Category Archives: Martial arts

Hi-dee-ho, here I go

It was missing a piece.
And it was not happy.
So it set off in search
of its missing piece.
And as it rolled
it sang this song—
“Oh I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece
I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece
Hi-dee-ho, here I go,
Lookin’ for my missin’ piece.”

— Shel Silverstein

Have you ever misplaced yourself and not even realized you were gone until parts of you started turning up unexpectedly?

That’s how I’ve felt over the past few months: I haven’t exactly been lookin’ for my missin’ pieces, but I keep running across them, and it’s a joy whenever I find one.

Last Easter, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I found myself singing Sandi Patty’s “Via Dolorosa” for church. It was very well-received, and it felt good to be there, singing a song I loved in front of an appreciative congregation. It felt as if I’d found a piece of myself that I didn’t even know was missing.

In early June, I volunteered to sing “It Is Well With My Soul.” I realized too late that I no longer had the backing track for it — which apparently had gone out of print — so I wound up working out how to accompany myself at the piano. I hadn’t played piano in front of anybody in at least 25 years, but it felt right. Another missing piece clicked into place.

This fall, somebody invited me to join the local community choir, which puts on a cantata every Christmas, and I found a missing piece in the soprano section.

A self-defense class started tonight at a dojo that opened downtown recently. I bowed in, stepped onto the mat, and plunged into a workout that probably wasn’t half as strenuous as it felt. The missing piece that I grappled and kicked and blocked back into my life tonight is woefully out of shape, and my legs are awfully sore, but I feel better right now than I have in years, and I don’t think it’s just the endorphins.


The danger in grabbing women

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one completely incapable of mustering anything even vaguely resembling shock at Donald Trump’s boasts about kissing women and grabbing their crotches without permission. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three decades, you know this sort of behavior is entirely consistent with his public persona.

What bothers me is the number of men rushing to his defense, as if the behavior he described were somehow defensible.

Men who can’t or won’t distinguish between dirty jokes and sexual assault are unlikely to be swayed by any arguments involving compassion for women, basic human decency, or a recognition of women as human beings. If they were capable of understanding any of that, they wouldn’t have to be told not to touch strangers’ labia without permission.

I’d like to offer up another angle for those who can’t be bothered to care about sexual-assault victims’ feelings.

According to stats presented by and attributed to a study by Simmons Market Research, 9.4 million American adults reported having participated in martial arts in the past year — 48 percent of them women.

If those numbers are accurate (and I’m not saying they are; I have unanswered questions about the study’s date and methodology, but these were the best numbers I could put my hands on at the moment), that means more than 4.5 million women in this country have at least some idea of what to do if a man approaches us in a sexually aggressive manner.

Not all of us were trained in defensive arts, and not all of us will remember our training well enough or have practiced it sufficiently to be effective against an attacker. But some of us will, and there’s no way to tell by looking which crotch is safe for you to grab and which will get you injured or killed.

I used to train with a black belt who was maybe five feet tall and built like a fireplug. I’ve never seen anybody who could take down an attacker faster than she could.

I knew another girl who looked like a supermodel. She showed up for her first combat karate class with about 15 years of ballet training behind her. Ballerinas, as it turns out, make excellent karatekas. Her first week in class, sensei taught us a move to keep strange men from putting their arms around us in bars. She came back the second week beaming with glee as she recounted how she’d removed a creep from his barstool for getting too fresh. I suspect if Donald Trump had met Ballerina before he met Billy Bush, his campaign would be in much better shape today.

I’m a fairly nondescript, middle-aged woman. I doubt the average man would find me terribly intimidating at first glance. But if you put your hand somewhere I don’t want it, I’ll put you on the ground and convince you to stay there politely until the cops show up.

We are out here. We are legion. And you have absolutely no way of knowing who we are until you tangle with one of us.

For the safety of everyone concerned: Don’t. Unlike Donald Trump, you don’t have the benefit of Secret Service protection.


Indoor gardening

During my extended creative outburst this past weekend, I built a shelf to hold a planter on the kitchen windowsill. It’s not fancy, but it gave me an excuse to use power tools and play in the dirt, which is all it really needed to do.

I planted rosemary and basil in there, and I’ve got some flat-leaf parsley, sage, and cilantro seeds to plant when I get a hand free. As soon as the basil gets a little bigger, I’m going to make a batch of homemade pesto.

On a completely unrelated note, I had an awesome kempo lesson this evening. I’ve finally gotten the hang of rotating my hips into my snap punch, which has really increased my power, and my backfist sounded as solid as some of the upper belts’ when it hit the pad tonight. The last two or three lessons have been really good. It’s taken the better end of a year, but I think I’ve finally broken some of my old habits and started to get the hang of kempo strikes, which are very different from anything I’ve learned in the past.

Hope your day was good. Tomorrow and Thursday should be long but good, as I’m doing two consecutive homework nights to help some of my kids shore up their grades.



Professor Hargrave surprised me tonight with a belt test. I’d had a sneaking suspicion he might do something like that, so I got out the manual and reviewed the vocabulary and stuff this afternoon before class. Rather than test us individually, he just had the whole class take turns demonstrating our basics, asked a few questions, and then upgraded the two white belts (a math teacher from Sapulpa and me) to yellow. It was kind of awesome not to know I was being tested until it was over.

I should do that to my kids sometime. Bet I’d get better class participation that way….

As soon as Ryno’s boys finish the first half of their doubleheader against ‘Burque, Ron is taking me out for frozen custard to celebrate.



Tonight at kempo class, I came to the horrifying realization that I hit like a girl. I want to believe that this has to do with the fact that I am trying to execute kempo moves from Okinawan stances, which simply won’t work. I suspect that it has more to do with the fact that I am woefully out of shape.

Humility is like soymilk: The fact that it’s good for you doesn’t change the fact that it tastes like crap going down.


Crazy week

To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.
— Mary Baker Eddy

When I took combat karate a few years ago, I was having trouble getting the hang of a throw. After watching me attempt it a few times, my sensei explained that I was trying to use muscle to topple my opponent instead of relying on technique.

karateka does not need to be bigger or stronger than her opponent, Joe said. She simply needs to apply the correct technique and trust gravity to take care of the rest.

I am reminded of that as I look back at the past couple of days.

Two days into the workweek, I am frustrated and exhausted. Meetings and parent phone calls have consumed every spare minute at school, NHS applications are piling up on my desk, a progress report deadline is looming, the big finale to my Hamlet unit — which I’ve been planning for weeks — has fallen through for reasons that have nothing to do with me, I’m drowning in unprocessed Trip Guide ads, and to top it all off, I seem to have come down with a minor but incredibly annoying illness that’s draining my energy and making it difficult to concentrate at work.

A week like this is much too heavy for me to muscle over on my own, but that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do — and I’ve been getting exactly the same results I used to get when I tried to rely on my own strength to put an uke on the mat in karate class.

How much easier would the past two days have been if I’d remembered to simply grab hold of my attacker, throw a little metaphysical hip into it, and trust Principle to do the rest?

Bring it, Wednesday. I’ve got a tai otosh over here with your name on it.


Wax on, wax off

I just finished reading a series of little books called We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, which contain articles by people who had direct dealings with Mrs. Eddy in one way or another. The last article in the series was written by Martha W. Wilcox, who worked as a housekeeper in Mrs. Eddy’s home.

Reading Wilcox’s article, I was surprised to learn that the woman who taught that “there is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter” could be downright finicky about matters of housekeeping. The top sheet on her bed was to be turned down exactly two and a half inches every morning. She insisted that meals be served at exactly the same time every day — never a minute early or late. Even the pins in her pincushion were organized by length.

At first glance, this seemed incongruous. If matter isn’t real, then who cares what time supper is on the table?

But Mrs. Eddy never did anything without a good spiritual reason, and this was no exception. Wilcox explains: “She showed me that unless I were faithful and orderly with the objects of sense that made up my present mode of consciousness, there could never be revealed to me the truer riches or the progressive higher revealments of substance and things.”

In other words: Wax on, wax off.

Looking around my own house, where all the carpets are covered in a sort of dog-hair permafrost, the bed hasn’t been made in three weeks, and breakfast — if it happens at all — involves swilling a can of Slim-Fast in the car on the way to work, I have to wonder what Mrs. Eddy would say if she could see it.

Probably nothing. She’d probably just smile, hand me a bucket and a sponge, and set me to work practicing “wax on, wax off.”


Wrap it up. I’ll take it.

So I went to kung fu class this morning. I think that’s the most fun I’ve had since I moved to Tulsa. I have no idea how I managed to make it almost three years without setting foot on a mat. Guess it’s like any addiction: You’re OK as long as you stay away from it completely, but as soon as you get another hit, it’s all over. 😉

After some initial stretching and a few crunches and push-ups, we went right into stances, blocks, rolls, and falls.

A lot of the moves are the same things we did in karate, except they have different names, but there were a lot of stances I hadn’t learned yet, and some of the blocks were different.

One major difference is in the way we hold our hands: In karate, we usually kept our hands in fists so we were ready to punch the snot out of an attacker. In kung fu, we keep our hands more open — often in sort of a tiger-claw position — so that’s a big thing I’ll have to remember.

The best thing about this morning: I finally got the hang of forward rolls. My new sifu (instructor — the Chinese equivalent of sensei), Chris Johnston, made me do them over and over and over and over and over and over and over until I got them. And I didn’t get to start from a kneeling position like we did in karate, either. I had to dive right in from a standing position. Scary. Awesome, but scary. And as soon as I got the hang of rolling over my right arm and shoulder, he said, “Good! Now, try it with the other arm.”


I didn’t do that quite so well, but I intend to move the furniture out of the way in the living room and devote part of next week to left-handed zempo kaitens. (I don’t know what we call them in kung fu, but that was what they were called in karate.) I don’t do weakness, and I don’t do fear. Both got the best of me this morning, but that’ll be the last time I let that happen. If I can’t work through those claims by myself, I’ll just cheat and call a practitioner.

If anybody in Tulsa is looking for a good place to work out, this class meets at noon Saturdays and 6 p.m. Wednesdays behind the QuikTrip at Southwest Boulevard and 33rd Avenue West. It’s in the strip mall up behind the QT. Sifu Chris Johnston and his wife used to hold classes over on Sheridan, but they live in Red Fork and got sick of driving all the way across town for class umpteen times a week. The new location isn’t “officially” open, but Chris says anybody who’s interested is welcome to come in and work out for free. Once he finishes remodeling the new space, he’ll start charging for classes and holding more workouts per week. In the meantime, you’ve got a primo chance to come in and see whether kung fu is your bag.

I found martial arts to be a very liberating sort of thing. Besides being a terrific workout, it gave me a lot of confidence. Ron was laughing about it today, remembering how different I was before my first lesson. I spent 25 years scared of my shadow, afraid somebody was going to attack me. After about three lessons, I was sort of hoping somebody would try something stupid so I could test-drive my latest kick.

A few years later, I’ve mellowed considerably, but I’m still the one who gets up to see what went bump in the night. These days, I’ll certainly respond to an attack with prayer … but as far as I’m concerned, if somebody tries to hurt me, there’s no reason I can’t recognize his innocence as a child of God while he’s lying face-down on the ground with his arm pinned behind his back, waiting for the cops to show up. My practitioner assures me that we always have the right to restrain error. Beating the poor schlep senseless just for the fun of it would be considered conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist, but dealing with an emergency in a sensible manner is certainly not out of line.


The Street of the Lifted Karateka

Two random topics this morning:

1. In my eternal state of dementia concretia, I have decided that I simply cannot live without a replica of the Lorax’s Last Stand in my garden. What you can’t see from the picture on Amazon is that the circle of rocks left behind when the Lorax departed includes a half-moon-shaped stone engraved with the word, “UNLESS.” This thing is going in my garden. Probaby around the dog waste composter. Too bad I can’t find something that looks like a Truffula tree to plant in it. I wonder if that would make a suitable site for a Bottle Tree instead?

While we’re on the subject of the Lorax, has anybody else noticed that magic scarves bear a striking resemblance to Thneeds? I keep thinking I should get a bright pink one and wear it with a Lorax T-shirt and just see who gets it….

2. Two and a half years ago, after four years of combat karate lessons, I packed up and moved to Tulsa, where I promised myself I would get back on the mat somewhere as soon as humanly possible. Then, in typical Emily Priddy fashion, I got sidetracked and found myself up to my teeth in dozens of other projects. But it appears that a new dojo, a new sensei, and a new fighting style are about to materialize right here in Red Fork. A guy who lives here in Red Fork but ran a kung fu school on the other side of town has secured a space in the strip mall down the street, and at noon today, I will be bowing into his dojo and finding out just exactly how combat kung fu compares to combat karate.

Which means I’ve got about 10 minutes to get dressed, pull my hair back out of my eyes, and figure out where I put my gear. Let’s see … tonfas? Check. Gi bottoms? Check. ‘Chuks? Bueller…? Bueller…? Ah, fuhgedaboutit. If they’re working nunchakus, I’ll borrow a set. I have no idea where I put my belt. Which doesn’t matter anyway, because this is a new art and a new instructor and I’m starting back at the bottom of the food chain. Maybe I can figure out where my white belt went before the next lesson….