swan_tower: (Default)

(If you prefer to avoid discussions of weight and fitness, skip this post.)

According to the scale at my gym, I’ve lost 21 lbs since I decided that the slow, decade-long upward creep of my weight was not a good thing, and probably shouldn’t continue unchecked.

It’s taken me twenty-one months to achieve that result — nearly two years. This is not the kind of progress that will get anybody’s attention if you advertise it on TV. On the other hand, it’s sustainable. Not constant; Christmas always reverses the trend a bit, and so does Girl Scout cookie season. But my goal here was to change my life in ways that would allow me to still enjoy the things I like, instead of having to cut them out entirely. Because you know what? Short of me developing a sudden and deathly allergy to chocolate, there is no world in which I’m swearing off Thin Mints for life. Any plan for my body predicated on such a ban is doomed to fail.

Which is why nothing I’ve done in the last two years could be called a “diet.” We’ve got growing mountains of evidence that such an approach is often unsuccessful, or even counter-productive, and I know I couldn’t make it stick even if I wanted to. The closest I come is telling myself that I only get to eat two Tagalongs a day, not half a box in a sitting. (I still eat the whole box. I just take my time.) And as I’ve gotten more willing to cook, I’m finding tasty recipes that are also healthier — but when asked what comfort food I wanted after my wrist surgery, it was grilled cheese sandwiches, yo. I’m not completely denying myself the things I like.

What I have done is walk.

Lots and lots of walking. “Buy a Fitbit and make a daily goal on Habitica for ten thousand steps a day” walking. “Hmmm, it’s 11:30 and five more minutes will get me to fourteen thousand for today” walking. “Run those errands on foot if it isn’t raining” walking. “Put a treadmill under my desk and walk on it while I’m dealing with email and reading random things online” walking. There are some pretty unfortunate correlations between sitting on your butt all day and decreased life expectancy; spending more of my time in motion is a goal in its own right, quite apart from the effect it’s had on my weight. I also do karate, and I was doing some weight-lifting before the wrist problems made me swear off that for a bit, but mostly? I walk. Miles every day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once to have an effect. And while walking/running as a dedicated activity works for some people, I’m more likely to get it done if it’s integrated with other things I’m doing — hence the errands and the email and all the rest.

Like I said. Sustainable. It means my results are slower, but nearly two years on, they’re still going. And that makes me quite happy.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

[This post will include discussion of exercise and weight loss, as an advisory for those who prefer to skip such things.]

Apparently moving house is a great way to lose weight.

I’m not entirely surprised by this. If there’s one thing I believe is true about body weight — well, if there’s one thing I believe is true, it’s that we barely understand the first bloody thing about how it works, and later generations will look back at us with the same kind of horrified disbelief we currently direct at Victorian icepick lobotomies. But if there are two things I believe, the second one is that there’s at least some truth to the idea that you can sometimes make a real change just by moving more.

I don’t mean formalized, focused exercise — though that’s good, too, for a whole bunch of health reasons. I mean being less sedentary: spending more time on your feet, more time walking, more time fidgeting. Because I haven’t been going to the gym lately, or even to the dojo . . . but I’ve been packing and unpacking boxes, shelving books, spending a much higher percentage of my day up and about instead of in a chair or on the couch. My weight’s been dropping slowly and mostly steadily for the last year, since I started trying to do that “ten thousand steps a day” thing, but the only time it went this fast was when I got stomach flu last fall. (And I don’t recommend that method to anybody.)

It still isn’t that dramatic: nobody’s going to look at me and say “wow, you’ve lost weight!” In a year I’ve dropped a little over fifteen pounds, which is a pretty slow rate. On the other hand, it’s sustainable. This isn’t a thing I do for a little while and then stop once I reach my target number; it’s a change to my lifestyle — a permanent one, at least until such time as injury or infirmity puts an end to it. I’ve gone from being the sort of person who defaults to getting into the car to the sort of person who actively wants to walk to the grocery store. I’m standing instead of sitting at my desk as I type this, swaying faintly to the music coming from my speakers; once I move the wall clock that is presently sitting on the other end of my treadmill, I’ll be able to start using that again while I’m at the computer. I’m not running three miles every morning, so my aerobic endurance is still the same crap it’s been for most of my life, but “activity” has become a thing I do all the time, in small, low-level doses, rather than a thing that gets fenced off in regulated blocks that are easy to fail at.

This isn’t the sort of post where I say “and this will work for you, too!” See above re: the one thing I believe; we have no real idea why some approaches work for some people and don’t for others, and there’s a lot of stupidity out there on the topic. But I know that shifting my thinking and my behavior to this mode has been good for me, and not only because it has resulted in weight loss. It’s good for my brain, good for my mood, good for my longevity prospects.

For people like me, whose job is inherently sedentary, that’s pretty damn important.

. . . but I don’t care how good moving house is for weight loss, I ain’t doing it again any time soon. I’ll just have to get my exercise by other means.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Neither Shihan nor his wife were at the dojo tonight, which meant I felt comfortable asking the sensei who teaches on Wednesdays whether he was okay with me keeping my Fitbit on during class. He said that was fine, so for the first time, I have stats for what goes on with my body during practice.

I was surprised at how few “steps” it recorded, to be honest. Sure, we spend the first twenty minutes or so on various warmups and stretches, most of which won’t register on the Fitbit. But it only recorded 1500 for the whole hour, which is equivalent to about fifteen minutes of normal walking at my usual pace. I thought the various punches and blocks would add up to more. The real interest, though, is in the heartrate tracking: I can see where we finished the warmup and started doing basics, and I can see what happened when I ran seven kata back-to-back in preparation for my upcoming test, which is a thing I’ve been doing at every practice for about a month. Turns out that I do indeed spend most of the class in the zones generally classed as “cardio” or “peak,” and topped out the scale at 185 at one point during that block of kata. (It would be amusing to see which kata work me the hardest, but since I was only allowing myself five breaths’ pause between them, there’s no hope of differentiating one from the next via the stats.) 185 is what the American Heart Association considers the usual “maximum” for my age, so I feel safe in saying that I’m working pretty damn hard when I do that kind of set. :-P

I wish Fitbit had a way for me to save that data and label it “karate,” so that I can add it to my stats for the day any time I go to the dojo. But I also wish they made them waterproof enough to wear while swimming, and that they could make the actual unit thinner; I can’t get everything I want.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

[If you are the sort of person for whom reading a discussion of fitness and weight is going to be detrimental to your state of mind, you may want to skip this post.]

I’ve been seeing the “ten thousand steps” thing around lately — the idea that your health can be improved by the relatively simple tactic of getting off your butt and walking more. I doubt there’s anything magic in 10K specifically, of course; it’s just a nice round number that’s easy to remember. The underlying point seems reasonably valid, though, in that we have a growing body of evidence to show that sitting for large stretches of time is not very good for you, and our species evolved on the assumption that we’d be spending a lot of time in motion.

One of the places where I saw the 10K thing added the statistic that a particularly sedentary person may walk only 1-3K steps per day. This made me wonder: how many steps do I walk on an average day? After all, I have a desk job, and my office is about twenty feet down the hall from my bedroom, so I was guessing the number wouldn’t be particularly high — but I didn’t really know. I’ve had a pedometer app on my phone for quite some time, but since I carry my phone in my purse, it doesn’t count the steps I take around the house when my purse is on the floor. Furthermore, at one point I decided to test its accuracy by mentally counting my steps on the way home from the post office, and checking it against my phone’s count. I didn’t expect the app to be terribly accurate . . . but it was off by such an appallingly large margin (roughly 50%, if memory serves) that I decided to go ahead and get a Fitbit. (Charge HR, for anybody who’s curious.)

The Fitbit isn’t perfectly accurate, either. If I’m carrying something in my hands or moving especially slowly (ergo not swinging my arm), it may not register the step. Conversely, it’s been known to count the movements I make while brushing my teeth as “steps.” I figure those two things come out in the wash — and besides, as one review I looked at pointed out, the real function of a Fitbit is not as a pedometer, but as a motivator.

And in that regard? It works brilliantly.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I haven’t been to a kobudo class since Okinawa, i.e. late July. But there’s a seminar this weekend, and although I’m only going to one part of it — I figured I should stay away from the bit that’s going to be done on a basketball court, on account of the brace I’m still wearing makes slipping on the floor a high probability — I decided it would be a good idea to start going back to class.

(Haven’t been to a kobudo class since July, haven’t hit the minimum required classes for the next test, and despite that I got told I would be testing for my next belt the first Friday in November. Possibly it’s just as well that I’ll be at World Fantasy then and can’t possibly come. Except that the next test will be in December, which is also when I’m likely to be doing my next shodan-ho test in karate, and holy Mary mother of god I am not doing those tests back to back. I may just have to admit that to Shihan’s face and beg for mercy, i.e. postponing the kobudo test until January.)

I’ve never felt like I’m that good at kobudo. It’s unclear to me how much of that feeling is because of the disparity between my karate and kobudo skill levels: I felt like I was a better karate green belt than I am a kobudo green belt, but I also had less sense of what I ought to be doing back then, and therefore less awareness of how I was falling short. It’s clear to me, though, that I’ve got more skill than I thought I did — and not just because I still remember the kata sequence. I’ve had other periods where, for one reason or another, I missed kobudo for a long time, and when I came back I always felt really clumsy and off. This time, though, I’ve been gone for two and a half months, and when I came back . . . I felt okay, actually. Not 100%, because my footing is still less than entirely secure, and worrying about that distracts me from what I’m doing. And I’m definitely on the rusty side. But I didn’t feel anywhere near as incompetent as I expected to, which means more of the technique has gotten embedded in my brain than I thought. It’s pleasing to know that.

Exhausting night, though. Class isn’t constant exertion, but even so, two hours on your feet doing stuff will take it out of you — and god knows the senpai who ran the kobudo class wasn’t taking it easy on us. We basically ran every kata twice, saijutsu kihon gata ichi and ni, kiyan no sai, nakandakari no sai, then we switched to bo and it was donyukon ichi, donyukon ni, and then cho un no kun sho not twice but three times, with very little breathing time in between any of it. That’s fifteen kata, yo. That’s tiring. Especially when you aren’t used to it anymore.

But hey: it’s the only way I’ll get used to it again. :-)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Apropos of my previous post: any recommendations as to ways for me to get exercise on a trip that will involve a new city almost every single day? I know that if step one is “leave your room and go to the hotel gym,” I won’t manage it. But stuff I can do in my room, without equipment — that might happen. I’ll need to do PT for my ankle regardless, so I’m going to have to set aside time for activity; it should be possible to tack other things on, if people have suggestions.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Increasing the weight is more difficult for the exercises you’re doing at low weights than at high.

Not just because you’re weaker in those regards and less accustomed to pushing for something harder — though that may be true — but because even a small increment is a much bigger deal. If I’m doing 25 lbs. on something and go up to 27.5, eh, okay, that’s a 10% increase. If I’m doing 5 lbs.* and go up to 7.5? That’s a 50% increase. I would probably not go from 50 lbs. to 75 on a given exercise, or 100 to 150, but at low levels, I don’t have much choice. I’ve already done the part where I add reps and sets; eventually I just have to suck it up, add the weight, and mush on.

“Mush” is more or less what certain upper body muscles feel like right now. :-P But hey: the next time I add weight on those exercises, it will only be a 33% increase. Which is going to feel like a cakewalk, after this round.

*Why yes, I am utterly lacking** in tricep strength; thanks for asking.

**But I’m getting better!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (exercise)
I got no exercise while I was at TIP -- which was okay in some respects, because right before I left for that I got a plasma injection to deal with a tendon problem in my hip, and was supposed to be taking it easy for a month or so after that. But it meant that by the time I came back, I was very grumpy about lack of exercise, and determined to fix that.

My schedule for the last couple of weeks:

  • Mon. 7/8 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/10 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/11 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/12 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/13 -- half hour of stationary bike
  • Mon. 7/15 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/17 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/18 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/19 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/20 -- no exercise per se, but several hours of walking around museums etc
  • Mon. 7/22 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Tue. 7/23 -- one hour personal training (upper body strength)
  • Wed. 7/24 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Today -- another hour of personal training

I won't keep this up forever, of course. The Thursday karate classes are a summer-schedule thing, so those will end mid-August, when I leave for a trip. I won't always make it to both kobudo and karate on both Monday and Wednesday, though I'm trying to get back into doing that more reliably. Swimming is something I've been wanting to start up with for a while; we joined a gym at the beginning of this month, and it's a five-minute walk from our house, so the activation energy for that is about as low as it gets. And [livejournal.com profile] kniedzw and I are trying to institute a habit of going to the gym on Saturdays.

Regardless, it feels good, and I'll try to make it last.
swan_tower: (Default)
I got no exercise while I was at TIP -- which was okay in some respects, because right before I left for that I got a plasma injection to deal with a tendon problem in my hip, and was supposed to be taking it easy for a month or so after that. But it meant that by the time I came back, I was very grumpy about lack of exercise, and determined to fix that.

My schedule for the last couple of weeks:

  • Mon. 7/8 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/10 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/11 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/12 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/13 -- half hour of stationary bike
  • Mon. 7/15 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/17 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/18 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/19 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/20 -- no exercise per se, but several hours of walking around museums etc
  • Mon. 7/22 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Tue. 7/23 -- one hour personal training (upper body strength)
  • Wed. 7/24 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Today -- another hour of personal training

I won't keep this up forever, of course. The Thursday karate classes are a summer-schedule thing, so those will end mid-August, when I leave for a trip. I won't always make it to both kobudo and karate on both Monday and Wednesday, though I'm trying to get back into doing that more reliably. Swimming is something I've been wanting to start up with for a while; we joined a gym at the beginning of this month, and it's a five-minute walk from our house, so the activation energy for that is about as low as it gets. And [profile] kniedzw and I are trying to institute a habit of going to the gym on Saturdays.

Regardless, it feels good, and I'll try to make it last.
swan_tower: (karate)
Just got back from two classes in a row at my dojo, one in kobudo (weapons) and the other karate. From when I walk out my front door to when I get home, that's pretty much three straight hours in which I don't sit at my computer, barely moving, alone with the imaginary people on the screen and in my head.

This is a really, really good thing.

It's exercise, which sedentary types like writers have to be very careful to get. The exercise actually starts with walking out the door; our dojo is close enough that I generally hoof it there and back. Takes a little longer, but it gets me out into the fresh air, and gives me some good contemplation time. Then there's stretching, and the mild cardio of doing kumite (sparring) and kata.

It's also social time, which is likewise very important when you write full-time (or have another solitary-making job). A couple of years ago, when I was working on A Star Shall Fall, I went through a stretch where, to meet my deadline, I needed to write about 1500 or 2000 words each day, and revise 5000 of what I'd already written. This coincided with the dojo being closed for two weeks while the black belts and sensei decamped to Okinawa for the World Karate Championships. While it was good from a freeing-up-time standpoint, ask [livejournal.com profile] kniedzw what it was like, living with me for the duration. I went crazy. Workworkwork all the time + no real outlets = bad news.

Our dojo is a really cool place, too -- very welcoming, very laid-back while also being committed to excellence. Shihan, the owner, is ninth dan in Shorin-ryu (our karate style) and eighth dan in Yamanni-ryu (our kobudo style); he regularly travels the world to do guest seminars in foreign countries. He's that good. One of the other sensei recently made sixth dan. My sister-in-law, the lowest-ranked sensei in the lot, is third. The excellence is there for you to learn from, without being one of those scary-competitive places like the Evil Dojo in the Karate Kid movie. <g> Working there wakes up all the old gears in my head, left over from my ballet years, where I think on a fine-grained scale about what my body is doing. It's a very good change of pace from how I normally spend my time. (Even if sometimes I'm thinking about how to apply what I'm doing in a story. Shutupdon'tjudgeme.)

When I moved here, I didn't really want to study karate; there were other styles that appealed to me more. This place was convenient, though, and I knew people there, and I liked the atmosphere. When it comes to actually going to class and enjoying it, those things matter more than the details of the style. I'm very thankful that I had someplace this good so easily available to me.
swan_tower: (exercise)
I don't particularly have issues with my weight. (I couldn't even tell you what it is, with a margin of error smaller than five pounds; we don't own a scale.) But I will admit that I have some issues with my composition, by which I mean the lean-to-squish ratio of me is skewed more toward the latter than I would like, and sometimes that also means issues with my shape.

Last night, however, I got vivid proof that my general shape has not changed all that much in the last fifteen years or so. Going through the costume closet, in a (not entirely successful) attempt to cull its contents a bit, I dug out and tried on all the old dance costumes I've been holding on to.

And they all fit.

They didn't necessarily look good on me -- some of them I don't think ever looked good, on anybody -- but I got them on, and without putting the spandex to much of a test. And these are things I wore when I was fifteen and dancing eight hours a week. To which I say: dude. I would not have predicted that.

Mind you, this put a crimp in my plan to chuck out lots of costumes that don't fit me anymore, because they do fit. I've chucked the truly ugly ones instead, the things that only look vaguely right when put in motion, on a stage, a healthy distance from the audience, but that's only half or so of the total. (I should get rid of more, especially now that I'm not involved in a Changeling game where random dance costumes come in handy for playing a swan maiden or water elemental or whatever -- but I can't bring myself to do it. I might need them someday.) But it was an encouraging experience, and only firmed my resolve -- pardon the pun -- to do more things to increase the lean percentage of me. Today I rode my bike for the first time since my ankle surgery in the spring, and in the future intend to run as many of my errands as I can that way, weather permitting. My glutes may hate me for it today, but they'll thank me eventually.
swan_tower: (exercise)
(Yeah, I know, I'm posty today. Trying to clear out some links that have been sitting around for a while, that require more discussion than can profitably be done in a linkdump post.)

Someone a while back asked what I was doing about the problem of collapsing arches in my feet. Since most of my foot/ankle problems are interrelated (surprise!), I figured it was worth doing one collated post on all my physical therapy -- with bonus link about barefoot running.

This site shows pictures of most of the PT. I'm doing all four exercises in the "resistance band" group on that page, plus two others: with cotton balls between my toes, I'm squeezing the toes together, and I'm also doing the one where you put your foot on a towel and gradually scrunch the fabric up with your toes. Three sets of 15, each day. So far I've graduated up two resistance bands; when I can do four sets of 15 with the next (and strongest) band, I'll probably call it quits with that stuff.

I'm also doing three other exercises, more newly-added to my repertoire. First, I'm standing on one foot. No, really. Aside from the atrophy caused by the surgical recovery, I also had a pre-existing weakness in my tibialis posterior, which is a muscle that runs down the inside of your ankle and splays across the sole of your foot. It's one of the muscles closely involved in arch support (another being the tibialis anterior, on the outside of the joint), and it plays a big role in balancing. When I try to stand on one foot for any real length of time, I can feel it crapping out on me, causing my ankle to roll inward, with predictable consequences for my balance. So this exercise is remarkably tiring, at least for one tiny part of my leg. The other two are lunges (of the athletic, not the fencing, sort) and one-foot squats, which I can't really do worth a damn. I'm supposed to stand on one foot and squat down as low as I can (including lowering my back and sticking my butt out; this isn't a pliƩ), while keeping my heel on the ground. Between the weakness of that one muscle and my possibly structural inability to dorsiflex very far, this turns out to be a carnival of wobbling on my part.

So if you have arch problems, you want to do the inversion and eversion exercises, the ones where you're moving your foot from side to side against resistance. And it turns out that helps a lot for balance, too: in karate last night, I discovered that when I do one of the rapid 180-degree turns many of the kata include, I'm now landing in zenkutsu-dachi on the far side with MUCH less instability than I used to. I never thought to connect that with the arch issues, but it seems to be related.

Also -- on the topic of arch problems -- you might want to read up on barefoot running. This is something I only recently encountered, and I'm not a runner myself, so I don't have much first-hand knowledge on the subject. But there's a chapter in the book Born to Run that makes a convincing argument for how our highly-engineered running shoes have actually contributed to foot problems, rather than reducing them. And the reasons seem like common sense: the shoe, by stiffening and cushioning the foot, radically changes the mechanics of how we run. I had a deeply suspicious reaction when my primary care doctor told me the solution to my arch problems was putting more support in my shoes; wouldn't that just further weaken my feet? (You can imagine what my PT said when I asked her.) There's at least some evidence that running barefoot, or in minimal shoes, with a forefoot or midfoot strike, will actually strengthen your arches by -- here's a wacky idea -- using them as evolution intended.

I'm not likely to take up running any time soon, but for those of you who do it, you might want to investigate some of the minimal-shoe options out there.

And now, having dealt with some of the crap cluttering up my browser, I'm off to be productive on a different front. Namely, folding laundry.
swan_tower: (ballerina and kitten)
Yes, I really do mean to use that icon.

When you have a (popped) blister on your left foot that extends partway under the edge of a callus and you don't want the skin to tear because it's going to be unpleasant when it does and besides you'll be grinding dirt into it all karate class long which is a good way to get an infection but band-aids come flying off the moment you pivot unless you put tape over them and that leads to you STICKING TO THE FLOOR when you try to pivot . . .

. . . then sometimes, just sometimes, you get clever.

You dig out your old lyrical shoes -- which only barely qualify as "shoes" -- and that protects the necessary area while still leaving you 95% barefoot.

And you don't stick to the floor.
swan_tower: (exercise)
In non-Deeds of Men news, I had a really satisfactory night at karate.

I don't think I've come out and said here that I'm going to be out of town for four straight weeks, traveling hither and yon for family events and a friend's wedding and research and so on. This will include a week in London, so look for a return of the trip blogging. I'm pretty excited.

But it means I'll be missing four straight weeks of karate, which is honestly a little frustrating. I learned pinan nidan recently, a new kata, and have just started practicing it; in a month everything I was told about the neko ashi bits will have no doubt fallen out of my head. (Yes, I can practice it on my own, and may very well, but it isn't the same as having a sensei watch and correct you. I might end up practicing bad habits without knowing it.) On the other hand, tonight I had a better-than-average sparring experience, and while that's going to rust even more badly than my kata while I'm gone, it's encouraging to go into my travels with a high note fresh in my memory. (Some nights, my timing and aim and reflexes are on. Other nights . . . not so much.)

I actually asked Shihan whether we had a sibling dojo in London. (Our own place has seen visitors from Hawaii, Germany, and Slovakia in the time I've been there; it wasn't unreasonable to wonder.) Alas, we don't -- or perhaps not "alas," seeing as how if we did I'd have to decide whether I'd really haul my gi across the Atlantic, and whether I'd have any energy for practice after walking all over the city. This way, I don't have to find out how lazy I really am.

Oh well. I'll just do situps and pushups and shiko dachi every day, right? Right???

Sure I will.

Come mid-June, I'm going to be rusty like a rusty thing. Sigh.
swan_tower: (exercise)
Today I had, to quote Lymond, a damned carking afternoon -- but then I went to karate and instead of doing sparring (which I was very much not in a state of mind for), I got to learn pinan nidan, which is the next kata in the sequence.

It's amazing how easily something like that can improve my mood.

And then I went and had tasty tasty fried rice with crab. So my day is looking fair to have a much better ending than it did a start.
swan_tower: (exercise)
Not so much "criticism I deal badly with" as a surfeit of riches: having three sensei and one senpai, in the span of three days, come up to offer me four different bits of advice on the same two kata moves.

To be fair, I brought it on myself. Having gotten that eye-opening pointer on Monday, I decided to practice it today -- which meant I was repeating those moves when one of the sensei started watching me, so of course the pointer she offered had to do with them. Then I have two things to practice, which means I'm still working on those two moves when the senpai comes along, which means she gives me a pointer about them, and now I'm practicing three things when the other sensei decides to see how I'm doing . . .

So the bunkai is that it's kind of a soto uke, and I need to open my hip out and then drop it forward for the double-punch, and make sure my zenkutsu dachi is wide enough, and think of my back when I chamber so the punch rebounds forward.

Or something like that.

Four different bits of advice, all of them good. But at this rate I'm going to spend the next month doing just those two movements, trying to assimilate all that good advice, and getting more piled on me every time somebody wanders by. <g>
swan_tower: (exercise)
Haven't posted about karate in a while. (Still need a karate icon.) I belt-tested a while ago and got my yellow-belt-with-black-stripe, but they didn't have any in my size, so I'm still running around in a yellow belt. (Am tempted to take a sharpie to it.) Two down, lots to go, but I'm enjoying the sense that I am progressing. I've got enough awareness of my own movements to be able to feel how I'm improving, and it's kind of intriguing to observe.

Intriguing, and occasionally frustrating. Not because I've hit any kind of plateau, but because I've progressed far enough to run afoul of the one respect in which I take criticism badly: I hate being told I'm screwing something up when I already know that. Point out a flaw I wasn't aware of, and I'm delighted, but bring up me one I've been kicking myself about for weeks? That's the one thing I react badly to, in the sense that it just encourages me in my (occasionally counterproductive) habits of self-castigation. And now I'm aware enough of certain flaws in my work to hit that point.

On the other hand, the sensei tonight, after giving me a few eye-opening pointers on kihongata san, told me I did "beautiful kata." Which, coming from a teacher you respect enormously, is enough to put you walking on air for a couple of minutes. At least if you're me.

I need certain muscles back. Except that it probably isn't even "back;" I can't say for sure I ever really had much strength in my hip abductors, since dance almost never had me taking my leg out to the side in anything other than a rotated position (which shifts a lot of the work onto the glutes and the quads). So, okay, I need to get those muscles strong, because even if high side and roundhouse kicks aren't anything you would use in a real fight, I'm asked to do them in class, and I ought to have good form. And the ab work we do for the belt tests is coming perilously close to making my quads give out (long before my abs do), so that's something else to fix. And, y'know, the whole pushups thing. Stupid upper body strength. Or rather, lack thereof.

I am a looooooooong way from doing the one-armed pushup seen in that icon.

But I like feeling myself become familiar with a different style of movement. I can't wait to get my orange belt, at which point I might be able to learn pinan nidan, the next kata; it's very different from the ones I know already, and I expect I will learn a lot from it.
swan_tower: (exercise)
Meant to post this last night, but: Friday I had my first belt test, and yesterday I was presented with my new yellow belt. (Which really needs to go through the washing machine to be softened up; I could barely get it to hold its knot.)

I'm pleased, but it isn't a huge achievement; people very rarely fail their tests for yellow, or so I am told. Since I did not fall over or accidentally punch one of the judges, I passed. It's a nice mile-marker, though, and leaves me feeling energized for more. If I attend class regularly, I think I could be testing for orange at the beginning of February. Then blue, and then I think we start moving into the finer gradations of rank; I believe I have to go through blue-with-black-stripe before green (and green-with-white-stripe may intervene between those two). And you have to attend more classes between tests the higher you go, of course, so the rapid initial progress slows down eventually. But that rapid initial progress is nicely satisfying, and helps you feel like you're getting somewhere.

Most importantly for me, this means I can practice kihon gata san without feeling presumptuous. Kihon gata ichi is the kata for the yellow belt test, and kihon gata ni for orange, but the two are all but identical, and doing them over and over again gets tedious. I'll still work on both ichi and ni, of course, but at this point I'll learn more about improving my form by doing things other than that same set of moves. I need to become more comfortable with the shorin-ryu style of movement in general, rather than just one limited example of it.

Now off to the library I go.
swan_tower: (Montoya)
I'm at the fun part of the learning curve right now.

Every fencing practice I go to, my brain unearths another dusty piece of technique it used to know ten years ago. After a few incidents of walking straight onto somebody's blade because I failed to clear the line before advancing, my brain remembered beats! Yeah, those work! And then I overuse them heavily, but oh yeah, there are feints and disengages, too. Today's revelation was particularly funny; given how much I adored binding parries in high school, you would think I'd have remembered them sooner.

Of course, I didn't remember them until I'd been playing for a good hour and a half, at which point my wrists were no longer up to the task. But we'll try them next time.

I can watch myself improving, mostly in terms of my ability to keep thinking. If my first attack is blocked, I try another one. Or even plan ahead, my first attack a feint to set my opponent up for the follow-through. If I'm retreating, I don't just parry; I parry and riposte (or try to). One of these days I'll get draw-cuts and push-cuts into the mental programming, and then I might even stand a chance in close combat!

Dear Brain: while we're at the cuts thing, please also recall that we're no longer in the backyard with a dowel rod; it is not only okay, but desirable, to follow through on a lunge instead of pulling up half an inch short of connecting. kthxbye.

Also, today I let myself pick up a dagger for a little while. I've been fighting single-sword because it allows/forces me to pay attention to what I'm doing with that blade, but man, rapier and dagger just feels right. I don't want a buckler; I don't want a cloak -- though I'll be happy to play with those someday -- a dagger in my off hand feels like the most natural thing in the world. (My real ambition, of course, is case. But the few times I played with that in high school, I invariably got my points tangled, so we'll stick with a short secondary for now.)

<studies arms> I look like a battered wife. But that will improve as my skill does.
swan_tower: (exercise)
I tried kicking in sparring today. Nobody's really taught me how to kick yet; I just monkey-see-monkey-do my way through it in movement exercises, based on a small amount of education in front and side kicks when I was twelve, and constant reminders to myself not to turn out and/or point my toes.

I am learning to kiai. But I'm still getting chastised for not kiai-ing sometimes, and I'm not sure how to explain those are the times when the rapid-fire neurons in my brain have already figured out I'm not going to connect. (Which is not a reason to swallow it, I suppose. But try telling that to my brain, which so far has only internalized "the punch doesn't count if you don't yell while it lands.")

Not so good: I think I am too dependent on the mirrors. When we do movement exercises, we advance across the floor toward the mirrored wall, but then we turn around and go the other way and unlike every dance studio I've been in, there are no mirrors back there. (Though there is a barre. Which convinces me there should be mirrors, dammit.) Anyway, I'm pretty sure my form is better going forward than back, and I don't think it's a side issue, since half the things we do alternate sides naturally to begin with. So: dear body, please pay attention to yourself, and don't depend on the eyeballs to do it for you.

My hip joints hate me. I'm thinking Thanksgiving break will be a good thing: a whole eleven days between rounds of dislocating my legs out of my pelvis. Maybe that will be long enough to get them to stop creaking like this.

Maybe.

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