Thursday, September 27, 2007

How Long Must I Wait?

Today, a friend of mine at work referred to me as a martial artist, and felt a need to correct him. "I don't think of myself as a martial artist," I said. "At least not yet. I'd say I practice martial arts, but I don't feel qualified to refer to myself as a martial artist."

And this isn't some sort of false humility or attempt to split hairs. It's truly how I feel. I work hard at learning my techniques and polishing my skills, but I don't for one second feel that what I do is art, yet. Some parts may approach art at times -- I think I bring something special to my forms, on occasion, that elevates them to something more than just a series of movements, for example. And there are times when I'm training, typically when I'm alone, that I feel a sense that I'm just starting to ... grow in some way.

But an artist? Nope. Not yet.

So I got to thinking, if not now then when? When does this transition from practitioner to artist occur? And I remembered something that Kwan Jhang Nim taught us when he came to Texas and taught some clinics a few weeks before Christmas last year. He was talking about the things a person must do in order to actually learn, the 7 stages of learning. As best as I can recall, they were:
  1. Look with the intent to learn.
  2. Listen with the intent to learn.
  3. Record and remember what you see and hear.
  4. Imitate what you remember seeing and hearing.
  5. Practice. Practice. Practice.
  6. Gain a higher awareness.
  7. Create something new.
I remember listening to these principals and being a little confused by everything after "practice practice practice." The first 5 stages are fairly obvious, and you can't possible advance and learn without engaging in all of them regularly. But the whole "higher awareness" thing seemed a bit ... well, not silly, but a bit too mystical for me to connect with. So far beyond me that it wasn't even worth considering. And yet almost a year later, I've begun to notice that sometimes I become ... different ... when training. My mind works differently. I separate myself from what I'm doing.

I've really started spotting this when I practice forms by myself. I've heard forms referred to as "moving meditations," and I think I'm beginning to understand what that means. Sometimes I find myself thinking about something completely separate and distinct from my form, and yet I continue to move and do the form's techniques without thought. Other times I'll be training with friends in a less formal setting and we'll begin chatting about movies, or music, or the news, while we're in the middle of forms practice, and we'll just continue doing the forms , conversing all the while.

Sometimes it trips me up, sure -- I'll get distracted, or suddenly I'll just go "ummm... wait.. what the heck am I doing again?" But mostly the practice I've engaged in has wired the movements into my muscles and as a result my mind is more-or-less free to go about other business while the form is being performed. Sometimes my mind just sort of disengages altogether and all I do is move for a minute or so. No real effort to think at all. Now, this is by no means how things are all -- or even most -- of the time. I don't have anything even remotely resembling the mental discipline to do this consistently. But it just sort of happens, on its own, on occasion.

I also really noticed this effect during my last couple of gup tests -- particularly in last Saturday's 3rd gup test. During line drills and forms I just sort of go ... blank. I just listen, and then do, and then move on to the next thing . It was odd -- I was talking to Sa Bom Nim after the test and I asked how I looked out there. He gave me some praise -- not so much as to give me a swelled head, but reassured me that I did well that day. And I told him that I honestly couldn't recall much in the way of specific moments during the testing until I began interacting with a partner. I have some sense of things from when I was doing forms with Kayleigh, but they're mostly impressions: getting out of breath. Slowing down and speeding up to try to maintain a good rhythm and stay as close together as possible. Being happy with my kicks at several points. But overall I was just ... moving ... without much thought. Even then, with the pressure and stress of testing. However, once I began working with partners on one steps, wrist grabs, etc. I have far more recall.


But anyhow, I think this means I've, after over a year and a half, begun to touch on the 6th stage of learning. I think this sense of separation, of detachment while training, describes "higher awareness" pretty well. Of course, figuring out what to do during those moments is another story -- I imagine that will occur over time. And I suspect that creating, true creation, comes from harnessing and using that higher awareness.

And that, of course, is when one becomes a martial artist. A practitioner practices, but an artist creates. So, I suspect I'll be practicing martial arts for a long time to come.

But my goal, someday, is to be able to call myself, humbly and sincerely, an artist.

Mood: Ready to go home (early day, I've been working for about 10 hours, and I can't leave the office yet -- have to wait for my ride...)
Now Playing: The Hold Steady, "Boys and Girls in America"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

We Take This Stuff VERY Seriously

As you can see.

Mood: Sleepy, achey still
Now Playing: Nada

Red Belt Test Recap

OK, I'm a red belt now. Check out the cool new South Park character image in my profile -- created a brand new one, with a haircut that looks more like the short and spiky look I'v ebeen sporting the last year, plus a nicer, more peaceful background. Ahhhhhhh. Sweet.

So, yeah, I've reached 3rd gup. No pictures, yet -- my digital camera's batteries died after my mom took 3 pictures, and she took pictures but was using an old-school film camera so we'll need to wait until she develops them to see how things look. I should be able to post a few pics later today.

The test was great but ow, man, everything hurts. Every muscle in my arms, legs and back is aching like mad. I think that was largely because the test went so quickly. We had 11 green belts testing together, 7 6th gups (including Christine and Trevor) and 2 5th gups testing for stripes, and 2 4th gups (me and my 8 year old training buddy Kayleigh) testing for red belts. Overall everyone really knew their stuff -- Trevor was a bit of a goofball during the test, and we need to work on that, but all in all he knows his techniques. Christine did terrific as well, and the rest of the green belts mostly knew what they were doing aside from a couple of hitches here and there.

As a result, the test was over in less than 3 hours, which is nice in some ways (easier to maintain a high level of energy and discipline for the length of the test) but it also tends to be a bit more demanding physically, as you don't get much time to catch your breath. When folks are messing up, the rest of the people testing typically get to sit and wait for a while until they get their problems worked out, but aside from waiting for the 6th and 5th gups to finish their forms I had almost no sit-and-relax time at all.

Anyway, I'm mostly thrilled with my own performance on test day, with the notable exception of the improvised self defense technique I performed on my wife. I mean, it was a really good technique -- blocked her punch to the outside, then stepped in with an elbow to the face, a second elbow to the back of the head as I moved my right leg behind her, followed by a rear leg sweep while pushing her backward with my arm to pinwheel her to the floor. It was very effective. I also used a bit too much power, causing her to hit the mat way too hard and knocking the wind out of her. We had to excuse ourselves from the mat and head into the restroom so she could pull herself back together and I could make sure she was OK.

I felt horrible -- she wasn't really injured, and she was able to shake it off and finish the test without any problem -- but still, I really dropped her pretty hard. Honestly, I wasn't trying to use so much power, but I'm so damn used to training with big guys that I forget just how strong I can be and how much smaller she is than me. Plus, she wasn't prepared for such a hard drop which really made it worse -- had she known it was going to be as hard as it came out she would have tucked her chin more and been ready to hit. But happily she's OK and no permanent damage was done. Bit of a headache after the test, and today her neck is pretty sore too, but all in all she's OK.

Regardless, I'll be living that one down for a while .

Otherwise testing went really, really well. I had no problems of note on my hand and foot techniques, one steps were just fine, wrist grabs offered no problems at all aside from briefly blanking on one cross hand technique, sparring was fun (I sparred Christine, which was nice because it really gave us a chance to show that we could work together with control and have a good time -- I really wanted to show that I can control myself and my power, to the testing board and to her), the other students were tested on terminology while Christine and I were making sure she was OK after the fall so we didn't have to do any of the Q&A stuff.

Breaking was cool as well -- the requirements are breaking 1 board with a jumping downward heel kick , doing a two-board break with a choice of any hand technique, and 2 boards with a hopping side kick. However, aside from the jumping downward heel kick I'd already done all the breaks I needed to do (I broke a brick with a palm heel a good six months back, just to see if I could, and broke 3 boards with a hop side kick three months back after the last green belt test). So instead I got to show off a bit. The downward heel kick was a walk in the park: I accidentally broke it while sizing it up -- I meant to just sort of tap the board with my heel to make sure I was in the right spot, and instead the board just popped. Same thing happened when I did spin back kick a while back -- one board is nothing to a guy my size. But the audience got a good laugh out of it, so that was cool.

For my hand technique I asked Sa Bom Nim to select a more difficult techniqe since I'd already done a brick. He suggested knife a two board knife hand strike, which was honestly what I was hoping he'd say. Definitely a bit of a scary break, as if you hit without your hand tensed properly you can easily break bones, especially when you're going through 2 or more boards. Regardless, I sized it up and threw a reverse knife hand that broke both boards in a single shot. It was gorgeous. Have a little sore spot on my hand today when part of my wrist connected with the edge of the board, but nothing serious.

So then it was time to try to show off a bit, and we thought we'd give a 4 board hopping side kick break a try. Unfortunately that break ust wasn't going to happen yesterday. I'm certain I can do it -- I'm definitely strong enough, and I broke 3 boards without any problem on my first attempt -- but yesterday wasn't the day. I think it was a combination of my kicks being off a couple of times and the holders being tired. I was the last person breaking, and we only had 4 guys holding for the entire test, so they were getting pretty tired. Breaking 4 boards (which had to be duct taped together) requires something like 2400PSI of force -- something akin to being hit by a car at about 20-25 MPH. So, with that kind of force coming in, it takes at least 4 guys holding and braced, with hands and arms locked out solid and strong, to hold the boards in place when the kick comes in. My first kick was off a bit, but the second one was solid and on target. However, they lost their grip and the boards just pushed backward (putting a nice scrape on my buddy Rich's hand and wrist in the process). Third kick was crap -- I was too close -- but the fourth (and last) was dead on target and solid -- and once again they lost their hold on it and I drove the boards right into Rich's chest. At that point I asked Sa Bom Nim if we could stop, as I was honestly worried that continuing to try it would wind up injuring one or more of friends. No way is my showing off worth hurting someone.

But still, it would have been SO cool.

The thing I'm proudest of, though is that Kayleigh and I blew through all 10 of our forms without any errors or having to repeat anything. That was my main personal goal for the day -- I love forms. They are, without question, my favorite aspect of Tang Soo Do, and I spent an enormous amount of time prepping over the past couple of months -- between tournaments and training -- to try to ensure that I would make no errors on test day. I was also hopeful that Kayleigh would blow them out as well -- she's solid and trains constantly, and we both talked beforehand about our shared goal of not repeating a form.

And we succeeded. We blew through the gichos a bit too fast for my taste, so I wound up getting winded as a result. I kept trying to slow down and pause for a bit after each technique, but 8 year olds don't slow down easily and she kept going faster again. Frankly I was more concerned that we looked good and synchronized out there, so I just kept it up, caugt my breath during chil sung ee rho and kept a stricter pace through the pyong ahns so that I wouldn't wilt.

I was getting pretty run down by pyang ahn o dan, but when we finished it up and began our final form, chil sing ill rho, I knew I was home free. I know this form inside out and I know how to perform it when I'm exhausted. I know where to breath. I know when to brace and when to relax. I know how to do it when my legs feel like they're going to buckle and my chest feels like it's going to explode. So getting thorough it yesterday was almost easy. I just had to focus, breathe, let my body do the techniques I'd practiced hundreds of times over the past 6 months. And when I got to the final sequences I could feel a smile creeping onto my face.

I'd done it. We'd done it. And apparently there hadn't been a 4th-to-3rd gup test where the candidates all got through them without error or pause in years. It's unusual, and definitely something to be proud of. We got a round of applause from the audience as well as from the other candidates -- I think the testing board even applauded, which was just plain awesome. Kayleigh and I turned, shook hands and bowed to each other in thanks, and returned to our spots. From there the test continued, but I think that moment, that sense of accomplishment, will stay with me the rest of my life. Even now I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Anyway, pictures later.

Mood: Achey, happy
Now Playing: Garbage, "Beautifulgarbage"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

3rd Gup Test Today, Latest Paper

Been laying pretty low lately -- work is keeping me very, very busy, but in a good way. After 14 years of technical writing I'm finally in a new role (Marketing and Communications Manager), and with it come new challenges, duties, and responsibilities to be met. As a result my days are pretty packed, and by the time I get home I'm either packing my bag and heading to the dojang or taking care of business at home, helping get the kids set up for school in the morning while Christine prepares to head out for class. As a result, not a whole lot of time for reflection and writing.

Adding to the pile most significantly, though, has been the training leading up to my 3rd gup (red belt) test, which will be taking place at 2:00 this afternoon. This will be, without question, the most demanding test thus far, as it isn't an incremental test like all of the previous ones. Whereas on previous tests we've only had to demonstrate the new techniques we learned over the past few months, this time out I have to show everything I've learned in the past 21 or so months. This translates to:
  • Approximately 2 dozen hand technique and hand technique combinations (soo gi)
  • Approximately 1 dozen foot technique and foot technique combinations (jok gi)
  • 10 forms (hyungs) -- 3 gichos, 5 pyang ahns, 2 chil sungs
  • 10 basic one step sparring techniques (il soo sik dae ryun)
  • 14 intermediate one step sparring techniques (il soo sik dae ryun)
  • 15 intermediate self-defense techniques (ho sin sul)

PLUS I'll have to spar a couple of rounds, do rapid horse stance punching for 30 seconds as a test of endurance, break boards with hand and foot techniques (how many boards will really depend on the supply of wood at the dojang -- due to my size and strength I typically have to do 3 boards at once for all of my techniques these days, but if we're running low Master Nunan will probably just ask for the minimum to ensure all of the other students have enough wood), and finish up with a fairly lengthy session of Q&A on culture, philosophy, and terminology.

So yeah, this is the big one. Well, the first big one. But I'm ready and think I'll do fine. My main goal is to not have to repeat any of my fomrs, to just blow through them without error one after another. Other than that, I just want to show that I know what I'm doing, and that aside from minor errors and test day jitters that I'm solid and worthy of advancement. I'm confident that will be the case.

And, as usual, test day comes with another essay. I'm not too thrilled with this one -- I think the new job as me spread a bit thin intellectually and as a result I was unable to really muster any inspiration to latch onto the topic. But I think it's adequate. Paper follow. Updates on the test later.


What are the Responsibilities of a Senior Student, and What is the Relevance of the 10 Articles of Faith?

I believe that the chief responsibility of a senior student is to serve as a role model for other students. A senior student should be aware that less advanced students look to those students that have been training longer for cues as to how to act in the dojang, how to approach their training, how to show proper respect to their seniors and instructors, and finally how to act toward students that are their juniors.

The surest way for a senior student to act as a worthy role model is to actively attempt to follow and demonstrate behavior that adheres to the 10 Articles of Faith. The 10 Articles of Faith, derived from the 5 rules of ethics spelled out in the Hwarang O Kae, provide a set of specific rules and ideals that define honorable behavior within the Mi Guk Kwan. Learning to live and behave honorably at all times is a very important part of learning the martial arts, as behaving honorably will help to ensure that a responsible martial artist does not abuse the power and skill that they have developed through studying the arts.

Of course all members of the Mi Guk Kwan, regardless of rank, should try to follow the Articles of Faith. But I think that as senior students it is especially important that we try our best to demonstrate these principals as consistently as possible in order to be sure that we are both improving ourselves as well as being worthy of imitation by the lower ranked students.

The 10 Articles of Faith also function as specific "real world" examples of the 8 Key Concepts in action, and can help us to gain more insight and understanding into how these more or less abstract concepts can be brought into practice in our lives. Each of the 10 Articles of Faith can only be fulfilled by adhering to two or more of the 8 Key Concepts. All of the Articles of Faith require yong gi, which is hardly surprising. Courage is ultimately the cornerstone of any form of ethical behavior, because ethical behavior requires that we have the courage to do what we know is right and just regardless of personal comfort or cost.

But each of the 10 Articles of Faith also touches on one or more of the other Key Concepts as well. Loyalty and sacrifice for one's country requires putting the wellbeing of one's nation ahead of one's self and therefore is a demonstration and kyum son. Obedience and duty to parents, charity to children, respect for the elderly and infirm, maintaining loving relationships with spouses, all require kyum son and chung jik (and, depending on the people involved, Iíd say shin chook can play a big part as well). Discretion in killing is an expression of him cho chung, wan gup, and chung shin tong il. The ability to always finish what we have begun derives from developing chung shin tong il and in neh. And so on.

So, in closing, senior students should attempt to act as worthy role models for the less experienced students. The 10 Articles of Faith provide a fairly simple code of honor by which a student can be sure that they are acting honorably. By following the 10 Articles of Faith, senior students also ensure that they are deepening their understanding of and conducting themselves in accordance with the 8 Key Concepts.


Mood: Some butterflies, but mostly just de-caffeinated and kinda woozy
Now Playing: The sound of my son practicing piano

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Lone Star Classic, and My First DQ

Yesterday we attended Master Nunan's annual Tang Soo Do tournament, the Lone Star Classic. This was my first time attending his tournament -- Miranda and Trevor attended last year, but I was out of town meeting up with lots of friends in the Chicago area (you can read a bit about the fascinating saga here) and couldn't make it.

This particular local tournament also tends to draw out a lot more of the gups than the other tournaments, so we were looking forward to some really good forms and sparring competitions, even in the green and orange belt ranks. Typically, I haven't seen really solid, tight competition until the red belt ranks, since the (relative) length of the white/orange/green belt training period is brief (typically, less than two years to get to red belt) compared with the time spent in the red belt and dan ranks. But we had a pretty big group, even in the green belts, yesterday. And seeing as this will be my last competition as a green belt, I was looking forward to it being a good day.

Seeing as it was my instructor and friend's tournament I really wanted to perform well, and I've been putting in a lot of extra time training to try to ensure that was the case. And happily, it was mostly so. I finally managed to grab a first place trophy with my Chil Sung Ill Rho, which was truly gratifying. It was a solid performance of the form -- a couple of minor bobbles on balance due my feet seeming to glue themselves to the rubberized paint on the basketball court where the rings were set up -- but all in all a performance I am very proud of.

Sparring, though, provided me with a lesson. I managed to grab second, but that was out of only three competitors -- they split us up by age and there were only three on us "old men" competing -- the fourth in our age group had to drop out due to a nasty case of pneumonia -- so it was just my friends Mark and Erik and myself.

And my sparring was solid and on target. Unfortunately, we were all also a) tired and b) very hot -- it was at least 90 degrees in the gym, probably more -- and as a result the levels of contact and control were rising and falling, respectively. We were drawing a lot of unofficial contact wornings -- not due to being overly aggressive or intentionally abusive, just due to the fatigue making it harder to focus on pulling punches and kicks. It's way easier to just throw them hard, honestly, and the more tired you get the easier it becomes to accidentally put too much oomph behind you stuff.

So, first match I handled really well -- maybe a little more contact than I usually have, but my friend Erik and I traded a few whomps without any real damage and I got the win. Then, after a 1 minute breather I had a match with my friend Mark, where things started getting a bit thumpier -- on both sides, to be fair. Mark and I tend to go at each other pretty hard, for better or for worse, so we traded a few hits that were a bit over the line, without being too dangerous. But we wound up tied, so after another 1 minute breather we had a second match, and that's where things got ... well, instructive.

Briefly, I got disqualified. For single a shot that was both too hard and dangerous/illegal.

We were barely halfway through the second match, and I could tell Mark was getting tired (he wasn't the only one!). He was trying to throw some spinning back kicks, but he was slowing down and I could see his prepping for them, so I decided to counter with some basic lunging backfists, while planning to go for a spin back kick of my own when the opportunity presented itself.

So, I see him start to prep for the spin back kick, and as soon as he begins his rotation I turn my body out and away to get out of the way of the kick before it has a chance to get close to me, while lunging forward with a backfist aimed at where the side of his head will be when he throws the kick. Unfortunately, maybe because he was getting tired or maybe because he was trying to adjust the targeting on his kick to track to where I'd moved, Mark kind of lost his balance and over-rotated on his spin, causing the back of his head to wind up where I expected the side of his head to be. And because I wasn't using enough control, I was unable to stop my punch when I saw where it was headed and ... well.

Wham. Hard backfist to the back of the head. Too much force, and a dangerous, illegal hit to boot. Thank god it was pad-on-pad contact, because that could have caused serious damage.

So, anyway, the fight was stopped, and after a brief discussion with the corner judge who called the contact DQ (my friend David) and the ring coordinator (Kyo Sa Nim Sawyer, from Canyon Lake) the fight was stopped and I lost by disqualification. Everyone agreed that it was accidental, just "one of those things," and that it was shame to have to stop the match over it. But in the interest of safety there needs to be zero tolerance on this sort of stuff so that was that. A bitter pill, but one I could see I just needed to swallow.

Luckily, aside from a little head rattle Mark was fine, and he and I laughed it off and commiserated -- we both agreed that it's a lousy way to lose a fight, and an unsatisfying way to win one, too. Deeply unsatisfying, especially since the match was really fun and we were really going toe to toe, there. I'd have loved to grab that first place trophy, and I'm sure Mark would have preferred to have earned it by taking it from me, instead of my own lack of control defaulting it to him. Either outcome was equally possible -- we were both tired, but still scrapping. I think physically I had a slight edge, but I was also on my third match in a row compared with his second, so all in all I think we were on a pretty level playing field. The match could have gone either way.

So, having it suddenly end due to my own screwup was just ... lame. I feel like I robbed Mark of the purer satisfaction he should have had in winning, and I robbed myself of the satisfaction of knowing I lost fair and square. Losing and winning on technicalities just doesn't have the sense of closure and completion that a "real" win or loss does.

So, another lesson learned. It's easy to lose sight of just how much effort and focus it takes to not swing hard, to pull punches and kicks, to maintain focus and discipline even when your adrenaline is running high and you're sweating and tired and stressed out. The easiest thing in the world is to hit something as hard as you can. It's far more difficult to hit fast, but strike lightly. And being tired is no excuse for being sloppy, especially when that sloppiness can get someone hurt.

Mood: Achy, but chillin' out
Now Playing: Nada

Friday, September 07, 2007

Busy, Gainfully Employed, All That Jazz

So, since crossing the 40-and-up threshold 2 weeks ago, I've been pretty insanely busy. Thus, no updates. Briefly, here's the status quo:

Employment Status: Happily, gainfully employed again for the foreseeable future. Working with a buncho f former co-workers at a new startup here in Austin. To top it off, I've managed to swing a job change into marketing and creative development and management, which will really open up my career prospects moving forward. It took a bit wrangling, mostly of my own pride, to get things settled into place, but I'm glad to be working folks I enjoy working with again in work that is challenging and interesting.

Social Life: Active. Almost too much so. Lots of running around and stuff to do, not nearly enough time to do it in. This is a problem that is quite nice to have.

Toys: Several lovely new ones, courtesy of my last birthday. On the "fun and games" side, I have a spankin' new Xbox 360 Elite happily buzzing away atop my television. Many hours hve been spent playing Bioshock, Gears of War, Guitar Hero II, and Viva Pinata in the past two weeks. If you're reading this and have an Xbox 360, drop me a note with your gamertag and I'll add you as a friend!

And on the "foodie" side of things I've been having a blast getting to know the ins and outs of my new espresso machine. I love all the work and effort that I have to go through just to make two itty bitty cups of bittersweet bliss. Much like travel, the journey is half of the fun when it comes to food and drink prep.

Martial Arts: Training as often as possible in preparation for a) the Lone Star Classic, which occurs tomorrow morning and b) my 3rd gup test, which occurs in 2 weeks. I'm excited about the tournament: it's Master Nunan's tournament, so I'll be competing alongside (and against...) many of my friends and training peers from our dojang. Plus, it will be my final tournament as a green belt, so it will be a nice way to see out this phase of my training and education in the martial arts. Will be competing with Chil Sung ill Rho for (I assume) the last time, and I'm sincerely hopefully hat this third time will be the charm that finally lands me 1st place with this form. I've been practicing it for over 5 months now, so I'm hopeful that all this hard work will pay off. As for sparring, who knows? I never expect to do well in sparring, and yet when tournament time come along I seem to perform well and often place high in my class. I'm not worried about it. It'll be fun regardless, and with any luck we'll be attending a party later that evening at Master Nunan's place.

As for my 3rd gup test, I can't wait until it gets here. I've been eagerly anticipating this test for months now, and just want to get in there and show what I can do. Plus, I'll get to test on the mat with my wife and my son, who will both be testing for 5th (green belt 1 stripe), which will be terrific. Miranda and I have tested alongside each other before, but this will be the first time I get to test with the rest of my family (whereas Miranda is on her 6 month wait for 3rd gup and will be sitting out this next one).

I'll probably only be testing with one other 4th gup, though -- my 8 year old training partner Kayleigh -- which will be interesting. Given our height differences, we'll probably only be doing line drills and forms together -- we'll both need someone closer to our own size for one steps, wrist grabs, sparring and improvised self-defense, so I assume I'll be working with one of the 5th or 6th gups that are testing, or with a spare red belt or dan that is floating around. Regardless, I know Kayleigh is taking this test seriously and will show up prepared to blow it out of the water that day. My goal is to get though all of my forms (every single form I've learned in the past 21 months...) without having to do any of them twice, and I think that goal is very attainable if I just stay focused and calm. Once I've got this tournament out of the way I'll be spending the next two weeks (evenings at the dojang, mornings at the gym) running forms, one-steps, wrist grabs, and line drills just to iron out any kinks and get things solid.

Italy Trip: Sadly, on hold until Spring. Too much going on, so we've decided it makes more sense to put it off until May or so, so that we can enjoy it without stressing out about money and all the time off so soon after starting at my new position. Disappointing, sure, but we'll get there one way or another next year. So as not to completely ignore our 15th anniversary, Christine and I will be taking a 3-day romantic getaway vacation to San Antonio at the beginning of October. Staying at a gorgeous, hoity-toity hotel on the Riverwalk. Pampering ourselves and eating out and drinking champagne and doing this and that for a few days on our own. It ain't Italy, but it'll be nice all the same.

And now, time to wrap up some more design work and start focusing on the weekend.

Mood: Mellow
Now Playing: Lyle Lovett, "It's Not Big, It's Large"