Bonus Book Chapter: Black Belt Training Begins

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 28 “Black Belt Candidate” and 29 “Sucker Punched”]

“Up-downs,” Chief Instructor Alex said calmly, widening his blue eyes and smiling wickedly. It was the first Monday in April, the first class day after my bo dan test, and our Sabumnim must have decided he was going to whip us into shape, black belt style. We had two new bo dans (myself and a younger female student), a teenage bo dan who recently tested for black belt and would likely be awarded his new belt in a few days, and Eric, a teenage black belt who would be testing for second degree in the fall. You would think a class of only high-ranking students would be deadly-serious, mature, and determined. I had apparently forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager.

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Listen to My Story: Two Martial Arts Podcasts!

My martial arts friends in person and online have really come through for me as my first book was released into the world. Their support doesn’t surprise me, though, because martial arts people look out for their own. We like to help each other spread the positivity of what we love so much.

I’m honored to have been featured on two prominent martial arts podcasts by multi-media veterans Andrea Harkins of The Martial Arts Woman and Jeremy Lesniak of Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio.

To Listen:
Click here to listen to my interview with Andrea on The Martial Arts Woman podcast.

Click here to listen to my interview with Jeremy on Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio.

You’ll learn about my first career, my favorite martial arts action stars, how I got into martial arts, and the powerful healing qualities martial arts has given me for my mental health. You’ll also hear my “light Texas drawl” that I mention in Chapter 29 of my memoir.

 

 

 

First Post-Surgery Jump Kicks

Just over eight months into recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery, I did jumping front snap kicks.

You may be wondering how I ended up in this predicament in the first place. Take a look at this post (“POP! Goes My ACL”) for the detailed story of how I injured myself and what followed in the immediate aftermath.

The short version is I tore my ACL doing a jump kick, and not even a good one at that.

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#1 Recovery Tip From One ACL Warrior to Another

I’m a second degree black belt. I could have tested for third degree black belt at the end of this year.

BIG.DEAL.

I had to relearn how to walk after my July knee surgery. When you can’t walk very well or even stand up in the shower, all that fighting, jumping, and sprinting nonsense goes out the window for a while. It’s hard to feel like the athlete you were before your injury. It’s depressing to feel out of shape. It’s frustrating to go through so much pain as you heal and gain strength. 

Recovering from a major injury when you used to do a high-level sport can feel overwhelming and a bit daunting. 

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Woodshedding: (Re)Perfecting Your Technique Like a Musician

Woodshed illustrations are either super cute or look like they’re from a horror movie.

I come from a family of creators who enjoy challenging hobbies. My dad is a painter who is especially skilled in oils and portraiture, and he was a competitive swimmer in high school and college. My mom likes doing difficult and complex knitting patterns. My brother is a professional musician.

I hit stuff.

Kidding aside, any martial artist knows they have to put in hours and years to hone their craft. It’s not a matter of mindlessly parroting or mimicking motions their Sensei or Sabumnim does. You have to develop both the mental and physical intelligence required to perform and improve upon your martial art. You have to understand why you do certain things.

You have to be a good mechanic.

The other day during a text exchange with my mom and brother, my brother said he was learning the classically-influenced 1970s pop song “MacArthur Park,” and was doing some “woodshedding.”

Woodshedding?

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The Case for Working on Your Weaknesses

“Playing to my strengths,” as we say in the corporate world, may very well have cost me my ACL. Let me explain…

I work in healthcare leadership development, so we arbiters of euphemisms rarely use the word “weakness.” We dance around “opportunities for development” or “areas of growth.” I involuntarily shivered when a client said she wanted her team to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) so they could “learn about their strengths and weaknesses.” My goodness, I positively had the vapors. Technically, as I gently hold her, the MBTI looks at preferences rather than true strengths and weaknesses, but…something about the word “weakness” was just too real for me.

Turns out, working on your weaknesses can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

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The Surprisingly Therapeutic Aspect of Watching the “Cobra Kai” Series

cobra kai

[Note: this post contains some vague-as-I-could-make-them spoilers]

Like many other martial arts enthusiasts and children of the 1980s, I was very excited to spend the final weekend of August bingeing both seasons of the breakout hit series “Cobra Kai” on Netflix. A friend, who is also a fellow taekwondo black belt, and I had watched the first season together when it debuted on YouTube Red in 2018. We loved it and marveled at how clever and heartfelt it was. 

Much has changed in two years, both on a national and global scale, and also for me personally. I knew I’d be entertained by watching the series, but I didn’t realize how deeply therapeutic it would be. 

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Using Martial Arts Basics To Recover From an Injury

white belt uniform

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know how I feel about forms. I’ve written over two dozen blog posts about the mental and physical benefits (and inevitable life lessons) of practicing poomsae.

To my surprise, my physical therapist casually mentioned that I should start doing slow-motion forms to work on balance and transferring weight back and forth on my legs. I’m nearly three weeks post-op from ACL reconstruction surgery, and, if I’m careful, I can move around the house with just my leg brace. I was excited about the prospect.

I’ve done forms as mental therapy. I’ve never done them as physical therapy, so this will be a new recovery/martial arts adventure for me.

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Is My Injury Bad For My Image?

model mirror
You can barely see her knee surgery scars from here.

The editing work for my upcoming memoir is finally done, and now I’m dipping my callused toes (from all the roundhouse kicks, of course) into publicity. I’m *thisclose* to selecting a publicist and very excited about the next step of my publishing journey.

The ACL injury and subsequent surgery seem like especially bad timing.
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Knee Surgery: Pre-Op Jokes and Dr. Pepper

syringe
God bless anesthesiologists.

As martial artists, we’ve heard those familiar mantras before: “Fall down seven times, get up eight”; “A black belt is a white belt who refused to give up“; perseverance, indomitable spirt, blah blah blah.

It turns out that martial arts spirit of perseverance and jocky stubbornness to give up has quite come in handy over the last few days. I am four days into recovery from ACL surgery, and recovery has been a full-time job. Let’s go back a few days…

In my last post, I described my worst taekwondo injury to date and following tests and decisions I made with my doctor. We agreed on an ACL repair slated for July 22 at 7 am.

…things didn’t quite go as planned.
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