Recovering from the Blister

I discovered that I had actually developed two blisters. One of them was right behind my big toe on the front pad of my left foot. It was round and covered half of the pad. It was nice and robust and basically prevented walking for the next two days. The other was toward the center of my foot and sent sharp pains in response to my attempts to investigate further.

These were the two push off points for my sparring combinations. It was solid evidence that I was pushing off properly. This sinister evidence also prevented me from practicing any kata or sparring combinations for the next several days. I spent the two days afterward walking on the outside blade of my left foot like some sort of hobbled circus performer. This created such an odd habit that when I shifted back to regular walking, I found myself putting too much weight on the outside of my left foot. I think I’ve corrected this, but please tell me if you think I’m walking funny.

I’ve been running and strength training while waiting for the blister to disappear. While this may not sound bad, the lack of karate practice has made it a very frustrating period. You see, the mirrors in the aerobics room at the gym (aka secret dojo), have displayed my flaws. My stances are too high. I need to square my shoulders more. The whole opening of the kata looks flat. Time is precious! I’m not sure if I can change all this in the six weeks before Nationals, but at least I can try.

But this dreaded blister is holding me back. Today is different. I think the blister in gone. Time for more kata and sparring drills.

May 14, 2013

I’m getting better at the 1965 Hak Keung Gymnasium workout. I’ve even started increasing some of the weights. I’m now doing 30 pound concentration curls (6 reps, 4 sets). What’s tough about the workout is how many exercises there are. There are 13 exercises for a total of 51 sets. I’ve now put the pushups at the end of the workout and when I get to that point, I struggle to get to the 20 reps on the first of the three sets. I imagine that this causes much amusement for the all the people stretching and doing plyometrics in the aerobics room.

Earbuds are in and I’m blasting the complex rhythms of obscure indie rock. I think I’m grunting and scaring the woman next to me who has been stretching for 30 minutes. No yoga, just stretching. Strange. This is not the vibe she’s looking for. She leaves. More room for me. Nice.

Right foot forward. Step up with the back leg, lead punch. Right leg forward, reverse left punch. Right roundhouse to the head. It looks like my flexibility is coming back. I think I’m consistently making it to head level on the kick (best way to get a full point!). The blister’s gone, but I can feel the loose skin from the former blister, moving around and wanting to tear away. I was hoping it would be a solid callous by now. Against my nature, I decide to proceed with caution.


A Dance Off Has Been Called

The gym is a little grimy. It’s a well known gym, so one might expect less dirt, but this location is in the lowest tier of the empire. It has been forgotten. But as I mentioned before, at $14 per month, the grime to price ratio still warranted joining. And I have grown fond of this gym. It has the basics: free weights and some machines. That’s all I need for Year of Bruce. And it also has one surprising treasure, the aerobics room.

It’s 1500 square feet of neglected possibility. I suspect the other gyms are attracting people who are willing to drop at least $75 per month for trendy classes, such as the dreaded Zumba (with a name reminiscent of Godzilla’s rivals, it was destined for evil). My gym is unburdened by such things. It seems that less trendy classes also means less classes in general. This is good for me. The space can be recommissioned. Recommissioned into a perfect makeshift dojo. Lots of space, hardwood, and mirrors. An empty canvas.

May 3, 2013

After finishing the 1965 Hak Keung Gymnasium workout, I headed for this new dojo. After some pushups and sit-ups, I started working on my evasion combination for sparring. I’m still a ways from 10,000 reps, but I can certainly knock out another 100 today. With my right leg forward, I fade my left foot behind me while leading with my right punch. The left leg comes up a half step followed by left reverse punch to the body. “Don’t telegraph with the front foot, don’t telegraph with the front foot.” I keep repeating this mantra. Such a bad habit and according to my teacher, my undoing this season. At about 60 reps, the pad of my left foot starts to tingle, then little sharp pains hit as I push off. A blister is forming. I’ve been training in shoes outdoors too much. This revelation dawns on me as I start to worry about finishing my goal. I push through to 100. I had planned on practicing kata, but that may have to wait a day.

As I finish the 100th rep, a Capoeira practitioner enters. He knows of this secret dojo. I’m happy to see another dedicated martial artist, but I also feel a little territorial. Doesn’t he know this is a secret karate dojo. Oblivious to this fact, he starts doing handstands, throwing his legs in the air. Although he is on the other side of my secret dojo, I know a dance off has been called. It’s clearly the time to demonstrate my style’s kicks. Facing the mirror, I watch both of us as I lead punch with my right, step up with my left, drive the left punch to my mirror doppleganger’s midsection, and then a right leg round house kick to my mirror self’s head. Crisp and hard, very Japanese. It makes for a nice contrast to his loose Brazilian style. Then, at about 10 reps, the pain from the blister starts to shout warnings at me, “The skin will tear soon.” Time to stop. This dance off will be continued.

Ultimate Day of Focus and Discipline (almost)

It took some time, but I accomplished 4/7ths of the Bruce Lee Ultimate Day of Focus and Discipline (trademark pending). And I’m still quite sore. The 4/7ths version includes meditation, strength training, cardio, and karate training. As I alluded to previously, these activities must accomplished in one day. “Why,” you may ask, “must one accomplish all of this in just one day.” I have no idea, except to say that Bruce said so. Remember, this is only the beginning, I must find a way to fit the 3/7 in as well. In spite of the soreness.

What type of Superman was this Bruce Lee? I struggle to stay awake after only half  a day of life as Bruce. Now I am beginning to see how the Year of Bruce implies a total life transformation and some access to limitless amounts of energy (would a Diet Rockstar per day really be so bad?).

At least I’m getting through the entire 1965 Hak Keung Gymnasium workout. That takes 90 minutes. And my run took 60 minutes. This was the shortened version. And the karate workout took 45 minutes. Again, the shortened version. With recovery periods and eating to maintain my energy, this took me from noon to 5 pm. 5 hours minus 2.25 hours = 2.75 hours for recovery and eating (and the internet may have been in there somewhere).

Apparently, I’m a slow eater and I need a lot of recovery time (and internet). You see, my legs are not quite working today. It seems that the 4/7ths workout blasts my legs, tremendously. Squats, then karate stances, then running up hill will have an impact, I’ve now learned. They are already big, I wonder what’s going to happen to them? Will they get even bigger or just more toned? I guess I’ll find out if I start bursting out of my pants like the Incredible Hulk.

April 29, 2013

Up early to meditate. I’m working on counting. Have you tried counting breaths? I’m discovering that it’s so much harder than it sounds. You see, in meditation, counting breaths means just that and nothing else. It’s 6 am, I still don’t love 6 am. And it seems that when I’m tired, the mind wanders even more than usual. I’m doubling my counts, hoping that there is no room for thought to enter.

In – “Onnnnnne.” Out – “Onnnnnnne.” In – “Twoooooo.” Out -”They see me rollin’/They hatin’/Patrollin’/’They’re to catch me ridin dirty/Tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty/Tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty/Tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty/Tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty.”

I don’t even like Chamillionaire. Why am I being tortured by his catchy, catchy lyrics?! OK. In – “Onnnnne.” Out – “Onnnnne.” In – “Two.” Out – “Two.” “OK, I’m doing it!” Oh no, I just thought about not thinking, therefore I’m thinking. In – “One.” Out – Eyes close, I almost fall off my cushion. “So tired, I want my bed back!” Somewhere in this battle with myself, my alarm goes off. Fifteen minutes, done. Let’s try again tomorrow.

The Art of Practicing

The first time I ready Zen and the Art of Archery (Herrigel, 1948) I was mostly confused. I was actually a lot confused. It was 1993 and I had just received my yellow belt from my teacher in the Pacific Martial Arts, a very traditional school, which focuses most of its training on the core art of Washin-Ryu Karate-do. As a reward, my instructor had given me the lower belt reading list and told me to read Zen in the Art of Archery first. I know for some of you this may sound like a slightly boring read, but given my yearning for what I believed were the mystical secrets embedded in the Asian martial arts, I thought that I had just been given access to the first of the many secret texts to come. Plus, my teacher had told me that this very book summarized the core of our art! This would be the first step on my new path, a path focused on knocking people down with my eyes and developing kiais (shouts) that will break bones. Finally, it begins!

Then I got to page 4:

“And consequently by the ‘art’ of archery he does not mean the ability of the sportsman, which can be controlled more or less, by bodily exercises, but an ability whose origin is to be sought in spiritual exercises and whose aim consists of hitting a spiritual goal, so that fundamentally the marksman aims at himself and may even succeed at hitting himself.”

“OK, you lost me on that last part,” I thought. How do I fundamentally aim at myself and sometimes succeed at hitting myself. And by the way, where is the section on secret techniques already? I quickly finished the book that night, looking for those answers. As far as I could tell at the time, none were given. Mostly the author talked about practicing over and over and over again. And then one day, he shot at a target for a demonstration and hit it. All while not “trying” to hit it. The end.

This “anticlimax” and all of these riddles made no sense. So I held onto the one thing that made sense to me after reading the book. I started practicing a lot. It was easy to do because karate was so much fun. And my two best friends were in the same dojo! I stopped trying to figure out the book, although I did periodically re-read it. It was supposed to represent the core of our art after all. And after these many years, I discovered that I do sometimes hit the target without trying to hit the target. These are the beautiful moments when I seem to move spontaneously. The words in my head seem to stop for just a moment. Sometimes, entire complex attacks have even flowed out of me of their own volition. I wasn’t even trying to do them. And even better, they worked! These moments seemed dramatically slowed down, my vision seemed heightened, and my responses pre-cognitive and perfect. I can still clearly remember all of these brief, precise moments.

So, how did this all start happening? What mystical techniques were used? I don’t know. All I’ve been doing is practicing my karate over and over and over again.