Kicking it With the Letter “K”

July 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

brush-calligraphy-alphabet-kYou may have noticed a meme going around that goes something like this:

Say your favourite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

From So Many Books I was issued the letter K.  After a day spent at the beach, I think I have made my final decisions.

Bookkung fu
Kung Fu : History, Philosophy, & Technique.

I grew up in a Kung Fu Studio.  I have a third degree black belt and can rank my own students.  For my very first black belt test I had to write  a thesis meets book report on David Chow’s book and its content.  I have never thought the assignment frivolous or regretted the requirement.  It’s a great book.  It’s an important book.  I make my own students read it as well.  In fact, I think my copy is on loan to a student right now.  Even if you aren’t a Kung Fu student, even if you’re knee deep into another style, even if you’ve never pursued any martial art in your life – this book is a valuable piece of history and helps explain a lot of those FAQs that arise when someone finds out you do Kung Fu.  It’s rich as well as concise and informative.  And leaps and bounds a better read than Kite Runner or Krakatoa – which are both excellent books.


On this I have been so torn.  Kingsolver or Kafka?  Kafka? Kingsolver?  I couldn’t decide.  Metamorphosis is one of my favorite books of all time.  I have read it repeatedly.  It made the list of books that have changed my life.  But I have to say, Barbara Kingsolver has won my heart.  The Poisonwood Bible was beautiful and epic.  The Lacuna a fascinating concept.  I have almost all her books waiting on my shelf to be read and I find myself picking her up sparingly, not wanting to waste the moment of reading something of hers for the first time, saving her like I did my virginity.

kiss meSong

I could go old school with Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” but although I love belting that song with my Alto-ness, I choose “Sixpence None the Richer’s Kiss Me.”  It’s not even because it’s about sweet kissing, which I love.  It’s all that bearded barley and green, green grass.  It’s frolicking and tree houses and treasure maps.  And the 90’s.  Written and performed by a group who references C.S. Lewis in their band name.


I’m a sucker for all things King Arthur.  From the old Sam Neil movie “Merlin,” to Jamie Campbell Bower’s show “Camelot.”  I picked up all of Rosalind Miles’ Guinevere series, just because they are King Arthur related and have John William Waterhouse paintings on the front cover.  The Lady of Shalott hangs in  my living room over the fireplace.  Naturally, then, I’m choosing “King Arthur” for my K film.  More specifically, the version featuring Clive Owen and Keira Knightly.  I thought it was brilliantly done, I love that Guinevere is a warrior and not just a lady in distress, and the fight scenes are awesome.  Of course, part of my preference for this version is that Horatio Hornblower (ahem, I mean, Ioan Gruffud) plays Lancelot.


Kaleidoscopes are cool.  But I’m going to be cliche on this one and go with Kite.  Mostly because I have a three year old who is fascinated by them, but partially because I can’t see one without singing, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins.  Sometimes in public.  With feeling.  At the top of my lungs.  I try to tell myself it’s because every choir girl has an inner Dick Van Dyke, but I’m not sure the rest of the world agrees with me.

Leave me a comment to keep this fun blog prompt going.


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Generations of Kung Fu

March 9, 2014 at 7:05 pm (Education, Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last night I watched many of my instructors and one of my students get inducted into a Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  It was all done over belated Chinese New Year celebration and a Kung Fu & Tai Chi Reunion banquet.  I took kiddo to the first half so she could enjoy a little bit of culture and learn a bit about what my life was like growing up in a Kung Fu studio.

P1010222Where you would have found me in a Kung Fu uniform or a simple banquet dress, little girl is all about the princess attire and insisted on wearing her princess dress to the ‘party’ where she also insisted on having cupcakes.  In the car she told me that it wasn’t a real party without cupcakes and that she wasn’t sure about going unless there were cupcakes because, “I don’t really like people.”  So expressive for a three year old.

No worries, the girl got her cupcakes.  She got interviewed from so many black belts I’ve know through the years… “Do you know your front kicks yet?”  “Let me see your center punch.”  Even princess need to learn to protect themselves and their loved ones.  She also got to hear a pretty stellar drum (The Lion Dance by Lee’s Golden Dragon) performance and see real Chinese New Year dragons.  One came right up to the table.

P1010228Shortly after that she went home with her Grandmom and Grandad – it got a little late for little princesses and she was about to turn into a Chinese Pumpkin – leaving me to my own devices for a few hours.

Ran into Bill “Superfoot” Wallace.  I used to adore going to his seminars and it was good to see him again.  It’s been a little over a decade since I worked out with him last.


I’ve gotten fatter, he’s gotten older, the world turns.  It would appear that I’ve gotten taller, too, but really I’m wearing five inch heels.  Last night included an announcement and celebration of the fact that this amazing 10th degree black belt has his very own DAY in the city of Houston.

My amazing FIFTH degree black belt friend.  (He got his fourth degree the same day I got my third, and has just kept on going.  I'm so proud of him.)

Annise D. Parker, Mayor of Houston, proclaimed March 8th as Grandmaster Bill “Superfoot” Wallace Day.  My grandmaster, the late Grandmaster Victor Cheng, has his very own day as well – March 3rd.  I don’t have any digital pictures of us over the years, but I can say it was a pleasure to learn what I could from him while he was still with us.

Above and on the right is a picture of me with my amazing FIFTH degree black belt friend, David Barnes.  He got his fourth degree the same day I got my third, and has just kept on going. I’m so proud of him.  I have no doubt one day he’ll have his own day proclaimed by the mayor.


My former student and black belt, Rick Strickland, in a Grandmaster costume for a banquet presentation.

There were so many present last night, people who have been training for 50-70 years, people like me who have been training for 20 years, and people who just joined the martial arts community in the last year.  Young, old, new student, grandmaster, and everything in between – it is inspiring to see how influential martial arts is to the community at large.  We are authors, booksellers, instructors, teachers, pastors, lawyers, rotary club members, small business owners, nurses, doctors, surgeons, police officers, cyclists… we are everywhere.  We are parents, grandparents, wives, husbands, children, Black, White, Asian, and everything in between, Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic… we are everyone, peppered throughout generations, all over the world.

With one of my teachers... a  friend, peer, fellow geek...

With one of my teachers… a friend, peer, fellow geek… We all love a good excuse to dress up.

One final thing I think I should mention – being that this is, after all, a book blog – all of us have read Kung Fu: History, Philosophy, & Technique by David Chow. Most of us also probably own and have perused Dynamic Stretching & Kickingby Bill “Superfoot” Wallace. An interesting thing to note about martial artists in general: many may not read for pleasure, but most are avid students and will read for research.  The very definition of Kung Fu is “to perfect through practice” and we will go above and beyond in any field we pursue to be perfect – even if that means being a non-reader and picking up a book to learn how to get better at something.  We get our energy from knowledge and training.

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Different Kind of Fighter

October 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Immortal ClassTitle: The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power

Author: Travis Hugh Culley

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Memoir

Length: 324 pages

My bike club went camping this weekend.  I love bikes and I love camping, so it was excruciating knowing I had a pre-Halloween event at my store, bills to pay, and a general inability to leave my husband and child to go on a frivolous trip that would inevitably involve a lot of drinking and riding.

I love books more than anything, and I adore Chris Rogers (the author we had in the store Saturday), but my mind was off in the distance with my new friends – family really – their tents, their bikes, and the dirt and grit far away from my rows and stacks of books.

Woodles 9.12.13This isn’t about me whining about not getting to go on a camping trip, though.  This is about the discovery I made because of where my mind was not and my body was… in the city, longing for my cycling friends who were partying it up and having a blast.

The stars aligned, the shelves at the store all seemed to point me in one direction, and a copy of The Immortal Class seemed to fall from the heavens.

So overly marketed as to appeal to the counter culture, zine reading crowd, The Immortal Class is one of those small square-shaped trade paperbacks.  With phrases like “adrenaline-spiked” and “frenzied rawness” slapped across a black and grey jacket in egg-yolk yellow.

Months after becoming obsessed with the world of cycling and setting goals to really hunker down, figure it out, and join this world – I discovered this weekend why it appeals to my soul so completely.

“[T]he world down here was remarkably organized.  Even if it was loud and bombastic, rebellious and unconventional, the people were often fixated on levels of personal status.  With one another, messengers were highly cooperative, and yet competing against one another, they were fighters to the bone. It was a tight society where one could promise lasting respect and recognition for what one could offer to the community.” – pg. 230

stanceOf course this appeals to me – this whole world of simultaneous independence and camaraderie.  I grew up in a Kung Fu studio.  I trained, I relied on muscle memory and instinct. I know so well the feeling of not remembering what it feels like to not be sore somewhereI built very specific familial relationships that were directly tied to how much blood, sweat, and tears were spilled in each others’ presence.

I still do my work outs. I still teach occasional students. But I am no longer that kind of fighter. I remember when I knew I would never go back in the ring – at least not in the way I used to.  It wasn’t the hairline fracture on my sternum.  It wasn’t the broken and busted fingers.  It wasn’t even the shin injury that twelve years later hasn’t seemed to heal just right and still swells up when it rains.  It wasn’t any one thing, really.  It was actually before I got my third degree, something I only got because I promised myself I would.  It was actually a summer before that when after working out no less than 55-60 hours a week for months on end, after more than a decade in uniform and sash, I realized I was tired – mentally and physically.  My mind was ready for something new and my body needed a break from the routine.

I love hitting the streets at night!

I love hitting the streets at night!

I started running more avidly.  For a few years I ran 3-5 miles a day.  I enjoyed that thoroughly, and I still run periodically.  (You may remember a post about Born to Run, a book on barefoot running that kick started the running bug again recently…)  But there’s always been something missing from my running – speed.  A rush I can’t manufacture on my own two feet, that I used to get in the ring, has been absent.  Running didn’t fill the void Kung Fu, my years of being a tournament junkie, and finally the days of bleeding for money had left behind when I said ‘Enough.’

Cycling, though, cycling has suddenly lit up my world and started to warm my soul in a way I haven’t been warmed in a long time.  Probably since I fell in love and got married… yes, it’s that good of a rush!  Seeing all that I have to learn excites me.  Inspecting bruises from crashes and the act of getting to know my bikes (or loaner bikes until I own my own, rather) fills me with the pride that though I am a far, far cry from being any good at this sport – like a white belt dropped in the midst of advanced ninjas – I am at least one step, one bruise, and one fall closer to the perfection I seek.

I have no illusions of grandeur.  No presumption that I will be great at this.  I’m pushing 30 and my body feels 50, but I’m sure as hell going to try.

Trails with Mike

Inevitable black eye commencing in one… two… three… GO!

Face Plant

Haven’t felt so myself in a long time.

I dare you to read The Immortal Class and not get the urge to hop on a bike.  I dare you.  And just remember this: The more you ride, the more you’ll want to ride.

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You don’t have to be fast. But you’d better be fearless.

June 8, 2013 at 6:40 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

born to runTitle: Born to Run

Author: Christopher McDougall

Publisher: Vintage Books

Genre: Sports

Length: 282 pages

I love to run.  I used to run 3-5 miles a day in college.  I loved every minute of it, but I’ve never been very good at it.  Fighting an arrhythmia, uncomfortable shoes, and a host of other things that make me tap out at 5 miles even in the best of shape – I’ve always longed to go much farther than my body allows.

Post baby… way post baby… like, she’s old enough that being a mom is no longer any kind of relevant excuse to carry around the extra ten pounds I’ve had on me – I discovered that barefoot running is a thing.  How convenient.  I grew up in a Kung Fu studio, doing everything barefoot, as a child when running races I was always faster without shoes.  Now, finally, someone told me I was allowed to do that.  It was ok.  After all, Ancient Olympians ran this way.

So I started running again.

Then, someone passed me this book.

And I started LOVING running again.

When you read this book, you can’t help but have a passion for movement while you do.  You can’t help but move around.  Read it on the treadmill, read it on the Gazelle, read it in the plank position, read it while stretching.  You CAN’T read this and just lie in bed or cozy up on the couch.  You just can’t.

Instead, it inspires you.  You want to go marathon in the woods.  You want to register for every Color Run, Tough Mudder, and Spartan Races you can find.  Arrhythmia and all, you actually debate sucking it up and running head first into an electric shock obstacle.  This book makes you want to be the athlete goddess you used to aspire to… I mean, heck, I used to hold Kung Fu stances for three minutes a piece, run 5 miles, do 100 full body military style pushups, 300 crunches, 300 full sit ups, then go back for more.  I have a black belt.  A third degree black belt.  I need to get back to that lifestyle.

I lost 5 lbs. reading this book.  No kidding.  And it didn’t even hurt.

“You don’t have to be fast. But you’d better be fearless.” – Born to Run, Christopher McDougall

Thanks for reminding me.


“The heroes of the past are untouchable, protected forever by the fortress door of time – unless some mysterious stranger magically turns up with a key.” – Born to Run, Christopher McDougall… I didn’t realize that one of my heroes of my past was just… me. 

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This Month’s Raffle at Half Price Books Humble!

July 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Fitness and Wellness Raffle This is the summer to achieve health in mind and body. Starting Monday, July 2, buy any fitness, sports, wellness, or health book at our HPB Humble store and get a chance to win one free month of martial arts lessons at Wang’s Martial Arts. Winner will be announced Saturday, July 7 at 7 pm. See store for details.

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