Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20th

I am going to tell you a secret. 
The name of your school does not matter. The patch you wear on your uniform does not matter. The belt you tie around your waist, the color of your gi, the medals on your wall, none of these things matter. 

All that matters is the sweat on the floor.

I am not saying that you should not be proud of those things. You earned them and they deserve to be celebrated. 
I am not saying that all dojos are the same. They aren't.

But none of that matters.

What matters is that you did one more pushup that night. When you thought you were done, you did one more. 
What matters is that you kept fighting, even though he had you pushed up against the wall and for a moment there you were pretty sure he forgot who you were. He certainly forgot how small you were, yet you kept fighting, or at least you kept your hands up and waited for the bell to ring. You didn't quit.
What matters is that you went to class. When you would really rather be on the couch watching TV, you went to class anyway, dragged your bag up those stairs (dear God why were there so many stairs??), careful to avoid the broken one, and you put on your gi and you trained.
Except for that one time when you didn't. That one Friday when you showed up and there was no one in the room except those three big guys and you shook your head and laughed out loud. And then you put your shoes back on and he stared at you, incredulous. "Where are you going?" he asked, to which you replied simply "Home." And then he laughed too because he could not believe it.

He never let you live that one down. "Remember that time you went home?"
"Well yeah. I know my limits."

People used to come into the dojo and burst into tears. For months after, years even, people would come into the dojo, see his photo on the shinzen, and burst into tears. They would stand there and spill out their regrets. How they always wanted to come back to training. How they wish they had had a chance to say goodbye. How I must be so sad all the time.

I am not so sad all the time. 

I took class yesterday. We did a black belt kata that he used to love and it made me smile. Earlier that day I taught a small boy named Marcus how to throw a roundhouse kick and it reminded me of a story my teacher told me once, about the very first time he taught four year olds.

"I called out line up! And suddenly I looked over and there was this little guy standing there and there was a puddle on the floor. And that was when I realized that teaching kids was going to be different."

He used to call me lady. He called a lot of the women that. When I sparred he would tell me that I loved fire. I took it as a compliment.

I plan on sparring tomorrow.

You do not have to miss someone when they are always around. I don't mean that I see the ghost of my dead teacher on the floor of my dojo. I simply mean that I am still training. I throw punches and kicks and do pushups and when I am not doing that I am shouting at a room full of four year olds to punch harder and kiai louder and how can I possibly do any of that if it weren't for him?

Because it does not matter that he is gone. It matters that we are still here. It matters that you can pick up your bag and climb up those stairs (if your dojo has them) and put on your gi (no matter what damn patch is on it) and step on that floor. Today. Do it today. If your dojo is closed today, do it tomorrow. Just do it.

All that matters is the sweat on the floor.

(This blog post is in memory of Shuseki-Shihan William Oliver, my karate instructor, who passed away ten years ago today. This Saturday our dojo will be hosting a demonstration in his honor.  This post is especially for those of you who cannot be there to see it.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The One Percent

One afternoon, way back when my daughter was in kindergarten, I found myself at the playground discussing homework with two other moms. At one point in the conversation, one of them, the mother of one of Maya's close friends, made this comment :"I don't care if my child does well in school. I don't care what grades she gets. She learns different from other kids. She has different strengths and I am fine with that."

At the time I remember thinking "Well that is fine for you but I have higher expectations for my child. I want her to try her hardest in school. If she does her best and gets B's that is fine. But I want her to try for A's."

It is not the actual grades that matter. In fact, I would support a system that did away with letter and number grades in favor of more individual assessments. But numbers on report cards are what we have now. They are what teachers are currently using to tell both me and my child's future teachers how well she knows stuff. So while I do not care if there is a 2 on Maya's paper instead of a 4, I absolutely care WHY it is there. Is it because she does not understand math? Is it there because she is being lazy? Is she not doing as well as she COULD be doing, and if so, how can I help her get there? Those are the things that are important to me. Those are the things that grades are supposed to represent.

Thankfully, I happen to be blessed with a child who does well in school. Right now, in second grade, Maya still enjoys learning. She enjoys being a "good listener". She does her homework without too much drama. She loves reading and is proud to be good at it. I am sure this easy period will not last forever, so I am trying to enjoy it now, while I can, before the inevitable "I hate school" whining sets in.

I am well aware of how lucky I am.

Every so often Maya complains about one of the kids in her class who does not listen to the teacher.  So and so is "always in trouble". She doesn't "have any points". And although she does not say it, I can tell that part of her is thinking "Why won't these other kids just get it like I do? Why are they slowing me down? "

In my karate classes, there is a similar distribution. There are the kids at the top, the ones who are the highest ranked, who take the most classes, who work the hardest. They are often also the ones who know all the material, who kick the highest, who do the best pushups. They are the superstars and they are awesome!  Then there are the ones who learn a bit slower, who have trouble standing still, the ones who lose a full minute of focus every time the bus goes by out on Columbus Avenue. Mostly the kids at the top are humble in their excellence. But sometimes it is there, that attitude. "Why don't these other kids know what I know?" And occasionally, because they are children, there is giggling. There is a mumbled comment here and there. There is arrogance.

Although I do not think they mean to be, every so often, the kids at the top are downright obnoxious.

We parents spend an awful lot of time encouraging our kids to do well. We want them to work hard, to try their best, to succeed. In school, we measure that success in grades, points accumulated, compliments from the teacher. In karate class it is even more transparent; with belts and sometimes (although not in my dojo)  trophies. We want our kids to win, both literally and metaphorically.

So we push them to do their best, whatever their best is. For most of us, our child will fall somewhere in the middle, and we will be content. (Despite who her parents are, Maya is not the best in her karate class. I am mostly ok with this. ) A few of us will have a child who is struggling to keep up, and for these poor kids, school will be a place of frustration and disappointment. And then, a few of us will be the parents of the one percent, the ones who come out on top, either because they work the hardest or because they are just born with natural gifts. These parents will remember to be proud. They will remember to be encouraging. But perhaps there is one lesson they will forget to teach. 

All second graders know what "being mean" is. They know it is wrong to punch their buddy in the nose. They know it is wrong to laugh when their friend falls down. They understand that words like "stupid" and "fat" and "ugly" can cause hurt feelings and tears. But the kindness I am talking about is less obvious. 

If we are going to teach kids to rise to the top I think we also have to teach them how to behave once they get there. We have to teach them how to be nice.

It is a very tricky balance. We want them to be proud of their accomplishments without lording them over everyone else. We want them to perform well without showing off. We want them to know all the answers without acting like a bratty know it all. Ultimately we want the ones at the top to be humble, to be comfortable there, and to use their powers for good. To help others get there too. 

To borrow a phrase from competitive sports, we want them to "win like they have done it before".

So how do you tell a kid that you are so very proud of how well they know their kata, but that you would be just as proud if they taught it to the kid standing next to them. That although you love how they keep getting to mount, you would love it even more if they helped their partner climb up there too. 

When our kids speed through the math worksheet because it is crazy easy, we are quick to offer them more work. We are quick to call the teacher, to make sure she is aware of all the ways our kid needs to be challenged. 

How many of you have called the teacher to say this: "Hi Mrs. Smith. I notice that my daughter finds her homework super easy. Perhaps you could pair her up with one of the kids in class who is struggling and she could help them out?"

I know I haven't.

Maybe we all should. Just a little. Just enough to make sure that our kids grow up to be super success stories...who are also really really nice to each other.

Its a lot to ask I know. But if we really want them to change the world, it is a lesson we cannot afford to miss. 

In about two years I will start promoting my little ones to black belt. I will have taught them over 15 katas. They will know how to spar without getting exhausted. They will stand straight and Osu loud and look absolutely phenomenal. I will be so overwhelmingly proud of them that there will be no room in the dojo for anyone to sit. 

But if by then I have not also taught them how to be a team, how to work together, and most importantly, how to care about each other than I have failed as a teacher. I want them to do their absolute best out there. And then, I want them to look at the kid next to them and be so proud of how well their friend is doing too. And to know that neither one of them could have made it there without the other.

I know they are just children.
But I have really high expectations for them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What Am I Doing Here?

Yesterday, while I was putting on my uniform for my 11am BJJ class, I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. After admiring my nice blue gi and making sure my hair was going to stay in place for at least half of class, this thought popped into my head: "What am I doing here?" 

Don't get me wrong, I was not unhappy to be at jiu-jitsu. I was not feeling sick, or tired. My neck wasn't sore. In a burst of motivation,  I had even made myself a note that morning about what I was going to work on, which is something I almost never do. 

So I was ready to go. Only, the thought was still there. "What am I doing here?"

I do not compete in BJJ and do not plan to. I do not care much about belts, and even if I did, promotions at my school are usually a surprise so using them as a goal can be tricky. I have no immediate plans to start teaching jiu-jitsu, so, despite what my tax return might say, my time on the mat cannot really be considered "professional development." 

I enjoy jiu-jitsu. In fact, there are days when it goes so well that I am excited about it all afternoon. But there are also days when nothing works the way I want it to. When I am stuck on the bottom of some big dude for an entire six minute round and go home feeling like road kill. Which is fine, it is all part of the journey. I just wish I knew what the destination was. 

In my early years of karate it was easy to formulate a plan of action. There was a clear syllabus for each rank and the expected time between belts was well publicized. Progress was more obvious; I memorized a new kata, my kicks hit the pad harder, and so on. Sparring was always a challenge for me, but the sense of accomplishment when it was over made the struggle worth it. 

Without a clear plan, your training can sometimes feel like just punching the clock. As in "I went to class today", instead of "I worked on ___". Which is why when you sign up at my husband's school, they often ask you what you would like to get out of taking jiu-jitsu. Good question. Is it a problem that even after four years the only answer I can come up with is "Um, to get better at it?" 

Coincidentally, when I got home yesterday, this article was on my Facebook feed: In it, Julia talks about all the things in her life that have gotten in the way of consistent training, and how it is ok for her BJJ classes to just be "for fun" right now. Which is great for her, only I cannot really use that excuse. I go to class plenty and I am not that busy. 

Then this morning, this popped up:  I am not planning on quitting. But Ryron raises some interesting points about expectations and what happens when your training experience does not meet them. Like when you are a blue belt who expects to tap all white belts, all the time. Its a good article. But I am not sure that I expect much more out of class except that my partner does not break my arm. And while I often am better than most of the white belts in the room, I am long past being shocked when I am not. 

The truth is, although I have been training for almost four years now, I am still not quite sure what I am doing there. It is difficult for my brain to accept spending so much time on something just because it is fun. There must be something else, something deeper. Like a pending Ultimate Fighter audition, or at the very least, a desire to master the worm guard.

It doesn't help that my husband has a very clear plan. He writes notes after every class. He watches a lot of YouTube. He has a very specific date that he hopes to receive his brown belt. At any given moment, he could recite at least five specific things that he is working on. 

With me it is more like, umm, I'd like to stay on top today?

Last week, after our usual Wednesday dinner, Maya and I went to pick Matthew up from his class and I overheard his teacher giving a speech about "having something you are working on". Clearly if everyone is talking (and writing) about this, I am not the only one who is a bit lost.

So for now I guess my plan is to keep showing up, getting sweaty, having fun. Maybe at some point I will figure out why I am really there. Or I'll get my black belt. Whichever comes first.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

American Girl

Yesterday was my daughter's seventh birthday. It also happened to be Election Day which meant instead of going to school, Maya was free to spend the day however she chose. 

Here she is around 11am, playing one of the guys in Washington Square Park: 

Jennifer Fremon

(She took his queen early but then he fought his way back and they settled on a draw.)
She ate a park hot dog for lunch. Then she went off to Barnes & Noble with my mom and my aunt, who told her she could pick out anything she wanted. Her evening ended eating cupcakes and watching TV at the grandparents house. It was a great day.

Everywhere Maya went yesterday, she brought Julie with her. Julie watched as she studied the chess board, looking for the perfect move. Julie followed her to the store where she ultimately picked out a new book and a nail painting kit. Julie sat on the sofa between grandpa and Maya while she watched Peppa Pig.

Here she is.

Julie is the American Girl doll that Maya has been asking for since the summer. As in, "I know it is only June but for my birthday do you think I could have an American Girl doll? Pleeeease."

I went through many stages of emotion before entering the American Girl store, a dark and terrible place that none of you should ever go to. First there was flat out refusal. As in, no way, no how, never. We cannot afford it and even if we could, I am not supporting a company that thinks it is ok to charge that much for plastic and cloth sewn together in a sweatshop in China. But is it really fair to impose my own political agenda on my seven year old who does not know any better? Then there was, well I suppose we could buy it if it is her only gift. But do we really want to send the message that she will always get exactly what she asks for for her birthday? 

In the midst of all this, I flashed back to my own childhood, when I really, really wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. And not one of the cute imitation ones they sold at the Korean toy store near my house, but a REAL one, the kind that came with a birth certificate and Xavier Roberts signature on its butt. The kind that probably cost over a hundred dollars, for plastic and cloth sewn together by an Asian schoolgirl.

No, times have not changed much in the parenting world.

In the end, it was my mother's offer to pay for half of the damn thing, combined with the knowledge that Maya was going to really, really, really love this doll, that led me to 5th avenue last week. Because dear friends, there are only two places on Earth you can purchase an American Girl doll. One, is the American Girl store in midtown, a cornucopia of plastic smiling faces and overpriced outfits. The other is EBay, from some parent who ordered their doll from the American Girl website and no longer needs it. Amazon does not sell them. Toys r Us does not sell them. There is no American Girl section at Target. But don't worry, while you are in the American Girl store you can also purchase over a hundred different pieces of clothing, everything from ice skating to wedding to school girl to president, all for more than I spend on my own daughter's wardrobe.

Words cannot express how much Maya loves this thing. At one point on our drive uptown yesterday, Julie lay across her lap "sleeping" while Maya stroked her silky blond hair with a reverence normally reserved for newborn babies and beagle puppies. And I couldn't really blame her. Julie's hair really was phenomenal; it fell past her waist and was as smooth and shiny as a jewel. Her tiny fingers and toes were perfect. Her brown eyes were bright and expressive and her face appeared slightly flushed, as if she had just been running through the ocean. There was no doubt that this was a beautiful doll. In truth, she was kind of creepy. (My husband made references to Chucky.)

But for all of Maya's bliss, I did not post any photos of her new toy on Facebook. There were no "twinsies" shots (Julie looks an awful lot like Maya), no pics of the two of them gazing into each other's eyes across a cup of hot chocolate. I do not regret my decision to purchase her, nor am I embarrassed. But there is a part of me that does not want to show Julie to the world because I know what an American Girl doll represents. I know that every spoiled rich kid on Park Avenue has one. (or six)  I know that every parent at the playground with a daughter over the age of 4 will recognize Julie and that some of them will make assumptions about me and my family, the same assumptions they make when they see a mom pushing a Bugaboo stroller, or a baby being rocked in the arms of a nanny at 1:00pm.

I also know that I am not immune to that kind of judgement. Perhaps the woman whose kid is screaming in the supermarket is a bad mom who never disciplines her three year old. Or perhaps her kid has some special needs that I know nothing about. Maybe that mother who just told her tiny baby to "Shut the F up!" always talks that way. But perhaps she is just having a really, really bad day. And it is true that my daughter could be a spoiled rich kid who gets whatever she wants, whose parents do not think twice about waltzing into the American Girl store and plunking down $120 for $10 worth of lead paint and flammable stuffing. (What me, beat a dead horse? Never.) But perhaps her parents own their own business and work really hard to make it succeed, and although they have never taken their kid to Disney World, or on a cruise, or sent her to sleepaway camp, they wanted her to have this special thing for her birthday. They thought she was worth it. 

And come to think of it, last year I saw one of her friends carrying a similar doll around the playground, a brown haired version. And it was not at all the friend I would have expected to have one.

Like my own childhood, there will be many times in my daughter's life where other kids will have things she cannot. And, there will be times where she is the fortunate one. Some of them, like a shiny new doll, will be obvious. For other things, like the fact that she is picked up at 2:30pm every day by one of her parents, she will not understand the value until she is all grown, if ever. Like everything in parenting, it all comes down to choices. What to buy her. What to feed her. What to teach her. When to say yes. When to say no. And most importantly, what to let her figure out for herself. In the end, all we can really do as parents is try not to judge each other too harshly for the choices we make. And hope and pray that we did something, anything, correctly. 

So here is Julie, ready for karate class:

I mean seriously, LOOK at her! She is pretty damn awesome. I kind of want to play with her.

F&%k you American Girl!

Monday, October 27, 2014

All About the Competition

I don't compete anymore. I am not against competition; on the contrary, I actually think it is a fantastic way for martial artists to challenge themselves. It just isn't for me right now. That being said I do enjoy watching other people do it, so this past weekend I spent a few hours at the NY IBJJF Pro at City College. Here is what I did there:

  1. Watched a couple of small black belt men invert upside down and roll around like spiders. They are quite good at this. In fact, one of them actually invented it!
  2. Observed Lloyd Irvin being Lloyd Irvin. This included checking his phone a lot and managing to look both bored and intimidating at the same time. Even when his students won (which unfortunately happened frequently), he didn't smile much. His students didn't either. I don't know any of them personally, but they all come across as being not very nice. Perhaps it is just an act, some kind of "game face"?
  3. On a similar note, every time one of the Lloyd Irvin guys (or gals) won they would flash the "LI" symbol in the air. Which, when you think about it, is some pretty good brainwashing on that dude's part. Like, "so listen guys when you win make sure you hold up a sign with my name on it. So everyone knows. Yeah, I know that you were the one who actually did the work on the mat but I want to make sure everyone sees MY initials. Thanks. Now go work some armbars or something." Weird dude, that Lloyd.
  4. Keenen Cornelius was there. I missed his matches but I am sure there were some lapel grips involved. (For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, go Google "worm guard". And while you are at it, you can Google the guy who beat Keenan, Leandro Lo. He is pretty good too.) 
There were also people from my own BJJ school competing; some won and some lost, but the whole experience reminded me of an class interaction I had with a guy about a year ago.

I didn't know the guy that well but he was sitting against the wall so I asked him if he wanted to roll with me. His response was, "Thanks but I want to only work with people who are my size right now. I am competing in a couple of weeks." 

This is not the only time I have heard this, although it does not happen often. When it has, it has always been a white belt. I think only a white belt who is new to competition would have both the balls to say something like that, and the inexperience to think it was important. 

I am not saying that training with people who are similar to those you will compete against is not important. But is it that important? So important that it needs to be every single round? So important that you cannot waste time ever rolling with anyone smaller, or bigger, or higher ranked, or faster, or whatever?

I also would get it if I were gigantic, or spazzy, and the dude was worried about getting hurt. But there was little chance of me injuring him, in fact, I was much more likely to come out of the experience banged up than he was.

I do not think a purple belt would never say that. Why? Because a purple belt would understand that number one, it is only one round, and number two, perhaps there is something to be learned from every partner. 

I get what that dude was saying. He wanted to focus on training partners who would simulate what his experience on the competition mat would be. But I do not think he gets what else he is saying. Like "I am only in this class to train for my competition. There is no other reason for me to be here, and all of you are just here to help me prepare. I have no obligation or interest in helping anyone else improve their jiu-jitsu." And "I do not see any value to rolling with you. Forget that you are actually higher ranked than me and have more experience. Because you are small, there is nothing I can gain from you."

Ok, maybe he pissed me off a little. 

But is this kind of attitude really necessary? I don't compete so maybe I am missing something? I would think that when you are training for a competition you would want all the practice you can get, if not with different sized opponents, than at least with different styles. And if you do want to work on something specific, there is a nicer way to go about it. In fact, one of my regular training partners competes all the time. Sometimes when we are rolling, she asks to work on a specific position or technique, something she is having trouble with. I am always happy to oblige. She never says, "No thanks, you are not in my weight class."

I also wonder what is going to happen to these white belts when they no longer want to compete. Is their jiu-jitsu experience over? Or will they find some other focus in their training. (For their sake, I hope they do. )

What do all you competitor folks think? Maybe it is me who doesn't get it.

Oh, and by the way, if you don't know who Lloyd Irvin is you can Google him too. There is a lot of information out there. Some of it is true.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Que Linda!

Yesterday, while walking up 105th street towards the dojo, I encountered a man. He was middle aged, typically dressed and Hispanic. When I passed him, he stopped, fixed his creepy gaze upon me, produced a half smile/half sneer and muttered "Que linda!"

This is not the first compliment I have received from a total stranger. Sometimes they like my shoes, or my shirt, or my hair. I have been called beautiful in multiple languages. Men have also told me to "Have a great day" and to "Put a smile on that face" and numerous other random comments. My response is almost always the same: I smile, say thank you, and move on.

There are, of course, much ruder comments that I have heard as well, although thankfully not very often. Comments that involve body parts, sexual acts, and so on.

I am fine looking. I am not fishing for compliments, I am happy with the way I look. I have a skinny athletic build and nice hair. I am also short and small breasted. I almost never wear heels or revealing clothing. I say that not because there is anything wrong with wearing these things, but because I imagine a tall, curvy, busty woman in a short skirt would get far more comments than I do.

While I do not speak much Spanish, I know what "Que linda" means. In theory, it is a compliment, as is "Hello beautiful" and "I like your hair." In fact, some women even speak positively of these comments, they enjoy them, and even go as far as to categorize who is allowed to compliment them; if he is cute and in a suit it is ok, if he is old and homeless, not so much. But here is what I hear when I am walking down the street and a total stranger calls me beautiful:

"Lady, I want to put my penis in you."

Excuse me for being so blunt. I am not saying all guys are jerks. I am not saying every man in a construction hat is a rapist waiting to be let off his leash. But when you stop a total stranger on the street, a woman you have never met, and the first comment (and often the only comment) you make is about her looks, that is what I hear.

"Lady, I don't care who you are. I don't care what you do for a living, or where you are going, or if you are married with five kids, or if you like to do Zumba in your spare time, or that your favorite food is calamari. I don't care how old you are, or how you are feeling today. I don't care that your mother is sick, your child is going through a tough phase, you have had a cold for a month, you were just stuck on the subway for an hour. I don't care about any of these things. You just walked by me on the street and I want to put my penis in you."

In other words, calling me pretty is really not that different from telling me where you want to stick it. Sure the words are more polite sounding. But in the end, it is all the same message. And it is not a compliment. Not because it is not ok to want to have sex with a woman. Or find her pretty. But because it is not ok for it to be the first (and sometimes the only) thing you think of when you see her.

Listen dudes, I get it. Sometimes you guys see a beautiful woman and you just can't help yourself. You want to say something. You need to say something. Just in the off shot that she turns her bright blue eyes to yours and immediately falls into a desperate love (lust) swoon she simply cannot contain. So how about you try this comment on for size.


Not "hello beautiful". Not "hello baby". Just hello.
In other words, speak to me the way you would speak to the old lady in the elevator. Or the dude behind the counter who makes your egg sandwich. Hello. How are you? Have a nice day!

Do you know what I do when someone says hello to me. I say hello back. And then I smile and keep walking because I am not interested in meeting you. But I am not insulted. Let my husband call me beautiful. Or my friends. Or my mom. Or anyone who actually knows me. But the guy on 105th street? A simple hello will suffice. 

Right now some of the ladies out there may be saying "Hey! But I like it when guys compliment my hair. It makes me feel attractive. What will a simple hello do for me?" I could go on and on about how that hello makes you a human being, gives you value beyond just your looks, yada, yada, yada. But the truth is it is fine to like the compliments. Really. So long as you are able to correctly translate them all into their true meaning:

"Lady, I want to put my penis in you. Even though we just met. And even though there are so many other qualities that make you valuable. I think you look nice and that is what matters to me."

And by the way, all men have penises. Not just the cute, rich ones.

So enjoy it! All of it.
As for what you say back, hey, that's your business.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's Meningibolaids Season

I teach 4 back to back classes on Tuesdays, starting with an adorable big headed three year old named Marcus, and ending with my most advanced 6-8 year olds. Yesterday, about halfway through one of his katas, one of my yellow belt boys took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and said "I think I have pinkeye."

Ok, first of all, no. No you do not have pinkeye. Dude, have you seen pinkeye?? It is not discreet;rather your eye bubbles over like a wild Hawaiian volcano. Believe me, if you had pinkeye you would know. I would know. Most of all, your PARENTS would know and maybe, just maybe, you would have stayed home today.

And second of all, get the hell out of my dojo!

It is that time of year again. Time to buy stock in Purell. Time to hand wash like you are going into surgery. Time to invest in a protective bubble. A few days ago, while she was putting on her shoes, one of the other kids sneezed directly onto Maya's head. My kids class sounds like feeding time at the zoo. Did I mention that I teach four year olds. They don't cover their mouths when they cough. They wipe their noses on everything. They are smart, sweet and funny, and are absolutely, entirely composed of germs. Highly contagious germs.

Of course it does not help that I am a terrible hypochondriac. My head hurts, its a brain tumor. My neck is sore (a weekly occurrence in my world where someone is almost always trying to choke me), meningitis. I feel feverish, Ebola. And so on.

Some martial artists have an ironclad routine, a schedule that is absolutely impenetrable. Like my husband. He trains Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Period. Unless they are closed. Or he is really, really, really contagious. Like pinkeye, for example. He would not train with pinkeye.

Me, I like to be allowed to make game time decisions. And by game time, I mean "Hmm in order to make it to class I need to leave the house some time in the next two minutes. Time to assess how I feel. And how many episodes of Dance Moms I have saved on my DVR."

The truth is I usually end up going to class. But just in case you are on the fence, here is my totally not at all expert opinion on when you shouldn't go:

  1. When it is on your skin and your sport is grappling. Dude, ringworm is not cool. Stay home and put some cream on that. Your teammates will thank you.
  2. When bodily fluids are involved. A little congestion is fine. Everyone has a cold. But if anything is coming out of your body at regular intervals it is probably best to stay away. 
  3. If you have a fever. If I am not allowed to send my kid to school with it, than you should probably not train with it.
  4. If your body is telling you to sleep. In my experience there are minor illnesses where sweating it out makes you feel fantastic, and then there are those where you are better off in bed. If you listen to your body, you will probably be making the right choice. In other words, if training feels bad, it probably is.
And if you are feeling a bit under the weather today, here is a song to cheer you up. Maya made it up in the bath on Monday. And it is in Spanish!!

"Yo y tu diventido
Animales y caballo
La manzana rojo."

There was another line too, that I don't remember,  also ending with o. Now I do not know Espanol all that well but I am pretty sure the lyrics to this song translate as "You and I have fun. Animals and a horse. A red apple."

I was pretty impressed with her . 

I mean, have you listened to the radio lately? La manzana rojo is a damn good song. Grammy winning even. Go Maya!

So, to sum up:
Don't take karate class if you have pinkeye. 
It is always meningitis.
And...a red apple.

Adios amigos!