Wake up! Wake up!

So at the end of January there was the annual Escrima Concepts “Wake Up Weekend”, a glorious weekend, run by “Big Paul” and the “Devious” Tappins – Grand Master Steve Tappin and Wayne Tappin, where instructors and students of Escrima Concepts travel from all over the globe (or in this year’s case, Sweden) and gather together in London. The aim being to shift our Christmas and New Year addled brains into top gear.

This was my second year and having completed a couple more grades since last January I definitely felt more confident heading in (confident, but a lot sicker thanks to a cold that was plaguing me and refusing to let go!). Time to get the heart thumping and the blood pounding with a warm up I outwardly loathe, yet secretly love. Running around attempting to tap various parts of your partner’s body while they are defending and trying to do the same to you, I haven’t yet found another warm up that makes me laugh and despair so much in equal measure. Irritatingly, it’s so very useful for learning how to judge range and develop awareness as you desperately dodge, duck, dip and dive out of the way of your partner’s arms.

Warm up over we move into stick drills designed to train our ability to recover. Starting off with the basics we go over defending from a number 3 and number 4 strike playing around with approach and different defences. Steve then demonstrates how an attack can change and suddenly, instead of having effectively defended ourselves (aren’t we clever!) we’re now having to defend against another strike. The ease with which we deal with this next strike can all depend on a number of things; our awareness, our structure, our mechanics, our placement and even sometimes just dumb luck. Given a few variations to unleash on our unsuspecting partners we have at it! Fortunately at this point I’m partnered with Nicole, one of our Assistant Instructors, so my previous energetic attempts are now channelled into slower, more controlled attacks ensuring that my placement and structure is bang on. This is especially useful when it comes to the more underhanded attacks such as when their stick changes direction before even making contact with you (!!!!!). Attacks done hard and fast ensure that you feel pressured enough to move and are therefore approaching your defence correctly, but they can lead to panic defenses and the important basics such as footwork (my eternal nemesis!) and elbow discipline get forgotten in the scramble to feel in control. Approaching an attack slowly yet with intent ensures that you have time to correctly train the correct positioning so that when put under pressure you will automatically respond with the appropriate defence and attack them, ensuring that you remain strong rather than crumbling like a soggy biscuit.

Lunch is spent sitting staring into space while I wonder whether I’m ever going to start feeling better (I’ve started needing to sit down during the theory breaks just to make sure I can get through the next bit) and I almost cry when Steve calls everyone together just as I lie down for a rest. In spite of my increasing need for sleep the second half is a more relatable subject for me as we practice unarmed defences and our body mechanics. While I can only dream of getting to the levels of understanding that the higher grades have of body movements within Escrima, I do feel more comfortable with it thanks to my Tai Chi training. Annoyingly my first partner has much longer arms than I and it takes an intervention from Paul to help me understand that even though, in theory, my structure is correct I need to alter my approach to accommodate the fact that my partner can reach around my defending arm and still have room to smack me on the back of the head. I am very much a comfort zone type of girl when it comes to training, and sticking with the same partner during classes is “safe” because you begin to learn how they move. Weekends like this help me to appreciate the advantage it gives me to train with lots of different types of people as it gives me so many more opportunities to practice my ability to recover.

Training over we head off to the hotel over the road to relax and unwind. The evening is spent resting, enjoying a delicious Turkish dinner and catching up with friends that hadn’t been seen since the previous year.

Recharged, we arrive raring to go the next day and open with a “5,4,3,2,1” warm up. Your partner gives you 5 punches which you defend against, you then give them 4, they return with 3 etc until the final punch where you finish them off. The aim of this exercise is not only to develop your ability to defend yourself against a punch, but to learn how to position yourself around your opponent so it is extremely hard for them to throw their next punch. Wayne then gives us some stick drills where we work on aiming for specific targets, attacking short and long range and alternating defences. Col and Nicole do Cambridge Kung Fu proud by not only completing a horrific mind bending drill, but by doing so at speed while counting in both Welsh and Austrian!

After lunch the senior students separate to practice their machete work (yeek!) while Steve takes us through basic structures needed for knife defence. Now while I like to allow myself to think that training in three martial arts means I will be able to look after myself to a certain degree it quickly becomes evident that should a knife emerge, at my current level, I should be extremely worried. Steve demonstrates how our basic survival instinct to grab the arm holding the knife actually puts us at more risk by extending our arm and putting us at the limit of our reach, leaving us with less control instead of more. Maintaining a strong structure, using our knowledge of positioning from the previous warm up exercises and making the attacker come to us ensures that we have a better chance at being able to control them. A final exercise before our brains dribble out of our ears resigns me to the fate of being a practice pincushion until I ingeniously stumble onto the perfect defence by tripping over and falling behind Steve. Who better to defend me than the Grand Master!

Throughout the weekend there were students who were working hard towards their gradings and there was a number of presentations on both days with one of our own students, Gabriele, achieving his 4th Grade! With the hard earned grades given out it only remains to wearily say goodbye to everyone and head on home. I finish the weekend in the best way possible; with cuddles and reading my daughter The BFG in bed, before heading off for my own well earned rest.

Part of what appeals to me about Escrima Concepts is the inherent honesty in all of the instructors, I think it is the only system where I have heard the term “martial artist” used with the same tone as “you plonker, Rodney!” There are no flashy moves here, you train hard and honestly and let your basics speak for themselves. Train them well enough and you’ll need nothing else. This weekend is the perfect reminder for my more extravagant self, that it doesn’t need to be flashy to work (it’s also been a perfect reminder that my roof block needs a lot of work, but let’s leave that story for another day!).

A big thank you to everyone involved in the organisation of this weekend and I will definitely be back again next January!

Today was….

Today was shitty.

My daughter has a really bad cold and a high temperature and is incapable of blowing her nose or using a tissue by herself at night, subsequently little sleep has been had by all. Needless to say, tempers are short.

Today was shitty.

The sun was shining when I got dressed, but as soon as I stepped out of the house the British weather did what it always does and changed tack. I’m pretty sure I flashed my underwear quite a bit on the way to the shop as the wind in my village is “playful” to say the least.

Today was shitty.

I missed a team meeting at work and a whole day in the office because Beanie was too sick to go to nursery. It’s grading and ceremonies time and missing work means needing to cram in a lot of things over a short period of time. I’m worried that trying to get everything done quickly will mean I will miss something.

Today was shitty.

It makes me sad that my daughter only chooses to cuddle me when she’s sick. Cradling her hot, shaking little body makes me feel like I must be a terrible mother that she has to  feel so awful before choosing to come to me for comfort.

Today was shitty.

I was a lazy mother. Instead of deepening a connection with my daughter by reading stories to her and playing games, I have actively encouraged watching films, DVDs and CBeebies either on the sofa, or in our bed.

Today was okay.

Despite the fact that we haven’t had much sleep, the sleep I did get was good quality. So a day with a moody poorly toddler isn’t going to be as heinous as it could be.

Today was okay.

Yes the sun was no longer shining when I left the house and the wind was somewhat gusty. But I was wearing a skirt I had bought at a festival and reminded me of sunny days and laughter. I had done a fresh batch of laundry so fortunately had some nice pants on….and between you and me my bum is my best feature anyway.

Today was okay.

Yes I missed out on time in the office, but “Dust If You Must” comes to mind at times like this. I know the essentials that need to be done and I still got to go and teach the brilliant kids in my classes in the afternoon, so I didn’t miss out on the really fun bits of my job. As for the ceremonies and gradings, I have an extremely supportive team who can help out if I need them and a checklist crafted over time and revised with experience.

Today was brilliant.

Beanie is a very affectionate person, but only in short doses. It’s very rare that she’ll chose to sit and cuddle with you for a long period of time and so when she does it’s very precious. I’m happy to be raising a confident little girl who doesn’t need constant reassurance from me that I love her. I’m loving that I get to sit and cuddle this little person who is growing up far too fast and I know that she’s coming to cuddle with me because I can make her feel better.

Today was fun.

Yes Beanie was ill and yes we watched far too much television and several films. But I really like animated films and I love seeing her absorbing how each character moves and talks and then recreating them in our games later. She is also far too ill to be running around and expending energy that she needs to fight and get better. Films provide nice long periods where she can sit and be still and recover.

The day in question was a couple of months ago, when Beanie had an awful chest infection (a few days later was on ordered rest from the doctor!). Same activities, same feelings. The difference is in how I chose to look at these events. Sometimes days are bad, sometimes they are just downright awful and you want to lie down and cry. But seeking the good, seeing the positive, can change everything; from how you feel to how you respond. As I have said before; what’s your choice?

Breaking The Routine

As a first time mum it’s been driven into me a lot that young children cope well with having a basic routine for the day. It makes them feel more secure, they know what will happen and everything is not changing all the time. Speaking as someone who likes to have a plan in place (regardless of whether it changes later on) I can more than relate to this. However, sometimes the routine you create can be a rod for your own back rather than an aid to a peaceful (somewhat) and enjoyable day. Worrying about what they need to be doing and when makes you stressed out and irritable and can lead to a somewhat peevish child as right now they don’t want to be eating lunch and would much rather be playing, drawing or running around in circles (a favourite at the moment with the beanster). So while routine is important, mental flexibility is as well. Is it really important that they stop reading that book right now and eat their lunch? Forcing them to carry on drawing because they insisted on getting it out for half an hour and were interested for only five minutes before wanting something else can do nothing but cause friction (trust me I know!), instead show some flexibility and leave the activity out for them to return to when they’re ready.

Without a doubt we have had a routine as a family regarding nap times and meals. Now Beth’s a bit older we also have some regular activities we do during the week (bouncy castles for the win!!). However there is a certain thing that has insidiously crept its way into our daily routine, something that is a blessing and a curse in disguise, something that practically every parent of a toddler in the UK will know about….and that thing; is CBeebies.

It starts off so innocently at first, an episode of “In The Night Garden” before bed (developed by child psychologists to encourage sleepiness, but most people suspect acid trip) here, watching Zingzillas before the morning nap there. Then comes the discovery that the child sits still (actually SITS STILL!) enabling you to do useful household chores or getting everything you need for the day ready without said child clinging to your leg or running in front of you. You rationalize it of course “It’s educational” you say, “This one’s only 5 minutes long and they’re enjoying it so much it can’t hurt” and before you know it there are certain programmes that are a must have every day. They’re part of the routine. Suddenly, time gets that much tighter, there are more deadlines to hit, more things to do to make sure that your child feels safe and secure, you start feeling rushed and turn to your savior and oppressor CBeebies to help you through those tight spots where you need to spend time doing all the little jobs that are so much easier on your own. Before you know it the TV is the babysitter and while you might be able to get all the housework done (a rarity in this household at the best of times) there’s a sneaky guilty feeling that it’s at the cost of something a lot better. Know how I know this? Because slowly, but surely, I am heading that way with Beth.

Those activities I mentioned during the week that we do are more often than not in the morning going into her lunchtime nap. After breakfast I need to get lunch ready for Beth, make sure that the changing bag is ready, get myself ready (breakfast and being handed my clothes item by item by Beth), find shoes, debate the merits of walking vs pushchair and finally go. A fair few of these tasks were made easier by just some episodes of whatever was on “Beebies”, all of these tasks were completed with some breathing time with a lot of “Beebies” (and seeing it written down has just given me a cold shudder of shame). It has gotten to the point where Beth has her own spot in the living room. Well enough is enough.

Did you know that the recommended time for watching television for young children is two hours a day only. Strictly speaking as Beth is only twoandabit she shouldn’t be watching any at all! Watching television for an abnormally long amount of time has been linked to increased liklihood of Attention Deficit Disorder (however studies are unsure whether this was present in the children beforehand), increased likelihood of obesity due to the fact they’re sat in front of a screen rather than moving around and an incapability of dealing with lower levels of stimulation and needing to concentrate (for example when needing to focus in lessons at school). These effects are blamed on the way that programmes and adverts change focus very quickly and “wire” a young child’s developing brain to expect and need more stimulation than is normally provided in every day activities. In my mind I see it akin to my caffeine fix in the bad days of dissertation writing, after a few days of using coffee to help me stay awake and concentrate I couldn’t focus without it, without the stimulation and constant changes that they can get from watching the television a child finds it hard to focus and concentrate because their attention simply can not be held.

A few months ago our little family was away camping in a field full of buttercups and bar the usual discomforts of camping (which aren’t many given the size of our tent!) it was LIBERATING! All of a sudden we didn’t have time limits bar whenever food was required, there was no lingering murmur of “Beebies”, there was no mad scramble to get dinner ready and given to Beth before Driver Dan was on. There was no pressure. Admittedly we were more relaxed because we also didn’t have to work, but just being able to not have that option of TV distraction somehow made me more able to think of other ways for Beth to be entertained and for us to interact throughout the day. Turns out ripping up grass and putting it in stuff is an activity that can go on for hours (we’re thinking of hiring her out as a landscaper).

Now we’re back home I’m trying to make a conscious effort to rely less on children’s TV to keep Beth quiet. I’m trying to communicate more with her about what I need when I’m doing something (a task that can only become more effective the older she gets), I’m making more of an effort to be organized the night before to avoid that rushed “Oh crap where IS everything?!” feeling and now more forgiving about the fact that the dishwasher/washing/any form of housework hasn’t been done…it’s not usually done anyway, but I give myself less of a guilt trip about it. I am in no way saying that you should ban the television all together. Sometimes there are days when I or Beth are not feeling completely 100% (something which happened quite a few times since starting writing this particular blog for you all) and only Cbeebies will do for those all important necessary quite times. We still avail ourselves of the nighttime hour although with the warmer months  she’s watched that even less because sunshine means we can play in the garden (and by play I mean make adorable videos of the Beanster doing the latest Tiny Tigers Kung Fu form with me).

But for the me effort is to make sure that it is appropriate viewing time that she has when we do sit around the glowing box. Considering what else is out there on the networks available now, a few children’s programmes (that in the end are actually designed more or less to be educational and developmental) aren’t so bad.

Happy viewing.

Whoops!

Hi guys!

You may be heading here because you got notified about an update called “Myself and I”, which you may now notice is not here. Don’t worry it’s not a mistake, I was drafting that quite late last night and accidentally hit publish instead of save draft (D’OH). So consider that a free sneaky peek into what’s coming up for you guys :D.

Sorry for the mistake I shall now take extra double care when pushing buttons on this thing!!!!

Toodles!

Rin

TED Extravaganza

Dear readers, when you are reading this I shall be getting gloriously sunburnt/desparingly soggy (delete as weather dictates) camping with my partner and our one and a half year old daughter in a field full of buttercups (it’s gonna be AWESOME!). Rather than leave you with no update I thought this week I would share with you some of my favourite TED videos.

Here at Cambridge Kung Fu HQ we are ever so slightly obsessed with TED videos and always on the hunt for one that our colleagues haven’t seen as of yet. The ones that follow are some of the ones that have inspired me (professionally and personally) and I hope they have the same effect on you.

Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning

Being a martial arts company we have a lot of boys in our classes, as a female instructor I sometimes struggle to see things from a young male perspective and this video really helped me to start seeing activites in our classes from their point of view.

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

These two talks I absolutely love with a passion! In fact I often contemplate having his creatively educated babies (shhhhhh don’t tell Tom!). These videos help remind me to look at alternative ways of providing learning opportunities for the children in our classes.

Derek Sivers: Keep your goals to yourself

This one struck a chord personally for me. I realised that I have never followed through on any really big ideas I have had outside of work as I have already received the positive stimulation of congratulations from everyone I tell about the idea. Now I keep my personal goals more to myself to inspire myself to actually achieve them.

Sugata Mitra shows how kids teach themselves

This particular video reminds me to just LET GO! You may remember that I am a bit of a control freak, but this shows me that kids can learn anything if you just give them the opportunity to do so! Set aside my preconceptions on what the children I teach can and can’t handle in the class and just give it a go, they can (and very often have) amaze me with their response.

Gabe Zichermann: How games make kids smarter

Embrace the skills that (child appropriate) video games can teach the kids. This talk helps me to see how trying to keep children completely tech free at all times in this day and age is fighting a losing battle. By engaging with children while they are playing their games and encouraging them to apply those skills in every day situations away from the game can lead to a harmonious household and a more adaptable child. Please take this talk with a pinch of salt I am not advocating suddenly letting children play video games whenever they want 24/7, but instead using games as an additional learning opportunity.

And finally I leave you with two very awesome videos by my boss, our head Wing Chun Instructor and our only (at the moment) Circular Strength Training Instructor. Here is Ross Sargent advocating and demonstrating the benefits of intelligent and mindful movement.

Blindfold Kung Fu

Mindful Movement

Enjoy the sunny weather and I shall see you all in a couple of weeks!

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to The Workings of Rin! Please bear with us for a little bit as we are still constructing this blog. In the meantime if you’d like something to do why not check out the classes my company do for children and adults? You can either click on one of the menus above or follow this stealthy ninja to find out what we’re all about.

See you soon!