Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year

Best wishes for the new year! Especially to all of you whom I've come to know through your writings over the last few months. I've enjoyed reading your views on training in martial arts. I've learned much and been inspired many times, so thank you. I read about people who continue to train in the face of sickness, people who live away from home and pursue training in the country of their art, people who trained in martial arts despite initial fears of being too old, and teachers who train generations of students in martial arts without thought of recompense. Remarkable!

Have a happy and healthy year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Learning Alone

Practicing alone is hard! The novelty has worn off from repeating the same things on my own, and my mind tends to get distracted very easily. After today's session I was thinking about why I feel motivated to keep practicing when classes are on but not on my own. I mean ideally, I want to think that such strong motivation is there in my personality, but I know its not.

One thing about going to class is that I get to be in the society of other people. Other than this immersion into closeness with other people, I don't have to many other social interactions. I don't have any friends outside of work. I've always been too judgemental and harsh to have developed any long-lasting friendships. But I do want to be with other people. So strangely, I am getting this from taekwondo class. The even stranger thing is, in class I am totally quiet, always in a corner, and I never speak to anyone unless spoken to and I will probably never be friends with anybody from class. Still, going to class fulfils this need of mine, and maybe this is partly what keeps me motivated to practice.

About practicing alone, I always wonder about my teacher. How does he learn new things now. I realize one doesn't have to go to a class to learn new things in martial arts, but what drives you from inside to learn without guidance?

Thursday, December 07, 2006


* Stretching: I ditched the stretching routine I wrote about in an earlier post long ago. Instead, I've been doing dynamic stretching before class, and static stretching after class, as Kurz advises. I think its worked well for me. My goal now is to stretch every morning in addition.

* Forms: I've managed to practice my forms 5 times each everyday during my break. I want to take it up to 20 times each everyday. The only thing I'm worried about is without someone to point out my mistakes, I might just be doing things wrong many times over.

* Testing: I want to pass my next test the first time round. This is going to be the toughest...its not that the tests are impossible, but I need to be able to make it to all classes and practice a lot at home. Unfortunately, I'm travelling a lot next semester. But I will try for this goal as hard as I can.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


In India, we grow up with an almost fearful respect of our teachers. We were made to show respect whether we really felt it or not, out of habit. Now its very natural for me to feel respect for anyone who teaches me anything, whether they are officially my teacher or not. I do think one has to humble oneself to some degree before learning. When I think of people I know who were not able to learn effectively, it is always in part because they did not humble themsleves sufficiently. I felt quite awkward when I got to the US and found that it was customary to address our professors by their first names. Back home, we wouldn't even say Professor So-and-so, but only Sir or Ma'am. So I feel quite comfortable in taekwondo class where we usually refer to our teacher as Sir, or Professor and certainly never by first name, which to me feels right, and the way things should be.

My taekwondo teacher started his training in 1972, earning his black belt in 1976. He continued his training during his undergraduate studies, earning higher degree black belts. He has been teaching Taekwondo at my university for around 15 years now, and is also a member of the faculty.

I am amazed at his level of academic accomplishment along with the level of his dedication to teaching taekwondo. I've gradually come to think that perhaps its possible for me too, to devote serious time to training and fulfil my academic goals.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

To Your Health

I came across this article in Shinichi Tohei's Ki Weblog. I found it unexpectedly, and was surprised (because its rare to see this view) and moved by it because it echoes what I feel about the connection between our mental and physical health. As I've mentioned before, I've found from experience that when we suffer from a chronic condition, or are dealing with injury, we should immediately examine our emotional state; that is where the solution lies. After having realized this, unfortunately, its impossible not to try to convert everyone you see suffering to this point of view. I say unfortunately because one is mostly met with rejection or indifference. I let this affect me, and I've often thought, 'why do I bother', and so I was moved to see the article, because it offers all of us much hope.

I don't know how to "extend my ki" as the article recommends, but I think just being aware of such a possibility, that we are not doomed to ill health and injury, is the first step.

Here's wishing everyone good health and happiness.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Last Class

We had our last class of the semester the Sunday before last. I'm not sure why we end so early. It was actually a testing day and I was surprised since we had just tested in October. Anyway, it seems the yellow belts test for a green 'stripe' before the end of the semester. Perhaps this is to keep people motivated to come back next semester since unless we pass the test (nobody seems to right away), we only get the stripe next semester after remedying what we need to.

Anyway... my test results said that I needed work on most of my 'spinning' type kicks and some others too: Given that I've done these kicks for a few odd weeks, I didn't need to take a test to realize this.
* spin stomp kick
* wheel kick
* tornado kick
* moving spin back kick
* front roundhouse kick

I don't know how much the names will convey, possibly other schools use different names and I don't know the Korean equivalents.

In addition, though I performed Dan-Gun reasonably, apparently I did badly at Chon-ji, the earlier form; my stances weren't deep enough and I didn't show enough power. I made a resolution to practice my forms at least over the month long break, if nothing else, so lets see how that goes.

The main event of the night was two girls testing for their brown belts. They first did many different combinations of kicks and punches, the longest maybe 6 or 7 in a row. Then they performed their forms. They sparred against each other, then against 4 black and brown belts. Next, they broke boards with hook and side kicks. Finally, 10 knuckle pushups (that seemed too few...maybe they were asked to do less because they're girls?). I wonder if they got their belts. To be honest, everything didn't look 'flawless' to me, maybe its not supposed to. I guess I was thinking at that level, they would test almost perfectly. Green belts and blue belts testing for a stripe broke boards with flying side kicks, which was entertaining to watch.

We start classes again in the beginning of January, and I am somewhat glad of the break. For a while, my time in the evenings will not be allotted wholly to Taekwondo. Also, I've been worrying about a stitch in my side that's been bothering me for a few weeks now. I tend to associate it with when I got hit in the tummy, or having strained something in my side, though by now it might be (psychological, i.e.) complicated by the fact that I was very worried and stressed about being hit hard during sparring.

On 12/11: I am sure my body will regret the break. I can feel my kicks getting rusty. It takes so much motivation to practice on your own even a 10th of what we do in class!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How to Kick Harder

I think the simple answer is: put your butt/hips into the kick. The hips generate a lot of power, and this has to be made use of while kicking as well as punching.

For example, in front kick, thrusting your hips forward gives the kick power. Imagine that at the instant of throwing the kick, someone slaps you forward hard in the small of your back. That is how our instructor gets us to kick with more 'snap' (see also the comments section for a reader's suggestion about how to think of the hip action). In roundhouse, during the kick, your hips should be moving 'into' the kick. To do this, bend the balance knee so that your hips are free to move forward in the direction of the kick. In back kick, try to keep your hips low while kicking and use your hips to thrust back, while you hold the kick for a vibration.

I want to say that I'm a beginner and learning these things for the first time, so I don't want it to sound like I'm an authority of any kind. I wrote this post because I felt it might be helpful for me (and hopefully other beginners) to put what I am learning about technique into words as precisely as I can. So if readers have corrections, suggestions or thoughts, do comment!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Flying Side Kick

If there's one kick I want to become good at, its flying side kick! I tried one for the first time yesterday. I simply had a feeling of amazement that my body could be capable of doing this thing which seems to defy all the rules of gravity!

As I understood, here's how to do it: From fighting stance (body sideways (right), face forward), take a biggish step with back (right) leg, then a step with the other (left) leg. At this point, start to pull the kicking knee (right) towards your chin. This will have the effect of making the non-kicking (left) leg come up off the ground. Then straighten kicking (right) leg to kick. When raising knee to chin, try to keep the upper body straight, i.e. draw the knee up instead of pointing chin down. Try to hold the non-kicking (left) leg close, almost as if sitting. I think that the 'boost' for getting off the ground starts with the action of pulling the kicking knee up towards your body, and not so much by jumping off the ground with your non-kicking leg.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Capoeira and Kalaripayattu

Someday, I want to learn how to do this.

Capoeira was a martial art developed by African slaves in Brazil. Its practice was outlawed by the colonials, and so to disguise the martial aspect, they made the actions look more dance-like. That seemed to have fooled the villainous colonizers!

The sport is non contact and sparring is done surrounded by a circle of the other artists who clap, sing and play drums! They seem to be very good at doing the spinning kicks I have trouble with. In fact most of the kicks seem to involve spinning. A person I know taking a class said that the first thing you practice is cartwheels.

While I'm on the subject of other martial arts, here is a video of the Indian martial art Kalaripayattu. Its a fairly ancient art.

It seems to be practiced almost exclusively in the southern part of India, and is even popular there. But growing up in northern India, I had no exposure to it at all. (Taekwondo and Karate are the most widely learnt martial arts in India) Here is an interesting article on the state of traditional martial arts in India. I had no idea for example that the Kalari martial art was intricately related to the traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda, Indian classical dance forms and Yoga. By way of that article, I found this nicely written and detailed article on the practice of Kalari.

Training with Advanced Students

From now onwards, we will train with the rest of the students, instead of among ourselves, the beginner class. I thought it was really great. You get a lot more personal attention to your technique when you partner with a higher belt. All the advanced students I partnered with were very helpful and patient. I found their suggestions especially helpful for correcting the details of my forms. One small dilemna is if something they suggest about technique is a bit different from what you remember the instructor saying. It feels unseemly to argue, but you wish to follow your teacher's instructions too.


I don't keep the list of past injuries on the side because I'm morbid or want to dwell on them.

First, its to remind myself that I have gotten over injuries, and will keep doing so. The body has a miraculous capacity for healing that perhaps we don't fully trust in yet. To get over my fear of injury. Many injuries are caused by fear or inattention. Sometimes, because of our fear, pain continues long after healing has occurred. Secondly, I noticed a couple of times (through sitemeter) that people stumbled onto the site when they searched for injuries related to knees or toes. It always helps those of us who worry about the fragility of our bodies to know that someone else has overcome the same problem. For people dedicated to a sport, injury seems to have the effect not only of putting one out of commission, but depending on the severity, there is the added worry, "when, when will I be able to get back to training!".

If you are injured, and are worrying about whether to train or not, first, try to banish fear from your mind. The body is tough, and will heal! I have read that the biggest bone in the body, the femur, takes only 6 weeks to heal from a fracture, and is stronger than before it was broken. Take a few days off if training is too painful -- don't obsess about missing training, you won't fall behind drastically, it will have very little effect. Keep doing your non-training daily routine if possible. Lastly, if you just can't bear to keep yourself away from training, and are worried if you are doing further damage: obviously, be sensible about this, but within bounds, I think the body can cope with even this. Perhaps the injury will take somewhat longer to heal, but not indefinitely, and possibly it is a matter of double the time, depending on the injury.

So where are these thoughts coming from? We are confronted at every turn with a pessimistic or quick-fix approach to health and injury in society today. I liked reading Andrew Wiles' Weil's and John Sarno's books because they are doctors who speak with hope and enthusiasm of the capacity of the human body. Moreover, they talk about obtaining a deeper undertsanding of how the body functions, for example understanding how the mind interacts with the body. In medicine today, I have the impression that this connection is hardly given the attention it deserves; it deserves research not because it is interesting, but because it has the capacity to further our understanding of disease. They too came out of the same medical establishment. Why do they think differently?

Friday, October 27, 2006


I enjoyed my first time sparring. As I faced my opponent, I experienced a joyful, primal feeling. By primal, I mean that some very fundamental instinct which had seemingly been dormant, was awakened. I felt alert but at ease at the same time. I felt protective of myself, but that I could trust my brain to automatically give the commands to my arms to ward off blows without thinking about it. My eyes felt quick to move, looking for opportunity to strike. I felt light on my feet as though I wanted to imagine being a cat, or a panther!

I think what makes it easier is that we spar with only light contact. I wonder if this is a less effective way of preparing for an actual fight; one could tend to attack and move out too quickly without commiting fully to the punch or kick. The only low point was when one of my partners (he had said to me at the beginning of class, "I want to spar YOU!") got a kick through to my stomach, and actually made hard contact. I had the wind knocked out of me for a bit. Maybe he didn't have enough control, though I don't really believe that, and am putting it down to his immaturity. Good lesson for me I guess, not to trust anyone to hit lightly, no matter what the rules.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Moves and Sparring

Today we had our first class as yellow belts. The new things we learnt were:

* Punching, and kicking from fighting stance (body sideways). I need to remember:
- Punching: start punches underhand (forward hand or back?)
- Front kick: pivot on front kick first, then kick
- Step-side kick (not sure that this wasn't back kick): keep non-kicking foot in place while chambering, while the kicking knee points downwards. The foot closer to enemy is kicking foot.
* Dan Gun form
* One-Step Pattern #5: Block with (left) hand while executing punch which starts overhand, and hits underhand. With blocking (left) hand, grab attackers punching hand, and keeping feet in place, but pivoting away from attacker, pulling hand with their arm straight over my (left) shoulder, take step with (left) foot, while pulling arm over my head, still straight, bend their hand downwards, while pulling them to ground.
* I need to focus on pushing belly out more for my Side kick.

I've been out of town for a week, and the combination of eating out and no exercise were making me feel sluggish. So I'm glad I went to class. Unfortunately, I have to travel again this week. I'll have to miss my first class of sparring on Sunday...too bad.

I am nervous about sparring. About getting hurt, but also the very idea of fighting someone. I've been a terrible sissy since childhood. If I got into a fight, I would always back off, I had no idea how to efficiently fight someone. Sometimes, I would just retreat, humiliated, after trying to fight, and clumsily failing. I remember two instances. The first, I was 10, and the girl I was threatening to hit just grabbed my wrist, and I could do nothing. The second, I was about 11, and I ran up to this other kid to give him a 'flying' kick (he was calling me stupid names) and I just ended up short, not making any contact. I think of myself as a bit more coordinated and less clumsy now, but these thoughts are at the back of my mind.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Productive Rest

I took a day off from class today. I could have gone, and my toe would have been a bit sore later, but probably not terrible. I just wanted to train myself to be able to take a day off for rest, and not think obsessively through the day about missing class. And also I think I have been letting taekowndo dominate my thoughts of late, at the cost of letting work, cooking and housework slide a bit.

I'm pleased to report that I did quite well. I went to school early, and got a good bit of work done. After coming back home, I cooked myself a good dinner, which I haven't done for the last few days. I wrote a few important emails I've been putting off writing.

I hope my good rest will help me next class, physically and mentally.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I didn't make it. I didn't get my belt. I was very disheartened last night, even though I knew beforehand that I probably wouldn't pass. It's not a big tragedy, I have to remedy my roundhouse, back kick and one of my one-step patterns, and I'll get my belt within the next couple of classes. But last night I fell asleep wondering, "why I am putting myself through so much physical and emotional strain?"

It's not about belts or ranks. Its the feeling of failure. My wish to surpass myself at something and my need for approval, at the innermost level are rooted in my deep feelings of inferiority. When I fail in these, it's a blow to my unconscious which is enraged at yet again being shown proof of my (perceived) inferiority. This is just a fact about me, maybe ugly, but just the truth. The reason I want to write about this is that being aware of it will stop my mind from creating physical distractions in order to prevent the painful emotions from being experienced.

This is not my insight, but John Sarno's. I will write more on what Sarno thinks on the subjects of inferiority fuelling ambition soon. It is just amazing to me what the mind is capable of and how much of it we are unaware of during our waking hours.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kurz's Stretching Book

I've been reading Thomas Kurz's Stretching Scientifically and I think I like it better than Sang H. Kim's Ultimate Flexibility.

Kurz's book is small, and easy to put together a warm up routine from. Kim's book has hundreds of exercises, and some suggested workouts. Moreover, Kurz has a biology lesson in the beginning where he explains how muscles work, what effect different kinds of stretching have on them and so on. Also, he seems to take a more optimistic view of injury, which is something I find reassuring.

I like that Kurz advises a vigorous warm up with front, side and back kicks before the actual activity. I found this more effective than static stretches. He argues that static stretches are not really preparing you for the dynamic activity. He advises static and isometric stretches only after the activity. This makes sense to me, and I like the feeling of gradually increasing the range of my kicks until class starts. I find that if I do even some static stretching after a kicking warm up, I lose some of my springiness.

I've always felt very stiff and restricted in the groin area. I found that doing many repetitions of quickly raising your leg sideways and touching your hand, in a controlled way, loosens up that area more than the stretch where you sit with soles of feet touching, and try to push your groin apart.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Aaaaargggh! I practised so much to step the right way while blocking in one step sparring. I wish my @!*%$#@ partner had done the same. In the last 10 minutes of class yesterday, while I was congratulating myself because my knee was finally starting to feel better, said partner stepped right into my punch to block it, and gave my toe a good jam. For a moment I thought part of my foot had been cut or something because the pain was so sharp!

I thought the pain would subside like a stubbed toe, but this morning it still feels very bruised and stiff. I've been icing and elevating like a maniac. I'm wavering between getting it x-rayed to check for a break, or just staying off my feet. I'm worried the trip to the health center will take away precious recovery time.

I am hopping mad! Belt test is on Sunday, and I'll have to stay off my foot for a while, and probably won't be able to practice forms like I wanted to. Shit!

Update: The health center people just buddy-taped it together with the next toe. They say they don't do xrays, at least not right away, so I don't know if its broken or just jammed. student health care. They said to come back if its too much worse after my test on Sunday. If I had my camera, I would post a picture of my taped up toes, it looks pretty neat.

Update on 10/7: Here is some inspiration to fight through it from Taekwondomom's weblog. I hurt exactly the same toe!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Need to Practice

Well, its a week before the exam, and I need LOTS of practice. I still need to work out the timing of pivots on all my kicks. It doesn't help that my knee is still a bit sore and preventing me from kicking as hard as I want to (I was chagrined to have to mention in class that my knee was still hurting after I was asked to kick harder on my back kick and lost my focus the remainder of the class. Practicing in the air is ok, but hard contact on the kick shield hurts). My sparring is abysmal; often I start by stepping the wrong way to block! I think I need to learn how to watch the opponent and react instead of just doing it because I know what is coming next. So things to remember:

* Stretch kick: Kick higher, keep head up

* Front kick: Stretch out ankle, but keep toes up; start the kick fast, and by almost kicking yourself in the butt, foot shouldn't hit someones hand placed a foot from the ground on the outswing.

* Roundhouse kick: Start by chambering knee pretty high up, knee pointed to opponent; then pivot, keeping knee pointed to opponent and kick fast hitting with ball of foot.

* Side kick: Chamber so that knee almost touches shoulder, spend some time stretching oo...uuuu...uuu...t, and then pivot to regain balance. Try to keep leg level during the pivot.

* Back kick: Bend low and start the kick by 'sitting', and with thighs almost brushing, then kick through the hole behind the support knee. Try to hold kick, and stretch it out far and high by bending support knee.

* Step back kick: Stance is lower than back kick. Take a fairly big step backwards, and stay low while taking the step, so that you're almost sitting after taking the step.

* Spinning kick: AAArrrggghhhh...I am SO bad at this. Anyway, lift up back leg to the side, and keep it there while spinning torso so that opposite shoulder is drawn towards the leg, then keep spinning (..err I think).

* Chon-ji: Do the moves fast enough, but try to keep body weight in between legs, as you would if you had full time for the 'prepare'.

* One Step Sparring: Yell when signalling ready for attacker. Keep eye on punching hand of opponent, and step away from it to block. While attacking, pivot while doing block (need to practice stepping back to prepare to block)
- Block with hand near punch (w.h.n.p), knife hand
- Block w.h.n.p, other hand chambers, punch to face, torso, face. In RIDING STANCE while punching
- Block w.h.n.p, stance should be facing attacker so as to generate maximum force while turning during elbow strike. Lift other hand to blocking hand and then two elbow strikes: first blocked side, then other. Remember to pivot feet , and use hips to generate the turning.
- Block with hand NOT near punch, bend at elbow, and straighten it out towards face of attacker while chambering other fist. Then punch with the chambered fist, while not moving the leg on that side, but move opposite leg a small step.

I heard in class today that usually all but one or two people fail the yellow belt exam the first time. GREAT! Now in addition to the stress of not knowing what will be asked, I KNOW I'm going to fail. I don't know whether to be relieved or depressed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Curb Your Enthusiasm

No, I haven't seen the show. I just like the phrase. When I started classes, I was really enthusiatic, to the point of putting too much effort into kicks and drills. To the point where I was not aware that with certain ways of moving, I could hurt myself by not moving in the most efficient way, for example, not focussing on my pivoting leg.

If you allow yourself to pivot freely on the ball of the foot with most of the work done by your thighs (this can be achieved by bending your support leg slightly at the knee before the pivot, for example in roundhouse or side kick), it is much better than turning by applying the force with your knees.

I've learnt the hard way, that the best way to approach the wish to give more than 100% each time is to focus on details, and to be smart and not emotional. I am trying to focus myself before each class, and to give my best effort while paying attention to how I am moving (rather than how much or how hard). Its hard to do this on your own without guidance. Currently, I am definitely feeling that I don't get enough comments from my instructor. I just try to not be dissapointed about this. An optimistic frame of mind helps against obstacles.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Belt Exam!

My yellow belt exam is two weeks away! My first thought was that I want to be a white belt for longer. Nevermind that my side kicks and Chon-Ji feel far from yellow-belt-deserving quality. I was just enjoying the newness of going to class, learning new things and just being a beginner. Hmmm... maybe I am worried about having to expect more from myself if I am yellow belt. I am pretty resistant to change from the familiar.

As for my knee, it has definitely been improving steadily, though it feels stiff from time to time. I only missed one class because of it, though I might be expecting too much from myself by not taking a break. On the other hand, I have been reading Mindbody Prescription (by Dr. John Sarno) again and it did feel immediately much better. So I am trying to accept that it may be partly real injury, partly psychological and trying to explore the stress I have related to taekwondo. For example, the amount of time it takes, my need for my instructors approval, anger when I don't perform well but others do, and so forth.

I believe in the theory proposed in this book because I cured myself of back pain, neck pain and RSI (repetitive stress injury) which lasted a year by following its guidelines. The theory is a little to involved to go into here, but essentially its that the cause of chronic pain (of many different kinds) is stress in our daily lives, repressed emotions and repressed rage (these may be left over from childhood, as well as a reaction to current stresses). And once we learn to release these or become aware of them and aware of the mechanism by which the brain can create physical pain, it will subside. I want to stress, its not that the pain is imaginary, or `all in your head'. The pain is real, and people have measurable physical symptoms like stiffness or tightness or weakness. However, the pain is created because our brain gives the nervous system an order to decrease blood flow! I highly recommend the book for more information.

Here is a quote from the book. Its in the context of RSI but it applies to many situations, including taekwondo for me, since I feel conditioned to think 'Oh, all this pivoting and kicking; it must be bad for my knees'. Anyway, Dr. Sarno says,

"It is totally without logic that after millions of years of evolution...our bodies have become structurally incompetent, or that we have become so fragile that we must be careful how we move, use our bodies, or engage in repetitive activities. This is unadulterated nonsense. We are not made of papier-mache; we are tough and resilient, adaptable and quick to heal."

On how chronic pain often manifests itself in the same place as an injury:

"..this is a demonstration of the cleverness and ingenuity of the mind when it wishes to create a physical distraction. The mind is aware of everything that goes on in the body, including the site of herniated discs, meniscus tears in the knee joints and tears of the rotator cuff in the shoulder. It may sound fanciful, but experience makes it clear that the brain will initiate pain where a structural abnormality exists, the better to impress you and more firmly keep your attention on your body, just as it will induce pain at the site of an old injury."

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I've decided to do a stretching routine everyday, even (or especially) on off days, twice a day. I got off to a good start today, though I woke up only at 10. After taking a hot shower, did a small warmup and stretching session.

Warmup consisted of 30-50 each of
* Jumping jacks (I never see people doing these in gyms anymore. Is it embarrassing or something?)
* Neck rotations
* Arm rotations
* Hip rotations
* Side to side rotations for hips
* Knee rotations
* Windmills touching toes
* Ankle rotations

Stretching consisted of 5 stretches each for a count of 10
While standing:
* Touching toes
* Touching toes one leg crossed before the other
* Touching toes with legs spread wide
* Lunges, side and front (I skipped these today because of the knee)
While sitting:
* Touch toes of one leg with other leg bent in sitting position
* Touch toes of one leg with head to knee while other leg is stretched out
* Touch toes of both legs with legs spread
* With legs spread (try to) put forearms flat on the ground
* Stretch groin by putting soles of feet together
While standing:
* Quad stretch: hold foot with one hand and touch foot to butt from behind
* Splits, side and front (I skipped these too today)
* Side stretch, reach with hand towards opposite leg while bending sideways

I was kind of making it up as I went along, so now I'm glad to have it written down for future reference.

It felt pretty good at the end. Its probably stupid but I've never paid much attention to stretching. I guess I never did anything vigorous enough to warrant it. When I used to go running, I got by with minimal stretching. So this is probably the longest and most thorough routine I've done. We do have stretching for the first 10 minutes of class, but its so fast paced, I don't think I ever end up holding a good stretch and breathing.

I've ordered 'Ultimate Flexibility' by Sang H. Kim, who is a martial artist, so hopefully I will increase my inadequate knowledge about stretching properly.

I totally forgot sit-ups and push-ups. We haven't had any push-ups in class yet, so I should build up while I can, and not be embarassed in class. I think I can do about 15 right now...pathetic. Sit-ups are better...I can do about 50 proper ones, but when we are asked in class to do 100, I think I lift only my neck for the last 50.

2/07: Just a note that I ditched this routine, and have been using the stretching routine suggested by Kurz for 4 months.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I saw Jet Li's movie 'Fearless' today. The plot was pretty simple, but I enjoyed the movie. It had the trademark scene of Jet Li practicing alone with beautiful scenery in the background, in slow motion at a particularly poignant juncture in the movie. Now that I know there is a difference between Wushu and Karate, I especially enjoyed the climactic fight in the end against the Karate fighter, trying to spot how their styles were different.

Google video has the fight online.

Tomorrow will be my first day back at taekwondo after my knee got hurt. It still feels a bit twingey. I'm trying to ignore my nervousness.

Starting Taekwondo "Later" in Life

This thought is often at the back of my mind. Am I going to be flexible enough? Will I be able to compete and keep up with younger stronger people?

I enjoy and am inspired by reading accounts of people who did start taekwondo later, especially when they had no previous history of martial arts. Here are some such websites:

Steve Conway's Taekwondo Site

Lisa Wise's Taekwondo Blog

My thoughts on this are that its all (mostly) in the mind. We don't realize how much of our physical well-being is controlled by our emotional and mental health. I had first-hand experience of the power of the mind when I was battling with chronic pain. I think the same applies to taking up a strenuous activity. What is limiting me is thoughts of what I will be unable to do. And this is conditioning that has been instilled into me by society and my parents. I need to free my mind of these and believe I will be able to perform well and become more flexible (this is a big goal for me) no matter what my age.

The difficult thing is that its not enough to just realize that the key is in the mind. Somehow it has to seep into your subconscious, or into your very fibres for it to work.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Since I just started this journal today, it feels a bit silly to be putting in all the expressive titles, but I did want to have all my thoughts nice and organized. Even if they actually occurred to me a few days ago.

Anyway, last Sunday, at class, I was doing some side kicks. A black belt, who is also my friend outside class, I'll call him G, asked me to kick his hand which he put in front of me, while keeping my eyes on it. I guess I'd been moving my face away quite a bit and it took a huge effort. My knee gave a bit of a wrench doing this because I had to hold my pivoting back leg harder in place that usual, and I sprained my knee. I went on with the rest of the class, but the pain set in later, and I decided to skip class on Tuesday, and let it heal. The pain has been getting better, but my knee feels all stiff and funny. I asked G if I should just go back to class and tough it out. He said yes, but to stretch. I'm not sure of specific stretches to do though. And my knee gives a twinge when I bend my knees low to practice Chon-Ji.

On Thursday class was canceled because of a football game at school, saving me from making the decision about going or not. I think I'll go on Sunday and tough it out. I went for a tiny jog today, and it was not too bad, though it hurt a bit.

I am agonizing about missing classes on the one hand and reinjury if I don't let it heal on the other.

Why I Like Taekwondo #1

I think one of the reasons is the discipline. The stricter the better. And the feeling that if I put work into it, I will achieve something.

I always feel that in the rest of my life everybody is always polite and soft spoken with each other. They "suggest" you should do something, while probably meaning that they expect you to. I like it that my instructor expects total obedience, but makes it so clear. I like it when he reprimands me for my technique. When he shouts about putting more effort into my kicks or making it faster, I feel very motivated to do it. Its a very physical/emotional feeling, unlike with a lot of my thesis work where a lot of the motivation has to come from inside myself and I never have a physical or such a strong sense of emotional motivation (except dissapointment when things don't work out...ok there are very rare moments of elation too, when something actually works). The second point especially, I often feel that I have to put in a superhuman amount of effort into my research, often with no tangible achievement.

How Old is Too Old?

When I was 18, I felt old because little kids in my class were already green and blue belts. This time around, since my taekwondo class is in my university, the gap isn't as large and everybody is just starting. On the other hand, everybody seems to be an undergraduate! I feel old now not only physically but also mentally. One night after class, my partner of the evening asked if I was a freshman and what major I was in. He was shocked to hear I was a final year PhD student.

Oh well...I'll have to take it as a complement that he thought I was a freshman. But some part of my mind puts it down to HIS inexperience!

How It All Started

I started to learn taekwondo when I was about 18. Classes were held from 5 to 6.30 in the evening on the university campus where my father taught, and my family lived. I was going to college at that time, commuting for a couple of hours in the morning and evening by bus. I didn't have time to go home before class, so I would go straight from college. My parents didn't like this idea at all, and pretty much gave me an ultimatum: either I would make time to come home and eat lunch before going to taekwondo, or I could not go. I myself felt the strain of commuting for long hours and then going to class, and I gave up fairly soon after I started.

Taekwondo has always been at the back of my mind since then, I 'm not sure why (or maybe there are many reasons why, and I still have to clear out in my mind why I am so emotional about taekwondo). I graduated from college, and moved to the US to do graduate work, working for my PhD. The first couple of years were rough academically, and it took me a while to get used to the rhythm of things until I was satisfied with the academic part of my life. It was three years into my PhD before I signed up for taekwondo. But I was not destined at this point to start learning again.

The next two years I battled with chronic pain in my foot, back, neck and shoulders. I won't go into the miracle that I saved myelf by. It was a time during which I became completely involved with my health, and thought of not much else.

I'm almost 27 now, and I have a year left to get my degree. My health problems resolved themselves over the summer (or I resolved them), and I signed up for taekwondo during fall semester! I feel such a sense of fulfilment just having signed up after waiting so long for it.