Shine

It’s bedtime for me, so I’ll be as brief as possible. Well, that’s not true, but I’ll try and be terse anyway.

My fourth Oh Do Kwan lesson today. I don’t want to turn my blog into a martial arts journal, so I’ll keep it short. Gary showed no sympathy when I told him I was unable to eat last night because of his kick. He seems to *want* to hurt me, but I’m uncertain if it’s because he’s out to get me or… perhaps he’s always staying one notch above me so I have a goal to strive for? At any rate, I hate to say it, but Gary (whose real name is Allistair) is the most productive part of the class. And he’s strong, too, so I have to take it very seriously when I’m challenging him. He keeps pushing me (sometimes literally), so all I can do is grow and learn and become stronger so it’s harder next time. All that ass-kicking is teaching me not to get my ass kicked, so I’m grateful. I’m also learning to vary attacks, although my knowledge of… Forgive me, I’m getting longwinded. Long story short, my martial arts is improving in general, my flexibility is increasing and my technique is becoming more furnished. Although perhaps not the greatest student in class, I’m getting there, and I’m definitely no longer a white belt. Maybe soon I’ll be given another belt that will make me feel like less of a noob =)

Holidays end. I’ve never gone out so much before. Prior to Year 10, I had never been to the city for any recreational purpose. Over these holidays, I’ve been out more times than I have in my whole life put together. It’s been great, and although I haven’t read as many books as I’d have liked to, I have passed a few games, learned a few things, started Taekwondo… I don’t really have time for a proper reflection, but this year I will do fantastically well. This I am determined. And there will be no Buts, no excuses, only results. Good or bad, I will always seek to improve and do the very best I can. Meanwhile I have to sleep so I can start the year reasonably well.

Peace out!!

~Xin

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Oh Do Kwan, take 3!

Okay, just had my third Oh Do Kwan lesson. My hands are a little shaky, my right acetabulum hurts and my legs are a wee bit weak, but overall I’m okay. I did learn a very valuable lesson today: Don’t get cheeky with blackbelts.

As per usual, we sparred to end the class. I find it terribly cruel and demeaning to see a dozen white belts/coloured belts lining up at the start of the class, and then all of them disappearing somehow. I don’t know where they go- if they left, or if they’re just in the little room off to the side. Why am I up there with the black belts who have like more dans than I have fingers? … I actually looked at my hands to count my fingers. I’m just a little woosy. After all. I did get kicked in the face. Here’s what happened.

You remember that black belt third dan who kicked me in the nuts on my second lesson? Let’s call him Gary. He looks like a Gary. Well Gary and I are best mates, and our expression of affection is an amiable love shove. I’m getting used to sparring a bit- kicking, blocking, kicking again. That’s all any of my partners do, but maybe it’s because I’m wearing a white belt. Anyway, Jack encouraged me to stab him in the eyes wiuth my fingers, or clock him in the throat, or "accidentally" step on his toes, then smash him while he couldn’t move. I tried all of these, but he kept his distance. Just far enough for a kick, or for returning one. So what do I do? I think to myself, I do, Hm… Gary is expecting a kick. Maybe I can catch him off guard? So I launch in there, dash under his guard and throw a punch at him. Unfortunately, he did a back-heel which would have intercepted but not connected if I had tried kicking him. Because I got too close, it connected with my jaw and we stopped the fight momentarily. Man, Gary and I are close.

My next partner went better. I caught him off guard a few times, and I actually blocked a few of his kicks. In the whole hour of Taekwondo, I landed *one* blow, but it was that one blow that made me feel competent. He looked at me and grinned, and it was like he was saying, "Oo, getting rusty Bob." Yes, let’s call him Bob. He looks like a Bob. And I’m like ‘Hell yeah! Hell ****ing yeah!’ and he’s like, "Better take it up a notch." And I’m like, ‘No! Pain! Paaaaain!’ Bob is by far my favourite sparring partner, because he smiled at me, and he adapted to my frienzied determination to land a blow. Everyone else just takes controls and floors me, but Bob gives me a chance and isn’t ruthless or brutal. Thank you Bob- I respect you.

I’m getting a bit better. Although I lose balance after, like, the
dozenth back kick, I’m improving. And although my snap kicks can’t
resonate any decibel of sound from the pads, I’m kicking higher. And I
can stretch just a little further, and stand just a little higher.
Maybe I’m just talking it up, but I think I’m getting back into it. I
think I’m almost at the level of some of the junior blackbelts. But now
I’m just getting cocky.

Also, when it came to grabbing, I kept to my two wrist-grabs. I don’t do them very well- they take more strength than I’m willing to put in. I discovered this when Master Ross Hartnett came over to correct me. I remember, being seven years old, Instructor Gary emitting this phenomenal aura of power. When he touched me, I could glean a peculiar herculean strength. You couldn’t see it, but when you spoke to him or came near him, you could feel it. Master Ross is the same, and I’m still that 7yo looking up to his sensei as some incredible all-powerful god of martial arts. I wonder if it’s because I’m a noob, or because they’re 1337.

Anyway, that’s it. Still quite sore, but very grateful to be functional, and learning. Still much to learn, as it is. I’ll hopefully be going back tomorrow. Peace out!

~Xin

EDIT: Oh, might I mention that Gary and I swept past each other on another occassion, and his foot did indeed brush past my groin. He’s definitely out to get me.

Also, Jack has an interesting theory. In one particular episode of Spongebob Squarepants, somebody tried to beat him up and all the punches went straight through because, Spongebob Squarepants shockingly enough seems to be made of some sort of "spongy material". Jack told me to try Spongebob’s technique. I pointed out that would be a bad idea, because I got kicked in the jaw. Jack countered with one of my now favourite quotes, "You’re not thinking like a sponge John!"

Furthermore, I was unable to eat my rice. Opening my mouth to receive food, and then closing it to chew caused immeasurable pain. I’ve had lots to drink so I’m not *entirely* hungry, but I did actually skip dinner. I’m going to have a word with Gary tomorrow. And then, if possible, shoot him or something.

Oh Do Kwan, take 2

Today for Show and Tell, little Johnny would like to tell us about his second ever Oh Do Kwan lesson!

Little Johnny: Today, I got kicked in the nuts by a blackbelt, third dan!

How, you wonder? Unfair play? No, not at all! When we were sparring today to finish off the class, I did not want to get in close enough to a 30-year-old man with three white stripes on his belt. So we just exchanged a kick or two, and he constantly dodged mine and nailed me immediately after. I thought I"d be tricky this one time, and I did a side kick, followed by a back kick. That means kicking from the side, then putting your foot down and facing your back to your opponent, before nailing him with your other leg. Unfortunately, my partner was used to the pattern of one kick, one block, and he did a back kick the same time I did mine. My leg was slightly higher than his, and I would have kicked him in the stomach. His foot was slightly longer than mine, so he actually kicked me in the nuts. Yowch!

I know I’ve only been to two lessons, but I can’t help it. I can’t help but feel inferior. All of the blackbelts look at me and think "All right, I’m about to spar a white belt, he’s new, he’s inexperienced and he’s just a teenager too. Nothing too heavy." And I can’t help but have my ass kicked, because they’re faster, trickier, better balanced and stronger than me. Their technique is sharper, their movements more fluid and precise. But then again John, remind yourself they’ve had a few hundred more lessons than you have. But damnit, I’m better than this! I’m struggling to get my kicks right, to get height let alone strength. Kicks are simple, I should be able to do them, I *learned* how to do them, but I always seem to lose my balance. So that’s something I have to work on.

Also, through no fault of my own, I am completely ignorant of most of the moves I see the rest of the class doing. I was told to just continue doing the simple block while the rest of the class did two blocks, and then two blocks and a strike. Or one jab, one punch and one hook instead. Those are just the things I can name. There was like a double-knife hand, hammer fist blah blah sequence, and they kept getting progressively harder, while I at the back of the class continued my blocking. And when the sparring came, I went with instinct over technique and used my right hand to block attacks coming from the left.

I’m just the teenager. No, that’s not it. There are kids, 8-year-olds, who have their first dan. It’s not my age, it’s my belt. I’m just the newb. But I’ll get better, over time. I tried practicing when I got home, but I have serious space issues, and my backyard is on a 60 degree angle. I guess I’ll just clean out the lounge room or shift one of the couches or something so I have enough room to train without crashing into anything. Don’t worry- I’ll get better as time moves on. And more flexible, too. Geez my muscles hurt.

Anyway, enough whinging. I love it, and it’s certainly very taxing. I swear to God, my fingers started to shrivel because of the sweat from my clenched fists. That’s never happened before, and disturbed/amazed me. Sweat dripped off my nose for goodness sake. Yes, Oh Do Kwan demands a lot from me, and I’m more than willing to give it my best. I remember having this same determination when I was 10 years old- it was a challenge for my endurance, to keep up the standards and deliver, no matter how tired I got. It feels good to have that challenge again. I focus so hard. It makes me feel as if I’m growing, and that is a wonderful thing to feel.

Anyway, enough rambles. Peace out!

Oh Do Kwan

On the way home this afternoon, I reminded Mum that she’d promised to investigate the plausibility of learning a martial arts. She assented, and after I’d cooled down a bit at home, off we went to get our watches repaired and simultaneously drop in to the local Taekwondo. My heart was racing as I watched two blackbelts (two dans) sparring, doing fancy kicks that I won’t bore you by describing. Beside them were green belts and red belts, not quite as impressively attempting the same. The woman behind the counter intimidated me- her eyes were yellowed and her voice was soft and mature. She smiled, always, and yet you could never disrespect her. I later found out she was second in charge, and therefore second most skilled in Oh Do Kwan. She gave me a pamphlet, a booklet, and explained the special deal that was going on before the 1st of March. Basically I got a month of lessons, three times a week, and a uniform (gi?) for $30, as opposed to two weeks and the uniform costing an additional $35. I was overjoyed, and when she asked when I’d like to begin (before or after school), I said after. I figured I had a busy holidays- LPS, music lesson with Slawomirsky on Saturday (Mum told me about it a few hours ago- surprise John!), hopefully another games day. Books to read, work to do, the likes. Mum interjected, and for the first time in a long time, she was right about something. I signed up for the class, and would return in two hours time for my first lesson.

Arriving, I was anxious, but they were friendly. I was given a uniform (gi?) or two to try out, and the grandmaster himself tied my belt because I am an incompetent genin. Nevertheless, after undoing it and redoing it countless times, I learned how to tie it o-kay. Anyway, the class started soon after and I joined the back ranks. I noticed, somewhat painfully, that every other student in the dojo was a blackbelt, most of which had dans. There was one other beginner, looked about 13, named Osman who was beside me. Since it’s the school holidays, only the dedicated students, id est, the blackbelts, came to training. The warmup was, as usual, a few easy stretches, progressing to harder ones, for several minutes. Georgie, you think you’re flexible, well these people are insane. They sit on the floor, part their legs 180 degrees (I reckon I got about 110) and hug one of their knees. I felt pitiful, even though I’m the second most flexible person I know. In due time though, my flexibility will improve, and some day I shall bend like Rubberman! Anyway… When the class started, Osman and I were put at the back with an experienced student teaching us basic moves.

I was willing to learn everything from scratch- stances, blocks, kicks. I found that I didn’t have to. Six years ago, I quit Rhee Taekwondo. My mother mentioned this to my sensei (note: she’s not actual my sensei. I just like the term) as I registered, and she told me that because I had reached brown belt black stripe, that is to say, one grading off a black belt, I should be bumped up a bit. In other words, after a few lessons, they would rank me and give me an appropriate belt colour depending on how well trained I was, and I could continue learning from there. Keep in mind this was six years ago, and I learned for about three years from age 7-10. I remember not taking it entirely seriously, but working hard to keep my technique focused, even though I may have lacked a bit of power. I learned today that all those years of training were locked in my memory. As the Chunin demonstrated blocks, I found myself (if I may say so) gliding my foot instead of stepping. My stance, my form, was already set, unlike Osman who was basically standing up. A bit too low (I bent my knees too much), but that was a good thing, because in a fight that would come naturally, and maybe bouncing a little on the spot. However, for training, it wasn’t necessary.

The teachers of Oh Do Kwan had both tried out Rhee Taekwondo, until they learned it wasn’t internationally recognised. A lot of it’s the same, and I’m getting back into it well. I sort of have to undo a few kung fu movies I’ve seen, because when we did a bit of sparring (or for the beginners, alternating kicks and blocking), half of my blocks were catching his foot with both my hands. However, since I’m allowed to go three times a week, I’ll be back tomorrow, and hopefully on Saturday, after my piano lesson. It’s a little bit too dark outside to train right now, but tomorrow, believe it, I’ll be practicing.

I also had a reality check today. In my mind, I envisioned myself as the star pupil, training incredibly hard every day and mastering every move. I came to Taekwondo today, and all of the mature ones (that is to say, every black belt older than 15- there were a few youngens) were my vision. I will be humble- I cannot walk beside them yet, but I will learn, train and grow over the next few months. Years perhaps. Then, if I should get a blackbelt some day, I’ll take a look at ninjitsu, and the sky’s the limit!

Finally, I’m getting a move on with life.

PS: Website is http://www.taekwondoohdokwan.com.au

EDIT: Found them. My sensei is the famous Carmela Hartnett, and the man who did my belt is the even-more-famous Master Ross Hartnett. Check this out. http://www.taekwondoohdokwan.com.au/gpage.html
It’s really quite strange seeing these people in the flesh when they’re known around the globe for their prowess. And better still- they’re teaching it to me!

Touched by his Noodly Awesomeness

For the first time in my life, I shed a tear in awe. I’m a wuss, I know, shedding tears at every available opportunity, and usually while watching something impressive. I’m not sure what’s triggered this overflow of emotions, but I saw the coolest thing in my life today, and I could not stop making stranged, high-pitched noises in wonder and rapture. And, get this, it was Naruto. Kakashi sensei copied a water clone jutsu in about a second of recognising it, and then, in the coolest voice ever, put a kunai knife to the assassin’s throat. The actual sequence, the music, the voice acting especially… It was just overwhelming. Naruto is now, unquestionably, my favourite anime series, even though I’ve only seen six episodes. Those six episodes are enough to best every other anime I’ve ever watched.

If you haven’t seen Naruto before, and you’re into ninja, check it out. I heard you can find it on Youtube, searching for Naruto Episode 1. However, Jack gave me the first 40 episodes on tape, but I’m only going to watch them if I miss an episode on TV. Otherwise I’d watch them all in one sitting, and I’d explode from the overdose of essence of awesome.

Meanwhile, this is now something of a curiousity. Why do I keep crying? (ya big baby)

-is lacking a title-

Sorry, I tend to get a bit.. emotional, don’t I? It screws up my entries a bit.

I was being honest though. I’m not much of a musician. I lack that musical spark that musicians seem to have, the one that lets them create a melody, to make harmony from the very air, and their own minds. Me, I just learn the songs and play them. Worse is that, because I’ve been "learning" the piano for eight or so years, I feel as if I *should* be a musician, and therefore have that spark. Some musos have that spark before they ever start learning an instrument. Eight years down the track, I’m kinda waiting for it to come. So I feel as if I should have it, because people consider me a musician. That’s awful.

Also, I’m slightly better at guitar than piano when learning simple melodies. You heard right folks, it’s easier for me to learn a tune on a guitar than a piano, even though I’ve been learning the latter for so long. Shocking, isn’t it? Anyway, it’s getting late, and I could use a good night’s sleep. Peace out people. Weet dawxk, Naccen.

Death of a Muso

Over the past week, two particular quotes have been in my mind.

Eugene: "When will you learn to play by ear?"

Good question Eugene. He asked this when he was playing all the Zelda songs he had ever heard, making harmony and improvising a little here and there. This is something I am completely unable to do. Although Eugene has been doing it for years, I should laugh at something so easy, but really I’m as pathetic as someone who’s never played the piano at all when it comes to a song I haven’t learned.

Dad: "You should learn to play more than a few songs. What did we pay all that money for [by giving you piano lessons]?"

Another good question Dad. I’m sorry you decided your sons would be musical. Don’t worry, Eugene’s musician enough for the both of us. Readers, I’m not being modest when I say I cannot consider myself a pianist. In fact, I renounce myself as one. I have never played the piano, have never learned, and have no intention of learning. My so called brilliance is focused entirely on a few key songs I have practiced to death- songs that sound pretty, look complex, but are years old. I cannot be given music, learn it over a half hour, and play it from memory. I cannot hear a song and repeat it. I’m fairly good at aural, but not nearly as good as Eugene. Even without comparing myself to my bravura of a brother, I’m horrendous. If you’ve ever heard me play the piano, know that I practiced that songs for months before I dared perform it.

I’m only good at the piano because I’m dedicated to teaching my fingers routine patterns, which notes to hit and when. I’m not a musical genius, and I’m certainly not talented. I’m just an automaton who doesn’t use music to express his soul. I’m sorry guys, but I’m not. And Dad, I’m sorry you wasted money on me with those lessons, because once I leave school, I’ll just learn my favourite songs, and leave it at that. I’ll do my best to pass TEE Music well, naturally, but after that, I’m going to learn One Winged Angel and consider my journey as a musician over. -sigh- I wonder why it took me so long to realise. Oh, wait, I can answer that. Because people made me believe in something. They were so easily woo’d and impressed that they applauded, just because they hadn’t wasted months learning the songs I did. Well thanks for the support, but really, I don’t deserve faith. It doesn’t bother me that I’m not good at the piano. I’ve accepted that, and I’d rather stop playing altogether. What bothers me is that people want me to continue, even though I’m no good. And so I hate the blindness of those people who urge me on, when really, I’d rather just lay down for a while and have some peace. I like piano, I like music, don’t get me wrong, but having to play songs I don’t like, can’t play, or don’t want to play just…

Yeah, all right. So I will never again call myself a pianist, but merely a young male who, for a while, taught himself some songs. I don’t think I’ll ever be more than that.

PS: A few other quotes come to mind, now that I think about it.
Perry: You have to learn how to trill! It’s not that hard!
Eugene: It’s not something I can teach you! Every musician can just hear [the next note]/[the harmony that sounds good with a note].
Perry: It’s [he taps out a rhythm], not [he taps out another rhythm], which is what you’re doing.
Ben Caddy: Blah blah blah, I’m going to be a brilliant musician some day, and several times a week I play the violin in various orchestras, and simultaneously, the bass guitar for James Redman’s band. Good for you Ben, seriously, I’m glad for you. But if you’re a musician, what am I?
Dad/Eugene: Various scoldings for not playing the piano at church. Well screw you guys! I can’t play, so back off, yeah?