Sign up for my newsletter to receive news and updates!

Posts Tagged ‘project mighty me’

an odd metric

I don’t particularly have issues with my weight. (I couldn’t even tell you what it is, with a margin of error smaller than five pounds; we don’t own a scale.) But I will admit that I have some issues with my composition, by which I mean the lean-to-squish ratio of me is skewed more toward the latter than I would like, and sometimes that also means issues with my shape.

Last night, however, I got vivid proof that my general shape has not changed all that much in the last fifteen years or so. Going through the costume closet, in a (not entirely successful) attempt to cull its contents a bit, I dug out and tried on all the old dance costumes I’ve been holding on to.

And they all fit.

They didn’t necessarily look good on me — some of them I don’t think ever looked good, on anybody — but I got them on, and without putting the spandex to much of a test. And these are things I wore when I was fifteen and dancing eight hours a week. To which I say: dude. I would not have predicted that.

Mind you, this put a crimp in my plan to chuck out lots of costumes that don’t fit me anymore, because they do fit. I’ve chucked the truly ugly ones instead, the things that only look vaguely right when put in motion, on a stage, a healthy distance from the audience, but that’s only half or so of the total. (I should get rid of more, especially now that I’m not involved in a Changeling game where random dance costumes come in handy for playing a swan maiden or water elemental or whatever — but I can’t bring myself to do it. I might need them someday.) But it was an encouraging experience, and only firmed my resolve — pardon the pun — to do more things to increase the lean percentage of me. Today I rode my bike for the first time since my ankle surgery in the spring, and in the future intend to run as many of my errands as I can that way, weather permitting. My glutes may hate me for it today, but they’ll thank me eventually.

The Gimpy Feet Guide to Ungimping

(Yeah, I know, I’m posty today. Trying to clear out some links that have been sitting around for a while, that require more discussion than can profitably be done in a linkdump post.)

Someone a while back asked what I was doing about the problem of collapsing arches in my feet. Since most of my foot/ankle problems are interrelated (surprise!), I figured it was worth doing one collated post on all my physical therapy — with bonus link about barefoot running.

This site shows pictures of most of the PT. I’m doing all four exercises in the “resistance band” group on that page, plus two others: with cotton balls between my toes, I’m squeezing the toes together, and I’m also doing the one where you put your foot on a towel and gradually scrunch the fabric up with your toes. Three sets of 15, each day. So far I’ve graduated up two resistance bands; when I can do four sets of 15 with the next (and strongest) band, I’ll probably call it quits with that stuff.

I’m also doing three other exercises, more newly-added to my repertoire. First, I’m standing on one foot. No, really. Aside from the atrophy caused by the surgical recovery, I also had a pre-existing weakness in my tibialis posterior, which is a muscle that runs down the inside of your ankle and splays across the sole of your foot. It’s one of the muscles closely involved in arch support (another being the tibialis anterior, on the outside of the joint), and it plays a big role in balancing. When I try to stand on one foot for any real length of time, I can feel it crapping out on me, causing my ankle to roll inward, with predictable consequences for my balance. So this exercise is remarkably tiring, at least for one tiny part of my leg. The other two are lunges (of the athletic, not the fencing, sort) and one-foot squats, which I can’t really do worth a damn. I’m supposed to stand on one foot and squat down as low as I can (including lowering my back and sticking my butt out; this isn’t a plié), while keeping my heel on the ground. Between the weakness of that one muscle and my possibly structural inability to dorsiflex very far, this turns out to be a carnival of wobbling on my part.

So if you have arch problems, you want to do the inversion and eversion exercises, the ones where you’re moving your foot from side to side against resistance. And it turns out that helps a lot for balance, too: in karate last night, I discovered that when I do one of the rapid 180-degree turns many of the kata include, I’m now landing in zenkutsu-dachi on the far side with MUCH less instability than I used to. I never thought to connect that with the arch issues, but it seems to be related.

Also — on the topic of arch problems — you might want to read up on barefoot running. This is something I only recently encountered, and I’m not a runner myself, so I don’t have much first-hand knowledge on the subject. But there’s a chapter in the book Born to Run that makes a convincing argument for how our highly-engineered running shoes have actually contributed to foot problems, rather than reducing them. And the reasons seem like common sense: the shoe, by stiffening and cushioning the foot, radically changes the mechanics of how we run. I had a deeply suspicious reaction when my primary care doctor told me the solution to my arch problems was putting more support in my shoes; wouldn’t that just further weaken my feet? (You can imagine what my PT said when I asked her.) There’s at least some evidence that running barefoot, or in minimal shoes, with a forefoot or midfoot strike, will actually strengthen your arches by — here’s a wacky idea — using them as evolution intended.

I’m not likely to take up running any time soon, but for those of you who do it, you might want to investigate some of the minimal-shoe options out there.

And now, having dealt with some of the crap cluttering up my browser, I’m off to be productive on a different front. Namely, folding laundry.

The Littlest Orange Belt Is Feeling Clever

Yes, I really do mean to use that icon.

When you have a (popped) blister on your left foot that extends partway under the edge of a callus and you don’t want the skin to tear because it’s going to be unpleasant when it does and besides you’ll be grinding dirt into it all karate class long which is a good way to get an infection but band-aids come flying off the moment you pivot unless you put tape over them and that leads to you STICKING TO THE FLOOR when you try to pivot . . .

. . . then sometimes, just sometimes, you get clever.

You dig out your old lyrical shoes — which only barely qualify as “shoes” — and that protects the necessary area while still leaving you 95% barefoot.

And you don’t stick to the floor.

The Littlest Orange Belt Says Rarrrr

In non-Deeds of Men news, I had a really satisfactory night at karate.

I don’t think I’ve come out and said here that I’m going to be out of town for four straight weeks, traveling hither and yon for family events and a friend’s wedding and research and so on. This will include a week in London, so look for a return of the trip blogging. I’m pretty excited.

But it means I’ll be missing four straight weeks of karate, which is honestly a little frustrating. I learned pinan nidan recently, a new kata, and have just started practicing it; in a month everything I was told about the neko ashi bits will have no doubt fallen out of my head. (Yes, I can practice it on my own, and may very well, but it isn’t the same as having a sensei watch and correct you. I might end up practicing bad habits without knowing it.) On the other hand, tonight I had a better-than-average sparring experience, and while that’s going to rust even more badly than my kata while I’m gone, it’s encouraging to go into my travels with a high note fresh in my memory. (Some nights, my timing and aim and reflexes are on. Other nights . . . not so much.)

I actually asked Shihan whether we had a sibling dojo in London. (Our own place has seen visitors from Hawaii, Germany, and Slovakia in the time I’ve been there; it wasn’t unreasonable to wonder.) Alas, we don’t — or perhaps not “alas,” seeing as how if we did I’d have to decide whether I’d really haul my gi across the Atlantic, and whether I’d have any energy for practice after walking all over the city. This way, I don’t have to find out how lazy I really am.

Oh well. I’ll just do situps and pushups and shiko dachi every day, right? Right???

Sure I will.

Come mid-June, I’m going to be rusty like a rusty thing. Sigh.

atarashii kata o narau!

Today I had, to quote Lymond, a damned carking afternoon — but then I went to karate and instead of doing sparring (which I was very much not in a state of mind for), I got to learn pinan nidan, which is the next kata in the sequence.

It’s amazing how easily something like that can improve my mood.

And then I went and had tasty tasty fried rice with crab. So my day is looking fair to have a much better ending than it did a start.

a followup on the karate criticism thing

Not so much “criticism I deal badly with” as a surfeit of riches: having three sensei and one senpai, in the span of three days, come up to offer me four different bits of advice on the same two kata moves.

To be fair, I brought it on myself. Having gotten that eye-opening pointer on Monday, I decided to practice it today — which meant I was repeating those moves when one of the sensei started watching me, so of course the pointer she offered had to do with them. Then I have two things to practice, which means I’m still working on those two moves when the senpai comes along, which means she gives me a pointer about them, and now I’m practicing three things when the other sensei decides to see how I’m doing . . .

So the bunkai is that it’s kind of a soto uke, and I need to open my hip out and then drop it forward for the double-punch, and make sure my zenkutsu dachi is wide enough, and think of my back when I chamber so the punch rebounds forward.

Or something like that.

Four different bits of advice, all of them good. But at this rate I’m going to spend the next month doing just those two movements, trying to assimilate all that good advice, and getting more piled on me every time somebody wanders by. <g>

The continuing adventures of the Littlest Yellow-And-A-Half Belt

Haven’t posted about karate in a while. (Still need a karate icon.) I belt-tested a while ago and got my yellow-belt-with-black-stripe, but they didn’t have any in my size, so I’m still running around in a yellow belt. (Am tempted to take a sharpie to it.) Two down, lots to go, but I’m enjoying the sense that I am progressing. I’ve got enough awareness of my own movements to be able to feel how I’m improving, and it’s kind of intriguing to observe.

Intriguing, and occasionally frustrating. Not because I’ve hit any kind of plateau, but because I’ve progressed far enough to run afoul of the one respect in which I take criticism badly: I hate being told I’m screwing something up when I already know that. Point out a flaw I wasn’t aware of, and I’m delighted, but bring up me one I’ve been kicking myself about for weeks? That’s the one thing I react badly to, in the sense that it just encourages me in my (occasionally counterproductive) habits of self-castigation. And now I’m aware enough of certain flaws in my work to hit that point.

On the other hand, the sensei tonight, after giving me a few eye-opening pointers on kihongata san, told me I did “beautiful kata.” Which, coming from a teacher you respect enormously, is enough to put you walking on air for a couple of minutes. At least if you’re me.

I need certain muscles back. Except that it probably isn’t even “back;” I can’t say for sure I ever really had much strength in my hip abductors, since dance almost never had me taking my leg out to the side in anything other than a rotated position (which shifts a lot of the work onto the glutes and the quads). So, okay, I need to get those muscles strong, because even if high side and roundhouse kicks aren’t anything you would use in a real fight, I’m asked to do them in class, and I ought to have good form. And the ab work we do for the belt tests is coming perilously close to making my quads give out (long before my abs do), so that’s something else to fix. And, y’know, the whole pushups thing. Stupid upper body strength. Or rather, lack thereof.

I am a looooooooong way from doing the one-armed pushup seen in that icon.

But I like feeling myself become familiar with a different style of movement. I can’t wait to get my orange belt, at which point I might be able to learn pinan nidan, the next kata; it’s very different from the ones I know already, and I expect I will learn a lot from it.

The Littlest White Belt is now the Littlest Yellow Belt

Meant to post this last night, but: Friday I had my first belt test, and yesterday I was presented with my new yellow belt. (Which really needs to go through the washing machine to be softened up; I could barely get it to hold its knot.)

I’m pleased, but it isn’t a huge achievement; people very rarely fail their tests for yellow, or so I am told. Since I did not fall over or accidentally punch one of the judges, I passed. It’s a nice mile-marker, though, and leaves me feeling energized for more. If I attend class regularly, I think I could be testing for orange at the beginning of February. Then blue, and then I think we start moving into the finer gradations of rank; I believe I have to go through blue-with-black-stripe before green (and green-with-white-stripe may intervene between those two). And you have to attend more classes between tests the higher you go, of course, so the rapid initial progress slows down eventually. But that rapid initial progress is nicely satisfying, and helps you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

Most importantly for me, this means I can practice kihon gata san without feeling presumptuous. Kihon gata ichi is the kata for the yellow belt test, and kihon gata ni for orange, but the two are all but identical, and doing them over and over again gets tedious. I’ll still work on both ichi and ni, of course, but at this point I’ll learn more about improving my form by doing things other than that same set of moves. I need to become more comfortable with the shorin-ryu style of movement in general, rather than just one limited example of it.

Now off to the library I go.


I’m at the fun part of the learning curve right now.

Every fencing practice I go to, my brain unearths another dusty piece of technique it used to know ten years ago. After a few incidents of walking straight onto somebody’s blade because I failed to clear the line before advancing, my brain remembered beats! Yeah, those work! And then I overuse them heavily, but oh yeah, there are feints and disengages, too. Today’s revelation was particularly funny; given how much I adored binding parries in high school, you would think I’d have remembered them sooner.

Of course, I didn’t remember them until I’d been playing for a good hour and a half, at which point my wrists were no longer up to the task. But we’ll try them next time.

I can watch myself improving, mostly in terms of my ability to keep thinking. If my first attack is blocked, I try another one. Or even plan ahead, my first attack a feint to set my opponent up for the follow-through. If I’m retreating, I don’t just parry; I parry and riposte (or try to). One of these days I’ll get draw-cuts and push-cuts into the mental programming, and then I might even stand a chance in close combat!

Dear Brain: while we’re at the cuts thing, please also recall that we’re no longer in the backyard with a dowel rod; it is not only okay, but desirable, to follow through on a lunge instead of pulling up half an inch short of connecting. kthxbye.

Also, today I let myself pick up a dagger for a little while. I’ve been fighting single-sword because it allows/forces me to pay attention to what I’m doing with that blade, but man, rapier and dagger just feels right. I don’t want a buckler; I don’t want a cloak — though I’ll be happy to play with those someday — a dagger in my off hand feels like the most natural thing in the world. (My real ambition, of course, is case. But the few times I played with that in high school, I invariably got my points tangled, so we’ll stick with a short secondary for now.)

<studies arms> I look like a battered wife. But that will improve as my skill does.

this week’s adventures of the Littlest White Belt

I tried kicking in sparring today. Nobody’s really taught me how to kick yet; I just monkey-see-monkey-do my way through it in movement exercises, based on a small amount of education in front and side kicks when I was twelve, and constant reminders to myself not to turn out and/or point my toes.

I am learning to kiai. But I’m still getting chastised for not kiai-ing sometimes, and I’m not sure how to explain those are the times when the rapid-fire neurons in my brain have already figured out I’m not going to connect. (Which is not a reason to swallow it, I suppose. But try telling that to my brain, which so far has only internalized “the punch doesn’t count if you don’t yell while it lands.”)

Not so good: I think I am too dependent on the mirrors. When we do movement exercises, we advance across the floor toward the mirrored wall, but then we turn around and go the other way and unlike every dance studio I’ve been in, there are no mirrors back there. (Though there is a barre. Which convinces me there should be mirrors, dammit.) Anyway, I’m pretty sure my form is better going forward than back, and I don’t think it’s a side issue, since half the things we do alternate sides naturally to begin with. So: dear body, please pay attention to yourself, and don’t depend on the eyeballs to do it for you.

My hip joints hate me. I’m thinking Thanksgiving break will be a good thing: a whole eleven days between rounds of dislocating my legs out of my pelvis. Maybe that will be long enough to get them to stop creaking like this.