Saturday, April 26, 2008

Texas Classic, Empty Handed

God, I feel lie I've been running a marathon and it's lasted ... ummm ... four weeks. Leaving for Vegas in the AM, for the last trade show of the Spring season (Interop -- we'll be in booth 702 if you happen to wander by...). And I have SO much left to do before I leave.

Just walked back in the door with the family after attending the 6th Annual Texas Tang Soo Do Classic -- Master Riley's tournie -- down in New Braunfels. Overall, it was a good day, although I came home empty handed this time. Not too surprising, and I'm not feeling robbed or anything like I did last year. Nope -- I just wasn't up to a good performance today. I didn't spar, because I simply couldn't risk injury the day before I head out for a trade show. Instead I just competed in forms, which I usually do pretty well in. But I stacked the deck against myself by trying to perform Chil Sung Sahm Rho.

My issues with Chil Sung forms are fairly well documented in this blog -- the slow pacing and relaxed nature of portions of these forms doesn't really play to my intense-and-powerful approach -- and each successive Chil Sung form I learn provides a greater degree of difficulty in my attempts to overcome these limitations. I could have just competed with Bassai, and I honestly think I would have knocked it clear out of the park had I done so. Bassai really allows me to show off my power, my intensity, and perhaps most of all my kicking abilities -- not to pat myself on the back too much, but all in all my kicks tend to be better than m ost other folks in my age group and division. But, I firmly believe in challenging myself, and when I compete I prefer to compete with the most recent form I've learned, regardless of whether I learned 3 weeks ago or 3 months ago.

So I know I set the bar a bit high for myself this time, and my failure to score a medal doesn't really sting too bad. What DOES sting, though, is that I messed up early in the form and had to ask permission to start again. That new, and I've never done that before. First time for everything, and I shouldn't be bothered too much by it. But it still digs at me a bit. I'm a perfectionist, and making a clear and simple error really bugs me.

I dunno, I shouldn't get too wound up. I know I've been spread very thin these past 2 months, and I could feel as this tournament approached that I simply wasn't as prepped as I wished I could be. But time is a luxury right now -- it's been tough enough to find the time to do my regular training, let alone to do extra tournament prep on the side. So, I just need to let myself off the hook for this one.

But I'll be damned if I won't use my disappointment to fuel the extra drive that I'll need to make this form something to see when it comes time for Nationals. 3 months -- it's gonna be something far more interesting by then.

Tang Soo, y'all. Maybe I'll poke my head in and post something from Vegas....

Mood: Kinda tuckered out
Now Playing: Massive Attack, "Protection"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Charmed Life

Part of my head is in a bit of a dark place tonight. I've been under a lot of stress lately - work, personal, you name it. Nothing worth noting, because none of it is particularly extraordinary, but it's kind of piled up a bit and I'm feeling a tad bit of strain as a result. I'll handle it fine, but I can tell I'm out of sorts. My emotions are running at high tilt: I find I'm quick to anger, kind of snarky, but also quick to tears, easily moved by small things. A sad song. Kodak commercials. Idol Gives Back. Forget it -- I'm wiping my eyes within 30 seconds.

So, whatever. It's kind of silly, really. I'm having a very good week, in real terms. Work is fine, if busy. My boss took me and the rest of team out on his boat for the day yesterday as a reward for all the work we've been doing on the trade shows and whatnot. It was terrific: a lovely day, breezy and warm, cocktails and naps in the sun. Everyone in my immediate family is fine. No health problems of note. My son turned 8 today, and we had a house full of kids and relatives as a result. A strain, surely, but it's hard to complain when your kid is healthy and happy and has a great birthday as well. Sure, there was bitching, but whatever.

So, I feel kind of stupid for being so edgy. Let me tell you about some other, more tangential, events.

Last weekend we had about the single most brutal gup testing I've participated in since I began training. I proctored three tests, and with the exception of the white belt tests they were all basically awful. Arduous. Long, painful experiences. 7 kids cried. 2 almost passed out. One kid froze up so badly that the green belts didn't get promoted at the end of their test. Many hearts were more-or-less broken, although they've since mended nicely. Seriously, though, this was a tough day for a lot of kids. The first real tough day they've had in martial arts training. Months of practice and training, a difficult test, and no advancement. Granted, they advanced later in the week, but after they've sweated for 4 hours it's not realistic to expect 7 and 8 year olds to understand that not getting promoted at the end of their test is not the same as failing.

I thought this was going to be the worst part of my week. Oh, woe is me -- I had to suffer through someone else's bad day. It's amazing how self-involved I can be.

Since then, I've found out that one of the kids who tested, one of the ones who almost passed out, lost his brother in Iraq the same day as his test. A 23 year old kid who was over there for 4 short months, he was blown up, along with a fellow soldier, by a roadside IED. So, while I stood there, frustrated and bored, trying to not roll my eyes while I stealthily checked the clock, one of the guys I was a watching sweat it out on the mat while his parents watched was, unbeknownst to then all, losing his brother, their son.

How's that for a reality check? Boredom can be a true luxury.

Then, on a clearly less serious and devastating level, there's the friends I have who are considering quitting Tang Soo Do because their instructor (FYI to my fellow classmates: not one of ours here in Texas) is fast tracking another student. Came in from some other art 6 months back, hadn't practiced in years but was allowed to cross rank to green belt, and is now petitioning to test for red belt about 6-9 months early. They're demotivated and frustrated, perhaps even disillusioned. I don't blame them.

For folks that don't train this may seem petty, but you can't really understand how insulting it is to be leap-frogged by some pushy jerk when you train and work your ass off, but try to be humble and patient, only testing when your instructor tells you your ready. Our art requires a significant amount of self-sacrifice, of patience and humility. This flies in the face of those values, and truly undermines commitment to the art. I know their instructor, and he's a great guy, but I wonder if he realizes the pain and damage he's causing by allowing this. And again, this may not see like a big deal to non-martial artists, but it's hard to explain what a place of importance the art takes in our lives, and how upsetting it is to see if your expectations and beliefs made unsteady.

Another friend has recently had a cyst grow on his chest: his biopsy is next week.. Another has a sister who is battling cancer. I have friends who desperately want children, and are unable to have them. Other friends whose parents are suffering from advanced Parkinson's Disease. Others whose parents have MS. Others who have suffered sudden tragic losses of friends, through both death and divorce, who give them stability and hope.

Conversely, I spent significant time and energy this week bitching about my weight.

It's weird. Aside form the death of my father at 6 years of age -- a big aside, granted -- my life has been fairly free of tragedy. Maybe because that's a tough act to follow. Don't know. But when problems occur for others, I often wonder...

When's it my turn? Aside from a bad first chapter, my life is pretty good. I'm so freakin' lucky.

Is there a shoe ready to fall? When does my luck run out? This is the crap that keeps me awake at night.

Mood: Edgy
Now Playing: Alvin and the Chipmunks, a tragedy in its own right

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Grind

It's been a while since I could find the time to write, let alone find anything worth writing about. Work has been fairly all-encompassing for most of the past month, with my time being split about 60% on redesigning and relaunching our corporate website, and 60% on prepping and planning for our corporate presece at a series of trade shows in Las Vegas this month. Yeah, there's an extra 20% in there, which accounts for the 2+ extra hours of work I've been doing each day for the majority of the past 6 weeks. Just got back from a 5-day janut to Vegas for the first show -- slept about 3 hours a night, if that. I just don't sleep well when I'm away from home.

My Tang Soo Do training has taken a hit as a result of all this professional life commitment time. I'm still training as much as I can, but for the first time since I began training 2+ years back "as much as I can" only comes to 3-4 hours a week. Meeting my work commitments means that I need to spend the time I used to train in the AM at my gym at my desk instead, so no extra practice time during the week. Christine is often too busy during the week to attend the afternoon classes that she prefers, so instead she has to attend on Monday and Wednesday night, which in turn prevents me from attending one of those nights since I need to be home with the kids. No classes on Friday, and I'm often too swamped with catching up on honey-do's to train substantially on Sundays.

So, it's pretty much just Tuesday night/Thursday night/Saturday morning these days. Luckily, I'm not even halfway through the 6 month wait before I'm permitted to test for 1st gup and my technique feels pretty solid. With the exception of learning Chil Sung Sahm Rho I'd already more or less committed the other 1st gup level techniques I needed to know months ago -- we're shown them at 3rd gup level, even thought we aren't tested on them for quite a long while after that -- so the lack of time in the dojang hasn't really impacted my forward progress all that much. Mostly I'm just feeling sluggish and unfocused, probably due to the lower levels of physical activity coupled with the higher levels of stress at my workplace.

Happily, this will all settle down nicely in a few weeks. Once I get past the last tradeshow (Interop Las Vegas) in about 4 weeks I'll be able to reset my work schedule and get some balance again. I should finally be able to train alongside my wife in one of the daytime classes by taking a long lunch each Monday (which will have the added bonus of ensuring that we both are at home on Monday night!), and will also be able to hit the gym on Wednesday and Friday mornings to pick up some extra cardio and stretching time along with some opportunity to work in front of a mirror and polish my technique and stances. So, these extra days, coupled with my usual Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday classes and the couple of hours I try to devote to working out with the family and friends on Sunday afternoons, will get me back up to working out every day.

Live eat sleep and breathe Tang Soo Do. I was told that once you become a red belt that's what you need to do in order to be ready to advance. I remember when I first heard that phrase, about 2-3 months after I started training, that it sounded grueling. Like it would require such an act of will to grind myself down and force myself to train harder and harder, to get ready. What's funny, for me, is how hard it is to NOT do those things, to have to focus elsewhere instead of just training, training, training as often as I can.

Mood: Sluggish (still kind of off-tempo from spending last week in Vegas)
Now Playing: Beth Orton, "Superpinkymandy"