October 13.

Posted Sat Oct 13, 2007, 17:51 PM by Tracy

Test day has come and gone at last. Sad to say, I did not get promoted to black belt , though many other people, of whom I am very proud, were promoted in rank.

I’m a little disappointed, if only because I put myself through so much anxiety prior to the test. It would have been nice to feel the stress was worth something. But what is stress really worth? Better to manage the anxiety in a healthy way rather than expect some kind of reward.

Truthfully, I would have been surprised if I had been promoted. I brought a lot of anxiety with me on the floor. I wasn’t energetically present for the first few hours. I was just forcing myself to do the test. That’s not black belt quality.

On the positive side, it’s a valuable learning experience. I can do this test. I just have some things that need to be improved and this test highlighted those.

I was worried that I had let down my sifus. Sifu said, no, he’s not disappointed in me. For one thing, he said my forms looked really good. And when I just let myself do stuff instead of forcing myself, it was right on.


What is hopefully my last pre-test freakout.

Posted Sun Oct 07, 2007, 16:54 PM by Tracy

I usually don’t train on Sundays, but this morning I went to the school where we’re doing the test to train with some of the guys there. I did not want to go. I really did not want to go. But I wanted a refresher of what it’s like to work out with the guys.

We practiced continuous multi-person attacks for ten minutes at a time. Usually I feel better once I’m fighting, but not this morning. Even as I was moving from one attacker to another, evading and blocking, striking and kicking, I wasn’t feeling at all confident. I was dreading picking up the speed and intensity.

Before it got to that point, I bowed off the floor and came home. I took a hot bath. I laid on the bed and cried. I so do not want to do this test. Not now, not ever. I just don’t feel ready.

After awhile I called my buddy Jason. He reminded me that today was not my day to test. That kind of training may not have been what I needed to do today. He suggested maybe I should be relaxing, instead. Don’t think about martial arts. Read a book instead.

I feel much better now. I remind myself that the test is not all continuous fighting, it’s not all fast speed. I just have to be the best me I can be.


Testing's not so bad.

Posted Thu Sep 20, 2007, 12:53 PM by Tracy

At least they don’t make us do this.


High anxiety.

Posted Sat Sep 15, 2007, 20:36 PM by Tracy

As long as I’m doing something physical, sparring or forms, practicing basics or just riding my bike, I’m fine. When I’m not, I have panic attacks.

It’s completely irrational. I know I can do the black belt test. Yeah it’s demanding, yeah parts of it will suck, but parts of it will be fun, too. I’ll get to show off what I can do. I’m feeling pretty good about my cardio-vascular, thanks to bike commuting.

I’m really hoping this anxiety thing passes. I’m counting on it being temporary. E reminds me that once I start the test I’ll be fine.

It’s just that right now I don’t have confidence in myself that I will pass the test.

I should count myself lucky. Other people going up for testing are having problems with backs, knees, hips, ankles, and necks. All I’ve got are mental problems.


Right on schedule.

Posted Thu Sep 13, 2007, 11:12 AM by Tracy

I had a really crappy training yesterday. I was on the verge of tears nearly the whole time. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. My confront was out the window and my control was somewhere in the next county. I just hope Laura’s ear feels better by now, after I elbowed her in the side of the head.

After class I had a good long ♥2♥ with Sifu. I knew I was a mess. It’s the nerves. It’s more than nerves. It’s fear and doubt and uncertainty and am I good enough to be a black belt.

Sifu said anywhere from two to six weeks before a black belt test, doubts arise. Everyone’s gone through it. Plus I’ve just had a significant emotional trauma that has opened up the floodgates of emotion.

It needs to be worked through. It can’t be suppressed, but I shouldn’t wallow in it, either. My biggest challenge is my head, my mental state. Better to work that out now than right before, or worse, during a test.

I’d feel a lot better if I had a crystal ball that could tell me whether I pass or not. If I knew ahead of time I was going to pass, I could just do the test. I would still do my best, but I wouldn’t have the uncertainty of outcome hanging over me.

Sifu told me what I need to do in the next few weeks: visualize the test. Visualize positive outcomes. If negative thoughts come up, just back up and rerun the visualization, replacing the negative with the positive.

Everyone tells me I can do this. I’m just not feeling it right now.


Sleepless in Portland.

Posted Wed Sep 12, 2007, 10:16 AM by Tracy

I had another one of those nights where the only way I knew I slept was I dreamt. Our black belt test is mere weeks away and I am whipping myself into a tizzy.

The last couple weeks my training, both in class and out, have been disrupted with my mother’s death and the arrangements for her memorial service. Now I have nothing to distract me.

I feel pretty good about my street fighting and forms. Even sparring is okay. I’m ready to answer any probing personal questions. I need to work on my forms breakdowns and fighting principles. Bike commuting has done great things for my physcial stamina.

The thing that has me worried most is the stances.

I can hold a horse stance, it’s not pleasant, but I can do it.

The “toilet bowl” is a stress position that I believe has been banned under the Geneva Convention.

Japanese sitting position (kneeling) seems like it would be easiest of all, but not for me. My right ankle, the one I crushed several months ago, still does not bend all the way forward. If I lean back into a proper Japanese sitting position, I put pressure on the bones of the tops of my feet. If I lean forward I put pressure on my knees. In any position, it compresses my legs.

I just have to keep reminding myself what Laura says: trust the training.


My first interval.

Posted Sun Aug 19, 2007, 10:47 AM by Tracy

Do you know who Larry Bird is?

I’m not sure whether to be flattered or insulted that Sifu thinks I might not know who Larry Bird is. I’m only five years younger than he. Sure, I don’t follow sports, but c’mon, who hasn’t heard of Larry Bird?

Sifu goes on to explain that Larry Bird’s basketball playing improved significantly when he began interval training. Magic Johnson introduced him to it. When other basketball players goofed off during summer, Magic ran wind sprints on the beach.

How does this relate to kung fu? I’ve got a limited amount of time to build up my physical stamina for our upcoming test. Sifu recommended interval training, starting with six reps of four minutes fast pedaling and two minutes of rest pedaling.

So this morning I drove myself and my bike to a nice bike trail (yes I drove, yes I know that’s lame) on the other side of the river. I picked a section that seemed to be less travelled.

I wasn’t entirely sure that I could do six reps. That sounded like a lot. So I decided to do four, then see how I felt. After four reps I did the fifth, then the sixth. It wasn’t that bad. It even felt kind of good.

Next Sunday I think I will actually ride from home to the bike trail.



Posted Sun Aug 19, 2007, 07:16 AM by Tracy

I knew it was just a matter of time before the test anxiety dreams started.

Last night I dreamt that I and my cohorts were testing. We were called to all line up. Then we were divided into groups. Each group was given a packet.

Inside each packet were several more packets, each labeled with a name of a student from our sister school. These packets were reused. Inside these packets were photocopies of puzzles from the newspaper: crosswords, sudokos, jumbles and word finds.

We dumped out the contents of one of the packets and people started working on different puzzles. I couldn’t decide which one to start on. I didn’t see how we could get them all done in time.

I became very agitated, screaming that we weren’t given any instruction and I didn’t know what to do. I told my sifu (who was inexplicably but impeccably dressed in a dark, charcoal grey suit) that I flat out resented being put into that situation without any clear instruction.

Dream or reality, you just don’t talk to your sifu like that. In my dream, Sifu told me that I had lost a lot of points for talking back. Fine, I said, maybe I should just pack it in now, as I grabbed for my purse.

What does it all mean? I’m afraid of being confronted with situations where I don’t have clear direction and I don’t know what to do. I have to accept that what’s going to happen in a test and deal with it.


Mass x velocity.

Posted Sat Aug 18, 2007, 10:34 AM by Tracy

The other night Sifu had us working on throwing our most powerful punches and kicks against an air shield. Then he asked us what single factor most increases power.

We threw out a variety of answers:

Relaxation (that was my answer).
Connection to the ground.
Weight behind the technique.
External focus.

We were all wrong.

Well, not exactly wrong, but not entirely right, either.

Consider the bullet, Sifu said. What makes it powerful? It doesn’t weigh much. It’s certainly not relaxed and it can’t have external focus. It’s definitely not connected to anything as it flies through the air.

What makes a bullet powerful? Speed.

Relaxation is the key to speed. Proper alignment and connection to the ground lets you put your weight into the technique effectively. External focus helps bring it all together. But the prime factor for power is speed.

But I thought our most powerful techniques were always thrusting techniques?

I never said that. When have I ever said that? Did I say that?

No, Sifu.


What bicycling is teaching me about kung fu.

Posted Tue Jul 17, 2007, 10:38 AM by Tracy

For years Sifu (fill in name here) has been telling me to not let my energy drop when I’m doing a rep, a monkey line, a multi-person attack. Finish strong, don’t drop your energy, finish! Finish!

Since this is mostly a mental thing, it’s kind of hard to find ways to train this outside of class – short of getting into a bar fight.

This is where cycling to work is helping me out.

I like to say it’s uphill both ways. Only Sifu Chris has been clever enough to respond that means it’s also downhill both ways.

Suffice it to say, my route to work is hilly. Lucky for me, I’m going over a hump instead of down into a valley. The uphill is always at the beginning of the ride. Once I reach the summit I can coast home.

What does this have to do with kung fu? As I’m pedalling up a hill and the top comes into sight, I let myself slack off. I have found out the hard way that does not work! It just makes it more difficult and slower to reach the top. I have to keep pedalling at the same rate, even putting on a burst of speed to make it all the way to the top.

Cycling is helping me to train on a physical level the mental attitude I have to demonstrate in my street fighting. Don’t slack off when the end is in sight. Keep going, keep fighting and finish strong.


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About Mo Duk Pai

Mo Duk Pai kung fu is a modern American eclectic system of martial arts, combining hard- and soft-style techniques Mo Duk Pai, which translates to “Martial Ethical Way”, was founded by Professor Frederick D. King. For more information, to see photos or inquire about training, visit the Mo Duk Pai web site, which I also maintain. I have been training since 1996 and currently hold the rank of brown-black sash.


Sifu (pr. see-foo [Cantonese] or shur-foo [Mandarin]) is a Chinese term for Teacher. It also carries the connotation of Father (teacher-father), referring to a tradition of teaching martial arts within the family, as well as being a title of respect. In America the title sifu is given to both men and women. In Mo Duk Pai the title is awarded to 2nd degree black belts at their teacher’s discretion.


Qigong (pr. chee-gung) is the practice of Chinese exercises incorporating movement and posture, breathing and visualization. Qigong exercises focus on maintaining health by energizing and balancing one’s qi, or energy.