The Ultimate Martial Arts Insult

May 13, 2008 by · 27 Comments
Filed under: Lessons I've Learned 

It is the ultimate insult if you’re a martial artist, to be told that you attend a "mcdojo."  It’s a nasty word in the martial arts, and one that can instantly start a debate.  To be accused of spending your time and money on something the equivalent of packaged french fries is just plain infuriating; yet it happens all the time, especially on the internet where computer keyboards can be the equivalent of a seriously nasty sucker punch.   

So, what is the official definition of a "McDojo"?  According to Wikipedia, the definition of a McDojo is used to "describe a martial arts school where image or profit is of a higher importance than technical standards."  It can also be described as this: "While using the term McDojo primarily indicates judgment of a school’s financial or marketing practices, it also implies that the teaching standards of such school may be much lower than that of other martial arts schools, or that the school presents non-martial arts training as martial arts."  Finally, a third trait of a "McDojo" is this: "’McDojo’ is also a reference to the proliferation of such schools in many communities in the United States and many other nations, in much the way McDonald’s restaurants have proliferated." 

It always amazes me how easily the term "mcdojo" is thrown around the internet.  Someone finds a picture or a school website, is feeling insecure themselves, and they decide to start a virtual public stoning amongst their online friends sporting solely internet muscles. Picture of a woman in a gi while pregnant?  It has to be a mcdojo.  Pictures of kids learning martial arts.  Definitely has to be a mcdojo, right? 

Wrong.

There are plenty of schools out there who pop up, sign people up to long contracts, and then pack up and move elsewhere. But this isn’t even really a "mcdojo."  This is just plain criminal. 

The truth about the term "mcdojo" is that it’s subjective, and usually those slinging the mud are the ones who are most insecure about their own training and lineage, or those that have no legitimate training at all.  It’s also a common insult among martial artists of differing styles.  Personally, I’m not interested in learning grappling and I am thankful that my particular style doesn’t really rely on that as the root of our system.  But just because your style is almost 100% grappling doesn’t mean it’s a mcdojo and vice versa. There are different styles for different people. That certainly doesn’t make your style, or mine, wrong.

While more contemporary martial artists might think that old school traditional styles are a lot of hocus pocus and silly spiritual stuff, the truth is that many classical martial artists enjoy this aspect of it.  No, we’re not participating in seances to bring back the dead masters and we don’t think we walk on water either.  It’s just that the precepts of our styles that centered around humility, respect, and self-analysis make sense to us and compliment what we’re learning in the dojo. A style that teaches a martial art without expressly laying out parameters of when it’s o.k. to use it, especially when teaching kids, is just plain irresponsible.  It’s not hocus-pocus; it’s just good old respect, and good martial artists highly value it.

Some of us are learning a martial art for self defense purposes while others just enjoy the martial arts for the peace it brings to their busy lives.  But what one person gets out of their martial art doesn’t have to be the exact same thing that another person gets from theirs.  It’s truly an individual experience for each person, one that shouldn’t be insulted because it’s not just like the one you do.  Sometimes the easiest thing to make oneself feel better is to put others down; but truly the more worth while thing to do would be to figure out why one feels the need to insult other people without knowing anything about them.  A little self-discovery never hurt anyone.

Is it frustrating to see 5-year old black belts walking around with bad attitudes to match?  Certainly.  But if you truly know the value of the belt wrapped around your waist, and more importantly what’s in your head and your heart, then you must know that not all black belts are equivalent.  It’s not how hard and fast you kick and punch.  It’s not even how many kata you’ve collected in memory, or the color around your waist.  It’s knowing that what you’re getting from your dojo is quality, both physically and mentally, and more importantly what that all means to you

For me, the martial arts has never meant trying to pick apart what’s wrong with everyone else, but rather the ways that I can improve myself whether it’s kata, attitude or something else entirely.  How is this different from any other activity that one might do?  If you play soccer, you hope to become a better player and you enjoy the good feelings you get from practicing hard or playing a game to the best of your ability.  If you’re a musician, you take joy and pleasure in learning a new piece of music and playing it well.  With every other activity that’s out there, there is a mental reward for the physical hard work.  We don’t think athletes and their post-game endorphins are hokey or silly.  The martial arts is really no different. 

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Put me Down for $0

January 29, 2008 by · 14 Comments
Filed under: ACL Hell, Lessons I've Learned 

My kids have started "answering" the phone.  This is quite disturbing for someone who considers herself the ultimate professional in phone call screening.  I wouldn’t mind so much if the kids just handed me the phone without answering it; but their little thumbs hit "talk" almost every time and I’m left to wonder exactly who the person is waiting for me.  The person waiting for me is probably wondering why they’ve been dropped 10 times and why a certain member of our household likes to heavy breathe into the phone too, but I’m more worried about me.

Over the weekend, Big I picked up the phone and hit "talk."  She handed me the phone and I assumed it was Mr. BBM or my parents.  It wasn’t.

"Good afternoon M’am.  I’m Joe Annoying and I’m calling today to represent. . . ."

He continued on for a good four minutes leaving me no opportunity to even begin to cut him off.  Plus, I was totally off my game since the phone had been answered for me.  Sigh.

Finally I had my opening as he said, "So M’am, I’ll put you down for a donation of $35 and send you a thank you decal.  I just need to get your information."

"I’m sorry, but I really can’t right now" I said.

"That’s o.k." he said cheerfully, "we have different levels.  Let me put you down for $25."

"Even that right now is going to be. . . "

"Then let me put you down for a measley donation of just $15. . ."

"I really can’t," I said.  "I just had major surgery and I have to pay for a bunch of it.  Plus I have to pay for physical therapy.  I really just can’t right now in any amount, unless of course, you’d like to go ask my health insurance company to pay more or call my doctor up and ask him to lower the amount that I owe him.  I haven’t even gotten the hospital bill yet, so you can imagine. . ."

"What kind of surgery did you have M’am?"

He was totally trying to call my bluff. 

"ACL reconstruction," I said.

"Oh MAN!" he said, "That is THE worst.  That is SO painful and awful and it takes so long to come back from it.  When was your surgery?"

"December," I said, "right before Christmas."

"Oh Man!  I should let you go.  You probably need your rest and stuff.  I’m SO sorry for bothering you today M’am.  You take it easy and have a good recovery.  Best of luck to you.  I’m really sorry for bothering you."

And with that he was gone.  He hung up.  I kid you not. 

Blink.

Blink.

After he hung up, I summoned Big I and asked her to PLEASE not answer the phone unless we know exactly who is on the other end of that phone line.  She will thank me for this lesson when she hits her teenage years and doesn’t want to go to the school dance with Harold.  Perhaps we’ll fabricate an ACL injury for her at that point.  Feel free to fabricate your own considering that it can totally get you out of tele-marketing calls.

   

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If this Post Doesn’t Bring in the Crazy Googlers, I Don’t Know What Will

When I was in 5th grade, giving short drops to girls during recess was a favorite past time of the boys in my grade.  For those who are not aware (and oh how lucky you are), a short drop is when someone comes up behind you and pulls your pants down to your ankles.  It’s so not cool. 

For weeks I had watched this terrible deed happen to my friends, and spent much of recess watching my back.  And then one day, out of nowhere came a little punk, who grabbed my pants and ripped them down around my ankles.  Thankfully, my underwear didn’t go along for the ride; but that didn’t mean I wasn’t completely humiliated.  I spent weeks feeling horrified and embarrassed.  My classmates had seen my underwear and it was awful. 

Unlike many of the girls who didn’t report it, I made it my business to make sure that my short-dropper got the business, and he did.

Fast forward 22 years. . .

Mr. BBM got free Hershey Park passes for the entire weekend, so we took the girls and brought along our swimsuits since there’s a new water park called "The Boardwalk."  Big I and I took a whirl down the "Whirlwind" which was the most amazingly awesome water slide I have ever been on (It’s the big yellow and blue one if you click the link and take a look).  Mr. BBM then took his turn with Big I while Lil C and I explored. 

It was during our exploring that we saw "The Waverider."  If you’d like to see The Waverider in action, go here and click on Podcast 2.  Go explore-I’ll wait.  Come back because you won’t want to miss this. 

(Tapping foot patiently.)  Ready now?  Good.

Lil C and I spent a ton of time just watching the surfers.  It was awesome!  There were tons of wipe-outs, an occasional seemingly pro surfer, and lots of in-betweens.  I told Big I we just had to try it. 

We waited in line for an hour.  My original plan was to hang out in line with Big I and then skip it myself, but Big I kept insisting that I give it a try.  Big I went first.

Dsc05174   

I have to be honest; I was super worried.  I had watched kids her size get slammed back into the wall at the top of the ride.  I had watched kids lose the board and literally eat the wave.  Instead of wiping out, Big I rode that wave like a champion. 

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During her ride, the lifeguards decided to have a conversation about something, and she continued to ride that wave like an absolute pro for far longer than anyone previously had done. 

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At one point, she even turned around to smile at me as I stood watching her at the top of the wave.  She was absolutely stunning and didn’t wipe out once.  I was super proud of her, but she was a tough act to follow! 

A couple VIP’s cut in line, so by the time it was my turn, I was super hot and wanted to take a dip anyway.  I decided I’d try surfing for the very first time.  The guy who went in front of me lost his swimming trunks completely and ended up standing at the bottom of the wave in only boxer shorts, so I figured there was no way I could do worse than that.   

Here, the lifeguard is giving me instructions.

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It went something like this:
Lifeguard:  Have you ever done this before?
Me:  No.
Lifeguard:  (handing me the board) Well, you hold on up here, tight.  You stand on the star at the top of the wave and aim for the star at the opposite side of the bottom of the wave.  If you want to go left, you lean left.  If you want to go right, you lean right. 
Me:  O.k. but let’s get to the most important thing here.  What happens if I have a wardrobe malfunction? 
Lifeguard:  Ma’am, that’s what the blankets are for. (He gestures towards the two blankets beside him-visible in the above photo.) I’ll cover you up.
Me:  Promise?
Lifeguard: (With a completely straight face) Yes.

So, with much trepidation I took that board and walked to the star at the top of the wave.  I watched all these kids go diving onto that wave with ease.  I wasn’t sure I could be so graceful, but there was a line, so no time like the present. 

Dsc05187_2 

I took the leap and surfed to the bottom of the wave. 

Dsc05188_2 

The jets pushed me back up, and it was AMAZING!  I was doing it!  It was working!  I lifted up the front of the board a bit and rode the waves with ease.  I leaned left and slid across the wave.  I leaned right and slid back to the other side.  I wasn’t wiping out like the other people.  I contemplated trying to spin or even get up on my knees.  I wanted that "Look Ma, no HANDS" moment! 

Dsc05189 

Then, the unthinkable happened.  A jet of water hit the exact angle it needed to in order to dislodge my swimsuit, and within seconds I felt my bottoms. . . going south.  There were TONS of people standing around the waverider area.  There were men, women and children in line to my left.  There was a crowd of on-lookers in front of me, another crowd to the right of me. . . and OH MY GOD. . . those people have a viewing angle from ABOVE me, which means. . .

ahhhhhHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  (Don’t you just know it that Mr. BBM would be all Johnny-on-the-spot with an opportune photo too!  GRR!)

Parentaldiscretion

(Just so we’re clear, everyone who visits this site has an IP address.  If you visit often, and/or have ever left a comment here, I know your IP address, which means I know when you’re here, how often you’re here, and exactly what you’re looking at while you’re here.  Don’t believe me?  Go visit Statcounter and see for yourself.  Yes, you may think you’re stalking me unbeknownst to me; but actually I’m hip to your stalkerishness.  You know how that creepy little kid in the movie sees "dead people"?  Well, I see you. If you should attempt to click on the above picture, remove the strategically placed symbol in any way, or somehow blow up said picture, I will totally know about it.  So do me a favor and just continue reading. . . Thank you.) 

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program. . .

I reached back with my hand to keep my bottoms from ending up around my ankles.  I caught them, but the reach did nothing for my balance of the board.  The next thing I knew, the board went flying out from underneath my partially naked butt, back up to the top of the waverider.  And then, my body did the only thing it could do.  The powerful jets flipped me onto my back and I rode, Teletubby style right up the wave to where I had started.  The water at the top of the wave was intense and started pulling my top down as well.  I held on to my bottoms for dear life with my left hand, secured my top with my right hand and stayed there, flat on my back in the rapids, until I was sure I was covered back up again. 

People were laughing (totally not at me people, with me, with me I tell you).  I stood up, and there was the emotionally unavailable, non-blanket wielding lifeguard telling me I had another turn. 

"DUDE!  Where was the blanket???  Huh?  You’re totally not doing your job!" I hissed at him while I continued to fix my disheveled swimsuit.  "If I go again, are you going to do your job this time and cover me up???

His face was completely unchanged as he said, "Yes Ma’am" and handed me the board that had been so violently removed from underneath me.  People who call me "Ma’am" bother me greatly; but people who promise to cover up my butt and don’t follow through with said promise totally take the cake in the category of bothersome.

What’s a girl to do?  Had this been 22 years ago, a devastated 5th grade BBM probably would have gone to cry in the bathroom.  "Hershey Park just saw my butt!  Waahhh!!!"  But I couldn’t go out on that note, so I dove onto the wave again, and this time surfed flawlessly until my turn was over.  Instead of ending my ride with a nudity-inducing wipe-out, this time I leaned to the left and surfed over to the safety of the padded wall and non-jetted water where I was able to get out with my dignity in tact. 

Mr. BBM said that the consensus of the crowd was that I had been "good."  There was no shortage of kids, especially boys, giving the waverider a try.  I definitely think I got some cool Mom points today. 

As I made my way out of the ride, there was some cheering.  A couple little boys told me I was "awesome."  (Geez, it’s practically becoming a trend.)  Of course, we’ll never know if they were talking about my surfing skills or my butt; but either way, it was a compliment and I’m taking it.   

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So It Turns Out, My Father-in-Law’s Not Nuts

August 9, 2007 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Lessons I've Learned 

I finished reading Gichin Funakishi’s "Karate-Do My Way of Life" last night.  It was a fabulous read.  I have so much that I want to say about it, and I will over the next few days but I wanted to start by bringing up just a very small piece of something that I read.

In the book, Funakishi addresses his longevity and what he thinks might be reasons for his good health.  He states, "I may also mention that it is my custom, and always has been, to eat hot meals in summer and cold ones in winter.  For example, I never, as most people do, eat ice cream or sherbet in hot weather."

Hmm, that got me to thinking. 

When I first started dating my husband, back when we were in college, his parents used to frequently come down to campus and take us out to eat.  My father-in-law used to order things in a way that I thought was pretty silly.  His response for the drink order was always: "Iced tea-NO ICE" and he would get extremely upset if that glass came with even one ice cube in it.  He would also get frustrated as he watched the waitress refill his glass from a tea pitcher, as there were always ice cubes lingering and just threatening to jump ship and make his night a little less enjoyable.  He would also occasionally request that servers go back to the kitchen and get his tea directly from the tea brewer so as to avoid the mingling with the dreaded ice cubes.  Of course, I informed him that the tea comes out scalding hot, which is why they pour it into pitchers with ice, but he didn’t really care for my commentary.

What I found even more unusual was his behavior regarding soup.  He would order a nice hot cup or bowl of soup and then ask the waiter or waitress to bring a glass of ice to accompany it.  He would proceed to load up his soup with ice cubes until the temperature was a more tolerable one. 

At first, I said nothing.  I was just getting to know him after all.  But as I got more comfortable around him, I started to chide him a bit.  Having worked as a waitress on and off through college, I warned him that his peculiar requests might be getting him a little more than he bargained for when it came to his main entree (if you catch my drift).  I also began to fear, that because the rest of us were at his table, we might also suffer a similar fate when it came to our enchiladas or hamburgers. 

Eventually, he tried to explain to me this peculiar behavior, and basically (and I hope I’m getting this right) he didn’t think it was healthy to eat or drink things that were very far off from your own body temperature.  He thought it was a shock to your system and could mean deteriorating health down the road.  I respectfully listened, and began to have more tolerance for his ordering style in restaurants.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t pick on him endlessly about it.  We all do, but at least I understood the reason behind the perceived madness. 

When I read Funakoshi’s customs regarding hot foods in summer and cold foods in winter, it seemed very similar.  My father-in-law hasn’t taken his preferences that far, as of yet anyway, but the premise seems about the same. My father-in-law is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and now I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t get his current beliefs from Eastern philosophy. 

He’s going to be visiting this weekend, so I’m going to make sure to ask him. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go prepare some room-temperature foods and drinks for his arrival.  He may not be crazy after all.   

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The Bubble Lady and the Shhher

July 11, 2007 by · 15 Comments
Filed under: Lessons I've Learned 

At my local mall, there is a woman who works in a department store shoe department.  She has worked there for decades now, and that’s not the only thing that has stayed the same.  When I was a little girl, my Mom would take my sister and me to the department store; and while my Mom tried on shoes, the bubble lady blew bubbles from a bottle and wand that she wore around her neck.  I adored that lady.  There’s just something exciting about blowing bubbles in a department store when you’re a kid. 

Today, Lil C and I were roaming the mall while waiting for Big I’s reading class to finish up.  Because Lil C has long abandoned her love for the stroller, I brought along her little push car and it was working perfectly right up until it wasn’t.  Lil C was standing there in the mall, walking the opposite direction almost constantly, and I was trying to get her back in her car.  She wasn’t behaving badly, just being a typical one year old, wanting to assert some control over her shopping decisions. 

And that’s when, out of nowhere, the bubble lady appeared.  "Here," she said, "I’ll blow bubbles over the car and I bet she’ll sit for you."  There, in the middle of the mall, the bubble lady worked her magic, blowing bubbles for Lil C until she was mesmerized.  After a minute of bubble-induced happiness, Lil C was more than willing to get back in her car.  I was elated; but the bubble lady didn’t stop there.  To encourage Lil C to continue sitting in her chair, she got out a sheet of frog stickers and handed those over.  We began putting the frog stickers on her car and she was thrilled. 

"You know," I said to the bubble lady, "you used to blow bubbles for me when I was a kid."  She laughed and said, "Really?" and I continued to tell her how much I had loved her as a kid and how much more I love her now as a parent.  I truly believe there is a special place in heaven for the bubble lady, because anyone who helps a woman entertain her child and get more shoes in the process is truly a very special person.

Contrast this with the very rude shher in my daughter’s reading class only an hour later.  I was feeling happy with the world after my encounter with the bubble lady.  Lil C and I left the mall and went to pick up Big I.  Parents are supposed to attend the last 10-15 minutes of class to hear what the homework is for the following week and get tips from the teacher.  I arrived about five minutes before I needed to be there, because I wanted to make sure I was on time.  I stood outside the closed door with Lil C and was going to wait until it was the exact time.  The reading teacher smiled, and waved us both in. 

Lil C and I went in and took a seat in the back of the classroom.  Lil C is a talker.  She was sitting on my lap and running through her inventory of favorite things: "Mommy, Dada, Big I (o.k. she doesn’t really call her Big I but I’m not telling her real name)".  I quietly told her to whisper and then occupied her with looking at the pictures and credit cards in my wallet.  She preferred the credit cards. 

While this was going on, the kids were playing a game to end class.  They were divided into two teams.  The room wasn’t exactly quiet to begin with.  And then, out of nowhere, came this loud "SHHHHHH."  And again, "SHHHHHH," and on this second Shh, I whipped my head around to see one of the father’s Shhing me and my daughter from across the room.  Being the involved parent that he is, he sits in the back of the classroom each week, apart from his daughter, busy with his own reading.  At least when I was able to participate (when I had a sitter for Lil C) I was involved in her learning. 

If you’ve been reading here for a while you know that I am not the type to be Shhhed.  And don’t even think about SHHing my children.  Seriously not cool.  So, when I whipped my head around, I couldn’t help myself.  I gave him a look that could easily put him 6 feet under and mouthed the exaggerated words "I. AM. TRYING. SHUT. YOUR. MOUTH." 

I don’t think he was expecting that response from me.  I think he thought I would rush Lil C out of the classroom, because God forbid Lil C or I interrupt the group game (which we weren’t doing anyway).  I continued to look at him like I wanted to rip his head off, and he sheepishly looked down and away. 

After class I stood around and waited to see if he would say something to me.  I wanted him to, because I really wanted to tell him that he needs to mind his own business, and that if he ever thinks about Shhing me or my child again, he should strongly reconsider since I may need to then shush him.  He instead looked intimidated and steered very clear of me. 

I didn’t do anything wrong.  I never would have even walked in that classroom with Lil C had the teacher not told me to do so.  AND, it wasn’t like she was screaming in the background or even being loud for that matter.  She was just talking occasionally in her normal voice.  The Shhing was completely unwarranted. 

Afterward I thought about the contrast between these two people.  One sees a young child and decides to make her day (and therefore her mother’s); the other sees a young child and decides to reprimand for no reason and try (notice I said "try") to make the mother feel about two inches tall.  It made me think about many different aspects of my life, and how the good and the bad are just inherent in life.  I guess to really appreciate the good people in your life, you have to encounter some not so great people.  Likewise, the unfortunate or bad things that happen in life, make the good moments and experiences that much sweeter. 

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