Sunday, July 31, 2011

Meditation Images

The view from my bedroom window, isn't it pretty?

Picture time!

People have asked to see what my current training weapon looks like. Here's a picture.


My Workout Routine

After two weeks at the dojo, I find myself very well settled in, something I am glad to report. But on top of formal training twice a week, I have also been assigned a daily workout to do minimum once per day, but I usually do twice. I am going to list it as it currently stands here, and update as necessary.

  • Wrist rotation stretch (Ten times each side)
  • Wrist and arm extension stretch (Ten times each side)
  • Horizontal Punch (Ten times each side)
  • Vertical Punch (Ten times each side)
  • Hook (Ten times each side)
  • Uppercut (Ten times each side)
  • Horizontal Palm Strike- Open handed (Ten times each side) and clenched handed (Ten times each side)
  • Vertical Palm Strike- Open handed(Ten times each side) and clenched handed (Ten times each side)
  • Knife Hand (Ten times each side)
  • Ridge Hand (Ten times each side)
  • Hammer Strike (Ten times each side)
  •  Elbow Strike (Ten times each side)
  • Eagle's Beak (Ten times each side)
  • Grab and Pull (Ten times each side)
  • Tiger's Maw (Ten times each side)
Techniques: I go through the motions for each, never using someone to practice on unless I have their permission
  • Brush-Trap-Strike (Ten times each side)
  •  Same side wrist grab escape (Ten times each side)
  • Cross Handed wrist grab escape (Ten times each side)
  • Arm Bar (Ten times each side)
Weapons work:
  •  Raise Cane over head and slide down spine vertically. (Ten times)
  • Curls (Add resistance by pretending to pull hands apart on way up, push together on way down) (Ten times)
  • Form: Cane held horizontally in front of me, then lifted over and behind head, then brought back to starting point, then rotated one hundred eighty degrees so arms are crossed, then brought back to starting point and rotated one hundred eighty in the other direction. This should be done swiftly with fluidity (Ten times)
Holy cow...I didn't really realize just how much I do each day until I typed this out.



    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Formal Training week 2

    Yesterday, July 26, 2011, marked my second week of formal training at the dojo. We learned a few new strikes but perhaps my favorite thing was the technique Master Eric had us practicing for most of class.
    Brush-Trap-Strike. This technique is used to redirect an opponents attack and turn the situation against them. The attack is deflected with the hand on the same side of the body as the attack was on. Then the opposite hand grabs the opponent's wrist and immobilizes them, followed by one or more strikes to vulnerable areas.
    This technique followed up generally by getting the opponent subdued in a hold. Master Eric was having me use an arm bar where the elbow joint is locked. Done correctly this will bring the opponent to their knees and allow me to escape and call police.
    I really enjoyed getting the chance to work one on one with Master Eric. He's strict, but he has a great sense of humor. We were actually both so focused on my training that we worked past the end of class completely and had neither an end of class lecture or formal closure to class. I can't wait to go back next week, and I love the routine that two nights of training has put me into.


    Wednesday, July 27, 2011


    The day after my first formal hapkido class (see posts Family and Aftermath) was awful. As soon as I came down from my bedroom that next morning and went into the kitchen Cindy brought up the events of the previous night and asked me not to reveal them to Sensei or Master Eric.

    I told her I had already spoken with Sensei and she became angry, saying I had no right to tell him what had happened. Then she actually tried to make me promise that I wouldn't reveal things about what she said to me to Sensei in future.

    This just proves to me that she really doesn't get it. How many times do I have to repeat that Sensei is like a father to me. No child should have to censor what they reveal to a parent. Not to mention the success of my journey, on which Sensei, as my teacher, must guide me, depends on me being open and honest with him.

    Stuck between a rock and a hard place,


    Friday, July 22, 2011


    Warning: most of what is in this post will be unpleasant. Some will not be however.
    What happened after my lesson on Tuesday July 19 was so momentous it is necessary to devote a seperate post to it. Originally, I thought Sensei was going to be driving his family's car to the dojo and as such might possibly be able to give me a ride home. I told Cindy,the person who drove me, that this was a possibility but not to count on it.
    Unfortunately this was not the case and so when class was over I had to call Cindy and ask for a ride. I could tell she was frustrated but so be it. While we were waiting though, Master Eric complemented me on how hard I worked and how well I had done, as well as giving me a stern lecture on not listening to those who doubted my ability to be successful. I commented that money to pay for lessons was another obstacle and he responded by offering me lessons for free. </p>
    <p>Shortly after, Cindy and Regan arrived. I noticed they were drunk and began insisting that I be allowed to say goodbye to Blaine. Regan would have none of it, took my weapon out of my hand and grabbed my chair taking me to the car and telling me to get in. When I resisted she again told me to get in the car. Sensei did come over and say goodbye, but I was too scared to rat them out with Regan right there and couldn't find the words to tell him I was in danger. Therefore, they were allowed to drive off with me in the backseat.
    The conversation/confrontation that I had to endure when I was on the way home is almost on par with the psychological abuse that my mother subjected me to before I moved out.
    First, Cindy kept insisting that Master Eric had hit on her. I quickly refuted that statement as I know all he did was ask if she was interested in joining the class for a week or two. She kept insisting and calling him weird, which grated on me. Then she started in on Sensei, saying she finds our father/cub relationship creepy. I asked why and she began to swear up and down that Sensei had a crush on me. I said that essentially dating him would be the equivalent of fucking my father and she still doesn't get it. Then she and Regan started in on me for needing them to drive me because that meant they couldn't continue drinking. When I explained that Sensei had not driven his car and the friend that did drive him didn't have enough room for me and my chair, they didn't believe me at first, and were saying they wanted to follow him. I dissuaded them from that and then got yelled at for not asking Robbie to drive me. I was told I had "planning issues" and when it became clear I was panicking, Regan asked Cindy what was with my f***ing panic problem.  Cindy responded that I had panicked because Regan was talking to me like "a normal f***ing person and no one has ever done that with her". It also came up that my mother (if one can call her that) is concerned for my safety, considering I work semi-privately with a male tutor five years my senior. Next thing I know I'm being encouraged to look both Sensei and Master Eric up in the National Sex Offender Registry! (Just a side note: Black belts are certified by the International Combat Hapkido Federation. They must pass a criminal background check to receive the belt, since it is this belt level that also allows one to teach the art)

    To say I was offended was an understatement and when I tried to make that clear and defend myself the confrontation only got worse. We dropped Regan off at her apartment and continued home. On the way Cindy expressed concern that my training would injure me in some way, said she had spoken with Master Eric about it, and was concerned that they were not certified to work with the physically challenged. At this point I was ome hundred percent completely furious. I'm 21. Its my choice what training I choose to undertake and I am fully cognizant of my limitations. If I ever felt that Sensei or Master Eric was going too far I would speak up.

    That entire experience just made me more committed to continuing my journey. I saw my need for mental strength. Also, I should have known that at that time it would have been appropriate to use my training to stop them from ever getting me in that car. Sensei knows what happened and has said if I ever find myself in a similar situation I am well within my rights to use what I know.

    Next time I'll make sure I do.


    Wednesday, July 20, 2011


    I reached another milestone in my journey toward becoming well versed in the art of Hapkido on Tuesday. Tuesday July 19, 2011 marked the date of my first formal Hapkido class at the dojo where Sensei studies and teaches as well. Coming to class was something I never really thought I would get a chance to do but boy am I glad I did.

    It turns out that ever since Sensei agreed to take me on as a student, he has been requesting advice on how to adapt the curriculum to my needs from the other instructors at the school. This means that a lot of the anxiety I felt over taking what I now know to be my rightful place among the other students was really unnecessary.

    I had been worried that I would either be coddled and not challenged enough, or otherwise completely ignored during class. Instead, I was immediately accepted, techniques were reasonably adapted where necessary, and it was definitely a workout (but I loved every minute). I also was afraid that the other instructors would seperate me from Sensei, and/or that Sensei wouldn't interact with me on the father/cub level he always does. Niether turned out to be the case. While Sensei was the one leading the class, as soon as we were told to practice what he had demonstrated Anthony, the instructor that is in charge of the class told Blaine to partner with me, and modify where necessary because of movement limitations. Each time I successfully grasped a new technique, hugs were more than forthcoming and it was clear Sensei was proud to have me there. Master Eric and Anthony were pleased and excited by my progress as well.

    The final and perhaps biggest worry I had was that the training weapon I have been using would get taken away by Master Eric. (I have been training for the last few weeks using a long wooden training cane, meant to extend my reach give me more power when striking and greater ability to block unfriendly strikes as well.) This was perhaps my most foolish worry. When I first arrived and after I had been hugged to death by Sensei, he introduced me to Master Eric, who commented that I looked to be enjoying working with my weapon. I said yes, asked Sensei if I should run through the form he had taught me, was told I didn't HAVE to, and did so anyway. I could clearly see that Master Eric was pleased with how quickly and easily I accomplished my task.

    They went into the back area to change into appropriate clothing and then talk. I waited in the main waiting area for further instruction. Suddenly Sensei came out, looking grave. He said "we have a problem". This immediately terrified me. What kind of problem? Was I not welcome there? Next he added "we need to talk." Okay, doesn't he know those are the most frightening four words known to mankind? Then he asked me to hand over my weapon, which I did hesitantly, close my eyes and hold out my hands. As I did I felt him place something long and wooden but a little heavier into my hands. He told me to grip it tight and open my eyes. I had been given a new weapon, earlier than planned. Sensei told me both he and Master Eric agreed that I was ready, and gave me a huge hug.

    So anyway, class was awesome. We started with wrist stretches, then moved through our repitoire of strikes, ten of each on each side. We spent most of class learning techniques to get out of a wrist grab. This was fun, and very useful. I learned that when you are trying to get out of a hold, you should offer a distraction strike whenever possible to shift the opponents focus off of what you are trying to do. I also had an opportunity to continue working on the fanning technique with my weapon, using a practice dummy. Master Eric did catch me making one error though. An error that could potentially be fatal. While I was striking at the practice dummy, I left my off hand (my left) down by my side instead of up in the ready position to deflect attacks. Master Eric taught me that lesson quickly. Deflect only as much as necessary then circle the wrist back into the ready position.

    Once class was over we were brought back together as a group to listen to end of class thoughts and announcements from Master Eric. He spoke to us about the duty that rests on the shoulders of all martial artists to use their talents and abilities to help others. He also said that because of the heat wave and power outages we have been having, the dojo was being set up as a cooling center for those who need it.

    Sensei was right when he said the dojo was somewhere I would grow to feel comfortable. I already feel as though I'm part of the family there and I can't wait to go back.


    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Types of Students, Types of Senseis

    Last night, I decided to share this blog with Sensei, so he could read and follow it if he chose. Also, sometimes the things I need to say or the questions I need to ask are easier for me to articulate in writing than when I am speaking to someone because they are more carefully thought out, so this might be a good thing for Sensei to have access to so he can "get inside my head" so to speak.

    Well, I wasn't exactly expecting the reaction I got. Sensei was speechless, and when I did finally get a response it was something along the lines of how lucky he felt to have a student like me. I turned bright red (not like he could see me anyway) and asked for clarification. His response was that there are four types of student.

    The first type is the person who seeks training in the martial arts to build confidence. While this is not a bad thing, beginning training in something like this with such a specific goal limits the experience. This is particularly true when the goal is confidence because a lack of confidence is an issue that can and should be rectified within a student's first few lessons. How will your strikes hit the most effective spots if you are not confident that you can subdue any attacker? How will you be able to block unfriendly strikes if you do not believe in your ability to repel them? These students, as a result, take only a few lessons before quitting, something a teacher never wants to see a student do. *Edit: This is not always the case. Sometimes these students will continue training, and expand their goals if they find they really enjoy it.*

    The second type of student is the person who has had their head turned by Hollywood glitz and glamour. They take the classes with the end goal of becoming a badass. Unfortunately, while a lot of the moves employed by, for example, Jackie Chan, look cool...they aren't effective as a means of defense. They are meant to be just what they are...for show. These students get easily frustrated by how much work studying a martial art really is. They train and practice only when their sensei is there to make sure they are doing what they should, quickly lose interest when they don't become big and bad overnight...and quit quickly.

    The third type of student is the one who has been forced into taking the classes. There are several reasons that this might be the case. One is that the parent is looking to gain recognition through their kid, the same way a horse trainer is lauded when their horse consistently performs well on a racetrack. 'Look at Timmy. He's a (insert belt color here) in combat Hapkido...he's been in (insert number here) tournaments...oh and it was my brilliant idea to sign him up for lessons.' Sensei shared with me that he occasionally also sees this happen when a parent percieves their child to be weak, or in the case of a male, too feminine. This to me is the absolute worst thing that can be done. These students don't have a true interest in learning the art, but feel trapped by their parents' expectations. These students will never truly excel, because their heart isn't in it.

    The fourth type of student is, according to Sensei, the rarest sort. These are the students that jump in with both feet, learning as much as they can and training in between lessons to keep their skills. These students recognize that hapkido is a path, a lifestyle. It requires conviction, and dedication. It is to this group that I supposedly belong. It is true that I have committed to this, and made it a priority. Hapkido is now a part of me, and if I were to give it up, I would be despondent.

    Just like there are multiple types of student, there are two types of sensei.

    The first knows their craft but is more interested in how their skill can benefit them. They will take any student they can and as long as the money is good, and keeps coming in, they will progress their students through the belt levels, regardless of whether or not the student has the appropriate grasp of the required skills to progress. These senseis do not mind the first three types of students but may not adequately challenge the fourth and find them needy and demanding.

    The second type knows their craft, and is dedicated to it. Their greatest joy is teaching others what they know, and they do everything in their power to ensure that the student is applying techniques correctly before they allow them to progress. They frequently bond closely with students and would go out of the way for them whenever necessary. They are frustrated by the first two types of students and delight in the third. Without question this type exemplifies my Sensei.

    No wonder we get along so well.


    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Sensei: So Much More Than Teacher

    Since I started my training, Sensei and I have grown extremely close, beyond a typical teacher-student bond. When Sensei asked me if I noticed this I said yes. He has become like a surrogate father to me. As I mentioned in my previous post, family is of huge importance to me. However, because of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my parents, I have myself convinced that everyone who says they love me is being forced to put up with me because I'm being clingy.

    And if you didn't notice, I said just now that I suffered abuse at the hands of my parents, rather than just my mom, as previously indicated. The truth is that my dad enabled mom. He chose to walk out of the room or even the house once fighting started, he wouldn't reverse mom's punishments even when I had done nothing wrong, and religion also took a more prominent role in his life than his own kids. As Sensei puts it, he wasn't much of a father. Sure the presents and outings were great, so was the homework help and the help after surgery. But when I needed him most, needed protection, Dad wasn't there.

    The only time I have ever seen Sensei truly angry was when I revealed the abuse I suffered and the effects it has had on me. Normally I wouldn't reveal something like that so quickly but because of the way I bonded with Sensei, doing so was necessary. The week I began my training, I also began to have nightmares, usually about Sensei betraying me to a group of people whose goal was to hurt me. It was Sensei himself who made the connection between these dreams and my past. Because I see him as a father, I am afraid he will be like the father who raised me, outwardly appearing to care about me but in the end, too much of a coward to help where necessary.

    That's something Sensei has really worked hard to change. He has made himself completely available to me via phone or text, and does his best to see me frequently. Any success or progress is met with hugs and praise. He says good night every night and has simply held me through the worst of my panic attacks. In situations where the dad who raised me would have disappeared til things worked themselves out

    Even more special is that we share a totem animal. He is also a grizzly bear, making it easy for him to take a fatherly role, and serve as a guardian to me. We often see each other in bear form in the forest we both use when meditating. The bear, as I showed you in my last post, is extremely protective. And since Blaine sees me as his cub, and I have been a victim of abuse, you can imagine how seriously he takes that responsibility. Something I am thankful for every day.

    I love you, Dad.


    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    My Animal Totem: Self Identity and Inner Strength

    One of the most important skills I am learning is how to meditate. This technique of relaxation that focuses on calming the mind and allowing a deeper awareness to surface has been instrumental in helping me to learn to control my anxiety.

    One of the most important aspects of awareness for me to learn is self awareness. In order to be successful I need to define my identity as I see it. For far too long my identity was comprised of what others saw in me, and allowing that to color how one sees oneself is dangerous.

    So Sensei asked me to close my eyes and envision a forest. He asked me to wander its paths and admire its beauty, taking particular care to notice the animals that inhabited it. He encouraged me to see which animal spoke to me on a spiritual level.

    It could be the animal I came across most frequently, my favorite animal, or simply the one that I was most curious about. If I took on the appearance of a specific animal chances were also good that this was my totem. In the forest, you become the animal that represents your soul.

    For me this was not an easy task. I was skeptical about the value of totems and spirit guides, and the idea of wandering a forest, even one that is a figment of my imagination, alone at night is not one I was exactly comfortable with. But I continued to attempt to communicate with these ancient spirits as Sensei had asked.

    Finally, on my fifth attempt, a grizzly bear cub walked out of the trees and simply sat on the path in front of me. I asked it if the grizzly bear was my totem. It nodded once and then I had suddenly taken on the form of a grizzly bear cub, though smaller and weaker than my companion.

    I immediately ended my meditation session and contacted Sensei, who let me know that I had done the exercise correctly and then told me to find out as much about my animal, and the meanings of having it as a totem, that I could. Here is the first page I found that was helpful and here is another.

    The bear is a fitting animal for me not just because of what it represents, but the way it is in nature too. Grizzly bears live in dens, sometimes holding more than one family unit. Cubs are looked after by the adults who bring food to them until they are ready to hunt and also protect them in times of danger. Do not threaten a grizzly cub unless you can take on a fully grown bear as well, or you have a deathwish.

    Family is something I long for, that is very important to me, and the fact that I take the form of a cub in the forest lets me allow the bear clan that live there to be family to me, and care for me so I grow and prosper in the real world as a result. Also, consider the fact that I want to become a teacher. I see all my students as "my kids" and anyone that knows me will know I am very passionate about what I do and I take my job of nurturing and protecting my students seriously, much like a mother whose cubs have been threatened.

    Since learning this part of my identity, my confidence and tenacity have increased tenfold. I pour myself into my training and everything around me, knowing I have the strength of the bear within me. I am beginning to find my inner strength


    The Percieved Benefits/ My Goals

    One of the biggest reasons I began this journey is because of the advantages of doing so. Sensei said I would gain not only physical stamina and strength but mental strength as well. He said that through training my self confidence could be restored, and I would grow beyond anything I ever thought possible.

    Some of the goals I have are obvious: becoming stronger and minimizing the effect of the cerebral palsy on my body. Learning to defend myself, should a situation arise where I need to do so.

    Others are ones set in areas Sensei wishes to see me improve: reducing the frequency and severity of my panic attacks. Allow myself to relax more and enjoy my life even if that means sometimes acting like the child I never got to be. And he has also said he would most like to see me follow in his footsteps and become a sensei.

    At first I felt this last goal was unattainable due to my physical challenges but Sensei shared with me that someone whom he knows that holds the title of Grand Master is not only a formidable opponent but wheelchair bound. Knowing that this is one area of my life where my physical disability will become the deciding factor in terms of whether or not an opportunity is open to me is a huge relief. It is also a huge motivator. I know that this is one area where I can go as far as I have the motivation to go. The sky is the limit.

    I am determined to become a black belt, then a sensei, and maybe even a Master or Grand Master. It will take hard work, focus and dedication but I know I have what it takes.


    How I Met My Sensei

    As you could see by my previous post, I have some personal demons to overcome. One of the ways that I cope is by spending time with a small group of close friends who I have revealed the truth about my past to, and who understand and accept me. For me, this group of friends is the guys I play Dungeons and Dragons with.

    It was my friend Jon who introduced me to the classic RPG, after learning of my love of all things fantasy. To Jon, Danny, Mike, Dakota, Fish, Squiggy, Matt, Eric, Shannon... thank you so so much for caring about me.
    You don't know what it means to me.

    Shortly after I began playing, I also began planning for after the completion of my associates degree, which is next May. I have chosen to attend SIU-Carbondale and one of the things that most frightens me about going to a school where I have to live on campus is the idea of walking alone, and knowing I have no way to defend myself. 

    I revealed my concern to Jon especially after beginning a unit in my health class about the importance of self defense and he told me a friend of his who used to play D&D was trained in martial arts and I should meet him. Jon is a self taught martial artist, so I trusted his input. Shortly after we discussed it, Blaine Coplon reappeared at the shop. Jon excitedly introduced me and I began to explain my need to learn self defense.

    Almost immediately Blaine told me he felt that Combat Hapkido, a style he knew well and taught, was the right fit for me. First and foremost, unlike other, more popular martial arts such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do, it does not absolutely require the use of kicks, and secodly is more practical where the others are showy and flashy but not always effective.

    I instantly connected with him, and he seemed genuinely excited at the prospect of having me as a student. I wanted to begin right away.

    More next time,


    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    A Little History...

    Hi everyone,

    Whenever I mention to someone that I have begun training in Combat Hapkido, their immediate response is "Why?" My answer? "A bunch of different things". I hope in this blog I can take the time to be a little clearer than that, but first, you all need a little history.

    As I mentioned earlier, I have cerebral palsy. This puts me at a physical disadvantage against those who would try to harm me, making me an easy target for someone who needs a victim. My mom knew this, and from a young age, asked everyone who might know what the best way to teach me self defense was. However, no one really had a viable solution. My mom's paranoia made me so afraid of the world, I can't even begin to describe it. Then, I began to be afraid of her.

    My differences from my peers were glaringly obvious to mom. She was constantly telling me all the different ways I was "not normal". She singled me out for my height, my weight, my personality (very sensitive), my lack of walking ability, inability to cook/clean, the number of tasks I needed to modify to succeed at them, the slow speed at which I accomplished tasks that were easy for everyone able name it, she used it as a weapon.

    I truly believe she was at first only trying to make me aware of these things so that I would learn to compensate for them. But as time went on they turned to being things she hated about me, things she felt reflected on her, because what parent wants a kid that's any less than perfect. My able bodied little brother Jason, able to do the things I never could, only highlighted my flaws when she mentally compared him to me. After his birth, the gentle reminders became screaming matches, became punishments. I was being blamed for things I could not control. I was singled out in front of my friends and family, and in public as well. Each harsh word was another blow.

    Even school, somewhere I have always excelled, became a nightmare when I was told I deserved inappropriate treatment (abuse, inappropriate touching) by teachers and personal assistants. Bullies reinforced what Mom was saying, making things worse. Most of mom's abuse was psychological, and the few teachers I had that believed me claimed they could do nothing. Sophomore year I attempted suicide, and was finally diagnosed with clinical depression, though Mom sabotaged my progress by promising to change when confronted by my counselor, and then screaming at me for telling the truth and going back to her old ways when we were alone. This continued through my first year of college, causing my grades to drop, and me to really struggle.

    I met and fell in love with my fiancee Chad when I was at Bradley University, and he is the one who finally helped me to identify that the attitude my parents had toward the challenges I face is what was holding me back. After a nightmarish struggle and confrontation I ended up moving in with him and his mom Robbie.

    Shortly after doing so I was diagnosed with GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder which led to panic attacks. After losing control of my life for awhile I finally got the courage to go back to school. I have been a college student ever since and have a 4.0 GPA as well as membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the academic honor society. I am working toward a bachelors degree in Special Education

    I think this is a good place to conclude the history lesson for tonight.

    Thanks for listening,



    Hello everyone. Welcome to my blog. Firstly, for those of you that don't know me, I'm Michelle. Most people call me Misha. I'm 21 years old, and I have cerebral palsy. I also recently made the decision to begin training in Combat Hapkido. This blog was created as a way for me to share what I am learning with others, in the hope that it will inspire others, and help me keep family and friends in the loop. More will be revealed about me in future posts, but this blog will also be something I can look back on to remind me just how far I have come.

    Thanks for taking this journey with me,