Way of the not quite so empty hand; letting go of fear to gain control.

Over the last few months I have been privileged enough to start on a journey into the world of Okinawan kobudo (Okinawan originated weapons training). After some initial karate training at Dojo dai San, Sensei dai San invited me to join the Saturday class which is dedicated to more advanced techniques, grappling and take downs and also kobudo. I really had no idea what to expect from the class, but, in hindsight, that really that wasn’t such a bad thing, since if I had actually thought about spending 80% of the class on the floor, (often having been thrown or wrestled down there by someone twice my weight), or swinging weapons around close to my head, I may not have taken him up on the offer!

According to my karate notebook, I first attended a kobudo class at the end of February. It was a baptism by fire and a large leap outside of my comfort zone. However, a leap taken with only a shred of apprehension which evaporated as soon as my mind was on task. Since that first class, I have been to at least 3 more.

We have been studying Nanchaku, which (for those not familiar with Bruce Lee or Michaelangelo of TMNT fame) are those 2 sticks connected by a short cord or chain. My first class was less than a week after I broke my toe. That in itself was inspiration enough for me not to drop them or let them slip from my hands in a hurry (in case I needed any)!

It didn’t, however, mean I didn’t hit myself with them at all. It was just that I was just pretty fearful of hitting myself in the head. I have been learning pretty quickly though, that being fearful is the worst thing you can do. When you are frightened, you tense up and when you tense up you restrict your movement. When you restrict your movement, you relinquish control of your weapon and when you relinquish control of your weapon, you end up letting your weapon control you. This is a bad, bad, plan since when your weapon is in charge it can hurt you!

Controlling something which essentially has a universal joint in the middle is really not as easy as our friend Mr Lee would have you believe. In fact, it is actually really pretty tricky. And when you kind of start to feel comfortable swinging it in one direction in one hand and then try to change it up or swap hands…..well. And then when you try and use it on the move, or try and follow a sequence where you have to remember all the steps……it becomes a whole new ball game! I don’t generally sweat a lot on the outside in kobudo classes but my brain is working overtime – I couldn’t be sure but I expect there is steam coming out of my ears!

Today though, I started to feel more comfortable (though not complacent) and more relaxed (though not less careful), and at last things started to fall into place. Like any new skill this is going to take lots of time and effort but it was good to feel myself inching forward a little. I am not Bruce Lee or Michaelangelo but I am starting to feel more in control and less fearful.

Today’s class also had cameo appearances by 2 Sai and a knife. Who knows what is next?…..There was talk of several weapons I hadn’t even heard of…..I have now learned to expect the unexpected…..keeps things fresh and exciting!

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Home made bliss balls

This is a recipe invented together with my 6 year old son who is a fan of raw desserts. He does “sharing” at school each week and told me that this week’s topic is “Junior Masterchef” and so they each have to bring in some food they made to share and discuss with the class. We made them together and of course his little sister “Me-too” (Ms 4) wanted to help so she got to do the rolling in coconut part. Mr 6 thanked everyone for their team work once we had finished (cute!).

Being at the school, nuts are out, sesame and other seeds are generally a no-no, and dairy and egg allergies are common so those are also best avoided. Gluten can also be a problem. Just as well most things mum makes are adaptable at least to accommodate all these guidelines.

Jonah said he wants to win so these have to be the best looking, tastiest things around but he also told me that he wanted them to be healthy and not full of sugar (Yay!!!).

This is what we came up with. He named them “home made bliss balls” and when I asked him why, he told me that some people buy them at the shops. (OK, not generally us though!).

INGREDIENTS:

(made about 60 small balls)

3.5 cups desiccated coconut (plus a little extra to coat the balls when they have been rolled)

0.5 cup buckwheat groats (toasted if you can be bothered….I didn’t bother)

1/3 cup dried dates soaked in boiling water to cover (while you start the rest of the recipe off should be enough)

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 heaped tablespoons cocoa

METHOD:

Put coconut and buckwheat into food processor and blend until sticky crumbs are formed.

Add all other ingredients and blend until a ball of smooth dough is formed.

Roll heaped teaspoons full of dough into balls (about 1.5 cm diameter) using your palms.

Roll balls in coconut and then put into a sealed container in the fridge or freezer.

They look very cute covered in coconut and not at all like ….. well you know how 6 year olds think…..which he was scared of. And they taste great! It is a shame that 50 of them will be going to school as I think we would enjoy them at home…..oh well I guess we can make more some time!

Chocolate, pecan and raisin bread

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This is my procrastibaking experiment du jour. I also baked bread for the kids…..actually the bread maker accidentally baked one double batch of dough for me while I was out looking at kitchen concept designs at the cabinet maker’s place (2 hours!!!!) as it reset itself. Oh well guess that will be a rustic toast loaf for them. They will be happy! The cake is to take for dessert on Friday. I am pretty confident it will be a success so I am posting it. I will put a picture up when I make it pretty for Friday. 🙂

INGREDIENTS

5 ripe bananas *

4 teaspoons linseed meal

1.5 cup almond pulp (from 1 cup soaked almonds made into almond milk)

1/3 cup almond or other non dairy milk

1/3 cup water

(or use 2/3 cup non dairy milk or fruit juice or just water)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoon rice malt syrup (optional) *

3 rounded teaspoons coconut sugar (optional) *

1/3 cup buckweat flour

1/3 cup besan (chickpea) flour

1/3 cup potato flour

4-6 tablespoons cocoa

2-3 teaspoons baking powder

handful of raisins

handful of pecans

* if your bananas are very ripe you may not need any other sweetener.

METHOD

Turn oven on to moderate (160-170 degrees C…..you may need it warmer if your oven is more functional than mine!)

Line a 20cm round or 2 small (30x10cm) loaf tins with baking paper.

Whip up bananas and linseed in food processor until light / frothy.

Add other ingredients except nuts and raisins and mix until thick smooth batter is achieved.

Briefly pulse in nuts and raisins.

Put in tin(s) and smooth top with spatula.

Bake about 20-30 mins or until skewer inserted comes out clean.

Lift out of tins and cool on a rack.

Enjoy warm or cold.

ICING (optional)

1/2 cup dates soaked in about 1/2 cup water

1/2 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon coconut butter (optional)

(Blend in mill or small chopper after pre soaking dates preferably)

Apply to top of cake or between 2 loaf cakes and on top.

OSU! Fighting an uphill battle – a day of feeling my age, of physical and cognitive fatigue and hitting the proverbial wall.

Today was and good day and today was not a good day.

I slept longer than usual, but got up feeling unusually un-refreshed, and kind of “old”. I had some niggling aches and pains bothering me and I felt a bit run down. I got ready to ride to karate training and had my usual battles to get Mr 6 out the door. My bike brakes have gone wonky and are still rubbing on my wheel; I can’t work out how to fix them. This makes hills difficult (especially when pushing Mr 6, and since we are potentially going to be late and I am not sure how many extra push ups I can do today, this is more of a problem than usual). My husband, who was meant to sort my bike out yesterday, evidently hasn’t….(I am to remind him to fix them….again….apparently). I don’t get angry. There is no time and it isn’t worth the effort.

We are not late, in fact we are earlier than Sensei (dai Ichi), and when he arrives and lets us in to the dojo, we get changed and ready. We start with circuit training (this time brought to us by the kata Geki Sai dai Ni), and I try my best, but because my brain feels kind of foggy, I can’t nut out some of the drills to the point that would allow me to do them fast enough to build up a sweat, (this is despite being familiar with the kata). This is frustrating but I endeavour to be patient with myself. I want to build up a sweat because I am pretty sure that will help me snap out of this micro-funk I seem to be in today.

The class moves on to some individual and partner based drills based on the kata Geki Sai dai Ichi  this time. It isn’t rocket science, but again, I struggle more than I should. At one point Sensei asks us to try to “think less” about it and be more free form. That makes it easier, but perhaps not enough. It’s really hard for me not to think at the best of times, and I still catch myself trying to plan what technique(s) I am going to throw next, because now they are out of the normally drilled sequence! At least the blocking side of the drill becomes more instinctive and flowing for me though, so that is a win.

We do some more partner drills (rotational pre-arranged sparring) and I get the hang of it on one side and then struggle with my “other” side; I am still clunky and slower than I should be, but, “patience”, I think again, and just keep plugging away (especially in the shadow position).

Following this we do jiyu kumite (free sparring). This is also rotational, which, in theory, should mean I get to go up against everyone. For some reason though, I don’t. I keep ending up with someone I intensely dislike sparring with; the proverbial bad penny. There are 7 of us including Sensei dai Ichi (who I don’t get to spar with today….possibly just as well as I suspect I will be swept off my feet given what we have been working on, and given what I observe happening to others when they’re sparring with him….I don’t feel like landing on my bum today…..I am just not in the mood). I think we do 6 rounds (and one observation round) and I have to fight said person 3 frigging times! Normally I enjoy sparring immensely, and one of the other rounds (when I get to spar with a visiting sensei), I really have fun and just make the most of it; I am not sure if this is because I feel safer and less reserved or that I am just happy to spar with anyone but the other person in question!

To expand on why I dislike sparring with this person could take a whole blog post but in a nut shell I don’t like it because:

(a) the person is easy to read, predictable and therefore there are few (overt) learning opportunities for me,

(b) the person relies on brute strength and does not try and pull their techniques, hence ends up hurting me most times,

(c) the person alternates between whinging that my techniques don’t hurt them and whinging that I need to pull it back.

(d) In short I don’t feel this person respects me (or my body), though I really do try to respect them.

End of rant.

After the 7 rounds Sensei takes a vote on what we would like to do next. I actually don’t mind (as long as I don’t have to spar with that person…..again!!). Kata wins.

I don’t have to spar with my “favourite” sparring partner, but we have to share the same end of the dojo to practise Geki Sai dai Ni while the others are practising Saifa. I want to practice Saifa too but evidently that isn’t what Sensei has in mind for me today…..”trust the process”, I think……”3 years one kata”, I think…..so I keep dutifully polishing. It’s not like I have been restricting myself to one kata much lately…..perhaps this is penance for cross training…. and cross grading (which hasn’t been so much as mentioned by Sensei dai Ichi, for whatever reason, since it actually eventuated) 🙂

Anyway, it turns out my “favourite” sparring partner is feeling a bit worse for wear by this stage, so it’s mostly me practising by myself, obviously after I have checked they are ok (and not about to keel over into the path of my oncoming Geki Sai = attack and smash). The person said they copped a punch in the nose (hardly surprising given where their guard isn’t; even got them in the nose a few times, but I just touched, and they assure me I am not the one responsible for the mild “concussion”). I also notice they are bleeding from a toe (and thanks to their kicks I now have my gi  in bleach….again). I feel sorry for the person and I feel a good deal of empathy for them, since I am also a bit injured and bruised, and also having a bit of a rough day. Once dealt with though, I regroup, refocus, put this to the side and move on with my “polishing”.

Sensei comes over after a bit to see if we have any questions (and I do because I haven’t been actively practising this version / style of the kata recently…..I need to).  One of the questions was about direction of stepping at the end of the kata. In the context of having this question answered, I get a bit of a history refresher on the development of the kata and the intentions behind it, which lights up a few bulbs in my brain about similar material covered recently and noted recently in other styles / dojo.  I also ask him to give me some pointers on my mawashi uke (circular block) which feel like they are “a bit dodgy” I say. He gives me some tips and after a bit of work on my part they are apparently “less dodgy” (not the word he uses but I will leave it at that), which I will take as “ok…. and “go and work on it, in the mirror….again….and again…..and again…..” I hear Sensei suggest my “favourite” sparring partner do weights training to build on their “strength” (ie their strength)…..(“Heaven forbid!”, I think, just a little too loudly….(ooops)…… “they should try and hit me any harder!!!”)…..I fleetingly wonder what aspect(s) I should be aiming to build on, but I am not enlightened, and I don’t ask…..today may not be the best day for me to hear the answer. 🙂

After some step by step bunkai  on Saifa (my “favourite” sparring partner is asked to be the uke so I do end up getting to do a really slow Saifa with the others, in the end, and get to refresh my memory), it is the end of class.

I have made it through by the skin of my attitude!

My husband has stopped past to say hello, and, unsuccessfully, tries to fix my bike. I ride home, up hill, pushing through soreness, brain drain, and the dodgy brakes and pushing the 6 year old and his bike and I am thankful that my husband at least took the bag in the car.

We get home, make and eat lunch. After lunch I go to the bedroom to get my phone. I sit on the bed…. I lie on the bed….. It’s comfy, and I am so cognitively and physically drained, that I switch off…. everything…., clear my mind, and just be. I know I had missed having our usual meditation (albeit short) at the end of class but my body, my whole being, obviously feels it too, so keenly, it just goes there! I emerge feeling, at least a little, renewed.

Today I learned that I really can do it if I decide to do it.Today I learned how to learn deeper lessons even from people within whom you see little potential for more superficial learning. Today I learned to be more humble, to suck it up and get on with it. Today I learned to respect the needs of my body.

Today was somewhat of an uphill battle (literally and figuratively). Today I nearly hit the wall but didn’t. Today was and good day and today was not a good day. It was not a good day because I didn’t feel my best but it was a good day because I tried my best despite this.

Today is nearly over. Tomorrow is another day.

Osu!

Spiced Pumpkin and Sultana Bread

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I will admit it: I am no good at sitting still doing nothing.

So on my Friday off work I have got the kids breakfasted and ready and taken them to school and kindy by bike, done a load of washing (at the old house since the washing machine still lives there currently), done the fruit and veg shop for the week, hung the washing and put away the shopping (at the new house), cooked a kilo of black beans, put a pot of soup on in the slow cooker, prepped some of the veg for the week, had lunch, picked up one kid from kindy, prepared her a snack and invented a cake…..and it is now 2:30 and nearly time to pick up the next kid.

So here is what I baked into the cake. It smells nice. I think it will be nice spread with nut butter or Jam or just plain!

INGREDIENTS

6 medium sized ripe bananas

3 cups cooked pumpkin (either roasted or boiled or tinned)

2 tablespoons rice malt syrup (optional)

9 teaspoons coconut palm sugar (optional)

4 rounded teaspoons flax meal

1.5 cups almond pulp (1 cup of soaked almonds made into almond milk will yield this or just used 1.5 cups almond meal)

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 cups buckwheat flour

1 cup besan (chickpea) flour

1/4 cup potato flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

3- 4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon cloves (ground) – I didn’t put this in but think it would be nice

1 cup sultanas (or raisins)

METHOD

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C or so (perhaps in your oven more like 175 – current oven is a dragon!!)

Line tins with baking paper (I use a 20cm round and a small 30 x 10cm loaf tin).

Whip bananas in food processor until frothy.

Add pumpkin, linseed, spices, baking powder, sugar / syrup (if using) and almond pulp and beat until smooth.

Put mix in large bowl and add in the flours mixing well

Fold in Sultanas

Put mix in tins and smooth tops with spatula

Bake about 30 minutes in a “normal” oven or if you have a dodgy one like I do bake it (checking frequently) until top is slightly cracked and a skewer inserted comes out clean and before the sides and or bottom have turned to charcoal.

Yes I am dreaming of a new oven…..just a bit! 🙂

Dealing with my toughest critic.

At the higher Kyu grading last week, one of the Senpai from Dojo dai Ni, who, like me, was there watching the proceedings, made the observation that, we (karate-ka) are very hard on ourselves. I couldn’t agree more. When our goal is perfection (and there isn’t anything wrong with aiming high), we are always going to fall short; that’s life – we are, after all, only human. What is important is to put things in perspective.

In Karate, as with pretty much everything I do, I want to do it properly (or at least aspire to doing it properly), or not at all. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and I really need to learn to be patient with myself when I am learning something new. I need to (and do) embrace the process of polishing things until they shine, and then keep polishing until they shine more (etc). Mr Miyagi and the “wax on wax off” idea, suddenly becomes even more poignant when you think about this concept, doesn’t it? I do this sort of polishing when I make music, so the concept is far from new to me.

Karate is (at least partly) about self defence. Sure, you need to learn how to not get beaten up physically and learn how to take a few knocks, and that’s why we drill blocks, tai sabaki (essentially getting out the way), bunkai (practical application of form exercises) and do conditioning exercises etc.  but an important (and perhaps overlooked) part of the process of “self defence” is defending yourself against  yourself! By this I am referring to defending against things like emotional onslaughts, internal self flagellations and over-thinking or ascribing intention to what other people say or don’t say to you.

I have the pleasure of learning Karate from 3 different instructors. They all have different teaching styles and different ways of inspiring the best in people. Some give overt feedback and some don’t. Some will show me how to make things more effective and others will show me why what I am doing isn’t effective (which in the long run gets the same results). Some give feedback when I succeed with things and some don’t. Some say seemingly inflammatory things which then just make me more determined to succeed. It is a fluid process though. I am an adaptive learner and I get the feeling they are adaptive in their teaching. I am not afraid to give respectful feedback and to communicate my learning needs.

Part of my development as a learner (with respect to receiving feedback), has had to be around the “no news can be good news” concept (ie No positive feedback or overt positive feedback at least does not necessarily mean no good). Part of my development has been around asking for clarification of positive feedback (ie if I did a “good job” which part(s) of it was / were working so I can “click on save”, so to speak.). By far, the biggest part of my development, though, (and, like the other parts, it is a continuum), has been dealing with my toughest critic; myself.

Advice to myself about defending against myself:

1. Always believe you are doing your best; chances are that is the truth.

2. Always believe your best is better than you think it is.

3. If you don’t know what to make of external feedback (or lack of it), respectfully ask for clarification; never guess.

4. If in doubt, practice and then practice some more; if nothing else it will calm and reassure you.

5. Relax, keep your eyes and ears open, but most importantly, keep your mind open.

Is it always easy for me to follow my rules? Um….NO! Am I going to let a little thing like that stop me? No way!

When I was little, my Grandmother always told me: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. My Grandmother was a wise woman and gave sage advice. As her spirit lives on in my memory and her name lives on in my little one’s name, her advice will always be carried around near my heart.

Banana Raisin Oat Celebration Cookies

INGREDIENTS

5 medium sized ripe bananas

2.5 cups desiccated coconut

3.5 cups rolled oats (divided)

3/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup hulled tahini

1/4 cup linseed meal.

METHOD

Set oven to about 170-180 degrees (My new oven is on the hot side so I err on the side of caution in a big way).

Put coconut into the food processor and blitz until it starts to get warm and stick together.

Add 2.5 cups of oats and the tahini and blitz to combine until you get a crumbly sticky dough.

Put dough aside in a bowl.

Put bananas and linseed meal in food processor and blitz until frothy.

Add raisins and pulse

Mix banana puree in with oat / coconut tahina mix

Add in other cup of oats and combine

Let sit for 5 minutes

Shape into cookies (made 43 about 4cm diameter).

Bake on baking paper on trays for about 10 mins turning once. If your oven is like mine you will need to watch them like a hawk.

Enjoy warm or cold.

Orange and raisin bread (Gluten Free).

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Today was a sunny Sunday; a happy day spent doing things I love and mostly spent with the family. At the end of the afternoon I felt refreshed and revived. I decided I had the emotional fortitude to tackle my “new” oven again (after previous disastrous attempts), and invent a cake. (Incidentally, Plans to renovate the kitchen and get new appliances are afoot but in their infancy!)

My husband came home on Friday from the fruit shop with a mountain of ripe bananas (of which I froze about half as that is what I could fit in the new freezer). We also still had a lot of oranges which I had bought the previous week, so right there was my inspiration.

I have been toying with the idea of combining almond meal and various gluten free flours (particularly buckwheat) in the same cake. I like almond meal based cakes but they can end up being heavy and fairly fragile. I also like buckwheat cakes as they hold together really well, but they can end up a bit rubbery and have a distinct buckwheat overtone (which I don’t mind but the family are not so hooked on).

I have found that gluten free, refined oil / refined sugar free vegan baking is more forgiving than baking using eggs, sugar and fat. I would have never had the confidence to just go and make a conventional cake without using a recipe at least as a basis, and I would never have even dared stray far from the recipe.

This cake I just did by guess work and looking at batter consistency, noting quantities as I went so I could put them down for anyone who wants to try it…..and in case I want to make it again, which, having had a slice, I do.

So the oven didn’t kill the cake (it had a reasonable amount of supervision from me) and my kitchen Goddess status lived to fight another day. Yay!

Ingredients:

5 bananas peeled and mashed / puréed

zest and juice of 5 oranges

2 teaspoons rice malt syrup or more to taste (optional)

3 C almond pulp (approx) ie results of 2 cups worth of almonds that have been used to make almond milk (or use equivalent almond meal)

2 cups buckwheat flour

1/3 cup besan (chickpea) flour

1/4 cup potato flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinamon

handful of raisins (or sultanas or currants or cranberries – what ever you like)

Method:

(I used my food processor but if you don’t have one you could do this by hand.)

Put banana in the food processor and puree (or just mash in a large bowl)

Mix in (or process in) almond pulp, flours, cinamon and baking powder (I didn’t bother to sift).

Add in rice malt syrup (if using), zest and juice and combine to a thickish batter.

Fold in raisins.

Bake in baking paper lined tins for about 30 minutes at 175-180 degrees (possibly not correct – I don’t trust my oven!) until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. I made this in a 20 cm round and a small loaf (about 10cm x 30cm) as I can’t fit 2 round ones on one shelf in the stupid oven and putting anything anywhere near the element guarantees it will be charcoal in about 2 seconds flat! It would probably make nice muffins if you feel like portioning that way. Just line the trays with patty pans and probably halve the cooking time.

If you want to jazz this up you could make a chocolate icing (like the one in my Jaffa freezer fudge brownies https://sagiashidachi.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/jaffa-freezer-fudge-brownies/ ) or a cashew cream cheese icing (google it – plenty of recipes) using orange juice and rind in it. You could make it pretty with extra orange rind or grated dark chocolate atop said icing. Personally I am happy to eat it as is.

My karate week – reflections

A lot has been going on for me this week. It’s all good, some moderately stressful but that’s life. Things will eventually get on an even keel around here. The important thing for me is trying to keep my nearest and dearest on an even keel and making sure stay on one too throughout the transitions.

Some of the positive stresses this week have unsurprisingly involved some different experiences in training. I have written about the 2 classes in grappling style techniques ( See here ) which I attended last weekend.

Midweek I attended the second Self defence seminar of the year at Dojo dai Ni which was a great reminder of what we learned last time with some further extensions. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered (especially since this is the important things – kind of like emergency karate kit to “carry” around in case the need to use it arises).

The other thing I discovered was more personal. When I wrote about being attacked in “Not just another one of the guys” ( https://sagiashidachi.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/not-just-another-one-of-the-guys/ ), I didn’t go into what actually happened. It isn’t because I don’t remember it though. In fact in one of my really early karate lessons at Dojo dai Ichi we talked about being held around the neck in a choke and what to do. I must have gone a funny shade (possibly matching my gi) because Sensei dai Ichi asked if I was ok / if I was comfortable with trying it before we practised with each other.

Truth be told, I was having a flash back. I don’t get them often and they aren’t really a problem….but that was what was happening. You see, when I was attacked, I was grabbed from behind around my neck. The attacker (as I mentioned in the other post) was a nut case; he threatened to stab me (I don’t think he actually had any weapons, although it wasn’t top of my priorities to find out for certain) but his only intention, (I am certain in hindsight), was to exert power over me / scare me.

Anyway, part of training karate for me has been to step outside my comfort zone, so in that lesson, I tried out the choke / getting out of it, with my training partner, and yes, it was still a bit “challenging” for me, but I was ok. I was then still at the stage, after nearly 20 years post attack,  of being a bit freaked out about anyone (even my husband) touching me on my neck.

So fast forwarding now to the Self Defence Seminar on Wednesday. After we had gone through basic defence drills (I like to remember it this way: “stop right there, hello, look at the lovely ceiling, I will take your hand, have a seat, try out my hand as a necklace and feel my knee caress your side”……I wish I took a video of us practising this so I could post it), talked about defensive postures and “da fence” (see Christopher Thompson’s “fence concept” via google as I think the idea may originally have been his) and talked about scenarios and de-escalation tactics, we talked in gender groups about other scenarios we would like to discuss. The 3 the women wanted to know about were – 1. escape from bear hug, 2. escape from a choke (+/- up against a wall) and 3. escape from being pinned on the ground. Guess who got to be the test dummy for scenario 1 and 2? (Hint it wasn’t one of the 3 uni students who had come for the seminar). (Incidentally we deal with number 3 separately – I went to that class last year…..compulsory to shower before that one!!).

So there I was, up against a wall, in a choke put on by Sensei dai Ni (first a muscle choke – which is what someone who doesn’t know what they are doing is more likely to do, and then in a blood choke). Granted I was expecting it and I knew I could tap out if I needed to (did with the blood choke as it isn’t comfortable and I do need a blood supply to my brain!) but it was only later when I was talking about it too my husband and telling him what we learned that I actually realised, I had been totally fine with it and not freaked out at all. Same with the bear hug. What’s more I remembered what to do.

Thursday night was grading at Dojo dai San. I have been graded twice at Dojo dai Ichi but this was the first time at Dojo dai San. I had read the syllabus and prepared as best as I could but there are some things you can’t prepare yourself for when you haven’t graded in that Dojo before. Mostly for me this was to do with etiquette differences and style differences, (for instance: I don’t know how I never noticed that in Dojo dai San they step right foot back to get into left foot forward Zenkutso dachi whereas I am pretty certain in the other 2 Dojo we step left foot forward), but there were also times when I just felt plain awkward following instructions for kihon in a particular stance only to discover that we were to take the initiative to move out of the stance to perform the techniques…..oh well – live and learn. There was one little girl taking her first grading like me but in 7th kyu. I was taking 6th but was asked to do the same techniques alongside her so that she didn’t feel on her own. She was really nervous to the point of crying and I felt for her. I think I coped (I think it was more of an emotional challenge) and it was a good way to stay warmed up. It did mean though I ended up doing 5 kata in total for one grading 🙂 – well there is one way to conquer kata-phobia! When all was said and done though, I passed and felt proud that I had managed to grade in another style, hopefully without corrupting my first style too much (though perhaps Sensei dai Ichi may not agree 😉 ).

Today, 2 of my training buddies, one from Dojo dai Ni and one from Dojo dai San, were participating in Senior Kyu grading and so I went along to watch. It was actually a great learning experience for me even though my primary reason for going was to cheer them on. My friends both did really well and achieved 1st Kyu and 3rd Kyu respectively. The other exciting thing that happened is that the Network welcomed another Dojo. Apparently this Dojo  have a lot of high ranking women (including the Shihan who was on the grading panel) so I will have some new role models in future it seems. Plus I will now have more of an excuse to check out their classes one day.

Jaffa freezer fudge brownies

Jaffa freezer fudge brownies and new improved lime and poppyseed cake.

Still addicted to hooked on Jaffa I decided to try another experiment on the theme.

INGREDIENTS

4 cups desiccated coconut

(Alternative: 3.5 cups coconut and 0.5 cup buckwheat groats – which is what I did as I had run out of coconut as I was making a double batch!! or you could use 1/3 cup buckwheat flour which is effectively what it became when I put it in the mill)

36 dried pitted dates – about 1.5 cups (12 for icing and rest for the brownie)

zest of 3 oranges (1 for the icing and 2 for the brownie)

juice of 3 oranges (about 1 for the icing and 2 for the brownie)

1/2 cup plus 2 heaped tablespoons cocoa

1 tsp coconut butter

1/2 cup water (as needed to get the brownie to doughy consistency)

METHOD

1. Put the dates, zest and juice in a bowl to soak (overnight will get you a smoother consistency but will require you to plan ahead…..I soaked mine for about 3 hours but they could have done with a bit longer I think).

2. Put the buckwheat in the mill or food processor and mill to course flour or just use buckwheat flour, and then add to food processor if using mill; if using all coconut skip this step.

3. Put the desiccated coconut in the food processor and blitz until starting to turn to butter (ie getting warm and softer).

4. Add in 1/2 cup cocoa,  1 cup (24) dates and about 2/3 of juice and zest.

5. Blitz until the mix forms a ball and is of a sticky dough consistency (you may need to add a little of the water to achieve this).

6. Press mix into a slice tin lined with baking paper.

7. To make the icing combine the rest of the ingredients in the mill or food processor (ie 12 or 1/2 cup dates, rest of the zest and juice, 2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa and 1 tsp coconut butter) and blitz until smooth glossy thick icing mix is formed – like a thick ganache.

8. Spread icing over brownie, smoothing with spatula, cover with cling film if you have or use baking paper if, like me you prefer not to use it.

9. Put in the freezer overnight.

10. Take out and slice into small squares (should make about 32 or more).

NOTE – I doubled this recipe…..You need to do it in batches and need the brownie mix as double is too much even for my food processor.

Serving tip – this would look great jazzed up with grated orange rind and grated chocolate.