martial arts rant pt 2

By the way, one of the most profound things said to me in recent years was by this artist we had the chance of meeting a few years back when picking up a painting.

He was finishing his degree and going back to school in his forties. He was reflecting on the students in the class, who when posed a question had an insatiable desire to answer the question. And to be right. When really the professors often asked open-ended questions as well as questions where folks just don’t know the outcome. There may not be one. If there is one it might not always be the answer. Who knows. Point being, no one, he felt, could really sit with the silence of considering the question.

Anyway, this artist identified the driving emotion behind these incessant questions as fear, namely fear of the unknown and said, “Isn’t it great when you don’t know?”

Isn’t it great when you don’t have the answer?

 

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martial arts rant

I love exploring martial arts. Love doing it, seeing it, learning about it, reading about it, etc. and then every so often I read comments that make my blood boil. About the utility of Move X or Style Y, etc. I hate it. It takes all the fun out of it for me. I realize that this is just some folks way of processing and I know I’m not exempt. I just wonder if we can take a second to turn off the analyzing parts of our brains for two minutes to enjoy.

The more I become exposed to, the less I’m convinced that the practice of martial arts is very practical. Not to say that you couldn’t use some of the mindset and techniques learned in emergency situations. I’m just sick of reading through the commentary where long or short time practioners seem to either ask “gotcha” questions or “sell me on it” questions. So not interested in that because I feel like the person asking the question usually has their own ideas formulated anyway. They just want to see your thought process of rationalization of your own perspective. Stupid. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

This is the same in other realms. It doesn’t have to be martial arts. It seems like if folks can’t find an immediate “purpose” for doing something that goes beyond it being enjoyable, they think it’s useless. Can we not have joy in our lives anymore? If it doesn’t meet some other requirement do we throw it to the way side? 

I see these requests for a justification on why incorporate X. Why can’t you answer your own question by experimenting and exploring a little bit? What does it do for YOU? Not asking everyone including your teacher for their opinion. It’s not even a good discussion topic. Isn’t it always generally good to learn as much as possible?

I know I need to increase my tolerance for these type of questions and responses. But I sort of feel as a teacher, guide, and mentor, it’s not necessarily your responsibility to be the hype woman or man for your area of knowledge. I do believe that people feel called and compelled to explore various things and that whole saying about the teacher appearing when ready. So why push and force the process?

Of course, I have times of being impatient towards the process as well. I sometimes ask things that are so open ended and yet esoteric, that if my teachers and guides have responded to me it’s usually disappointing and at very best sobering. You know it’s funny, but recently I was describing my tendency to do this not with just martial arts, but in life, and the lady I was speaking to said, “but you’ll never know! Not really anyway.” And she said it with such joy that I felt like, huh you’re right, it’s it refreshing to not have an answer? 

I think not knowing, FOMO, and imposter syndrome are very real things that prevent us from doing a lot. I play goalie with myself on questions and putting stuff out there all the time. Perhaps to a fault because I realize later while ranting that I actually have a lot to say about a given subject. Maybe the frustration comes from inherently knowing how frusrating it is to be in the dark and how you sometimes want to latch onto anything in order to make it seem more certain.

What if instead of spending hours, days, months, years justifying and analyzing and trying to map out everything, what if you just did and learned by doing it? Maybe this doesn’t apply to everything but I always feel like there’s baby steps you can do that turn out to be explorations themselves. And then if we were all gradually taking small steps towards figuring shit out, what would our questions and conversations look like then?

Modifications to the Kung Fu Boot Camp Workout

Okay, so something totally amazing happened…

Someone actually tried my workout out and gave me feedback!!

WHAT.

So, obviously, I’m excited about that because she gave really great feedback too. Here’s the revised Kung Fu Boot Camp Workout with these modifications in mind.

Warm-Up Stretch — hold with micro extensions where possible for 3 breaths each

  • Laughing Buddha (cactus arms)
  1. back bend
  2. Side bends (R & L)
  3. Forward bend
  • Horse Stance
  1. Hands behind head, stretch opposite elbow to outside knee (R & L)
  • Bow Stance (warrior)
  1. Extend (R & L)

Shake it out

Cardio Warm-up 

  1. 20 double jump-squats with hands raised above head, then touch down to floor on the bend (as a modification, you could do 20 horse stance flat foot squats)
  2. 10 push-ups (modify on knees if needed)
  3. 10 alternating bridge kicks
  • Lay on back with knees bent and push up hips into bridge while kicking leg out and away, then lower down. Alternate kicking legs.

4. 10 bridge throws

  • Push up into bridge position and stretch arm and hand across to opposite shoulder to touch floor as if throwing someone off you. Alternate arm touches.

If bridge kicks and throws are too hard, replace with 10-20 bridges

5. 10 sit-ups with cross punches

  • Keep non-punching arm in guard by head for punches. Extend punching arm across outside of  the opposite knee. Alternate to other side.

Second Stretch and Loosening  — hold for 3 breaths on each posture with micro extensions where possible

  1. Center splits
  • Stretch forward
  • Right
  • Left

2. Butterfly

Stand for joint mobilizations — 3 full rotations one way and then the opposite direction

  1. Hip circles
  2. Lift leg rotate hip/leg in circle L
  3. Knee circles L
  4. Ankle circles L
  5. Toe grasp L (like you’re trying to pick up something on the ground with your toes) x 3
  6. Repeat 2-5 on the R
  7. Shoulder circles L
  8. Elbow circles L
  9. Wrist circles L
  10. Finger grasp L (like squeezing dough) x 3
  11. Repeat 7-10 on the R
  12. Neck circles
  13. Neck No (look R then L like shaking head No)
  14. Neck Yes (look up then down, like shaking head Yes)
  15. Neck ear to shoulder (bend neck to bring ear to shoulder, alternate)
  16. Face
  • Roll eyes, look RL/up-down/diagonally up/diagonally down
  • Scrunch face , open wide

Shake it out

Striking Practice 

Take a fighting/sparring stance with feet a little more than shoulder width apart front and back, side to side. Knees gently bend. I start with left leg forward. Hands are in guard.

  • Jab L x 10
  • Cross R x 10
  • Jab-Cross X 10
  • Elbow L x 10
  • Backfist L x 10
  • Elbow-backlist x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side with right leg forward

Kicking Practice

  • Knees R x 10
  • Knees L x 10
  • Front Snap on RL, start slow breaking movement into knee and extension x 10, then fast coordinated movements x 10
  • Side Thrust x 10 RL
  • Round House x 10 RL, make sure to take a step out at an angle with standing legend throw arm back on same side as kicking leg
  • Combo: Knee-front kick, knee-side thrust, knee-step-roundhouse x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Combo Practice

  • Jab L, Cross R, crouch/duck, step L, Roundhouse R. Do this slow x 5 and fast x5.
  • Switch sides
  • 1 minute each side

Break – 1 minute

Form Practice – Tiger

  • Start slow move by move
  • Modify jumps to kicks if needed
  • Repeat and practice broken down combos-sequences
  • Put it all together and practice gradually gaining speed

Last Cardio Blast

  • 10 burpees
  • Front Snap Kicks x 10
  • Alternating Tiger Palm Thrusts in Horse Stance x 50 (ideally with yell on last 20)

Cool-Down

  • 1 minute deep breathing/visualization

 

Other Ideas

Shorter Total Time

So, for a 30 minute workout, you could do the pretty much do everything before the combo practice and skip that, tiger, and the cardio at the end and go to the last deep breathing minute/visualization. You could probably take out a lot of the joint loosening and mobilizations too, leaving yourself with just neck circles, hip circles, and arm circles. Though if you’ve been feeling really tight, I’d recommend doing those mobilizations at some point. I know it’s weird but the eye stuff and face stretches help a lot if you spend a lot of time behind a computer/looking at screens, or if you don’t blink enough. Trust me, it’s a thing.

For 15 minutes you could do the warm-up stretches and the cardio blast at the beginning and call it a day. Maybe reduce the number of bridges to one set of either one of those bridge variations or just bridge itself.

Partner Work

My friend had some good feedback that the combos, striking and kicking practice are really good to do into the bag. I absolutely wholeheartedly agree with this and it would be SUCH a good work out. I guess I would just say if you and your partner haven’t worked with pads, that might be something to take a class in. Like perhaps go to a muay thai class. Working into pads would totally increase the intensity of this workout, however, so go slow before you go fast.

All right! Well, that’s it for now, so enjoy and let me know how this worked for you!

My “draft” Kung Fu Bootcamp workout

I’ve been my own Guinea pig lately with some of the martial arts based classes I’ve been constructing. So far it’s been going well and I have a rough template for each one I want to present to beginner audiences with broad experience with fitness and perhaps limited exposure to martial arts.

The program I tried the other day was for a Kung Fu Boot Camp. The class is designed as a cardio workout that also builds your confidence and spirit. I figured it’d be cool for corporate groups or team building situations where you want a one-off “feel the burn” type of experience. So I definitely had been feeling it during the workout since I’d been mainly doing Ashtanga yoga  lately(also badass and hard, but in a different way). I hadn’t been doing as many explosive jumps, kicks, and strikes — which is a whole nother animal. Woo! So hard. I’ve been feeling it during the last 2 days in my hammies and hips especially.

Anyway, if you’d like to try it out and let me know what you think, that’d be great! Below are the notes for the 60 minute program, but you could easily modify this to 30 minutes and I will also offer some suggestions for a 15 minute program too. Granted the notes below are incomplete in that at the very least, you would want someone to show you the tiger form, but you could always skip that or add your own form to the end. I would also say while I thought this was hard, there are probably some serious athletes who would have no problems with this. And in that case, that’s cool, you’re probably beyond the scope of what I can provide.

Btw, this program below and all my thoughts are just that,guys. You should obviously talk to your doctor and get a good teacher and do all those kinds of things to protect yourself before attempting any of this stuff. You know yourself and your body best.

Put on your favorite high energy music or enjoy the pure sounds of silence/nature/traffic, etc. whatever suits your fancy!

Warm-Up Stretch — hold with micro extensions where possible for 3 breaths each

  • Laughing Buddha (cactus arms)
  1. back bend
  2. Side bends (R & L)
  3. Forward bend
  • Horse Stance
  1. Hands behind head, stretch opposite elbow to outside knee (R & L)
  • Bow Stance (warrior)
  1. Extend (R & L)

Shake it out

Cardio Warm-up — do this sequence below twice

  1. 20 double jump-squats with hands raised above head, then touch down to floor on the bend (as a modification, you could do 20 horse stance flat foot squats)
  2. 10 push-ups (modify on knees if needed)
  3. 10 alternating bridge kicks
  • Lay on back with knees bent and push up hips into bridge while kicking leg out and away, then lower down. Alternate kicking legs.

4. 10 bridge throws

  • Push up into bridge position and stretch arm and hand across to opposite shoulder to touch floor as if throwing someone off you. Alternate arm touches.

5. 10 sit-ups with cross punches

  • Keep non-punching arm in guard by head for punches. Extend punching arm across outside of  the opposite knee. Alternate to other side.

Second Stretch and Loosening  — hold for 3 breaths on each posture with micro extensions where possible

  1. Center splits
  • Stretch forward
  • Right
  • Left

2. Butterfly

Stand for joint mobilizations — 3 full rotations one way and then the opposite direction

  1. Hip circles
  2. Lift leg rotate hip/leg in circle L
  3. Knee circles L
  4. Ankle circles L
  5. Toe grasp L (like you’re trying to pick up something on the ground with your toes) x 3
  6. Repeat 2-5 on the R
  7. Shoulder circles L
  8. Elbow circles L
  9. Wrist circles L
  10. Finger grasp L (like squeezing dough) x 3
  11. Repeat 7-10 on the R
  12. Neck circles
  13. Neck No (look R then L like shaking head No)
  14. Neck Yes (look up then down, like shaking head Yes)
  15. Neck ear to shoulder (bend neck to bring ear to shoulder, alternate)
  16. Face
  • Roll eyes, look RL/up-down/diagonally up/diagonally down
  • Scrunch face , open wide

Shake it out

Striking Practice 

Take a fighting/sparring stance with feet a little more than shoulder width apart front and back, side to side. Knees gently bend. I start with left leg forward. Hands are in guard.

  • Jab L x 10
  • Cross R x 10
  • Jab-Cross X 10
  • Hook L x 10
  • Uppercut x 10
  • Hook-uppercut x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side with right leg forward
  • Switch back to left leg forward
  • Elbow L x 10
  • Backfist L x 10
  • Elbow-backlist x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Kicking Practice

  • Knees R x 10
  • Knees L x 10
  • Front Snap on RL, start slow breaking movement into knee and extension x 10, then fast coordinated movements x 10
  • Side Thrust x 10 R then L
  • Round House x 10 RL, make sure to take a step out at an angle with standing legend throw arm back on same side as kicking leg
  • Combo:
  • Knee-front kick, knee-side thrust, knee-step-roundhouse x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Combo Practice

  • Jab L, Cross R, crouch/duck, step L, Roundhouse R. Do this slow x 5 and fast x5.
  • Switch sides
  • 1 minute each side

Intermediate Technique Practice

  • Double front snap kick x 10 RL
  • To modify without a jump, front snap kick R followed by front snap kick left x 10.
  • Change sides.

Break – 1 minute

Form Practice – Tiger

  • Start slow move by move
  • Modify jumps to kicks if needed
  • Repeat and practice broken down combos-sequences
  • Put it all together and practice gradually gaining speed

Last cardio blast

  • 10 burpees
  • Front Snap Kicks x 10
  • Alternating Tiger Palm Thrusts in Horse Stance x 50

Cool-Down

  • 1 minute deep breathing/visualization


This whole thing should take 60 minutes depending on how long you repeat the tiger form. I would recommend at least 3 times, slow, medium with combos broken down, and then fast. Notes on the form are available in this book, though if you haven’t seen it in person, it’s not going to do much for you. I suppose the same could be said of the striking and kicking. You really do need a good teacher so that you don’t hurt yourself.

If I wasn’t teaching this to total beginners and was doing this for myself, I personally would supplement this with two tiger xingyi fists presented here after finishing this whole program. Not that it matters when you practice internal, but if you were in the mood you could add a 10 minute internal practice that’s sorta tiger related, listed below. I would just keep in mind that while it may look simple it’s actually really advanced and you won’t get internal results if you approach the internal practice below with the same mindset or training goals as the boot camp above. Totally different things. But here’s an idea of something using drills from my teacher’s books.

Some “Tiger-y” Internal Ideas

  1. Quiet standing – 1 min
  2. Santi inner activation (See Aiki Singularity or Tanden Revolution) R and L – 1 min each side
  3. Tiger 1 xingyi (see video linked above) – maybe 4 or 5 steps turn around and do the same thing x 4
  4. Tiger 2 yi quan (see this video) – 1 min each side
  5. Xingyi tiger’s mouth quiet standing – 1 min
  6. Quiet standing with straight wrists – 1 min

This would take about 10 minutes and help you to feel and cultivate internal energy (if you do it the way my teacher lays it out). I really agree with him that you really need to separate in your mind how you approach these two very different practices. Each can teach you something useful, but it’s super different. In fact maybe you don’t want to practice internal forms after doing something so physically inclined like the beginner tiger form referenced above.

But I will say that SOMETIMES, for me personally, because you are so physically tired after doing an intense physical workout when you can fully switch over to “internal mode”, so not using a  lot of physical force or tension and relaxing fully and consciously, I sometimes get a more pronounced internal experience. I’m not sure if this would work for everyone, but a couple students at the old kung fu school did get results that way too. More on that in a future post perhaps. I’d better stop now before I accidentally mislead people!

Anyway, for now, just enjoy the workout program. Probably past students will be able to get the most use out of it. Let me know what you think if you try it and if it is too hard, let me know so I can make modifications.

teaching moment pt 2

So using my martial arts background, I’ve come up with 4 classes I can teach to absolute beginners in a corporate/one-off “let’s just have fun, do something new and healthy” kind of setting. I tested out 2 of the 4 classes on myself this week —breathing/meditation/qi gong and stretching/yoga— and feel confident about my ability to teach them. I also modified my usual beginning tai chi class and today may try out a “kung fu boot camp” type class on myself, which basically just modifies what we did at 108 Heroes Kung Fu and Tai Chi to a more one-off setting.

I’m really digging all this, gotta say. It’s so much fun to think creatively about my various practices and use what I know to make some adjustments so they resonate with specific audiences. I’ve previously felt very dogmatic about martial arts practices and have viewed them as something where I need to not only uphold the forms but also the curriculum of learning and the teaching methods. Now, I’ve figured out a way that I can present that I feel remains true to the lineage, but also gives me room to play and have fun.

I don’t alter the postures or, in certain forms, the sequences of movement, but I have been working with packaging the material into an easy to understand class. There’s certain things I love and enjoy about my personal practice and the practice I’m led through when at a class that I’ve discovered I can’t do when teaching super beginners. I think it’s because the concepts are actually quite complex and if, as a student, you come in with a preconceived notion of what yoga is or kung fu or tai chi or meditation, then in some settings, it’s going to be a steep learning curve for you to get onboard with traditional methods of instruction and thought.

I thought, what if I could present the traditional teachings I know and love, but to people who have a very broad, highly socialized understanding of these concepts so that by the end of the class perhaps they’d be more open to exploring in depth these fascinating practices. Can I be a doorway? Maybe a gateway drug, if you will… ha!

Anyway, it’s pretty fun but as always a challenging balance of being true and respectful of my own teachings while also realizing that I may be able to lighten up on some aspects of the practice as long as I’m retaining what for me is the core. I never would have been in this more exploratory mindset had my own teachers not encouraged this type of approach. I myself was actually surprised that all my teachers had encouraged me to play, explore, and experiment in my personal practice since our bodies, minds, and lives are constantly changing.

Having this freedom has allowed me to not be hard on myself (one of my greatest challenges!) when not being able to do a full practice due to injury or time constraints. I’ve been able to retain and grow my experiences within these practices while being adaptable and not rigidly holding onto the exact same sequence or approach or goal. That being said, the structure of the practices helps me to retain my focus and track my progress on longtime goals. Or if not static goals, just see over time how I’m changing for the better as a result of practicing.

Anyway, creating my own little programs has given me a lot of insight lately and I look forward to seeing what others think too. Fingers crossed that they get something good out of it!

Catalyst of change

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing and I suppose whatever the opposite of that is. I’ll go with destruction– that seems to be pretty far from what I understand healing to be.

Once, at work, it was a stressful day and a co-worker was talking about this experience she had where she was the most relaxed she’s ever been. She was describing lying in a tank of water submerged and apart from all stimuli. She was able to completely let go. She said, “it was like it was a trigger for relaxation.”

And that was it. I felt like I understood that more than I expected to. It transformed the way I understood and associated “trigger” with being connected with something bad, something violent.

What if there are triggers –cues– for good, for positive interactions? What if you could be one? What if you weren’t destroying all that you come into contact with? What if you were repairing, healing, growing? What would it take?

Anyway, only some unstructured thoughts at the moment, though I keep returning to it. These are the questions I’m interested in exploring as I change professions and am at the periphery of big personal shifts.

Curious about how others look at this…

My Experience With the Weighted Jump Rope

I started Muay Thai on Monday. Class starts with 10-15 min of jump rope before shadow boxing and then some combos into pads with the best partner in the world (Brent Kekoa Ramos). Then we switch.

So the first day I made Brent give me his jump rope because the ones available were all thick weird looking tubes and I felt like 😐 about it. The one I grabbed seemed way too long for me to use. I should've just brought my jump rope but I keep my jump rope at work since it's a nice go to for lunch time practice if I have the time.

Anyway, second day I feel like I should just use one of the ropes available. The thin ropes look way way too long so I grab the weird tube one. I start jump roping and at first it's all good. I'm like "oh, I guess this is weighted?" And one thing that was great was I kept going for a long time. At least it felt like that. Like easily 5-7 minutes straight in my mind lol. I'm like skipping and doing great. No big deal.

A while in, I'm like "phew, this rope really does get heavy." I stop for a second and then it happens. I keep hitting my $&@;! feet with the stupid rope! Everyone goes barefoot on the mats of this gym. So when I miss, IT REALLY HURTS!!! Like right on the top of your toes.

⚡️😤😭

And it's the same spot and same foot from there on out. To the point where it was like, "Barbara, get your shit together and don't cry in front of everyone on your second day. You're better than that." 😂😂😂😭

So I get through it, do the hard ass combos that made my brain feel so slow and other than my right foot still feeling the remnant of being whipped with that f-ing rope, I feel good. Really good like "yes, I love learning!" type of good.

Next day, do a little yoga. Feel tired, the day is not impossible.

Today: must sleep. Must not move. Must move like a sloth. My inner elbow hurts. I can't do anything I am normally capable of without issues.

Geez, it's one of those recovery cycles where it hits you harder the second day. Ugh. Okay, well, now I know.

You know, I don't mean to look at the whole thing positively but I guess my surprise keeps me coming back to 2 things:

1. I did that jump rope WAY longer than I ever have without stopping. I just feel like if I can do that then of course I can do way more complex things with it!
2. Even though that foot whip pain got to be extremely painfully intense after a while (combined with going past my threshold for cardio), after a while it faded and I forgot about until later in the evening. Then nothing. So, it does go away. It does fade.

I get the above lessons in martial arts all the time. Probably why I've stuck with it. Because would you still do something that would give you 1 if you had to go through 2? Maybe. I don't know. I suppose.

All I know is that next time I jump rope with my shoes on, I'm going to be really thankful for those shoes. 👟👟

ok fine i’ll write about martial arts and stuff 

You got me, Universe or whatever. I’ll write about it. Mainly because I need to get it out of my brain. I can only talk about it outloud so much before people’s eyes glaze over. No, you don’t understand! I really need an outlet, so you are it, blog.

It really shouldn’t be so hard to just throw this stuff onto a page, but I have worked myself into knots thinking I’d be capable of just shutting up and silently doing my own thing. But I can’t, okay? I am not capable of that. I’ll freak out. This stuff is just so endlessly fascinating. I could talk about it for DAYSSSSSSS 😍. 

And if you want to know the truth, I’m kinda constantly thinking about my various practices. It’s always on my mind.

Sometimes it’s how they work together. Sometimes it’s just sheer confusion of how can I get better at this thing I’m still not good at? Sometimes it’s the surprise I feel when I lost something I had down. And sometimes it’s the ease with which I’m able to jump back into it and beyond. It changes.

But I guess I’ll just start by starting…

THESE THOUGHTS ARE FREEFORM RAMBLINGS BY AN AMATEUR!! I’m just gonna go off but like I can’t be thinking every two seconds about how someone is going to evaluate me on how or what I say so anyway… the grammar and my terminology and all this stuff probably needs work thanks

So, I do Ashtanga now. I remember reading this comment on instagram by Sharath Jois (head of the main school, grandson of the founder) who was {paraphrasing here} saying how sometimes you can do a certain really hard posture and sometimes you can’t. He was saying how your practice morphs and changes.

I’m kind of obsessed with certain things like tai chi. But you know really I should say internal martial arts because I practice more than tai chi. I guess I could say energy centric practice like my teacher. I just like to say “tai chi” because I think most folks have a close enough reference point. Oh, but they don’t know… 

If they only knew!

That’s so annoying to say because everyone who is new to something has no idea. Gah, where do I get off? The experience of practicing tai chi tho, it’s like… It’s just really really cool. Really eye opening like whaaat? Like this whole time this is available to us? Why? How? Wtf? Yes, I think about this hourly. Ah, if only I got paid for these thoughts I’d be like Scrooge McDuck swimming in my gold coin swimmimg pool. 

Anyway, today I was really getting down on myself because I’ve sorta been lazy and not practicing as diligently as I usually do. I get this way with writing too. I think about it all the time and then if you don’t have a project you kind of scare yourself into thinking that writing is hard and onerous and you don’t have enough time to do what you want to do with it. All true. So so so very true… 😭

I had an “ohhhhhhhh THIS is why teachers tell you to never stop practicing do something everyday even if it’s a little bit” kind of realization (not new, I have these once a month if not more frequently). Man, it sure does takes a second to get back to where you were. I think you gotta be really diligent and humble and nonexpectant about it when you jump back in.

When I went off to school for a dramatic writing program I’d been doing martial arts for a year and some change. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly my skill, my athleticism, physique, etc., etc., began to shift because my priorities changed. I had to focus on writing and recovering from the writing. In retrospect, being more disciplined about my practice might have helped me roll with writing shit that comes up and school stuff, but ah well so it goes. I didn’t do that then.

When I moved back, I expected to jump back in with all my skill in tact like hey! READY! Nope. Did not work that way. It took months and maybe YEARS to get and surpass where I was when I left. Gah! Never again!

Things are shifting again. I no longer have a school or even a regular time that I practice at. This is a problem. I am worried about losing what I have gained through focused yet short practice. So I must get it back.

What I thought about today is how with writing whenever I feel like shit this is not working, how just doing something that I truly love –like have so much fun doing, brings me back. Recallibrates me. Today, I was like no, i HAVE to do tai chi during my lunch hour. Say what you like, but I can take at least 20-30 minutes and do a couple things with that. 

I did some of the stuff I usually do like I often start with a timed quiet standing. I time it so I don’t have to think about whether I’ve done it long enough. But really I do it so I can make sure I can still feel something when I do energy centric practice. I do 2 minutes though I feel something instantly in my forearms. Cool, checkmark. Then I just see if I can extend the feeling beyond my forearms. I try that until I figure out that my timer is going off and I’m not paying attention to it. I move on to something harder to do after this. Well, harder for me to do at least…

I ran through the whole Zheng Manqing 37 form. I usually don’t do that. I pick out a section or postures. Sometimes a sequence. I don’t always do the form as a whole because I feel more of a sustained stronger charge when I do postures or drills. When I do the whole thing, there are parts that are somewhat physically challenging while trying to do what I’m trying to do. At those points, I can lose my charge and literally be going through the motions. Not fun. I am less interested in that. It’s just not my thing to go through choreography. Which is why I do smaller sized movements and try to go deeper with them. 

So here was the learning today– I can get trapped into thinking that because I usually get what I’m looking for from the shorter practices that I should just concentrate that for my practice. Like when I’m really diligent with a certain drill or sequence, I can get a lot out of it. It’s not beginner’s luck, this happens every time I practice. Then, I go through a form and get overly critical about the parts that I’m not that great at. Like in this ZMQ37, I’m really not good at the whole Weaving Lady part AND IT PISSES ME OFF!! Okay, well, maybe it’s not that serious, but I don’t get much there energy wise as I do in other parts of the form. Which is totally fine except that I’m a perfectionist, haha… No but, going through the whole form was interesting. It got me thinking about different aspects I hadn’t considered and ways I could revamp my training.

Then I did some xingyi and so that is always been hardest for me, but I like to see where I can get with it. I did this drill from one of my teacher’s recent books and I’m like huh, I think I’m getting better at this! I feel more of what I think I’m supposed to be feeling. 

The thing is that today, while not necessarily a sort of omg I made such amazing discoveries!! 😍sort of moment, it was nice to just do the form and experience what popped up as I tried my best.

All this to say, that sometimes with getting back into practice, it’s good to just do it and pick something you either really enjoy doing or you know gets you results. 

Okay, I can pause here… For now. 

It’s Been A Long Time

“…I shouldn’t have left you without a dope beat to step to…”

 

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And here I am, back on this crazy thing and ready to give an update on all that’s happened. The biggest thing was that for the past two years, I’ve been off at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing my MFA in Dramatic Writing under Rob Handel’s direction. The amount of writing we were doing in this program made life for the past two years fairly intense, so it was hard to keep The Dynamics of Groove up to date. That’s not to say I was an internet hermit. I still contributed to the blogs with San Francisco Theater Pub and 108Heroes.

Here’s the top 25 things I’ve accomplished over the past two years in no particular order:

  1. Wrote and helped to produce “It’s All in the Mix”, a coming-of-age love story about DJs with All Terrain Theater at Vamp Records in Oakland, CA. Directed by Brady Brophy Hilton, Stage Managed by Robert Neopolitan, Sound help by The Selector DJ Kirk and Kris Barrera, featuring Champagne Hughes and Courtney Nickolson as JUNE, Kris Barrera and Tommy Nyugen as BIZ, and Johnny Manibusan as PAT. Special Thanks to Tracy Held Potter, Sean Sullivan, and more. ItsAllInTheMixPostcardFinalFRENCHe2
  2. Wrote 31 plays in 31 days in the organization’s inaugural year (some of the eye sores are on this blog…)
  3. Moved to Pittsburgh and found an amazing apartment in Squirrel Hill.
  4. Wrote a one-act comedy, “Hera, The Pregnant Man Play” for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which was voted an Audience Favorite the night it was read! A filmed version of the staged reading is available here. Produced by San Francisco Olympians Festival (Special Thanks to Stuart Bousel), directed by Amy Claire Tasker, Claire Slattery as HERA, Nick Trengrove as TERRY, Ben Grubb as CHAD, Eric Hannan as RYAN, Arie Lavine as ALICIA, and Brian Martin as ZEUS. HERA The Pregnant Man Play
  5. Got a mention in the Huffington Post by George Haymont for “Hera, The Pregnant Man Play”.
  6. Tested and received my black belt in Shaolin kung fu.
  7. Wrote a ten minute multimedia comedy, “Donut Erotica”, which was selected for publication by 31 Plays in 31 Days. You can listen to a podcast recording of an older version here. Produced by 31 Plays in 31 Days (Special Thanks to Rachel Bublitz and Tracy Held Potter), directed by Claire Rice, featuring Colleen Egan as LINDSAY, Peter Townley as KEV, Michelle Talgarow as the CASHIER LADY, and stage directions by Caitlin Evenson.
  8. “Donut Erotica” was then selected to be performed in CMU’s Playground Festival in the spring of 2013 and I had the chance to work with some amazing collaborators. Directed by Alex Franz, Video Design by Jordan Harrison, Sound Design by Ian Julian Williams, Set Design by Dan Daly, LINDSAY – Olivia Brown, KEV – Scott Coffey, SHOP OWNER – Petr Favazza. And special thanks to Laci Corridor, Jonah Eisenstock, Britain Valenti. DONUT EROTICA by Barbara Jwanouskos
  9. Made all the donuts (including vegan and gluten-free ones!) for the Playground production.
  10. Wrote an introduction and provided copyediting to the forth-coming collection of plays from the second annual San Francisco Olympians Festival, “Heavenly Bodies”.
  11. Started writing a bi-weekly series for San Francisco Theater Pub called “Higher Education” about what it’s like as a theater artist going through a graduate program and the lessons learned while there.
  12. Helped shoot and edit video for the 108Heroes re-launch promo. Check it out!
  13. Taught “Introduction to Screenwriting” at the university level in the fall of 2013.
  14. Wrote two ten minute plays for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, “Ajax Minor” directed by James Nelson, featuring Richard Wenzel, Caitlin Evenson, Carl Lucania, Jan Marsh, Karlie Blair, and Eli Diamond. And “Neoptolemus”, directed by Charles Lewis III, featuring Eli Diamond, Ben Grubb, Richard Wenzel and Carl Lucania.
  15. Worked with Disney Imagineering Research and Development as a writer by contributing 40 short scenes to their emotional speech database project.
  16. Was identified as a semi-finalist for the DISQUIET Literary International Short Play contest for my ten minute comedy, “Naughty Cheetah”.
  17. Was identified as a semi-finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival for “i stole lance armstrong’s bike”.
  18. Taught “Advanced Playwriting” in the spring of 2014.
  19. Wrote and collaborated to help produce “The Imaginary Opponent” as my thesis play production at Carnegie Mellon University. Directed by Quin Gordon, Production Assistance by Dan Giles, Set Design by Britton Mauk, Lighting Design by Daniel Bergher, featuring Cathryn Dylan as ERIKA, Austin James Murray as MAC, David Patterson as SIFU ADAM, Sawyer Pierce as GABE, and Annie Yokom as MASTER LYNN. DB_ImaginaryOpponent_24
  20. Submitted “The Imaginary Opponent” and “Day Drinkers” as my thesis for the CMU library.
  21. Graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with an MFA in Dramatic Writing.
  22. Met with theater, screenwriting, TV and other entertainment professionals at the LA and NY Showcases for the class of 2014.
  23. Wrote “Time to Wine”, a short comedic libretto for the Baria Project with Roger Zahab and the Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh to be performed in July 2014.
  24. Collaborated with Stephen Webb to write the libretto to “For the Time Being”, a short opera love story about a being from another dimension, composed by Daniel Arnaldos and to be performed in February 2015.
  25. Returned back to the Bay Area!

It’s been a long journey, but I’m ready to take this all to the next level!