Sunday, November 13, 2011

Formal Training Week 17

I almost did not get to go to training this week, as Chad was not feeling well and I was unsure whether his mom would still be willing to pick me up. However, she agreed to do so. I have been really struggling with my depression lately to the point of being suicidal, and I was sort of looking forward to having a one on one session with Sensei, but Erin was there and at first I felt significant resentment. I was, unfortunately, very short with her and with Sensei. Sensei finally got me calmed down and I turned in my homework sheet to him. I also gave Master Eric a paper I wrote last semester about the problem of bullying in America's schools, my solution to which is the implementation of a martial arts unit in physical education classes.  He had asked to read the thesis after I emailed it to Sensei, who had thought it was worth passing along. By the time we did that and I apologized to Erin it was time for class.

Warmups this week were very different than what I was used to previously. We still did our usual stretches, but after that the routine got changed up. I was restless and asked Sensei for permission to get out of my chair and do something. Imagine my surprise when he had me get on the floor and do pushups. But not just any pushups. Sensei had me doing full, military count, pushups. I managed to get through two sets of five before my body was too exhausted to continue. In order to compensate for the physical strain he had asked of me, Sensei then asked Erin and I to make ourselves comfortable on the floor and led us through a five minute meditation. With his permission I envisioned the Forest of Spirits. Once that was done it was time to move on.

Sensei started Erin working with vertical and horizontal punches, and took me through all my strikes and blocks just to ensure continued progress. Then he had me work a little bit more on the eight point strike sequence he began teaching me the week before. He was pleased with my efforts when training at home and said it was time for me to learn something new.

Before we got started on that however, Sensei excused himself to go to the washroom, leaving me with Erin. She had been struggling with throwing solid punches, and as I have been told I am more than competent with basic strikes I asked to see what she had been doing in hopes that I could offer some assistance. She threw a couple of punches and immediately I saw the problems. Firstly, she was not turning her foot into her punch, which meant the energy lacked a smooth conduit and she was limiting her strike. Secondly, she was drawing back her arm before punching (or chambering) this is incredibly dangerous because it essentially warns your opponent what you are going to do and gives them a chance to retaliate, perhaps before you have even struck. I called Anthony over to have him help me demonstrate why and how the issues needed to be corrected, and was pleased when the demonstration helped Erin to improve. As I finished up working with her, Sensei returned.

We spent the rest of the night working with an ordinary dish towel. I was taught how to throw it and distract an attacker, and also to use it by forcing tension through it and therefore deflecting blows. By the time class was over I had become sufficiently proficient at using the dish towel, making Sensei very proud. Then we bowed out for the night.

More later.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Formal Training Week 16

Last week marked my sixteenth week of training at Equa Do, or four months worth. It definitely feels much shorter. I went to the dojang straight from school again, and was surprised to find I had arrived there at the same time as Aaron and Sensei. I went inside, put my stuff down and made sure I was presentable for class, before filling out the homework sheet to turn in for hours toward yellow belt, while catching up with Sensei, Aaron and Miss Linda. While we were still waiting for Master Eric to finish up with the park district students, Chad and his mom arrived. Before we knew it it was time for class.

Even though we had brought our crutches, Sensei decided to introduce the next part of our weapons work instead. However, before he would show us, we had to do a full set of stretches, and strikes. I completed the task easily, however Chad struggled as he tried to keep up with my speed and fluidity. He is trying to rush his training without putting in the necessary practice hours to improve, so his attempts just looked sloppy and he was called out for it.

Sensei had us make two new goals for ourselves this week: one) No matter where we are, know the location of all exits around us, windows, and be able to scan our environment for objects to be used as weapons as necessary, and two) demonstrate increased spatial awareness, especially in cramped spaces as they are the most difficult to defend oursleves in. He is having us practice by identifying windows, exits and escape routes on a blueprint of CLC.

As far as actual lesson material, Sensei moved us onto an eight point strike sequence with our weapons, using the training bags as targets obviously. This expands on the two point and four point sequences, so that by the time you finish it, you have manuevered your weapon in roughly the shape of an asterisk, striking at each endpoint. Additionally, Sensei taught us how to use rabbit punches effectively. Rabbit punches are light, rapidfire punches directed at the same spot. The repeated striking is what hurts, andd these are best used to drive your opponent back into a corner or wall, and trapping them.

By the time we had finished, we needed to bow out, and I was asked to teach the procedure to Aaron, our newest student. This would have been Chad's responsibility except that he has shown little consistency in observing ettiquite. I was praised for this contribution, as well as turning in a fully completed hw sheet, to Chad's nonexistent hw sheet. Then, we headed home.

More soon,


Formal Training Week 15

Week 15 saw me truly struggling, as cold set into the Lake County area. It was already dark by the time I reached Equa Do this week, and the cold that seeped into my bones despite being wrapped in my warm dobok was none too pleasant as it aggravated the spasms that were already present from the Cerebral Palsy. However, a hug from Sensei when I arrived quickly warmed me up, and he also used energy manipulation to reduce my pain so that by the time it was class time, I was ready to train. We did jumping jacks and minimal stretching, then got on the mats again to continue with the training using our crutches.

We went through simple striking and blocking as we had been taught the week before, and then Sensei taught us that our crutches could be used to execute brush-trap-strike, and so we learned that. Once that had been completed, Sensei called a halt to our physical training. In light of the way that Chad had been acting, he felt the time had come to give a short philosophy lesson.

During our white belt tests, we were asked what the duty of a martial artist is. Because of my extensive training with Sensei, I was able to answer easily and confidently but Chad had a harder time. Sensei reminded us of the duty we have as teachers and protectors, and then expanded that to say we should be looking for ways to assist others, and build them up, rather than tearing them down. This is what Chad had not been doing, shirking this duty by insisting that I should lie to Sensei and Master Eric for him, and basically give up all dignity. Chad knew the lesson was directed at him, and at least had the decency to look ashamed.
Following the philosophy lesson, Sensei had Chad and I up and striking at him as though sparring, incorporating movement and dodges with our strikes. This is something I had asked specifically to work on, as I had discovered the ability to do this while training on my own. Once I demonstrated being able to strike with enough force to injure, Sensei backed off and had us strike at the two soft foam targets we had used during our white belt tests.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear a very familiar voice just as I was about to begin doing strike repetitions. Anthony reappeared at the dojang! I ran over without waiting for Sensei's permission, I was so excited to say hello, but I didn't even get in trouble...Sensei was right behind me. Anthony was very surprised to see me out of my chair, and we demonstrated my ability to use my crutches as effective weapons. Anthony gave me a few tips on how I could improve, and then had to leave, so I ran through strikes with Sensei. After this, Chad got back in his chair, and I continued to work. Guess that distinguishes us from each other as students. I stayed standing even after we bowed out, intent on showing Master Eric what I had been able to accomplish, and turning in my first homework sheet. I had completed training daily, bringing my total hours much higher. Master Eric was proud of my ability to learn new things, and my commitment to my training. He was quite disappointed with Chad's lack of motivation.

More soon,


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


In my previous post, I mentioned as well as shared with you the homework sheet Chad and I were given a few weeks ago. The purpose of this sheet is for us to log training hours. You see, in order to progress from one belt to the next, the International Combat Hapkido Federation (ICHF) requires a minimum number of hours spent training, simply to ensure students are truly ready to advance before they do so. If Chad and I were merely to count the hours we actually spend at Equa Do, the path to our next belt would be impossibly long. So filling out this worksheet allows us to give our instructors documentation of the time we spend working, and have it count.

When I received the worksheet, I was very excited. To me, being given homework means I can be trusted to train without the direct supervision of my instructors. Chad, on the other hand, was much more resistant. As soon as we had come home from training the first night we got the sheets, he immediately began to complain that the expectation that we complete training hours in our spare time is unfair. I suppose it is, when one is so used to being handed things for little to no work simply because one has a disability.

Unfortunately for Chad, when it comes to training, we are treated like every other student at Equa Do. I reminded him of that, and when he whined that it was too much with school work, I was actually kind enough to call Sensei and tell him that Chad was struggling to accept the task he had been set. Sensei cut down the workload, and reminded us that the minimum we were absolutely required to do was three additional hours per week. Furthermore, Sensei said that the workout did not have to be done all in one sitting. In other words, the stretches could be done if we were bored in class, as they are fairly unobtrusive. I occasionally use my Hapkido homework as my physical warmup in theatre class, and then merely do the work with my crutches and weapon when I get home. In other words, there are options.

Despite these concessions, as soon as I was off the phone Chad made it clear that he did not intend to follow Sensei's instructions. He told me he would be filling out the sheet to make it look like he had completed the requirements and he expected me not to speak up and tell that I knew otherwise. I cautioned him, saying his right to test was on the line as it was, and that if he showed such blatant disrespect for his instructors, he would be stripped of his white belt and possibly told he should not continue coming to Equa Do. His arrogant response was to tell me that Master Eric would never let that happen, and even so, what rule said he had to listen to me?

This is where I lost my cool. Firstly, while Chad and Master Eric do have a good rapport, I know for a fact that he will not allow any student to test who is not ready, nor will he tolerate such disrespect. And as for why Chad has to listen to me, the answer lies in the hierarchy of the belt system. Obviously a person of a higher belt than the one you currently possess must be respected unless the instruction given would put you in harms way. But when two martial artists hold the same belt rank, seniority is granted to the one that has been studying the martial art the longest. In the case of Chad and myself, that would be me. I know part of the reason he struggles so much with accepting this is that I am a female, as well as younger than him but that really is no excuse. He even, at one point, told me he was deliberately trying to fail so that I would have no ride home from class (if he got kicked out) and would be unable to continue studying. He also seemed to think that course of action would cause my relationship with Sensei to deteriorate.

As painful as this conflict was, it is now resolved. Even so, Chad has been doing almost no supplementary training, so we will see where this leads.


Formal Training Week 14

The fourteenth week of training saw some significant changes in the way we trained and prepared for belt testing, so let's get started. Firstly, I was there early, as I came straight from school again. It's not that I have a problem with Robbie driving me to the dojang at all, its more that I prefer having the chance to stay at school late Thursday nights. I often do schoolwork in one of the empty classrooms, which not only allows me to get work done, but the quiet atmosphere helps me center myself so I arrive at Equa Do ready to learn. When I got to the school, nobody was really there yet except park district kids, and Master Eric was able to handle them without Sensei's assistance, so I got to spend some quality time with him. Our friend Aaron also came, having given Sensei a ride and I was pleased to learn that he will be beginning a study of Hapkido as well.

Once Master Eric had finished with the previous class, Sensei and Aaron set up mats in anticipation of us working with our crutches that night. Chad arrived moments later and we bowed into the training area, completing the formal start of class ritual with Master Eric. Chad had remembered both sets of crutches, so after 60 half jumping jacks and a few stretches we were told to get on the mat. Sensei helped me out of my chair and lowered me to the mat slowly, laying me on my back before doing the same with Chad.

He then showed us how the crutches could be used to strike upward and outward at an opponent standing over us, and ensured we could hit vulnerable spots such as the solar plexus, eyes, crotch, and throat. He also showed us that by thrusting both crutches outward in an x shape we could catch the opponent around the neck and cause serious issues for them if enough pressure was used. Once we were done on our backs, we rolled to either side and practiced striking out with one crutch at vulnerable spots like the ankle, shin and knee.

Master Eric came over to see what we were working on, surprised to find us out of our chairs. I explained that I had asked Sensei for instruction on how to fight if for some reason I needed to do so when my chair was not with me, or if my opponent got me out of my chair. So I showed him that Sensei had worked with me on my back, on my side, and kneeling. I also demonstrated how to get back up from the ground once I had my attacker either subdued or distracted enough to do so, and that once I had, my main objective would be to walk away from the encounter and get help, as always.

Master Eric worked with me on a few additional things, while Sensei helped Chad, who was struggling. Firstly he showed me that my crutch could be used the same way as the cane I typically train with if necessary. Then he took my crutches away from me altogether and had me go through blocks and strikes I have learned up til now in a kneeling position. He then had me do the same with Brush Trap Strike, and I am proud to say I was able to bring Master Eric to the mat multiple times with the force of my trap, and arm bar, remembering to launch additional strikes at the head, neck and spine once he was down.

For the rest of the lesson, Sensei had us brushing up on the fighting style he had just introduced us to. Then he let me get into my chair and do a short demo of "flow of combat" for Chad, who didn't seem able to grasp how techniques could be sequenced together in an actual fight. After we had been bowed out, Sensei called us over and gave us each a homework/reference sheet with the techniques he felt we should be working on at home.

Chad initially was gung ho (in front of Sensei) to do what was expected of him, however once we got home, it was a whole different story. That, however, is for another post. Before I sign off, let me show you the homework sheet we have been using!

There you have it!


Formal Training Week 13

Hi everyone. I know this blog hasn't been updated in quite some time, but the stress and responsibility of being a full time college student sort of caught up with me for awhile there. I have managed to find my way out of my endless to do list and will be updating this with the backlog of lessons that occurred in the last few weeks.

The thirteenth week of formal training at Equa Do was much like the twelfth. It was not intended to be that way however. I had asked Sensei to begin working, at least with me, on how to use my knowledge of hapkido if I was standing on crutches. Obviously, in order to learn this, I need to actually use my crutches. But when Chad and Robbie arrived at Equa Do they discovered they had forgotten a pair for Chad. Rather than simply alienate Chad and have him sit there and do nothing, Sensei found us an out of the way area to work on things that did not require the crutches.

We did our typical warmups, (stretches and half jumping jacks) and then continued the blocking work we had begun the week previous to this. Chad still seemed to have trouble with the concept, often using the circular motion we have been taught to use for evading grabs rather than simply brushing it out of the way. This led to him pulling the foam weapon stand-in closer to his body in most cases, and had the weapon been real he would have been injured if not killed. I stopped the session once again and corrected him, inadvertently frustrating him and causing Sensei to lecture him on taking criticism better from those with more experience.

As short as this blog post is, that really is all we managed to accomplish, and so this one will get ended here.

More momentarily,