Superwife - Camo belt - D

My wife of 8 years and mother of our three kids. She started TKD after the birth of Odie, our third child.

Princess - Camo Belt - D

Our seven-year-old daughter. She was originally supposed to be a spectator to Cowboy, but jumped in and has proven to have an incredible talent for the martial arts.

Cowboy - Camo Belt - D

Our six-year-old son. He is small for his age, so starting him in TKD is what got us into this mess. He is very close to our Chief Instructor, and his spirit is twice as big as he is.


Our youngest son, born in April of 2006. By the time he is old enough to start, we should all be Black Belts.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Final Class

We walked out of our first school for the last time last night.

Princess, SW, and I graduate to Green Belt-D today at a high school that our school owner rents for our joint school graduations. After that, we won't be putting our dobaks on until late July, after we move in and get settled.

I have mixed feelings. I feel like the school is going in a good direction, finally. The new chief instructor is finally figuring out what the students are like, and everyone else in our class that is in leadership is finally figuring out whats expected of them and getting into it. New students are showing up every day.

We were the last ones to leave last night, after Cowboy got his new belt. After the lights were turned off I went onto the floor one last time and bowed. I am truly going to miss this place. Our lives have changed so much in the last year and a half due in large part to the experiences we've had on the first leg of our Journey. A new dawn is rising, and we are eagerly looking to the next step.

I am concerned about the break--whether the kids will be as motivated to take things back up after not having to go for so long. SW and I are committed, so hopefully they will be as excited as we are. I'm at a loss for a way to keep us in the game over the break.

So--so long Tucson ATA. And thank you.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Best Instructor Ever

Before I even begin, I realize that every student in the world is going to have a different definition of the best instructor ever. Here's mine.

Push me. Push me hard, but not to exhaust me--push me to excel. Make me do things that I didn't realize that I could do. This is the singlemost motivating thing for me in a physical environment, whether it be flying, running, or the martial arts.

I had a student one time when I was in college as an instructor at ROTC Field Training. This girl was skinny, relatively weak, and spending the hottest part of the summer doing PT on the beaches of Florida. Needless to say, she was not happy. Each evening we would have the cadets for around 30 minutes of intense physical training--the hardest part of the day. Whereas most of the other instrcutors would grab a magaphone and just yell for 30 minutes, I found it much more productive to pick one cadet and spend the whole 30 minutes with him/her. In this case, I had the cadet doing flutterkicks. After about 5 minutes, she dropped her feet and told me she couldn't do any more. I sat on the ground next to her and taught her how to "zone." In about 5 minutes, in her head, I had her on a beach in Hawaii--describing the sand, the trees, even the noises the seagulls were making. Every time she would start to come back to the present her feet would start to fall. When I got her to go back to Hawaii, she would continue doing flutterkicks. No--it was not fun for her. But after we were done, this girl that gave up after 5 minutes had been doing flutterkicks constantly for almost a half an hour. She thanked me for it weeks later.

I was in class a few weeks ago with the school owner, pissed off at the direction the school was going. We were doing kicks on the heavy bag, and the rest of the class was exhausted. We had already done about a hundred kicks by this point. As I hit the bag, as hard as I could, he shouted out "You can't break ME!"

It was the most motivated I've been since Nationals, and changed my attitude about training from that point on.

When I was training at Master Candidate Plamer's ATA in Florida last summer, we were doing round kicks across the room. We spent almost the whole class doing round kicks. I was an orange belt at the time. A 1D parked herslef next to me as we were doing the kicks and offered tips every time we went across the room. In between sets we would do side leg lifts and stretches, huge stretches that I hadn't done before or since. By the time we left my legs were like rubber. Before that class the highest I had kicked was about chest height. As we were leaving the 1D pulled me aside.

"Just so you know, that last round of kicks was about 6 inches above your head."

It seems so small now, but at the time I just floated home. It was the most motivating moment of my Songahm journey so far.

So that's what I'm looking for: an instructor to push me, motivate me, past the arbitrary point that I have in my head as a limit. Take me beyond that limit. Show me what I am capable of.

That's the best instructor ever.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Home Stretch

Our time here is rapidly coming to an end.

Again, focus is so far below that of what it was when we were ramping up for Nationals that it's not even recognizable. But at least the motivation is there, on the adult side.

On the kidlet front Cowboy still goes 100% every time he goes, simply because he still loves it. Princess, on the other hand, is barely hanging on. I'm still afraid she'll quit once given the opportunity by us leaving to go to Alabama. Once her beloved instructor left, the air was just sucked out of her sails--and it doesn't appear to be coming back.

As far as SW and I go, we've already determined our own path--we've spent far too much money and time to quit now. We've already decided that even if the school in Montgomery is miserable, we have to stick it out simply because we can't go back at this point.

Class has been interesting, to say the least. Once it was finalized who would be in Leadership, and SW and I realized we would not be in that crowd, I was filled with mixed emotions. We probably wouldn't do it here, anyway, since it is more of a purely instructor training than leadership training, and it's just so expensive here. But the fact that we have been kicked to the curb (other classmate's words--not mine) was really a smack in the face. At the very least, the staff should have at least told us why we weren't coming in. Again, speaking from experience, if you let the student make up his/her own reasons as to why things are happening, 99% of the time they will choose the worst-case scenario. This school has so much potential to be great, if only they could overcome some really simple obstacles.

I do love this school, and this region--I really do. It breaks my heart to see my friends all moving on and leaving us behind, even though in a month we would be doing the same to them. But we are looking forward to moving on to another pasture--whether it be greener or not.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Changing of the Guard

This weekend marks the last time I'm going to learn from my first instructor.

I'm filled with mixed emotions--sadness, optimism, some anger. I'm very optimistic of our new instructor--he has more energy than any of the Tiny Tigers, teaches things very quickly and runs us into the ground in our workouts. But there's no chemistry yet--none of that which we've developed over the last year with our instructor.

It's been interesting to watch, the dynamic between not only the students and instructor--but also between the students themselves, and the instructors themselves. I still hold a feeling inside that there is something more to our teacher leaving on his own journey. Things that he's said or done seem to make me feel that it is not 100% what he wants to do. Still--he has been teaching us this week, and remaining true to his ways rather than changing to accommodate the new instrcutor's style of teaching.

I wish there were a happy medium--somewhere between what our new instructor is and what our old is. The intensity of the new guy with the care of the old. If only we could have them both...

And then there's Cowboy. He absolutely idolizes the old instructor, and SW and I are worried about what his reaction will be. He seems to think that anyone not with us would be "alone" and that's what bothers him the most. And the old instructor, who at the beginning was cold and distant to the students, has come to show real affection for Cowboy. I could not pick a better person or teacher for him, and I fear losing that.

As part of the changes that have been instituted with this changing of the guard, all of the adults have been invited into Leadership. All, that is, except for SW and I. I'm not sure why--if it is because of us leaving, our attitude, or something else. We are extremely loyal to the school, all objections included. But it didn't surprise me when we weren't invited. I can't exactly explain why. One of the other adults has been hired on as part-time help, presumably to fill the void that the old 3rd Degree assistant left when she abruptly departed. We don't have time to do that, nor the expertise, so maybe that has something to do with it. But then again neither do any of the other adults.

Part of being a leader is caring for your people. Part of caring is letting them know where their shortfalls are and how to fix them. I think this area, more than any other, has been the biggest issue with our Songahm experience so far.

My attitude has dramatically improved. I think the majority of the issues I was facing are past me now, and can be directly or indirectly pointed at the things outside of TKD that were weighing on me. We still haven't sold the house, but TKD is quickly becoming the escape it once was for our lives. Our goals at this point are to learn as much as we can over the next two months from our school--and then press on to whatever the next leg of this journey holds for us.

Farewell, Mr. N. You have been an inspiration to us and a spirit that we will never forget. When we get our Black Belts, one of my first thoughts will be to thank you--wherever you are.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


What a crazy cycle this has been.

We all went to our graduation in early March, right after Nationals. My attitude (if you haven’t been able to discern so far) had been on a steady decline and it continued as I watched our graduation with more of a “this is a waste of time” attitude than what it should be. I guess I’m just more of a testing type of person—rather than “you do the time you get the belt” type. . We learned all of CJ1 to compete at Nationals, but were only permitted to do half of it since we were only promoting a half belt. At Nationals itself, as at the graduation, Cowboy didn’t even know what form he was doing. In any case, my attitude was, and has been, a violation of the “loyalty for my instructor” tenet of our oath.

As the cycle progressed, it didn’t improve, but rather it continued to crash. Couple that with the fact that I increasingly found my time more and more in demand for other activities than TKD. I missed over half of the classes, and two times I missed entire weeks. The family got to keep going, but they missed a lot as well. We’ve just been busy with traveling and selling our house.

After we got back from one of the week-long hiatus’s, we came back to find that one of our instructors, the female assistant, had left. This ground me into the earth—mainly because of how I felt about her as an instructor. She is younger than any of the other instructors, but while our Chief Instructor is well-versed in many other martial arts (including black belts in Judo and Wu Shu), she is ATA through and through. It has it’s advantages and disadvantages—a lack of breadth traded in for a increased depth. Top ten for the last few years, State Champion more than once, and a kick-ass fighter in the ring. What bothered me was that they (the school owner and Chief Instructor) never let her teach. She was relegated to teaching the Tiny Tigers, and the lower-rank color belts. If I was in her shoes, I would have been miserable. I guess she was. No warning, no goodbyes, just *poof*. Away she went. I was even mad at her for a while, since Princess idolizes her and she didn’t even say goodbye. Princess came back from Disney with a set of Minnie Mouse ears for her that she never got to give her.

Attitude continued to crash after that. I found it hard to get motivated to go to class, and even harder to stay motivated in a class that I felt was not only unchallenging, but not teaching the skills that I wanted for both me and my family. Our Chief Instructor was relegated to the role that the female instructor had as our school owner took over senior instructor duties. We had one great class, taught with the level of intensity I wanted, working us to the point of exhaustion. At the time our Chief Instructor was on vacation back in his home town in California. I wished he could have seen it just to see how motivated and capable we really could be if pushed.

That’s when the last blow came for this cycle.

Our Chief Instructor came back to announce that he, too, was leaving. In May he is going back to California to open his own ATA school with his brother. Standing outside the door was our new Chief Instructor, a 5th degree triple crown winner from Pheonix. I immediately recognized him from our regional tournaments.

My jaw dropped.

That was last week. Since then our new instructor has shown his colors—teaching brutal, but motivating, workouts to the adults, and having a great time with the kids. I am really going to miss our old one, since he is particularly close to Cowboy. We haven’t told him yet—because I don’t think he’s going to take it very well.

I’m pretty excited. Right now I think the new guy is just getting a feel for the class, but I see great things on the horizon. Unfortunately also on the horizon is our departure for another change in the ATA world. At least we’ll have two months to get ready.

Finally, my attitude is changing.

I started the "Soul" challenge--and abruptly had a lot of family activities to get in the way. Fortunately it's still early on, so I should be able to catch up relatively quickly.


PUSHUP: -1006
SITUPS: -1126
LUNGE: -884
MILES: -25.1
OTHER CARDIO: -360 minutes

Monday, April 09, 2007


What a mistake this turned out to be.

To get to the point first, I placed roughly in the middle on forms, and got crushed (again) in sparring. When the finger-pointing began, I had a direct target that I used rather than myself, who should have been the sole receptor of my frustration.

We don't spar in class. For better or worse, that's the hand we've been dealt. Since we started BBC in late December, I've sparred a grand total of around 6 rounds, almost all with the same person (kinda have to--we're the only males in our class). Two of those came after Nationals, so going to "the big show" I had only free-sparred, in a ring, four times (not counting the disaster at Mesa). Even in the days leading up to the tournament, we kept doing drills in class--which are nice, but don't give you any experience in a real match. Even with all of this, I felt pretty confident going to Vegas.

Circus Circus, for those of you that may go to Vegas in the future, is kind of a pit. Yes, it has entertainment for the monkies, but for the price we paid for it I expected a lot more. Especially when we looked at some of the other hotels while we were sight-seeing. We also weren't very well-versed in the ways of Vegas, and didn't know that we could take our car and park at pretty much any hotel. Would have saved a lot of walking and stress, plus we would have seen a lot more.

We were late registering, and I almost choked when they gave me the total for the four of us to enter: $225.

The venue was simply awesome. HUGE area with plenty of walking room, in comparison to the other tournaments we've been to. Tons of room to practice, which SW and I took advantage of since we had just learned CJ1 and hadn't really practiced it much. After going through it around 20 times, we felt ready to go.

I was very impressed with the way that the judges ran the Tiny Tigers rings--quickly enough for us to watch and run back over to watch Princess. As expected, the competition was a lot tougher than it had been at the Regional tournaments. Princess got a little scared at the very-much-increased intensity and excessive force and lost her first match 5-4. She ended up tying for third in forms and won the three-way tiebreaker, so we, as a family, won something.

I went next--late in the afternoon. There were 18 colored belts in our camo-green ring, with one purple belt. I did my form as well as I could, and got scored appropriately. There were a few guys that were simply amazing--like 2nd degree amazing, and they rightfully won. When we sparred, some had clearly had great sparring training, a few had not. The other guy in my class went first and destroyed the guy he went against. We usually go half and half as far as victories against each other, so my confidence went up a bit.

I faced off against a guy that was about 4 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than I. Before we started I immediately thought that it would be easy to get a head shot on him. I went defensive, not agressive as I was at Mesa, and eventually shot a kick out.

Before my leg had moved 6 inches, he was gone. This guy was so fast that I couldn't get close to him--and when I did, he easily moved out of the way and punched me in the chest. I lost, again, 5-0. The guy I went against went on to take 3rd. My buddy got crushed in his second match, with the guy that beat him going on to take 2nd.

Two tournaments in competition sparring, and I have yet to score a point.

SW did better--she did about the same as I did on her form, even with missing her kihaps, and won her first sparring match. Her second match she went against a girl twice her size, who would just chamber and hold it. When SW would try to knock her over it was like running into a wall. Time ran out, with her down 4-3.

A few things bothered me about the whole experience.

First, our instructors were all there. The school owner was (presumably) judging somewhere else, Ms. C was competing in her ring, but our Chief Instructor was nowhere to be found. All of his adult students competed at the same time--I would have made it a major priority to be there, if for no other reason than to see how my instruction fared against everyone else.

Second, once again, there was not a "half-belt" in sight, kid or adult, other than those at our school. Out of the 18 in our ring, we were two of four that were not in leadership, and the only two with the ridiculous red vinyl sparring gear. Looks aren't important to me--the added ability in the sleeker black gear is.

Third, a brown belt from another school was asking me about our school while I was watching SW. He saw me fight, and was asking how our sparring classes ran. Not sparring in class, but our sparring classes. He was shocked when I told him that we just don't do that where we're from. He was also shocked when he found out that none of our adult students were in leadership.

All in all, it was an eye-opening and demoralizing experience for me, a lot like Mesa. After I left, I pledged that unless our training drastically changes (it hasn't) to work more on sparring, that I was done woth tournaments. I've kept true to that by skipping the last tournament in Chandler. From what I was told, the judging there was just like Mesa--with a three-way tie in sparring, and all three getting medals.

The region is weird. I'm ready to move on to another school and another region. If we were staying here for longer than we are, I would be having serious doubts of continuing in our current school--the only thing that would keep me around is that fact that all the ATA's in our city are run by the same guy, so presumably it's the same across the board.

Still Alive

I'm still here, still alive, and still taking Tae Kwon Do.

Where should I start? If you read on my other blog, you'll see how crazy my life became in a very short time. One thing that I didn't expound upon, was that the roller-coaster that I rode on for 5 weeks started two weeks before Nationals, right when I said I was going to start my next challenge. As a result, any preparations I made for Nationals, as well as starting the challenge (or working out at all) got put on the back burner. Waaay on the back burner.

So--I'll start there. Nationals.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Soul of the Dragon

Last week of the UWBT.

For a couple of days there I had all but given up hope that I was going to be able to finish on time. After a couple of big runs, and 500-pushup days, it's starting to look like I'll finish the running on schedule, possibly the pushups as well. Including today there are 6 days left. As long as I don't take any breaks, I just might be able to call what is left of the UWBT a success.

If you look back to the beginning, there were a lot of things on there that fell by the wayside--PV's, Books read, sparring, forms, etc. I think maybe I was a little overzealous with how much time I estimated it would take versus how much time I actually had. With the next challenge I've added a lot, but it remains to be seen if I've made the same mistake again.

The UWBT, "Spirit of the Dragon," was designed to get me back into the martial arts/fitness mindset--to essentially just get into shape and make working out a daily requirement in my life. This challenge, the "Ultimate Camo Belt Challenge--Soul of the Dragon," is designed to take me to the next level of fitness and capability in the martial arts. I've kept the same events along the lines of pushups, situps, and running, and jacked up the requirements a little (going for 15,000 pushups/situps, 350 miles walk/run). But I've added more to it to develop my skills rather than just get into shape. Specifically, I've added pullups (3000), lunges (10000 each side), sidekick extensions (5000 each leg), and an additional cardio event of "other," in which I'll be doing 3 hours of cardio (45 minutes every other day) per week other than running. Typing this out the numbers look big--but when broken down by day they're doable.

One thing I need to remember while starting this new program is the biggest lesson I learned in "Spirit." I took essentially the whole month of September off. This put me in such a bind that I have never caught up, except briefly on the muscular stuff. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise--since in order for me to make significant progress I had to train to a level much higher tha the UWBT was designed for. Instead of the prescribed 1.4 miles per day, my average run is around 4 miles--sometimes twice a day. Instead of the prescribed 70 pushups/situps per day, I have regularly accomplished several hundred per day. Obviosuly, this has yielded much greater results than I would have seen had I remained on schedule. So--raising the requirements for "Soul" shouldn't be that big of a deal, since I've been doing well over twice the requirements for "Spirit" for quite a while now. Bottom line--if I sit for a month on this one, like I did on the last one, there will be no catching up. The price for big mistakes on this trip is failure.

In an effort to cheat get ahead align the challenges with the beginnings of a month, I'm starting "Soul" today, even though "Spirit" doesn't end until the 6th. Since I'm ramping it up pretty hard to finish strong, this should launch me ahead quite a bit right from the beginning.


PUSHUP: -554
SITUPS: -1464
MILES: -17