Guest Writer: Diary of a White Belt

Hello, Little Black Belt readers! Some people start martial arts training as children, and others begin their journey as adults. As someone who started martial arts training, stopped, and re-started in my thirties, I’m always interested to hear from people who come to martial arts a little later in life. This story is from Jen Struzziero. Jen shares how she began training in martial arts and how amazing it has been in her life. Jen’s experience beautifully demonstrates the life-changing power of martial arts.

If you would like to submit a martial arts-related article for Little Black Belt, please review the guest writer guidelines and send me an email.

Enjoy Jen’s story!

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My Guest Post: Four Things Injured and Recovering Athletes Want You To Know

I’m pleased to announce my debut as a writer for Martial Journal! This site is a collective of martial artists from different backgrounds sharing knowledge, opinions, tips, and thoughts about what they love.

My article “Recovering From an Injury: Four Things Athletes Want You To Know” is written by an athlete for athletes and those who love them. Recovering from an injury can be a long, frustrating, and lonely process. We need the people who care about us to understand how we’re feeling and what we need along the way.

To read, click here.

Bonus Book Chapter: Post-Plateau Yoga Surrender

Dear Reader: For the remainder of 2021, to continue celebrating the release of my first book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts, I will be posting a monthly bonus chapter. While these stories didn’t make the final cut, they were still important moments in my life and in my black belt journey. Enjoy!

[Note: This would have occurred between chapters 27 “Vices” and 28 “Black Belt Candidate”]

“To surrender,” Scott the Yoga Teacher said as he looked around the dark room at our upturned faces during Saturday yoga class, “you sometimes first have to build heat.” It was my first yoga class in about a month thanks to my icy weather depression. When asked about my long absence I gave my typical answer of “I had things going on” with a Robert De Niro-esque shrug.

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Guest Writer: Top 8 Karate Myths That Will Make You Amazed!!

Hello Little Black Belt readers! I love writing about martial arts, and I love sharing the work of other martial artists/writers. This post is from Span Chen at The Karate Blog. There are a lot of myths about Span’s martial art of karate, and many of them show up in other martial arts too. (The silly things I’ve heard as a taekwondo practitioner, shaking my head…) This article made me think, made me smile, and made me appreciate the rich community of martial artists we have online. 

More information about The Karate Blog is at the end of this article. If you would like to contribute a martial arts-related article to the Little Black Belt blog, see the guest writer guidelines.

Are you excited to know about the top karate myths? If so, we’ve verified some myths and found the truth. Keep reading.

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How to Feel Unstuck When There’s No End In Sight

July 24, 2021, was the one year anniversary (or “ann-knee-versary” if you will allow me one pun) of my ACL reconstruction surgery. I had a fun day lined up to celebrate my progress and mobility: a morning yoga class, an afternoon swim, and dinner at my favorite neighborhood Italian bistro. I thought the day would run as smoothly as my repurposed quadriceps tendon.

My knee had other plans. 

When I rolled out my yoga mat and set up my trusty blocks (now a staple of my yoga practice) I knew my knee was not in a good mood. It ached and felt more tight than it had in days. God help me if I had to do a child’s pose. I inwardly rolled my eyes at my ornery joint and clumsily followed along with the instructor’s commands.

As I winced at the pain and tried to breathe more flexion into my leg I thought about my year long journey. I have lived with some kind of pain and discomfort every day for a year. Sometimes I feel frustrated and exhausted. Sometimes I long for a light at the end of the tunnel, a deus ex machina, a sudden whirlwind change that grants me perfect, pain-free full extension and flexion. Sometimes I feel stuck and don’t see an end in sight.

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Therapy Every Damn Day

The other day I was chatting with my dad about the new house he’s renovating. He suggested I go to a mattress store and pick out a brand I like that he can buy for “my” room that I stay in when I visit.

“Dad, that’s low on my priority list,” I told him. “I do some kind of therapy five days a week either for my knee or my head, I’m still working, and I’m still doing book stuff [podcasts, articles, interviews, etc.]. I don’t have time to look for a mattress. I’ll just trust your judgement.”

Up until very recently, I was rehabbing either my body or mind five days a week. It sounded like a lot when I said it out loud.

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Video Interview: How to Practice Your Martial Art at Home

Steve and Melanie talking technique

Are you a martial arts technique nerd like me who needs some motivation to practice at home?

Check out my video interview with Steve Grogan, creator of Geek Wing Chun, Inc., and frequent contributor to Little Black Belt. Steve and I discuss his book The Lone Warrior: a Guide to Home-Based Wing Chun Training, which is a great resource for people who can’t always make it to the mat. I found a lot of applicability to my home taekwondo practice and commonalities that any martial artist can use. 

Click here to see the full video, including me rolling my eyes HARD at the :21 mark (watch to find out why). 

Click here to learn more about Steve’s book The Lone Warrior.

Letting Go of What No Longer Serves You: Marie Kondo, My Knee, and Me

Once again, as I did nearly a year ago, I find myself with my right leg wrapped in a bandage from thigh to foot and repeating an alternating series of exercising and icing. On Friday, June 18th, my trusty orthopedic surgeon carefully scraped scar tissue away from my shiny new ACL (well, my repurposed quadriceps tendon, but new in its job as ACL). 

Although I’ve been able to get back to many normal activities since last July’s ACL surgery, this scar tissue has impeded my knee from reaching full extension or flexion. It feels stiff whenever I walk downstairs. I still can’t do a full child’s pose in yoga. 

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My Post-Pandemic Body Is Different. And That’s Okay.

The other day my coworkers and I were planning some lectures we are going to give as part of a leadership development series. For the first time in over a year, we will be presenting to a live audience in person, and we have to dress the part. My team, men in their fifties and sixties, joked about how they might need to get new clothes since the running gag is everyone has gained weight during the pandemic. I told them that was the advantage of wearing dresses–they’re a lot more forgiving.

My post-pandemic body is different than it was a year ago. It’s squishier and, according to some clothes that didn’t fit when I did a recent closet de-cluttering, a little larger.

I’m okay with that…for now anyway.

Hear me out…

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Interview with Wing Chun Practitioner Steve Grogan: Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Steve Grogan of Geek Wing Chun, Inc., and I get real.

Can we have a real, honest conversation about mental health? That’s what Steven Grogan and I do in this video. Steve is the founder of Geek Wing Chun, Inc., and has been a guest writer on Little Black Belt several times. 

In this video (click here to watch), we talk about my new book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts, how we handle mental illness, and how it intertwines with our martial arts practice.