Saturday, October 29, 2011


In all athletic disciplines, it is the internal work that makes the physical mat time click, but it is easy to lose touch with this reality in the middle of the grind. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Friday did not exist.
Saturday FOD: The Dance Of Life.

I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't meet my goal of getting to 2 BJJ classes this weekend. I just could not seem to rouse myself to do anything at all Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon.

I had to chuckle at the new posting on the Hyperbole and a Half site, about depression. I would like to have my depression form an impervious exoskeleton like Allie's. Unfortunately, my depression is not a steady state of uncaring nor an upward slope of recovery- my depression looks like an EKG readout. Whenever I have a few hours that feel almost bearable, and I think, "Hallelujia, the worst is over," or "Hey, I'm going to survive this," or some such, next thing I know I am plunging to new depths of the abyss. I have learned better than to ever flirt with the notion that it can't get worse- because there's *always* worse.... even when you feel certain that it can't possibly feel any worse.

I did drag myself over to CC's for class on saturday afternoon- although D ducked out, and CC ducked out himself after about half an hour. He set me to work doing Sil Lum Tao on the wooden dummy, so I did that, then some reps of the Green Dragon bits, then Hurricane Hands and HH In the Mirror, Five Animals and FA In the Mirror, Dance Of Life.

It looks like I might not be able to get into the aerial silk class for a while due to scheduling issues. I'm now trying for the acrobalance class.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Players tend to get attached to fancy techniques and fail to recognize that subtle internalization and refinement is much more important than the quantity of what is learned…. Depth beats breadth any day of the week, because it opens a channel for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Sunday FOD: Lun Qi
Monday FOD: Cannon Fist
Tuesday FOD: 5 Points
Wednesday: nonexistant
Thursday FOD: Kiu Two

JoE and I got together to train on Thursday morning, and ended up spending almost all of it on Kiu Two. Mostly him doing Snake One, me doing Snake Two.

Note that during the "flurry-of-Snake-strikes bit: After the right high Snake Strike and the left low Snake strike, that right Snake needs to retract almost all the way and get down to your left elbow so that it is low enough- and far enough to the side- to intercept the next strike.

Do not hurry through it so much that you cheat or skip the bong sau.

Also- make sure to have range on the kick to the rear leg. I usually have to hop in a bit.

Next time we meet, we need to work on me doing the Snake One side and him doing Snake Two- also the Southern Mantis, which we did not get to at all today. Another (eventual) thing I would like to work on with him is Snake Versus Five Animals- since these two-person forms are really much better to work on when you actually have two people.

We did about 10 min of sparring at the end, and he smoked me. I am leaving way too many openings. Another thing I tend to do with him is to forget how well-rooted he is- he is always hooking legs and trying to throw me or take me down, and I can usually defend the first attempt, but sometimes leave myself overbalanced and vulnerable to his follow-up.

One more thing- remember the street name (Belmont)- I got a little lost again trying to find his apartment.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


The next phase of my martial growth would involve turning the large into the small. My understanding of this process is to touch the essence (for example, highly refined and deeply internalized body mechanics or FEELING) of a technique, and then to incrementally condense the external manifestation of the technique while keeping true to its essence. Over time, expansiveness decreases while potency increases. I call this method “Making smaller circles”. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

The FOD some two weeks ago- the last time I drew one- was Spear Hand, and today I hauled myself up out of the Pit Of Despair enough to force myself to do it. Also the Green Dragon fragments (must add that to the FOD jar) and a little Hurricane hands (including that tricky throw that I'm going to have to teach next time). The first time I sketched through Spear Hand, it felt like one of those moments when your Self disappears and some MA deity steps in and says, "Let Me ride you for a minute and show you how it's done." Always breathtaking, especially when it's Mantis. The throw was also fine, for all my worrying.

If I'm not going to be disciplined about making blocks of time to practice kung fu, I need to add the drills and a few other random things- which are not precisely forms- to my FOD jar. Otherwise they will never get practiced.

I should also unload all the weapons, kicking pads, and other peraphernalia from my Jeep.

Mentally and emotionally I'm still feeling fairly overrwrought approaching anything kung fu-like, but physically it felt really good.

I do not want to abandon kung fu. It's really hard because literally *EVERY* single technique, drill, form, and other random bit that I know was imbued into me by SK, and it all reeks of him. Every scrap of it is full of memories of him and associations with him. I think I need to somehow find a way to transfer ownership of the material so that it doesn't continue to feel like me working on HIS stuff. It needs to become MY stuff.

I'm trying to gear myself up to attempt to go back to jiu-jitsu (which would probably be a vast relief for anyone who started reading my BJJ training blog and is now wondering if I'm ever going to stop thrashing around in my tortured psyche and do some actual jiu jitsu). I have this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday off. I'm supposed to meet JoE on Thurs morning, and CC/D Thursday evening. Tentative goal- at least one Gracie class and one Sleeper class during those three days.

Also- it might be helpful to work on something new. When I first stopped going to kung fu class, I was considering taking the opportunity to try some capoiera. I don't think right now is the time to do that, since capoiera was one of SK's things, and it'll probably make me all depressed. However, CK's sister is an aerialist at Emerald City Trapeze, and aerial silk is something I've been wanting to try for a while. They also have an "acrobalance" blass, which looks like it might be vaguely the same type of partner-lifting dance/acrobatics that a few of us were branching into from the contact improv. Their waiver makes it look like they might not let you take classes if you don't have health insurance, though… so I'm trying to find out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who am I? Grief/detox/processing

Loss of the friendship is still number one on my distress-o-meter so far.... but I'm starting to look ahead with a clinical interest to the time I'm really going to start freaking out in earnest about the question of my very identity as a martial artist/warrior now that SK and my kung fu group have been amputated from my life.

In the Shaolin tradition, at some point (usually after reaching black sash level, which is intermediate level) it was common to leave the temple to wander the world. Some came back years later to continue training, others didn't. If you didn't leave the temple when your teachers thought you were ready to, they kicked you out.

CK often references her own having been "kicked out of the temple"... DD declared her so when she moved out of town four years ago, even though she was a mid-level white sash at the time.... everyone always considered her a more advanced MA'ist because of her other arts and teaching skills.

I had no intention of leaving the temple, ever. Never even entered my mind.

One of the things I liked about Shaolin is that there was really no ceiling on what I could learn- I was never going to be "done". (Also, I never thought I'd approach CK's level of skill, nor approach black sash.) I fully expected to still be training under SK when I was 100 years old.

I certainly never expected to be leaving like THIS. I had my doubts about the class surviving after DD abandoned it, but I always figured that even if the group disintegrated, I'd still be able to get together with SK regularly and train. It never once crossed my mind to think what would happen- or what it would be like- or what I would do- if he was just....gone. Forever.

If this was another era, and my teacher had died, as his senior student I might be expected to take over teaching the group. If SK had actually died, I'm not sure what I would do- but I would have at least felt some responsibility to honor his legacy by thinking about and providing in some way for the rest of the junior students.

My teacher's not dead, and I haven't reached some level of rank that causes me to feel it's time to take walkabout from (or get kicked out of) the temple. This is a lot messier, more confusing, and without honor. It feels dirty and unfinished.

One could view this, however, as the universe (or God/s however you may define such) kicking me out of the temple.

If I were seeking some kind of higher meaning in this, one could wonder if there is something else I'm supposed to be doing now.

Hey, wait! I'm not ready! I wasn't done yet! There is still so much I wanted to learn from SK!

I am left with a very fundamental question: Who am I now? Who am I as a Shaolin practitioner permanently separated from her temple? Who am I as a warrior permanently separated from my mentor?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


We live in an attention-deficit culture. We are bombarded with more and more information… the constant supply of stimulus has the potential to turn us into addicts, always hungering for something new and prefabricated to keep us entertained. When nothing exciting is going on, we might get bored, distracted, separated from the moment. So we look for new entertainment…If caught in these rhythms, we are like current-bound surface fish, floating along a two-dimensional world without any sense for the gorgeous abyss below. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Well, Pollyanna is dead. I made one final attempt to work out issues with SK, and got a pathetically inadequate response back. I have done all I can do to try to salvage this, but I can't fix it by myself, and he will not cooperate. So, it's official- I have quit SK's class and he is no longer my teacher- or my friend either. (I don't do Facebook, but I still made a digital-age ritual of it by putting his e-mail addy on my Twit-filter). We're never going to see or speak to each other again. That sucks, and I expect my mood will be roller-coastering all over the place for a fair while to come, and you'll still have to read my whining about it. But the bridge is now burned and the earth salted.... so hopefully closure will be able to come in time.

I was supposed to have class tonight with CC and D, but CC bailed. (I really hope that guy is not trying to set me up with D.... I wouldn't put it past him.)

We went over the bits of the Green Dragon form that we'd done previously. The part that starts kneeling with one Leopard Fist out, I have pretty well down. I need to remember that it starts with the right Leopard Fist palm towards me.

The part with the scissor step:

Begin facing north, rt Mantis hook at Rt shoulder and left hand palm up shoulder level stretched out to the west.

Hop into scissor, rt foot in back.

Unwind to kneel on left knee facing west, As you turn, rt elbow goes up to guard face. As you knee, left palm-heel strikes west at chest level. Rt arm is now at rt temple to ward.

Left hand pulls in to chest, rt hand comes down and left hand circles OVER TOP of it. Palm heel left hand to west again.

Left hand pulls back to rt jaw to ward. Rt forearm strikes forward.

(Note that the strike sequence is left, left, right)

Stand and turn torso to south, sliding into a lunge with rt leg straight. left forearm is at left temple to ward. Rt arm sweeps from rt to left and ends at left knee (palm facing east).

new part: the beginning.

Start facing north with rt Dragon hand sitting on thumb side of left fist, at left hip.

Little hop into cat stance (rt toe fwd) facing east. Both Dragon hands rotate clockwise all the way around, rt hand beginning at 12 o'clock and left hand beginning at 6 o'clock. When left hand gets to noon, being it down to rt jaw in Black Crane guard. Rt hand strikes east from chest in a palm-heel chest height.

Move weight forward so that you are in a front stance. Forearms fold across each other at chest with rt on bottom. strike with both elbows to east.

Skip forward a step to make another cat stance with rt toe in front. Both dragon arms rotate around again, unfolding (so they are going counterclockwise this time). End in a basic karate-style guard with rt hand on top.

After Green Dragon, we worked on Hurricane Hands, and I taught him up to the Dragon throw (but not the throw itself). Note to self that I need to make sure to practice that damn throw before I go back there. It's very difficult to correlate the arms and legs in relation to each other.

After that, we ran through Bung Bo Kuen several times.

D didn't want to spar. He obviously is avoiding sparring with me. I guess I hit too hard for him. Dang.

He reprimanded me about my stiff shoulders again, and also told me that my assignment was to do something fun this week. Argh.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


After making an error, it is so easy to cling to the emotional comfort state of
what was, but there is also that unsettling sense that things have changed for the
worse. The clear thinker is suddenly at war with himself, and flow is lost. - Josh
Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Rage. We gotz it.

"How are you tonight?"

I know full well that this is part of the "social dance steps" that we are all required to perform in order to get along in polite society. I know that the expectation is to respond pleasantly, "Fine, thank you." Even if the real answer is "Homicidal- do ya want some, you *%^$#& &%$^#^& @#$%98ing %#!@~?" or some variant thereof.

Even in my most mellow moods/times, I have always been perplexed by this one. Why do we ask this? Of random strangers? You are ringing up my Safeway purchases, you don't know me from Winnie Mandela, I am one of an endless string of anonymous customers that you are required to be polite to in order to earn the minimum wage that's barely going to buy your own groceries. Do you REALLY want to hear how I am tonight? **REALLY**?!?? Even if you do, are we gonna hold up the other five people in line behind me while I tell you all about it? And WTF good do you think it would do?

When I was a teenager, I routinely responded to this ubiquitous inane question with "Could be worse." Believe it or not, that response- which ought to be a red flag that this person is antisocial and in a pissy mood- causes people to try to engage you *MORE*. They want to find out more. They want to banter with you. They want to show you that they care. They want to fix you. In the forty-eight seconds before they need to start ringing up the guy behind you.

Grinding that "fine" out in these last two months just makes me want to rip someone's head off and fingerpaint the walls with blood.

Marci, the most junior student in SK's class, e-mailed me to ask what happened to
me. It was so thoughtful and sweet. And depressing.

Friday's FOD: Snake Versus Five Animals.
Saturday FOD: Leopard 3

Sunday FOD: Catherine Dao. Also did a few reps of that Green Dragon fragment, and

the new bit of JoE's Southern Mantis.

Monday FOD: Tai Chi long form.
Tuesday FOD: Black Crane One.

Thursday FOD: The Spear Hand fragment.

This was last week's FOD listing. It is now almost a week later and I am still on Spear Hand. This week did not exist.

I realize that part of my issue is that there is a lot of scheduling chaos and various unusual sources of stress at work- which would be rocky to cope with at the best of times.

The bigger part of my issue is that a huge- and arguably unhealthy- amount of my life (social, scheduling-wise, physical, mental, spiritual, both short- and long-term goals) was structured on and around my kung fu training. Now, with the structure removed, the entirety of my life is closely resembling those vids of the twin towers collapsing.

This is a bona fide pathological addiction. It's probably healthier in the long run that there doesn't seem to be any chance of getting it back, but the detox is hell. I'm not sure I can survive the detox.

For the first few weeks after I quit going to Kung Fu class, I was training a lot on my own time (mostly with Mirror forms). For a while, I think I was getting more
constructive work done than I had been getting done in class. The longer it goes-
and thus the more it looks like I'll never be going back- my will is sapping. Lately, just the thought of working forms makes me feel a little nauseous. I haven't even been able to bring myself to do the FOD for a week.

BJJ is not much better. I have absolutely no desire to go to class.

I feel so filled up with rage these past few weeks. I feel like I can relate to those people who shoot somebody dead for cutting them off in traffic. Seriously- if both restrooms are occupied, if my freeway exit is closed for road work, if I didn't get time to swing by the ATM- I just want to rip someone's head off and fingerpaint the walls with blood.

I've always had a lot of rage in me- but this is rage on steroids.

I'm not concerned that I'm actually going to go postal on someone for real.... but I can't stop myself from being short, curt, brusque, even sometimes borderline rude with everyone around me. I feel crappy for it, but at the same time I'm inwardly congratulating myself- "At least I didn't rip her head off and fingerpaint the walls with her blood! Yay me!"

I was trying to self-analyze today why I just don't feel like going to BJJ... and got a bit of a lightbulb flash on the fact that without my normal life structure- and the EQUILIBRIUM that structure offers- I just feel too unbalanced to roll with the normal bumps in everyday life. Normally, if some spazzy guy armbars me too hard, I might get ticked off or frustrated. Now, the same situation makes me want to rip someone's head off and fingerpaint the walls with blood. (I'm enjoying typing that phrase...quite...a lot......) Then in a split second, that scarlet killing fury frequently shifts to a black sucking vortex of despair ("I want to hang myself with my BJJ belt"). The fact that I can't seem to leave it on the mat is a factor as well. When I'm thinking of going to class, it's like, "Do I feel like engaging that depth of rage/despair and spending the rest of today (not to mention the sleepless night) marinating in it? Or would it be safer and less painful to just sit here and stare at the cracks in the floor for the next five straight hours?"

So.... addiction DT's to be waited out. Rage to be channeled into something, somehow, less destructive than ripping heads off and fingerpainting the walls with blood. Scheduling structure to be rebuilt. Equilibrium.... I'm at a loss right now as to what to do to start trying to get that back.

Friday, October 7, 2011

To Slay Pollyanna

Problems set in if the performer has a brittle dependence on the safety of absolute perfection. -Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Tuesday FOD: Five Animals. Both the regular and the mirror versions seem very smooth and powerful today.

Tuesday lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Bellevue.

Double-leg drills, KOB drills, butterfly sweep setups. Positional training- try to pass/defend open guard. A couple of rolls- Bree, John, some white belt guy.

A long time rolling with Ben, which was actually pretty frustrating- trapped on the bottom a lot, getting choked and armbarred.

Kung Fu at CC's. Started with some reps and apps of a section out of a Green Dragon form- same form we were working with last time, but a different section. I really like the way this flows; very Dragonesque:

Start kneeling on rt knee, left Leopard Fist extended shoulder level to west, palm facing south. Rt Leopard fist guarding rt side of head.

Stand and bring both straight arms down in front of body, then circle slightly to right. Turn to face south, continuing the swirly circle to parry a low kick off both hands in front of thighs.

Turn west and step with left foot, bringing both arms up and over in a karate-chop motion chest level. Left hand is slightly ahead of rt.

Step west rt foot, circling both hands over head from left temple to rt to strike rt blade-hand palm-up head level to south. Left hand is warding palm-out at left brow.

Scissor step left foot to west behind rt. Left hand drops to Black Crane guard at rt jaw. RT hand circles to left shoulder and then down-and-out to groin strike to west with knife palm as you sink into the scissor stance.

Note that all of these arm motions are continuous and flowing with no pauses.

After that, they made me teach them the first part of Hurricane Hands, up to the elbow-grind and palm-heel.

Then D and I did a little slow sparring. They're still on my back about my constant Snake striking to the neck. I also took D's back and RNC'ed him, although I couldn't actually take his back with good form because he's too big for me to get my legs around him. He was cracking up the whole time time, even after I proceeded to throttle him till he had to tap.

I'm still having trouble with the big kicks- I need to react faster and stop freezing up when I see one coming in. Also having some difficulty with his wide right hooks- no one I'm used to sparring really tends to use those, so it's new. I don't know what style he favors, but he uses a lot of Mantis- always a challenge.

I cracked like an egg. I e-mailed SK and asked him if he was ever going to speak to me again. I know, I'm weak and pathetic and I'm a masochistic dumb-ass. But it's been four weeks and I'm going nuts. I want to know if anything can be salvaged, and failing that, I'd like some closure. Either way, I really want him to clear up some confusion about what really went down. He gave me a lot of contradicting information. It's difficult to move on either way when there's so much conflicting information and you don't really understand what happened.

I've been really terrified to ping him, because 1)if he ignores me, that's going to be really hurtful, 2)If we do talk it out, it's going to be a painful and difficult conversation, and and 3)If we're really finished with each other for good and all, I'm not eager to face the finality of that. As long as it was kind of hanging there inconclusively, some corner of my mind could maintain a little Pollyanna fantasy that everything might be fixed somehow and we could all go back to class and relations as usual. But I'm going nuts. I think the time has come to step up and slay Pollyanna- much as that's going to hurt.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A man wants to walk across the land, but the earth is covered with thorns. He has two options- one is to pave his road, to tame all of nature into compliance. The other is to make sandals. Making sandals is the internal solution. Like the Soft Zone, it does not base success on a submissive world. - Josh Waitzkin, “The Art Of Learning”

Saturday FOD: Angry Snake Defends Its Lair
Sunday FOD: Wood Monkey
Monday FOD: Kiu Two
Tuesday did not exist due to work/sleep cycle scheduling
Wednesday FOD: Box Form

Wednesday morning, JoE and I worked on some Box Form, Kiu Two, Southern Mantis, and some sparring. (We had planned to meet at Volunteer Park; I texted him and suggested his apartment lobby instead due to the rain and cold. Turns out I had his number entered erroneously in my phone. So I apparently texted some random stranger and suggested we meet at his apartment. Hope it's someone nice.) Anyway, we met at the park and then repaired to the apartment lobby.

New Southern Mantis fragment: After the turn and rising topfist.

Little skip forward- place rt foot where left foot was, left foot steps forward into a Southern Mantis stance (I keep wanting to do a cat here...). The rt hand circles back to chamber after the topfist, but continues without pause into a waist-level front punch as you are skipping forward.

Both hands move to center, then down-and-out in low palm-heel blocks (as in Three Step Arrow).

Reach up with both hands to grab opponent's head, bring it down as you bring rt knee up to smash.

JoE thinks this is one of the most difficult sections in the form just because of the tricky timing of the skip forward and the punch.

We went pretty slow and light with the sparring; he hit me too hard a few times, but it wasn't too bad. His Mantis technique is really difficult for me to parse.... I tend to not do very well against him. He couldn't take me down, though, and he tried a LOT. We did end up rolling around on the ground some at the end, during which he is so much stronger that he just pinned me and hit me till I had to cry uncle.

I'm not sure if that was helpful for me or not at this point. It was nice to be able to work some Kung Fu, and it was nice to see JoE again... I hate to lose contact with all the other students in the group that were not part of the conflict. It did churn up my maudlin again some, though.... my mood is poor this afternoon. I may need to ask him to just not talk about class or people from class, since that's what was kind of hard to deal with.

Wednesday lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle. Standing shoulder lock. Then: Opponent tries to double-leg you, you sprawl, crossface, go to the side (NOT the back), and clock choke. THis worked much better when I remembered to switch my hips once I was cranking back toward the head.... but if you switch your hips too soon, the guy can reverse you, so you have to really watch the balance points.

Then, opponent tried to grab your leg while you're at the side. Switch your feet to trap his arm, then you can try to armbar by lifting your rear leg up (this worked beautifully the first time I tried it; my flexibility played to that very well... then Bryan started turning his arm under so that I couldn't do it any more), or else summersault over the person and finish the clock choke (or another sub) from there.

I got to drill with Bryan, who was helpful with the pointers.

Positional training starting with the opponent on your back. I can defend the choke fine, but I can't remove Bryan's monkey-feet hooks to save my life.

A long roll with Z. I spent a great deal of time trying to choke him, and only succeeded once. He's always fun to roll with, though.

I had every intention of making an evening class today as well, but I'm feeling really physically tired for some reason (even after eating). I have to get up pre-dawn for work in the morning anyway, so I think I'm going to let it slide.

CC is talking again about me teaching him (and D) Hurricane Hands. I just do not feel very good about this... especially now that I don't have SK to check clarifications/questions/apps with.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


If anyone strikes my heart, it does not break, but it bursts, and the flame coming out of it becomes a torch on my path. Hazrat Inayat Khan

Lunchtime BJJ at Gracie Seattle.

Carlos makes us sweat Fridays, and this was no exception. After warmups, we did a shrimping, hip-switching drill involving putting a foot on the opponent's hip and then having him fling it off to the side, then we had to shrimp, re-orient, and put the opposite foot on the opposite hip. It was fine for a while, even though I was with a big guy who was throwing my legs with such force that my entire body was skidding about three feet to the side with every rep. After several minutes, though, hell set in. My upper abs are going to be aching in the morning.

More fast drills, lots of them. Then omoplatas from guard, with the opponent standing up in your guard. I said to the big guy, "You're about three inches too thick for me to close my guard around you!" "(laugh) I think you just called me FAT!" "I didn't say FAT, I said THICK!" I hate that because as soon as the guy stands up, I just slide helplessly down his legs. Just then Carlos came and took the THICK guy away from me and gave me Z instead.

Good spars with Z, Angus, and then Bryan. These were all really fun rolls.

Glenn ripped his pants to the point that they were half off. I commented, "And me without a few dollar bills to stick in your waistband." He exclaimed, "NO means NO!!!" Then JM ripped one of his pantlegs at the knee. Me: "If I'd known it was going to be Chippendales day, I would have made sure some of the other girls showed up."

Friday night no-gi at Sleeper.

Dead bugs- yeah, those upper abs again. Yow.

Guard passes- with the near knee in, with the far knee in, using cradle and backsit, getting rid of those pesky stray arms. Having lost weight since the school moved, I notice that being Cindy's demo dummy hurts even more- it's like bone on bone, and her bone is a lot harder than my bone!

Positional training from closed guard. Got tooled by Cindy and George. I tried hard to just keep working- but man, I was getting tired. Then I went with some new guy and after a while we stood up.... I didn't know that he was a judo guy. Ack! That did not go too well.