Work in Progress

Q: Are you nervous about training at the Retreat Center?

My biggest concern is that my best may not be good enough. If accepted, I wouldn’t go into the program with a negative attitude, but you also have to check your ego at the door and “empty your cup.” Everyone knows what it’s like to try your best and fail to meet expectations. What then? I don’t know, but it’s not the end of the world. You still gain from it. Failure is on the path to success. Everyone has standards, and the two most important ones are Dr. Yang’s and mine. I’m not sure whose is higher. I’ll just do what I do. If people I respect already believe in me, I should have more faith in myself.


The final students are selected on June 15, 2013.

Training update:

I started jogging with a 20 lb weight vest about 3x per week. I do this while walking my 15 year old dog, who is in pretty good shape for his age, but he can only go for so long.


Diego is 1/2 chow chow and 1/2 jindo

In the spring, I practiced a lot of sequences to prepare for competitions. Now, my focus is on reaction and sparring for my period requirements: linear staff sparring and knife counters. I’m very fortunate to have Scott from YMAA Amesbury as one of my training partners. Breaking down staff sparring is new to me and I’m starting to figure things out on my own rather than take instructions all the time. We can sting, but we have to stay in a straight line so we can’t really use angles to block and escape. I mostly rely on hitting the stings downwards. Vertical blocks are an option, but in my practice, they seem to be slow and the attacker can quickly strike again before I change grips to attack. We’re also supposed to attack the fingers so we wear hockey gloves, which limit your mobility in sliding and switching grips. Still, it’s better than getting your fingers smashed. We broke it down by working on normal and reverse grips, setting up attacks, and doing sticking drills. Does anyone who is working on this or passed it have any tips?


For knife counters, I need to be faster in all aspects because I’m getting stabbed most of the time. Sometimes when I block, I get my hand on the attacker’s hand, but I’m too slow to counter before they pull back their hand. I’m not fast enough to use qin na and I’d really like to watch someone who is. At first, I’d give up after the first stab because in real life, the fight would probably end there. I changed my approach to continue trying to seal or counterattack after being hit. I also go on the offensive more often to deter my partner from stabbing, or to bait them to attack or move in a certain way. It’s all a perpetual work in progress. I welcome advice on training.

This is one part about training that I don’t enjoy. I have to treat my partners (who are also my friends) as my enemies and once I do, I hurt them. They have a fake rubber knife, but I have real kicks, strikes, and accidental pokes to the eyes. The worst damage most partners do is leave some black marks on me or my shirt. Fighting is not something I enjoy, but to be good at it, I have to forget my partners are my friends and pretend they intend to hurt me.


Traditionally, your training partners are your martial arts siblings. You do everything together: train, eat, drink, work, support, grow. It would be interesting to see how you deal with the different roles. Can you flip the switch, just like that?

2 thoughts on “Work in Progress

  1. Very nice writing as always Michelle. In regards to speed I heard a teacher say – "you don't need to be faster, you need to start moving sooner." I really liked that myself. Maybe it will help.Another teacher was talking about being shot and your mental response to it. He said you just assume it hit nothing vital and keep fighting as if nothing is wrong. Obviously things might very well be wrong but if the attacker is still the priority then he must be dealt with. He said the same mentality applies to knives, or any time you are taking damage in general. – Ken

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