The thing about jumping rope is….

I’ve been getting some feedback from my students about our conditioning warm-up.  Some of the feedback has been non-verbal and consists of groans and rolling of eyes when I tell the class to “grab a jump rope”.   However, a couple of the students have been so enamored of jumping rope that they have written about it!

Richard Schreiber wrote a journal entry today on the LRMA site:

“I am new at jumping rope.  I can play every musical instrument invented except for drums and flute, I got a pilot’s license, manage a multi-million dollar company, owned a restaurant at age 23, fathered children, am a happily dutiful clergy spouse, can cook, and was an usher at the International Barbershop Quartet Convention.  I am terrible at jumping rope.

I am getting better.  I started this new hobby in August when I re-upped at LRMA.  In the days of Mr. Hudson and Mr. Turley real men didn’t jump rope…and then Mrs. Ray came along.  In August I couldn’t get that rope around twice, now I can make it 30 seconds or so before that little timer in my brain says, “Miss it, and miss it”!

Pre-school girls can jump for hours and giggle at the same time.  All of the women in adult class skip over the rope perfectly timed to the thumping music on Mrs. Ray’s iPod. 

And then there’s Mrs. Ray.  She doesn’t jump rope like a girl.  She jumps like a person possessed, in double time, occasionally glancing at the clock wondering if we should go another couple of minutes. 

Someday I hope to be good at jump rope.  Not like “Cinderella dressed in yellow”.  Maybe like, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee“.

 Jennifer Seller on Face book yesterday:


So what is the deal with jump ropes?

With the advent of the New Year, I’ve been on a mission to get back on my workout routine.  After my test December 11, I took a few weeks off from training.  (The fact that I couldn’t walk on my right heel for a couple weeks did have something to do with that decision.  Four inches of wood for a board break did more damage to my heel than the boards)

The break was nice, but time to get back to the routine.  If you there on December 11, you probably noticed that cardio and conditioning was a major component of my 5th Dan test.    If you weren’t there, let me just say that I was really glad I had been working hard on cardio and being in shape.  If I hadn’t, I would not have survived the test. 

One of my favorite conditioning warm-ups came from Master Dring.  It includes jumping rope. 

Two years ago I went to Master Dring’s for a workout at noon.  He told us to get the jump ropes out.  Ten minutes later I was a ball of frustration and my toes had welts on them.  I felt awkward and uncoordinated, and I was not a happy camper.  I chalked it up to a frustrating day, and forgot about it.

The next class…same thing.  And I was just as awkward.  Plus I was gasping for air.  In retrospect, I might have been winded because I was holding my breath while trying to concentrate on jumping rope without bruising my feet.

By the third class in a row, it became evident that jumping rope was going to be part of the workouts with Master Dring. 

When I got back to the school I got online and ordered 30 jump ropes.  If I was going to have to jump rope, I was going to learn how to do it.  If I was going to learn how to do it (because it was good for me, right?) then my students were going to jump rope also. 

Here is the thing about jumping rope.  If you are in my classes, you have probably figured out that jumping rope is going to be a part of your future.  It’s a great way to get cardio in, and it works on footwork and coordination.  I don’t think it’s the cardio that is the challenge (although I could be wrong) I think it is the coordination and footwork that is causing the problem.  Yes, I do see the clenched jaws and frowns of frustration on my student’s faces.  I know learning this new skill feels awkward.  Been there myself.

It took a while, but I was eventually able to jump for 30 seconds or so without whacking my feet to shreds.  That is when it started to be fun.  There was the challenge of how long I could go without tripping.  Could I make it all the way through “Right Round” or “Boom, Boom, Pow”?  There are variations with the footwork and rhythm….feet together…two each side then two together…knees up…slow/fast….

So now we put the jump rope together with Master Dring’s’ conditioning workout.

This is the “getting back in shape” version:

1 minute jump rope, then 30 seconds each jumping jacks, shuffles, squats, mountain climbers, pushups, ab work.

We do three rounds.  It takes less than 15 minutes. 

That is going to be the warm up for the next few weeks.   Fair warning!

The “getting into better shape” version:

We will work up to 2 minutes rope, 1 minute each of the rest of the components. 

By our next test in February everyone is going to be in much better shape.  Hang in there with me guys!

The Test Is Tonight. But It Started Thirty Three Years Ago.

I told myself I wasn’t going to get emotional about this.  And I’ve done pretty well until this morning.   I think I’m going to blame the emotionalism on Kira.  She planted the seed last night when she stopped by the school.  I think the comment was along the lines of “you are going to be crying tomorrow night when this is over”.

I denied it of course.  I might tear up when awarding rank to my students, but not about my own test.  I have been in work mode these last few weeks, struggling to fit in personal obligations, staff changes at the school and final training for my test today.  Yes, I have been stressed.  Waking at 2:30am and getting on the computer to work out a new schedule or jot down curriculum ideas.  Spending hours each day training with Master Dring or on my own, trying to get more repetitions in.  I still don’t know what board breaks I’ll be doing.  My self defense demo was put together in an hour on Tuesday.  Many many thanks to Tom Genz, Brady Speers and Surya Cheek for their patience and good humor while I figured out what to do.  I sincerely hope they remember to wear a cup.

I finished the newspaper this morning and allowed myself to think about this evening.  Not the technical parts which I have been obsessing over (moves to the forms, self defense, shadow boxing, board breaks, sparring, conditioning) but the meaning of this test for me.

I found myself drinking coffee on the couch, tears streaming down my face. Thinking about the people that have been with me for the journey.

My first Taekwondo class in 1976.  Carla Griffey was in the class.  Now Carla Hazelwood, she is still part of my life and does all of the beautiful calligraphy on our black belt certificates.   Jim Bottin owned the school and talked me into trying a class.  He is my landlord and is a great resource of knowledge.   Rick Balkin was in the kids classes I used to teach. He will test for Master early next year and is both instructor and friend to me.

Jim Robinson will sit on my judge’s panel tonight. He was my first instructor and tied my black belt on me in 1978.  He inspired me then to push myself, to be tough, to not be satisfied with anything other than my personal best.  He set the example.  I never imagined that he would still be a part of my life 33 years later.

John and Allison Drew will be driving in from Dallas to be on the panel.  Allison will spar with me, as we did when we tested for 4th Dan.   John is now Master Drew;  Allison received her 5th Dan a couple of months ago.  Fellow school owners, but more importantly, friends that I know I can confide in and depend on.

Marcus Roby will be there.  I didn’t know him when he was on staff at Little Rock Martial Arts, but met him shortly after I started training there.    He has taught seminars at my school, driven from Texarkana to work out.  So many lunches and dinners, laughing and talking.

Gerald Garbett.  The “General”.  A fixture at LRMA, he received his 5th two months ago.   Friend.  Confidant.  How many classes, camps, seminars have we done together?  Thirteen years.

My little sister Tracey.  My closest friend.   Now a 4th Dan.  There are no words.

Master Danny Dring will be running the test.  My instructor and friend.   Week in and week out for six years he has put up with me.  One of the toughest men I know, he has an incredible depth of martial arts knowledge.   I’ve been honored to learn from him.   He has also set the example on physical conditioning, the man is crazy.   He was the second phone call when I found out I needed a hip replacement.  I insisted on the same brand of metal hip that he has.  He did all the research for me.  Unfortunately it didn’t make my kicks anything like his.

I could write pages reminiscing about “the old days”.  Too many people to list.  But all of them in my head and heart.

Charles.  Still my friend and supporter.  He cut the boards for my test tonight and even sanded the edges so the board holders could hold tighter.   He has always believed in me, pushed me to be better.  He supported my decision to buy the school, helped set me on the path of whom I am today.

Joseph Jordan.   We were to test together.  Because of his back injuries  I’m doing this alone tonight.  But he will be there.   He has been my friend, my partner.  What an extraordinary young man he is.

My staff.  Jackson and Kailum are the best.

Students and parents.   The reason I do what I do.  When I see the sense of accomplishment and pride on the face of a student, when a parent sends me a note telling me I have changed their child’s life, I know that I am doing what I am meant to do.

My “Peeps”.    Kira, Tracey, Patti, Leslie, Sheri, Jill, Heidi, Jessica.  My go to group of friends for lunch, dinner, “girl’s night out”, talks on the phone or dancing in the living room.   All friends because of martial arts.

Tom Callos and The Ultimate Black Belt Test turned my world upside down. My UBBT team members set the standard.  Tom continues to challenge me to think outside the box. Sometimes I fall flat on my face.  But I know that this year of UBBT has made me a better person and a better martial artist.

Steve.  My rock.   He knows when to push me, and knows when to back off.   He is the calm in the storm.

As I sit here, thinking about this test, it’s like a huge mosaic of faces, names, experiences.   Some are dusty and from the past, others new and shiny.  Martial arts have been part of my life for thirty three years.  I could never have imagined how my life would be changed when I took that first class.  So I’m going to head to the school, walk through the patterns a few more times.  But I know the test really isn’t tonight.  The test has been for the last thirty three years.  And it will continue on Monday.