Friday, August 31, 2012

Innovative Ways To Fight Cancer

We've all run 5k's and 10k's and done walkathons and put money in people's cups to benefit research for this and that cancer.  We've bought breast cancer awareness ribbons and worn pink shirts.  But there's a new cancer-fighting charity out there, and they're a little ... different.

It's called Kilted To Kick Cancer, and it raises money for male-specific cancer research.  Male-specific cancers, by the way, kill just as many guys as female-specific cancers kill girls.  People who participate in KTKC are guys who wear kilts for the month of September.  Not just when they feel like it, but all the time.  They wear them to the supermarket, to a dinner party, to Starbucks.  Now, a guy wearing a kilt is going to draw a lot of attention.  Some people might ask him why he's wearing one, and he will use the opportunity to tell them that one in six men develops prostate cancer, so get yourself screened.  These people also post donation links on their blogs and have a competition to raise money for Livestrong and the  Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Now, I can't participate in the competition because I'm under 21 and the prize is a gun, and I can't wear a kilt because I'm female, and a girl in a kilt doesn't draw nearly as much attention.  So I'm giving these guys a shout-out and linking to the KTKC page, Livestrong, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Fork over a few bucks if you're feeling altruistic.

And guys, get yourselves screened.  Women, find a guy and tell him to get himself screened.  If you catch it early, the prognosis is much better.

State Mandated Torture I Mean School


School has started.  I made it through the first week without being eaten alive, though don't ask me how.  I am taking 6, count 'em, 6, pre-AP or AP classes.  Posting will be light, as I will soon be drowning in homework.  For now, I have a three-day weekend because of labor day.  I'll try to post something interesting.

I hate my Algebra II class.  I have a lousy teacher who makes us work in groups and never explains anything.  I think I'll need to enlist help from the Parents on this one.

Theatre II isn't so bad.  I didn't join so I could be in plays or anything; I just want to have fun.  We're currently working on oral interpretation, which is a fancy word for reading aloud.  The Bat Lady (my theatre teacher, so named for her screechy accent), is pretty nice, and I think I'm going to enjoy that class.

Latin, ahh, Latin, the most underappreciated subject of all.  We've barely got enough textbooks, and Latin III and IV have to have the same class, which is difficult.  My Sarcastic Latin Teacher, whom I know from last year, used the first class period to assign us some homework, yell at a few problem students, introduce new students, and pontificate on the virtues of getting enough sleep.  Gotta love Latin.

I'm trying to find personality in my history teacher, but so far she's just a pear-shaped monotone.

My chemistry teacher is pretty cool.  She looks like a witch, and she's intimidating, and she likes it.  The very first day, she taught us the number of atoms in a mole.  It's called Avogadro's number (not Avocado's).  6.02x10^23.  For those of you who can't understand scientific notation, that's a heckuvalotta atoms.

My English II teacher is, well, an English teacher.  Not much more to say.  There's a certain kind of personality that just goes with the profession, I guess.

My English III teacher is a lot like my English I teacher from last year, short stature and all.  No BS, cares about the subject, interesting, not monotonous in the least.

PE is hell, but maybe it'll be less hell than last year.

Survival tips:
Basically, just protect your head and remember to breathe, same as sparring.  Oh, and try not to get too numb.  Long days of boredom can cause emotional numbness.  Have something to look forward to at the end of the day, even if it's just a book you're reading or your mom's pie.  If your mom can't make pie, you can borrow mine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

White Belts

In karate, the white belt is the belt you get when you begin training.  It's blank, ready to soak up all your knowledge and experience.  Most people are only white belts for a few months, but those are the most important months of training.  It's where you learn your basics: stances, strikes, blocks, first kata.  Once you've become a yellow or green belt, you don't practice these things as much, because you're too busy with spinning hook kicks and dynamic tension.  But the basics are important, because you can't build a house without a firm foundation.  You can't compose epic poetry or the Great American Novel if you don't know your ABC's. 

The tradition of belt colors comes from way, way back in the dark ages of martial arts.  Originally, you would get one belt.  It would be white.  You would train in it very hard.  It would see you through long, sweaty hours of kata practice and hitting punching bags until your knuckles were raw.  You would wear it as you did forward rolls until your head spun, and sparred with people with twice your skill.  Eventually, the belt would get pretty grimy, since you don't wash it.  By the time your skills had reached their peak, the belt would be so dirty it was practically black.
Nowadays, for whatever reason, we use belt color.  In the style I practice, when a student is promoted, she receives a new belt.  Her old belt is given to a junior student.  With white belts, this is not so.  A student keeps her white belt until she is ready to test for black belt.  For one month before the test, she wears her white belt because really, she's still a beginner.  There's always room to improve and more to learn.
I am fortunate that at my dojo, we have White Belt Classes.  These classes aren't strictly for white belts; it's just white belt material.  It's a great place to work on basics, which might seem a little boring once you've had a taste of the jumping knee kick, but it's actually a lot of fun.

Things I Have Done In White Belt Class:
  • Met new students as they joined the dojo
  • Learned how to do the side kick without hurting my hip
  • Kicked a floppy target across the room as a demonstration of the awesomeness of the outside-in crescent kick.
  • Messed up the most basic kata in our style.
  • Fixed my mistake on the most basic kata in our style.
  • Realized that I've been doing the high block all wrong for quite some time.
Our style embraces the concept of Ren Ma: constant polishing.  You can never be perfect, just as you can never count to infinity, no matter how high you go.  Even our Grand Master hasn't mastered every single aspect of karate.
I keep my white belt on a shelf in my closet.  Sometimes I put it on, just for a minute, to remind myself that in a way, I am still that thirteen-year-old girl with two braids who stood at the end of the line of students at the beginning of class, and struggled to master a simple front kick.  I am still that girl, and even when I am in my thirties or forties and I'm a black belt and I teach at the dojo, I'll always keep that girl with me.  She's got a lot to teach me.

Shout-outs Where Shout-outs Are Due

I would like to give a great big shout-out to Ambulance Driver, over at  He's the first addition to my new blogroll (as soon as I can get the stupid gadget to work).  This guy writes really well.  He's an EMT - Paramedic in Podunk Parish, Louisiana, and he blogs about everything from work to guns to family.  His writing can make you laugh, cry, think, and scratch your head in confusion, sometimes in the same paragraph.

So head on over to A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver.  Go on.  What are you waiting for?  Seriously, why are you still here?