Tag Archives: about michi

When I was 11 and training in martial arts (internationally​ competitive and consistently​ placed in every competition) I had to spar against an adult in clads for practice and did break their ribs with a well placed kick and because they’d forgotten their chest padding. So, just speaking from personal experience that a child could break an adults ribs, but I was a very highly trained kid who’d been in karate for several years at that point.

Well, that was the point of my response. The character in question had no training. You know as well as I do what someone with no martial arts training throwing a kick looks like. What chances would you give them in a managing to successfully perform the technique in a fight for their life? The odds are not in their favor.

Just from my experience teaching martial arts, the number of kids who could what you did at age eleven in a sparring match is tiny. Possibly by dumb luck. If you competed internationally then you were obviously in the top tier, and that puts you in a league far beyond what most kids are capable of. Most adults too, for that matter.

Consider though, the amount of time per day you spent training for your
competitions in comparison to your classmates including those in
whatever school you went to. In all the karate students in all the world, you were probably in the top percentile of a select group that ever makes it that far. I can list on one hand the number of martial artists I’ve known who went to international competitions. That’ll really skew your perspective.

And, of course, the chances of sparring injuries increase substantially when we forget our pads.

While we’re on the subject of injuries:

My brother almost lost his leg, for example, when he decided to throw a roundhouse kick at Starke when they first met. My brother was eighteen (and a fourth degree black belt, who should know better) and Starke had police self-defense training from a cop in Wyoming when he was a kid. The cop was a little on the crazier side and taught small children the standard joint breaks they were teaching at the time to regular officers. One of them was the defense against the roundhouse kick, which includes a knee break. My brother came very close to walking with a limp for the rest of his life. Instead, he went on to become a boxing national champion in the welterweight division.

Those of you who’ve heard about my brother before might remember the time he almost lost an eye when our instructors were dumb enough to let two young black belts spar with UFC fiberglass gloves and perform head blows. To this day, he is (just a little) walleyed.

Then, of course, there’s the story I got off Starke from one of his karate friends in college. The two brown belts that the black belts let spar without restrictions and each of them ended up with a broken leg.

Not everyone highly trained is smart or responsible. Sometimes, they’re really, really dumb. Or not paying attention. Or criminally negligible.

Let this be a lesson to every writer out there who wants to write a “No Pads” sparring session with beginners or… just in general. There’s a really good chance that if no one’s paying attention someone will be leaving with broken bones even if the match started with the best of intentions.

This also isn’t counting what happens when the kids decide to spar and no one with sense is there to stop it. That happens too.

And then there’s the part that’ll horrify some of the readers out there, which is martial artists swap these kinds of stories around with each other and laugh about it after the fact. The explanation for this behavior is injuries get normalized when you’re in a culture where the chance for experiencing them is high. This happens with soldiers and cops too, in regards to their own. Then martial artists, soldiers, and cops will swap these stories with each other, because its one of the parts of all three cultures which cross over. It’s like the stories you tell about family vacations, and stupid things your friends did, except its about breaking ribs, dislocating joints and the time you watched someone’s leg turn into a screw. Panic in the moment, but funny later.

If you’re outside that culture, the casual disregard will sometimes sound absolutely bonkers. That casual attitude, however, is a nice tell for someone who’s been in the business awhile. The chance being injured or seeing an injury happen on a training mat or walking the beat is something you’ve adjusted too. Not that you want it to, but you’ve seen it. Plus, you’re getting little minor injuries all the time which helps when it comes to handling them.

Figuring out how to present various normalized mental states for characters of different backgrounds is hard because we’re so used to thinking about our state of normal. The problem is everyone’s version of “Normal” is different.

-Michi

Hi! I recently saw your reply to the person who had characters “sparring” outside of class. Are you a martial arts instructor by chance? My Sensei Sabumnim and Sensei Yudanjanim would likely say the same thing that you did.

I was a martial arts instructor during the summer before I went to college, and probably would still be if I’d gone to school in the area where I lived. I took my third degree test during my senior year of high school, and was a volunteer working with the younger students before they hired me. So, yeah, that’s where the advice comes from and a lifetime spent around martial artists.

At third degree, my rank is Sabumnim in the West Coast organization. These days though most teaching happens through this blog. The insider understanding of the legal/business side helps a lot.

-Michi

Just curious, what are you a third degree black belt in (such as what martial art)?

I know what you mean, it’s actually on the Patreon page and I’ve talked about it in the past. It’s Taekwondo and I’m certified through the Ernie Reyes World West Coast Martial Arts Association. My master was/is Gary Nakahama (who has since retired), but I’ve trained with Masters Ernie Reyes Sr, Tony Thompson, and others as part of my preparation for my first, second, and third degree tests. (This is a standard requirement for all students.)

The West Coast Organization is famous and/or infamous in certain circles, but you can find out a lot about it if you’re interested. You can also go watch the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad cheesily awesome movie Surf Ninjas if you’d like to see our masters in action as most of the organization’s original crew served as stunt doubles in the movie. It’s horribly 90s, terribly cheesy, occasionally cringe worthy, and very silly, but it holds a special place in my heart. It’s vintage West Coast Demo Team stuff.

“West Coast Team Asa!”

And all that.

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you have a heart, please don’t tell Master Reyes that I’m here but feel free to look him up on the web or in Black Belt Magazine. If you live in the California Bay Area and are interested in Taekwondo, I recommend looking up local schools as they provided some of the best moments in my childhood.

obsidianmichi:

On “Good” Writing:

This isn’t about popular writing. Popular writing is a matter of some skill, but mostly luck and providing a niche that appeals. Lightning strikes, you get lucky. I’ll take a consistent audience over a massive audience any day of the week. If a lot of people overlook your work or they don’t get many likes or no one notices you, don’t worry. It’s not a sign that you’re a bad writer. Over a thousand things could be factoring into this decision that have nothing to do with you. So, keep writing.

Don’t be discouraged by anyone who you perceive to be a better writer than you. When you read something that gives you even just a moment’s enjoyment (regardless of whether or not it stays with you for the rest of your life or you forget about it in the next five minutes), you’re not seeing the hours, weeks, months, and, quite honestly, years of work it took the writer to reach their level of skill.

You like someone? Learn from them. Learn from their style, learn from their words. What they do with their characters, what words they put into a row, where they put their commas and semi-colons, and put some effort into looking at what they’re doing. Look at how they did it, how the pieces came together to give you a story that you enjoy.

Then, apply it to you.

Every fanfic. Every book. Every article. Everything you read is your teacher. You can use it all to make yourself better. What you need to do is not copy, but instead think. In copying, we learn nothing except how to trace the outer shell. Ideas are neat, but so are coherent wholes.

A story is a painting. When you look at it, it seems like a complete image. Except each brushstroke is important, even the ones that it feels like you could do without. A character is many traits together, not just one. A whole personality, if you want to extract a trait from a person then look at the person. The whole person, including the extraneous bits, the ugly bits, and all the parts you don’t like. Those parts are just important to making the image complete. When you understand how pieces come together, it’s easier to separate them out.

Ask yourself why you enjoy what you do. Examine it. Study it. Rip it apart. Look at it from the inside out. If you switched up these pieces, how does it all change? There’s your story.

Patience. Practice. Persistence. Perseverance.

If you want to become better then choose the uncomfortable.

On one hand, there’s something to be said for working with what interests you. On the other, if you forever stay with your preferences then you limit yourself. Try new things or stagnate. Don’t flit from new thing to thing, attempt to master each, but if you find yourself slowing or getting bored then go with what makes you uncomfortable. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid you’re no good at? What have you avoided because you don’t know how to do it? What haven’t you looked at because you think you’re bad at it?

Action? Romance? Drama? Horror? What?

Do that. Learn about it. Borrow a bunch of books from the library. Read up on articles by the experts. Challenge yourself.

Are there characters you avoid because you don’t like them? Write about those characters. Study them. Learn about them. Learn to see things from their perspective. You don’t have to agree with them, but a part of writing is learning to separate yourself out from your characters. The more perspectives you can write from, the more you learn to see beyond your own worldview, and the more you try to stretch, the better you’ll become.

Art is understanding people. If you don’t understand people, you will fall short. Understanding people in all their beautiful flaws and foibles is the journey of a lifetime. You’re not going to be able to do it all in one day, or one year, or fifty. So pick one. You have to start someplace.

Keep writing.

The only way to fail is to quit.

So, keep writing.

We struggle and we strive. Writing is a journey, just keep walking. Eventually, you’ll find your sunrise and it’ll be a whole new day.