Tag Archives: fitness

Mental Strength for Martial Artists

Mental strength for martial artists

and coping mechanisms

Poor Idris

this training video made me think a lot about strength and pain and mental health.

Repetition of exercises creates muscle memory. And being able to withstand pain absolutely make you stronger. And in some ways, it makes martial artists much dumber when it comes to taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally.

We strengthen our spirit but if we do so without balance, we sacrifice our emotional intelligence and health. And if we are under stress and have no coping mechanism, how do martial artists react? Do we yell? Do we drink? Do we over exercise? Do we cope in unhealthy ways?

My dojo mentor Sensei William Christopher Ford said very simply before we opened the doors of the new Togisala Shorin Ryu dojo, think longevity. And he was clear that as he approached 50, he needed to adjust his own physical health and training regimens. With all the change and stress in my life, I see I need to adjust my physical self care and my emotional health. One day at a time…

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:

“EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT:

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.

 

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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..

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Thoughts on Running from the DiversityNerd: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Part Three

The Bad

In my last post, I wrote about shoes and considering buying another pair for shorter runs.  This brings me to one of the “bad” things about running: shopping.  Any time one picks up a new hobby, interest, or workout, one needs the proper equipment.  At the bare minimum, this requires shopping and shopping is good and bad.  I hate running but I’ve grown to hate shopping even more these days.

I enjoy looking at new gear and the fitness industry has fantastic advertising and marketing to reach active women. But do I really need to have color coordinated socks to match every outfit I work out in?  Probably not.  And do I need to buy special laundry detergent to care for my sports bras, capris, and Drifit tops that is drastically different from what I use for my other delicates?  Not likely.  I grew up in the 80s and 90s when consumerism and designer everything was all the rage.  Buying the latest and greatest became a competition of sorts back then.  Labels were important and I was sucked into the whole shopaholic movement in my youth.

Today, I continue to try to downsize the “stuff” in my house and my life. I know there are work clothes that I don’t wear hanging my bedroom closet.  I definitely have dozens of shoes that I used to wear when I was clubbing three nights a week that just sit on shelves in my guestroom closet.  They rest in their clear plastic Container Store boxes, waiting for me to slip my feet into them and go shake my okole on some dancefloor.  I’m over 40 now and although dancing is still fun, the dudes in the club are now young enough to be my children.  I’m trying to shake off my Cougar status and do not need to pick up Pedophile status.

And who has time to shop these days? Not Pi’ilani.  I am on the road two weeks out of the month traveling to different time zones.  That time suck means I have to be very conscientious about budgeting my time and is the second “bad” thing about running.  My daughter, her life, and her school work come first.  I’ve put my physical health higher on the list since the announcement about my company moving to Texas hit.  If not, I would probably be super stressed out and fifteen pounds heavier.  Of course, I still need to manage the house:  cooking, laundry, cleaning.  Even with a housekeeper coming in twice a month, there is the usual maintenance that needs to happen at home.  Kanoe is a great help but there is always something to clean up in and around the house.  And my hobbies have suffered.  Being on the road means my days available for paddling were slashed this season and once I got injured, I was two months behind my teammates in terms of conditioning and practice.  Time suck.  Work travel usually falls from Tuesdays to Thursdays, which means I miss karate on Tuesdays, paddling and hula on Wednesdays and get home around 11:00pm on Thursdays.  Time suck.  Fridays I spend back in the office so on Friday nights I’m jetlagged and cranky.  I don’t even have time to shop on-line because I’m just tired.  So damn tired.

Maybe I don’t really hate running? Running while on the road is the easiest type of exercise for me.  Sometimes hotel gyms look more like closets so there isn’t really space to dance or do kata.  I try to make time to run at least once when I am on a business trip.  But I can’t carve out time to shop on the road.  When I do, I wind up with more Urban Decay make-up and not with practical things I actually need.

A third “bad” thing about running is the amount of water I use to do laundry and take showers. I have a separate laundry basket for my workout attire that needs to be thrown in the washer at least once a week.  That doesn’t even include the everyday clothing that my daughter and I use.  I feel like I am not helping with the conservation of water in California by keeping my gear clean.  However, I’ve run past people who have stinky running clothes on and I was just working out by a woman in the Machida Karate seminar whose gi was offensively stank.  So let me remind myself of that nasty fact every time I wash clothes from here on out.

The Ugly

The list of “uglies” that I experience from running is brief and hopefully easy for me to describe. First and foremost, I worry about my knees.  I grew up playing tennis, basketball, baseball/softball, and volleyball.  All of these sports demand explosive movements that put demands on one’s knees.  I remember talking to my college tennis and volleyball coaches about their knee surgeries to repair damage from wear tear usage.  When I transferred to UCLA, I added hula and then karate to my list of activities.  Both of these arts demand strong, low to the ground stances.  In hula kahiko, it was once believed that your energy comes from the Earth so you need to dance low to the ground to pull that mana into your movements.

As I began training for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge, I reminded myself to wear my patella/knee band for protection from injury. If I thought it would help to run with ti leaf in my sports bra, I would do that too.  I wore bands on each knee for any run over four miles and avoided injury over the last three months of training.  (Knock on wood).  The crazy thing is, my knee used to hurt more from paddling than it ever did from running, maybe I need to rock the patella band if I ever make it back to six-man training on the water.

The second “ugly” about running is me. The time suck means I have no time for manicures, pedicures, haircuts, or eyebrow waxing.  Usually it doesn’t matter that much since I’m not dating or going out dancing all the time anymore.  So the people who I spend time could care less if I have naked nails or caterpillar eyebrows.  But when I go to work conferences and reach out to network with people, I admit that I notice when people are well-coiffed and have nice, neat nails.  Thankfully I have all that Urban Decay make-up I buy during moments of on-line shopping weakness so my lipstick and eye make-up looks polished.  But my nails sure look ugly when they are just short and naked.  The least I should do is toss some clear coat or sheer pink on them before I travel to avoid the basic ugly hand syndrome I’ve been suffering from this year.

A third and final “ugly” is pain. I anticipated being in so much pain after running more than19.3 miles last weekend that I took Monday off and scheduled a massage for myself.  However, other than being sleepy, I felt great.  My body didn’t hurt much and even my feet were fine.  No blisters or lost toenails to speak of this time.  But there are stories out there of runners who have toenails that turn black and eventually fall off of their feet.  That sounds so ugly and painful to me.

Pain does hit me during the act of running, which is a valid reason for hating the act of running. Around mile five or after about 45 minutes, the tiniest bit of pain is exacerbated and exaggerated in my head. I think that happens because I get bored when I run and I hyper-focus my attention on the pain.  That is the mental challenge of running that I am still working on.  And of course, I figured out a way to injure my elbow while running.  How frickin’ creative of me, right?

Truth be told, my elbow injury was probably the result of paddling, running and learning how to use my sai all during the month of June. That is a lot of wear and tear to put on one joint in an old lady’s body.  My elbow developed swelling and pain that was not alleviated through weeks of the usual physical therapy with my sports medicine doctor.  The only way I found relief was through acupuncture and a damn cortisone shot.  I felt so much intense pain that I couldn’t go to work.  The injury occurred in my right arm and that just sucked.  But to not be able to take a trip to see my long distance boyfriend blew donkey nuts.  Missing out on that trip made me angry and it was a big “ugly” to experience.  I hate injuries.  Sitting still isn’t easy for me.  I needed to ice and rest my elbow but all I wanted to do was cry because it was so hard to take care of stuff while I was injured.  That is pretty ugly, too.

Despite the “bad” and “ugly” of running, I really enjoy the racing. RunDisney events are unique because they attract Disney fanatics who run, rather than running fanatics who are pushing for PRs.  And each RunDisney race has a theme so some competitors take as much time preparing their costumes as take in training to actually run.

I hadn’t submitted a half marathon time to the race coordinators so I was placed in the last corral with runner who had a 15 or 16 minute/mile pace. Since my goal for my race pace was 12:30/mile this race, I felt I would be able to break off from the back of the pack fairly easily.  But being with the folks who were really doing the race just for fun gave me a new appreciation for fitness and health.  Waiting for an hour in our corral before we were even close to the start line, I met a few people and chatted a bit.  One woman had just turned 50 and was doing her first half marathon.  We had fun talking about being moms and taking time out for our health now that our kids had grown up a bit.  Another woman, who was probably in her late 20s, signed up for the race with her husband.  He submitted his time and was in corral B and didn’t bother to come back to the last corral to start with his wifey.  (I raised my eyebrow at that comment.)  She laughed it off and said she would see him later.  They had travelled from the East Coast so 52 degrees didn’t feel particularly cold to her.  It felt nice to chat with people before the start of the race and it helped me to pass the time without growing more and more nervous.

Once we got to the start line, I put on my headphones, started my “Avengers” playlist, and started to jog to get out of the crowd It took me a half mile or so before I could actually hit full stride and run.  For my first mile, I went too fast, I was running at 10:40 min/mile.  I hadn’t trained for long distances at that pace so I slowed myself down.  It took me almost two miles before I felt warm enough to throw away my zip up hoodie that I wore to stay warm before the race.  Two miles later, I took off my long-sleeved dark green pseudo She Hulk skin and ran in my tank top.  The course only spent two miles inside the parks and the entertainment along the route was mostly high school cheerleaders and marching bands so it wasn’t much of a distraction.   At each water station, I grabbed a cup of both water and PowerAde to stay hydrated and said, “Thank you” to the race volunteers. I didn’t realize it until we made the seven mile turn towards Angels Stadium that I was running my pace very comfortably.  Maybe I don’t hate running after all?

Between mile seven and Angels Stadium, the course turned into a single lane dusty horse trail so it became impossible to run that section. And, there was a huge cosplay group that stationed themselves there, wearing full Avengers costumes so participants slowed down for photo ops and such, some signaled by raising their hand but not everyone respected that etiquette.  I saw a couple of runners stop short and I even ran smack into one woman.  She received my apology in the wind.  In addition to the cool cosplayers and high school band, there were homeless people’s tents along the course. I didn’t see the actual residents but it was obvious that people lived under the freeway.  It made me think about the amount of money that RunDisney demands of their participants and I felt a bit sick for the homeless people.  There just wasn’t way for me to frame fairness in this picture.  It made me sad as I ran onto the Angels Stadium parking lot.

The course took us into the stadium and we were able to run the infield, which made this former tomboy baseball player smile with delight. And outside of the stadium, on my left-hand side, there was a long line of servicemen and servicewomen waiting to cheer us on and offer us high fives.  They were both active and retired and most wore their full uniforms.  I felt grateful to them for their service and I thought my grandpa who was the bravest solider I know, a Bataan death march survivor as a Philippine Scout during WWII.  Grandpa Ben brought his family to the United States as an officer in the  U.S. Army to provide them a better life than they (we) would have had in his war-torn country.  That was a boost that I needed going into mile nine, I felt pride and love for my grandfather and other Veterans in my life.

On my right, there were WWII re-enactors and a swing dance group. I felt mixed about the WWII re-enactment group because they were all white. That statement doesn’t have any other deep meaning to me because it was just a thought that popped in and out of my head at that moment.

Heading back towards Disneyland, my legs felt good, my knees were strong and I didn’t have any fear that my asthma would slow me down going into miles 10 – 13. My self-talk was, “I feel strong.  One mile at a time.  Keep your pace because you’re the shit.”  My minute per mile pace slowed to between 12:30 to 12:50 for the last four miles, which was frustrating to me.  My race pace goal was 12:30 min/mile and I felt like that goal was slipping away from me.  Rather than letting that consume my thoughts, I kept running and thought about how good it would feel to cross the line and eat some food.  Even the puny snack box breadsticks and white cheddar cheese spread sounded like a gourmet meal to me at the time.  And it worked; I crossed the finish line with no pain and received both my fancy spinning Avengers Half Marathon medal and the Infinity Gauntlet finisher medal.  My GPS read:  13.64 miles, 2:48:25 minutes, 12:21 min/mile pace, 1,714 calories burned.  BOOM.  Cross that bucket list item off my list.  Adrenaline is my drug of choice.  I may hate running but I sure do love racing.

Thoughts on Running from the DiversityNerd, Part II “The Good”

First and foremost, in my opinion, the best thing about me running on a regular basis is being more fit. Mind you, my level of fitness as an adult has never been horrible because my hobbies are all very active.  I love dancing hula and paddling outriggers and both of those activities keep me in fairly good shape.  The team bonding over food and drinks doesn’t necessarily help me stay slim, but hula and paddling definitely keep me fit.  Running, especially on a regular training schedule, has actually changed the way my body looks and feels.  I have only lost about five pounds this year, in December 2014 the scale read 149 pounds.  Right now, I weigh 144 lbs. and the lowest the pounds dipped this summer was 141 lbs.  Logically, I realize that the scale should not be an indicator of health and fitness but I would love to be less than 140 lbs. again.  Losing weight through stress doesn’t stick so I am back at 144 lbs.  And I am not worrying about it.  Since I’ve cut back on sugar and alcohol, I don’t worry about what I am eating between now and the race.

From a fitness perspective, I enjoy feeling healthy and sleeping well. I have to attribute these two changes to running on a regular basis.  Karate leaves me exhausted but when we have class in the evenings, I have a very hard time unwinding from the adrenaline so falling asleep is not easy.  Thinking about training and preparing for a big challenge forced me to consider nutrition in a new way.  I cut back on my red wine and brown whiskey in mid-August and just lost a taste for both.  Not drinking also helps my sleep and alleviated the mindless munching that goes along with experiencing a buzzed state of existence.  Eating clean and not drinking has really impacted my fitness but I am still not a runner.  I run to prepare for a race, I don’t enjoy running.

And I have to be honest, it kills me to admit this but I like the way I look (not a very humble Asian thing to admit).  My body is lean and still very strong because of running and karate.  After my emergency surgery in 2001, I found myself on bed rest and couldn’t exercise for months.  During that time, I gained a lot of softness in my thighs.  That softness turned to thickness and fat.  From 2001 until now, I hated showing my thighs and stopped wearing shorts or skirts above the knee.  Body image issues consumed my thought.  The shame I felt at appearance of my thighs paralyzed me.  It was completely not healthy and I am sure it was quite unnecessary for me to hide myself in any way.  However, capris became my go to attire for paddling and hula gear.  Two weeks ago, I put on some shorts with my Toms wedges to run errands with the crew.  He told me, “I see all these people looking at you and then staring at your legs.  I mean staring at them.  You look really good.”  When I admitted that I felt embarrassed of my thighs, he couldn’t believe it.  We had a long, honest talk about it and I shared how unattractive I felt my thighs are.  It was good to finally say the words out loud and to hear feedback.  I still won’t be rocking the Daisy Duke butt-huggers during workouts but at least now I see myself a little differently.  Body-shame is a bitch.

One other good thing about running is being accountable to the training schedule. That accountability gives me an honest sense of accomplishment.  It never dawned on me how far I could run in just 30 minutes or how effective such a short workout feels, when done on a consistent basis.  Seeing the light at the end of the training tunnel and reading all the posts from other excited competitors on Facebook really keeps me motivated.  I did miss my 14 mile run on Sunday because life got out of hand with work, my daughter’s homecoming, and other stuff.  However, I walked/jogged/ran my miles on both Saturday and Sunday.  And I felt proud of myself.

Time alone on a run provides an opportunity to breathe and ponder and be the introvert that I am at my core. My day to day work life is filled with meetings and questions and problems to solve.  And my personal time is consumed, as well.  The good thing is, I love my life.  My daughter is continuing to work hard and I see her maturing every day.  Karate and hula surround me with so much love and people who are dedicated to learning and growing.  They are my ohana, if not by blood, then definitely by sweat.  But being alone is a luxury now.  And I need that time to rejuvenate myself.  Sometimes I create alone time by not smiling and being quiet and people freak the fuck out around me.  If I go off in my own world for a few minutes they ask if I am ok or what’s wrong or am I mad and I come back to look at them and say, “Huh?  I am fine.”  So goes the life of an introvert who is surrounded by so many extroverts.  I know I am blessed to have so many people who care and for that, I remain grateful.

Structure is important when life becomes frenetic. All of the craziness at work and the incredible amount of change takes a toll on my colleagues and on me.  This training program became an anchor or a constant in my ever-changing schedule in late summer and early Fall.  The time change occurred this past Sunday and now the evenings grow dark much earlier.  I am hopeful that preparation for my belt test in December will keep me motivated to run three times a week. In fact, I need to outline a schedule to follow between November 21 and December 6 to get me to my belt test and then find another program to get me to the Surf City Half Marathon on SuperBowl Sunday 2016.  After that, all bets are off for me running another race, since I am not a runner.

A third “good” that I associate with running is not about fitness or alone time or a sense of accomplishment. I have really enjoyed shopping for running clothes.  That may seem shallow and superficial but running does require special gear.  Sports bras that I wear for hula do not provide enough support to the tatas for running.  So then I had to research which styles and brands work best for my cup size and buy them and try them.  Lesson learned, spend the money to protect the tatas.  Gravity is not friendly to a forty something year old woman running four times a week, even with lower case C cup sized breasts.

Another critical piece of equipment is the shoes one wears. For the last three years, I wore Brooks Adrenaline running shoes.  This style is very stable for fake runners who need the extra support.  My most recent running analysis put me in neutral shoes with level five cushioning.  I moved from needing stability to being neutral, I wonder if that applies to more than just my feet?  These shoes feel like heaven for my runs over 5 miles and not I am thinking that I want to get a different pair for runs that are 4 miles or less.  Am I turning into an actual runner?  No way, that wouldn’t be good, would it?

Thoughts on Running from the DiversityNerd: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Part One

Let me open this blog posting with a simple statement: I HATE RUNNING. And follow it up with, I AM NOT A RUNNER. Back in elementary school, we had to do the annual Presidential Physical Fitness Award test.  The test consisted of a softball throw, the long jump, sit-ups, pull-ups for boys or a flexed armed hang for girls (this tomboy elected to knock out the pull-ups because I believed boys and girls should be equal and I was a much better athlete than most of the boys in my school), a timed shuttle run that tested speed and agility and the dreaded longer run.  I remember that as a timed run/walk where progress was measured based on how many orange cones we ran by over a set time period but how long was it?  Was it twelve minutes long?  Was it six minutes long?  My friends responded to my Facebook post and confirmed that they remember the run as only six minutes long. The same amount of time that a love song is remixed to become a dance hit, six minutes, that is all it was? The six-minute run was the bane of my 8 year old existence. Just the thought of having to run around in a circle made me anxious.

For all the other challenges, in the test, I had no problems. I killed the agility test, softball throw and long jump because of all the tennis, basketball and baseball I played. Sit-ups and pull-ups were a breeze because of gymnastics. But that damn run! I used my asthma as an excuse to try to get out of doing it. And my teachers calmly replied that if I didn’t complete it, I would no earn the coveted Presidential patch. Ugh. I did. I knew exactly how many cones I needed to pass and pass them I did. But I hate running.

 These less than fond memories came to mind as I realized how long it has been since I posted anything on this blog. My last post was on August 30, 2015, about nine weeks ago, what a shame. When I started blogging, I wanted to post something on a regular basis to write down whatever my nerdy brain was processing. It would be good for me to try to write again since currently, all I spend my time writing are communications on diversity and inclusion. Not the sexiest subject to tackle.

In addition, I’ve been following a training regimen for the last sixteen weeks called the “Infinity Gauntlet Challenge Training Program: with the goal being to finish a 10K on November 14 and a half marathon on November 15. That is 19.3 miles in one weekend. This program comes from the official runDisney training consultant,. Jeff Galloway. I’ve forgotten that my Saturday walks are supposed to be slow paced walks to leave energy to complete a long Sunday run. And, he recommends keeping our pace at least two minutes slower than our race pace. I can’t even follow a runDisney training program properly! No way am I a runner.

The training overview outlines a very straight forward program. Three weekly runs for the first seven weeks, then every even week afterward you add Saturday long walk (which I have been jogging/running) and a Sunday long run at a slow pace. Of course, I go to both karate and hula on Friday nights and karate on Sundays so free time is not a luxury I have anymore. My running ability is improving but I am still not a runner.


So these upcoming blog postings will be my thoughts on running from a person who hates running.  (I have completed two 5Ks, two 10Ks, and seven or eight half marathons and I am not a runner.)  My thoughts will outline the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of training for a runDisney challenge.  The discipline of staying committed to the program is teaching me a lot, so why not write it down?  More to come…