Posts Tagged ‘martial arts’

The Righteous Punch

bullyingI’m not supposed to write about this but I can’t keep my mouth shut.

Yesterday before school a bigger boy in my son’s class shoved him face first against a wall and he banged his head pretty hard. Instinctively, my son spun around and punched the kid in the face, hard.  The boy went down and cried. But Sandor helped him up and apologized and they shook hands.

Sandor called me to let me know what had happened. He was upset because he know if a teacher saw him he’d get in big big trouble, probably suspended.  He was also upset because he made the boy cry.  When I pressed him he explained he was kind of a big slow kid who did stuff like this all the time other people. He also told me he wanted to keep punching him but the yellow belt tenant in Taekwondo is Self Control.  He did the right thing and stopped.

I was totally stressed all day waiting for a call from the school. Right after lunch Sandor texted me “I feel so guilty”.  When we got home I asked him why and it was because the boy cried and that always makes him feel really bad.

Good news, this morning Sandor texted me again, the kid told him his face still hurt and they shook hands again.

Then my son told me about another fight which took place in the football lockerroom.  There’s a young man, I’ll call him Joe, who’s mother died a couple of years ago.  A seventh grade boy started making fun of Joe’s dead mother. (It doesn’t get any worse that that.) One of the star football players slugged the kid several time to shut him up. (Obviously, in my mind the right thing to do.) I believe this situation was handled appropriately by one of the coaches and was never reported.

The truth is some kids are just wretched human beings right now but they aren’t any worse than they used to be. I remember getting pushed around in first grade because I liked Davey Jones in the Monkeys.  And in 5th grade when I had to go to a new school for a little while in Florida all the kids and bus driver called me “Pig Farmer” because of my accent. Kids are really mean.

My son has been in Taekwondo, and messed around with boxing since he was three. He’s a second degree black belt and he’s been trained to do exactly what he did. Defend himself.  He’s also been taught to always always stick up for a kid being bullied. that’s one of the founding principals of our Taekwondo school and house hold.  That’s his job. There are sheep and there are coyotes in life and especially in school. Somebody has to be brave enough to protect the sheep. that’s the natural order of things. Walking away when you can help someone is a disgrace.

Hopefully our school administrators will come to understand (and many of ours do now, thankfully) we’re not helping anyone, especially the sheep, if we tell kids not to defend themselves and weaker students from punk ass coyotes. Teachers, administrators and the police can’t be everywhere all the time. So when we tell our strong and righteous students to step back we are only emboldening the bullies, we are giving them even more power.

It’s a fine line, but again, this is a situation where “zero tolerance” just doesn’t work.  If I defended an old person who was being pushed around at Walgreens by a big tough guy I’m pretty sure the police would take the circumstances into consideration.

There will always be bullies, there will always be kids who get bullied and there will always be heroes unless they all get suspended.

Get Off The Couch and Be Brave

ladyI teach a kickboxing boot camp class every week and I always walk away astonished.  I have three to seven folks, mostly women ages 30-45 show up smiling and ready to sweat.

When I googled pictures of women kickboxing they were ALL SUPER HOT BABES IN SPORTS BRAS. Not my kick boxers.

Several are in really, really good shape, better than me, and others are working on it. Most of my kick boxers are teachers at Lake Hamilton School and they inspire me ….because they don’t quit. They don’t complain, they don’t make excuses. They keep on going and getting better.

I have a friend whomy age and started Taekwondo. She always said her  goal was “to suck a little less every day.”

Instead of being intimidated and sitting on the couch watching tv,  these women put on boxing or MMA gloves (that’s really fun to watch)  and they jab-cross,  jab-cross tick tock jab-cross, they upper cut hook bob and weave.  They round kick the heavy bag until they are sweating and gasping and exhausted….but they keep on going. And they are getting better every single week.

One of the ladies is a substitute teacher, totally dedicated to her family and she punches like a monster. She said her husband didn’t really believe she could punch…hard. She can.  So I gave her a couple of focus mitts  and told her to let her husband and hold for her while she punched.  She came back  this week all smiles and said her husband backed up while she was punching.

Here’s the reality, most of us stop learning anything new once we turn thirty. We just repeat our actions because it’s safe, it’s what we know. We won’t look like idiots.

Adults who start any martial arts program, from taekwondo to kickboxing, are heroes to me. They are brave and smart and strong. And they aren’t afraid…of anything….at any age.

When we stop learning new things, we stop growing, when we are more afraid of looking like an idiot than growing… we have officially gotten old and broken down.

Don’t let that happen. Find something new, learn something new, Russian, how to play the piano, learn to  rock climb or kickbox.

Stand up and be brave. Do something new and you’ll be honoring my middle age kickboxing class and this beautiful life God has given you.

Dead Guys Can’t Kick

Two weeks ago I was sparing at a black belt camp in Louisiana and was kicked by a very handsome 6th degree. When I tried to get up my right knee laughed at me and said, “put your butt back down, woman.” I couldn’t walk.

Getting hurt at this kind of cam is rotten because I had to miss the following 48 hours of training and I had to lie around in a fairly primitive room, no tv, no Internet connection, no telephone for the next day and a half. just me, my goofy brain and a bag of ice.

When I got home two things became apparent.

 1.My knee wasnt’ getting any better.
2. It’s impossible to look hot wearing  a big ugly knee brace doing the zombie walk. (I’m waiting for the What Not To Wear people to jump out of my closet)

My orthopedic made an ugly face and sent me for an MRI.
Yuck! For twenty minutes I had to lie in a big shaking, quivering, humming and banging machine. I’m sure an MRI costs millions and millions of dollars, so why is it so noisey and aggressive? They gave me head phones with music but the MRI was so loud I couldn’t hear.

As I left, the MRI lady took my $300 dollars (and I have big insurance) and told me to help myself to a bowl of pens and emory boards. I looked at her with  “an emory board, seriously?” kind of expression. But she didn’t get it. Why does an MRI place give away emory boards.

The next day I hobbled into the doctor’s. office. I smiled. “Ok, give me some good news, it’s stretched, strained, twisted?”
He smiled right back, “ACL and Mencius are both torn.”
I was crushed and kind of wanted to cry, but I didn’t. (I waited till I got to the parking lot)  I handed him a list I’d made earlier. “Diana’s summer Fun List”

Chasing and annoying kids, taekwondo, tennis, running, rock climbing, swimming, skiing, hiking, water parks.  “Can I do any of this stuff?”

He read the list then shook his head. “Well, you can still annoy your kids just not chase them.”

“Surgery?” I asked.

“Well, at your age you need to really think about that.”

Did he say “‘at your age?” Oh my lord talk about adding insult to injury, like I’m Granny Maw Maw. Didn’t he read my list? Those are the worst three words any man can say to a woman…every. What a dummy. I feel sorry for his wife.

 I really- really wanted to cry, or kick his ass, which would be tough with one leg. “I want to fix it. Soon, today.”

He shrugged, “Ok, I understand. It’s an outpatient surgery but the recovery will be a few months, 4-6.”

“Let’s go, the sooner the better.”

“We’ll have to do a  graft.”

“Excellent, from somebody else?  Can I have  a 24 year old Asian girl graft?”

He just stared at me so I tried to explain. “If I get a young Asian graft maybe I’ll kick better and who knows my math might improve.”

Fine, I’m a reverse racist. I want the qualities middle age white women just don’t posses. He wouldn’t laugh, but I thought I was pretty funny.

“It will be a cadaver graft,” he state flatly.

“A dead guy? I get dead guy parts?  That’s not gonna help my kicking.”

He shrugged and smiled, obviously thinking I was marginally insane. Then his nurse came in to schedule the surgery.

So, I’m out of the game for 4-6 months. It sucks. Sometimes I  whine but the Martial Arts world is filled with guys who have had the same surgery or accident and injuries far more hideous. Maybe tearing my ACL it’s like my innationa into a super duper special fraternity of steler kickers. Who knows, maybe my cadaver could kick through the roof…maybe I’ll get a little piece of Bruce Lee.  

Then…in six month…it’s on, baby!

Kick Fast and Keep The Faith

I’m not sure if it’s the human spirit or body I find so astonishing.

Last night I attended  Mary’s second college dance recital,modern, jazz and ballet. It was beautiful, joyous and a whole lot of fun. As we drove back to Hot Springs I thought about the athleticism of the evening. Then of course, I started thinking about our Taekwondo school.

Two years ago when our current instructor, Jim Robinson (a 53 year old sixth degree), bought out taekwondo school, I thought it was the end of my martial arts career. For ten years, the previous owner had pushed us to be powerful and brutal.

Jim Robinson’s style was nearly the polar opposite.  He insisted, even demanded, we be flexible, quick and fluid. He promised the power would come. And as he said over and over, if we weren’t quick enough to hit somebody, it didn’t matter how much power we had.

Being quick and flexible sounds like a brilliant idea unless you aren’t that way. Most of the teenagers in class are naturally quick and it was easier  for them to pick up speed. For anyone over the age of 40 it’s an entirely different situation.

The running joke about my spin heel kick has been, “Yeah, it’s beautiful but you can drink a cup of coffee before it lands.”

Though in his 50s, Jim Robinson is ridiculously quick and flexible. He’s gifted and works harder than everybody else. After watching countless martial artists, young and old, for 13 years, I’ve only seen one or two men who could match his speed. His kicks are blisteringly fast with razor like accuracy. I wanted  to be just a little like him, just a little bit. But doubted that was possible.

When he demonstrated a double and triple lead leg round kick, and said that’s what he wanted from us, I think I accidentally rolled my eyes. Yes, I could kick two or three times, but it’s wasn’t fast. Pretty but slow. However I could do one thing fast, I could get really really frustrated and embarrassed. Why was I so slow and lumbering after ten or eleven years of training? Night after night I cried in the car on the way home after class like a big chicken baby cheese cake.

Fast forward a year and a half.

Half a dozen times I wanted to quit but my pride and the kids wouldn’t let me, even though I was the oldest in the class by THIRTY YEARS. Night after night it’s just me and a bunch of awesome teenagers. Mr. Robinson has been pushing us all to kick fast. Kick low, kick high, kick fast.

Last week I was partnered with a sixteen year old yellow belt. Kicking drills, double round kicks, high and low, and suddenly this girl said, “whoa, you’re fast.”

“Who? Me?” I kicked again, to her knee then her face,  and I smiled. Yeah, I know it’s easy to impress a yellow belt but it still felt good. There was no “blistering” speed, it wasn’t a McNeeley or Robinson kick, it wasn’t even teenaged boy fast. But my kicks were 100 percent faster than they were 18 months ago.  I was stunned, I was better. How had that happened.

Everyday, I am am amazed by what we can accomplish if we simply refuse to quite. If we try to get better, at anything, we will. It’s simply a matter of showing up and trying…over and over and over again.

And it really helps if we surround ourselves with people who inspire, who push  and shove  and have unbreakable faith  we can all get better.

The secret is you can’t quit. And as my friend Amelia says, “just try to suck a little less everyday.”

Let me know what you think comment or e-mail hampoland@gmail.com

An Extreme Hampoland Day….Taekwondo to Hippsters

Some days swing from one extreme to another it’s almost comical in a bipolar kind of way. These manic days can be exhausting or exhilarating, it all depends on your minds set and attitude.

Yesterday Sandor an I drove four hours to a taekwondo tournament in Fort Smith Arkansas. For five hours we were intense and formal, enthusiastic, militaristic and jacked up on endorphins, adrynalyne and Mtn. Dew. Along with some of our best friends, we competed and cheered, barefooted, in heavily starched uniform. When Sandor punched a boy right  in the face three times, I couldn’t have been more proud or excited. (Yeah, I know how bizarre that sounds.)

We got home around five o’clock and my best buddy Amelia called. She wanted us to got to Low Key Arts and listen to a reggae   band, Tidal Waves, from Africa.

Three hours later the entire family stood in front of a stage, surrounded by old hippies and hippsters, swaying like willow trees. The dark warehouse turned musical venue was full of glow- in-the-dark hula hoops, laughing children and tie dye shirts. The band started late but they were old black reggae guys, what did I expect. I watched other people clap (mainly my daughter Lex) so I could keep the beat. I tried to dance a little but didn’t really move my feet because somebody convinced me 15 years ago that I looked stupid dancing so I haven’t tried since then.

(Side bar: Never ever tell someone they can’t dance. They might listen to you and never dance again. Then they lose one of the great free and natural pleasures of life and it’s your fault.)

It was a beautiful evening. But it was the exact opposite of our morning.   The Taekwondo tournament was all about discipline, training and competition The evening  spun like an abstract painting around spontaneity, creativity and freedom.

That night when I went to bed and dreamed  I was competing again, doing my second degree pattern, in  my  starched uniform, my  belt cinched perfectly, I kicked higher than I can in real life. Things were beautiful but something was different.   Bob Marley, the iconic reggae legand, was singing  No Woman No Cry and everyone was swaying in time.

Yoga vs Taekwondo…and new workout attempts

In order to improve my martial arts and postpone middle age/old age I’ve been trying new work outs. Every week I run, lift weights and do taekwondo two or three nights a week. But I  need more just to keep up with all the teenagers in the adult class because they have stupid teenaged boy muscles.

A few weeks ago I tried Zumba because the ads on tv look like so much sweaty fun.  Old ladies tried to help me with my tense/rhythm-free dancing skills. Thirteen years of martial arts have trained me to keep my hands up, fists next to my face, no matter what. So I looked really paranoid and stiff as a celery stalk. But I would not get sucker punched in zumba class.

Today I tried yoga at the YMCA.  It was a lovely class but not at all what I expected.  The one thing I can do better than most of my taekwondo teenagers is stretch. So most of the yoga poses and moves were just fine. 

Unfortunately I’m ridiculously hyper-competitive.  Even though it was my first day, when I spotted a 70 year old woman out stretching  me…it was on. I gritted my teeth and beat her. Stupid right? Because yoga isn’t a competitive sport, it’s supposed to be about peace, enlightenment and finding balance in your body….stuff like that.

During  class the lights were dim and there was pretty music so I tried relax and ground myself.  I worked to feel my own breath, lengthen my limbs and allow my muscles to relax. But I kept thinking, “my downward dog looks pretty awesome and so do my calf muscles,” or “my high cobra is soooo much higher than hers, but I need to work on my tree stance, it sucks, everyone has a better tree.”

Obviously, this was not an advanced yoga class and you have to trust me, I’m laughing at myself, because I know I missed the entire point because I’m an immature doof. Maybe yoga is exactly what I need in my life.

The class ended and I wasn’t sweaty or sore, I was pretty happy though. Then, the instructor, who was wonderful, came to each of our mats. We were stretched out on our backs, breathing and feeling centered. And she rubbed my neck and ears with some great menthol smelly stuff.  She rubbed my ears! Nobody in Taekwondo every rubs my ears!  I really love yoga now!


Comment or write to me please, hampoland@gmail.com

I Love A Good Fight…or At Least A Good Show

This weekend, Lexie and I went to a big ugly Cagemaster’s Cage Fighting event. There were more than a dozen amateur fights on the card and I couldn’t have been happier. I know that’s odd, actually weird. I’m over the age of 40, I have my masters degree, I write thank you notes, was a debutante and have four children. But I love fights, boxing, martial arts, kickboxing and now cage fighting.

The crowd is full of twentyfive year- olds with tattoos. I don’t match them but I know more and appreciate the fighters. I can’t find a single friend my age who wants to go to a cage fight with me .What’s wrong with me?

I can trace my love of boxing back to my childhood. First I met Ali when I was seven or eight. And while I was growing up my dad and I watched the heavy weight bouts on ABC on Friday nights. Howard Cosell was the announcer and the championship fights were something everybody watched and talked about. That was quality time I spent with my dad, so I took boxing very seriously as a little girl.

Thirteen years ago I took up Taekwondo and that involves a lot of sparring or fighting, especially in our school.  I learned things. Then, along came cage fighting and it has become a part of even the most traditional Martial Arts programs. Though most cage fighters have minimal training compared to martial artists.

I love movies about fighters, I generally hate movies with guns. It’s the art, heart and passion of a fight  I love so. Gun fights are soul-less.

A few of the great moments at the cage fights were note worthy.

Pastor Greg, a cool young minister said the prayer before the fights started.  He said, “And remember Jesus never tapped out.”

Second great moment.  There were a half dozen super skinny  hippsters sitting behind us, complete with fat black geek glasses, funny wool hats, button down plaid shirts and I Phones. They looked like perfect high teck dweebs but they were yelling ,”Kill him, smash his face in.”  They should have been hanging out in an expensive coffee shop, not the cage fights.

A friend of ours who is one of the highest ranked female boxers in the country, Kim Conner Hamby was a judge.  Sometimes Kim comes to our TKD schools and works with us in boxing. I swear, this125 pound woman hits like Joe Frazier in 1972, but faster.  Holding the pads for her wrecks my shoulders for a week. Every time I  see Kim she’s sweaty in baggy shorts and a sports bra,  but at the fights she looked beautiful. Lex and I heard guys talking about how hot she was.  Kim “Hot Girl” Hamby.

And finally, a very young fighter walked in as his theme song blasted, “Eye Of  The Tiger” from Rocky III. It was so cliche. The boy was young and soft looking, with a single tattoo of Snoopy on his shoulder. Seriously, Snoopy? The match up was almost sad and we immediately assumed he didn’t have a chance. Then his opponent came out to Eminem’s I’m Not Afraid.  He had a black hoodie covering his face. When he peeled it off we saw he was covered with scary looking tatts. It wasn’t looking good for Snoopy.  But half way through the first round Snoopy hit Eminem with an uppercut, then a big muay thai kick. The punk went down on his knees and Snoopy managed a rear naked choke.  Eye of the Tiger, Baby, Eye of the Tiger.

I love the combat, the passion and the spectacle. It’s good stuff. Just remember, always keep your hands up and sometimes Snoopy wins.

How Fat Does this Make Me Look?

Before you become involved in any sport or activity that involves wearing a specific uniform…think try it one then take a picture.

I’m in pretty good shape. I work out all the time ,still when I see a picture of myself in my taekwondo uniform I look lake a bloated heifer. It’s awful. I look much much better naked, now that’s saying something.

If you have any boobs at all, Martial Arts uniforms are horribly unflattering. It doesn’t matter how high your rank or awesome your sidekick is, if you wear a dobak you’re gonna look like a big fat slob. The only women who avoid looking like the Hindenburg are the super skinny girls.

Men look good in them, children look cute, women look like mushy lesbians. I’d be better off having my picture taken in a AC/DC concert t-shirt and pajama pants.

I swear I should have considered a different sport. Why have I spent 12 years in a pair of pants so big I could hide a cocker spaniel in them.  I’d look better in a black speedo  shiny pink gymnastics leotard. (well maybe not).

I love Taekwondo  too much to quit now, but before you choose a sport or hobby try on the uniform. Next time I’m going to start playing polo. I’d look hot in those tight jodhpurs(yes that is how you spell the word, it’s the super tight pants they wear), black boots and helmet.

You Can’t Do That On The Foot Ball Field!

                                                             Sandor is eight and gets to play tackle football this year. He is excited to the extreme. I explained to his taekwondo  instructor that he would not be around much for the next two months. This is the first time in five years he’s taken a break from Martial Arts training.

Yesterday was his first practice in full pads. Sandor looked as though somebody plugged him into a car battery; he was so jacked up. The first thing the tiny players did was the sideways crab run. I watched as my boy fell down, stumbled and came in almost last. I couldn’t help myself. I yelled for him to come to me.

“Sandor, this is just rotary jogging, like we do in class.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that. Ok” He ran back to line up. We rotary jog in taekwondo so we learn to use angles when sparing. Sandor turned into the fastest kid in the crab run.

Next the coach (who is wonderful) lined the little boys up facing each other, to work on blocking drills. I watched as Coach blew the whistle and boys crashed into each other like miniature samurai. Then Sandor instantly leg swept his opponent, slung him over his hip and took the top mount. The kid on the bottom was confused and obviously frustrated. I watched Sandor take down all his opponents with the same smooth jujutsu moves.

When the coach saw what was going on he came to me. “Does he watch a bunch of cage fighting or wrestling?”

I shook my head. “He’s been training in  Martial Arts since he was three. It’s just muscle memory. Tell him there’s no grappling or leg sweeps in foot ball.”

“Wow, I’ve never seen a kid do that so fast.” He laughed.

“You’re lucky he didn’t arm-bar or sidekick.”

Now Sandor understands blocking, and what is and isn’t involved. But
I want to say “good job” to all you Martial Arts Instructors. Your students do, in fact, remember, exactly what you teach them.

Just Don’t Take A Break…You’ll Never Come Back

If there is something good in your life, something that inspires you or makes you  better….but requires work….don’t ever think you can “take a break” and you’ll come back refreshed or renewed. Chances are you won’t come back at all.

I’ve seen this happen dozens of times in taekwondo. Students “take a break” so they won’t get burned out and never come back. When I see them in the video store there are always a multitude of excuses, but the truth is they just quit. Slow down if you need to, but you have to keep your foot in the door.

I took a break from taekwondo, (for medical reasons, I swear) and in just a few weeks I forgot nearly everything I’d learned in 11 years. I was suddenly a moron. My flexibility was gone and so was my confidence. I didn’t want to go back becasue I was afraid I would  suck…and I did.

The same is true of marriage and serious relationships. If you “take a break” all kinds of terrible things can happen. You go out for a drink and the next thing you know your making out with a stranger in the parking lot. And of course your girlfriend, that you actually adore, will hear about it and your done. Breaks are a terrible idea.

If you are a runner you know how dangerous a break can be.  Convincing yourself  you should return to sweating and groaning and being soar is nearly impossible. That first 1/2 mile is gonna be a nightmare so why not stay on the cushy couch? You’ve got a rerun of Friends and a bag of Cheetos…who needs to run? 

 “Take a break” almost always turns into “I quit”  because starting over is a miserable prospect.

So, if you have a hobby or passion or loved one that makes your life better and brighter, stop your whining, tough it out and keep your foot in the door.

Hey, you, leave me a comment. Please