Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sometimes, Work Actually DOES Equal Fun

So, we have this big corporate shindig coming up where there will be a volleyball tournament and all sorts of stuff celebrating 25 glorious years of corporate success or something like that. Yay, corporate mandated fun!


Each of the teams that will be playing in the volleyball tournament is supposed to have a team name and logo for their shirts, and the logos were supposed to be designed by this graphics dude up at corporate. But apparently he got his butt fired about a week and a half ago, before actually doing any of that pesky team logo work. So, since I tend to be more on the creative side than most of the folks around here I got tagged with the responsibility of designing/creating the team logos.

This has been a gas. Lately, my opinion of my job (technical writing, a.k.a. information design and development) vascillates wildly between general boredom (when I'm doing the technical writing) and out-and-out loathing (when I'm forcing my way through a frustrating array of "busy work" that involves all varieties of writing that gets shoved at me when I'm in a lull -- not technical writing, but often other types of technically-oriented marketing and sales collateral, none of which is my exactly part of my job or even my forte, but none of which anyone else here wants to/knows how to do...). So getting a chance to stretch out a bit creatively, even on quick turnaround work like this, is pretty invigorating.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the logos I came up with. These are largely from scratch ideas -- aside from a team name and the occasional "how about something like ...." rough idea I didn't really have much input from the teams on whart they had in mind. I'm happy with the variety of styles I worked up. They all have, by design, a cartoony "line art" quality since these will be screen printed onto t-shirts and can have no more than 4 colors plus a "clear" color (i.e. the shirt color).

First, the "APC Dream Team":
(I work for APC. This is not my team, though...). Next up, "The Fighting Sugar Bushes" (a reference to this...). The base image was a cute widdle fuzzy wuzzy squirrel holding an acorn that I found in an online kid's coloring book. I just ... evil-ed it up a bit.
The Giraffes (kind of a lame team name, but I like the look of the logo):

The Hot Buttered Monkeys -- this is my team. Long story on the name, and it's not even particularly funny. But it makes a great graphic. Face lifted from a Family Guy screen capture I found during an image search. I don't watch Family Guy very much -- is this character frequently featured?
Next, the unofficial winner for Most God-Awful Poor Pun in a Team Name: "To Kill a Blocking Nerd." Ugh to the team name, but I like the image quite a but.
And now, I tempt the gods of trademark and copyright a bit (although since none of this is earning anyone any money, and it all falls safely under parody, I think I'm safe....) with "Over One Billion Served":
And finally, "Power Spikes." Went for a sort of "propaganda style" here....
All in all, solid stuff I'd say. Opinions welcome.

Mood: Beat (spent all day in the sun at Sea World yesterday)
Now Playing: Kate Bush, "Aerial"

Sunday, July 23, 2006


You know how sometimes you life just seems to come into focus? How it can all be such a confused mish-mash of zig-zaggy noise and entropy, conflict and chaos and movement. And ten, one day, suddenly the light shifts slightly, your perspective alters and ... boom. It all makes sense. Not that you suddenly "understand," exactly, but things resolve and settle down, falling into a sort of comfortable relief. Some event comes along that, by its obvious "meaningfulness," applies a pattern. Corrals the cats, as it were. Pushes everything else into its proper place in the order of things. It's not a resolution so much as a sense that things are under control, that they make sense

Yeah. Well, this is not one of those times.

Lately, I've just felt like there's ... too MUCH going on. Nothing in particular is really bad. Or really good, for that matter. There just seem to be too much of it, whatever it is. Low level noise. Activity, without much importance. Vibration.

It's exhausting. I can handle depression, or exhilaration. Ongoing frustration or pain, though challenging, at least has a certain dramatic heft. Prolonged satisfaction seems (theoretically) satisfying. But these periods of buzzy static, when my life feels like a television scanning on white noise, really leave me kind of at loose ends. I enjoy an element of chaos in my life, but from a narrative perspective I do not do well without some sense of structure in my days.

Beginnings. Middles. Endings. Themes. Subtext.


Lately, I definitely lack a sense of meaning in my days, at least in a larger sense. It's like my life is just a bit out of focus, the backgrounds unresolved, the depth of field slightly out of skew. I imagine it'll all settle down soon, but man it's left me feeling kind of unsettled.

Nothing much else to add, really. There's no crisis, exactly. Just the luxury of wishing for defining moments. Chapter marks in my life.

And the voice in my head saying "Be careful what you wish for."

Mood: Pensive
Now Playing: Raul Malo, "You're Only Lonely"

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friend in Need

When I started training in tang soo do last year, I started scrubbing the internet for information and history on our art. It's what I do -- when I become enamored (OK, obsessed) with something I tend to try to consume it, to immerse myself in information about it until I feel like I understand it better. Being a computer nerd, most of this process involved spending a lot of time Googling and reading other web sites that were concerned with martial arts in general and tang soo do in particular.

Which is how I stumbled across Kyo Sa Nim Bernard Redfield's Tang Soo Do discussion board. I'd spent some time reading another martial arts discussion forum, and was frankly a bit uncomfortable with contributing. It was all "egos on parade" -- not unexpected, I suppose. I mean, one of the main side effects of martial arts training is confidence, and if you couple confidence with alpha-male arrogance and add in group dynamics and the seeming anonymity of web posting, you can get a pretty vicious and noxious brew. The fact that Kyo Sa Nim Redfield specifically described his board as a "non-political" one leads me to believe that these were exactly the things he was trying to avoid. Plus he was a member of my organization, the Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan. So, I sensed a bit of a kindred spirit.

Then I found out that he's a few years older than me, and lived just a few miles from my aunt and uncle in Connecticut. Now he's moved south, and will instead be living just a short drive from my in-laws in North Carolina. Odd coincidences all. Since I began training I've noticed a lot of these sorts of coincidences popping up in the people around me -- connections. Friends in common. Shared histories. And sometimes, I think you need to just accept that God, or the universe, or whatever, is just letting you know you're in the right place. So I've started to listen.

Anyway, I've corresponded with Kyo Sa Nim Redfield a bit, and in my head he's become something of my TSD training role model. While he's been doing martial arts far longer than I have, the fact that he's doing them and continues to do them so well and is so close to my age gives me some courage to push through the tough times. I wouldn't say we're friends: we've never met, never spoken, and our interactions have been almost solely related to martial arts discussions. But I think he' someone I'd enjoy meeting someday.

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago KSM Redfield posted a request for prayers on his discussion board. His brother in law, Lou Genise, had just that evening been rushed to the hospital and was being operated on for what appears to be advanced colon cancer. Which has also apparently spread to his small intestine and liver. He'd tried to get checked out at a hospital last month and was given the bum's rush due to his lack of insurance. Since then what was previously just pain and discomfort had gotten significantly worse, and apparently he has since gotten insurance so when he was carried by his roommate into the emergency room they deigned to see him, diagnosed him, and scheduled emergency surgery.

Lou came through the surgery OK, but needless to say there's going to be a long and expensive road to recovery. Lou is an artist by trade who supplements his income with odd jobs. Obviously as he recovers from the surgery and undergoes the chemo to arrest the cancer his art and his odd jobs will be on the sidelines, which means ... no money to pay for a lot of the stuff he's going to need to actually recover. Ah, the catch 22 of our absurd American health care system. As usual, one's Constitutional rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" only apply to those who can pay for them.


Anyhow, Lou needs help. Go here and read a little about Lou -- if you're a friend of mine, I have a feeling when you read about this guy you're gonna dig him -- he sounds like a real trip. Maybe I can help get the word out better via this blog. I'm making a donation as soon as I finish here. Please consider doing the same, and if you can help spread the word then please do so however you can.

Sometimes I think it's important to remember that, in spite of our distances, we're all in this thing together.

Mood: Still a little melancholy
Now Playing: Jane Siberry, "A Collection: 1984-1989"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

10 Sometimes I Wish

Last night I found myself kind of dwelling on things a bunch. I'm in a "down" place this week, not sure why exactly, but I am. Navel gazing. Feeling a bit down on myself, sorry for myself. I think it's a bit of a post-gup test hangover, all the anticipation leading up to the test followed by a definite sense of "Oh, it's done? What now?" A sort of emptiness where the tension and stress of preparation had been. It's also that there's just been too much going on, but not a lot of time to just spend with my wife and family. Guests from out of town, lots of events and things that have to be done on the weekends, etc.

I'm just feeling a bit ... at sea, I guess.

I should be used to this by now -- it pretty well defines me. I'm not what I think anyone would consider manic/depressive or anything, but I do have a definite tendency toward the occasional dark mood, the mild bout of melancholia now and again. Luckily, I'm not one to shy away from feeling down -- I don't fight it with pills or drugs or curling up with a bottle of bourbon in a dark corner someplace or whatever. I tend to just ride it out, or turn inward and explore. The turning inward often results in more melancholy, but that's OK. It's important to peer into the corners of the attic, to crawl around the basement and see what's collecting dust in the corners now and then.

I'm a happy person, but sometimes I need to just sort of ... go inside. Dig around in my head until my fingers bleed a bit. Just for a little while. It reminds me of what's good. Exploring the negative to illuminate and define the positive. Um yung, if you will.

So anyway, I was dwelling on stuff last night and I realized I kept sort of returning to a sort of mantra: "Sometimes I wish... sometimes I wish...." So , I thought I'd turn it into a writing exercise, explore things a bit. Here's what came out of it. Maybe it's the start of a meme -- maybe it's a meme already and I sort of absorbed it osmotically without realizing. Whichever. Here it is.


Sometimes I wish I actually didn't care about what people think of me, instead of only acting that way.

Sometimes I wish I could be satisfied with how well I'm doing, instead of fixated on how well I wish I were doing.

Sometimes I wish I'd never stumbled into my career, so that I wouldn't feel trapped by it now.

Sometimes I wish my wife would read my blog just to see what I'm thinking, instead of waiting for me to tell her to read something I just wrote.

Sometimes I wish I'd never been friends with my manager, or that my friend never became my manager, because it's really made my job all-but unbearable.

Sometimes I wish I'd never started smoking.

Sometimes I wish I'd never stopped.

Sometimes I wish I'd had a father when I was a kid so I could be like everyone else. And then I think about what his father was like, and I realize that it might not have worked out so well.

Sometimes I wish I felt more like a priority, and less like an afterthought.

Sometimes I wish I'd never moved, but mostly I wish everyone else would just move here.

Mood: Kinda glum
Now Playing: Tool, "10,000 Days"

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Scenes from the Gup Test

Some pictures from Friday night's gup test. Here I am doing a decent spear hand attack. If you squint, I almost look like I know what I'm doing....
Nice height on this inside to outside downward heel kick. Note the ankle brace -- ouchie. My stretching seems to be paying off. I had good height on all of my kicks, which was pretty surprising to me since I was trying to keep them low so I wouldn't over-stress my ankle.
Preparing for a side kick. Or maybe a hook kick. Hard to say. I figure if it was a hook kick I'd look confused and worried, since I'm really unsure of myself on those!
Miranda threw some great kicks that night -- here's one...
... and another one.
Here I am with all of the other students that tested that night. Sore, tired, but pleased.
More pictures over on my Flickr page.

Mood: Rested, finally.
Now laying: Copland, "Appalachian Spring"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

So Proud

Yeah, yeah. Passed my test with flying colors, even with the injured ankle. It's killing me this morning, and I was lucky in that Master Nunan gave me a pass on the sparring portion of the test based on previous performance. But I got through, no serious errors, and only a few minor mistakes to deal with (got confused on my offensive turn from horsestance punch, had to restart two forms when I lost focus and made mistakes).

But that's not why I'm feeling so proud. I mean, sure, I feel good. But that's not why I keep getting all choked up when I think about the test last night.

Let me tell you about my daughter.

Miranda is 7. Well, 7 and a HALF that is. Smart as a whip, pretty and friendly, constantly bursting with energy. Also, as I've mentioned in this blog previously, quite decidedly ADHD. Her mom and I were honestly kind of worried about this, her first Tang Soo Do advancement test, because of the level of focus and discipline that would be demanded of her. On the best of days she can have trouble sticking with one activity for more than half an hour or so, so we knew this was going to be something of a unique challenge, a level of pressure she'd not yet encountered in school or elsewhere.

I was so scared that she'd buckle, that this would be too much for her and that it would result in a negative experience, undermining her commitment to continue training. My 8th gup test lasted almost a solid hour (not including the culture and terminology portion, which is less worrying due to its more interactive nature) and I just had no idea whether she'd be able to manage to stay on task that long.

If only it had been JUST an hour last night! We were taking the makeup exam, so the testing style was markedly different. Usually, the testing periods are divided by belt color. In other words, there's a 90 minute period devoted to just white belt tests, then there's a 90 -120 minute period devoted to just orange belt tests, etc. But for the makeup exam the test is done in the more "traditional" style, with all of the various gup levels testing together. Not simultaneously, mind you, but everyone is in the same test. The folks who aren't currently being judged have to sit, cross-legged (ahn jo) and at attention whenever they are not on the mat, waiting for the current students to complete their portion of the exam.

So, going in we knew this was going to be a longer test. But initially, I thought that the "breaks" in between portions of the test would help her to stay focused, give her a chance to relax before she had to perform again. But I never stopped to think of how demanding the act of sitting still can be, especially for a 7 year old kid, and in particular for a 7 year old with ADHD. There's nothing relaxing about sitting still, legs crossed, on a hard floor, and waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And wait we did. The orange belts (just two of us) went first, performing our foot and hand techniques. Next it was Miranda's turn, and she did fantastic. And then it was time for the green belts to test. Three of them, with two of them testing for red belt. When you test for red belt, you pretty much have to perform every single technique you have learned since you began your training 18-24 months previous. So, first they had to go through tons of hand and foot techniques.

And then they had to do their forms, and things rapidly went to hell. One of the folks testing for red belt, a kid who is about to move away, was simply not prepared for this test. He hasn't been attending class regularly, and he clearly hadn't spent enough time really pinning things down. And rather than a) crushing this kid's pride by bouncing him off the mat for his lack of preparation and b) keeping everyone else who was testing from advancing last night, Master Nunan allowed him to keep retrying things, with prompting and guidance from the shim sa members, over and over and over again. He had to perform nearly every one of his forms 2, 3, 4 times, each time getting farther in before making more mistakes, every mistake directly attributable to lack of preparation, his frustration and embarrassment making things worse as the evening wore on.

And all the while, we sat. And sat. Legs hurting, asses going numb, knees quivering. After half an hour, Miranda started shooting me looks from where she was seated, about ten feet away from me. After 45 minutes she started flopping onto her back. And after almost an hour of sitting and waiting, and after a total on nearly 2 hours of testing, she started to lose it. Lower lip quivering, tears in her eyes. At that point I finally just said screw it and waved her over so we could at least talk quietly, so I could try to help her buck up her resolve.

Finally, 15 minutes later, the green belts finished their forms (or, I should say, the dans finally decided that the kid had gotten close enough to performing the forms that he should have known cold when he walked in the door to let him move on) and it was Miranda's turn to do her forms. And that's when I nearly lost it. It was like every bit of stress and frustration she felt at having to sit and wait just .... fell away. She bounded onto the mat, energy restored, and blew through her forms like they were nothing. I just about started crying, then and there, watching her come back like that.

Next, after we orange belts did our forms (with a couple of more mistakes on my part -- sitting for that long really blew my concentration. I'm sure being so emotionally stirred up after watching Miranda's performance had something to do with it, too, but this is something I'll need to be aware of as I move on with my training....), it was onto wrist grabs and one steps (and more waiting for the rest of us as the kid had to redo nearly everything multiple times), then sparring (for everyone but me -- due to injury -- and Miranda -- due to rank), then culture and terminology (Miranda got nearly every question she was asked correct), then advancement, and then we were finally done.

Three and a half hours. And she still managed to do it. This kid is amazing, and here it is the following morning and my eyes just keep welling up when I think of her, kneeling before Master Nunan as she received her orange belt, her smile bright and her excitement bubbling over.

Yesterday was a good day.

Mood: Tired, sore, fit to burst with pride
Now Playing: Nothing

Friday, July 07, 2006

Injured Again

OK, I know I've been trying to watch the language on the blog of late, but...


Went to class last night because I wanted to get a few minutes to brush up on my forms and practice a few kicks that I'm a bit uncertain of before my test tonight. 15 minutes into class, after stretching and whatnot, we were doing some plyometric drills -- something I'm really good at, mind you -- that involved doing front and back lunges. Basically, you get in a sort of sideways stance, then lift your front leg a bit and use your back leg to launch yourself forward, landing on both feet at the end of the motion. Then you reverse your stance and repeat in the opposite direction, repeating as quickly as possible for 15 seconds or so.

Well, after a couple of sets of these, my knee started to bother me so I kind of adjusted the way my leg was facing in mid jump, resulting in my landing -- unexpectedly -- with my foot facing sideways instead of forward. Since I didn't really anticipate this, I didn't brace my leg properly, so when I landed my ankle rolled sideways and under nicely, with a good amount of my weight pushing behind it.

Ow. Next thing I know, I'm feeling a nice red blossom of pain and I'm rolling over onto my ass and off of my feet, ankle throbbing like mad.

So, that was it for me last night. Spent the rest of the class with my ankle packed in ice, glowering and feeling really, really angry with myself. It doesn't seem to be broken, or even too badly sprained/strained. But it is definitely not in great shape, especially considering that I'm testing later today. It's achey and feels pretty weak, and my range of motion is pretty well shot right now -- lots of pain when I flex too much.

But there's no pain when I'm standing on it, or when I get into my stances, so I'll be going forward with my test later. Master Nunan has assured me that if it's weak we'll work around it for the test, which is good of him. This being the makeup exam, there won't be another "official" test for at least a few months, so if I don't advance tonight it would be months before I got another shot. I've been icing and elevating my ankle since the injury, and have also picked up a brace for use the rest of the day and while testing, so hopefully I'll have recovered enough to be able to perform all of my techniques.

It's nervewracking though, if only because of the sheer volume of techniques I need to demonstrate for this test. The hand techniques shouldn't present much of a problem anyhow, and there's lots of them -- 14 different blocks and attacks. Only 11 foot techniques, and only 3 or 4 that have spins or hops incorporated into the technique which will really put a lot of pressure on my ankle, so hopefully, if I'm careful and stay focused, I will be able to get through them all. After that, the forms (3 of them), wrist grabs (2), and one steps (4) should all be fairly doable without much risk. And I think I should be able to do the board break (one board, hop side kick) as long as I prepare properly and am careful.

Sparring, however, may be an issue. I'm supposed to do a 2-minute round as part of the test. The problem with sparring while injured, though, is that I can't really control the situation effectively to ensure that I don't accidentally wind up putting too much stress on my ankle. Things happen too fast, lots of action/reaction going on. I guess I could just try to stand my ground, not move around too much and go defensive just to meet the requirement, but... I dunno. Of everything I'm being tested on, sparring feels the most risky, and it's the one thing I'm sincerely hoping Master Nunan will just give me a pass on. I spar frequently as it is, and will be happy to make it up at a future date, so...

Sigh. We'll see, I suppose. I really don't want special treatment on this test. I don't want to get my next gup level based on previous performance. I just want to do my best and do what's expected, according tot he terms of the exam. To earn this next level in the regular manner.


Mood: Grouchy
Now Playing: Tan Dun, "Hero"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Thoughts

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

-- Charles M. Province


Food for thought on this Independence Day. Democracy had a violent birth. It is no small irony that it is in no small part preserved, continually, by the vigilance and service of men and women with guns. Tremendous sacrifices have been made to ensure that all of the freedoms we enjoy, all of the things listed in this poem, have been purchased with blood, not gifted from above. We must value them in order to honor these sacrifices, and that means all of these rights, not just the ones we're comfortable with.

Think what you want of our (IMHO horrid) administration. Opine as you will on the rightness of the (IMHO incredibly ill-advised, but a thing we're now stuck with) war in Iraq. Get as torqued as you want about the (tempest in a teapot, created to fluff the conservative base Yet Again) flag burning "debate." But put your trust and faith in people who would renege on any of the rights that our soldiers have fought and died for and you dishonor their sacrifices.

My thanks go out, daily, to the men and women who serve, and whose sacrifices have given us this country. Messed up though it may be, it's still the best one around. It reminds me of another quote, clearly less austere but perhaps just as apropos:

"This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good." -- Lilo & Stitch

I think we need to remember that we're a family, here. More talking. Less yelling. And be sure to thank your brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and grandparents who have given us the continual opportunity to screw things up or get them right.

Happy Independence Day.

Mood: Sleepy
Now playing: Patty Griffin, "Impossible Dream"

Monday, July 03, 2006

Confidence is Fragile

Been kind of in a blogging slump the last week or so. Mostly I think I'm just a bit preoccupied right now. June was a crap month, overall -- deaths and illness seemed to abound in my social circle, and things have been insanely busy. Since the calendar flipped over to July I've found I'm sort of holding my breath, waiting to see if the run of bad luck that defined June has gone on its way, or if it's just luring in the background, waiting to pounce as soon as my guard is down. So far, so good, though I still need to get in touch with my friend Mark to see how his daughter -- who, as of last week had developed a mysterious ailment that was causing very high fevers -- is doing. No news so far, and since it's been 4-5 days since I heard anything I'm hoping that no news=good news.

My test for 7th gup is fast approaching -- the make-up exam is Friday night, and Miranda and I will both be testing for our respective new ranks (she's testing for 8th gup/orange belt, while I'll be testing for my next stripe). I'm feeling pretty OK on my techniques, I think, although I'm still a bit nervous overall. I felt so much more steady and prepared last time I tested,, but this time I'm still a bit iffy.

I guess this is normal. The stuff I had to do to get 8th gup is, in retrospect, far less demanding than the techniques I've learned over the past few months. At first I was feeling really uncomfortable about this -- I thought that since I felt like I was solid in everything I was testing on last time, that meant that being ready for this test would mean feeling the same way, feeling like I had no issues or difficulties in performing any of these techniques with little trouble. Based on my experience with testing, that's what it means to be "ready." And since I still feel like I'm struggling with at least a few of these techniques, and I hardly feel like I'm "solid" in any of them (give or take a kick/punch/block or two), I just feel like somehow I'm not really ready to test.

But something Sa Bom Nim said in class the other night helped settle down some of my worry a bit. He mentioned that, aside from some more advanced applications of some kicking techniques (adding jumps and spins, for instance), that as of 7th gup Tang Soo Do students have learned the rudiments of EVERYTHING that they will need to learn through cho dan level. That once we hit 6th gup (green belt, which I'm hoping to attain by the end of this year) the rest of the beginning stages of training (i.e. the next few years) consists of refining our ability to perform these very same techniques.

Yes, the applications get more advanced, harder, more complicated and demanding. But the building blocks -- the hand and foot techniques that I am currently struggling to get a grasp of -- remain essentially unchanged, and will be the basis of at least the next few years of my training. So, given that perspective, it hardly seems odd to not feel solid in these techniques just yet. I get the basic idea of most of them, and a few of them I am getting pretty good at, but I now see that more or less that's just about right for right now.

Sometimes it's so hard to stop myself and remember that this is a slow process. It's not just "learn new technique/pin it down/move on to next technique." Rather the process consists on a gradual and continual refinement of what's been taught, combined with the slow introduction of new information and technique to complement that which has gone before.

The fact that I have to keep reminding myself of these facts tells me just how far I have to go in learning the finer points of our art, in taking the philosophical underpinnings of Tang Soo Do into my heart and mind. While I know that shin chook, relaxation/tension, presents the most significant general challenge to me at present, the most obvious way in which it manifests (aside from way more soreness than I should have to put up with -- throwing punches and kicks when you're all tense is a great way to be sore pretty much All The Time) is in my tendency to lack patience with myself, and with my training. I work hard, and practice often, so my tendency is to assume and expect that I will therefore master these skills quickly. And when I don't have a sense of confidence about them I feel frustrated, as if I'm not trying hard enough. Or, worse yet, when my confidence is low, I tend to talk myself down, to doubt whether I'm all that good at this stuff, to question whether I'll ever really be able to be more than just middling in ability and execution.

Sometimes I really wish there were another student in my school who I could reasonably judge my own progress against. Someone who had started training at the same time as I did, who was of a similar age, and who also had no previous martial arts training. Just so I could get a level set, some sort of reassurance that I'm keeping up, or doing well. Typically I am either training with people I know a lot more than (just because at my level, 3-4 months of training equals "a lot more") or I'm training with people that know way more than I do (again, because while 7-8 months of training feel like a lot at my level, the vast majority of students I'm training with have at least twice that). So, I tend to have no idea whether I'm doing ... OK? Better than average? Worse than average? Are the extra hours I put into training paying off in better performance, a surer grasp of the techniques than would be expected of someone who is training at the minimum level (typically considered 2 sessions a week, compared with the 3-4 I attend, plus outside practice as well)? Some reference point that would tell me that yes, the extra efforts I put in are making a difference.

Unfortunately, as I've noted before, I'm the only adult of my rank at my school right now, and short of a new student coming in and cross-ranking to 7th gup that's not likely to change. It'll all even out in time, of course -- once I get to green belt my own advancement will necessarily slow, and my peers will catch up so that we wind up learning a lot of the same techniques regardless of the difference a stripe or a few extra months of training on my part may have imparted previously.

But until then, I have to just be patient and trust that if my instructors say I'm doing well, then I am. Still, I wish I had enough experience, enough confidence, enough patience, to view my own progress with something less that criticality and doubt.

Mood: Preoccupied
Now Playing: Pet Shop Boys, "Fundamental"