Tag Archives: Asian

Cancer sucks, Life is short, and we must Live Aloha all in, every day.

September 22, 2016

By the time I staggered out of bed this morning, my daughter was already wide awake, dressed for school and eating breakfast.  She was rocking her white Chucks and her million dollar smile bright and early at 7:00a.m. today.  And my boyfriend had been out of the house for at least an hour, maybe two.  I remember feeling his butterfly kisses  across my cheeks and nose early this morning, and heard his sweet whisper, “Ok Lovely, have  good day.  I love you.  See you soon.”  After hitting the snooze button twice, I dragged myself to the bathroom to shower and get ready for a long day.

As I stood in front of my closet, draped in my pastel pink leopard printed robe, I contemplated what to wear.  How do I make a fashion decision on what to wear when my day would consist of the following:  work, conference call, funeral at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, a career counseling phone call with a colleague/friend, my annual visit to the gynecologist, and back to work at the Toyota Automotive Museum for an event to launch the 2016 Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks with 75 D&I practitioners from across Los Angeles.  What shoes does one wear for such a busy, action-packed day?  I opted for a chic but comfortable color-blocked tan, cream, and black sheath with a tan blazer on top.  It felt fashionable and conservative without being too churchy and boring.   During the day I wore my sensible wedges with my sexy color blocked heels safely tucked away in my car for tonight.  There is something about an evening event that just requires sexy heels.

The environment at work has been one of turmoil and change.  One of my dearest mentors and former bosses is retiring in about a week.  I’ve asked colleague to send cards, photos and notes of gratitude to me so I can paste them into a scrapbook of Memories for Midge.  I don’t know how to scrapbook but I’ve got scissors, non-acid glue, colored paper, and an album.  Hope it all turns out ok.

Thinking about her retirement and my eventual separation from my place of employment has me feeling sentimental.  My buddies at work have already relocated to North Texas so my days at work are much more subdued and quiet.  I feel like my friends are gone and that makes for a lot less fun during the workday.

Yesterday, I opened my email and read that one of my colleagues and friends who worked on a huge diversity project with me over the past ten years passed away and her funeral would happen this morning.  She will be laid to rest on Friday.  I know she has been fighting cancer for years and had spent months at a stretch on medical leave, undergoing various treatments and somehow defying her doctors’ expectations and recovering each time.   But I haven’t worked with her for several months and literally just discovered that she had passed away one week ago today.

Death is a part of life, right?  We are put on this earth to contribute somehow by living a full and productive life.  Some of us teach, some of us work, and others of us take care of the planet and the planet inhabitants unselfishly and freely.  But cancer.  Why do some people have to fight against a disease like cancer to have the strength to teach, to work, and to give freely?  It doesn’t seem fair that the people who seem the most generous and selfless have to fight against cancer.  Why don’t more assholes and racists and bigots and misogynists and murderers and pedophiles get cancer?  Why do the nicest people get hit with one of the cruelest diseases?

Cancer make no sense to me.  Wikipedia says that Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Not all tumors are cancerous; benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.  Possible signs and symptoms include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss and a change in bowel movements. While these symptoms may indicate cancer, they may have other causes.  Over 100 cancers affect humans. I think about all of the loved ones my family has lost to cancer.  I think about my dear friends who are fighting against cancer right now, as I typed these words across my Kensington keyboard.  The article goes on to say that 15% of deaths are caused by cancer.  Cancer also increased the risk of anxiety and depression in patients who already have a propensity for it.  I hate cancer.

The funeral was filled with choir songs, as my friend was an extremely talented singer who loved all kinds of music.  The young priest talked about how even though we are mourning, today would be about the celebration of life and reconnecting with our faith, as my friend stood strong in her religious beliefs.  Even though funerals suck the energy out of me, I think it was good for me to attend Mass today.  I thanked God for my many blessings, I prayed for the health of my family and friends, and I sat still for over an hour.  A few minutes of meditation did me good today, as the world is in turmoil around us.  I sat still and remembered my friend and was reminded that cancer sucks, life is short, and we must Live Aloha all in, every day.




#TeamTogisala visits www.thekaratedojo.com


Here is how Social Media works in a positive way. Sensei Brian Pena and Sensei Butch Togisala re-connected after twenty years thanks to Facebook. These two men competed throughout the 1990’s all over the world. Sensei Brian and his family visited California and Togisala Shorin Ryu during Easter break and, a little over a month later, Sensei Butch was graciously invited to attend the Carolina Martial Arts Open tournament in South Carolina.

On April 24, 2016, Sensei Brian Pena published the following announcement via Facebook:


We are excited and honored to announce that multi-time NBL World Champion and Japanese / Okinawan Karate Legend: LELAGI ‘BUTCH’ TOGISALA of Torrance, California is set to be at The Karate Dojo in West Columbia, SC for a seminar, private lessons, and to receive a special award on May 14-15, 2016 to coincide with the Carolina Martial Arts Open.

Sensei Togisala is a Japanese Kobudo and Kata MASTER that holds the record of winning the NBL World Title in Japanese / Okinawan Kata for 5 straight years through the 1990’s until he humbly bowed out to his team member Marcus Young at the 1998 Super Grands World Games.

Please make plans today to meet, greet, and LEARN from a great friend of mine, and the single most prolific Japanese / Okinawan Karate & Kobudo competitor of the past 25 years – PERIOD.

Email me at Sensei@TheKarateDojo.com with Seminar interest or to schedule Private Lessons, and stay tuned in the coming days for further information.”

On Friday the 13th in May 2016, before the sun had risen, Sensei Butch and I boarded a flight to ATL to catch a connection to CAE.  There was a level of excitement in both of us bubbling and Sensei Butch had lots of questions regarding the weekend.  We knew that a greeting at the airport by Sensei Brian and a sushi dinner with some of his black belts were on the Friday evening itinerary.  So, we planned on checking into our hotel, resting a bit, getting our gi pressed for the weekend and just going with the flow.

I had cooked up a fresh batch of Kalua pork for Sensei Brian. He really enjoyed that when he was at our house for Easter.  A couple of pounds of frozen Kalua pork were one of my carry-on items. In addition, I packed some healthy snacks for the long flight across the country.  

Early morning flights usually mean a plane full of passengers who are either trying to sleep or overly sparked on caffeine.  We both attempted to catch some Zs after take-off, to no avail.  Because our seats were upgraded to Delta Comfort, we had access to free movies and he selected the film, “Invincible” starring Mark Wahlberg.  Sports-themed movies usually contain messages about hard work paying off, enduring monumental physical challenges, and overcoming adversity.  These themes were threaded throughout the film and I saw many parallels with what Togisala Shorin Ryu is experiencing.

We sat next to each other, sharing earbuds (yes, we looked like “that couple”) and enjoyed the inspirational true story of lifelong diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale. Coach Dick Vermeil called an open tryout to boost interest in the flailing Eagles.  Papale realized his wildest dream, survived try outs, and became a squad member.  The movie shows Papale’s tenacity, grit and heart in a mature and relatable way, beyond Disney’s usual animated fairy tales.

“Invincible” touched our hearts and there must have been quite a bit of dust circulating in the plane, as I had to keep wiping tears away.  No comment about Sensei Butch’s “allergies”.  The feel-good story focused on the importance of hard work and the responsibility of individuals to support their friends, neighborhoods and more importantly, their families. Competing in sports played a critical role in developing both of our personal core values around Respect, Discipline, and Courage.  He and I are athletes who have competed at various levels throughout our entire lives.  Sensei Butch leveraged his raw talent for karate and his incredible support from his father and surrogate father, Grand Master Sensei Richard Rabago, to “pull himself out of the ghetto.”  Disciplined training became a way of life and that led to a successful sport karate career that took Sensei Butch all over the world.

When a competitor sees someone who consistently performs at the level to achieve world champion status, that person impacts him/her in profound ways.  Sensei Butch has fans around the world and social media has connected him with other martial artists that used to compete with him. This is what brought Sensei Butch to South Carolina.

Friday afternoon we landed at CAE airport. Sensei Brian Pena greeted us with some of his senior students:  two of his black belts and one of his brown belts. The Karate Dojo welcomed Team Togisala with warm smiles, open arms, and deep bows of mutual respect.

We felt hungry but wanted to see The Karate Dojo before checking into our hotel. The facility was incredibly impressive. I had never seen a dojo as large as this one. The main floor also housed weight machine that looked more complete than most hotel gyms I train in while on the road. In addition, there is a smaller, more private training room and a large space perfectly equipped for child care and fun. But as impressive as the physical space was, even more impressive was the spirit and atmosphere inside the dojo. The floor, the walls, the equipment all looked pristine. But on the interpersonal level, everyone  from the  staff to the students showed immense respect to Sensei Butch. We heard, “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am” in every response.  Such a simple behavior, using consistent and respectful manners, exemplifies the way a karate-ka should hold him- or herself.

Sensei Brian graciously allowed Sensei Butch to use his beefy, tricked out, and gorgeous Expedition.  He drove us to Downtown  Columbia, dropped the car off with the valet, and Sensei Butch spotted a man walking.  He told me, “Babe, that’s Coolio.”  I dismissed him and said, “Leave that man alone.  It is not Coolio.”  What would Coolio be doing in Downtown Columbia?  We checked in, unpacked, and grabbed a nap before dinner.

Friday night – sushi dinner in South Carolina.  That was not a sentence I ever imagined saying out loud.  We pulled up to a shopping plaza and found a restaurant called, “Inakaya Watanabe.”  Sensei Brian had reserved the private room with tatami mats and when we entered, there were two HUGEMONGOUS  sushi boats on the tables to greet us.  Sensei Butch felt a bit apprehensive about sitting on the floor throughout an entire meal but thank goodness, the tables were built over a sunk-in floor.  The food tasted fresh and I devoured the fresh yellowtail sashimi while Sensei Brian requested rolls like soft shell crab, chef specials and some terrifyingly hot roll with a mystery chili pepper of some sort.  Eating that hot scary pepper thingy roll was a rite of passage for Sensei Brian’s black belts.  Since I am deathly allergic to peppers, I did not have the opportunity to taste that mystery torture roll. Thank goodness.



At the end of dinner, Sensei Butch presented a special gift to Sensei Brian.  We had a brand new set of rope kama made  by Tenth Degree Weaponary in Southern California for Sensei Brian.  Rope kama are Sensei Butch’s signature weapon and there are multiple videos of him swinging them in sport karate tournaments all over YouTube.  Sensei Brian appreciated the gift and we were delighted to present it to him.


 May 14, 2016, Saturday morning, Carolina Martial Arts Open tournament day.  When we arrived at the The Karate Dojo, the building was bursting with competitors and their family members.  Sensei Brian treated both of us like honored guests in his dojo and asked for the opportunity to introduce Sensei Butch to all of the participants.  We didn’t know he also had a big surprise in store for Sensei Butch.

And then, Sensei Butch had me bring up another gift for Sensei Brian. It was a vintage heavy weight Team Togisala competition gi, complete with gashes in the back of it from Kama blades. I thought that this one of a kind, irreplaceable gift would be something that Sensei Brian would appreciate. Material gifts can’t beat sentimental gifts, in my opinion. We can all buy “things” but no one can replace memories and experiences. 

A wide variety of martial arts schools were represented by colorful gi and t-shirts.  The number of competitors could have felt overwhelming but the order and precision that Sensei Brian exemplified in running simultaneous divisions impressed me.  Sensei Butch and I split our time between walking the floor and resting and reviewing the seminar format together.  Jet lag crept in every hour or so, we tried to catch cat naps throughout the morning. While out on the floor, we met an enthusiastic competitor.  She cheered everyone on in the rings by yelling, clapping, and sending tons of positive energy.  I pointed her out to Sensei Butch and he said, “She’s an awesome hype man.  We should bring her to all of our tournaments LOL.”  Her enthusiasm was noted by others and pointed out to Sensei Brian.  He recognized her by presenting her with a special “spirit” award.  She found us at the end of the tournament and asked to take a photo with both of us.  Look how her spirit shines through in her smile.


This tournament had numerous examples of how martial arts influences young lives.  The atmosphere felt supportive and loving and still competitive throughout the day.  It struck me that martial arts tournaments should always feel family-friendly, rather than cut-throat competitive.  We work to build character in our students through discipline, respect, courage, and fun.  Becoming a tournament champion does not have to be the outcome in order to build up our students’ character.  World Championships, trophies, black belts…none of that makes a Champion.   Students living their lives by showing respect for others, acting with integrity, and staying physically fit is the ultimate goal.  Martial arts training never stops.


As the tournament wound down, I heard tid bits of stories of first-time adult competitors making their debut at the Carolina Martial Arts Open and examples of children showing love and support for one another.  Sensei Brian referred to his event as an “investment in the future.”  A father of one of the participants wrote a “thank you” note to Sensei Brian because his son was crying at the end of the  tournament.  This young competitor was overcome with tears of pride because his sister had won Grand Champion.  Sensei Brian recognized and rewarded this young competitor with a trophy, as well.  But in fact, what that young man gave all of us was a greater gift.  Love and support for our family members and dojo Ohana is the ultimate goal.  Sensei Brian encouraged all spectators to cheer for all competitors and the dojo roof was raised by all the positive energy and Aloha throughout the tournament.

Next up, was the karate seminar with Sensei Butch Togisala.  About 20 or 25 students attended the seminar on Saturday.  The game plan consisted of a brief stretching session to prep the participants for the first activity – stances.  Strong, low stances are a signature for Togisala Shorin Ryu and the foundation of our style.  Having a low base is critical to executing our kata correctly.  Sensei Butch selected Pinan Godan as the kata to teach during the seminar.  And we wanted each student to be able to learn the entire kata during the seminar, regardless of belt rank, and be able to perform it.  I will note that Sensei Butch thought I was being too strict during warm-ups but I protested that as I conducted a very short stretching session to prepare their hips and legs for doing basics, just as I do in our dojo every night.  But I digress..


I have written about one of the mantra of our Sensei, the late Grand Master Sensei Richard Rabago, “Basics are Everything.”  The stance is the foundation for karate.  Not all Japanese karate schools take as a low of a stance as Togisala Shorin Ryu.  But I believe that the beauty in kata is taking a low stance.  It might be from my years of studying hula kahiko, my Kumu Hula taught us that our energy comes from our classmates and from the Earth.  Being connected to both improves the spirit or mana in a dance.  The same can apply to kata.  When the karate-ka applies the movements within a kata, it is a self-defense technique or offensive attack.

Sensei Butch began the seminar with running the participants through exercises to practice:  kiba-dachi (horse stance), zenkutsu-dachi (forward stance), and neko-dachi (cat stance).  We had students as young as six years old, all the way up to adult aged and yellow belts up to second degree black belts participating.  Everyone worked hard to adjust to the style of Togisala Shorin Ryu to learn a new kata, Pinan Godan.  This is a required kata for advancement to purple belt in our dojo but it isn’t taught at The Karate Dojo so it became a nice addition to their kata toolkit.  One of the black belt students in the seminar stated, “So very impressed with Sensei Togisala.  He captured my family with his calm yet strong patience.  He led a seminar with a 6 year old all the way to us older folks and NEVER lost our attention.  We all left not only being taught a kata but also being taught a lesson in humility and strength.  Thank you sir for graciously giving us your time and energy this past weekend!  Deep bow of LOVE and RESPECT!”

Personally, I learned a lot through the process of helping to teach our kata during the seminar.  In addition, it became clear to me that Sensei Brian teaches all of his students how to be Champions in life.  His dedication to teaching the martial arts is a gift.  Sensei Brian runs The Karate Dojo as a very special school, filled with exceptional students.  I humbly bow to him.

After the seminar, Sensei Butch and I went to the Club Lounge to relax with appetizers and a glass (or two) of wine.  He felt pleased with the outcome of the seminar.  We chatted with the lounge hostess, a student from USC (Gamecocks, not Trojans) and discovered something that Sensei Butch found amusing.  A big old school hip hop concert was held nearby and Salt N Pepa stayed at our hotel the night before.  They were hot during the early 90s, the height of my clubbing days.  Sensei Butch and I sang a bunch their songs, most of which the hostess had never heard of because she was an infant at the time.  And, unfortunately, it was revealed that Coolio was also staying at our hotel! BThat means Sensei Butch did see Coolio the day before and he reminded me over and over throughout the rest of the weekend that I blew a fantastic photo opportunity for him.  Ugh.

At dinner time, we walked about a mile down the road to a restaurant ironically named, “California Dreaming.”  It came highly recommended by the nice man sitting next to me on the flight from ATL to CAE, that recommendation was co-signed by our lounge hostess and others.  They were right!  We had a fantastic walk and a lovely meal.



After dinner, we called Uber so we wouldn’t have to take the one mile walk uphill.  A tricked out GMC SUV on 22″ tins rolled up, bumpin’ some hip hop. We looked at each other and laughed. Our driver was so chill, we talked about USC (Gamecocks, not Trojans) being on summer breaks. Then we asked about the concert and I had to hear how I blew an opportunity for Butch to take a pic with Coolio. Again.  They both laughed at me about that. Every person we encountered in Columbia, SC was gracious and welcoming. We had such a lovely time.

On Sunday, Sensei Butch was in his element, working one-on-one or in semi-private groups with students on their kata.  His innate talent for performing kata spills over into the incredible gift in customization and teaching.  Sensei Butch excels at making subtle shifts to sequences and moves that suit the individual’s strengths to transform a dojo kata to a winning sport karate kata.  Let me have some of the participants speak for themselves.


“What an incredible experience to be instructed by Sensei Togisala, honored to have the opportunity, I hope to see him again one day to Thank him once more (or a thousand more) for helping me with my competition Kata.  He is an exceptional man.”


The photographs above are from a semi-private lesson with two black belts.  They perform the same competition kata but Sensei Butch provided direction for each of them to customize a section of the kata to make it their own.


“Very cool to have met someone I’ve only ever heard about (and seen in kata videos).  Sensei Togisala embodies who a leader and instructor should be – knowledgeable, caring, and patient.  Respect!!”

Sensei Butch started the morning off with a private lesson refining a kata specifically for competition.


In this private lesson, Sensei Butch shared a few tricks of the trade to make this Sensei’s competition kata really stand out.  His strength could be amplified with a few tweaks at key points in Go Gi Shi Ho, which happens to be Sensei Butch’s signature open hand kata.


Three private lessons were with junior colored belts.  Each of these students worked very hard and earned a lot of praise from Sensei Butch.  He reinforced the importance of basic stances and precision in strikes for competition.  As intense and serious as all these photos look, there was plenty of laughter and smiles during these private lessons.  Best of all, each of them asked questions when necessary, took the gentle criticism to heart, and applied their learnings in real time.  It was a delight for me to watch.


The last lesson for the day was a semi-private session with two junior blue belts.  Each of them paid close attention to Sensei Butch.  Their high energy sustained him as he closed out the long day of teaching.  These two are well on their way to a bright and shining career in sport karate competition.


Sensei Brian’s Team Dojo will “Never Give Up.”  The future of karate lies in our children continuing to learn and train from experienced instructors and competitors like Sensei Brian Pena and Sensei Butch.  Being open to new lessons and learnings was my key take-away from the weekend. Hard work is nothing to shy away from in karate or in life. As instructors, we need to be open to receive the lessons that our students teach us every day. On behalf of Team Togisala, I send a deep bow of respect and gratitude to Sensei Brian Pena and all of his students, staff, and parents at http://www.thekaratedojo.com.  We were honored and humbled by the experience we shared with all of you during the 2016 Carolina Martial Arts Open karate tournament.  Sending much respect and Aloha to Sensei Brian Pena.



How Brown Gets Down 2nd Kyu Karate

(I never know where my blog postings are going to go.  I wanted to write about my brown belt test and instead thoughts of my two divorces pounded out on my keyboard.  The idea of having two failed marriages sounds a bit humiliating but you know what, it is a part of my life story and I am ok sharing it.  I am definitely not the same person I was 20 years ago when I started karate, fourteen years ago when I got married the first time, or even two years ago when I went back to my martial arts training at Togisala Shorin Ryu.)

December 6, 2015

Today, I passed a test.  It wasn’t a test written on paper.  It wasn’t a compliance eLearning module from work.  And I certainly have no need to take a pregnancy test.  The test I passed consisted of challenging physical exercises, open hand kata, weapons kata, and sparring against two dudes at once.  At my vintage age of 45, I went through a grueling physical challenge to earn my 2nd kyu rank in Shorin Ryu karate, better known by lay people as a brown belt.

You might ask why an old lady like me would want to train in martial arts. My dojo classmates are between the ages of 6 and 35.  I am fairly certain I am the oldest colored belt ranked student on the dojo floor.  Even my Sensei is a year younger than me.  I started training in my 20s, I worked out diligently for a few years, four days a week.  But when birth control failed and I found myself pregnant, I had to stop training.   Unfortunately, even though I was about to test for my green belt, Sensei Rabago had me stop at purple because it would be a huge liability for him to test me while I was hapai (pregnant).  I still trained four days a week until my belly started to show at four months, just like I played softball with my co-ed work team until I hit five months preggo.  They all yelled at me every time I ran the bases because my favorite way to slide was face first.  “Run!  Don’t slide!  Don’t slide!  Don’t’ slide!!!” they yelled at me as I turned toward second base.  Ha.  I still slid feet first for a couple of games.

So why now?  Why am I back on the dojo floor after twenty years?  Simply put, I love karate.  Lessons from my Sensei, the late Richard Rabago, gave me more tips about surviving and thriving in Corporate America as a single mom than any self-help seminar, book, or MBA could have.  Unfortunately, despite trying to go back to Rabago Shorin Ryu intermittently, raising my daughter alone and having a demanding career trumped the hobbies in my life.  While my daughter was very young, dancing in halau gave both of us a sense of ohana.  As she got older and I earned a better salary, I could afford to pay for childcare while I went to outrigger practice.  Now, she is almost out of high school and becoming more independent.  We both dance hula and I feel comfortable and confident going to the dojo three times a week to train now, without feeling guilty about doing something without my daughter.  The best part is, she gets along with the students and parents at the dojo so sometimes she comes to hang out and talk story with everyone while I practice.

Today, I sit in a very different position in life and at work.  Personally, I haven’t had much success with personal relationships, as I’m twice divorced.  Both relationships were based on strong friendships but not much romance or heat.  The first marriage ended when he decided that drinking the boys was more fun than spending time with his wife and stepdaughter.  He wasn’t going to stop drinking and I wasn’t ‘going to let him hurt me or my daughter.  I sure as hell wasn’t going to let him abuse me in any way in front of my daughter.  But he left without ever looking back so we both knew the marriage wasn’t meant to be.

In my experience, it is pretty much impossible to have a serious relationship while holding down a demanding corporate job as a single mom.  I never had a problem being asked out on a date but having a significant long lasting relationship became an elusive thing for me.  Because of the nature of my work, I am on the road about 25% of my time.  Planning dates and building a foundation of a relationship takes quality time, face to face.  The whole “free time” thing has felt like a luxury to me for most of my life.  Dating without a lot of free time doesn’t work out very well.  And, most of all, being a mother surpasses anything else in my life.

My second marriage looked perfect on paper.   Once we walked down the aisle and signed the actual papers, it all fizzled into complacency and a wonderful roommate situation.  He was neat and kept to himself.  He even bought his own groceries and laundry detergent separately from us.  Has anyone heard of a marriage like that?  Sad.  We had shared friends, and grew up with a common culture.  It should have been an easy relationship to nurture.  But he kept himself separate in so many ways, it was easy to say goodbye.

Why do I bring those failed relationships up?  I learned after my recent divorce that I needed to focus on my own happiness as an individual.  Tying my happiness to someone else or something else wasn’t going to bring lasting contentment or love.  And karate is an individual sport.  Karate taught me discipline as well as self-defense.  In my opinion, karate fueled my independence and nurtured my self-confidence.

When I started training 20 years ago, I worked out four nights a week and would  often stay late with Sensei Travis when his friends would come in to spar or work grappling or just do my kata.  I am quite certain I was in the best physical condition of my life.   I felt great.  Karate became the perfect supplement to hula and the values I learned through both reinforced all the lessons I learned from my parents and grandparents.  Family first.  Be humble.  Work hard.   Help others.  Give back.  Your actions represent your family, your halau, your dojo so act accordingly and don’t be a douchebag (ok, maybe I adjusted that last one a bit).

Sharing personal values with the values that I learned on the dojo floor made it very easy for me to train.  And, the more I studied and developed as a martial artist, the more I felt an obligation to give back.  Quite often, I would train as the only woman on the floor.  It was a rare occasion when I saw a female black belt.  Today, things are different but 20 years ago, I did not see many as many women at tournaments or teaching.

My rank test for 2nd kyu symbolized much more than just improvement in my training and/or martial arts skills.  It brings a large obligation to my life as I learn to be an instructor.  Although Sensei Rabago always emphasized that the color of someone’s belt is less important than their integrity and commitment, the average person will make judgments on the basis of what color a karate-ka wears.  And, research shows that people base 90% of their judgments on others based on the 10% that they see.  So, to gain credibility from one glance, a black belt earns it more quickly than a colored belt.

The rank test I passed on December 6, 2015 symbolizes one tiny step in my training.  My physical condition is excellent because I had trained to run 19.3 miles over a weekend for the RunDisney Infinity Gauntlet Challenge.  My mental condition stays strong and focused.  Much of that must be related to the miles and miles of running that I invested to prepare for both the races and my belt test.  But the best part is, my spiritual condition feels grounded and secure.  And that means my body is healthy, my heart is at peace and the possibilities ahead of me are endless.



When did I Become a Mentor?

My summer has been full of travel and activities:  my first karate tournament in 18 years, outrigger races, hula shows, business travel, Las Vegas, family crises, podcasting, San Diego Comic Con, Walker Stalker Fan Fest, my day job, and most importantly, being a mom.  This blog has been extremely neglected but I have a lot of fodder to turn into postings, I promise.  I will work on talking about SDCC/Walker Stalker Fan Fest and my new lipstick addiction to Urban Decay’s Revolution line very soon.

One thing I didn’t expect to do much of this summer is coaching and mentoring.  But last week, I attended the Multicultural Women’s National Conference in New York City.  This year marked lucky number 13 for the event.  I have attended at least eight, maybe nine of these 13 years.  This conference is a special experience for me, especially as a woman of color in corporate America.  It is rare that I step into a room filled with leaders who are women, much less a hotel ballroom of 500 leaders who are mostly women of color.  I don’t need to play “CTA” (Count the Asians, a thing I do when I am in a public space that is not very ethnically diverse) at this event.

One new benefit for attendees that the organizers added came in the form of taking free, professional headshots of each of us.  Three artists from Bobbi Brown provided mini touch-ups to participants and professional photographers spent a few minutes with each of us before snapping a few different poses.  Some women had never had a professional photograph taken and were delighted with the prospect.  Others don’t use make-up and just wanted to have a professional give them a more polished look for the day.  And a few of the attendees wanted to use this headshot for their LinkedIn profile.  (I wondered if any would add it to their Tinder or match.com profiles?)  Either way, my headshot showed me 1) I need a haircut and 2) Doing three panels outdoors at Walker Stalker Fan Fest in San Diego gave my face a much darker tan than I usually have.  Because of those two reasons, my new headshot will not be posted on LinkedIn and I do not have Tinder account.

This year’s theme for the conference was “Mindset Matters:  Igniting Potential.  Driving Excellence.”  The agenda read as fairly standard:  keynote speakers, small group workshops and lots of opportunities for networking.  As an introvert, I find early morning networking an exhausting prospect and a huge drain on my energy when I attend a typical business conference.  However, this gathering serves as one of the highlights for my professional year in terms of giving and receiving energy.  In fact, I have made friends at this conference from all over the country because it is a safe environment for women of color to talk about being women of color.  Also, my daughter has attended this event with me, sitting in on keynote addresses and small group discussions.  She has heard some of the struggles that women of color experience in the workplace, I only hope that my daughter realizes how that impacts her growth and development as she enters the workforce.

My role at the conference has expanded from passive attendee to serving as a small group facilitator for same race and cross race conversations.  This year, I was assigned one of these six provocative topics:  Empowerment – Exposure – Impact – Learning – Resilience – and Trust.  Randomly, I received Empowerment, a topic I wanted to really chew on before facilitating small group discussions.

In the same race group, we brought up how being Asian, particularly an Asian woman, impacts “Empowerment” in the workplace.  I felt frustrated to hear the same data from participants that I have heard for years:  “My manager thinks I am young and inexperienced, despite the fact that I have 15 years of tenure and an MBA.”  “My parents taught me to work harder than anyone else and keep my head down because hard work will be rewarded.”  “No one considers me for key positions in the Sales department.”  “I don’t have a mentor.”  “I am waiting for my promotion.”  “Taking an assignment in another department is a big risk, especially if I am already a subject matter expert in my current role.”  “I am the only Asian woman in management.”  How can all of that cultural mud serve our Empowerment as Asian women?  It seeps into our mindset and dries like a weight on our collective shoulders.  Some stereotypes and cultural qualities may serve us well in our careers, “We are always striving for perfection because getting an ‘A-‘ was never good enough for our parents.”  “Asians are thought of as quiet and disciplined.”  So many of us played the piano or violin as children and practiced for hours every day.  That is discipline and research shows that music helps children develop strong math skills, another stereotype about Asian.

But being a woman and Asian in corporate America can feel like starting out with two strikes against you when striving to be in the C-suite.  Fortune reported in February 2014 that just over 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs at that time were minorities, (African-Americans, Asians, and/or Latin-Americans. And there were 24 women CEOs in the Fortune 500 — representing 4.8 percent of companies — as of June 2014.

We then shifted the conversation to address how to empower ourselves and others.  Some women talked about “Dress older than you are.”  “Find a mentor.”  “Network more.”  “Take a job in another part of the business as a stretch assignment.”  “Ask for more pay.”  What I noticed very clearly was that most of these are strategies that white men do automatically.  They don’t feel stigma from tooting their own horn.  They don’t feel shame from asking for a promotion.  They also don’t feel like they are at all different from their CEO or COO so aspirations of sitting in the C-suite do feel unreasonable.

One of my participants asked, “Is Empowerment given or taken?”  That question drew out different responses based on the participants’ company, tenure and experience.  The more senior the attendee was, the highly the likelihood was that she would mention the importance of a mentor and/sponsor.  Being in power means having influence and no one walks in the door of a company with influence unless he or she has the ear of the C-suite.  I feel like we ended in a good place where participants shared their challenges as Asian women in the workplace and learned one or two tips on how to overcome those challenges to Empower themselves.  One to two tips in 90 minutes felt like a good use of our time, in my opinion.

When I got back to the office, I had received a few emails from participants.  A lot of feedback talked about my energy, which I gleaned from the willingness of the participants to contribute.  It felt like a symbiotic relationship to me.  “It was great meeting you at the conference!  I sincerely loved your energy during the breakout session and would like to get some of your thoughts on other things I am going through.”  This woman set up a lunch meeting for some one on one time.  We shall see if our chat leads to any huge professional breakthroughs for her, I think I offered some perspective as a mentor.  Wikipedia defines mentorship as “a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger, but have a certain area of expertise.”

In a strange twist of events, one thing we did agree on was for me to help her create a Match.com profile.  She is also a single mom and wants to jump back into the dating world.  Although I have a lot of experience as a single working mom, I do not have a lot of successful experience with on-line dating.  I hope providing her a bit of empowerment in starting to date leads to some happiness in her personal life.  However, I do not plan to make it a habit or a goal to mentor women in how to date.

Training with my new sai without a *sigh* Falling in Love Again… #martialarts #okinawanshorinryu #karate

May 10, 2015

Just one week ago today, my sai arrived. The week prior, at our monthly beach workout, I had requested some minor custom modifications to the shape of these weapons, based on my very limited experience with sai. The shape of the factory delivered sai prongs felt too square, were spaced too wide, and looked too generic for my feminine hand. Apparently, the baton fit my arm perfectly since I am not built like an Asian waif. The pair I chose felt heavy, like they had substance and heft to them. I didn’t want the hybrid material tournament versions of the sai, they felt much too light and not durable at all. I wanted to feel the solid weight of the metal and hear the loud “clank” when they struck each other. If I am going to train, I want to do it like a badass.

When Sensei Butch brought my sai to our dojo last week, my face lit up and I beamed like someone had just handed me a five pound bag of red, white, and green gummy bears (my favorite flavors and the only ones I eat) that were zero calorie. It felt exciting to have my own weapons to train with and to use in competition. The faster I started training with them, the faster my mana would become a part of these sai. Mana is energy, power, and strength. We learn about mana as a concept in hula. Wearing the same practice pa’u (skirt) to dance rehearsal allows your mana to permeate the pa’u. Dancing low to the ground draws  mana from Mother Earth. Extending your arms shares your mana with your hula sisters dancing next to you. There is power in working and sweating together towards a common goal and a shared mission. Weapons training is an individual task and the mana in my sai will come from my own hard work and dedication and sweat. And I am all for that right now.

A few weeks ago, Sensei Butch had shown me how to flip and twirl a sai (singular, we only had one to practice with in the dojo, totally not sure who walked off with the other one) but we hadn’t started working on an actual kata yet. I’ve already committed to entering the weapons division in an upcoming tournament, representing Togisala Shorin Ryu so I cannot back out now. Since I have never competed in a weapons division and implements complicate things in terms of needing better coordination (something I feel that I lack), nerves and uncertainty filled my head and heart. This would be a multi-pronged challenge for me:  physically, mentally, and much to my surprise, emotionally. Neuroscientist tell us that adults need to work different parts of our brains to continue developing and growing. Throughout this year of great turmoil and change at work, karate serves as my mental WOD by helping me stay grounded and giving me focus.

When I worked out at his dojo in the mid 90’s, no one in my class trained with the sai. My Sensei, Grand Master Richard Rabago told me that sai were one of his favorite weapons. I didn’t even know how people held them much less used them to strike or do kata. In my eyes, the sai looked like clunky and over-sized shrimp cocktail forks. While studying weapons training with Sensei Richard, we all learned the bo kata first and many students moved on to the kama afterward. But I clearly remember Sensei Richard wielding the bo, the kama and the tonfa. He always showed so much discipline in his weapons demonstration. Discipline plus power and speed, like a badass Jedi. I asked him about the sai and whether he thought they would be a good weapon for me to learn. Sensei looked directly at me and took a long pause, a painfully long pause, which made me wonder whether I should have even asked the question. He simply replied, “You have to be strong to learn the sai.” I still wasn’t sure if that was a yes or a no and stared back at him, blankly. Sensei followed up with, “Finish the bo and I will teach you the sai. You’re plenty strong.”

My weapons training ended abruptly when I discovered I was pregnant and I never finished learning my basic bo kata. Thankfully, Sensei Richard’s words rang true, I was plenty strong as a single mom. I know the discipline and self-confidence that training in the dojo taught me has served me well in my career, my life and in motherhood. I feel like I learned so much from my martial arts training 18 years ago and not all of my learnings were evident to me at the time.

Although I’ve begun training for a competition at the end of June, these sai mean more to me than a pair of tournament weapons. Training with the sai works my brain and my body, reminding me how much I love karate. I am rediscovering the joy in training, just like I felt when I was studying with Sensei Richard. Class was always physically demanding and I was in the absolute best physical shape of my life because of karate. My body was strong, lean, and super fit. Today, karate grounds me and provides a sense of emotional security. I’ve had a lot of heartache and let-downs in my life: a boyfriend physically abused me, an ex broke into my house to steal jewelry, and my car, and more recently, I had an unexpected near death experience. That shit is real and that shit truly impacted my heart and emotional health. Trusting people is really hard for me and learning how to trust is a part of my emotional development from karate. I still work to Live Aloha and give to others and leave the world a better place, unconditionally. But I have a very hard time letting people help me because of all the broken trust I have endured.

I feel love when I train on the dojo floor. That might not make sense to you, especially if you don’t work out in martial arts, but it makes sense to me. What made me realize this strange “love” fact happened on Mother’s Day, while I worked with Sensei Butch on my weapons kata.

I already had a keen awareness of how much I had respected him as a teacher when I trained with Sensei Richard. Sensei Butch consistently won tournaments and travelled the world to compete. He could have been an arrogant ass but totally wasn’t. He always showed so much patience and humility with students. Sensei Butch worked especially well with the kids in class and pushed them to improve without making anyone cry or want to quit. But I never had a chance to work with Sensei Butch other than when he dropped in to teach an occasional class or came to serve as a judge for belt testing days. I definitely never had a private lesson with him, one-on-one. Even when he teaches our group classes now, I haven’t felt this way. This epiphany didn’t strike me until today but because of it, I feel blessed to study karate again. That is the only way I can describe what I experienced. I realize that I trusted Sensei Butch’s skill as a teacher and I also trust him as person who has been in my life for almost 20 years. Sensei Richard held Sensei Butch in very high esteem. And when Sensei Richard regarded someone at that level, it felt natural for me to feel similarly.

Now I feel even more excited to continue my training. Sensei Butch has said that this may be the time for me to earn my black belt to start teaching. He trusted me enough to say that to me and I don’t take that lightly. I hope to continue to feel safe enough to trust and I never lose that feeling. I would like to encourage and nurture students to love martial arts in the way Sensei Richard and Sensei Butch have inspired me.

Interestingly enough, my competitive nature does not drive me to beat others or to win, I only want to beat myself and see improvement in my own performance. So it is easy for me to support others and cheer, I don’t feel compelled to be the star or win the trophies and take home all the ribbons. Sensei Richard instilled in me the belief that the only purpose of a belt is to hold up your pants. A true martial artist doesn’t need to be called “Master” and the color of one’s obi does not reflect one’s skill level. I allow student’s performance and drive to shape my opinion of them, not the color of their belt, just as a person’s behavior, not appearance, should influence your opinion of them.

Despite all of this, I find myself being hypercritical of my own progress and training. Why can’t I show myself the same grace that I show others? When I watch Sensei Butch with the sai, I want to be able to flip, spin and manipulate them the same way he does. But today, instead of getting frustrated with myself, I relaxed my wrists AND my attitude enough to follow the simple directions that Sensei Butch gave me. I found myself so open, more-so than I have been in months and maybe even years, like my heart was exposed and I trusted that Sensei wouldn’t let anything hurt it. And my sai flipped and spun properly. Even when I dropped the sai, I didn’t beat myself up with negative self-talk or discouraging words. I laughed, quickly moved my feet out of the way, and picked my sai to try again. “Fall down seven times, Stand up eight” applies to my weapons flying out of my hands, too.

Speaking of inspiration, I bought a simple 3mm silver band for myself last week and it says, “dream”.

dream ring

My thought was that the ring would be appropriate to wear during the summer months while I work out and I wouldn’t have to worry about a diamond falling out of the setting in one of my more fancy rings. It certainly wasn’t clear to me last week why I selected this ring. The other choices were words and phrases like “believe”, “friend”, “forever”, “be strong”, “never give up”, “choose joy” and “peace”. “Dream” isn’t a sentiment I thought of much in my younger life, I was all about “work” to handle my business and make enough to live the lifestyle that I want for myself and my daughter. Today, after karate, I was compelled to purchase two more silver rings to create a custom Pi’ilani set. The second ring is another tiny 3mm band that simply states, “love”.

love ring

And the third one, an adjustable silver ring, 1/4” wide, with two hearts, a half moon and a star. The inside of that ring reads, “I believe in you”. This set of rings is a lovely reminder for me to train hard because I truly love karate and I believe in myself.

i believe in you ring

ring collage

Brain Drain and Pain – Why Inclusion Matters

When a human being is born, their brain weighs one pound. If you are reading this blog, your brain probably weighs about three pounds. Through normal human development and physical growth starting as a swaddled infant to toddling around as a toddler to tip-toeing through life as a tween/teen and eventually, achieving adult status, your brain gained two more pounds. Every life experience, jump rope jumped, schoolbook read and to a lesser extent, television show watched, has contributed to your brain’s development and weight gain. Every human being is unique because no one has had exactly the same life experiences. Even identical twins bring diversity to a conversation because genetic make-up aside, they are not exactly the same person.

That was the gist of the first two minutes of a presentation I heard this week by a woman who is a UCLA professor in the Psychology Department and the Anderson School of Management. Because my career has been focused on creating work environments where people can bring their full selves to work and contribute freely in a safe environment, I became intrigued with every word Dr. Iris Firstenberg spoke. Diversity is so much more than race and gender, that I understood and tried to communicate in all of my presentations and interactions at work. But to learn about how neuroscience creates diversity in each and every human being was truly a “mind blown’ moment. And I do not find myself shocked or surprised by much at this stage of my career. Pi’ilani’s mind went kaboom.

Here is what I learned about the brain.



Near the center of the brain exists the Limbic System. According to Wikipedia: “The limbic system was originally defined by Paul Broca as a series of cortical structures surrounding the limit between the cerebral hemispheres and the brainstem: the border, or limbus, of the brain. These structures were known together as the limbic lobe. Further studies began to associate these areas with emotional and motivational processes and linked them to subcortical components that were grouped into the limbic system. The existence of such a system as an isolated entity responsible for the neurological regulation of emotion has gone into disuse and currently it is considered as one of the many parts of the brain that regulate visceral, autonomic processes.”

So, what does that actually mean? The limbic system is responsible for both emotions and memory. Consider an experience from your life that was highly emotional, maybe you were PISSED at your best friend for borrowing your favorite sweater or perhaps your favorite pet passed away unexpectedly and you cried for days, aren’t those memories burned into your mind? In your brain (and every other human being’s brain), the emotional center is right next to the memory center. That means that highly emotional experiences are highly memorable experiences. Much to my delight, I also learned that food and alcohol directly impact the limbic system. That satisfaction and gratification can elicit an emotional reaction and create lasting memories. For an Asian Pacific Islander like me, every social gathering must revolve around food and drink. For example, holiday get-togethers in my family consist of multiple rounds of food starting with loads of appetizers, followed by a hearty meal with both ethnic and American dishes , ending with delightful desserts and all accompanied by fine wine, hand-crafted cocktails or fancy sodas for the kids and/or teetotalers.

Another thing to consider is that people need to constantly stimulate their brains. Because your brain is constantly sculpting itself and growing and changing through experiences such as traveling, reading, dancing or playing music. This sort of on-going learning stimulates growth in your brain and can help stave off Alzheimer’s, even if you have a genetic disposition for the disease. So encourage your elderly family and friends to read, do crosswords, play cards, exercise and stay social to keep that brain sculpting going.

But what about when people are experiencing stress? They are being driven by their emotional brain – fear, danger, nerves, anxiety. When there are lots of connections going up to that area and not enough connections coming down to placate that brain, the emotional brain is overwhelmed.  Emotion trumps logic every time. Human beings absolutely need to calm that brain down to think logically. Think about when you’re arguing with your partner or sibling or child and you’re both so sure that your point of view is the right answer. As you build your argument and elevate your voices and blood pressure, it becomes harder and harder to truly hear the other person’s point of view. If you are trying to end the argument or calm the situation down, remember this little tip. Louder is not better. The limbic system hears in a nonverbal manner. So take a breath and sit next to the person, not across from one another, to make it easier to calm them down. Feel free to give them a drink or some food. Because a sense of touch is calming, it may be appropriate for you to gently touch the other person, place a hand softly on their shoulder, or hold their hand in yours. This can all help calm down the limbic system and allow the disagreement to begin to dissipate.

So how does this relate to one’s work environment? You risk charges of sexual harassment if you place your hand on a work colleague. And it is rare that a disagreement would escalate to a yelling match at the office. But what happens when you don’t include people at work. Maybe you walk around and look at your shoes or your phone because you’re a bit of an introvert like me. Or perhaps you really are so busy that you forget to say Hello to someone in the hall or people who sit near your desk. Exclusion, even when it is not done with any intention of hurting someone, can directly impact morale and productivity. In fact, neuroscience has proven that being excluded or rejected can be as painful as being socked in the stomach, people elicit the exact same brainwave patterns in each case. Whether it is a person who never gets invited to lunch or a person who just got dumped by the love of their life, it all hurts the same in their brainwaves.

Consider a time when you felt social rejection as a tween or teenager. We all have stories of being rejected or excluded and we probably all remember how much it hurt, despite our well-intended parents telling us that “you’ll get over it” or “this too shall pass”. These rejections stay with us as adults and definitely impact our decision making and socialization.

I grew up in a fantastic neighborhood where I could walk to my elementary school and all of our neighbors were very friendly. I was lucky to have kids across the street who were close to my age, who cares if they were mostly boys, I learned how to throw a tight spiral in 5th grade. Around the corner, my best friends lived and we roller skated and played together all the time. But one thing was missing, there were no other Filipino kids in my neighborhood. My besties were also children of Asian immigrant parents but none were Pinoy. At around 12 years of age, I wanted to learn more about Filipino culture and asked if my mom would take me someplace so I could learn Filipino folk dancing.

The national dance of the Philippines is called the Tinikling, which pays homage to the movements of a much-loved bird, and is a graceful and athletic challenge of dancing and jumping in between bamboo poles that are being struck together to keep rhythm. It looks similar to playing jump rope, except that the dancers perform the steps around and between the bamboo poles, and the dance becomes faster until someone makes a mistake and the next set of dancers takes a turn. It looked like fun and I really wanted to connect with my culture so my mother took me to the Filipino Community Club across town so I could join their youth group.

I walked in wearing my Izod polo shirt, jeans, and Birkenstocks. The other kids from this neighborhood were in baggies, MaryJanes and Chucks. All of girls wore lipstick and used hairspray and looked so much more feminine than me. They were polite to me when the supervisor walked me around to let them know I was going to join their dance classes. However, as soon as we were left alone, one of the girls stage whispered to her friend, “What IS she wearing? Hippie shoes, ugh, gross.” At that moment, I decided that I wouldn’t come back and I never told my mom why. It became really hard for me to make friends with other Pinay girls after that because I thought they would all reject me in that way. Thankfully I had awesome cousins who were like my best friends so I did get large doses of my culture that way. But unfortunately, I never learned about Filipino folk dancing until college.

Inclusion is fundamental to all human interaction. When you include people and treat them with respect, they feel engaged and trusted. People need to be welcoming and honest to build friendships. Leaders have to be vulnerable for employees feel trusted. When someone feels excluded, the brain reacts to it in the same way as when the body is kicked in the stomach. Do your best to behave inclusively in all of your relationships. And keep in mind that logic cannot be achieved if emotions are running high.

Lunar New Year 2015

Lunar New Year marks the one year anniversary of the DiversityNerd blog and I have about 50 posts on this site. Considering I committed to posting once a week, I didn’t do too badly in reaching that goal. The last two paragraphs of my first post read as follows, written about the Year of the Horse:


On New Year’s Day, look forward, not backward, as this is not a time to even talk about the past.  Keep positive thoughts in your mind about the future.  This year, give love.  Remember karma?  Well, the Horse can be impulsive, “act now and think later”.  Be sure to radiate positive energy so impulsive actions won’t bite you in the ass.  Don’t be a douche, be good to others, give more than you take and do it all with love.

If you’ve read this far, mahalo nui loa/salamat po (thank you very much) for hanging in with me, I really appreciate it.  There will always be a message about Diversity and Inclusion in this blog, as my career is truly a part of who I am.  In addition, I will continue to nerd out over important things like “Star Wars”, “The Walking Dead”, “Downton Abbey”, “Scandal”, “24” (can’t wait for the re-boot) and “Elementary”.  My daughter turns 16 this month and her high school experience an endless source of material to write about.  I’m waiting for the ink to dry on my divorce papers so a story or two about me dating is a definite possibility in 2014.  And, I stay active with fun things like paddling outrigger canoes, dancing hula, wogging half marathons and occasionally kicking and punching at the dojo.  On some days, this blog will be a mindless string of run-on thoughts and other days, I will say something profound and prolific.  The only thing I can promise is that it will be my truth, the truth of Jennifer “Jae” Pi’ilani, a DiversityNerd.

It is sort of crazy how much my life has changed in just one year. As the ink continued to dry on divorce papers, the spark of a new friendship with a man who lives 2,000 miles away ignited to a long distance romance which is now a stable, loving and committed relationship. I am not sorry about not having blog posts about Tinder swipes or bar hopping or booty shaking at the club as I re-entered the life of a single woman on the dating scene. When I least expected to find a friendship on fire, this man walked into my life back in 2013. What started with an innocent night of talking and laughing about nerdy stuff led to a new beginning for both of us. Since then, only two days have passed where we haven’t communicated in some form or fashion. I am more connected to him than anyone else I have ever date, including the man I married.

Work continues to undergo chaos and change as we work to transition all four HQ locations to Texas. People are leaving the company for new opportunities every day and that is a new experience for most of us. I feel a weight on my shoulders to help the company be successful in this move. I also feel a responsibility to ensure that the new work environment continues to live the values that we have all grown accustom to in our current affiliates but evolves to include new cultural priorities. Business as usual won’t cut it in the future.

My return to the dojo has filled my life with new goals around martial arts. I want to train and become the badass black belt that Sensei Richard always wanted me to be. Not because rank is important to me but because it proves that I have accomplished the first stage of obtaining knowledge to pass along to students. I want to teach new students, especially young people, that the basics are everything. We need a foundation of basics to build our self-esteem and to understand how discipline on the dojo floor creates an avenue for success in all aspects of one’s lives. And the dojo is more than a room to sweat in three times per week, a dojo is safe environment in which to learn and where you can make mistakes in the spirit of continuous improvement.

And I am so grateful that my daughter is happy and healthy and still loves school. We have a special relationship because it has just been the two of us for so long. I see her developing her independence and it makes me proud. But I also see her struggle with the usual teenager drama and I wince when I remember how hard it is to be in high school. All I can do is to try to give her space to be a kid and to make mistakes and to know that I will always have her back.

I looked up what we have to look forward to in the Year of the Wooden Sheep and found this at: http://www.2015chinesehoroscope.net/

“2015 is the year of the wooden sheep (or year of the wooden goat if you’re using other sources).

The Meaning Behind the Year of the Sheep

The Sheep is generally considered a very lucky animal by most Chinese, and this is because the Chinese character for Sheep, which is Yang, sounds very similar to the Chinese pronunciation for luck, which is Xiang. Because of this linguistic similarity, the Chinese horoscope associates Sheep with luck, which is why they consider them lucky animals.

Predictions for 2015

Because the fire cycle is coming to a close, 2015 is believed to conclude many trends that had existed in the past few years. Many of the processes which have unfolded in the past are also believed to be wrapping up, which means that political and economic situations throughout the world are more likely to end. The downside to this, however, is that new troubles may also arise to replace the old problems that are expected to pass away. So the best way to greet 2015 is to expect a lot of changes, both good and bad.

If you’ve had nothing but bad luck in the past few years then 2015 may just offer you the chance to turn your life around. On the other hand, if you’ve experienced nothing but good fortune in the past then you may want to reexamine your priorities and make certain preparations just in case the worse happens. Either way, it’s going to be an exciting year.”

So buckle up and get ready for an exciting year of change, as if that is news to me. I hope to launch my podcast this year, earn my brown belt and do the Catalina Crossing this year. Cheers to the Year of the Sheep!