Friday, September 01, 2006

On the Bench, Testing Approaches

Well, it's been a fairly low-key week, following the flurry of activity that defined my birthday weekend, a.k.a. Gregg-a-palooza '06. My actual birthday, the 24th, was entirely uneventful. Too much to do, between work and a meeting with our daughter's new 2nd grade teacher, to actually do the whole cake and ice cream and presents thing, so we just opted to treat it as just another day and instead celebrate over the weekend. Which was nice, since it meant I could train on my birthday and keep to my regular schedule, instead of jamming a bunch of celebrating into 90 minutes on a school night.

So, training was interesting that night. I've been nursing a pulled groin muscle for a few weeks now. Two, actually -- one is a fairly minor pull I incurred by doing partner stretching too aggressively about a month ago, but it has been slowly getting better in spite of my not giving it a chance to rest. The second one, though, is rather painful, stretching from the inside of my right leg all the way up to about 2 inches to the left of my right hip bone. Solid groin muscle pull, really painful when I pull my legs together. It had been getting a bit better as well, last week -- I'd dialed my gym workouts way back and cut out sparring for a couple of weeks to try to give it a rest without interfering with my training.

Well, that seemed to be working until Thursday night, when I was working on some crescent kicks. I really like this kick. It's more or less a defensive version of the outside to inside downward heel kick, where you raise your knee and point it out and away from your center and then extend your foot and hip, kicking up and out, sweeping your foot into a semi circle inward before pulling your foot back in, resulting in either slapping/kicking a hand/foot/weapon out of the way followed by a side kick or trapping the hand or foot before countering with punch combination or throw.

I threw one crescent kick and my pulled groin muscle twinged. I threw a second and it hurt a bit. And then I threw a third and ZING! pulled it good once more. So, yeah. Ouch. And that more or less settled it -- I was going to need to sit on the bench for a week or two, stop training altogether, so that this damn thing would heal.

Anyway, Friday came and my wife had worked with my brother to organize a Guy's Night Out in my honor downtown. About a dozen of my friends and I hit the Gingerman for lots of tasty good beers, followed by a Sinus Show presentation of Point Break, one of the most hysterically awful films ever made. After that we hit several more bars, and I, in a fairly intoxicated state, managed to take a bad step and give my right ankle a solid twisting.

Damn that hurt.

Well, that settled it -- no training for a while. Saturday was a more laid back day -- coming home at 2:30-3:00 in the AM is nowhere as easy as it used to be! Then we had family and friends over for pizza and cake and wine and karaoke that night, while Sunday became a sort of free-flowing hangout day to finish out the weekend. Nice.

So, not training for a while. The current plan is to not train at all this week, and then skip all sparring next week before seeing how I feel on the mat the following week. So far, so good -- my ankle is feeling way better, and the pulled muscles have settled down to a generalized achiness and discomfort, with no serious pain or difficulties in moving. The dojang is closed all weekend, and I'm heading out of town for Princess' Memorial/Gala in Chicago next Thursday, so I'll only have two classes next week. Given that Master Nunan's Lone Star Invitational tournament is being held that weekend much of next week's classtime will certainly be dedicated to tournament forms and sparring. Since I'll be passing on the sparring stuff, it should result in fairly undemanding workouts for another week as well.

Hopefully, by the following Monday, I'll be back in shape to train hard for my upcoming gup test (September 30th). This one is for my green belt (6th gup), which is the goal I set for myself this year. 6th gup, to me, is really significant, since it is the "traditional" first color belt following white belt. Originally, Tang Soo Do featured only white, green, red, and blue belts. Orange belts were introduced in 1975 as a means of improving American student motivation and retention. So, what had traditionally been a 9-12 month period of training to earn your next color belt was instead broken up to enable students to earn a color belt sooner, thereby providing reward and incentive to move forward.

I certainly understand (and agree with) the organization's decision to add orange belts -- we Americans get so damn impatient, and even though the gup training path wasn't any different (i.e. you were taught the same techniques, over the same time period of about a year, to advance from 10th to 6th gup) people really, really want the different colored belts. But I try to adhere to the more traditional aspects of this art -- above all, the traditional aspects of Tang Soo Do are what, surprisingly, drew me in so deeply in the first place -- and so all along, in the back of my mind, I've sort of devalued the orange belt I wear. Not because it's meaningless or anything like that -- far from it. I know I've worked hard to earn it, as have the other students I train with. But just because I see it as a sort of concession by the traditional powers-that-be to American vanity and commerce. A change to the traditions of Tang Soo Do that was made to try to fight the American tendency to lose interest in tasks unless we keep getting rewards. Do your task, get a cookie. A fairly small concession, to be sure -- it's not like some other arts, where they have a different color belt for every gup level (yes Tae Kwan Do, I'm looking at you, but this also includes some other, less traditional Tang Soo Do organizations and schools), but a concession nonetheless.

Anyhow, much like I didn't get too excited about my promotion from 9th gup to 9th gup upgrade (a wholly optional step), my advancement to orange belt from white was rewarding but, in a more traditional context, not nearly as big a deal to me as advancing to 6th gup will be. This promotion, this acknowledgement of my work and effort, will be a moment I've been striving toward all year. Advancing to 6th gup, wearing my green belt and getting to wear a green trimmed uniform will be, for me, the first real and undeniable proof, to myself, that I am succeeding at learning this art.

I didn't expect to get there so quickly, so this is kind of a big deal. Plus, for the first time, I will be testing alongside other adults, my classmates. Since I'm higher ranked than they are I will, obviously, have to do more techniques, but at least 60-70% of the test overlaps common techniques so we'll be doing a lot of stuff together. I'm really looking forward to that experience, that level of energy that you only really get while testing in a group. My previous tests were done alongside 1 or 2 kids, both of them terrific martial artists but still, children. I think this next test will have an entirely different feel.

I can't wait.

Mood: Good, though stressed
Now Playing: Patty Griffin, "Silver Bell"

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