Sunday, September 2, 2012

Formal Training Week 34 Part 2

The second class I attended at Equa Do during the last week of March was my typical Thursday lesson, however this class was momentous in that it was my last class before I traveled to Joliet to participate in the Tai Chi Seminar. In light of that fact, most of the lesson time was spent reviewing the Tai Chi.

The conversation at one point turned to the accomodations for the trip, and I became very anxious, going as far as running outside of the dojang and taking off my belt. Part of the anxiety was fueled by the fact that Master Eric and Grandmaster Moore were essentially paying my way for the seminar and I was afraid of letting them down. Add to that Chad being wary of me sharing a hotel room with Sensei and you had the perfect storm. I almost decided not to go at all, but in the end, I calmed down and decided to take the opportunity.

We went through the Tai Chi form one more time, then it was time to bow out. Little did Sensei and I know our night was only beginning. On the way home, we were exiting the highway when someone tried to speed past us on the exit ramp. Because it had been raining, we ended up losing control and spinning into a ditch at the side of the road. Neither of us had money for a tow truck and the policeman that stopped to check if we were alright wasn't much help. Sensei's parents came and tried to help but were unsuccessful, and in the end a Good Samaritan had to pull us out.

I was startled, but came away with only a few pulled muscles and some whiplash.


Formal Training Week 34 Part 1

The week following my green belt test was my spring break, so I ended up going to Equa Do both days this week. Part of the reason for that was that the following weekend I would be attending Grandmaster Moore's Tai Chi seminar in Joliet. Given that a wrist injury had recently set me back, I needed all the help I could get.

Tuesday's class focused on Hapkido, though since everyone had just gone through promotion we did not do much in the way of new material. Instead we spent most of the night polishing up things Master Eric felt we needed to improve upon, based on our performance on test day.

I worked with Sensei on white belt basics, as I had struggled, as I mentioned in my previous post, with running basic drills. This is partially Sensei's fault, and he has readily admitted that. He has been so concerned with getting me prepared to face any situation I might come across, that he skipped the conventional running of drills.

People may see this as an asset, since it means I was more quickly acclimated to facing real life situations, but it left me at a disadvantage to some degree as well. Firstly, one of the reasons drills are so important is because they help improve muscle memory. Simply put, the more we practice techniques the less thought we need to put into their execution. Seconds saved could mean the difference between life and death. Secondly, drills are like warmups, simply part of practicing a sport. If a visiting instructor were to lead classes at Equa Do, they would likely expect that I would be familiar with basic drills, and able to both run and lead them.

After class finished for the night, I spent time with Master Eric working on my Tai Chi skills for the following weekend. Thankfully, despite my wrist injury, I found it easy to get back into the flow of working with the Tai Chi.

More soon.


Green Belt Test

On Friday March 16th 2012, I tested for my green belt in Combat Hapkido. When I arrived at the school, the atmosphere was tense and expectant like it always is on testing day. I stayed to watch part of the little dragons Tae Kwon Do testing, as I always love watching the little ones show off what they've learned. But as my testing time approached, I began to struggle with anxiety, and so I went outside with Sensei to talk.

Once other Hapkido students began arriving, I headed back inside to prepare for testing. Thanks to bills being somewhat unpredictable this month, Master Eric agreed to let me test, and pay him the following week when my refund from school came in the mail. Thank goodness.

Test time arrived, and we all bowed in and began to warm up.Contrary to what I'd seen on other test days it looked as though something had gone amiss, though at first I couldn't really figure out why. All I knew was that Sensei, who usually focuses solely on me when I am testing, kept getting called away to help with other students. Later I learned that Anthony had been asked to show up and help, due to the amount of people we had testing, but had been unable to, leaving everyone scrambling.

In any case, here is the list of techniques I was tested on:

Strike Reps
Drills-garment grabs/brush trap strike
Quiz on the basics
Signature moves
Sparring- single/double

The only real hiccup we had was Sensei asking me to do drills, when usually he asks me to improvise. That threw me off, and I nearly had a panic attack. But, things were quickly resolved and I ended up passing my test. This was really the first test I struggled with in any way, and it was definitely a wake up call, which caused me to re-evaluate my work ethic.

More soon,


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Formal Training Week 33

The following Thursday was not only a few short days before testing, but also marked the third week I had been in my cast. By this point I was more than frustrated that I did not have the use of my dominant hand and almost desperate to be cleared to train at the normal level.

This week's lesson started out with limb destruction, which involves striking with force and precision at either pressure points or weak structural areas on a limb to disable it and cause damage to an opponent. Having always been an opportunistic fighter so to speak, this was something I caught onto quickly. It was also probably the one technique I was able to find where the half cast I was in could be used to my advantage.

I found myself quite distracted during this lesson as my injured wrist kept flexing and moving in my cast, and having it bound was extremely uncomfortable for me. Sensei called a friend of his about halfway through the lesson who walked him through how to check if the injury was healed. Thankfully it was, and I took great pleasure in removing my cast.

The rest of the lesson was spent reviewing everything I had learned until that point, as most students do before testing. Not only was I healed, I was ready.

More soon


Formal Training Week 32

Following the success of the St. Baldrick's event, I was eager to continue my training but still had that pesky wrist injury to deal with. As it was still causing some pain this week, warm ups were kept light, and mostly focused on whole arm or torso movements.

Due to the injury it was difficult to learn much in the way of new techniques, so we ended up going back to a lot of white belt level material and working on blocks especially. As frustrating as this was, it definitely gave me an opportunity to strengthen the left side, which is typically weaker.

Part of the reason such precaution was taken was because at this point I was only a few weeks away from green belt testing, and with how hard I had been working, Master Eric didn't want me to delay my test if I did not have to. As such, even practicing Tai Chi was put on hold, and the lesson was cut short.

More soon,


St. Baldrick's 2012

On March 3 2012 I participated in a local St. Baldricks event to raise money for childhood cancer research. Even better I was given the opportunity to do so while representing Equa Do Martial Arts. In response to my request for a donation, Master Eric contributed five lessons and a uniform as a raffle prize, as well as twenty dollars with which to purchase boards. The idea was to show those in attendance how to break one properly and then sell the remainder to those interested in giving it a try for two dollars a board. The proceeds would go to the St. Baldricks Foundation.

The day of the event, even though my arm was in a cast, I was very excited. I was finally going to have a chance to share the martial art I so love with a group of people who were new to it. Plus, it was for a great cause. Because Robbie and Chad were contributing in other ways, we had to get there extra early, so we beat Sensei by about half an hour or so. That was a good thing though, because the bar we were at started to get crowded, and fast.

About two thirty in the afternoon, we got our chance to do our first of two demos. Sensei began by explaining who we represented, and left me to explain the philosophy behind combat hapkido. I then told a little bit about why I chose to begin in the martial arts. and how I felt it had benefited me. Then we showed them some light sparring before moving on to board breaking. Surprisingly, this ended up being a really good sell, and over half the boards we brought with were used up. One was even broken by a 501st Legion member dressed as a stormtrooper!

Between demos, we canvassed the crowd for feedback and kind of started to plan in our heads for the next demo, based on what we heard. Equally important was getting something to eat and drink so as not to exhaust our bodies.

The second demo occurred later in the evening, when the crowd had changed over to include more adults than just families, which was a completely different demographic. For this one, we focused more on the philosophy behind Equa Do itself, and added cane work to the sparring portion. The rest of our boards were quickly bought and we finished to thunderous applause.

Then we just waited for final totals from the evening to be calculated, which were quite high. Equa Do alone contributed just over one hundred dollars to the final total, not bad for a last minute decision to participate.

More soon,


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Formal Training Week 32

With my wrist injury beginning to heal and my bronchitis gone, I had a much easier time at Equa Do the following week. School had been stressful as I could not write and could barely push my chair, so I was looking forward to a workout, even if I did have to take things slow.

Warm ups were omitted for the most part to avoid irritating my injury but that doesn't mean I was not allowed to train. Instead, Master Eric and Sensei taught me how to use my hard half-cast as a weapon, and then allowed me to do some light sparring. I did not do much, however, as pain began creeping up on me again.
Before leaving Equa Do, I asked Master Eric whether or not the school would be interested in contributing to a local St Baldricks event where I was participating as a volunteer and Chad as a shavee. I was able to get a donation, so my next post on this blog will be about the event.


Formal Training Week 31 part 2

Following my wrist injury earlier in the week I was unsure whether I should attend class a few days later, but Sensei encouraged it. Despite feeling ill from bronchitis that had been diagnosed the day before and the pain in my wrist, I attempted to train.

When I arrived at Equa Do Miss Linda demanded to know the details of my injury and rounded on Sensei to berate him when she learned he had been the one to buy the boards. I had just managed to convince him that I did not blame him when she did this so it took considerable effort to smooth things over again.

After this I bowed in but found most of the Hapkido techniques too painful in my injured state. All I ended up really doing was practicing one handed cane work on the uninjured side. Even Tai Chi was too hard due to the major role wrist rotation plays. By the time I bowed out I felt horrible and wanted nothing more than to go home.


Formal Training Week 31 Part 1

It is rare that I attend class on a night other than Thursday but with pressure mounting both at school and home as my graduation from CLC approaches I was still having more panic attacks than usual this week. As a result, I called Sensei and asked him to bring me to Equa Do on Tuesday so I could use some of my fear and frustration productively.

On our way to class we stopped at Lowe's to pick up some boards so I could do a demonstration for the other students, whom Sensei told me were having issues with confidence. After warmups and a class spent working on variations of brush trap strike the time for my demo arrived.

The board was set up on two cement bricks as always but I found it impossible to break. At Equa Do we have a
"Three strike you're out rule" meaning that someone attempting a break has three tries before they must stop and try another time. This is in place to prevent injury.

However, by the time I struck for the third time I was in much more pain than when I have broken in the past, and that board was still intact. I can't really describe it but something about that break just felt wrong to me. I had already ruled out strength and positioning as the issue, so that left the board itself. It turned out on closer examination that this was the case and the board had been cut so that when laid horizontally for breaking it was cross grain. Breaking cross grain is the quickest way to injure oneself so I did a short knife fighting demo instead.

It turns out I did injure myself, spraining my wrist badly. Following difficulty with managing swelling and pain I went to the ER the next day where it was put in a half cast and I was provided medication.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Formal Training Week 30

This was a very difficult week for me. Without any clear reason I had experienced at least one panic episode daily and they were severe and difficult to control. When I entered Equa Do, somewhere I usually feel very safe, I was set off and immediately began to panic, thinking that all of those who were there and were instructors had alterior motives. I was terrified that if I did not live up to their expectations I would lose their affection, which is something I am relying on more and more as I prepare to go away to school next fall. I even went so far as to ask Sensei to remove me from the list of students enrolled at Equa Do and take me home. The panic was so overwhelming I was also suicidal and as a result was very difficult to calm. I ended up panicking for all but the last few minutes of my class time, but Master Eric understood and allowed me to train for a full hour anyway.
Rather than work on Hapkido however, Master Eric asked me to try something new. He began showing me the first few movements in a form of Tai Chi. It is rare that students be allowed to train in multiple arts at a time, and in fact when I first began coming to Equa Do Master Eric said I would have to wait til I had a good solid mastery of Hapkido before I began a second style.

The form of Tai Chi I am working on is called Synergy Tai Chi Qigong. It combines techniques from several other types of Tai Chi into a simple yet effective form of movement and meditation. Though in the sequence I am learning there are 24 movements I have only so far learned the first 3. This particular style of Tai Chi is designed for maximum health benefit, particularly to those with illnesses or conditions that limit them. It also provides a way for the older generations to become involved in martial arts which has heretofore been considered a youthful pursuit.
The first movements were difficult to master but I eventually got the hang of it. I am grateful for Master Eric's seemingly endless patience. I ended up learning not only part of the art of Tai Chi itself but also some of its guiding principles. Tai Chi focuses on fostering beneficial use and balance of ki energy, or life force, within the body. We focused on deep breathing and learning to sense and transfer our ki.
Then Master Eric revealed he had a surprise for me. Grandmaster Moore, who created Synergy Tai Chi Qigong, will be giving a seminar in Joliet on March 31st and April 1st and has asked that I attend in order to receive my apprentice instructor certification. Not only is he waiving the requirement that instructor candidates hold a black belt in another style prior to attempting certification but he and others were coming together to provide the seminar experience to me at no cost. Sensei has been given the same gift. I am excited and awed and cannot wait to attend.


Formal Training Week 29

This week was a little bit different as Sensei decided we would combine with the Women's Self Defense course for the evening. We warmed up seperately and in our own ways. Since Sensei and I finished first, we did some sparring until Heidi and Athena were ready to join us.

We covered the proper way to hold a knife, the ten point strike, and defenses both armed and unarmed. This lesson was difficult because Heidi and Athena, while they have undeniable talent, learn much slower than I anticipated. Since I was helping Sensei show them the ropes so to speak, and I had been given feedback as to teaching too slow the last time I had given instruction to others, I stepped it up. What I should have done was start out slow and adjust my pace as necessary.

When I didn't do that and one of the other instructors stepped in it hurt my pride a bit. However, I understand why Tony made the choice he did. The details of the rest of the lesson are fairly fuzzy in my mind, probably as a coping mechanism for how poorly I performed. That said, Sensei and I agree we will not be combining classes again any time soon, and when we do we will judge the skill levels of those joining us a little more thoroughly and err on the side of caution.

More soon.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Formal Training Week 28

The most recent week of my training was quite eventful. I was more than ready to train after a long day at college, and a pleasant dinner at the Italian restaurant next to Equa Do with Sensei and Erin. For quite some time now, because Sensei discovered I learn most things through instinct and teach myself, he has been allowing me to dictate what we work on during training sessions, taking the knowledge I gained on my own even further.

I had been having trouble lately with spatial awareness and found myself getting into more traffic jams in the hallways at school. So therefore I asked to work on sparring with multiple opponents, and Sensei agreed. I was able to best Sensei and Tony by using my improved mobility due to my chair, and went on to unarmed flow of combat drills after that.

Near the end of the evening I asked to practice blindfighting again and was attacked by both Tony and Sensei once more. I allowed myself to use the fact that there were two of them to my advantage, sending one flying into the other so that they got tangled up and had to regroup before attacking again. Finally I showed what I had been learning to Heidi, a brown belt, and was able to strike her jaw when she underestimated me, freeing my hands from her grapple and winning the match.

I have come so far in such a short time.

More soon,


Formal Training Week 27

This week's training was nowhere near as eventful as the weeks prior, but I made a promise when I began this blog to recap each week of my training, however short that recap may be.

Erin rejoined class this week, though her return was not altogether positive. She is a slow learner, which is not so much a problem, but she is also resistant to correction. This frustrates both Sensei and myself, although we care for her and love her very much. She constantly thinks she understands more than she does and ends up teching others incorrectly. I have been allowed to help instruct because I learn fast and couple that speed with proficiency.

This week was thus occupied with trying to teach Erin flow of combat, with basic weaponry, as well as four point blocking. She continually lost focus however, and insisted on meditating rather than training, so Sensei and I worked on speed and accuracy drills instead, with Anthony helping out where he could.

All in all, I was glad the night went quickly so I could get home and vent my frustrations.

More soon,


Formal Training Week 26

This week marked the beginning of my spring semester at school, and as such, a return to my usual habit of only attending formal class once a week. The end of the week prior had been quite eventful as I was hospitalized following class at Equa Do, but that is a story for another time and post.

When I arrived at Equa Do from school, the class prior to mine was finishing up, and I was very nervous. Why? It was BELT CEREMONY DAY. When Master Eric started the belt ceremony, there were a few novices receiving belts, then a white to yellow belt promotion, and then my name was spoken. I bowed in and approached the front of the training space where Master Eric waited. He spoke to everyone about the incredible amount of hours I put in to training when I am not at the school, as well as several papers I had written for the use of Equa Do. This demonstration of knowledge led to him granting me my first double promotion. Achieving a double promotion is very difficult and it is something that can only be done three times per martial artist, as any more would throw the student's credibility into doubt. First my white belt was retired, and I was handed a yellow belt, before that was taken from me as well and I was promoted to orange belt. At the end of the ceremony as two students received their red-black belts, we were all bowed to and then class continued as normal.

During my illness the week prior, I had been sexually assaulted by a doctor from whom I sought treatment. Repressed guilt over the fact that I had, in my mind, allowed it to happen, made training very difficult as I felt I no longer deserved training if I could not use it when necessary.I refused to train and it took both Sensei and Master Eric to calm me down, and remind me that I had not immediately been suspicious because a) we have always been taught to trust doctors, and b) pain and nausea clouded my judgement. I did what I could once I understood that something was very wrong and for that I deserved to be commended not punished.

We did a little bit of basic weapon work and unarmed combat but left soon after as I could not handle anymore.

More soon,


Formal Training Week 25 Part 2

I still insisted on going to class on the last Thursday of winter break, despite feeling quite ill. I had not kept food down in several days, but as this is not uncommon with my panic disorder and the reaction to the extremely cold weather thanks to having Cerebral Palsy, I thought nothing of it.

There was a huge snowstorm this night, so there wasnt really much of a plan as far as class went. I had Erin stop at Loew's on the way to the school, and using some of my holiday money, bought a few pine boards of the proper dimension for board breaks.

When we got to Equa Do we did a bit of sparring, and worked on using sticks, as well as knife and cane. Then near the end of class I set out to break as many of those boards as I could. Sensei broke a board, simply cause he hadn't in a while, I broke four, one after another, and Erin even accomplished her first board break. Three of my four breaks were captured on video, (thank goodness for cell phones) and I will post links to them once they have been added to the Equa Do website.

More soon,


Formal Training Week 25 Part 1

I had the following week off from school as well, and spent it with Sensei and Erin again as it was my last week of winter holiday. This meant, of course, that I would be going to class on Tuesday again.

The original plan was to teach the same lesson I had taught a week prior, except this time, my students would be the novices and low belts. However, Anthony finally returned to the school following an extended absence and with Sensei not in control of the lesson plan anymore, the idea was pushed to the side. This hurt a little, but I was secretly glad, as I was not feeling well at all. Shortly after arriving at Equa Do both Sensei and I vomited our entire meals.

So, rather than teach I was allowed to demonstrate my skills in knife fighting for Anthony, as I had asked to be included in the same class as the ablebodied students rather than relegated to a corner. Anthony was impressed and took what Sensei had taught me a step further, teaching me to apply the same techniques to the use of a simple ballpoint pen. His reasoning was simple. I am more likely to have a pen available to me at any given time rather than a knife.

Unfortunately, due to feeling so ill, I don't remember much else from this lesson with the exception of perhaps a bit of brush trap strike so I will end this here.

Much love,


Formal Training Week 24 Part 2

In addition to attending the able bodied Hapkido class over winter break, I still had my usual class with Sensei and Erin on Thursday. I was still having panic issues but this time they came from a different source. I had been staying at Erins with Sensei the last couple of days in a mini vacation of sorts. This provided a huge mental boost, as I am happier among my surrogate family than anywhere else, including, sad as this sounds with my own fiancee. I was now panicking because I did not want to go home.

Be that as it may, Sensei convinced me that training would help ease the anxiety and after our usual warmups I practically begged for something new to learn, as I have become bored with using class time to mindlessly beat out strike repetitions when I can do that just as well sitting at home. In response, Sensei said it was time for me to begin learning to fight without the use of the senses that are most crucial to my survival. Therefore, we began work on blindfighting.

A dishtowel was tied over my eyes as a makeshift blindfold and I sparred, simple as that. Though the exercise started out with only Sensei attacking me, he soon stepped back and allowed the other instructors present (which is to say, all of them) to work with me. Why? To teach me to account for different fighting styles, and also learn to identify the instructor working with me on sense alone. Believe it or not the lesson was very successful, and I continue to enjoy testing my prowess through blindfighting when Sensei runs out of lesson ideas.

More in a sec,


Formal Training Week 24 Part 1

This week, I was able to attend both days of Combat Hapkido lessons due to a break from school. Each night of class I attended will be a seperate blog entry. I had a very rough day panic wise on Tuesday and so Sensei felt I needed a boost to my confidence. As a result, I not only went to Equa Do but I was asked to assist in teaching that night.

All of the students regardless of belt level warmed up together, under Brandon's instruction as he has recently become Cho Dan Bo. We were asked to do jumping jacks but not given a specific number as Sensei usually does with me. The able bodied classes are often given this type of open ended instruction so to speak, and I went along with it, as it was a nice challenge. The end result? 110 jumping jacks. Stretches were done as was a review of basic strikes and blocks. I thought Brandon did a fantastic job with this, though I helped out by keeping an eye out for students who were having trouble and offering gentle correction where I could.

After that Sensei asked the upper belts (purple and up) to grab a folding chair and meet him and myself in a corner of the dojang for a special lesson. Essentially I taught the wheelchair lesson that I posted on this blog previously, without some of the mobility component. In place of that I instructed the students in standing after initially engaging their opponent in the chair.

Master Eric came over once I had taught the basics and added that he wanted them utilizing pressure points as well. Therefore I allowed him to teach that section of my lesson, since I have not done much with pressure points thus far. However, there is a tradition of sorts at Equa Do that whoever is instructing that night tends to get to be the one new techniques are demonstrated on. As I was the one teaching Master Eric decided to hold to that and use me to show where various pressure points were on the head and neck. Unfortunately he forgot about the cerebral palsy that I have having a weird reaction to the use of pressure points and not only did his demo hurt more than intended, but it caused spasms to radiate down my spine. When they didn't go away as quickly as expected I let Sensei know and he and Master Eric gave me some Advil and water.

Once I had recovered, I decided that since we were almost at the end of class, and I was teaching upper belts, I could allow some sparring practice that incorporated the techniques I had just taught. Other than a few minor bruises from some miscalculations, this section of class was very successful and as such the night ended on a very positive note.

More soon,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

There's Something Special About Sensei

THappy New Year to all of my readers around the world. As my 2012 begins, I find it impossible to avoid reflecting on 2011. 2011 was, as I said, the year I began my study of Hapkido and come so much further than I thought I would. But that progress would not have been made without my wonderful Sensei, Blaine Coplon. He has done so much to aid me in becoming the person I want to be and so this blog post is being written to honor him.

When I met Blaine he was immediately able to see the potential I had and made it clear that he did not intend to allow my Cerebral Palsy to stop me from learning Hapkido. Though I was unable to get to Equa Do for classes at first he made a weekly commitment to tutor me privately. In return, I made sure I never missed a lesson, and even though I do attend classes at the dojang now, the lessons on Mondays have become a tradition neither one of us want to lose. It truly has brought us closer.

A few weeks after I began training under Blaine, I felt comfortable enough to open up to him about the nine years of abuse I suffered at the hands and tongues of my parents. As soon as I began to open up, I also began to heal. It did not take us both long to realize that the years of damage that were done had prevented me from having much of a childhood and from being able to mature properly. I am still, in many ways, a young child and therefore in need of parenting, affection, and guidance. Senseis have the ability to take many roles in a student's life. It is lucky for me that Sensei was willing, despite the narrow age difference between us from a biological standpoint, to assume the role of my surrogate father.

He has done everything he can to repair the damage done by my parents, showing me that I am deserving of love and care. He has taken me on outings, encouraged me to treat myself to new foods and small presents when appropriate, and even sometimes allowed me to act younger than I am so that I can get away from the pressure of making adult decisions when I get too overwhelmed. Though his gifts to me are immaterial they mean far more than he realizes.

But my favorite thing about Sensei is how much passion he has for his job as my instructor. Once he was able to demonstrate to Equa Do's Headmaster, Eric Deveau, his unique ability to teach those with disabilities, Master Eric challenged him to become the instructor of a special class for the disabled. Though the class has very few students right now, Sensei has done a fantastic job of getting the students he has engaged in everything from deciding what techniques we work on in a given night to finding ways to get more students in and grow the class.

This blog post, is a simple way of recognizing all Sensei (Daddy) has done for me and so many others and I hope he gets the appreciation he deserves.