Coming of age.

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This Thursday is the 9th of March. It marks the third anniversary of my first entering a dojo, and my entry into the world of karate.

Things are a lot different for me now, it’s true, I have a different instructor, a different style, an abundance of kata (and a love of kata rather than a fear of it), but, there is one one thing hasn’t changed, and that is the absolute completeness I feel when I am doing karate or thinking about it. That instant attraction I felt for karate in those first few classes has not faded, as some others told me would happen with the passing of years. Who knows what the future holds for me but if I am honest the attraction continues to grow rather than diminish as the months pass.

I was chatting with my Senpai today, about how it feels like longer than 3 years….that maybe my karate years are like dog years! This is due to the many opportunities I have been given, which have afforded me the opportunity to accelerate my learning, the passion and patience of my primary and other network instructors, and the camaraderie of the people I train with.

I remember when I decided to try out the club which has become my home away from home (a long way from home it feels like sometimes, but honestly, I have a smile on my face the whole way to and from because I am so happy to travel the distance for something I love). I did my research and looked at the webpage / blog / facebook presence. One of the things I recall seeing (and it is still there) was: (“start training today and….) “Start Living”. I thought it was a bit over the top at the time to say that, but honestly it has become my reality and it is not a stretch at all to make that claim.

So…..Happy third (re)birthday to me! I say rebirth because really Karate has changed who I am, how I define myself, my whole perspective on life, and I have really started living.

Second Blogoversary: A Song without (many) words

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It occurred to me on the anniversary of my broken toe (and a “skelegrow” reference in a past status on Facebook 😛 ), that it’s been 2 years since I started this blog. Happy blogoversary to me…..I am now a toddler blogger.

I haven’t been writing that much lately. It’s partly a function of being busy as ever but it’s more than just that. There is plenty I want to talk about and say but things are getting so busy and complicated in my head sometimes that it’s hard to share things in a concise way.

I came across Plato’s quote (above) a few weeks ago on a chalk board of a cafe somewhere on my way across town. It really resonates with me because it sums up how I have been feeling in my 40s. I don’t see the meaning of “lover” in romantic sense but more of finding your groove so to speak.

Anyway….I think I will celebrate with a poem of my own. Perhaps one day it will be a song too. I really should start composing again sooner or later.

A song without (many) words.

Rachel Sag (24/2/17)

The more I learn, the more I grow,

The more I think, the less I know.

The more I see, the more I do,

The more I find the person who,

I knew was there, but didn’t know,

Or dream how far I’d have to go.

The more I seek, the more find,

The person I have left behind.

A somebody so unaware;

A someone who was barely there.

A ghostly shadow; Can you see

The shell of someone who once was me?

I recognise but don’t repent,

The hours and minutes as misspent.

The journey traversed over time,

Brought her to me and onto mine.

I now lead on with steady stride,

‘Til I can join and walk beside,

The person who will look at me,

And wonder who she used to be.

Protein Neatballs

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I have been tweaking my diet to try and get more protein or at least make sure I am eating enough protein….since everyone has a burning desire to know how you get enough protein without eating meat. Keep calm because PLANTS HAVE PROTEIN.

I have been measuring macros lately to see just how much protein there is in plants and I can happily report back that there is plenty.

Here is my brand new neatball recipe. We just ate it and it was a big hit with the small people. #winning

INGREDIENTS:

(makes 40 balls about 2cm diameter – 10 serves – extra serves can be frozen for another meal or will last about 7 days in the fridge)

Balls:

  • 150 grams walnuts
  • 50 grams dried cranberries (unsweetened)
  • 1 tin 4 bean mix (with the liquid)
  • 200 grams oats (I used porridge oats but rolled is fine)
  • 30 grams kale (including small stems)
  • 60 grams parsley (including small stems)
  • 30 grams tomato sauce (no added sugar / salt)
  • 30 grams torula yeast
  • 1 Massel “beef” stock cube crumbled (or about 2 tsp powder)
  • 60 grams pea protein powder (I used Coles – if you use a SPI or PPI it will be even higher in protein)

Tomato sauce: (enough for 4 people)

  • 900 grams fresh tomatoes
  • fresh herbs (I used basil and oregano)

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 180-200 degrees Celsius.
  • To make balls, put all ingredients in food processor and blend until it forms a sticky dough.
  • Form into balls about 2cm diameter.
  • Place on tray lined with baking paper.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes / turn over and bake for another 10.
  • While the balls are baking, process tomatoes and place in a fry pan with the herbs (chopped or whole) and fry off to reduce liquid. You can add garlic if you like. I didn’t have any left so I didn’t.

SERVING SUGGESTION

I served mine over zoodles (julienned raw zucchini) and everyone else had over gluten free spaghetti. You could also serve with mash potato or polenta.

NUTRITION

(per 4 balls served with 1/4 of the tomato sauce recipe and 200 grams Zucchini noodles)

  • Calories: 329
  • Fat: 13 grams
  • Fibre: 9.9 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 38.9 grams
  • Sodium: 266.8 grams
  • Protein: 21 grams (see: magic….no meat, and yet, protein….OMG!!!)

Footnote: I just did a quick search for normal meatballs and macros and found macro organic meatballs – 5 balls (no sauce or noodles) If you check it out the protein is 20 grams (per 5 balls). True the sauce and zoodles have some protein (7.5g total….mostly from zucchini) but if you add 5 balls to normal pasta and sauce the macros will be similar or less and the carbs / calories will probably be more. Feel free to report back on the maths. 🙂

Back to Basics – teaching is the new learning.

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It’s been a few months since I was awarded the title of Senpai. Being a Senpai means being a positive role model. It means welcoming new students, showing them how things work, and making them feel comfortable. It also marks the real starting point of teaching others what you have learned.

In most styles a certain number of teaching hours are seen as part of the requirements for shodan. Personally, I think this is very fair. Even if you have no aspirations of being a martial arts instructor, or opening your own dojo, it’s important to know how to run a basic class, in the event that your instructor is delayed or ill (etc) and can’t make it. Also you owe it to your instructor and fellow students to help out…and besides, if you can’t teach a skill, if you can’t pass things on, how well do you really know it?

Practically speaking, teaching is something that everyone handles differently. I have observed and experienced this from both sides of the equation. Teaching requires technical skill, relevant experience, self reflection, patience, and the ability to demonstrate, explain, observe and correct. It is also extremely beneficial if you can motivate and inspire, show compassion, empathy and understanding.

Teaching is generally a learned (or, at the very least, acquired) skill, and although the general principles remain the same for anything you want to teach, learning to teach Karate, has so far been a steady learning curve for me. Fortunately, I have been eased in to the teaching role. This is possibly because I am not the head student, nor a shodan, but it has given me time to get used to the whole concept, which frankly I initially found kind of daunting.

Currently in my training, I have reached the point where I have been shown most of the technical skills (basics) in our style. This does not mean that I have lost interest in basics by any stretch of the imagination. What it does mean for me is that I can concentrate my own practice on the finer details, the refinement, the effectiveness, the breathing and the minutiae of small things that I (unwittingly) overlooked due to necessarily giving priority to gross motor function, coordination, (and yes, knowing which hand I was meant to be using), when I was first leaning how to block and punch. I often can feel or see for myself what I need to work on, so practicing outside of class time has become easier.

Obviously I am still learning myself, and it’s much easier for me to have senior students and instructors, who observe  my practice, give me pointers on what to fix and how to fix it, and make me aware of areas I hadn’t noticed were a problem or had known were a problem but couldn’t fill in the gap. This leads me to the second point. With a degree of automation now at my disposal with respect to performing basic techniques, I can also focus on what is being said when I am corrected, or when others are corrected, and start observing things that others are doing that could be improved, and start to remember what helped me improve those things.

So, far from the automation letting me “switch off”, it has allowed me to engage my brain in a different way. I tend to observe more, talk and write less (hence the blog has been quiet-  sorry if you wondered what I was up to). I have noticed is that even my journal entries for general classes are far more perfunctory with respect to what we have covered in class. I no longer need to write down each and every stretch or warm up etc, because I am familiar with the basic routines (and even lead them sometimes). I do include more detail on what was helpful in learning, or correcting, or teaching a particular technique, whether this teaching was given to me, or by me. I guess I am doing two kinds of learning at once now, one is for my own personal betterment as a karate-ka and one is for being able to pass on what I have learned. I am quietly putting aside an arsenal of strategies and actively preparing myself for the event when I will have to do more teaching.

Mostly my teaching responsibility has been in the form of leading stretching and or warm ups at the start of class, helping demonstrate techniques, and helping kohai individually or in small groups with basic drills and kata. Lately we have had a new student, and I have really enjoyed the experience of working with someone, who, like me, has started from scratch, as an adult. I can relate to how she feels as she struggles through the basics, and can be inwardly, and openly, and most of all, HONESTLY empathetic. I really hope the new student stays on, because seeing people grow and learn and improve, is the most rewarding part of teaching anything.

Pesto

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Our garden, and next door’s garden (which we are looking after), both have an abundance of basil at present. Basil is my favourite herb and basil pesto is my favourite sauce / spread / condiment. Traditionally (or at least commercially and the way I first learned to make it) pesto contains basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese (and pepper). This is a vegan and garlic free take on the recipe but you could easily substitute the salt and nutritional yeast for grated Parmesan and you could add garlic to your hearts desire. This recipe will last a while in the fridge (though it doesn’t last long enough here to test out how long), and also freezes well (for several months). It is excellent as a pizza base sauce, on pasta or zucchini noodles as well as a spread.

I made some pesto last week garlic free due to a friend’s intolerance and found that I actually preferred it this way. I brought the left overs to a family dinner and it was well received….so well that the recipe was requested…..uh oh….I had not written it down as I hastily made it last time….so writing this has involved making another batch so I could get the “exact” quantities down as I went……It’s going to be so hard getting through the results of that adventure (not 🙂 ).

RECIPE (yields about 2 cups)

  • 4 cups tightly packed basil (just the leaves and flowers – discard tough stems)
  • 1 cup toasted pine nuts (I just toast mine by microwaving for a minute or 2)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • juice of 1 lemon (or about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice – to taste)
  • salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • course ground black pepper (optional / to taste – about 1 teaspoon)
  • 60 millilitres extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

  • Put basil in food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
  • Add nutritional yeast,  and blitz until incorporated.
  • Add pine nuts and blitz to a paste.
  • Add pepper / salt, and lemon juice, and blitz until paste is smooth.
  • With motor running on food processor, pour in the olive oil until homogenised into mix.
  • Scrape into jar (if storing in fridge or using soon), or into small plastic containers / ice cube trays (if freezing).

Looking back and looking forward. (A year in review.)

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Just a little bit excited about our trip to Tokyo (and Japan)!

It’s nearly time to wrap up 2016 and start a brand new year. Joelle over at A beginner’s Journey has reminded me I ought to be doing a year in review post…..because that’s what you do.

Although, as social media feeds keep reminding me, 2016 has been a year of losses (even in the last week), 2016 has been a pretty good year for me personally. A lot of the people who died were from the world of music and arts. One of that number hit much harder than the others, and was way more confronting, because they were a friend and musical colleague of mine, and they were of my generation and it was way too soon for them to leave. In perspective, I see it as a reminder that (1) we don’t live forever and that is part of the beauty of life, and (2) we should make damn sure we do and say everything we need to today and not wait for tomorrow, just in case….

To be honest I don’t know where the year went. Life has been crazy busy. I have had lots of music commitments, I have continued to work in an ever changing and challenging (often to the point of being frustrating) environment, I have been helping my kids learn various life skills, I have been experimenting in the kitchen, and I have been holiday planning and travelling. In addition to being a musician, a professional, a mum and a wife, I have been training (Karate) fairly intensively this year. So I guess the old adage “Time flies when you are having fun.” is probably a reasonable explanation to why this year has felt so short (when actually it had a whole 24 extra hours!!).

MUSIC

Musically speaking, I have been involved in several performances (both choral / vocal and instrumental) with Lumina and Lyrebyrd and also done some singing and playing just for fun. I have not had time to write anything new but I had one of my works performed again in the fringe and to top it off it was voted by the audience poll as the most popular piece in the concert, (which was an absolute honour, especially considering the programme included some absolute gems).

WORK

I am not at liberty to say much about work but despite its frustrations (mostly related to IT issues), I am grateful for my job and my colleagues and continue to be challenged by my clients (in a more positive way than I am challenged by the IT issues!!). And besides working pays for extras like presents and karate lessons!

PARENTHOOD / FAMILY

I have said it before and it bears repeating: Being a mum (or a dad) never really gets easier; it just gets different. I am a fairly practical mum. I feed my kids, I try to teach them right from wrong, I cuddle them, I read them stories, I give them band-aids (if there is blood), I cough up money for teeth, I make their birthday cakes. I help them learn about the world through experiences, by spending time with them, and leading by example. I try not to shelter them and I am honest when they ask questions (even where others may perpetuate a myth).

I am probably not ever going to be one of those mums who sacrifices everything for my kids. If I was, I don’t think they would ever learn that I am important too, that I should (and do) respect myself, and that I deserve respect. If they don’t learn that, I don’t think they will learn to be independent, or confident, or respect themselves. I love my kids to the moon and back, even though I have moments where I would like to send  them to the moon and ask them not to come back for a while.

The more my kids grow up the more their personalities and preferences, strengths and talents shine through, and the more I realise that despite the fact that they have, by and large, been parented in the same way, they are so different from each other.

My big boy is a very academic and almost pedantic individual, who likes to think, at least when it comes to things like information and concepts. He doesn’t think a lot about feelings (other than his own at times). He struggles to control his moods, and he struggles with the world not being all about him, which has found him in all sorts of strife, particularly at school. He is all about pushing boundaries, and saying no, and he is very stubborn, (like his mum), but hasn’t yet learned to channel that stubbornness into drive.

My baby girl is the more empathetic and caring of my kids. She is artistic, musical and often socially adept beyond her years. She can also be stubborn but generally she uses this rather better than her big brother. She is competitive. If her brother has it, she wants it, especially if it is a skill. She just decides what she’s going to do and practises determinedly until she gets it. This was particularly noticeable when she wanted to swim, and when she wanted to ride a bike. I think at least some of this tenacity and confidence has come about through training Karate, which she really enjoys. She struggles with so many things at school, and because her big brother is (and was at the same age) so far ahead of his peers in things like writing, maths, and spelling, it’s hard to accept (for her and sometimes for us), that she’s normal and not really too far behind behind. I think she has now decided it’s really time she could read properly (and I am all for it) so she’s been struggling her way one letter at a time through books with me.

FOOD AND COOKING

My adventures in the kitchen have been more about making good food in large batches quickly (at least in terms of preparation time) than about making lots of fancy things that take forever to make and 5 seconds to eat (or having the small fry take a look and refuse). I would love more time in the kitchen (and the last 2 days I have had the luxury). Usually though, with work and training and all the other stuff, having meals planned and ready to go in 5 minutes is essential. That said, I have been enjoying some more relaxed meal preparation and catering over the Christmas and New year break while we are all home and unhurried. I have made some old favourites and tried some new ideas. I even made vegan Bailey’s tonight for me and my husband, after he suggested it as a way to use the vast and static collection of whiskey that has now moved house with us about 5 times without much disturbance! (It was delicious and way too easy!)

Another thing I have been playing with is the lowest common denominator approach to cooking. I have several friends with food allergies / sensitivities and other dietary preferences. I have enjoyed the opportunity to prepare fodmap friendly, gluten free, nut free, (insert any other requirement) vegan food, insomuch as it presents as a problem solving activity and an art of deception. I made a lovely pesto yesterday which had to be gluten free (ok), vegan (ok), and garlic / onion free…..difficult but succeeded….and it was made primarily from homegrown ingredients picked fresh from the garden!

Apart from these aspects….the other thing I have been trying to  do is make  use of food / by-products and minimise waste. Of course technically we don’t waste any kitchen scraps since we compost them (or at the moment feed them to the chickens next door), but if there is more I can squeeze out of something before it goes that direction, I will. I have even tried to make my own cleaning and “beauty” products, using things like orange peel, coffee grounds and other things one normally just throws away. I have learned how to take advantage of aquafaba (the liquid left after boiling pulses – eg in the tin or the pot), made my own apple cider vinegar and orange vinegar, invented lots of ways of using up almond pulp from almond milk making and am currently in the midst of inventing new ways to hide use zucchini in recipes, as the garden is going nuts.

TRAVEL

Planning a holiday overseas with 2 kids was fun but difficult. When you are a couple, you hop on a plane and play things by ear when you get there. You can’t really do that with kids. Although I didn’t plan our Japan trip down to the last second, all accommodation and internal transport arrangements were confirmed and booked (mostly independently) before we left. This involved lots of late nights because the kids like to interrupt or suggest the same thing a zillion times while you are trying to arrange things. On the plus side, travelling with a mobile router made life easier and allowed us to be somewhat flexible with the itinerary within an area. Overall the holiday was a success and my only complaint is that we didn’t have enough time. There will be a next time though. I am determined.

KARATE

I have written over 1000 words and only mentioned Karate in passing…..OMG….how did that even happen? This year has been a pretty big year for me. I have learned so much, and gained so much. Sure there have been the observable gains in skill acquisition, but the internal changes and the things I have learned about myself and what I can achieve, were the bigger gains as far as I am concerned.

At the end of last year, my instructor helped me to “step up” my training. To be honest I was pretty perplexed about what “stepping up” would look like since I was already training more days in the week than I wasn’t, but, I went along for the ride, because I love Karate, and to be honest, when it comes to Karate I trust his judgement of what I am capable of (even if that occasionally initially surpasses what I think I am capable of)!

The year has been punctuated by various events of significance and interest, some of which I have written about in other posts throughout 2016. (You can catch up here on Karate posts.) The year was punctuated by several network and wider MA community events, which I had the privilege of participating in, including open and invite only workshops, a tournament, the annual gasshuku in Queensland, and my first 2 network panel gradings. Whilst all of these were enjoyable, informative, and fantastic learning experiences, I would have to say that my happiest times were at regular classes in my home dojo, just learning, learning to teach, and helping others learn.

Training has been full on, and I figured out by the middle of the year (if not before) what “stepping up” involved. By half way through the year it became evident that the plan was for me to do a double grading in November. This initially freaked me out somewhat if I am honest. I knew I would “get” all the kata and the physical requirements in time, but I wasn’t sure I could “be” a second kyu, especially not without having dipped my feet into the muddy (ie brown) waters at 3rd kyu for a good six months. It also meant going things alone for sections of the grading (since the rest of my “team” of purples were grading to 3rd kyu). November came and I was prepared. It’s been 6 weeks or so since I passed 2nd kyu and was awarded a Senpai title. With all my other belts, it took little or no time to get used to the new rank. My brown belt with it’s 2 black stripes, not to mention being referred to in social media and email and text and especially in person as “Senpai” has taken until about the last week or two to feel real and intermittently “comfortable”. At least I actually respond to Senpai now.

In terms of the more personal achievements, the stuff that is perhaps harder to see on the outside, I have been able to move on from some of the mental barriers and stereotypes that had been holding back my mind, and grow in confidence. I have had some support in this process, and there were times where it wasn’t easy, but time and reflection have helped a great deal. In a nutshell it has mostly been about extending and melding my personal attitudes into Karate and vice versa. Given that Karate is really a part of me, this has been a natural progression to some extent, but the “growing up” has been made easier by my “big brothers and sisters” having been there before.

After the excitement of our November grading, which saw us undergo a big colour change and my Senpai and 2 other Senpai at the sister dojo I train with, achieve their shodan, I had a great time helping plan and arrange our dojo end of year Celebration. I felt it was particularly important to arrange something to Celebrate our achievements as a club this year, because, as you can see, it has been big and exciting year, and not just for me personally. That said, at the dinner, I received the inaugural MIK (Most Improved Karateka) Award. I know I have improved but it’s hard to see yourself the way others see you. It was a proud moment for me (if not a surprising one), but not as proud as the moments I have had seeing others in the dojo achieve things they never thought possible.

THE END OR THE BEGINNING OR BOTH

So this is the end of looking back, or is it? Whilst we probably shouldn’t dwell on the past, I am sure that I will look back on this in future, as a reference point at the very least. Looking backwards doesn’t necessarily mean going backwards. Looking backwards can be a stepping stone to looking forwards.

2016 has been a blast. I don’t want to forget it, but I am really looking forward to 2017. I don’t really do resolutions anymore, they are too rigid. My aim in karate and in life remains open ended: To be better today than I was yesterday, and better tomorrow than I am today. With hard work and dedication, this is achievable. I’m up for that.

Left to right:

Top: Dragon fly in Kyoto, Temple Gates (Tori) Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Middle: Me and Kyoshi after 2nd Kyu / Senpai Award, medals from the 2016 TJKN National Championships, Me and Mini Me at the Championships.

Bottom: Mini Me and her flag sparring medal from the kids tournament at Gasshuku, Selfie at the summit of Mt Misen, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Tofu selection at the supermarket, Kyoto (I think).

 

 

Name change, game change, blue skies, and new pies.

A lot has been happening at our dojo in the last couple of months. There have been lots of changes, all positive. Everyone has been heads down, tails up, busy, working really hard, and as a result there has been much success and cause for celebration.

A couple of weeks ago, and off the back of 2 weeks of in house training and grading (for higher kyu and juniors), we had our 2nd and final panel grading for the year. This was a particularly exciting event, since my Senpai and 2 other Senpai from the other club where I train regularly, were graded to Shodan (black belt). Alongside them were a team of purple belts (myself included) going for brown belt. It was a pretty intense morning / afternoon (which took about 4 hours) and it was lovely to share some more relaxed / social time afterwards with everyone when most of us (including the rest of the club who had come to watch and support those grading) went out for lunch.

Everyone was successful in achieving their next rank. I was so proud to see everyone progressing, especially some of my cohort (affectionately known as the Green Team and more lately team aubergine) who started out  thinking they would not, but, through hard work proved themselves wrong in the best possible way.

The following Monday we were all presented with our belts and stripes….and lo, the big colour change occurred. This took quite a long time since there were 18 students, and our instructor (as handed down to him by his instructor) personally ties on our new belts for the first time; a very beautiful tradition in my opinion.

The other thing that happened that night, was that a few of us were awarded with Senpai titles. Although of late I have assisted with various tasks related to the running of the dojo,  helped my kohai learn their new kata, or assisted running parts of class at times, these have been things I wanted to and was more than happy to do. Being formally recognised for this, and being given a title of Senpai was a very special moment for me.

It was a moment I hadn’t really even considered before about a few months ago. To be honest, 2 years ago, I had never even considered the possibility of making it to this point; to being a Senpai, to earning my 2nd kyu, to thinking ahead to shodan…..and beyond….(because honestly, that is where this is all heading)….I felt proud. I felt humbled. I felt grateful. I felt emotional. I felt empowered. I felt a tiny bit scared and perhaps even a little overwhelmed. I smiled a big smile, because overall I was incredibly happy that I had made it to this point, and more importantly because I realised how incredibly fortunate I have been to have such a great teacher to get me there. I didn’t cry on the outside, but I think I did on the inside – tears of pure joy.

It’s all been a little bit surreal, and although I am starting to remember that the brown belt with its 2 black stripes in my bag is actually mine, and although I am starting to really step things up a notch, to notice more, to hone my skills, to learn to teach effectively…… every time anyone refers to me as Senpai, I still look over my shoulder…..for the other Senpai…..or nearly forward the message or text, to the Senpai who were and are my Senpai! When you get the name Mummy you usually get 12 months or so to get used to the idea of answering to it…..this name change was instantaneous!

My 5 year old who trains with us likes to call me Mummy Senpai but I have made it abundantly clear that noone else is allowed to do that (it’s cute from your own 5 year old but after that….not so much the image I am after). My husband refers to the Senpai as the “pies”; a vestige from a time when Ms 5 (in pre-training days) couldn’t pronounce the term; he wanted to know whether I was an apple pie or a cherry pie. I told him I thought of myself more as a “humble ‘pai”.

We now have 3 new Senpai in our dojo, making 4 all together. One is the new Shodan, my Senpai (in rank) and my Senpai (in title), one is me, and the other 2 are my 2 immediate Kohai. That’s a lot of people being called Senpai. It can get a little confusing, but hopefully we’ll all get the hang of it soon. The kohai seem to have adapted to the name change better than the new Senpai, that’s for sure!

All doing and no blogging

So, dear readers….you may have noticed that the blog has been slow for a while. Essentially this is because life has been the opposite of slow. Within the last month there has been a lot of exciting things going on in all aspects of my life…..and frankly as much as I have wanted to share with you, I have barely had a second to sit down and think, let alone put something vaguely coherent together.

I will give you the reader’s digest version for now and then in time try and expand on things.

At the start of October, my 5 year old and I went to the Annual TJKN Gasshuku in Queensland. This was full on (training up to 8 hours a day and basically living and breathing Karate on fumes of sleep), but even better than last year because: (1) there were several people from our dojo there with us, (2) my Karate is in a different place now, such that I could get more out of the advanced training, and (3) I got to catch up with all my friends I made there last year…..

The fun didn’t stop there though, after we parted ways in Brisbane (we had hired a minivan for the dojo – I was the main driver!!), Ms 5 and I flew out to Tokyo, Japan to meet up with my husband and son who went ahead of us. We had an amazing family holiday spending 4 more days in Tokyo, 1 day in Nikko, 5 days in Kyoto, 1 day in Himeji, 1 day in Nara, 2 days in Hiroshima and then 5 days in Okinawa (based in Naha). I had pretty high expectations of Japan; these were completely blown out of the water. Everything about it was such an enriching experience. We all left wanting to return and see more. Japan is a great place to visit with kids (well set up) and we fitted a surprising amount in as a result.

Highlights for me are difficult to choose. The culture and food and people are all beautiful to be immersed in. Tokyo was amazing and not as intimidating (for this small town girl) as I expected. Kyoto was beautiful. Nikko and Nara were peaceful. Hiroshima was a gutsy and resilient metropolis. I loved climbing Mt Misen in Hiroshima Prefecture and the meal at a roadside stall in Miyajima (at the bottom of the mountain) served to us by an older woman who spoke less English than I spoke Japanese and yet managed to accommodate our dietary needs and bestow extra food on us because she thought our kids were cute!! I loved swimming in Fukugawa falls in Okinawa as well as swimming with the locals at some of the Okinawan beaches. I also participated in some Karate events in Naha as it serendipitously turned out to be Karate day when we were there!! This included participating in the Guinness book of world records kata event in Kokusai Dori, Naha with nearly 4000 other Karateka from around the world. I also got to visit (and leave our club’s mark on the walls of) the Dojo Bar and go to the Shureido shop where I purchased a lovely new dogi of Japanese “blue” cotton made in the birthplace of karate…..and I have since started making memories in it…..

The day we got back (on no sleep) I went back to class (in my new Gi of course 🙂 ). I had missed the dojo as much as my own home when I was away….not just because I was missing several classes in the lead up to grading, but I missed my other family!! It was even more special as some of my kohai were grading and I got to be there for them.

Since then, (the last 2 weeks), it has been a blur of training, informal training with my Senpai and Kohai, and higher kyu gradings, finishing yesterday with a panel grading at my home dojo for the lower kyu and those testing and pretesting for shodan (from various network clubs including a high representation from my home dojo). I am very proud to say that everyone passed and as of Monday our dojo will have a shodan and 6 brown belts to add to the other colours as everyone gets their new stripes and belts. It’s been exciting to watch everyone grow and amazing to see the difference in people’s confidence and ability from before I went away to when I got back.

Oh….and in between all that I quietly celebrated my 21st birthday (for the second time), on the day with my family, and with some friends and my immediate family at the Adelaide Vegan festival the day after….after training of course!!

So there you have it……my excuse for being unusually quiet for a while. Hope it’s a reasonable excuse.

Here are a few snaps of what I got up to between 6th and 27th October!

The do of parenthood

(and by “do” I mean “way / path”)

parenting

 

Parenting. There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only different.

Kids are different. Parents are different. No matter how many books or blogs you read, no one is an expert at “parenting”. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and you just have to wing it! The facts are: There is no one size fits all. There is no recipe for success. There is only going with what works. Eventually and with any luck, you become somewhat proficient at parenting your own child or children (and even then your style will likely vary between children).

We teach our children to grow up, and they also teach us to grow up, even if we thought we were grown up before we decided to bring them into the world. We don’t do a course or have to earn a degree for our new “job”. We are suddenly responsible for this little (and demanding) person 24/7.

Parenting doesn’t get harder or easier from that moment on; it just gets different. From carer and protector, our role also then incorporates:  teacher, law enforcer, referee, counsellor, and don’t forget all the background stuff like: nutritionist, chef, cleaner, laundry operator, personal trainer, assistant Pokémon hunter…….. It’s a multi-skilled job for which you get paid nothing……at least not in terms of compensatory income. Parenting is the most challenging and dynamic role you will ever take on. Parents are all doing the best they can, and hopefully adapting along the way.

Everyone does things differently. That’s perfectly OK, and perfectly natural for the reasons outlined above.  It’s also natural as a parent, to observe people’s parenting. Who knows? You might even pick up something useful!  It’s inevitable to compare your own style of parenting to others’ styles and it’s OK to reflect on that in the privacy of your own brain. However, when you consider presenting an opinion on someone’s parenting style to them directly, it’s probably best not to or at the very least do so with utmost caution.  An observation is an observation. It’s a snapshot of their parenting. You have no idea what happens outside of that context or on a particular day. You don’t know what is going on for the child or the parent.

Drawing conclusions (even inwardly) about someone’s  parenting style is therefore fraught. Firstly, even if your perceptions about someone else’s parenting style or philosophy does not sit well with you, it should not impact on you as a parent, (and doesn’t need to if you don’t let it). Secondly, most (if not all) of us find it uncomfortable  when others tell us how to parent or prescribe what we should  or should not do based on what works for them. We tolerate it sometimes in our parents because they are, after all, still parenting us, still teaching us….and we them. However if others (or even our parents) tell us how to parent our own children or even question our parenting methods, it’s quite unsettling.

A more helpful approach if you are truly concerned about someone’s parenting style, or the well being of a child, or if for some reason, it is affecting you personally, might be to show solidarity and support, by asking if them if they are OK, or if they need a break. Let’s face it. Parenting is a tough job, from which we can’t resign, and we could all use some solidarity.

Going around in circles.

enso-circle-e1450471936296

I had a rather big week last week. I was getting over a minor illness, I had lots of stuff going on at home, lots of stuff going on at work, lots of karate training, and too many late nights and early mornings. It was a challenging, yet very productive and exciting week.

However, by Thursday night, driving home from training, I was emotionally, cognitively, and physically exhausted! I had started “running around in circles”. There was so much stuff churning away in my head, I had some physical hurts, and of more concern, I was feeling so unsure of myself, doubting I could achieve my goals.

And then, BANG!: I hit a wall. I think this was not only related to my busy week but the resulting “growing up” it forced me to do. To help me move on though, what I needed was rest, nourishing food, long walks on the beach, reflection time, time to heal (physically and mentally), and maybe even time and space to cry. I also needed a good hug, and a chat with someone reassuring. Fortunately I managed to get most of what I needed over the next few days, and now, consequently, I have almost returned to normal programming. 🙂

Going round in circles is usually something associated with doing much, yet achieving little. However, when we conceptualise the journey of life, we see it as a cycle, and, more pertinently, when we consider the path to enlightenment, the most important learning journey of all, we don’t think of a linear path, but a circular one. Perhaps the way to enlightenment is more like a spiral with an unattainable central point than a closed circle, but the point I am trying to make is that learning cannot be linear. Perhaps this is because in order to progress, you need to see clearly where you have been before. You don’t need to dwell on the past, but you do need to revisit places easily, seeing things through a different set of eyes, and with a new outlook. Ultimately you need to always be the beginner, no matter how much knowledge and insight you have collected on the way around….this time….or last time….or the time before.

The last couple of weeks have seen me reviewing things that were familiar and yet not, learning how to do things in different, better, and more efficient ways, and revisiting previously familiar concepts whilst incorporating new insights. If I hadn’t seen learning as a circle or spiral I may have missed the memo completely and written off seeing these things I had “learned” before, mentally bypassing them as things that I had already checked off my list. Learning quickly is a great skill to have. Forgetting slowly is an even more valuable one. Building on and refining past learning is vital to mastery, and passing on mastery is ultimately the most important tool one can have.

So, going around in circles can ultimately be a productive operation, if you go around it the right way (pardon the terrible pun). Perhaps the reason I hit the wall on Thursday because I was so busy ploughing on straight ahead that I didn’t see I was on the ring road after all. Fortunately I am back on the merry-go-round again and until the music stops again I will keep riding on around looking at the changing scenery as I go.