February 16, 2017
I was looking forward to tonight’s class since this was the last class to prepare for Saturday’s testing for my white belt. There was also something else that I looked forward to sharing with Master Delgado. As mentioned in the previous blog, the new walking stick which I ordered (an early birthday gift to myself – one month early) was delivered to me just before class time.
My new walking stick was gorgeous. It was not your ordinary walking stick. It was made of torched bamboo, but as awesome as it looked, it also had an extra special quality; it could be played as a flute. I didn’t feel too guilty for my indulgence in a material item since this item had a dual purpose.
Unfortunately, I realized that it was too tall to pass for a walking cane, which is to be its main purpose, but this was soon remedied when my husband offered to cut it down to size for me. He not only cut it down to walking cane size, but he also used three of my chicken feathers to attach to the leather strap. It is just too cool. So off I went to tonight’s martial arts class at Koryo Do with my new acquisition. I felt like a child heading off to school for show and tell. Oh, I forgot to mention that it even has a compass built into the top.
Arriving to class, I was quickly informed that I was only one of two learners who had applied to test on Saturday which meant that my white belt test would need to be pushed to March. It was pointed out by the office manager that the extension would give me more time to feel totally confident of my performance. Honestly, I think I was fairly confident now, but it is not going to happen, so I shift my thoughts to that idea instead, which, of course, is true.
My sponsor, Sensei Ishmel (Ish), arrives and sits down next to me as I am struggling to get organized before class by putting on my shoes and putting away my personal items. He basically tells me the same information about the testing being delayed and mentions that we will finish filling out the testing form after class to be ready for the test in March. As I was speaking with Sansei Ish, learners waiting for the class to begin are being invited to join the current class (younger group) for a ball game. I accept the invitation and start to step onto the maps, forgetting that I am still wearing my glasses; oops. I hurriedly put them away and quickly step onto the mats for the dodge ball game.
The dodge ball game helps to develop our reflexes. Players are all given weighty, small, sponge balls and line up on both sides of the studio. Everyone throws ball at the players on the other side of the studio at the same time while dodging balls being thrown toward you. If you get hit with a ball, then you are to do ten push-ups, and if someone catches a ball you threw, you are to do twenty push-ups. If you attempt to catch a ball and it touches your hand – but you miss, then you are to twenty push-ups. “I definitely need to work on my reflexes,” I thought while doing all those sets of push-ups. The current class lines up to end the session, and I am already feeling winded before my class has even started.
In the short time between the change of classes, I show Master Delgado my new walking stick. He admired the strength of the bamboo and pointed out that the flute holes will actually help make the stick an even better defensive weapon. I had thoughts about bringing it with me to use in weapons class, but he put an end to that thought as he next said for me to be sure not to use it in class because they break many sticks. Gee, I sure don’t want to take that chance.
Class now starts, and we go through the normal stretching warmups followed by cardiovascular warmups up fast punching, blocking, crunches, and leg lifts. My stamina begins to falter when I look up and see Master Delgado send a smile. I smile back and decide to try to keep going although every muscle in my body is protesting loudly.
We next face partners and work on kicks (back side kicks, snap kicks, and indoor and outdoor kicks). We do our kicks moving toward our partners with Master Delgado orchestrating the timing. Interestingly with the side kicks we are to tap our partner’s foot.
Going back to my thoughts of learning to work in self defense with my walking stick, I now learn that Master Delgado had already planned for us to work with sticks tonight. Another student had made a request earlier, and he smiled and said that we must have had extra sensory perception (ESP);cool.
Sticks were passed out and again we faced our partners and worked on upper and lower blocks using our sticks against our partners’ sticks. Master Delgado counted out the rhythm to flow. At one point when a student needed to change a beginning foot position, Master Delgado stopped us to question individual students of the reasoning for beginning with our left foot behind. After a few failed attempts at the answer, we learned that in the past swords were held in the right hand since most people have more strength with the right arm, and shields were held in the left to block. Beginning with your left foot behind adds forward movement to the strength of your sword coming down. I contemplated asking about left-handed people but decided it might be a silly question. Maybe if I was left handed, it would not have seemed as silly. During our stick drills my finger did get popped by the stick once by my partner. She did stop to ask if I was alright, but I pretty much avoided the question and kept going. I don’t think she would really understand why I had flinched so much since she is young and does not know the pain of arthritis. It did give me pause with my thoughts to join the weapons class on Monday night. The weapons class is an advanced class, and I am not sure I have enough skill yet to be able to protect myself from getting hit. Oh well, I will continue to think about it. Maybe I will at least try the class out to see, but I must admit that now I am a little scared.
After tonight’s class ended, Master Delgado explained that as beginners our goals at this time are mainly to get into shape and work on self defense moves. I can feel my body growing stronger, but my muscles are not strong enough to keep up with all of our exercises. Master Delgado told us that one day we will feel our strength and know we are ready to move to the next level. I can’t wait for the day when I can actually complete all the exercises without my body protesting loudly.