Sunday, December 13, 2009

My third belt test

My seven-year-old daughter and I just passed our third belt test yesterday (12/12/09). We are now orange stripes. The test was scheduled for 11:00 AM, but the white belts and yellow stripes were testing at 10:00 AM, and their test went long. There were about 15 yellow stripes and 8 white belts, so that was a pretty big group. Our group used to have 15 in it, too, but a few people have dropped out, and several were out of town for the holidays, so there were only 9 of us testing together yesterday. Anyway, we didn't start until 11:30, but we finished much faster than the previous group.

I was not nearly as nervous for this test as I had been for the previous two, but I did manage to forget our boards for our breaking technique. Fortunately, I remembered just in time to run back home and get them, and then the test was delayed, so we had plenty of time. We only live about a mile from the school.

Before we could begin the test, our instructor had to put something away in the office, so he told us to practice our forms, self defense and one-step sparring for a couple of minutes. It was pretty funny. We kept running into each other. The test began with warm ups, and then we seemed to fly right through our techniques. Master Byong-Cheol Kim commented on how well my daughter executed her punches. Our only new techniques were the front-foot roundhouse kick and the front-foot side kick. I also think that the masters were in a hurry to get back to Lake Oswego to get ready for the holiday party.

We did our form without any trouble. And then we ran through our self-defense and one-step sparring. I tried to do the self defense moves quickly, and I think I surprised my instructor because although he had been dropped to the ground six times already, he seemed surprised when a threw him to the floor.

During our previous tests, our instructor held our boards for us one at a time, while we demonstrated our breaking technique. This time, in order to hurry things along, the masters came out from behind their table and held boards for us as well, so we got to break three at a time. Anyway, Master Byong-Cheol Kim held my board for me. He said I had a really strong side kick which made me feel very proud of myself.

We all received our new belts. My daughter's and mine were yellow belts with orange stripes. It's an intermediate step between yellow belt and orange belt. My daughter also received a small trophy and a gold star (for her uniform) for having an excellent attitude and earning ten black stripes. The black stripes are stickers that our instructor applies to her belt each week that she shows a good attitude at home. After we got our new belts, our instructor (Jason Leitzke) gave each family a Christmas present. We opened ours in the car. It was a taekwondo ornament for the Christmas tree.

At 5:00 PM was the holiday party in Lake Oswego for the students and families from all four of Master Kim's taekwondo schools. It was a potluck, lots of demonstrations, an award ceremony, and a talent show. I liked the demonstrations best. There was a tiny tiger demonstration that was really cute. Tiny tigers are taekwondo students between the ages of 4 and 6. They did punches and kicks and breaking. It was awesome.

Then the demonstration teams did some things, mostly the same things that we saw at the tournament in April. Three of the four schools have demonstration teams. Our school doesn't have a demonstration team because we only have three black belts. We need about a dozen, I think. The talent show featured a violinist in the first act and then four boys break dancing as the second act.

The awards ceremony featured 36-inch trophies. They were handed out in several categories: best focus, most improved student, leadership, family of the year, parent of the year, etc. One student from each school won a trophy in each category. I was very surprised to hear my name called out as the recipient of the parent of the year award from my school. My four-year-old son REALLY liked my trophy, so I decided he could carry it home, and we would display it in his room.

The masters' demonstration was the final event. A master is someone who has achieved the rank of a fourth degree black belt. It takes three years to earn a black belt, another year to earn a second degree, two more years to earn a third degree and the three more years to earn a fourth degree, so a forth degree black belt represents 9-10 years of study. If a black belt is like a high school diploma, then a fourth degree black belt is like a master's degree, maybe. There are also 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th degree black belts.

Anyway, they did a lot of cool stuff. I thought Master Kim was going to hurt somebody when they brought out the boards he was planning to break. We usually break boards that are 12-inches square of varying thicknesses depending on age. My boards are about half an inch thick, while my daughter's boards are about a quarter of an inch thick. I think these boards were at least half an inch thick, but they were 36-inches square. They were holding at least six of them, and it wasn't easy. They wore gloves to keep the boards from cutting their hand, and improve their grip. There was one guy on each side, and then another guy behind each of them, and a fifth guy steadying the lot. I thought Master Kim was going to break their arms if he actually kicked those boards hard enough to break them, but he pulled it off without a hitch. I think he used a back kick, and the boards just crumbled. When they did, children from the sidelines rushed out onto the mats to snatch up the pieces. They took them home like trophies.

Master Kim did another demonstration with a blindfold. His friend Master Je-Kyoung Kim, held an apple on the end of short stick and a bell. He rang the little bell right next to the apple, and Master Kim kicked the apple right off the stick and entirely over the audience.

There was some concern about icy road conditions but we didn't have any trouble getting home.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Forty Pounds Down!

Forty pounds down! I had to get another haircut to break the plateau, but it feels like I'm moving in the right direction again - just 15 more to go! It took me 2.0 months to loses the eighth 5 pounds. I’m competing in the Biggest Loser challenge again at work right now. We just finished Week 4. It's an 8-week contest. So far I've lost 2.6% of my body weight. That ranks me at 21 in a field of 56. My goal was to loose 12% of my body weight, so I should be at 6% at this point. I don't think I can catch up to my goal. I don't know if I could win even if I do catch up to my personal goal. The first prize is $800. Second prize is $400, and third prize is $200.

I'm still carrying my super-cool bento-style lunch box to work. Today it is full of salad. Another strategy I’m trying right now is to each a mid morning snack and a mid afternoon snack. My calorie budget has slipped below 1200 calories per day to 1184 calories per day. It's not hard to meet that budget on the days I go to taekwondo class. 45 minutes of taekwondo burns 615 calories. Finding something else to do on the other days that burn that many calories is really hard. I like to use the WiiFit, but thirty minutes of yoga only burns 70 calories, 30 minutes of aerobics or calisthenics burns 149 calories. I also like to ride my bike. It's getting harder now that it's getting darker earlier, but 30 minutes less than 10 miles per hour only burns 128 calories.

I've given up on the pushup program for now. The program just isn't working for me. I would the pushups, as many as I could, but I didn't feel like I was getting stronger. I wish we did pushups everyday in taekwondo class, but we don't actually do them very often.

I've also pretty much given up geocaching in favor of waymarking. It's less like a treasure hunt and more like a scavenger hunt. Instead of looking for hidden boxes at specific coordinates, you look for interesting places to fit into specific categories. There are more than 900 categories; for example, McDonald's restaurants, Oregon historical markers and gazebos. I've been trying to find as many as I can in Scappoose. There's not so much hiking involved, but lots more photography.

The calorie counter that I have on my iPhone is invaluable. It really makes a difference on the days I actually input my food and exercise. I wish I were better about it. I did a really good job entering everything the last time I did Biggest Loser, but I'm much more sporadic right now - need to do better.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My first six months of taekwondo

It's been six months now since we enrolled in taekwondo, and we just completed our second belt test. We are wearing yellow belts now. My six-year-old daughter and I are wearing yellow belts. My four-year-old son has decided no to continue with taekwondo. I'm hoping he will change his mind when he gets a little older. I think the rules and structure were just too much for him.

We met Master Byong-Cheol Kim at our first belt test, and he was at our second belt test, too. He and his partner Je-Kyoung Kim are really neat guys, surprisingly soft spoken. Their accents are pretty heavy, and we can't understand them very well, but it's easy to see how much they love their sport and their students.

For our first belt test in June we learned: attention, walking stance, sparring stance, horse stance, high block, middle block, low block, single punch, double punch, triple punch, front kick, jumping front kick, jumping double front kick and axe kick. We demonstrated all of these during our belt test as well as Basic Form Number One.

Basic Form Number One consists of low blocks and middle punches all delivered over walking stance. The tricky part was the turns. Sometimes we performed front foot turns and sometimes we performed back foot turns. It took a long time to memorize the form. My daughter was the first to memorize the form. Then she got distracted during the test and made several mistakes. She had to perform the form three times before she got it right. She was pretty embarrassed.

We also performed a one-step sparring routine and a self-defense move. The one step-sparring routine involved a high block and a face high punch delivered to assailant attempting a face high punch. The self-defense move involved removing an assailants hand from our shoulder and delivering an open-handed chop to the back of the elbow.

The best part of the belt test is the breaking technique. For our first belt test, we broke a board with a front kick. My daughter couldn't hold her toes out of the way, and she hurt her foot on her first attempt. It took her three more tries to break her board, but she didn't give up and got it done. At the end of the test we were given our new belts: they looked like our white belts, but they had a yellow stripe running down the middle, the entire length of the belt.

For our second belt test in September we learned: front stance, palm block down, palm block side, palm strike face, four punches, five punches, side kick, roundhouse kick and circle kick. We demonstrated all of these during our belt test as well as Basic Form Number Two.

Basic Form Number Two consists of low blocks and middle punches over front stance. It was very similar to Basic Form Number One, so it wasn't hard to learn. We also performed a one-step sparring routine and two self defense moves. The one-step sparring routine involved a palm block to the side, double punch, round house kick and a circle kick delivered to an assailant attempting to deliver a single punch to the body.

The first self defense move begins when the assailant grabs our shoulder with one hand. We wrap our hand around his arm and then deliver a c-strike to the throat and an elbow strike to the nose. The second self-defense move begins when the assailant grabs both shoulders with both hands. We wrap our arms around his arms and then deliver a knee strike to his groin and a head butt to his nose.

The best part of the belt test is the breaking technique. This time we broke our board with an axe kick. We were a lot less nervous this time. We both got it done on the first attempt. At the end of the test, we received our new belts: bright yellow!

Now that we are yellow belts, we can attend sparring class! My sparring gear will arrive tomorrow. I found some second-hand sparring gear for my daughter. Our first sparring class is Wednesday. Our next belt test is in December, then we will wear orange stripes. So far we are learning: back stance, single knife block, double knife, double down, front side kick and front roundhouse.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thirty-five Pounds Down!

Thirty -five pounds down!Wow! That was really fast. It took me 0.8 months to loose the seventh 5 pounds. That biggest loser challenge was very motivating. I didn't win. The winner lost about 11.5% of her body weight. She won $650. The woman in second place lost about 11% of her body weight. She won $200. The woman in third place lost about 10.5% of her body weight. She won $100. I was in fourth place. I lost 10.4% of my body weight (20.5 pounds). We're planning a rematch in September. Until then, I'm getting back to focusing on my push ups goal. I had hope to get to 100 by the time I belt test again on September 25th, but I don't think that's going to happen now. We'll see how far I get. I finally bought myself a pair of pants that fit - Size 18! Whoo-hoo! I threw out all my 22s and 24s. No looking back. Full steam ahead!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thirty Pounds Down!

30 pounds down! (25 to go) Wow! that was the hardest five yet. Here's a recap:
  • It took me 1.4 months to lose the first five pounds.
  • It took me 2.1 months to lose the second five pounds.
  • It took me 3.7 months to lose the third five pounds.
  • It took me 3.4 months to lose the fourth five pounds.
  • It took me 3.4 months to lose the fifth five pounds.
  • It took me 4.4 months to lose the sixth five pounds.
My latest scheme is inspired by the film Super Size Me. That film underscored the poor quality of fast food and school lunches, so I ordered a fancy lunch box from Laptop Lunches. I'm practicing some of their recipes, so I'll be ready when Samantha starts going to school for a whole day in September. I'm also reading a book titled The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson. It's mostly about replacing sugar, meat and additives with organic whole grain and produce.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Biggest Loser, Lose It! & Hundred Pushups

It's been 17 weeks since my last update. I regret that I am unable to report reaching another 5 pound milestone at this time. I've been up and down quite a bit in the past 17 weeks. However, I am very excited about a few developments. First, I joined the Biggest Loser Challenge here at work. It's a bit like the game show in that contestants try to lose the most weight and it is measured as a percentage of your starting weight, and there is a cash prize at the end. About 50 people joined with an entrance fee of $25.00 that puts the prize money very near $1250. There will be some weekly prizes that nibble away at that just a bit, but it's a great motivator to keep on track.

I also found a new app for my iPhone called Lose It. It helps me track calories from food and exercise, and it helped me set a daily calorie goal for losing 2 pounds per week. It works WAY better than Weight Watcher Online, primarily because the database was part of the download. I don't have to connect to the Internet in order to look up the calorie content of a given food item.

I also found a website called It is a gradual training program much like the Couch to 5k program I was all excited about last April. This program also comes with an iPhone app to help keep track of the sets and rest periods for each day and each week. I'm planning to start this program right after belt testing while we are on our vacation as part of my plan not to turn into a complete wimp while I'm away from my taekwondo class for a week. That first day back from Hawaii was a killer!

I'm planning to combine the 100 pushups program with the 200 sit ups program, the 200 squats program and the Couch to 5K programs. They all come with iPhone apps to help me keep track of my schedule.

There is also a 20 chin-ups training program by another guy, but I don't have a chinning bar, so I don’t I’m going to start that one right away, but I'm putting up the link because it has some great videos of men doing chin-ups in rather interesting ways. Maybe after I reach 100 pushups and 200 sit-ups I'll be strong enough to start on chin-ups. I could go to the playground near my house. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My first month of taekwondo

Last month, I enrolled my four-year-old son, my six-year-old daughter and myself in a taekwondo school (03/24/2009). I thought it would be good for my son: good for his discipline and good for his confidence. It has been great fun. I found a brand new school with a storefront studio just a few blocks from our house. Their introductory promotion included three weeks of lessons and a free uniform. The instructor at this location is very young, about 22. He is a college student studying nursing. He has been studying taekwondo since he was 9. He's been teaching taekwondo since he was 17. He is preparing for his fourth degree black belt examination in April. His instructor is Master Byong-Cheol Kim, a South Korean who immigrated to this country after retiring from competitive taekwondo. He won several international competitions including the final round at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. His partner Je-Kyoung Kim was his teammate at the Olympics, and he also won the final round in his weight class. I haven't met either of them yet. They teach at other campuses in Beaverton and Lake Oswego.

Anyway, after a month we have learned two punches, three blocks and three kicks. We haven't leaned any forms yet. We've been doing a lot of jumping jacks, stretching, pushups and sit-ups (crunches). We have also learned to count to ten in Korean.

Our first belt test will be in June. Right now we all wear white belts. If we pass our belt test we will wear white belts with yellow stripes. Belt tests are every three months. If we stick with it, we can work through the rainbow and earn our black belts in about three years.

Before the children can belt test they have to earn stripes. The stripes are stickers which will wrap around the tip of their belt. They have to earn one red stripe, one blue stripe, one green stripe and seven black stripes. The red strip is for doing well in school. The blue stripe is for reading a book. The green stripe is for taekwondo skills learned in class. And the black stripes are for good behavior at home.

Last week they tried to earn their black stripe for showing respect. They didn't do so well. It's obvious that this is not a virtue we have been teaching in our family. This week they will try to earn a black stripe for showing gratitude. I'm sure they will earn this stripe without any trouble. We've always taught them to say thank you in our family. Next week they will try to earn a black stripe for taking responsibility. They will have to clean their rooms (or do some other chore) without being asked. This will be tough, but my daughter loves to be recognized for her achievements, so I think she'll be able to do it. My son is a good copy-cat. If his sister does it, I think he might do it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Twenty-five Pounds Down!

Twenty five pounds down! It's been 54 weeks since I started and 16 weeks since I hit my last 5-pound milestone. It's slow going, but slow is better than backwards. The holidays were rough, but spring is just around the corner. I'm thinking about taking up a new hobby: geocaching - ever heard of it? You need a GPS locator, then you go online and get the latitude and longitude for a local cache, enter the coordinates and then hike out to wherever it is. When you find it, it usually contains a log book where you can write your name: I was here. Sometimes there is a collection of worthless tinkets. You can take one as long as you add one. Its a popular hobby among geeks and nerds who like high tech gizmos like GPS locators, but it includes hiking, so I figure it might be good for me too.