Scenes from the Dojo: Volume 1

January 14, 2017 by Rieshy

After leading a kid's class last Thursday one of the student's grandmothers commented that I looked like I was having fun out on the mats.  And that would be because I was.  I do a lot of not laughing while at work.

Scene 1:
I have a line of young Little Dragons doing kicks against X-ray paper. The sound of a kick against x-ray paper is highly satisfying. I'm working with the cutest curly-headed blond five-year-old ever, who is the size of a grasshopper with the fierceness of a lioness. Over her head I see that the boy behind her is doing the required jumping jacks in line when suddenly he freezes as if startled, puts his hand into his gi jacket and pulls out his hand with pinky and thumb extended.  He resumes one handed jumping jacks while speaking into his hand.

I yelled, "Switch," and the blond ran to the back and the boy hopped one legged and one armed jumping jack toward me and then went into a one armed guard stance, still speaking into his other hand.  I leaned in to him, "We don't allow students to take phone calls while on the mats."

"OH, I'm so sorry," he said, "It's just my boss."  Then into his hand, "I'm sorry we'll have to talk later."  He closed his pinky and thumb  imaginary flip phone and tucked his hand carefully back into his gi.  Then with a huge kia and a very serious face he jumped back into proper guard stance and executed extremely focused kicks.  Not laughing is sometimes part of the job.

Scene 2:
I wasn't leading this class, so the story involves some theft- but I did witness it.  Once again Little Dragons (otherwise known as kittens wearing black gi) were gathered sitting criss-cross around the Lead Instructor.  This was a group of very serious small ninja kittens, so they were all sitting straight-backed and still with their hands in fists on their knees, looking straight at the Sensei.  All except one.  His hands were on his knees, but they were board straight with his thumbs tucked in.  The Lead Sensei's eyes went to his hands and paused for a split second.  Immediately the Little Dragon felt compelled to explain, "I upgraded my hands to knives; I don't have fists anymore."

The adults all paused.  The other Little Dragons paused and without shifting or a hair moving suddenly sprouted knives on their knees too.  Knives are cooler than fists.

Like I said, not laughing is sometimes part of the job.

But smiling? Smiling is a large part of the job- and I love it.


Salty Cappuccino

December 24, 2016 by Rieshy

Christmas Eve Gift everyone.

If you are highly competitive with pointless verbal games and you are from West Texas you will understand that I just won the Christmas Eve competition by saying it first, yet you will argue that electronic delivery doesn't count. But deep down, you know you just lost.

If this makes no sense- don't worry after 29 years of marriage my husband, who isn't from far enough west, thinks shouting "Christmas Eve Gift" and then arguing about who "won" is beyond bizarre.

Having just lost the Christmas Eve verbal gifting game with both my 8 yo,  and 15 yo sons I sat on the sofa sipping cappuccino.  My 15 yo was wearing a bright yellow Pikachu onesie and wrestling around with his two younger brothers while my 22 yo daughter and I tried to wake up.  Wrestling punctuated with motherly advice.  Mom wisdom like: "don't kick the bookshelf,  no slapping- just punching, hey- no punching to the back of 15 yo's head, get your knees around, take the milk back to the kitchen.  Hey, 10 yo said he needs to use the bathroom you better get off."

The 10 yo breathed deeply on 15 yo with morning/dragon breath to finally achieve freedom.  Whereupon 15 yo jumped up to do a few pull-ups, dropped down and snagged his hoodie on the pull-up bar.  Trapping himself quite neatly.

"Help Me!" he cried.

What did his loving mom say?
Nothing, I was laughing too hard.

What did his loving younger brother see?
A large yellow defenseless punching bag.

What did his 22 yo sister do?
Take photos.

Tears of joy in my cappuccino, it's a great Christmas Eve Gift.
I hope you and yours have a wonderful day.

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December 11, 2016 by Rieshy

My face hurt Saturday afternoon after the first belt testing at the new school.

Testing days at the dojo.  Everyone is intense.  Parents are zeroed in, the children are both nervous and ultra focused, staff is hyper.  It makes for an energized event.  With new belts as icing.

New belts that stick out funny when they're tied.  Belts that flash an unfamiliar color in the corner of your vision.

One of the most memorable testings that I ever experienced, not as part of staff but as a student, was a testing I went through while wearing a knee high ortho boot to protect a shiny swollen grade 2 calf-muscle tear.  I had to do katas in a chair in unison with my class.  I had to kick against "attackers" coming from multiple directions from a chair.  I did Thai combos while balancing one legged and faked the Thai kicks with thrown elbows.  At first I felt awkward and stupid and not a little embarrassed at the extra attention putting a chair on the mats required.  I sweated buckets and it was painful and clumsy and then the energy of the class and the discipline of the moves made me forget being embarrassed and stupid.

It's not the belts that make testing exciting- the belts are the icing.  It's not the "showing off" to an audience that makes it exciting.  At least not for me.   It's the energy bouncing around the room, the way all the students try to move as one,  It's the community of growth and the oneness of focus that I love.  I hate performing.  But I do want to shine- and when everyone around you wants to shine and snap and kiai crisply too... it's a lifting, soaring feeling.

I didn't have to test that time while wearing a boot; I don't even remember the rank I was testing for.  I got to test because I have awesome Sensei and they didn't want me to have to miss out.

Maybe I'm strange and testing is just a nerve-wracking hoop to jump through for everyone else... but I don't think so. I saw a lot of people on Saturday whose faces probably ended up aching too.

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Ubiquitous Hairband Folly

November 30, 2016 by Rieshy

The set up:
I'm sitting in church between my 9 year old son and my 17 year old daughter.  Sitting is hard for me, especially when it involves shoes and chairs. I'm trying to model appropriate behavior even though my 17 yo is shifting around next to me.  I desperately want to pull my legs up and criss cross apple sauce to relieve the ache in my knees.

My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

Then I notice my 17 yo has a hairband in her right hand.  She's smoothly manipulating it with just her right hand so that a knot appears.  Knotted, unknotted.  Knotted, unknotted.  How is she doing that- and does she know the cherry stem trick?  Stiff knees forgotten I watch fascinated.  My 17 yo notices me watching and whispers, "Do you want to try?" A part of me knows to say, "No."  But there was an edge of challenge to her whisper.

Mutely, I hold out my hand and she slips the hairband over my fingers.
My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

I tried to roll the band this way, then that.  I used my thumb to twist it- it was like a miniature game of Chinese hopscotch from my childhood- except harder.  The service retreated. Thoughts of Baltimore playgrounds flashed through my head.  I would figure this out! I wonder to myself if the name Chinese Hopscotch is even used anymore or if it is now considered culturally inappropriate. I could feel my daughter smirking beside me.  I add my pinky to the mix and twist the band in the other direction. We are a competitive lot and I was losing.

Then TWANG.  I managed to launch the hairband through the air so hard that it hit a woman's head in  the pew in front of me with enough force, and the correct angle, to bounce off her head, skim to the left where it bounced off her bald husband's head only to miss their child's head and finally land in the aisle.

It was as if they had both been bitten.  Amazing how high startled people can jump while remaining sitting.

My 17 yo starts shaking with suppressed laughter.
My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

The husband looks at his wife with confusion and no small part irritation and reaches across his child to fetch the errant band to hand it back to his wife.  I see her mouth, "NO, it's not mine."  He drops it as if it were a loaded diaper.  I can't blame him; hairbands of unknown origin are not something I would pick up either.  They both look around.

Dignity, always dignity.  My daughter and I stare straight ahead.
My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

The couple in front of us shift back in their seats. I become acutely aware of the row behind us.  They know something's up and unfortunately the row behind me contains more of my children and their spouses... People I've spent a lot of years trying to model appropriate behavior to.

I feel the sobs of laughter rising.  Tears come to my eyes with the effort of holding in snorts.  As a diversion I smack my 17 yo on the leg in that timeless hand-language of blame-assignment hoping everyone will assume she is the culprit.  Yes, I publicly blamed my daughter for something I had done.

17 yo shakes harder with not-so suppressed glee.  Not only has she won the hairband competition but she knows that I've tried to blame her thus creating a double win based on public cowardice.  If I had audibly snorted it would have been a triple play.

But here's the catch, after being hand-language blamed if she were to whisper, "Mom, you did that," as the teenager, she will look even more guilty.  She will look childish and a bit foolish.  She will be the disruptive pouting teenager.  She falls right into my trap, "Mom," she hissed.

Mwahahaha.  So there, girl-child of mine.
Dignity, always dignity.  I won after all.

Rest Days

November 28, 2016 by Rieshy

Rest days.  I have seven children and it was Thanksgiving weekend so the phrase is an oxymoron but I've rested from martial arts for 5 days.   Not even in my living room.  I restrained from side kicking my 15 yo in parking lots. That's a long stretch and there were a lot of parking lot opportunities this weekend.

I have walked, quite a few miles.  Over the holiday break my husband and I started looking up a coffee shop that's operated out of a trailer.  They change locations almost daily- it felt subversive- like we'd also need to know a special handshake.   If we could walk to it without having to walk on a highway we went for it- even if it was a 7 mile stroll.

I was hoping the time off and gentle walking would quiet the odd pain I picked up during jujitsu last week.  -The strain from trying to hold a spider guard while being slowly stacked/squashed.  Pain in a location that's awkward to massage in public.

The result?  I feel dusty and not quite awake and a little too old; like I could pull something if I moved too quickly.  I ache from sitting so much but for the first time in months my shoulders don't hurt.  Who knew that resting would make me so very hungry, and my spider guard pain?  It's no longer waking me in the night but it's still quietly glowing and sending occasional bonus sparks.

I'm curious to see how I'll feel today when I get back on the mats.  I need the dust blown off and my muscles warmed up.  I want to make sure I can still kick.  After all, what 15 yo son doesn't need to receive a loving motherly parking lot side kick?

I just wonder- at 49 maybe this many rest days in a row is counterproductive?


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November 21, 2016 by Rieshy

Today is a hard word.
Except for dogs.

Especially when you wake wrestling with yesterdays and tomorrows.

Being today requires focus
and faith
and hope.

Today is made by God's hands.
He compassionately holds the yesterdays and tomorrows remote
because todays are hard.

and if God's love is renewed every morning.
that's today too.

Lamentations 3:22
Psalm 118:24
Matthew 6:34
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November 18, 2016 by Rieshy

front door wreathes
and open windows.

Fall days of 80 degrees
and dogs fed twice by mistake.

pumpkin muffins
and Christmas wish lists

Fall days of 80 degrees
and children sleeping late.


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