Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Black Belt Experience

(A cross post from Feeding Edge)
Last sunday 7th December 2014 I achieved another life ambition and graded to receive my Choi Kwang Do Il Dan (1st Degree) Black belt. What is interesting about this is that the ambition and reason to get a black belt has turned out to be very different in almost every way than my initial thoughts. So this is not a post to say "look at me aren't I clever" which is what many qualifications need to be for. Instead it is about a transformation and a journey and a whole set of other ideas.
 As a kid I thought martial arts looked amazingly cool. The 70's posters of Bruce Lee and the occasional glimpses of stylish fighting on TV certainly left their mark on me. We didn't really have much in the way of martial arts near my home. I also, and this might sound strange, wanted to avoid learning them because the techniques were so potentially deadly. I never experienced full on physical bullying for very long at school as I was always willing to fight back if need be. Being relatively mild mannered it was usually a shock to a potential bully if I retaliated. I thought I might learn things and then turn to the dark side and go and use them, or go all vigilante. As I got older I then wished I had started younger and was probably put off by the fact that the later I started the less high a level I would be able to attain. If it was worth doing something I wanted to make sure I was really really good at it. All very odd reasons and excuses not to do something. My friend Jamie and I got a self defence book from out local library when we were 8 years old and occasionally practiced what you do if someone came at you with a bat or a knife. It was all very informal, and a bit scary but us would be super heroes had to learn some stuff :)
 Zoom on a good few years, I was feeling very overweight (and actually very overweight) and I also wanted predlet 2.0 to get a chance at a martial art that I never had. Something father and son could do together. I thought there would be no chance for me of rocking up at a place of fighting in the state I was in, so strangely I trained for about a year to get ready to go and do a martial art. That and the tech I used features in the article I wrote in Flush The Fashion in 2012 A leaflet in Predlet 2.0 school bag for Choi Kwang Do got my attention. It was coming up to his 5th birthday and I was intrigued as Choi Kwang Do looked like something new. I like new! The trepidation and nervous excitement with which I took myself and predlet 2.0 to our first session is something I will no forget. 40+ years of wanting to try a martial art but not, plus a year of getting in some sort of shape and learning some fight moves so I didn't get whooped straight away all bundled together.
 Within seconds of walking into South Coast CKD and meeting Sabunim Webster for the first time, and all the other students and instructors I realised how completely and utterly incorrect my perceptions of all martial arts had been. Everyone was calm, happy and above all friendly. I had nothing to worry about with respect to getting beaten up or schooled in front of predlet 2.0. CKD just isn't like that.
So having stepped into an art with thoughts of gaining some sort of prowess, a degree of domination and aggression to get something, to win something... all that was suddenly not what I wanted to do, nor happen and we were in a place where that was not what it was all about. This particular AHA! moment is only the second such one I remember. The first was when I suddenly realised what you could do with computer code and how it all worked, from just one little concept. It is when something clicks, and the excitement that there is a world of answers out there waiting to be discovered and visited. That set me on my career. It led to a degree in Information Technology, twenty years in IBM with some amazing people and equally amazing projects and firsts in the world. It still keeps me going to day and is the cornerstone of Feeding Edge Ltd.
 My CKD aha moment has not had quite so many years to bed in but is unfolding nicely. The learning in Choi has proved to be so much more than just punches and kicks. It has been, and continues to be constant personal challenges.
We all learn how to defend ourselves in what is a very dramatic, fast and potentially deadly way. That though is just a small part of the journey and experience. We learn to help our own bodies physically and mentally improve. We have have think faster, think and operate calmly under all sorts of conditions. we learn how to help other learn. Teaching and sharing is done in a completely positive way. We all aim to point out the good things, offer a tweak in technique or attitude, then strengthen with more positive comments. That creates a virtuous circle. It means all the things we learn feel good. Frustration, anger, pressure to conform etc all are out of the equation. We all push ourselves just a little bit more each time because it is a safe environment to explore what we can do. As there is no competition, there is no need to hunker down into the particular ways in order to survive.
 The family nature, and subsequent family involvement in Choi (all 4 of us do it now) was a major stabilising factor when we upped and moved house. Whilst we had to say goodbye to South Coast CKD we got to say hello to Basingstoke CKD and to Master Scrimshaw. (Master is a term used for anyone with a 5th Dan (i.e. 5 levels of Black belt) or above). That family atmosphere and friendliness we experience on day 1 applies everywhere. So it is alway great to meet and train with new people, but you do know it is going to be good and welcoming. As months pass for each belt rank we all learn a piece of syllabus. Each thing we learn builds on everything that we have learned before. At a grading you show you belt syllabus. You don't go to a grading unless you do know it. So gradings are not exams, they are not there to trick you but to offer a place to focus on what you know. Before you know it though 3 or more years of training, of experiencing the art form, of practice and sharing lead to a Black Belt grading.
This is where I found myself last Sunday. I would say that most people, even if they are not into "fighting", action movies, or martial arts get what a Black Belt can mean. It is, rather like a university degree, a qualification. It is not obscure, in that clearly it is about physical effort. It is not a quota system either, you do the work, you can achieve a black belt, but you do have to do the work, for real. I was excited and nervous, but very focussed on getting to the black belt grading. I wanted to make sure I had prepared mentally and physically for it. I received lots of help and focussed training from Master Scrimshaw and my fellow students and assistant instructors. So there we are lining up doing the same pledge and principles we do in every class. I am thinking about everything that led me to this point. Yet I am not thinking about me and what I needed to get out of it. I felt pressure in that I did not want to fail, or mess up, but I felt an overwhelming need to do this for everyone who I have trained with, taught, shared time with in Choi. I was expecting to switch to my "performance" persona and brain. The one that I go to on stage on when doing TV. That is a kind of focussed mental state but directed outwards and towards the subject and to the crowd. That, however, did not happen. I wasn't there to put on a show. Instead I felt something else. It was as if the original aha moment came back. I was very much there and doing the grading, making adjustments when the automatic elements were not tweaked quite right, but I was also off experiencing the potential. I had some time to ponder all this as I was grading with some people who were doing their 2nd and 3rd Dan black belts. This meant we all did my stuff in each section then I stood down whilst they continued to do 2nd Dan, then finally the 3rd dan was left to do his thing. Keeping warmed up, keeping on task was tricky because I tend to have always just carried on with things, as we do in class. Short breaks then intense action. Whilst watching them and seeing what was coming in the next few years I got to understand that it was the aha moment and joy of the future journey, of learning more and those constant achievements that felt so unusual. I then related to it back to my passion for tech and for understanding where it fits in the world and where it is going. I had always though my tech aha moment was purely in the past but I realise that it happens to me every day as I explore the future. When the grading was done and we stood lined up Master Brophy, who brought CKD to the UK, built it up and whom we all owe a lot too, explained to us that the Black Belt is not just a test of memory and physical ability, as he explained it is also a test of character and much more I felt I had a true understanding of his words. It is my black belt, it has my name on it, but it is not just my qualification to crow about, or to wave to prove my worth (as we have to do with school and university qualifications). It is the sum of life experiences that have led up to this point, it is a the sum of all the effort of all those who I have trained with in whatever capacity. It is the start of the next part of an even more interesting journey. It is an indication that anything can be overcome and just getting on with it, applying a positive attitude to things, not getting disheartened just works.
 So this is a constant and eternal thankyou to everyone. as we say in CKD Pil Seung! (certain victory).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween face painting

The predlets were having a school Halloween disco and for a change I thought I would give Face Painting a try. I popped along to the local Hobbycraft and bought a small set of paints then wondered what to do. For predlet 2.0 I liked the skeletons I saw on various Youtube tutorials (of which there are many) The way the mouth and teeth are exaggerated looks very spooky. However he also wanted to be a bit zombie like. So I did a hybrid. I sketched a rough idea using a pen on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Tablet sketch of predlet 2.0 face painting before 1st ever attempt Then gave it a practice go a few days before. Result of first attempt at predlet 2.0 facepainting For predlet 1.0 it was a bit more tricky as she didn't want "a lot of that stuff" on her face. I found this great example of a face like a shattered mirror So I gave that a bit of a go. Cracked face predlet 1.0 face painting attempt I had to make sure I could also do these in the time, as there was only a short gap between finishing school and getting back for the Disco too. Anyway it seemed to work Predlet 2.0 had a skeleton costume ( a hand me down from predlet 1.0 though hence the hearts) but he was happy with his hair spiked. Untitled I added a bit more dirt on the green side just after this picture. The skeleton eye socket could have been better but as I had just spiked his hair (unlike in the practice) I couldn't put my hand on the top of his head to keep him still :) With predlet 1.0 I had done the original practice with brown lines, but went for black this time. White highlights for the edges. I added more blood and also used some glitter in the small breaks in the middle where the extra fracturing occurs. That was very effective. Untitled They looked the part and had great fun. I was quite pleased with the results but obviously practice is needed as this is quite an art form. Untitled Untitled

Friday, October 04, 2013

Predpets in transit


Predpets in transit, originally uploaded by epredator.

we now have 2 more members of the family. Now named Rocky and Snowy (snowy is the mostly white one). Guinea pigs/cavie, with a nice hutch outside to avoid any allergy problems with the rest the house. They are the predlets responsibility but of course we will help them :)

Predlets and predpets

Very excited green belt predlet 1.0 pil seung

Predlet 1.0 graded this week at Basingstoke CKD. She moved to a green belt and is very excited as this is half way to her first blackbelt. She gets some exciting new techniques and a great pattern. It seems like we only just started Choi it is amazing how time flies when you are enjoying yourself. Thankyou Master Scrimshaw and all the students and AI's at the dojang

Monday, May 06, 2013

M day approaches - update (we have moved :) )

After a very, very long process of chain breaks and chopping and changing we are finally 2 days away from moving house. The loft is empty, the garage is full. Walls are bare and flat pack furniture is once again flat. On Wednesday 8th we head to the new place, though tomorrow we have the removals people come and get most of the stuff. Then it will be the slightly tense wait for money to flow form solicitor to solicitor to get the completion to happen. It also needs to happen in enough time for the removals people to be able to unload before their cut off. We are in a chain of 10 houses but as we are about 3 or 4 or the chain and the money starts form the bottom we should all be ok. None the less we automatically took out the late key waiver insurance. It is going to be strange leaving the area as we have lived here for 23 years now. Which is a long time in anyones books. It is only 35 miles up the road but there is a whole new area to explore with the predlets. After the move we have the fun of re attaching all the important utilities (water, gas and electric obviously are there) but we need the phone and internet enabled. That will take an extra week or so and we probably wont be getting superfast broadband despite the exchange being enabled. A bit of a pain to say the least but its all check and balance. I think the clocks will be ticking a little slower today as we all do the last bits of shuffling of house things around. Fingers are crossed and roll on Wednesday night when we will be installed at last in the new place. Update... We moved, it worked and there has been lots going on. The house is an older one, build in the 50's as a bungalow, turned into a house in the 70's The new abode We are busy changing things. A new front door (the old was draughty). A large workshop and 3 green houses have been removed and the concrete base broken up ready for an extension to be built. Roof tiles have been reset. Some electrics have been rewired. We had a gravel driveway with a tree in the middle as a roundabout (that's still there) but there were some raised beds with a 2 brick high wall shaped around the outsides. We all managed to bump our cars into the wall (even the ones with parking sensors, so they had to go. We got a huge grabber lorry (the same one that removed 2 loads of broken up concrete from the back, to remove the soil. The small wall was a few days of toil with a sledge hammer (but great fun and good choi training) We also built a new shed (that took 2 days) Shed making (day 1) Shed complete 2 day job they said 1/2 a day :) Luckily we had a very warm and dry summer as between the workshop being dismantled and the shed being constructed we had nowhere to put things (the garage was full) So I put up a large tent to act as a shed for the summer :) Tent Done you can get a lot in there. We also inherited a pond with a lot of very large koi carp in so I have been busy learning how to look after these beasts. Which included going for a swim in the pond to try and find the filter pump. The pond seems stable now though. The predlets are in a new school and that seems to be going well. We walk everyday about 15 mins to get there. Life is almost settling back to normal, apart from all the building work. We have an internal wall we want to remove so have had a structural engineer do the calculations, which will lead eventually to a new kitchen layout. The current wall has a large aquarium in it, with a red tailed shark and several tiger barbs, again we got those with the house. So I will have to find a new tank location and rehouse them. Basingstoke is proving to be very nice too. The park out the back is great fun for the kids lots of frisbee throwing this summer :) We are close to town and to leisure facilities. Minutes from the station for @elemming. So we often pick her up from the station on the way back from Basingstoke Choi Kwang Do. She has also started Choi on Saturdays and recently graded (despite having a broken wrist from ice skating !) New choi belts great birthday present

Monday, April 15, 2013

More upgrades


green belt, originally uploaded by epredator.

It has been yet another Choi Kwang Do packed week and weekend.
After the week of lessons, helping teach and learning and honing it was time for a grading at the full time Dojang.
Predlet 1.0 had a great grading and was awarded her gold belt senior. I was able to move to green belt in my grading too.
That is the halfway point in the journey to black belt! The time has flown and there is still lots to learn, and there always will be.(That is is part of the fun).
It was also brilliant to be able to help all the other belts too in particular the people grading for the first time. Many of them from our school. There were enough assistant instructors to be able to hold all the equipment for many of the other gradings. A wall of blue doboks, all of us different sizes and shapes, but all smiling :)
The energy that everyone puts into the grading and the buzz when they get their belts is fantastic.
That was Saturday. Sunday was another day of Choi. Helping Black belt academy (the extra fun lessons for the under 12's that both predlets attend).
This is always brilliant.
I also got to experience some of the power of 3rd Dan Blackbelt Mr Liam Bicknell's kicks as he demonstrated to the kids how to go from shield to shield doing a spinning side kick.
we always train with respect to person holding the shield but I did give him the nod to kick as hard as he wanted. It is hard to describe just how hard the kick felt through the very thick shield, but the impact point felt it came right through the shield. A focussed ball of energy that then pushed all 16 stone of me back. Everyone learns to kick hard but very often as we are just all learning the force if sort of dispersed more across the shield. We all make people move back but this was something else :) I never thought getting kicked could be so enlightening :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Official Full Time Dojang opening

Today was a very good day for Choi Kwang Do in Hampshire. A full time facility has been created by Mr Evans who runs ChoiKwangDo4Health it is in the space above ASDA at West end. As with all Choi it is very much a shared family location. Open Day Today was the official opening and the Mayor came along and cut the ribbon as part of a general open day. Lots of photos were taken but not by me as these doboks don't have pockets. We all took some time today to reach out to the local community, handing out leaflets for the open day and explaining the family nature of Choi Kwang Do. Choi Kwang-Do opening The rest of the time was spent in the Dojang helping new people get a bit of a go at some Choi Techniques on with us and with various pieces of equipment. There were lots of visitors of all ages which was great. There were also a lot of people from the wider Choi family visiting from all over the country so it was a really fun day. The predlets had a great day too. Predlet 1.0 in particular was enjoying battering BOB. Ckd open day Ckd open day The wavemaster was also set up to for a little bit of fun too. A sensor counts hits so we had a play. I thought I had shot more video but apologies to Mr Keens as I only took a still of his super speedy go on the kit. Ckd open day However I did video Mr Close (and he also grabbed my iphone and videoed my slightly rough around the edges attempt) and I thought I would try the iphone version of imovie to edit it up for a bit of fun. Mr Close is a brown belt senior, next step blackbelt. I am orange senior not quite half way :) We all work to our own levels in Choi. What a very rewarding and fun day to round of the week. Tomorrow there are black belt gradings at the Dojang. Good luck to everyone Pil Seung!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Trying some new gloves

After a slightly failed attempt with a heavy punch bag and a wall bracket I invested in a full free standing structure for my Choi Kwang Do practice. The start of my mini dojang #ckd The good thing about this stand is the pulley system that makes it easy to lower the bag and then move the stand. After a bit of a workout using my choi hand guards it became apparent those guards are not idea with the plastic finger guides for full on uppercuts to the bag. So I ordered some gel filled MMA wraps by RDX today and I am looking forward to seeing how they get on on the bag. Usually on shields we don't wear the hand guards, though we do when dealing with Redman. However the bag is very much heavier that the shield we train on so some hand protection makes a lot of sense. Gel mitts for punch bag

The Chain

Well the formula 1 season is about to begin so we will be hearing The Chain again on BBC1 very soon. Likewise our housing chain has reformed again for the 3rd time. Fingers are crossed