Don’t Be Frustrated. Be Fascinated.

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I am a second degree black belt, but I am not an advanced fighter.

Sparring has never been my forte as a child or as an adult taekwondo practitioner. Sometimes I’ve hated it. Sometimes I’ve looked forward to it. Sometimes I both dread and enjoy it. It has always been a learning experience. I don’t live up to my impossibly high expectations, and of course that sets me up for frustration.

I decided to change my approach to sparring at the dojang I’ve been attending since December of last year.

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Learn or Re-Learn Something New…So I’m Taking Up Classical Guitar Again

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The dress, ring, and guitar live on, but I have graduated from the futon.

“I wouldn’t mind starting over as a white belt in another martial art.”

I’d half blurted, half muttered that comment to a friend I’d trained with at my old taekwondo school. We were talking about other martial arts that interested us. Having dabbled in hapkido self-defense training, I would like more formal training at that. Hapkido or judo–because throwing people on the floor is almost as fun as kicking them.
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A Case for Failing Fast

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A quick internet search of the phrase “fail fast” brings up a mixed bag of business articles, strategy tips, and tech blogs. In April 2018, Forbes magazine published an article titled “How to Fail Fast–and Why You Should,” only to publish “The Foolishness of Fail Fast, Fail Often” five months later. It’s a popular phrase among the lines of being “lean” (i.e., cutting funding) and “agile,” (i.e., pushing through change that might or might not be well-planned).

The corporate buzz speak is strong with this one.

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Little Black Belt is FOUR!

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My blog turns four today! Thank you for reading and commenting on my posts. I’m glad I could reach people all over the world and share my love of the life changing martial art taekwondo. During the past year I went through a major change at work, learned the mystery of  a lingering health problem, and passed my second Dan test. To celebrate my blog’s birthday I’m sharing my favorite posts from the past year. Enjoy!
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Getting a Black Belt vs. Being a Black Belt: Thoughts on Testing for Second Dan

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Tomorrow, after two years of hard work and training, I test for second dan. The obligatory post-test Veuve Cliquot Champagne and cupcakes are chilling in the fridge. The dobok I will wear is clean and folded. For once I don’t feel the twinge of any lingering injuries. I feel prepared and confident in my skills and warmth and joy that my family will be able to witness this next step in my taekwondo journey.

Getting second dan has a more subdued feeling to me than getting first dan did. I can’t explain it right now and probably won’t be able to until I’ve lived in my new rank for a while (that is, if everything goes as planned and my knees don’t decide on sudden mutiny). Maybe it’s because I’ve been distracted by a busy month at work, or maybe I’m just more aware of what I’m in for this time around.
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Leadership Toolbox: the Power of Practice

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[Warning: I was in a really corporate-y mood when I wrote this, so you’re getting a taste of Work Melanie’s voice rather than my usual silly, contemplative, self-deprecating Black Belt voice.]

I’m a learning and leadership development consultant, which in a very tiny abstract nutshell means that I listen, diagnose problems or needs, and help people make decisions and take actions that improve their performance on the job. As a bonus they very often end up happier too, which is my favorite part.
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Finding Fresh Ways to Learn…Or, I Geek Out at a Forms Seminar

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This past weekend I attended a poomsae (forms) referee seminar sponsored by USA Taekonwdo, the national governing body for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and is a member of the World Taekwondo Federation. I’m not really interested in judging or refereeing at tournaments, but since forms are one of my favorite aspects of practicing taekwondo, I was curious enough to sign up.
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Feeling Stupid? Good! How to Stay Motivated When Learning Seems Hopeless

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“I feel like a dumbass.”

The tall, grey-haired white belt sighed with frustration. Adults in our small dojang are few and far between, so when one shows up I make a beeline for them, try to get to know them, and make them feel welcome. I was waiting for the advanced class to start, so I was chatting with this man about his upcoming orange belt test and what he had learned so far. He had been meticulously practicing fundamental blocks in the white belt class and was struggling with getting the movements just right.
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Learning Theory and Hook Kicks…or…Sweat and the 70/20/10 Principle

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Training is useless without application…and it looks like Hannibal Lecter found this guy before we did.

As I was leaving taekwondo practice Monday night I mentioned to my instructor that I liked the sparring drills he added at the end of class. Monday is typically cardio and conditioning night, but lately we’ve been doing some no contact sparring (i.e., we’re not wearing protective gear so we try not to kill each other), reaction drills, and fighting techniques during the latter half of the class. That night we had done a simple drill during which one partner attacked with a roundhouse kick, which is a very typical (and predictable) attack during free sparring, and the defending partner would counter with a low block and a hook kick to the chest. Fun, simple, but surprisingly difficult for some students to do intuitively.
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How an Introvert Ended Up Talking by Day and Yelling by Night

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Oh if only I had this! Add a doormat that says “GO AWAY” and I’m all set.

Yesterday I conducted a workshop for a tough crowd of nurses despite having a voice weakened by allergies and an absent second speaker, and then I went to taekwondo class where I jumped around and yelled with my classmates and worked on my sad-looking flying side and turning back side kicks. I didn’t get nervous at all. If you had told me twenty or even ten years ago that that’s how I would be spending my Monday I would have run away screaming.
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