Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sinking In...

First off, thank you all for the congratulations! I go back and forth between feeling like I totally don't deserve it, what do I know about martial arts? I just barely started!, and feeling like with all the training and learning I've done so far, it's about time. My belt is folded and put away in my gear bag, but I keep going over to look at it and make sure my name actually IS on it. Gil, one of the guys in haganah whose son is in tkd, asked me today if it had sunken in yet. I don't think it really will until class tomorrow when I have to wear it for the first time. I hope I can tie it correctly! (Mental note to self, the name goes on the left side...)

Sir always says that earning your black belt isn't the end of a journey, it's the beginning of a new one. A black belt just means that you've learned the basics and shown honor, respect, and desire to continue learning. From now on, forms get harder and longer. My new form is going to be 81 moves, almost double what any of my previous forms have been, but I'll have at least a year to learn it. I'll also have weapons forms now, but I don't know which ones yet. Ma'am said usually people start with single ssahng jeol bahngs (single nunchucks), which still don't interest me in the slightest. I'd much rather do single or double bahng mahng ees (fighting sticks) like we've done in instructor class. Bo staff (can't think of the Korean for it) looks cool, too. I guess whatever Sir puts in my hand is what I'm going to start with, though. It will be nice to have a whole year to learn two new forms while reviewing all of the color belt forms, instead of having to learn a new form every two months and trying to remember all of the color belt forms.

There are nine basic haganah self-defenses that we are teaching the black belts now, and you add three for each of the first three dans. Testing for first dan requires three, second dan six (the previous three plus three more), and third requires nine. It was interesting watching Mr. R's self-defense test, and I could recognize and mostly remember all nine. I was getting a little frustrated with Sir during the last couple classes I had with him before my test, because in instructor class and haganah he kept having me do only my three defenses over and over again. I knew them, and he knew I knew them, and I didn't get why he wouldn't let me do anything else for almost two weeks straight, when we usually rotate through them. I came thisclose to complaining "But I can do these in my sleep!" but as soon as I thought that, I realized what he was doing. That was the point. To get me to the point where I didn't have to think about them, I just DID them. Those instructors, they're pretty sly sometimes.

First regular class tomorrow night. I think Sir and Mrs. S are leaving on vacation, but Mr. R said that if I wanted to stay after and go through instructor forms, he'd help me. It will be nice to get back into the rhythm of classes again! During the ceremony, while he was tying on my new belt, Sir leaned over and whispered, "So, you're only here for one class a week huh? Machine..."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Am I Ever Glad That's Over! (Long and No Fiber Stuff)

It's over! My black belt test is over! I won't know the results until Monday, but I think I did okay. Not stellar, but I don't think I sucked either. Mr. R and I were the only adults testing for rank this time around (Mr. R was testing for his third degree), but it was kind of nice to have a friend who was going through the same thing I was (only worse, really, for him)! Misery loves company and all that, I guess.

Basically, what happened (and I have no photographic evidence of any of this, because me and anyone I would ask to take pics were all kind of busy at the time, so you'll have to take my word for it) was that I arrived around 4:45p (in my Haganah pants and white shirt) and started stretching out while watching the end of the littlest kids' test. At 5:00p precisely, we (myself, Mr. R and Anthony, a kid who also tested for his first degree) started running. 15 really boring minutes later (no, I still don't like running), we were done with that and started in on the rest of our PT: we alternated 4 sets of 25 pushups with the 1-minute each drills of triple knees, triple punches, and triple groin kicks, then alternated our 4 sets of 25 situps with our 4 sets of 20 squats. I was partnered with Mr. R the whole time, and it wasn't too bad. I did have to go to my knees for the last two sets of pushups, but I did make it through the first 50 before my elbow started complaining.

After that, we were dismissed to change into our doboks, and Sir set up a couple of mats outside for Mr. R and I to continue stretching out and keep warm on until it was time for the formal test (mostly because it was boiling hot with all of the bodies starting to pile into the dojahng as the rest of the color belts and their families arrived. It was awesome to have those few minutes of cool breeze and relative quiet to think - I am so glad he did that!!). Finally, Sir calls us all together, introduces the judges (himself, Mrs. S, and Ma'am), introduces Mr. R, myself, and Anthony as testing for rank, bows us in, and we get started.

Forms first, and I think I did pretty darn good on that. I didn't stick one of my kicks (my first reverse hook kick) quite as well as I would have liked, but I think that was my only mistake in that. I did my form the same time as Mr. R did his, and you have to hold your final position until everyone is done with their forms and the judges give the "bahroh" command. Man, the third degree form is LONG! We were sent to get into our sparring gear after that, while the lower color belts went through their forms/one steps and the mid-terming black belts did their weapons forms. (Mr. R and I both went back outside to our mats - again, it was cooler, quieter, and Sir didn't want to take the chance that we would cramp up from sitting down for too long between stages.)

Sparring is still definitely my weakest area. I did two regular matches, one against Mr. R and one against a brown belt, got a short break while Anthony did his marathon spar, then I had to do MY marathon spar. A marathon spar is when basically everyone your age/rank and above lines up and you have to spar them all back to back to back. For me, that was the brown belt again, Jorge (a second degree), Mr. R again, another brown belt, and, thrown in at the last second (literally, I thought I was done and he attacked me), Mr. M. I caught my toe somehow on Mr. M's uniform and thought I had broken it, but after a second the pain went away, so I guess I just jammed it. (My first thought, after registering pain, was "it cannot be broken, because I have to finish this! I'm so tired and this is the last one!") I have a list of things I know I did wrong during the matches, and I intend to talk to Sir to confirm them and get better at it, but *I* thought my matches were decidedly less than stellar. Sir and Mr. R both move really fast, but at least they tend to have more control than Mr. M and Jorge, in general. Sparring either of those two scares me, because the odds of getting hurt go way up. Oddly, while I didn't really have it in me to do anything decent against Sir or Mr. R (not that I could have anyway, either of them could mop the floor with me if he so chose), I would almost have preferred them again. I just trust them more, I guess. I want to spar like them when I grow up (which is going to take a LOT of practice, if today is any indication!). On the other hand, I stayed inside to watch Mr. R's marathon spar, and I'm really glad that it wasn't Sir's face that I saw when I heard "Katie, look out!" and turned to just barely block a kick to the head from Mr. M! I was so bloody tired at that point that I might have cried! Mr. R got the dubious honor of having to spar Sir last in his marathon, but I thought he did a good job. (And I don't think he cried, but everyone was sweating so much at that point, no one would notice.)

We finally got to take our sparring gear off, sat through all of the color belts' board breaks, self-defense, and random PT drill (pushups, in today's case), but for some reason we went right into our self-defense. I had three, a punch, a groin kick, and a static front choke, and got partnered with Ma'am the whole time. Basically, she just kept coming at me with various attacks for I think a minute or a minute thirty. Wasn't really timing it, actually. In a way, I'm glad it was Ma'am, because I always get partnered with her for this in instructor class, and because one of my fears was that I would automatically go for a takedown like we do in Haganah (we don't do takedowns in TKD, not regularly, anyway, we do a push-off and then a kick to the knee or groin), and since she still has a bad knee, I knew I couldn't take her down. (I'd've been interested to see what I would have done against Sir, though.) I know I started getting sloppy towards the end, just out of sheer fatigue, but Ma'am told me afterwards that she thought I did really well on it, so I guess we'll see. I hope they let us know what our scores were in the different categories after Monday.

Finally, finally, we did our board breaks. I went first, two stations, one board each. Get set up, bow in, and my first break, my reverse side kick that I NEVER have problems with, didn't break. Suck it up, blow through the palm heel break easily, but I didn't get that stupid kick break until the third, and final, attempt! I NEVER have problems with that kick! I have blown through it every time I've done it since I learned it. Argh! I think I set it too low the first two times. I'll have to ask. The audience was actually really distracting, too, I'll have to learn to tune that out better next time. It's really cool to have people cheering for you and all, but honestly, I'm already putting enough pressure on myself at that moment!

Finally, around 7:45p (yes, three hours after I arrived), that was the end of it. We bow out, and it's done. Mr. R, Miss G (another black belt, I think she's starting high school now, but she sometimes helps with the little ones and was the floor conductor for the test) and Ma'am all gave me hugs, and several parents that I don't really know very well came up and shook my hand (why? I really don't know them, or honestly, their kids, from Adam!), and I did get invited to go out for pizza afterwards (and trust me, I was STARVING by then), but I really wanted to just have a beer and hang out with Sir, Mrs. S., Ma'am and Mr. R, (and I didn't even really want to think about the test or the results at that point), but the three judges were going to get their own table so they could talk over the final scoring, which is fair and kind of their jobs, Mr. R was going to go out with some friends who came to watch him, and I didn't really feel like sitting with more kids and parents that I sort of know but not really in another really hot and crowded room, so I came home instead.

I'm going to be sore as hell tomorrow, and I technically have the day off from work, but since I left early today to go to the test, I need to go in tomorrow to do the paperwork from today's rehearsal. I might also drop in on Invalid rehearsal and I might go see Heart's Desire tomorrow night. Cute Guy sent me a text last night asking to go out to dinner again soon, so I may do that, too. Haven't decided yet. Rehearsal and the final Godspell performance Sunday night, and then Monday I find out the results from today! Sir usually gives a short speech/intro about people when they earn a ranking belt, and while I'm really curious to know what he would say about me, I'm also afraid I'll cry if he does. Assuming, of course, that my forms, PT, and self-defense scores were good enough to offset the sparring and board breaks, they may not have been. I know there's no sense in worrying about it now, the test is over and I can't go back and fix anything, but it's going to be a long wait until Monday night...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Everything and Nothing

Sorry so long since my last post. It's been that weird combination of both very busy but nothing really new going on. ETA: I've actually had this post written since Saturday and have been waiting for pictures. I took the pictures Sunday before work, transferred them to my computer today (Monday), and promptly deleted them by accident. Now the camera battery is dead and I'm tired of waiting, so just imagine pictures and I'll eventually get around to taking new ones and adding them in.

Let's see...first off with the fibery stuff, since this IS a knitting blog. I finished my beret (again). It's still not quite as deep as I'd like it, but as I'm already thisclose to running out of yarn, I'll have to live with it. It's pretty cute, though. Now I'm working on the second of my Wendelin Socks (getting ready to turn the heel), and I'm doing another attempt to teach myself crochet. The circular chevron baby blanket (which I did get to give to the intended recipient while I was in Illinois) didn't take nearly as much yarn as I'd expected, so I'm using the leftovers to do a log cabin in a half-double stitch. It started a little wonky, but I think I've got the hang of it now. I'm thining I may switch to crochet for things like full-size afghans, because they do seem to go faster that way, mostly because a crochet stitch is much larger than a knit stitch. I think I still prefer knitting for clothing pieces, though.

Let's see. My black belt test is Friday, and I'm terrified. Okay, I'm not TERRIFIED. I know I know the material and we did a mandatory workout Saturday morning which incorporated all of the PT we're going to have to do, and while it wasn't a stroll in the park, it wasn't nearly as difficult as I'd expected. But I'm still nervous. For one thing, it's the first time in, like, a year that I've tested in front of an audience, which is daunting. For another, it's for a Black Belt. I know that we're going to be graded evenly in every category (form, sparring, board breaks, PT, and self-defense), so one or two mistakes won't completely kill me. But what after all this - all the classes, the training, the fun - I do something stupid and screw it up? How disappointing would that be? For everyone - me, my instructors, my friends there...Yikes! I know the odds of that are actually pretty low, but pride goeth before a fall and all that. I've never really been nervous about a test before, but I'll be glad when this one is over! Sir told me tonight to just relax. I told him I wouldn't be able to relax until after Friday and he just started laughing. My teachers are so mean sometimes =)

We've opened Ragtime, and I have to admit, it's...gorgeous. I'm really really really REALLY glad it's not my headache show - it literally came down to the wire whether or not the show would open on time, due to the power outages and just the sheer size and scope of it - but it IS a fantastic show and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone. I'm very proud of my coworkers on this one! Everyone has totally outdone themselves on this one and, frankly, it deserves a Regional Tony, even though we aren't really big enough to get nominated. It makes me cry every time, though, and I've seen it several times throughout the process. Godspell has three more performances in Solvang. I still really like that show and we still have fun with it, but with the rep schedule now, it kind of feels like the interruption to the regular schedule. Plus, with over 50 performances already, and the cast and crew's brains mostly on Ragtime and, now, Hot Mikado, it's like the show is that one other thing we have to get done before we can go to bed. Oh yeah, Hot Mikado is in rehearsal, so I'm back in the rehearsal room in the afternoons now. From July 15-July 27, we officially have all five summer shows going in some stage of production at the same time. Mikado and The Imaginary Invalid are in rehearsal, Ragtime is performing in the Marian, and Godspell and The Heart's Desire are repping in Solvang. It doesn't help that Ragtime's understudy rehearsals are still going on, too, but tomorrow should be the last time we have to deal with that three shows in one day nonsense - Ragtime understudy rehearsal in the morning, Hot Mikado regular rehearsal in the afternoon, and a Godspell performance that night, with mostly the same casts. Yay!

Not sure what is going on with Cute Guy right now. We'll go for weeks with only the most necessary professional contact and communication (I'll try to get an outside conversation started but it doesn't work), get to the point where I'll get myself steeled to the "Okay, he's just not interested anymore" idea, and then he'll suddenly call or stop by the office out of the blue "just to say hi" or to see how I'm doing. Confusing! Argh! Meh! Boys! Anyway, I'm definitely not going to worry about him this week - the focus is going to be on the black blelt! Maybe I'll let work sneak in sometimes, but I want that belt and I want everyone to know that I deserve to wear it!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How to Have a Good Fourth (picture heavy)

1. Enjoy good food and good company

This would be the Fourth of July lunch - jumbo shrimp wrapped in sage leaves and pancetta, with a nice crisp Tolosa chardonnay on the side. (Mom's good company, of course, too, but she was taking the picture.)

Fourth of July dinner - a chicken fry with the whole family! My dad, brother, cousin, and great-uncle were in charge of making the gravy while Grandma supervised. (The second picture is my great-uncle - my grandfather's brother - with hmm...let's see....my grandfather's cousin. I think. The family on that side kind of sprawls a bit.)

2. Break a few laws Responsibly light off a few small firecrackers.

Mostly because they start playing with the good stuff after dark, and they don't let "the girls" play at that point. It's strictly a guy thing in my family - from about the time they are two (only a slight exaggeration), and they wait ohsopatiently for dark:
Oh well, we got to sit all cozy in the chairs and watch the show.

3. I do mean responsibly, though. Alcohol and fireworks do NOT mix. Goofing around or being stupid and fireworks do NOT mix. Any of the above will get you banned from ever lighting one again for life (if you're really lucky). Accidents do happen, though, so #3 is Complete the day with all extremities still attached, even if that means sprinting a bit more than you'd anticipated.
(The fuse was just a bit shorter than we'd expected...)

4. Honor the troops.
Cuz, y'know, without them, there wouldn't be an Independence Day to celebrate. Don't think I really need to explain that one any further.

5. Catch a good ol' all-American baseball game. (Okay, so this is July 5th, don't be picky.)
Especially when it's the biggest rivalry in baseball - a Cubs/Cards game on a gorgeous day in St. Louis - and my beloved Cubbies are in first place in, like, everything, and it's about 45% Cubs fans in Busch Stadium (haha!). Of course, they had to lose that day, just because we were there. Sigh. This is the year, though! Cardinals fans really need to learn the words to "Take Me Out To the Ballgame." Everyone knows it's "root, root, root for the Cubbies" not whatever they were mumbling when they finally realized they should be singing. *Sniff haughtily* At least it was a good game (we were winning until the ninth), and it's still one of the friendliest rivalries in baseball. I saw one person with a clear identity crisis, though. She had on a Cards tshirt with a Cubs jersey over it. Someone please find her, because that lady obviously needs help.

6. Look young enough to get carded at a ballgame. I was a bit miffed that I got carded and my brother (who is two years younger than me) didn't, but even I have to admit that I look like I'm about ten in that photo.

7. Enjoy the people of the Midwest, even if you don't like the weather.

Although I did get TWO thunderstorms while I was there - one the first night and one the last night! Yay!

Now it's back to keeping Chrissy sane during Ragtime tech while also trying to prep Hot Mikado and deal with the paperwork resulting from my garage getting broken into and my bike stolen. At least I get a few extra evenings off this week so I can hit class hard!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The lights are on...

...and no one's home! I'm leaving very very very VERY early (ie. I have to be on the road at 3:30a) tomorrow to drive to Santa Barbara, then fly from there to Illinois for a few days! Some of us seem to be pretty excited about it. I'm excited to actually be there and spend time with everyone, but I'm really trying to decide what to do about the whole leaving so early thing. I HAVE to go to FIGHT tonight, and stop in on rehearsal after that, and even if I had the entire evening completely off, I'd have to be asleep at 6:30p in order to get 8 hours in before driving. I don't know about you all, but 6:30p is almost the precise middle of my day - unless I took some major knockout meds and was already feeling VERY crappy (which I'm not) there is NO way I am getting anywhere near a decent amount of sleep tonight. So I may or may not actually be conscious when I finally arrive in the Midwest.

I do have the second Wendelin sock, my mp3 player, my digital camera, and I'm going to try to hit the bookstore tonight to get a new book to read without airport prices. If not, I have a few options at home that I either haven't gotten around to yet or really enjoy reading again.

I finished my beret this morning! I don't have pics yet (check back this evening, if I get everything else done), but it's okay. It didn't turn out quite how I wanted it - I was really afraid that I was going to run out of yarn, so I just did the bare minimum of rows on it. It makes for a wearable, but very shallow, beret. Of course, I ended up with PLENTY of yarn left over, so when I get home, I might actually frog back to before the decreases and add another inch or so to it. I'd like to be able to pull it over my ears a bit if I need to - it IS for Solvang in September, after all.

Let's see, what else before I go? Oh yeah!!! I have an official, set-in-stone, if-you-are-one-second-late-you're-screwed date for my black belt test! It will be Friday, July 25th. The physical fitness test will start at 5:00p, and the actual testing will begin at 6:00p, with the results announced at the belt ceremony the following Monday, July 28th. It kind of sucks that it's on a Friday instead of Saturday, as now I'm have to ask if I can get out of Hot Mikado rehearsal early, whereas that Saturday is one of the few all year that I actually get completely off, but if that's what needs to happen...25 days away!