Monday, May 2, 2011

Random musings

I've been letting things slip too much lately and this blog is severely neglected. I'm going to try to find a place in my daily routine to fit it in. An unfortunate consequence may be that, although entries may come more often, they might not be that exciting. For now, my plan is to share random thoughts and philosophical musings. I hope, dear reader, that you find them worthwhile. Here goes...

Today, I want you to think about how often you smile. I've noticed that people smile for a variety of reasons. You might smile because you're feeling happy or maybe you are amused by something you heard or thought. Do you smile back when someone smiles at you? Smiling is rather contagious. I like to think of smiling as a gift of kindness to the people around you. Try to always smile, even when you don't really feel like it. Chances are, you'll make others feel good and it may even make you feel better in the process.

Think about it and smile!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Ah, Easter, a time of celebration and new beginnings. I like to think of Easter as the beginning of Christianity. Sure Jesus had followers before his death and resurrection, but they were relatively few. I'm guessing that many, many more took notice afterwards. How humbling to know that ANYONE would suffer and die for our sins, let alone God's only Son. How wonderful that God should raise him from the dead to show us that we too could have eternal life with Him!

Anyway, religious ramblings aside, I wish you all a happy Easter. May your your day be filled with peace and love, regardless of your beliefs!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Chicago recap

Rather than retyping everything about my trip to Chicago, I will share with you the account that I shared with my Mugai group here in Virginia:

Hi Everyone,

Now that I'm fairly well rested and can think clearly, I'll share my experience in Chicago (I apologize in advance for the length).

I arrived Thursday evening, so I could get some rest before training on Friday morning. As it turned out, it was a very wise decision. I don't think I would have survived all that training coming straight from the airport (like Dave did, ouch). Needless to say, I'm tired and sore, but I also came home strangely energized by the incredibly positive experience I had out there. The training may have been brutal, but it was well worth it, as I learned a great deal.

On Friday morning we started off by going over hashirigakari. Since these are my weakest kata, I welcomed the chance to practice them under Alvarez-sensei's guidance (thankfully, he is a very patient man). We spent a good deal of time going over various aspects of timing and other little details. Next we had lunch delivered to the dojo, and we got to spend most of that time listening to Alvarez-sensei tell stories of his various adventures. After lunch we worked on shoto kumitachi for (Dave wasn't kidding) FOUR hours. Alvarez-sensei showed us how to work jujutsu in there to make it more effective. Later we worked on daito kumitachi and we learned some tips and tweaks there, as well.

On Saturday we worked on various kneeling and standing kata before we all went out for lunch. After lunch was shinsa. I'm disappointed that Alberto didn't share his feelings about the testing experience (hint, hint). I know how much he put into preparing and he deserves our congratulations. I found it very helpful to watch the testing. It's always nice to see how things work before you actually have to do them. If anyone is wondering why I didn't test for shodan, it really all came down to cutting. There wasn't any time to practice cutting before shinsa, and Alvarez-sensei is now requiring gyaku-kesa for shodan. I was already feel shakey about my cutting and I couldn't imagine attempting something I'd never even tried before during the actual test. You can all be sure that I'll be pushing for lots of cutting so I can be confident when the next testing opportunity comes along. :)

Anyway, after shinsa, I really enjoy watching the "disposal" of the extra mats. It was especially interesting to watch Alvarez-sensei teach someone who'd never cut mats before how to cut. Of, course, it was great to watch him do his own cutting. He's pretty amazing. After we cleaned all that up we worked on habiki no kata (Mugai kenjutsu) and then Shinto Ryu shoto kenjutsu. As with the kumitachi, Alvarez-sensei stressed the importance of jujutsu principles and how they relate to kenjutsu. Very informative stuff. Unfortunately, we missed the Shinto Ryu daito kenjutsu, which they covered on Sunday.

The intense training was well balanced by the social side of the trip. I have to admit, when Alberto and I arrived at the dojo on Friday morning, I was nervous and a little intimidated, but it didn't last long. Everyone was supportive, helpful and best of all, fun. I can't say enough about how welcome Brian and his group made me feel. By lunch time, they had me feeling like family. Honestly, if you walked in on Friday afternoon, you'd already think we'd all been training together at that dojo for years. I'll spare the details, but some of the social highlights were a group dinner on Friday night, then on Saturday, a crazy road trip to Denny's and lunch at a place with really weird decor. Oh yes, and I vaguely recall something about pitchers of margaritas on Saturday night. :)

Before this gets any longer (I really could go on and on) I'll end by saying that this was an amazing trip and I am extremely fortunate to have been able to attend. I came to realize that I really am a part of a wonderful extended family of Mugai students that will welcome me anywhere and I'm more excited about Mugai than ever. I'm already looking forward to the next trip, whenever that may be. I also want to step up my training. So who's up for starting to train 2 days a week. :)

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and I apologize if any (or all) of it made no sense!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Greetings from Chicago!

I'm in Chicago, even as I type this. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever traveled more than a couple hundred miles away from home BY MYSELF. Yes, I've lived an extremely sheltered life, but there's a first time for everything, right?

Anyway, I'm here for Mugai Ryu seminars and to maybe (big maybe) test for shodan. Now I know I mentioned previously that shodan is like a black belt, but it isn't the kind of black belt that most people think of. It doesn't mean you're an expert. In many Japanese martial arts shodan means more along the lines of dedicated beginner. It's a lifetime learning process, so I don't think the ranks are even that important in the grand scheme of things. So, I'm not promising anything, testing-wise, even though it would be nice to complete a goal ahead of schedule, for once.

Regardless of whether or not I end up testing I'm really looking forward to learning a lot this weekend. Tomorrow the seminars run from 11am until 7pm. I'm sure I'll be pretty wiped out, but I'll try to make an update before I turn in for the night.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Chris bought me a shiny new iPad 2 last week AND my blogging app just got an update that could make it useful again. This post is a quick test to see how well it works. If all goes well, this could be just what I needed to get on track with that new year's resolution about blogging regularly. *crosses fingers*

In fact, I might be inclined to blog from Chicago this weekend. More on that later...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy New Year!

Okay, I know that this year isn't exactly new anymore. Heck, it's almost February already, but I still believe in "better late than never," so below are my resolutions for 2011:

I have resolved to...

Attack my todo list every day - Yes, I'm that hopeless. It never ceases to amaze me how easily I can forget to even look at the list of things that I'm not supposed to forget to do. I mean, you can't even call it procrastinating when you're not consciously avoiding things, but actually forgetting they need to get done!

Maintain my blog properly - Obviously, this has been an epic failure so far. The good news is that I'm here and ready to jump right back in!

Learn to paint - I have a self-study painting class that I've started and I'm pretty excited about it. I've only completed one project so far, but I'm going to put all my art up on my DeviantART account, so you can see my progress. I also like to draw, so you'll see my drawings there, too.

Learn Japanese - I've actually been working on this for a while, but I want to step up my efforts. I like to think of myself as an upper beginner now, but I've got a long way to go. It will be interesting to see what progress I can make by next January.

Earn shodan (black belt) in Mugai - This one is not only dependent on my time and effort, but also on my ability to attend testing later this year. At very least, I want to be at a level where I COULD pass the test, if given the opportunity.

Well, that's all for now. I have lots more to share, but I wouldn't make any sense to put it all in one post. Besides, new posts will give you a reason to come back! :D