As part of my test to 5th degree black belt in early 2016, I was required to write a thesis on some aspect of taekwondo.

In my standard application of the philosophy, “Excessiveness is excellent,” I wrote two theses…

This is the more universal of the two, applicable to not only taekwondo tournaments, but any martial arts tournament or other multi-event competition where an all-around award is given.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts and mathematical proofs on how to improve the scoring theory for the award commonly known as “Grand Champion.”

analysis-and-revision-of-grand-champion-award-methodology-and-rules

If you’d like to use this methodology, here are some documents that you are welcome to use:

grand-champion-instructions

grand-champion-tally-sheet

grand-champion-tracking-sheet

 

If you have ideas or recommendations for improvement, please share your comments. I love to discuss this sort of stuff!

As you may or may not know, I’m not particularity taken with gold trim and accessories. I tend to prefer my shiny accoutrements in shades of silver.

With one glaring exception.

Gold Medals over a black belt. That is my summer fashion of choice, and it is complemented quite well by black (and blue and yellowishy-green) eyes. 10612976_10152347565302449_6137861617022502266_n10429344_10152215864612681_2296673130586704454_n

After three years of not-so-awesome health that forced me to seriously curtail my martial endeavors (and work, and pretty much everything), things have been finally getting better and so this year, I went out for the US Taekwondo Team again.

I qualified in Patterns, Sparring, and my personal specialty, Power Breaking. Though on the mend, I still had to watch myself and so most of my limited training time went towards Breaking. From past experience, Patterns and Sparring are so subjectively judged that there’s no guarantee that skill and training will overcome the geopolitical biases. In contrast, breaking is very cut and dried (ha ha).

And I might also have had a little something to prove…

Four years ago, I was at a rather high point in my game, competing in several events, trained to the wazoo, and winner of two shiny gold medals in Power Breaking. I was the world champion.

That was a long time and a lot of issues ago. But I wanted it to regain my title and do it again.

Long story short, I made it. Mission accomplished. Medal achieved. 2014 Power Breaking World Champion. (Or if we use the Italian lingo, World Champion of “Destruction”). I vote we all adopt the Italian way of saying it.

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Along they way, I also got to hang out with friends that I don’t get to see very often (sans FB, but that doesn’t really count), introduce some new students to the wild thing that is Worlds, see my little sister prove herself to be one of the top Technique Breakers in the world, and help coach Team USA.

Worlds is an indescribable experience that is full of chaos, tension, full-contact, not-according-to-plans, friends, victory, defeat, camaraderie, and so much more. I am happy with my own result, but I’m also so proud of my students that went for the first time. They all did me proud in different ways and some of them surprised themselves by stepping up to a level they’ve never even contemplated before and holding their own against the best in the world. (Some of them realized that I did not lie about the level of intensity and so will return humbled (hopefully) and alive (whew!) to train with a better understanding of what to expect next time.

Coaching was a lot of work and stress, but it was also a great experience. I ended up being kinda the main power breaking coach for a while and it was a mess. Already behind schedule, the organizers figured out that the boards they had chosen did not fit the board-holders that they’d had built. (*shuts mouth, but snicker escapes*) Really? No one thought to check the fit before a thousand black belts from across the world arrived in Rome to compete? That’s definitely an oops.

The first couple of divisions were done with a rather sad setup that involved an Argentinian’s black belt threaded through the holder to keep the arms up. It didn’t work so great, but it happened.

Eventually, someone intercepted the intense psychic emanations I was sending out detailing a simple modification to the rebreakable boards that would solve the board-holder problem and some other obvious issues. (As a team-member/coach, verbally making the suggestion would have been not a good idea.)

Anyhow, an Italian with a drill cut some notches and after only two messed-up divisions, the board-holding situation was more-or-less acceptable.

Serious coaching duties ensued as angry Australians got the new setup in a division where the old setup had been used and coaches pointed out the problem and things were translated into at least three different languages, and eventually the angry Aussie lost. I’m not happy for him, but it was my responsibility to take care of my guys and sometimes that means making it a very bad day for some other competitor. Competitors have to be nice, coaches have to make up the difference.

The venue was of interest. It was a stadium built primarily for martial arts events, which is definitely a rarity. It was very architecturally intriguing, but any such pros were nothing in comparison to the terrible fact that no one would or could (…semantics…) turn the air-c (as they say in Italia) on. A thousand sweaty competitors in a closed stadium in Italy in the summer… Yeah. Non e bene. Not bene at all.

The only tiny ray of awesome regarding the venue was the fact that we were in Italy and therefore the snack bar served espresso. A caffe italiano makes everything better and a caffe carreto (or real Italian coffee, according to my Dad’ new friend the barrista (barristo? guy barrista? It doesn’t matter so much in Italian, but seems potentially confusing in l’Ingles…) anyway…caffe carreto is molto bene.

Much caffe had already been enjoyed in the week before as me and my family started our Italian adventure in Venezia, where I will be going back to at some point. (BTW, the sourness of my facial expression had nothing to do with how I feel about Venice and everything to do with the fact that I am not wearing sunglasses.)

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More caffe and vino rosso was consumed and we made it up into Switzerland for a day and then back down on a scenic train ride through the Alps. There was a glacier, it was awesome, and the free hotel breakfast in Chur (not pronounced like it looks) was cured hams, bologna, cappuccino, cheeses, and more yummies that cannot be properly related. Suffice to say that it makes pretty much all breakfast other than a perfect omelet seem lame and tasteless.

10590431_10152318964812449_4462999686094751208_nAlthough Switzerland was very green and pretty and cool, I’m a little more inclined towards the Italian attitude. My OCD is not sufficient to be accepted in Switzerland. I’m much more in line with the “those weeds aren’t hurting anything, let’s call it a day and drink some wine” vibe that I intuited back down in Italia.

Next stop was the little town of Cremona, mecca of all things violin, and one of the coolest little spots I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out in. There were museums, food, coffee, luthiers, full four-course Italian dinners, wine, beer, music, cobblestones, and just more fun that I can describe and a friendly atmosphere that was so relaxing after the whirlwind run we’d been on for the last couple of days.

We actually spent an extra day in Cremona, and I don’t regret it one bit. The only thing that went wrong was when we missed out train out. (Apparently, there was a little, dead-end track around behind the station and it was not seen by us…) We made the next train, but it seriously curtailed our next stop in Modena.

Modena, motor-valley, Italia, home of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, and balsamic vinegar. ‘Nuff said. My orignal plan of a day touring all the museums and factories possible turned into half-an-hour at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari. Despite the short time we had there, it was amazing. One-of-a-kind cars that are priceless national treasures and will never leave Italy were on display and it was just wonderful. But I still love a GTO, the famous Pontiac slap in Ferrari’s face.

An overnight in Firenze, in an awesome apartment that was only at the top of five flights of narrow stairs. I got me a journal/notebook with a little of both Florentine paper and leather in it, saw a lot of under-clothed statues, and then rolled onwards and down to our final destination, Roma.

Did I mention that we rented a beach house two-minutes from the venue? Well, yeah.

It was certainly more convenient than the official hotel with was a good hour away from the venue and everyone got bused in and out every day. Not the greatest for sight-seeing in Roma proper, as it was a good forty-five minutes on the Metro to get downtown, but we did get a day in historical Rome, and the Colosseum was amazing. Even after all the marvels I’d seen over the past week, Rome was yet another level of amazing. The scope, the skill, and the mind-boggling thought of how long ago it had all been built. There are no words, just go see it.

Then the tournament started and that was about it for sight-seeing. I spent the morning staking out a couple hundred seats (the only ones with backs) in the stadium with the one other team member who stayed close to the venue. We waited for the rest of the team to be bussed in and fought off everyone but the Netherlands. They were allowed to join us in our primo-seating section because you got to like ’em. (And they aren’t a very big team and there wasn’t much free space other than our claim, since the very last team to be transported was, of course, ours.)

 

Worlds Adventure ’14 was a success and a pleasure and I’m already ready to go back to Italia…

(There were no lasting effects other than a renewed and strengthened addiction to good Italian coffee. I immediately was compelled to get a nespresso machine when I got home in order to survive.)

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Oh, and that was just part one…

Upon returning to the US of A, we spent less than a week desperately reloading ammo before we packed the pickup full of weaponry and headed to Raton for the 2014 Rocky Mountain 3-Gun World Shoot.

Five days of mountainous natural terrain stages, hundreds of round of ammo, and one very big surprise.

Despite neglecting my 3-gun training for Destruction practice all year, and in spite of the fact that I was still rather jet-lagged and just generally exhausted from Worlds, I had to shoot on the 6th day too.

Apparently, I finished 3rd Lady (by score) and thus made it into the Brownell’s Lady Shoot-off. I had no idea what that would entail, but I showed up and got to go head-to-head with the top Lady in 3-Gun, Lena Miculek.

She smoked me.

Then, I got to face-off with the next best thing, Dianna Liedorff. I didn’t win that one either, but I came darn close, especially considering that I was shooting Tac Irons (no magnification) and they all had scopes. There was this one pesky 6″ plate at 300 yards that just wasn’t easy…

I didn’t win the shoot-off, but I found out that even taking forth, I got a not-insignificant cash prize. And then I went to the prize table and got to stand in the FFL line! Woot!

I also got a medal for taking first Lady in Tac Irons (despite being the only lady in Tac Irons…but I did finish well, so I’m still pretty proud of it.)

Being the definitive dark horse in the shoot-off against the top three ladies in 3-gun was a hoot. (The “hello, and who are you?” moments were rather amusing as well.) They were all real nice and now they do know me. No more hiding, I guess…

And finally, I got a personal invite [forceful invitation, “you should really come…win guns…hint. hint, hint…”] to the Lady 3-Gun Pro-Am Challenge. I was also told that due to my Lady Tac Irons victory over all my nonexistent opponents, I would be considered a pro next year. But hey, you could probably win amateur tac irons this year…guns…win guns…

I acquiesced. It was a good move.

I just got back from Atlanta and the Lady Pro-Am Challenge and I’m just gonna say that it turned out well. Look for a post about it soon.

audra stage 3 3 gun nation regional 2014

Oh, and I’m a semi-syndicated, paid columnist now too.

It was a hell of a summer and that’s just the truth.

It looks like I’m back.

Hell yeah! I missed being me!

Onward!

At the moment, I am in the process of deciding (or at least refining) the topic for my next black belt thesis. As you may or may not know, within the realms of taekwondo where I practice,  a written thesis is an integral part of each black belt promotion from 4th dan onward. I personally enjoy writing theses, and am only stymied by the abundance of topics on which I would like to write. I will stop waffling and pick one and write something on it in the next few months, in anticipation of being allowed/told/volunteered/compelled to test for my 5th degree sometime in 2016. (It’s a complex decision/motivation.)

Anyhoo, while pondering the many possibilities and figuring out all the physical aspects of the testing as well, I reread my 4th dan thesis and just in case someone else wants to read it (I apologize in advance for a few typos. You may not believe this, but I might have procrastinated and delivered it hot off the fingers rather than after a time of considerate editing…)

Here it is, my bit on how to set up a breaking competition and why the rules should be one way or another.

Power Breaking Competition: A Competitor’s Experience and Insights

[this would be an example of that “write what you know” theory.]

 

[Update: I ended up writing two 5th Dan theses, and here’s one of them:

5th Dan Taekwondo Thesis | Analysis and Revision of Grand Champion Award Methodology and Rules

Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was training. Been doing too much of that lately. Gonna be doing a lot more over the next couple of months. (and I am no longer the alternate for 4th Dan patterns, so add another layer to the training cake.)

But I’m at work and apparently they frown on flying kettle bells in the tutoring center… Alliteration is a different matter entirely.

Lucky for someone, I’ve decided to write about fighting rather than the alternative.

Here we go.

The Fight Itself

There is nothing quite like a fight. Not even another one. Because no two fights are ever the same. Each is a war unto itself; a timeless battle that takes forever, but is always over too soon.

When you are writing about a fight, there are two very different perspectives that you might take. To put it simply, there is inside the fight and outside the fight; the observer’s perspective and the fighter’s perspective.

Let’s start with the easy one. *heh*

The external perspective on a fight is description; the fighter(s) did this, then that happened, and eventually it appears to be over, one way or another. It varies, depending on the personality of the character POV that is observing.

The question of course, is how do we figure this out for a character so that is helps us write about the fight from his/her specific perspective?

Let me give you my answer, then I’ll show you how to get there.

Know the character’s focus.

We’re talking about observation and description here, frequently the most boring kind of writing. All showing, no telling, right?

Eh, hopefully not so much.

Here’s my process: Ask the character questions. Use those answers to color the description with focus and voice.

Questions like:

How does the character react to the fight? To the fact that it is happening? To the fact that it is close? Or distant?

 

How does the character react to the fighter(s)? Fear? Envy? Disdain? Respect?

 

The answers can tell you a lot about the character and consequently, give you a great opportunity to convey some of that character to your reader in a subtle, enjoyable fashion.

Let’s invent a basic description and then color it in for various characters.

Basic Description Example:

The two men squared off to fight. The blue fighter attacked with a kick to the gut followed by a punch to his opponent’s head. But before the punch could land, the red fighter stepped to the side and landed a pair of his own punches. Then he kicked the blue fighter once and then retreated.

Okay, that’s boring. That’s the point. It’s just the bare, observed facts. It’s also out of context and therefore stakeless. With nothing important riding on the outcome, it is emotionally hollow as well. So, can we make this short, boring exchange between two anonymous fighters more interesting? I’m gonna go with yes.

There are an infinite number of types of characters that might observe this fight. Let’s pick a few and see what we can do with them.

How about another fighter; someone who knows something about what is going on, but without any investment to speak of.

The two men squared off to fight. The blue fighter immediately went on the offensive, landing a side-kick to the solar-plexus before shooting a short jab intended for his opponent’s jaw. Red is quick, he dodged to the side and left Blue wide open for a counter. One punch low, one punch high, and then a kick out.

That was what I call announcer mode. The observer knew something about what he was seeing, but didn’t care very much, he was just there to relay the facts, albeit with a more trained focus. I gave him three focuses that any fighter ought to have.

Number one was specific targeting. This is a big difference, in my experience, between trained/experienced fighters and not.

Number two was a how he used strategic jargon to describe each fighter’s actions like “offense” and “counter.” He also used more specific language to describe the techniques used. and last but not least, he showed a comfort with the subject as he shortened and summarized automatically, even to the detriment of the less informed.

Number three was specific technique references. He didn’t use all generic terms like ‘kick’ and ‘punch.’

Now, let’s try on a little bit more of an insider.

The two fighters squared off. Blue went straight in with a side-kick that shoulda knocked out some air, or even some ribs. Red didn’t let it slow him down. He sidestepped that jab and opened Blue up good. High, low, and out.

This observer is mentally in that fight. He’s not seeing the through the eyes of a spectator, he’s seeing it through the eyes of a fighter. Right off, he calls them for what he sees and expects. Unlike the others so far, he doesn’t even mention the fight itself. It’s a given. That’s what fighters do, but it’s not the point. And that’s what he thinks of them as, “fighters,” not competitors, not opponents, just “fighters.” What does that say about our observer?

This observer is really focused on one thing, immediate consequence. He’s not looking for points, or pretty techniques, he’s making and then evaluating predictions. It’s not about the kick, it’s about how much it probably hurts, then its about how the Red fighter isn’t phased by the blow. Describing the counter setup, is when we see our observer in the shoes of a fighter for sure. He’s seeing the openings, the possible targets, not the specific techniques Red decided to use. (Not that doesn’t know the specifics, it’s just not his highest priority. How the move works rather than what the move is called.)

This type of observer, this fighter, could easily drop some judgements in as well. He might mention what he would have done instead of what happens, or even think of it before it happens. If he’s watching the fight long enough, and he’s an experienced strategist, he could start making predictions about a fighter’s moves, and when he starts getting them right, adding plans to counter the predictable moves, and after that, after he has a plan to deal with a move he thinks he’ll be able to see coming, he might even come up with a plan to force such a move. Three moves ahead.

Depending on how experienced, and how, shall we say, good, your fighter-observer is, you can change how correct such observations are. A good fighter with lots of experience might make a surprisingly accurate and thorough strategic analysis of the fight. A less effective or less experienced observer might make both good and bad predictions, and not go quite as deep.

If there is any one way to clearly differentiate level of experience, I would say it is in the depth and ease of such strategic thought.

I’m going to leave it at that for today, but consider other viewpoints for an observer. What about a complete stranger to fighting. How’s his or her pain tolerance. Maybe he or she empathizes and focuses on the perceived pain, or the possible damage. Does (he) have a personal interest for some reason in one of the fighters? Maybe (his) empathy is one-sided, maybe (he) even feels good about the other side getting hit/hurt.

We could keep going and going and going. The possibilities are rather large, but the idea is simple. Figure out what you want to say about the character observing the fight, and then pick one or two focuses that somehow illustrate those chosen facets of a character.

(And we will discuss the inside-the-fight perspective…eventually!)

Next time: Writing About Fighting III: One Ring Strategy To Rule Them All

 

 

 

Twenty-Fourteen is already well underway and in fact, I can’t believe it’s already April.
A lot has happened and there is a lot more to come.

On the writing front, I have a complete manuscript (Tough Target) and although edits will continue indefinitely, I’m just about to work up the nerve to start sending a few queries out.
Also, I’m in the process of compiling and editing a collection of my published (and a couple of new) short stories. I will be publishing it as an ebook as well as in print, so look forward to that!
If that wasn’t enough, me and my so-called partner in crime, Courtney Floyd, are looking at going ahead and publishing Alamok. In that vein, I’ve been working on a cover and other such things to prepare for that eventuality.
And all the while, I’m plotting and writing on new stuff.

In the small portion of my life that is not related to writing (he he *sarcastic eye-flutter*), there is absolutely nothing going on.
Except for the fact that I now have a job most of the time (Yeah, yeah. Shut up.) working as a professional tutor in just about everything.
And…as if that wasn’t enough, I just made the US Team (again…) in Taekwondo. Luckily, that means Rome this summer. Thus, for the next four months, I am going to be training, a lot, and fundraising too. But it’ll all be well worth it to represent my country once again and maybe even win back my title as Power Breaking World Champ. Either way, Rome is going to be a hoot and I can’t wait. (And I’m learning Italian.)

There’s also a little 3-Gun I have to throw in too. Thanks to my generous sponsor, New Beginning Gun Works, who built me a beautiful rifle to shoot, I need to make my presence known in that sport too. So, I’m headed to Liberty Hill, Texas in a couple weeks to kick off that party. Then, as soon as I get back from Rome this summer, I’m shooting the exciting Rocky Mountain 3-Gun World Shoot. Five days and fifteen stages of natural terrain in Raton, NM. Combine ‘yikes’ and ‘yeehaw’ and you’ve got the idea. Then back to Texas in the fall and maybe even Las Vegas, we’ll have to see how that one hashes out.

So, there’s the update. Once again, I’m way busier than is reasonable, but it’s gonna be a fun year. Onward!

Before I go, I want to give a shout out to my dear Courtney, who has made the second round of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award with her Mystery novel. Congratulations to her and here’s hoping that she makes it all the way!