There are worse fates than a knife in the butt.

Thursday evening kung fu.

After strike drills, we worked on knife defenses- because, SK explained, "Last week when we did Monkey-In-The-Middle defensive practice, and someone who knows how to handle a knife (pointing at me) came at you, some of you were taken by surpise." Wink

Once I got loosened up enough (lower back was a little stiff), I really enjoyed it. I love knife work. I was surprised and interested to see that parrying/blocking or otherwise dealing with the opponent’s knife hand with my LEFT hand and counterattacking with my right hand felt correct, and the opposite felt clumsy and insecure. One would think (*I* would, anyway) that you’d want to confront the KNIFE with your dominant hand. Strange.

At one point, JB tried a technique that Nemesis didn’t think was a good idea- "If you do that, it will bend the attacker THIS way, and that knife will end up right in your butt." I responded, "Better a knife in the butt than a knife in the gut," I was completely serious… a lot of knife work is about trying to decide WHERE you are going to take the inevitable cuts as opposed to which parts of your anatomy you’d prefer to try to protect. But of course the rest of the class found this statement highly amusing. I can see that another Seattle-branch OSC Kitsune-ism has been born. Rolling Eyes I just keep the hits coming- in more ways than one.

JB and I did a few reps of the jian form (we’d planned that beforehand, without knowing what was on the class agenda for the day- I guess it was just a good day for blades all around).

I specifically begged off the tai chi in time to work on some Shaolin forms, since I have been feeling lately that I’ve neglected them. I did 2 reps of Little Red Dragon In the Mirror, Five of Leopard Three In the Mirror, three of Five Animals In the Mirror, and started working on Five Points In the Mirror. The energy was in The Groove tonight- the forms looked and felt great- clean and tight and powerful. For no apparent reason that I can discern. Maybe it was just all the lovely bladework earlier.
I wish I could harness those good ones. I wish I had time to keep working as long as I could stay in that Zone. Anyway, it felt so good- I don’t think I’ve felt that place with my Shaolin forms since my Epic Slump began in mid January.

JM is all atwitter about Gracie school carpools, and asking me about the Renzo Gracie seminar- it looks like she’s been bitten by the bug **BAD**. Mr. Green And SK is already websurfing for The Perfect Gi, and asking my advice on this one or that one… he hasn’t even set foot in the school yet, and he’s already revving to drop a hundred bucks on a gi. I really think my Evil Plan to assimilate them into Gracieland is working quite beautifully. Resistance is futile, after all.

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Two down, one to go!!!

I took JM to the Gracie school tonight.

We didn’t get there as early as I wanted (gnarly traffic), and Rodrigo was on the phone (Renzo Gracie changed the date of the seminar he’s teaching for us in a couple weeks, and it has caused some coordinating challenges). So I didn’t get to really introduce them before class, although Rodrigo flagged me down with a waiver in his hand while still on the phone, so JM signed that and we plunged in.

JB was there as well, as were Allie, Bianca and Sonia. Sonia was wearing a blue belt! I congratulated her, and she told me she got it last night!!! thumbsup There are now FOUR female blue belts in the school!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let me just repeat that- FOUR FEMALE BLUE BELTS!!!!

There were SIX WOMEN on the mat tonight…. Let me just repeat that- SIX WOMEN on the mat. I have never seen this many women in a class before. And the funniest part was that half of them were me. JB and JM were both wearing my gi’s, with my name on the lapels. Pretty soon I will be infecting the entire class. Wonder if all of the other students’ hair will turn red, too.

I asked JB to work with Allie so that I could drill with JM on her first day. We were doing the same technique set that I’d done on Monday night, so I had told JM what the techniques were, and there was nothing that would be completely unfamiliar to her. She did really well. (I knew she would)

I did notice that JB and Allie were still struggling a bit. JB told me that Allie was still pretty clueless… and that she (JB) is now *REALLY* appreciating the advance prep on BJJ basics that she got from me. Excellent. I was so clueless my first couple months. My objective had been to spare my students that, and it seems I succeeded. thumbsup Maybe next time, I will ask JB and JM to work together, and I’ll offer to drill with Allie.

I did a few spars at the end- Sonia; a smaller-size (and frustratingly flexible) blue belt that I’ve never seen before; and Alex (4 stripe brown). I managed to keep just a jump ahead of Sonia; the blue guy and I seemed about even (I’ll concede him the trophy, for his great butterfly sweeps…and his damn foot seemed WELDED to my hipbone; I just had a heck of a time passing his guard because every time I tried, there would be that foot, which I could not dislodge for love or money); and of course Alex tooled on me (although he did comment that I had a really strong half guard!).

I saw JB out of the corner of my eye, rolling with Rodrigo! I was very surprised, because he rarely bends the rule of not letting people roll till they get a stripe. Nor do I often see him rolling with the lower belts. **I’VE** never gotten to roll with Rodrigo! I was a little jealous! I wish I could have watched the fun, but I was too busy trying to keep Alex from tying my arm in a granny knot.

After class- before I could even ask how she’d liked it- JM volunteered, "That was really, really fun." Mr. Green Toldja it was cool. Toldja you’d like it.

JB and I hung around and waited after class while JM talked to Rodrigo to see if they could work something out about the student discount. I guess they did, because she is signed up! mosh This is so cool. I’m so excited. We’re all going to have so much fun training together.

Now for SK! I’m going to try to take him in next Wednesday.

Tuesday evening

I had a rather frustrating night at Kung fu tonight.

While waiting for class to start, I did some Touch Bridge. It’s really taking some serious concentration to not fall into the same old breathing patterns that I’m trying to break. Then I did a couple of reps of Five Animals In the Mirror, Leopard Three In the Mirror, and Little Red Dragon In the Mirror. I was just digging into Five Points In the Mirror and starting to double-check a few details there when I ran out of time.

We spent most of the class on the continuing project of Bung Bo Kuen applications. Since I had been lying on the floor with my coat over my face nursing a terrible headache last Tuesday when everyone was working on this, I was behind the game. So I was struggling even more than I typically struggle with Mantis in general and Bung Bo Kuen in particular… getting very frustrated and feeling like my ineptitude was dragging down whomever was unfortunate enough to be working with me. It left me in a foul mood, and I spent the drive home wondering how long I should really continue to beat this dead horse.

We ended with a bit of Little Red Dragon, which I actually feel competant with- so that was the silver lining.

SK asked me if we were going to do some BJJ this coming Sunday. I had to do a double-take…. since SK is not known for planning that far ahead, nor for taking initiative in suggesting/planning such things. I’m taking this as a good sign that he’s enjoying the BJJ and wants to continue. Cool

Work- while the training is a fearful slog- is looking up. I went to a meeting at the central network lab today, and met several managers over the course of the afternoon. As soon as I was introduced to each manager- and as each one heard that I might be willing to pick up extra work at other sites- s/he looked at me like a seven-year-old looks at a humungous hunk of birthday cake. If today was any indication, chances are favorable that I will be able to pick up as much work as I want. The only downside is the "no benefits" part… but they are paying me pretty well and will also reimburse me for travel to labs other than my base lab.

I think that when I get through the worst of this work-training period and can hopefully get a bit of a breather, I should make an effort to schedule a few (non-MA) gym days to work on forms and drills. While it was great to go to BJJ class every day- and sometimes twice a day- during my layoff, it did mean that I had very little extra energy left over for working on my Shaolin, and I don’t think the neglect is helping my kung fu slump. I have had several breakthroughs in the past during those solitary gym practices.

Ron is in a blue mood tonight

Monday night BJJ at Henrique’s class.

Applying guillotines, defending guillotines, breaking the turtle and transitioning to a gi choke. I drilled with Henrique’s wife (whose name I still don’t know- I probably couldn’t pronounce it even if I did!). She is getting noticably better.

Several rounds of relay positional sparring… I loooooooove relay positional sparring, even though everyone was dominating me tonight.

I rolled out of a tough armbar and was so impressed with myself- for about four seconds- until the roll brought the guy on top of me sitting on my chest. Note to self- escaping a sub by putting yourself into a worse sub = Bad Plan.

The only place I was doing halfway decent was IN guard… I was only getting the occasional pass tonight (usually I do a little better there), but people seemed to be having an extraordinarily difficult time reversing me. Several long, long struggles with multiple opponents. John (blue belt John), commented, "You’re getting much better." Some people tried to reverse me many times and then resorted to one or another tactics which involved taking total advantage of their superior weight. It was frustrating, but at the same time I feel like I must be getting better on some level if they were trying and trying, and that was the only way they could get me over. I don’t think many of the men really want to be seen struggling fruitlessly with the midget girl for more than four minutes or so, in a relay where most of the class is lined up on the wall watching.

I did one (very, very short) relay with Henrique- he rolled over and I hung on and rolled with him- which not many people can/will do, so I was congratulating myself- then he did it three more times, and *I* did it three more times. If there had been anything good I could transition to at that point, I would have- but there wasn’t, and we could have called each other’s bluff like that all day, so I let go and then he immediately squashed me in side control. Rats. Next time I will find SOMETHING better to do.

I did two free rolls with a blue belt that I haven’t really worked with much before. I spent nearly the entire time trapped underneath him in half guard, and couldn’t get out or do anything- but he was having no better luck getting a sub to finish me off despite earnest extended effort.

RON GOT HIS BLUE BELT TONIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!! thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup Well deserved, and I’m so happy I was there to see him get it.

Conditioning Class From Hell

CN’S CONDITIONING CLASS FROM HELL Shocked Shocked Shocked

I was a lazy wuss again today and skipped BJJ class… I just didn’t seem to have any energy. I think it’s partially an allergy thing- my allergies have been fierce all week, and I feel wiped out even BEFORE I take any decongestants. After decongestants, all I want to do is sleep.

However, I was a good Tiger tonight and dragged myself to Conditioning Class From Hell.

JM was there but did not participate; she elected to sit on the sidelines to point and giggle. I asked if she was sore from the BJJ last night, and she responded by taking her jacket off and showing me a really ugly big pink and purple abrasion on the inside of her arm. I was horrified because I immediately assumed it was something *I* had done to her last night- but apparently she and SK had gone shooting (archery) this morning, and JM’s bow is too heavy for her. She compensated by turning her body too far while she was trying to draw- thus the wound. I said, "You could have told me that BEFORE you took your jacket off and showed me your arm, so that I wouldn’t have had a heart attack," She said that that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. Rolling Eyes

The usual torture session of conditioning drills, with the addition of a few fresh new agonies: one-legged squats, one-legged hops onto and off of a tree root, and "bridge push ups". For anyone who has not had the pleasure, "bridge push ups" are when you start on your back and push up with a body arch so that you are trying to touch the sky with your belly button. CN was actually quite impressed that both SK and I were able to knock out ten bridge push ups with excellent form… so he made us do twenty more apiece.

Then it came time to hang belly-down over a horizontal tree branch with JM holding our feet, and do twenty reps of pulling the upper body horizontal to the ground. I told JM, "Just so you know, I wouldn’t necessarily take it amiss if you were to let go of my legs so I could just fall on my head and die," but she didn’t take me up on it.

You should really see the gleeful, sadistic little grin on CN’s face all through this… he is really enjoying this class.

Uh oh… here come the joint locks.

I am such a lazy wuss… I skipped BJJ this morning because I was just so tired.

Evening BJJ 101 with JM and SK. We did a few warm-ups, then reviewed the scissor sweep, butterfly sweep, the gi choke sequence from last week’s Gracie curriculum, and the cross collar gi choke. The cross collar gi choke was just not working very well for JM, and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. We were both a little frustrated. I finally said, "Let’s get help with that from someone more advanced than me." She is coming to Gracie’s for an intro class this coming Wednesday (YAY!), so I’ll ask someone good to vet her cross collar gi choke while we’re there.

I taught SK the two side control escapes, then had JM review them as well.

Then on to positional sparring. Again I started with JM- first me in front mount, then her. Then me vs SK for two rounds, and so on. Front mount, side control, and closed guard. (I meant to do a set from back mount as well, but we ran out of time… next time we’ll do that one).

They both continue to get exponentially better with each practice. Both of them pulled off the easier of the two side control escapes on me during the sparring, so I was happy to see that. SK is now confident enough in his rolling to start getting creative with the joint locks. This- along with his superior size- means he is now pretty much dominating me. He knows a ton of joint locks from his more advanced kung fu training. He was getting a little frustrated with me because I kept turtling up… well, I had no choice! I explained to him that that is my oh-sh1t fallback plan when things are going very badly for me and I am about to get subbed- so it meant that he was doing well. I was turtling a lot under JM tonight as well. SK asked me how much I was "going easy" on them. At one point I had let JM get on top, just because I had been on top for a long time and I decided it was just time to move on… other than that, I really wasn’t "giving" either of them anything. They’re just doing really well.

SK asked if I was going to pit him against JM. I had been waffling about that. CK had told me that JM found sparring SK to be really intimidating…. in fact, part of the reason I started the whole "women’s class" was to give JM a chance to spar without that pressure. I had them do to matches starting from closed guard. He subbed her pretty quickly, and she didn’t seem to be rolling quite up to her usual level- so yeah, that might still be a problem.

I asked them how they are liking BJJ so far… now that we’re into sparring, they have a decent enough idea of it to know if they like it or not. They both say they do. Smile SK said that it’s a real endorphin high. I’ll bet he’s really going to enjoy it when he gets a chance to roll against people his own size, whom he doesn’t have to go easy on- people that he can work almost full-throttle against. He’s going to have a real advantage, with his joint lock arsenal.

The Shaolin b****-Slap

Thursday kung fu basics.

I had asked Nemesis to reintroduce a particular short sequence out of Black Crane Two during the strike drills. Man, it was more challenging then I remembered. Ten reps and the muscles on the fronts of my thighs right above the knees were snarling. I guess we ought to be working on that one more often!

Then we went through Sil Lum Tao several times. Not sure why SK pulled that one out today- I was expecting more Dragon and/or Mantis. Surprise!

Then he asked what else people wanted to work on, and Nemesis immediately said "Sparring!" Normally I’m all for that (we don’t do nearly enough sparring), but we were in the classroom on the tile floor- which is not my favorite sparring environment. Also, I didn’t have my contacts in. Ah well. Sparring it was.

Monkey In the Middle. I like to leap on people’s backs and RNC them when we do this exercise, but I get nervous about doing that on the tile floor- since it usually ends up on the ground. Someone is just going to get badly injured, I fear. So my second-favorite tactic is to tap the "Monkey" on the shoulder and then as soon as s/he opens hir eyes, a punch is flying at hir face or an overhand swing is coming down on hir head. Tonight, I also pressed a dry erase marker into service as a makeshift knife. The first person I did this to (JM) was surprised and got totally "disembowelled". Twisted Evil The people after her were ready for it. ("I can see we need to revisit weapons defenses next week," was SK’s comment.)

JoE punched me right in the nose- not too hard, but harder than I liked.

When I was the Monkey, someone grabbed the front of my tank top and when I opened my eyes, it was JB grinning and pushing me backward. I countered with one or two strikes, but strike number three somehow turned into a roundhouse slap right across the face. I was horrified and embarrassed… everyone laughed their butts off (including JB, while I was trying to apologize). All I could say was that 1)I wasn’t really feeling threatened in this scenario because she was smiling at me- as soon as I opened my eyes, I could just feel my whole body relax. I told her that if she’d been making a scary face, I would have had a different visceral reaction. 2)I’ve been working on a section in Touch Bridge that involves the exact same slapping motion that somehow instinctually popped out of me (albeit with the opposite hand), and I think that was sitting at the forefront of my brain. SK reassured me that the "Shaolin b****-Slap" could be considered a valid technique in this scenario. Rolling Eyes

Truly, though, I’m disturbed by what seems to me to be a degrading of my usually fairly-decent level of control. I have accidentally hit JB too hard several times recently… almost always HER, by some unfortunate chance, and I feel particularly bad about that because she is still somewhat timid in her sparring, and I certainly don’t want to make it worse. I wonder if my lapses in good control are related to my Epic Slump.

Individual forms practice. JB, SK and I ran through Catherine Dao three or four times, with a few extra reps of the close, because that’s the shakiest part.

Then I did a little Leopard at Dawn, a few reps of Hurricane Hands, and then a few reps of the first part of Touch Bridge with different breathing patterns, as per CC’s instructions. I tried it with long inhales followed by short huffy exhales (exhausting); then with brief sipping inhales followed by long exhales (same result). Then a few reps with steady, even, deep breaths… results were better than I expected; it felt like I had more energy, and the power of the strikes did not seem overly weakened by the absence of my usual huffy Tiger breathing. After that, I tried to correlate the breathing with the techniques in a more Dragony (as opposed to Tigery) fashion. That was a challenge. It’s really hard to focus on the striking or anything else because I have to think so hard about where and how to breathe. I really need to get this, though…. I do Tiger breathing in EVERYTHING, just because it’s instinctual and it works well for me- but I am never going to progress in the other styles unless I can break myself of that lazy habit.

During the sitting meditation, I was having a hard time focussing even though I could feel what seemed to be extra energy of some sort buzzing around. I put my arms up in the "hug-the-tree" pose, and after a few minutes of that, it solidified some- although I didn’t really try to do anything in particular with it. At the end of the meditation, SK looked and me and said, "Wow, you’re really ON tonight." I raised my eyebrows at him, and he said, "What were you doing?" I showed him the pose, and said, "Just this." He is the only one who seems to be able to feel the energy- or at least the only one who admits it. He *always* seems to notice if there’s anything unusual going on with the energy in the meditation circle. Even JB, who has more knowledge and experience in energy work, doesn’t seem to have that kind of sensitivity. I wish SK could find someone good to instruct him in energy work- he has a truly staggering raw potential in that area. Instructing him in a few basic concepts and exercises is all I’ve attempted, as well as trying to answer his copious questions to the best of my ability.

Later…. I apologized to JB yet again by e-mail- she reassured me, and added:

Hehe, at least it was a slap and not a fist. That punch to the nose you caught didn’t look like fun. =(

JB continues to do well in her first few classes.

Wednesday night BJJ. I drove into Seattle after work to pick up JB so that we could go to class together. This is translating to a bit more driving and time for me, but it’s cool to be able to train at Gracie’s with JB. Smile

The techniques were a bit challenging today. Bear hug escape into hip throw into armbar (I was okay for most of that, but I just couldn’t seem to clean up the armbar portion of the technique). Then a different armbar transition from mount, then your partner starts to pull away and you trap the arm with your bent leg and remount, then back to armbar. That was a bit challenging as well. Then keylock and a transition into a different lock (straight) when the opponent tried to straighten the arm. I struggled a bit with the straight arm lock (which was new to me), but got it after a few tries and some feedback from my drill partner.

There was a small woman in there whom I haven’t seen before, but she has apparently been coming for a couple weeks- Allie. I asked JB if she would drill with Allie, since I want JB to get some experience working with people other than me. I drilled with Connor. Later I wondered if that had been a bad idea, because the girls were struggling a bit with the techniques… it probably would have been better to put each of them with a more experienced person. Rodrigo had to spend a lot of time helping them, and Allie was getting visibly frustrated.

Positional sparring- me vs JB. She is doing well in catching into what she is supposed to be doing, and also in endurance. I was worried that she would have a hard time keeping up at first- especially since she is asthmatic. But she stuck with it to the end and worked really hard. I’m so proud of how she’s doing. thumbsup

Northen Mantis hip-switching punches

Tuesday intermediate Kung Fu.

I had a ripper of a headache by the time I got off work, so I asked SK to drive the car while I lay in the back with my coat over my face. Class was about half over by the time the aspirin finally kicked in and I was able to get up off the floor and join in.

They were doing apps to Bung Bo Kuen. By the time I was able to function, they were working on Little Red Dragon. Then back to Bung Bo- we practiced the Northern Mantis hip-switching punches and leg checks against a classmate bracing a folded mat. The last two knuckles of my right hand look like raw hamburger. I think I was doing adequate, though, which is saying a lot for Mantis… I just don’t grasp Mantis very well.