Archive for the ‘Kung Fu’ Category

The (Temporary) End of an Era

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I’m now in my third trimester. In fact, my due date is exactly 3 months from last Saturday!

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m worried. Not about the pregnancy, or the baby, or even that we won’t be ready in time. I’m worried that for the next three months, I’m going to be lonely. I know: So pathetic, right? Sorry.

As it turns out, Saturday was my last day of Kung Fu for a while – likely 6 months at minimum. My husband and Kung Fu instructor are both concerned about me continuing, so even though I feel okay to go for at least another week or two, I’m just going to call it quits rather than worry them both. I’m okay with not taking classes anymore – I knew it was coming and I was prepared for that. Plus, it’s only temporary: If I miss it, I’ll go back when I’m ready. (I suspect I’ll miss it!)

But here’s what I wasn’t prepared for: The overwhelming panic that I’m not going to see my friends anymore. 

Kung Fu for me has always been more about the social aspect than the physical. It’s particularly important to me because I have my own business and work out of the house – meaning no coworkers. My cats are great and they do their part to keep me company, but there’s not a lot of give-and-take there. So Kung Fu began as a way for me to be around people and get the social interaction that I was lacking.

Over the last 6 years though, it’s become much more than that: Many of the people there aren’t just training buddies, they’re my friends. In fact, they’re among the best friends I have in Pittsburgh.

Of course, we get together outside of Kung Fu, but, most frequently, those activities are tied to class: Dinner after class in the evening, coffee after class in the afternoon. I can certainly still join them for dinner and coffee even though I’m not in class – in fact, 2 of my friends stopped taking classes in December and they still get join us for food + drink pretty frequently. I usually coordinate these get togethers, too (they’ve dubbed me the “Social Chair”), so it shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain, but I still worry about it. Without them, I won’t see anyone much at all (except my husband who is wonderful and with whom I love spending time – but that’s a lot of pressure on him! To be my ONLY social interaction? Ouch.)

I don’t know. I’m probably overreacting. Let’s blame it on the pregnancy hormones. But when I realized I wouldn’t be going back to class for 6+ months, I was really upset. The friends I’ve made through Kung Fu are essential to my sanity. I guess I’ll have to make a concerted effort to maintain those friendships even though we won’t have the convenience of class to keep us together.

Wish me luck!

And if you know me in real life, throw me a bone and invite me to do something with you. I don’t want to live in a cave.

With Flying Colors

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Today was my test for Second Level Black Belt in Kung Fu. As it turns out, all of the nerves and stress was unnecessary. I passed. With flying colors.

It was a difficult test: I had to perform everything I’ve learned since earning my Black Belt 2 years ago, as well as a large section of basics that encompassed material from the very start of my training as a lowly White Belt in April of 2005.

On top of everything, I was being graded by our Master, who, to my knowledge, never personally grades anyone. That made me  E X T R A  nervous, because I know he would be watching for all of the new things he’s had me focus on in recent weeks… The very things that made me nervous in the first place.

I’m pleased to report that I nailed all of his big points! I did have a hiccup at the beginning of one routine, and a few other minor details here and there, but all-in-all, I’m incredibly pleased with my performance. I feel like I did the absolute best I could.

And frankly, the absolute best I could do was pretty damn good, if-I-do-say-so-myself.

I ended up with an overall grade of a B, but again, that’s a B by our Master’s very. high. standards. I worked really hard for that B, and I’m proud of it.

Unfortunately, during one of my sparring matches, an opponent blocked one of my kicks and left me with a black & blue right ankle. It’s not that big of a deal – I bruise like a ripe banana – but boy does it hurt. And that’s on top of my general muscle soreness from 2 hours or so of Kung Fu.

It’s a good thing I’m supposed to knock out 6.2 miles tomorrow…

In my honor, today, Rachel, of Body by Pizza fame, pushed herself past her planned 5-mile run to do a full 10k. In the same spirit, I’m going to do my damnedest to run the full race tomorrow. No guts – no glory, right?!

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement. It was insanely helpful in getting me psyched up, rather than psyched out. You guys are the best.

Details on the Trot for Tots 10k tomorrow! Man, this is an active weekend…

The Nerves Are Setting In

Friday, December 4th, 2009

It’s the eve of my Second Level Black Belt Test. It will encompass things I’ve learned throughout the last four and a half years of training. Weapons. Self defense. Sparring. Open-handed routines. Basics. Etc. Etc.

And I’m nervous.

I felt ready for the test six months ago (there are only Black Belt tests every 6 months at my school), and ironically, now that I’ve had an extra 6 months of practice, I feel a little less confident. Here’s my theory: Because I knew everything pretty well, I started receiving more and more high-level corrections. Little nuances and details that make a big difference.

I got some of these corrections as recently as last night.

Now that there’s so much more to remember – things that I haven’t had long enough for them to be natural yet – I’m concerned that I’ll forget to do them (and I know they’ll be watching for these things in particular), or worse yet, that I’ll be so intent on getting all of these little details right, that I’ll blank on the big things.

I’m not good under performance pressure. At a Kung Fu tournament last year, I completely blanked on one of my routines. I did the best I could to string a bunch of moves together, but it was nothing like what I had been taught and had practiced for months on end. That’s a huge hit to the confidence level.

On top of that, it seems that I’m the only one testing for this belt – out of 5 schools. There was supposed to be one other person from my school, but, sadly, an injury took him out. He’ll join me in 6 months. At least no one will be able to directly compare me to anyone else. On the other hand, I won’t be able to “cheat off” anyone else if I blank on something…

Then, of course, there’s the 10k on Sunday – and I haven’t run all week. I would love to be able to run the entire thing, but if I can’t? I can’t. I’ve been concentrating on Kung Fu this week because, I figure, I can sign up for a 10k any time, but I’ve been building up to tomorrow’s test for almost 5 years… and intensely for 6 months. I’ll be more worried about the 10k tomorrow night, I’m sure.

But for now, I’m worried about my test tomorrow afternoon. I’d love to hear some encouragement, even if you have no idea what my Kung Fu skills are like. That’s right, folks: I’m fishing for empty compliments! Calm these nerves of mine! I’ll pretend they’re all true :)

Athlete For A Day

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Yesterday was a great day. I felt like an athlete! Not a great athlete, but an athlete nonetheless.

I woke up early and knew that if I didn’t go for a run before starting my day, I wouldn’t get a chance to. It was on my schedule, so I knew I had to do it. I went out, even though it was so nice and warm in my bed. It was a shorter run than most at only 2.75 miles, but that was by design. And even though it was shorter, I’m still not to the point where 2.75 miles feels short. But it was a good run, and like always, I was glad I got myself out there and did it.

I then showered, had breakfast, and did about an hour or so of work before heading out for a morning kung fu class. I don’t usually go to kung fu in the morning – they only offer one AM class on weekdays, and work has kept me busy during that time for a while. In the past I went to this class regularly, and yesterday reminded me why: The morning class is generally pretty small, so you get a lot of individualized attention. Yesterday, there were only two of us, and as my classmate said, “If your ego can take the bruising, small classes like that are really helpful.”

I have a lot to work on between now and my test for my Second Level Black Belt, which has been moved up a week to December 5 (the day before my 10k – annoying!). Since I have so much work to do, I decided to go to the evening class last night as well.

But not before heading to the ball field for my final game of softball this season! It was a good game – very exciting, what with the torrential downpour and muddy infield. We ended up losing, but we did it with style!

By the end of the day, I had run 2.75 miles, done an hour and a half of kung fu, and played softball in the mud for an hour and a half.

And you know what? I wasn’t even all that tired. Or hungry. I know I just said the same thing the other day, but it always surprises me: The more I move, the more energy I have. It seems counterintuitive, but there you have it folks!

I thought you might also be interested to know that my weigh-in today was very good. I knew it would be: For the first time in a while, I was excited to step on the scale. I knew that I had worked hard and that my hard work would pay off.

And it did.

In the form of a 2 pound loss for the week.

My new low: 173.5.

Six Things

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

I’ve been falling behind in my posting – life gets in the way, sometimes, you know? – so I’m going to update you on a bunch of things all at once. I’ll try to be better moving forward. I know how much you miss me when I’m gone :)

And now, in no particular order:

Softball: Tonight was the first game. We lost. I attribute this loss to the fact that I, as pitcher, walked a bunch of people in the second inning and they got a bunch of runs because of it. I improved once I figured out why what I thought were strikes were balls, but not in time. On the positive side, I did a great job fielding on the mound, struck one guy out three times (dude was swinging at everything!), got on base each time at bat, and scored two runs. That being said, I still feel like I lost the game for the team. Boo.

Weight: I believe I neglected to mention that the day after I weighed-in with a ten-pound gain, I was up only 6 pounds, and just 5 the day after that. Must’ve been mostly water weight! By the end of the week, I got it down to being up only one. I’m damn happy with that, too, all things considered.

Running: My official time for the 5k I did this past Saturday is 30:50. I’m not sure how it happened that the chip time was 5 seconds slower than my perceived gun time, but I’m sure it had something to do with exhaustion. I’m still happy with that, though! I think I’m going to do another 5k in October – there’s one at the Pittsburgh Zoo the first Saturday of that month. It scares me a bit because the zoo is all hills, but it should be neat to run past all the animals! Hopefully that will keep my mind off the hills.

Swimming: I have been seriously delinquent in my swimming efforts. As in, I haven’t. At all. I just bought a new bathing suit (end of season clearance!) – it’s pretty yet sporty… and reversible! Hopefully I will be inspired to use it and will actually take advantage of the pool at my gym. Someone ask me about this in a few days, ok? I need someone to keep me accountable or I’ll never be prepared for that triathlon.

Kung Fu: Three months until my possible test for Black Level 2. So far, so good with the “shaping up.” I’ve been feeling good in class and even got an extra practice in on Sunday with the other guy set to test with me.

Exhaustion: I have been so tired all week. We got a new kitten (Sprite) who is adorable, and he’s finally getting along with our other cat (Pixel), but he wakes me in the middle of the night. Every night. It’s hard to feel motivated to work out when you’re exhausted, so I haven’t been doing a lot of that this week, except for my regular activities like kung fu and, now, softball. At least I’ve been eating well!

That should do it!

The Race is On

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Tomorrow is the 5k!

I feel ready for it, too. More ready than I’ve ever felt for a road race. Every other time I’ve done one, something has happened beforehand – injury, moving, lack of training – that left me feeling ill-prepared. This time, though, I feel good!

I did pretty well following the 2-week training schedule I talked about earlier. I missed two days when I was on vacation, but I made one of them up when I came back, so it’s pretty close.

And yesterday I had a breakthrough: For the first time ever, I ran 3.1 miles, outside, without walking. For me, this is huge. HUGE!

I truly believe most of my problems with running are mental. I get to a certain point and think, “Wow. I’ve been running for a long time. It seems like I should start walking about now,” and then I walk. That’s not the case all the time, of course, but it happens a lot.

Now, though, I’ve done it! I now know that I can do it… because I did! And I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it again tomorrow… and then over and over again! [I’m feeling a renewed sense of confidence, can you tell?]

Tomorrow is actually going to be a very long day: It starts out very early with the 5k, and shortly after that is a 3-hour long Kung Fu Marathon, a charity event that benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Doing either of these things on their own usually wears me out, and tomorrow I’ll be doing both!

Don’t worry, though: I’m all over this.

Stay tuned for a recap!

Lethal Weapon

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I got some great news last night! But first, some background info:

As you probably know by now, I study Kung Fu. I’ve been doing it now for more than 4 years, and I love it. It was the first physical activity that I really stuck with, because it’s different in a lot of ways. The biggest differences, in my opinion:

    • It’s social. Since it’s a class, you end up seeing the same people on a very regular basis and you can’t help but become friends with them. It’s particularly fabulous to meet people in this way because you make friends with folks from all walks of life, and yet, you have this thing that you all do in common. Something to build on as you learn what else you have in common!
      • You’re given instruction, and never have to come up with your own workout – just follow along! I still have problems staying motivated at the gym – even when I’m already there.
        • There’s a wide variety of activities: Sometimes it’s kickboxing/sparring. Sometimes it’s weapons. Sometimes it’s routines or self defense. It changes week to week so it doesn’t get boring.
          • And – the thing that this post is about – Since you’re learning things, as you progress, you learn new, different, and more challenging things. Nothing keeps you going back to a class like wanting to learn the next move!

            In December of 2007, I tested for my Black Belt – and passed. If you’ve ever been in martial arts, you know that after you get your Black Belt, you’re essentially a White Belt again, starting from a brand new beginning. You can equate it to getting your Bachelor’s Degree: If you go back as an undergrad, it’s like you’re a Freshman again.

            I happily became a Freshman again. I spent the next 18 months learning brand new techniques, routines and weapons. Some things I picked up quickly, and some were really very challenging – I think I liked those even more!

            From Black Level 1 to Black Level 2 technically takes a minimum of 24 months at my school. However, for the last few tests (they only do testing twice a year, in June and December) there have been people who were asked to test after just 18 months.

            I wanted to be one of those people.

            This past June was my 18-month mark. I had learned everything required at Black Level 1, and I felt like I had everything down quite well! Certainly as well as previous testers, at least.

            And then I was told that our Master wanted everyone to wait at least 2 years. Of course, they decided to stick to the rules when it was my turn… Scratch that – I’m over it…

            The reason I’m telling you all of this, is that our Master informed me yesterday that I am on the list to test in December! I’m thrilled :)

            He then followed it up by saying that I have the next 3 months to refine everything and “shape up” or I won’t be testing.

            So the next few months should be fun! It sounds like he’s raising the standards for testing, which is alright by me. In fact, there was a time when I thought the standards for testing were far too low – that as long as you were there for a certain amount of time and kinda got it, you would be given a pass. I’m big on principles, so you can imagine I wasn’t thrilled about that, but I digress…

            I’m really looking forward to getting my next belt and being a Freshman again. I’m ready to learn some new routines and weapons!

            Now I just have to not screw this up…

            It’s a New Life…

            Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

            …For me, And I’m feeling good. I find doing a lot of different things rejuvenating, and that’s just what I’ve been doing!

            Last Thursday, I took my first yoga class ever and I really enjoyed it! I went with four other girls, and we were all at about the same level, which helps. The class definitely wasn’t power yoga, it was more like… relaxation yoga, if that’s a thing. (I know very little about the different kinds of yoga, except that there are a bunch!) I think the instructor took it easy on us since there were 5 newbies. It was very relaxing, and I enjoyed that, but I think if I was going to do yoga regularly, I would want something more intense. I’ve done some yoga videos in the past and have worked up a serious sweat, and felt sore the next day – I liked that!

            On Sunday I played Ultimate Frisbee with some friends in the park. Holy smokes – super fun and very intense! For those of you who aren’t familiar, Ultimate Frisbee is much more than standing around tossing a frisbee back and forth. It’s like football with a frisbee, minus the tackling. It’s particularly intense when the people playing aren’t very good (like most of the group I was with, myself included) because every time the frisbee is dropped, it goes to the other team. This makes for a lot of running back and forth. I’m still surprised that I liked it so much; three years ago, running back and forth chasing a frisbee would not have been my idea of a fun way to spend an afternoon. I really did enjoy it, though! And – get this – I wasn’t the last person chosen when we picked teams! (Though my heart fluttered a bit when they chose captains and I realized what was happening…)

            Monday evening was the Total Body Workout class at my gym, which I was on time for and didn’t miss, unlike last week. I’m starting to feel more coordinated with the instructors crazy combinations. In fact, I felt pretty good in this class – best one yet! I suppose that makes sense, but it’s still nice to see definitively.

            Yesterday was the return of Kung Fu, which was on hiatus for a week as the school closed for the holiday. It was so nice to be back and get my sweat on!

            I’m still keeping up with the 100 Push Ups challenge, too. (How about the rest of you, hmm?) It’s going really well! I finished up Week 2, at which point you’re supposed to do an exhaustion test, performing as many consecutive, good-form push ups as you can to see where you are. I did 26! For the initial test, I was only able to do 14, so I almost doubled that in just 2 weeks! If I had really thought about that beforehand, I think I might have been able to eke out 2 more, too. Ah well – next time!

            I’m planning on starting the 200 Sit-Ups program next week, so anyone who wants to join me on that, do your initial test this weekend! I was going to alternate sit-ups one day and push ups the next, but I think since they’re different body parts I’m going to do them on the same day. That seems easier to me, but whatever you think will work best for you is good!

            Also, on Friday I’m going kayaking with a friend! I can’t wait for that – I’ve only done it once, but I loved it. So fun – and a great upper body workout!

            I apologize for the absurd number of exclamation points in this post, but hey, things are good! And good things call for exclamation points! Really, they do!!

            The Mind Controls the Body

            Thursday, July 9th, 2009

            In Kung Fu there is a saying: The Mind Controls the Body (I’m sure it’s a very ancient Chinese tenet a la Confucius or some such, but I don’t know exactly, and that’s not the point.) The idea is that if you put your mind to something and really concentrate, you can make your body achieve it.

            I feel good today. I said I would and I do. I don’t know how much of my positivity is because I said that I wanted to be out of my funk, but regardless, here I am!

            I went for a run this morning and I stuck with it rather than just running around the block like a lame-o as I did the other day. It was a good run, too – 2.5 miles with very little walking (just up 2 ridiculous hills).

            Also, since the Kung Fu school is closed this week due to the holiday, a few of the girls and I are taking a yoga class tonight (first one ever!) and I’ve been looking forward to that all week. How could I not be excited now that the class is mere hours away?!

            Regarding yesterday’s post: I know that I’ve changed. I’m a completely different person than I was a few years ago. I have energy and ambition and confidence. But I had a few rough days and I let that get to me, which I don’t recommend. It just puts you in a downward spiral and nothing good comes from that. Thanks for letting me vent and putting me back in my place!

            My Turning Point

            Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

            *Note: This story has been told to only a few people because it’s embarrassing. Not that I think people would laugh at or make fun of me after hearing the story, because it’s not funny – it’s sad. It’s just that the last thing I wanted was pity. That’s all behind me now, though, and I think it’s important to share this story because it’s a huge part of my journey. It’s how it all started! Here goes:

            As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been doing Kung Fu for about 4 years now. There is a small group of us who are on what is called the “Demo Team.” (Quick aside: Don’t you think that should have a more clever name? Not that I have any suggestions…) The Demo Team gets together about once a month to learn special routines and practice for demonstrations that we do at various locations and events. We often do a Chinese New Year demonstration at our school for students and their families and friends.

            One of the special things we’ve learned on the Demo Team is a double fan routine. Fans are traditionally a women’s weapon, so only the women on the team learned and perform this routine. At the time this story takes place, there were only three of us, but we’ve since added a fourth (yay!). Below is a photo of the us being silly with our fans. I’m the fat one.


            While I love the beautiful flowing movements of the fan routine, I always felt very uncomfortable doing it. It just seems more befitting of petite people – like the other girls – and I was far from petite. I always felt more at ease with bigger weapons that require more strength and power behind them – like long staff and sabre. I know I looked weird doing it too – I’m no fool – but I committed to the team and it would have been really lame to back out because I thought I looked funny doing it.

            Shortly before this story takes place, the Demo Team was informed that we had to get a special uniform. Made of satin. These uniforms (which we refer to as “shiny suits”) are awful. Even the most proportioned and athletic of us look bad in them. And come on: Chubby girls don’t wear shiny clothes – light bounces off in all the wrong places. Am I right?

            Besides being unattractive, these shiny suits were sized badly. In order for it to fit me around (top and bottom not sold separately) I had to get an XXL – the same size my 6’2″ husband got. The sleeves and legs were both super long – ridiculously long. Apparently, not many fat people do Kung Fu – at least, not in satin uniforms…

            Ok, enough back story. Here it is:

            At the Chinese New Year demonstration on February 17, 2007, the three of us were doing our fan routine in front of a room full of people – there were maybe 50 or 75 people there, but it felt like 1000. Toward the beginning of the routine, I heard and felt something awful. I split my pants.

            It’s that terrible nightmare moment that you only see in Made For TV movies where the fat girl gets bullied. What do you do at a time like this? Well, the show must go on, right? I finished the routine and hoped like crazy that no one noticed the hole in the shiny pants. I don’t think anyone did notice – at least, no one said anything to me. The suits are black and I was wearing black underwear, and the hole was more in the crotch area than the butt (my apologies if that’s too much information…). Plus, we do the routine to music which probably drown out the noise – though I’ve always suspected that the other 2 girls, being so close to me, heard something and figured out what happened, but I’ve never had the guts to ask and if you were them, would YOU bring it up?

            Anyway, as you might imagine, I was mortified. And ashamed. And angry. So angry. Angry at myself for letting my weight get so out of control that I split a pair of pants that were XXL – the largest available, might I add. I had been overweight my entire life, and I had certainly been embarrassed, left out, made fun of etc, etc. I’d broken down and cried in front of friends (blubbering mess, actually). I would say that I was done with being overweight and that I was going to change – “this time, for sure” – and then I’d start a diet, lose a few pounds, then lose the determination, quit the diet and gain back what I lost and then some. Vicious cycle.

            So what was different this time? Particularly since there was no pointing and laughing, and – seemingly – no one even knew there was an incident but myself?

            The day after this nightmare demonstration – on Chinese New Year – I had a long talk over the phone with my mother. I told her about splitting my pants and my frustration with my body. In that conversation, she made me realize that my body was really holding me back. That there are things in Kung Fu, for instance, that I couldn’t physically do because of my weight (and physics). I simply couldn’t get into certain positions because my legs were too fat. I just couldn’t perform certain jump kicks because I couldn’t lift my 262-pound frame high enough.

            That conversation got me thinking about all the other things – big and small – that I haven’t tried or couldn’t do because of my weight. Things I always pretended (to both others and myself) that I didn’t really care about or want to do. Once I was really honest with myself, I had a nice long list.

            And that was it.

            I realized that being fat was preventing me from living a full life. From doing things I wanted to do. No longer was it a vanity thing (I had a husband who loved me and found me attractive as I was). Doing it to look good for an event like my wedding never worked because I’d go back to my old ways as soon as the event was over. Health problems were never compelling enough to actually make a change – I’m young, right?! There was never enough motivation for me until I made that list.

            A few hours later I found My Food Diary and immediately joined. I had made a decision to change my life – to start eating better foods (and less of them) and exercising. For the first time in my life, I never second-guessed this decision or gave up on my goals, or on myself. (Maybe the key to having New Year’s Resolutions that stick is to make it a CHINESE New Year Resolution!)

            Of course, I haven’t reached my goal weight yet, but I really have changed my life. I’ve done a number of the things on my list and am looking forward to doing the rest!

            If you’re overweight and searching for some motivation, I highly recommend making a list of your own. Be totally and completely honest with yourself. I think you’ll be surprised how many things end up on that list. When you’re done, maybe you want to post it on your refrigerator as a visual reminder, or hide it in your desk drawer so only you can see it. It can be just for you, or you can share it – whatever works best for you. But do it.

            My list has made all the difference in the world for me.