Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kung Fu - Week 8

1/25 - Monday
Chinese New Year is just a couple of week away so we are starting to really focus on what each of us are going to do.  I'm not sure at this point if I will be doing anything but I want to be prepared!
Sifu broke us up in groups so a newer guy and I were in the same group.
Each group had to come out in front of the class and do our last form in front of everyone.
I did 8 Chain Punch - and at first it was very messy and sloppy.
By the time class was over I actually managed to tweak out the entire form!  Sifu even commented when I was done that I did all the forms!
This was a good boost to my confidence!  I'm in no way saying that I have it down perfectly but so glad I was able to get through it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kung-Fu - Week 7

1/18 - Monday

1/20 - Wednesday
Due to the snow it was only myself,Chris and 2other people..
After warmups we spent a lot time working on our basics. We broke down the 8 horse stances and basic 8 punches and it was great to have so much one on one time.
Sifu also worked with me on my next form - the 8 chain punch.
This is where line drills will come in handy!

1/23 - Friday
Had a decent size class.  Tonight's instructor is good at teaching and corrected a stretch that I didn't know I was doing incorrectly.

1/24 - Saturday
Weather was still a little dicey but we had a good sized group.  Chris led the warm-up's so that was cool.I was worked a bit with another lady on our 8 chain punches.  Hopefully I will get this down!
I put so much pressure on myself and get frustrated when I don't pick something up right away.
I know it will come.  Just wish it would come faster!

Overall this week was much better than last!

Kung-Fu Week 6

1/11 - Monday
It felt good to be back in class but I would be lying if I didn't say I was a little scared given what happened last week.
After warm-up's we did line drill but this time Sifu told me to only do half the gym.  That was a relief!
After that we did group forms.  Basically we break off into groups of similar levels and do the forms that we know.  At this point I am have learned 8 horse stances and 8 punches.
Overall I took it easy and tried to work at my own pace.  When you get in a group setting there are moments of peer pressure to try and keep up.

1/13 - Wednesday
By the end of the night we did over 100 pushups!  Brutal!
After class I had a great talk with Sifu.  He approved some different black shoes that have a lot more of support and we talked about last Saturday.  He told me that going forward anytime we get into something that I can't do then I can tell the instructor that Sifu gave me permission to modify.
But in reality I'm not really that far behind.  I'm usually taking 2-3 steps for ever most people's 1 step - so for instance by only doing 1/2 the gym in line drills I'm almost doing the whole thing!
I think I really needed to hear that it's OK and get the validation from Sifu.

1/15 - Friday

1/16 - Saturday
Today instead of running I did jump rope and straight kicks until the rest of the group came back.
We finished warm-ups and then did stations.
This was new for me but I actually really loved it.  We had 10 stations (one for every person) and they were anything from push-ups, kicking the bag to squats.

Overall this week felt really good.

Kung-Fu - Week 3

Day 9: 12/21 - Monday

Day 10: 12/23 - Wednesday

Day 11: 12/25 - Friday

Day 12: 12/26 - Saturday

I didn't do a great job of documenting this week.  I'll come back and fill in the missing pieces if I think of anything.

Kung-Fu - Week 2

Day 5: 12/14/15 - Monday
Class was similar to last week.  Some basic warm-up's and working on our own material.
I'm thinking that I finished my 8 horse stance and was introduced to 8 punches.

Day 6: 12/16 - Wednesday
In true fashion we started tonight with push up's!

Day 7: 12/18 - Friday
missed - Christmas Party

Day 8: 12/19 - Saturday

This week I'm feeling a little better about classes.  I'm still taking 2-3 Excedrin before class.
We missed Friday/Saturday but we did do about a 2 hour class at home.  Fortunately Chris knows a lot of warm up material so that helps me.
I find that I want to practice on my off nights - just to be prepared for the next day.

What have I gotten myself into?! Kung Fu - Week 1

Day 1: 12/7/15 Monday
After talking with Sifu we decided that Monday, December 7th would be our first day to class.
He said this is the biggest class (great!) and would be the most diverse so I would get an idea of different levels.

Leading up to that Monday I was pretty nervous - I won't lie.  From Saturday to Monday I had a bazillion thoughts running through my head.  Doing anything for the first time is nerve wracking never-mind an intense martial arts class as an adult.  I couldn't understand how as a beginner I would be in the same class as people that had been doing this for years.  More on that later...

Our traditional uniform consists of black pants, matching t-shirt, shoes and a sash - which took me forever to get tied correctly.  I mean, it is about 8 feet long so I have to wrap it around a couple of times just to get the slack drawn up.  The pic below is from a trial run before class (not sure what I'm doing with my hands here, looks like I'm directing traffic.. LOL)

We made sure to leave work in plenty of time to get there and dress out.  Once we got there Sifu did some introductions and everyone was very friendly.  Especially after knowing that Chris was a former student.

Class started right at 6:15 and there were 3 rows of 4 students.  I stood in the last row on the very end. I am assuming this is reserved for the newest student.   There are some traditional bows to begin each class and then we got right to it.

Class begins with a bow to the altar and Sifu lights the incense.  We then start "warm ups"

I use warm up in quotes because this was definitely not like any warm-up that I have ever done before.
It lasted for about 40 minutes and we did everything from straight kicks, side kicks, squats, lunges, and standing on one foot  All of the movements are about feet positioning and breathing.
Of course I had no idea what I was doing during the warm-ups but Sifu was very patient and helpful - often coming around and correcting my posture and feet positioning.

After warm-ups we had a brief water break and then one of the senior students took me aside to start teaching me some of the basic horse stances - which I would later learn is the foundation for everything else.
She taught me the first 4 stances (and the Chinese names for each) and I spent the rest of the class practicing this on my own.  She would come check on me and correct me if anything was not correct.

This is how a beginner can be in the same class as advanced students.  Everyone does the same warm-up and then we work at our own individual pace on the material we are given.

At the end of class we all got back together in our original positions to pay our respects to the ancestors and philosophies that make up the Wah-Lum style of Kung-Fu.

After class was over I felt very energized but to be honest I did have a feeling of "what the heck am I doing here".  I am optimistic that with each class things will get a bit easier.

Day 2: 12/9/15 - Wednesday
Teacher: J.
We arrived at class and did a few minutes of stretches and then we got in line.
Warm-up's opened with 25 push-up's!  We then did some basic warm-ups and finished with line drills.  I can tell this is not going to be a favorite part of our training.
Line drills are just that.  We get in line from the senior students to the beginners.  One by one we go in order and do whatever exercise J calls out.  I think for me it was the hand and foot coordination that got me tripped up.  I'm a pretty good dancer but for whatever reason this was tough for me!
I worked my horse stances and learned a couple of new steps.

Day 3: 12/11/15 - Friday
Teacher: T
Tim's warm-ups are similar to Sifu's but definitely not as tough as J's.

Day 4: 12/12 -  Saturday
Teacher: C
I like C's personality - pretty quiet but a good teacher.  I found out that he's the newest of instructors.

General consensus of the week:  I am proud that I made it through all 4 classes.  I have started taking Excedrin an hour before class.  Definitely feel the joint pains but really want to work through it.

October - National Dwarfism Awareness Month

This post started in October.  I put in the back burner but finally had time tonight to finish it up.. here it goes:

I saw a post on FB today that October is Dwarfism Awareness month.
To be honest, I never knew such a thing existed.

I don't get on a soapbox too often but this obviously hits very close to home.
My brother and I were both born with a rare type of dwarfism that while we were short our limbs were proportinate.  There are over 200 types of dwarfism and my specific type counts for a very small percentage.

Ever since I can remember my parents took us to see pioneer in the dwarfism field - Dr. Steven Kopits.  He was based out of Johns Hopkins and later moved to St. Joseph's hospital outside of Baltimore, MD.  Every year my family would load up the car and take our "vacation" to see Dr. Kopits.  My parents wanted absolutely nothing but the best for my brother and I and when our local pediatrician couldn't do the job they found the best doc around.  I have very many memories of my days spent at St. Joseph's - all the nurses, the playroom (which had an awesome gaming console that we could play Galaga for free!) and the fellow little people that I would meet through my many visits.

My brother and I had surgeries to correct various side effects from the dwarfism.  My brother had hip and knee replacement.  I had a neck fusion to correct some slipping vertabraes that if left untreated could have caused me to be paralyzed.  I will forever be grateful to my parents for making the yearly trips (sometimes multiple trips) and wanting only the best for us.

So the reason of my rant is that knowing that October is dedicated to "Dwarfism Awareness" I wanted to share some thoughts from my perspective.

I have an amazing husband and an awesome circle of friends and family that never saw or treated me as different but alas, the world can still be a cruel place.  Even at 37 the points, stares and whispers can still get to me.   I'm not talking about children per say but older kids, teens and even adults that for whatever reason think it's acceptable to be rude and condescending. Many days I want to reply "geez, I have no idea how tall I am, how fat are you!" but I can't ever bring myself to say it.

I welcome the conversations with children since now a lot of my friends have kids of their own that are in that inquisitive phase.  I don't want my friends to be shy or embarrassed if they ask "why are you so little" or "are you a mommy".  I hope that in some small way I can help open the dialogue with them and funny enough once I tell them that "God made me this way" they seem satisfied with that answer.

So my challenge is this, and it's pretty simple - "Treat others the way you want to be treated".

Concert Review - Foo Fighters

For those of you that don't know me I love concerts - even if they are a band that I don't like or have never heard of.  Something about seeing a musician in their element doing their thing is really cool.

So far this year I talked about going to see Fleetwood Mac.  On July 4th we headed to DC to see the Foo Fighters at RFK Stadium. If you have never seen the FF's you should really do yourself a favor and see them.  They are phenomenal live

This would be the first event after Dave Grohl broke his leg so it wasn't until a few weeks prior that we knew the show was still going to go on.  Dave showed up on stage in a "throne" and rocked like none other! 

The crowds were insane but thankfully we were able to get some really good seats.  So glad we were able to make it to this one.

The next time we saw the Foo's was in October 2015 - in Atlanta.  We were able to get amazing spots by the stage.  (this isn't my picture but pretty accurate of how close we were!)
Jewel came out and did an awesome cover of Stop Dragin my Heart Around.  You can watch it here!

And if 2 shows were not enough we saw them the next night in Nashville.  We met up with a couple of friends and again - another epic night!  Can't wait till the next show!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Kung Fu - Week 5

Day 9: 1/4 - Monday
Tonight I felt pretty good and did an OK job of keeping up.  I felt a little tired and sore from Saturday but it usually doesn't take too long to start loosening up.
We did quite a bit of breathing and our normal warm-up drills.   After warm-ups we got ready for line-drills.
I'm starting to get the foot work down but I'm still out of whack when it comes to coordinating my feet with my punches.  It's cool to have the Seniors cheer and come along side me but I am determined I will get this down!  We did a lot of punches and various holds.  Of course Rev was my partner.  She's a funny kid but eager to help me out.
We finished class and I did about 20 minutes of extra stretches.
Those of that stayed after class went out for dinner.  It's cool getting to know these people outside of class.

1/7 - Tuesday
Today is not a KF day but I wanted to document how I was feeling.
I woke up not feeling 100%.  I started feeling some achy-ness throughout my body which I can only describe as feeling like the flu.  I came home from work, ate dinner and fell asleep on the couch around 7:30.

Day 10: 1/6 - Wednesday
I woke up again today to the aches and pains like Tuesday on a bigger scale.  Today my pain was moving down my left leg and my right arm was hurting more than usual.  (I had issues with bursitis in the past).  I told Chris I didn't think I could make it to class and came on home after work.
I spent the night pulling some of my old medical files from Dr. Kopits and the last specialist that I saw in 2006. In Dr. K's file from the 90's the talks of a hip replacement were there but nothing he felt was terribly urgent.  He did mention that having the surgery would head off any pain when I got older but at the time I was going into my senior year of high-school and the timing was not the best.
The papers from the Dr. in Ohio said similar things but also mentioned my weight.  At the time I was 120 (at least I've hovered around the same weight all these years).  This further proves that the weight is definitely a factor.

1/7 - Thursday
Feeling about the same but today the pain is moving down my lower back.
Got home after work and had Chris rub some tiger balm on my lower back.  The pain was pretty severe.
The aches through the rest of my body are still there but maybe not as bad as yesterday.
We watched tv for a bit but around 11 Chris and I started doing some more research and a lot of the signs were pointing to Rhabdomyolysis.  After a few minutes we decided to head to the ER just to be on the safe side.  They ran some blood work and a urine sample and thankfully everything checked out Ok.
The dr. said my CK levels were a little elevated but nothing to be worried about.

Day 11: 1/8 - Friday
After yesterday I decided today that I would go ahead and just take the rest of the weekend off and decide to go back to class on Monday.

Day 12: 1/9 - Saturday

Overall I was bummed to miss so many classes but I definitely feel that I have to start listening to my body.
Chris said that Sifu and several others asked how I was doing so that made me feel good :)

Kung-Fu Week 4

Day 9: 12/28 - Monday
Teacher: Sifu

Day 10: 12/30 - Wednesday
Teacher: J

Day 11: 1/1 - Friday
Did not go to class

Day 12: 1/2 - Saturday
Teacher: L
I should have known this was going to be a brutal class when he asked if I had a sweater because we are going to be running.  We bowed into class and then collectively ran out the front door.
I knew I had to pace myself when I started but I definitely didn't do a good job.  It was about 30ish degrees outside and the run was maybe a 1/2 mile?  I wasn't sure what the protocol was for quitting but I didn't.
I jogged as far as I could and then I when I couldn't catch my breath I alternated from jogging to walking.
I wanted to keep up so badly but there was just no way that I was going to be able to.
When the last person got out of my view I felt completely helpless and defeated.  I shed some tears and kept trying to pull myself together.  Once I made it closer to the school I saw someone running towards me and it was Chris.  He helped me make the last leg of the jog where we got right back into class for some warm-ups.  Since I was so far behind there was only about 10 minutes left of warmups and thank God for that. My chest was hurting so bad, I couldn't catch my breath and all I wanted to do was cry.
L came over and just told me to keep my hands above my head but knowing I was not in good shape Chris recommended I go outside and do breathing exercises to get my heart rate down.
I ended up spending about 20-25 minutes outside before I felt somewhat back to normal.  Once I got back into class they had just finished doing circuit drills so I spent about 10 minutes doing my form and then class was over.
I made sure to tell Leroy that I was so sorry for having to bow out of class but I honestly felt that if I didn't I would have passed out.  He understood and apologized but I have to start listening to my body and learn to let the guilt go when I can't physically complete something.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Kung-Fu Mama

Over the last 5 weeks I have embarked on a physical journey that has been about 12 years in the making and wanted to make that a focus of my blog for the next little bit.

Over the last few years I have done gyms, at home work-outs, you name it I probably have at least entertained the idea of trying it.  Like most people I have packed on a few extra pounds since my
early 20's - probably 20 to 30 pounds.  Being so short the added weight has not done my joints any good.
I struggle to make it through a day without Advil or my favorite drug of choice lately- Excedrin.
If I know I am going to be doing a lot of walking I make sure to pre-medicate to avoid the after-math of aches and pains.  I know that the added weight has contributed to the pain as well as a hip replacement that I probably should have had when I was younger.

So fast forward to how I got to today.  Noticing the extra pounds I was putting on as well as Chris, I realized we needed to start making changes.  We were getting in a bad habit of eating and drinking out several nights a week and this just expedited the weight gain.

Leading up to 12/7/15 my knowledge of Kung-Fu has been limited to what I knew through Chris.
When we first met in 2001 I knew that Chris spent a lot of time at "the school" but I didn't really know any specifics about what Kung-Fu was all about.  I just knew that it consumed a lot of his time and to be honest I didn't really understand.  The idea of having a hobby was very foreign to me.  Growing up I never had any hobbies or belonged to any clubs or groups.  I guess in part due to the small, private school setting - there weren't many options.

Over time, Chris slowly gave up Kung-Fu to pursue other hobbies and eventually gave it up all together.
He left the school on good terms and in fact several fellow students and the Instructor (we refer to him as "Sifu") came to our wedding.

When I first thought about mentioning Kung-Fu I knew it would be a serious commitment of our time and money and wasn't sure if I was prepared for that.  But, I knew something had to give so after talking with Chris we stopped by the school and talked to Sifu.   We talked for a bit about some of my limitations and
ultimately decided I would give it a try.

So on 12/7 we started our journey - this time together.