SK (not DD, weirdly) informed me (*after* I had committed) that I was not supposed to mention the existance of the class to any of the students who were not in it. I was uncomfortable with that for a variety of reasons. I told myself that if I ever found myself in that position again, I would think hard about whether I wanted to involve myself in that or just say no thanks. Nobody has mentioned YET that the Wednesday advanced class is secret, but if those other four people know about it and know that I’m in it, they are going to rightfully wonder why they aren’t…. especially the one who technically outranks me. That could actually set me up for bad feelings between me and my other classmates. Not to mention that it’s simply not fair to them, at least to my mind- and as much as I want to advance my own interests, I don’t want to have to feel like a slimeball about it. That price may be too high.

I am uncomfortable enough around DD at this point that I’m not sure if I would be able to focus effectively on my work in that venue and not be literally tripping over my own feet with anxiety.

On the other hand, maybe things would get better between us. They certainly have no chance of getting better if I avoid him.

The timing of this- a week after CK was conferencing with DD and three months after SK lobbied to him on my behalf- leaves me wondering how much this is a direct result of being pressured/guilted by his favorite students. I don’t want to study with a teacher who doesn’t truly want to teach me. Again, price too high. I want the training, bad- but not THAT bad.

If this was *any* of my other teachers, I would go to him/her and say, "I have some concerns and issues, we need to sit down and talk about some stuff." But I just don’t have that type of communication and trust relationship with DD. That is still the best solution, OBVIOUSLY… it’s certainly the advice I’d give to another person in this situation. But that would be a very scary discussion indeed.

I don’t know what to do. ahh

In other MA news, I checked the Insights Training schedule for this year. They are doing the Goundfighting seminar on Valentine’s Day. I put in a request for the day off work. Don’t know if I’ll get it, but if I do, I’m taking the seminar. The other one I most want to get to this year is the "Defense Against Weapons"; that’s not for a few months yet.

Stancework night

Thursday kung fu basics class. I asked SK if CN had called in yet to say he wasn’t coming. Rolling Eyes CN has missed a ton of classes lately. CK says that CN is missing classes because he has a severe case of new-boyfriend-osis… and is also probably not getting enough sleep. Mr. Green She may well be right. Well, he actually did show up tonight, so that was cool. We had a small class- just CN and SK, MM, ES and me.

To the dismay of my knees, SK decided tonight was STANCEWORK NIGHT. faint After a double dose of hand strike drills (all of which had to incorporate a stance shift), we dissected the Five Animals form and fixed a lot of small errors, with particular attention to stancework.

A couple reps of Leopard at Dawn and the White Crane sequence from the retreat (need to get a name for that so I can quit calling it "White Crane sequence from the retreat"!), then a few corrections on Hurricane Hands and a small new piece. CN and SK were both helping me, so it was a little bit of under-the-microscope…. there were a couple of places where I could feel something wasn’t quite right with the rooting/balance, and they were able to point out the sources of the problems.

15 min sitting meditation, 10 min of Tao De Ching. We are working our way through the book(s). We each have a different edition, and we start by reading the passage out of each edition so that we can compare and contrast the versions. My book is a tiny pocket-size thing with very simplistic and sometimes dowright bizarre translations. JB’s is a work of art in both poetry and accompanying drawings. The comparisons are interesting.

Leopard at Dawn

Kung fu with CC- we worked a little on Anonymous Leopard (which he accidentally let slip is called "Leopard at Dawn" so I guess I can stop calling it "Anonymous Leopard" Ha!) The little piece I got tonight has a really cool stance and directional shift that has the energy swirling around, then coiling up, then POPping out, which I love about Leopard.

He wanted to see the White Crane piece and the Tiger formlette from the retreat, that my classmates had taught me on Tuesday.

We did a little stancework, then somehow got on the subject of my knees. Confused CC gave me the same song and dance that SK had given me on Tuesday night in the car, about how I have to stop ignoring this, how I need to see a PT (prefferably a sports medicine PT), and how I might need to take a little time off MA. He suggested that I may eventually be trundling into his basement for my lessons in a wheelchair. I asked if he knew any good wheelchair kata. I already know a few forms what could be adapted to a cane.

Still seeking a clear mirror- did that really happen?

Morning BJJ. There’s a new female student- Bree! This was her third class, and she loves it- so hopefully she will stay. I didn’t get to work with her- nor talk to her much- but it seems she comes from a TKD background and wanted something more practical. People in her family wrestle, so it is not unfamiliar to her. She’s heavier than me, but not huge- so hopefully she’ll be another good person for me to work with.

A little takedown prep drill, then two different guard passes. I made a point of telling my training partner (even though I outrank him) to please be free with any advice and feedback he may have- and I think we were each able to both give each other some good feedback, so that’s great.

At one point, I brought his attention to the fact that he was using his elbow to pin my leg down- which was working just dandy, but Rodrigo had grabbed the leg from underneath while he was demo’ing. I said, "Your way seems to be working fine, but Rodrigo was doing it THIS way… maybe there’s some greater purpose for that on down the line," Lo and behold, the next variation on the technique that we were shown made it necessary to have the leg trapped from underneath. My partner and I turned to each other and went, "So THAT’S why." So it was good to be able to catch that…. that’s something that my previous MA experience has taught me, that a detail may not be important NOW, but later everything will become clear!

When open mat rolled around (heh heh), Bree was not allowed to spar yet, and everyone was all paired up except for Bob (who turned down a roll because he’s trying to take it easy on his sprained ankle) and Carlos, who is a one-stripe white who is large enough to give me serious pause. But I wanted to roll and he was the only game in town, so I hit him up… "Go kinda light on me, okay?"

Man, I ran a clinic on him. Question

I still find it very troublesome that I feel I am unable to accurately gauge how I’m doing. If I’m doing well, I assume it’s because the other person is taking it easy on me. If I get a sub, I think, "Well, he gave me that," If I get an escape, I think "He’s obviously going about 50% on me, and that’s the only reason I got out of there," It’s not like I **WANT** huge men to crush me and muscle me and not let me do anything…. but nor do I want them to just lie there and not even try to make it a challenge for me. Gotta be a happy medium in there somewhere.

This particular guy must have been twice my weight, but I did really, really well against him. Anyone would have agreed- even *I* have to agree. Which leaves me wondering… did that really happen, or was he just letting me toy with him?

I was skittering around on top almost all of the time, getting side control, getting mount, he kept giving me his back, and I even had plenty of leisure to try a whole series of my still-sloppy chokes on him.


I don’t know what to think about that.

And even though I am taking more MA classes than any sane human being, I am apparently too unhealthy and frail to donate blood- they turned me down today for a too-low hemoglobin. Mad

Evening kung fu…

My corporeal form was giving me some problems tonight… my knees (despite being iced on the way to class) started hurting IMMEDIATELY upon my very first form opening, and the shoulder that has been bothering me a bit since last Monday was being unpleasant as well. Either my truncated movements or my general pained air drew SK over during the break to ask me how I was, and I told him my knees were really bothering me. He spent most of the carpool ride home interrogating me on what’s wrong with my knees and what I’ve tried in the past to help, and reprimanding me for not continuing physical therapy. I feel like if CK or RS would move back here and work with me on alignment in the specific things I’m doing, it might help, although it would take a horrifying amount of work to try to undo all the bad habits I’ve ingrained. I got a glimpse of the scope of that when CK was poking at my alignment and then I was noticing all the places in the tai chi forms where my knee(s) was turning at a suboptimal angle. I don’t know. If I was confident that the problem could be helped, I’d be willing to put in the time (and money)… although I dug in my heels when SK suggested that I might need to take a little time off MA. I just went through a lot of hassle with physical therapy the last time, for very little tangible improvement. Not enough to have been worth it.

After forms, the class worked on a Tiger sequence from the retreat. I sat and took notes. Then they worked on apps, and DD asked if I wanted to work on apps… I said that I would need to practice this sequence before I felt okay to work on apps, and JB immediately came running over offering to teach me the sequence while the others worked apps.

Then they worked on a piece of a White Crane form from the retreat. I sat and tried to take notes but gave up since it was a long chunk and they were going way too fast for me to follow. I suck at Crane anyway, it doesn’t make sense to my brain and I have to work a lot harder to grasp and retain it. So after they’d stampeded through it half a dozen times, DD asked me, "Did you get it all notated?" And I’m like, "Heck no, you’re all going too fast, somebody’s going to have to help me with that later." JM and JaE immediately BOTH came running over and offering to teach me the form. Neither would abdicate in favor of the other, so they both worked on it with me while the rest of the class worked on other things. Everybody was being so sweet and helpful trying to get me caught up- that was so nice of them! I got through about 2/3 of it, although that and the Tiger sequence are both going to need a zillion more reps.

I’m having one of those days where I’m just feeling really crappy about my kung fu. I know that part of it was seeing all the material that the others brought back from the retreat…. it’s great to have all that new material, and they’re all going to help reteach it to me, but I couldn’t suppress a sinking panic at how much catching up I have to do. It’s also not a happy feeling that everybody else got to learn a bunch of Tiger stuff that I don’t know. Topped off by overhearing DD inviting MM to the advanced class… the one that he won’t invite me to.

Hopefully this is just one of those temporary hormonal blips and I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Chenjitsu outline

I started making an outline for the BJJ portion of our women’s "Chenjitsu" goup. I thought I’d put a few things down that came immediately to mind, and then maybe look around for some resources for basic technique lists… but as soon as I started writing, I just came up with a cubic ton of good stuff. Smile

I’m sticking with really, really basic things, and only things that I am very comfortable with.

Safety, stretches, warmups, a little cardio- focussing on exercises that actually mimic moves that are used in BJJ. If we do the Chen first, we’ll already be fairly stretched and warmed up.

Almost no submissions to begin with. I’m going to focus on a lot of positioning. Good form in positions, all the little details, switching between positions.

Then a couple of very basic guard passes, and a couple of very basic escapes from various positions.

All the little things that I had to figure out by trial and error, all the little things that I learned months after starting that I wish someone had told me on day one. Some of the things I’m learning- by experience- about the game of the smaller/lighter/weaker person vs the bigger guy.
Some of the connections between Shaolin kung fu and BJJ that I’m having to figure out for myself- I’ll be able to point out to them.

Eventually we’ll do a keylock from mount, armbar from mount, and RNC (all of which they have seen before in kung fu, in slightly different forms). They already know a number of kung fu takedowns which will also work for BJJ; I’ll add a couple of new ones.

These three girls learn really quickly. They already have MA experience, and some of the techniques will cross over. They already know how to be good training partners to each other. I’ve already been teaching/showing/telling them several random bits that have come up while we free-sparred, since I started BJJ and started incorporating some of into my own free-sparring. I think they will catch on very well.

Everyone is off to the retreat except me.

Thursday night kung fu. We are going to be down R for the semester- he has a class on Thurs night- and JM also has a class on Thurs night but will be able to come to the first bit of our class and the last bit of our class- she just has to leave in the middle!

I used the time before class to work on Anonymous Leopard and Hurricane Hands.

After hand strike drills, we split into pairs and took turns- one person did a one-step attack and the other did a one-step defense, then switched- up to a count of sixty-five. Then we switched partners and did it again, till we’d worked with almost everyone. We have done a similar thing in the past, but usually the person being attacked defends and then does a counterattack- so it’s like 2-step instead of one-step. The one-step was kind of challenging. I’ve gotten into a mindset where 1)It’s very natural to do a counterattack right after the defense, and it was hard to stop myself from flowing into that; and 2)It can sometimes be difficult to separate a defense and an attack, since many moves can be both. One of the most interesting things about the exercise was that the pause after person 2 did their defensive move allowed both parties to focus on what person 1 had left open. Paying attention to what I may be leaving open is something I need to work more on- I tend to focus so much on my attack that I either don’t notice or don’t give a crap about what I’m leaving vulnerable.

Forms… I worked on Anonymous Leopard a little more, got some corrections on Hurricane Hands and another small piece. New piece includes a very low side lunge- murder on the knees but it’s a really graceful, powerful move (or it will be, once I get it smoothed out).

I did a few reps of 5 Points In the Mirror and 5 Animals In the Mirror. Most of the bobbles are smoothed out of both. I’m going to move them both to the mental "maintenence" file and start on Leopard Three In the Mirror. I must admit that I’m dying to show this stuff off to someone- it’s hard to keep quiet about it!

I am so sick of working on Cannon Fist. If I let it slack, though, I’m not going to retain all the corrections that I got this week. So I am going to have to have some good self-discipline to force myself to keep working on it. I need to make sure to do some reps with JB on occasion. JB, SK and I also need to make sure to not get lazy about Catherine Dao… we especially need to work on the ending. CK helped JB and me with that end piece the other day for a long time, and we still didn’t really grasp it- it’s a weird balancing sequence.

So *everyone* except me, MG and R are off to the retreat. It’s going to be a bummer to be sitting at work and thinking about everyone having fun and learning cool stuff at the retreat. Crying or Very sad I made everybody promise to take good notes and memorize every little thing, to come back and teach me- especially the Tiger stuff. I wonder if CM will ask about me.

CK will be leaving directly from the retreat, so I won’t see her again. I wish we had gotten more time to spar, but we did get quite a bit of valuable Chen work done. I think MM will be to another class or few before he leaves town.

CK e-mailed me that she discussed some issues with DD, including communication problems. That would be nice if that bore any fruit. We’ll see.

JB is complaining that she is frustrated and bored and wants some new material to work on. I told her to join the club! She asked CN if she could learn the rest of Bung Bo Kuen, and he told her "Maybe in the spring," He won’t tell her why, either. I told her that it’s not just her, that CN did the exact same to me as well.

ES and JM are gung-ho for the "Chenjitsu" group. They both like the women-only idea, so we will start it that way for now. We may be able to start that as soon as the 24th. I can’t wait to start teaching my younger Shaolin sisters some BJJ! This will give an extra motivational boost to my own study as well… I need to make sure I have all my details straight and my technique clean on what I intend to teach.

Work is about to get very weird. We have a number of people out on medical leave, and the boss basically put the schedule in the blender and gave it a good whirl trying to get everything covered. It looks like they are going to temporarily put me on day shift for a while. Depending on how this shakes out, it may give me a chance to shoehorn in a couple of additional evening BJJ classes.