the greatest challenge
in retrospect, i’m pretty sure the rib was broken/fractured. it took a full week for the most crucial knitting to finish, so that i could take a deep breath without wincing, or even cough at all. even then, i still had to press down over my chest and brace the rib to do so, or the pain was alarming. since then (3 weeks?) the pain when i cough or sneeze (oof) has grown less and less until now, when i don’t feel pain at all anymore. in my mind, i still sort of wince before i cough, waiting for it anyway.
in fact, aside from the strange tightness that ratcheted up in my chest muscles (and other muscles that criss cross my ribs) in response to the injury—which is fading away—i almost feel entirely better. though if i inhale very fully and hold my breath, i can feel the spot in my left chest where the fracture happened. just sort of a…”there” there. a knot that isn’t painful, but perhaps isn’t done entirely healing deep down in the bone.
i actually wasn’t positive it had been a fracture until one night about a week ago when luna crawled up on my chest to sleep one night. a little elbow or dig of her head into my rib there and i almost shrieked as my bone screamed out silently under the pressure you better be careful or i’ll crack again!!! i knew from that feeling, in an instant, that i was feeling the pain of a knitting rib being pressured, and it was nothing like a muscle or bruise sort of pain. it was like a siren going off!
anyway. i’m very glad to have that behind me. if anything, it instilled a lesson in me and now i practice hard on keeping my guard up, protecting my ribs. especially when launching a reverse-spin kick. that’s what happened. i attacked with a reverse spin kick which landed well, right in the belly. i think the person was not expecting it, and sort of snapped his leash, bashing me in the ribs. (they are about 100 pounds heavier and 7 inches taller and 4 belts higher, so it was a bit excessive), BUT that couldn’t have happened if i didn’t drop my guard.
anyway, unless you are prepared to deal with injuries and then keep moving, martial arts is clearly not the pursuit for you! it’s always something. thumb, foot, knee, rib.
my tendons and muscles in my legs are surely stretching out. i can tell not only from the fact that i can now touch my head to my knee while stretching, i can also stretch wider, and i can see it on the leg stretching machine. you crank that up by hand, and use it after manual stretching. about a month ago i was up to 125, and now i’m almost up to 150. that’s pretty groovy. my goal is to be able to do a sideways split in one year.
the looser you can get those muscles, the higher your kicks can be, especially your side kicks, hook kicks, roundhouse and spin hook kicks. my front kick is already pretty good. i can target the chin of someone my height. actually, i can kick higher (and fast with a good snap) than my own head with a front kick. tho these kicks are very effective simply at knee level, or stomach and rib level.
i don’t usually like doing poomsae with a group of people. in a group, people seem to rush through them. i’m not sure why. maybe they feel it is a measure of their having memorized them. but i like to slow them down, and find the natural rhythm in each one. hit each stance nice and solid and then glide into the next. they really are amazing, powerful, relaxing. but when you are with a group of people who are rushing through them, you tend to be matching or chasing the person with the sloppiest stances, because they’ll be the first to move to the next move.
plus, when i’m first learning them, i like to really slow them down and feel out my body as i hit each stance to make sure i’m doing it right; nice long front stance, nice solid back stance, etc. i don’t like to practice sloppy because then you always perform it sloppy, even once you remember it. i don’t think everyone gets this. there’s no point in instilling muscle memory if you are memorizing sloppy form. in fact, you will have to work harder later to correct that.
i’m very psyched about blue belt test in three weeks. this belt i have now bridged me from my last dojang to this one. it also spans the…thirteen years i stopped formally training. so i’ve had it a long time! plus the belts in this dojang are a tiny bit longer than my old belt. this has a nicer look, i think. also, i don’t like the look of the in-between (instructor) belts! you just get a stripe of tape the color of the next belt. i know that last reason is (okay, the last two reasons are) superficial. either way, i look forward to the test and to passing, and to a new belt and level of proficiency. i will be ready.
i hit my poomsae hard. as soon as i learn it. i go after it every day, multiple times as soon as i’m shown. so i can know it. the sooner you know the progression of moves, the sooner you can spend the rest of the time refining it. some people don’t do this and now, three weeks from the test, they don’t even know it so well…and i know it’s not always their fault. their lives might be such that they can’t spend enough time on it. also, not everyone wants to test every time a test comes up.
from kicking techniques to self-defense moves to poomsae, i’m ready to test and looking forward to it.
the local sports joint had a clearance sale on free-standing heavy bags. so i got one at a good price. i’m really happy to have it. sure, it takes up a spot in the living room. but it’s so very handy to practice kicks on, especially the ones where you spin or turn your back. it’s one thing to practice reverse spin kicks and spin hook kicks in place, and in the air. this helps you develop your balance and speed and technique (to a degree). but until you have something to strike, your practice is incomplete.
after all, it does no good to launch a kick that is well executed in most ways if you’re going to land off-center! throw a kick (in competition or in real life) that misses a person, and you are setup to be hit back. having this here really is helping me target better. and helping me to find and perform small tweaks on the technique. such as if you launch a reverse spin kick with feet wider apart, you have to spin/turn a bit further before you unchamber your kicking leg, to hit the target behind you. versus if you launch it with feet closer together, you have to extend a moment sooner to hit that same target. things like that. (these are how i describe these adjustments, but they might not work for you that way. bodies are different, and there’s no accounting for how you read what i’m trying to convey.)
i could tell today in class, after having practiced these kicks for a few days on the heavy bag that my balance was also improved when practicing them in the air. that’s a great feeling. nothing worse than practicing with the class and falling all over! although when you do ten reverse spin kicks in a row (on each side) it is understandable if you get dizzy. happens to the best of us, as they say.
i sort of saw things come round on the person who used to mess with me a little bit when i first showed up at the dojang (red belt; i wrote about this earlier) and who kicked me around pretty good in sparring, aaaand whom i realized probably had some social issues in making friends or feeling secure. (he seems to be getting friendlier, by the way). i didn’t complain about any of that, nor did i feed into it, nor did i really take great offense at it. i don’t feed any negativity at the dojang, and it’s not usually an issue because there is rarely any there. but today standing next to him as we practiced our many kicks in class—from hook kick to spin hook to reverse spin kick—i let myself feel a bit of quiet pride. maybe even a tiny tinge of glee. his form cannot hold a candle to mine. nor could he even keep up. hell, his hook kicks looked like mush. no snap at all to them.
nah, i won’t gloat and i won’t rub it in his face. as far as he knows, i didn’t even see or notice, and that’s fine. again, that’s not what i’m there for. to me, part of being a TRUE martial artist involves a positive energy, a kindness (in all instances except when someone comes at you with malice. and even then, you get away from it or dispatch them with speed and efficiency). the very thing he didn’t show me. but he can learn that when he’s ready. i’m not there to teach him. after all, he’s a few belts higher than me. right?
i’m just sayin’. being loud, being higher rank, being able to make the heavy bag swing higher when you kick it…it doesn’t make you a better martial artist. don’t forget one important thing: mind, heart, and body; you are competing against yourself out there. that is the most important challenge to take up. if you find yourself lashing out at those who do not deserve it, well…you are probably dodging that challenge.