Jury Duties at this Year’s Junior Champs

With the release of the ARF jury list last week, I now can prepare for my assignments for this year. It’s quite a coincidence that I’ll be doing jury duties for two junior championships. From what I understand the Asian championships will also serve as the qualification regatta for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games which will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Umpiring may not be an easy job, and often a thankless one too, but it is something that I always look forward to. The constant challenge and being around people who are driven, committed, and passionate about what they do make every stint a worthwhile experience.

Jury list for the 2017 World Rowing Junior Championships in Trakai, Lithuania
Jury list for the 2017 Asian Rowing Junior Championships and FISA Asian Qualification Regatta for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG)

Women in Sports PH – What happened in the past three months

IMPULSE PH participants have been busy in the past three months since the seminar. I have been trying to keep track of what my tribe mates/sports sisters have been up to as part of  a project I will be doing beginning the second half of the year. Here’s something I made that provides a glimpse of what some of the IMPULSEPH ladies have been up to so far:

impulseph1

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Passport Renewal at DFA Davao – Waiting is the Hardest Part

My passport still has nine months in it before it expires. But since I don’t have any upcoming trip in the next two to three months, I decided to renew it while I have the time to spare. The last thing I want is to rush through the process when I suddenly have to travel.

So early yesterday morning, I went to DFA Davao located at SM City in Ecoland. There’s no appointment system so many choose to line up to get a priority number. I heard from someone that queueing starts as early as 6:00AM.

I arrived a little after 6:00AM in the morning. And I was already 87th in line. But only few came after me so the line wasn’t as long as I imagined it would be. We were waiting in like a covered pathway. There were some stone benches built a few feet from each other. There were also a limited number of blue monoblock couch-type chairs that can fit 4-5 people. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough for us farther back in the line could use.

DSC_0001
The queue when I arrived.

Queueing for long stretches of time isn’t a problem for me. I always make sure I’m armed with a good book and enough reading materials on my phone to ensure that I won’t get bored. I noticed that people have different ways to pass the time. Some just sit quietly doing nothing while others engage in conversations with people next to them.

I also noticed that some leave the line for a while without worrying about losing their spot. Everyone’s just being nice looking out for each other. It’s like waiting there creates a bond through the shared experiences of sacrificing time and energy just to accomplish an important task.

There was little activity between the time I arrived until around 15 minutes to 8:00AM when those in front started stirring. Some DFA personnel wearing blue collared shirts  with DFA Security printed on the back arrived and started handing out application forms. The priority numbers everyone was after were actually the last two to three numbers on the application forms.

I was told that the first twenty for renewal will be given priority. We’ll be the first ones to be accommodated as soon as the DFA’s office at the mall opens. Thankfully, there were only a handful of renewal applicants so I was one of the 20.

They left as soon as they finished issuing the application forms to everyone in the line. Anyone who arrives after this will have to wait for the mall to open and fall in line outside the DFA office.

Another round of waiting begins after we got the application forms. Some left for a while to eat breakfast somewhere while others just stayed in the area. Finding a place to eat was no problem. Starbucks at the Annex was open and I saw some people holding McDonalds coffee cups so I surmised there must be one nearby. I also heard that there was a carinderia across the street from the SM.

Finally, the mall opened at exactly 10:00AM. It took us a long time to get in because of the security check. I found this mildly frustrating. While I commend the meticulous bag checks the security guards were doing, I just thought that given the number of people who flock to DFA Davao daily they could have developed a system to make the security checks less time-consuming. All three of the security guards seemed to be doing a job that one person could easily handle given that there’s already a scanner.

As soon as we’re in, it was a few minutes more of walking to the DFA office at the 3rd floor. I approached the guard calling out numbers and showed my current passport and told him I’m applying for renewal. He waived me in. There were three counters directly in front of the entrance doors. I think the duties of the three personnel there was to do initial checks of the application forms and requirements as well as to answer queries.

I was instructed to proceed to the passport renewal window. But before I reached it, I was told by one of the staff in the area to have my passport photocopied. I told him I brought a copy. After checking it, he said it wasn’t within standards so I need to have the original photocopied again. I fell in line at the photocopying area and waited a bit before proceeding to the renewal window to submit the requirements.

Luckily, I have an e-passport so I was only required to submit a photocopy of the 2nd page and a valid ID. I submitted the forms and the passport copy then I was told to proceed to Window 7 to pay for the renewal fee. I paid Php950 (20 days). Those who want to expedite the process will have to pay Php1200 (10 days).

Next stop was where I got my photo and e-fingerprints taken. I only waited for about 5 minutes before my name was called. It was a fairly quick process so I couldn’t believe it when I was finally headed to the exit after less than 20 minutes of processing my passport renewal.

I’ll have to say that the mall set-up was a definite improvement from DFA Davao’s old office in Jacinto St. And I guess I really got lucky yesterday for finishing everything faster than I thought I would.

What running teaches you

Have you ever ran so far that you begin to wonder if you would ever make it back? When pain dogs your every step that it becomes a constant struggle to the finish. When you eventually find yourself learning to cope because it is either that or crumble on the dirt road.

Running changes you in many ways. Subtle changes that may go unnoticed for a while. But sooner or later, you begin to see the telltale signs of a different you.

One day you will realize that you are not the person you used to be. You begin to yearn to be out on the road and watch the world come to life. And regardless of your skill level or the distances you run, you feel a strong sense of kinship to every runner you pass or see on the road.

You learn that the only way to finish what you set out to do is to ignore that annoying voice  that tells you that you can’t do it. You drown the voice by focusing your mind to the beauty you see around you. The subtle shift from dark to light as the sky welcomes the sun. The silence gradually broken as everything around you stirs in preparation for a new day. The soft caress of the wind as it hits you from all sides and the way it makes every nerve in your body come alive. All that and more are the sights and sounds that you begin to look forward to each time you run.

The struggle between your mind and body is still there. But you begin to live with it. You know that it is the ever present challenge that would define your decision to stretch yourself beyond your limits or not. Then it just happens one day that you realize the voice in your head urging you to stop and rest have gone quiet. It is as if by sheer will and courage of spirit you were able to silence it.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about that sense of quiet you achieve is that you’re now able to listen to that part of you that pushes you to go farther. It tells you that you’ll always find a way to go back no matter how far you go. That the only way for you to know how far you can go is to not worry about how you’re going to get back. Because you will.

Only after you’ve gone and pushed yourself beyond your limits that you’ll realize you had it in you all along. The ability to make it happen.

[Posted on my other blog last January 29, 2011]

After Kendo Practice Thoughts: The Simple Things are the Toughest to Learn

My first shiai.
My first shiai. (Photo credit: A sensei visiting from Hong Kong)

It has been twenty-two months since I took up Kendo. In that time, I have been on a total of about 4 months of hiatus. Considering that our club’s regular training is only once a week, I would say that I have not journeyed far enough from my path as a beginner.

Yesterday after keiko, our sensei had some words to say to us. It is rare for our sensei to indulge in long talks like that. Apart from the language barrier that makes it hard for him sometimes to articulate what he wants to say, he is really a man of few words. In the almost two years of training with him, I observed that he is one of those martial arts teachers (and sport coaches) who can teach a lot of invaluable lessons for those who persevere enough to dig deep beneath the surface. Most times, it is not about what they say but what they do.

I first met sensei during the second day of the newly-formed club’s practice. I was with the two other students who were there the first day. One thing I learned then was he likes pushing students past their limits. And it has never changed. Last night, it seemed like he felt the need to remind us of that once again — in words. He reminded us that Kendo is more than a sport. He said that it requires a lot of self-discipline and always giving our best regardless of how tired we feel.

It has been said that the simplest things are the hardest to learn. I could not agree more. In Kendo’s context, there are things beginners are taught early on. Some of them seem simple enough, but they could be quite a challenge to sustain.

I have been feeling demotivated in kendo for months now. But I held on because I love it and I really want to learn it. A few weeks back, I decided to review the things expected of me as a kendoka. I challenged myself to keep doing them regardless of circumstances outside my control. It may not be easy most of the time. But I find it fulfilling to do these things, especially on days when I do not feel like doing them:

  • Clean the dojo floor – I have to be honest that it can be frustrating to see that not many people do this despite repeated reminders from our officers. Initially, it was supposed to be the beginners’ (read: youngest batches) job. But a recent memo from club officers stated that everyone should do it. I have only recently read said memo. Even before that though, I already promised to myself that I would make it a part of my pre-practice routine. And I have been delivering on that promise since. (I found a thumbtack while cleaning the dojo floor yesterday.)
  • Practice footwork before training starts – Sensei first issued this instruction about two months after the club was formed. He told us to try arriving at least 30 minutes before keiko starts so we could do this. As the club membership grew, he has been repeating the same instruction over and over again. But only a few actually do it without anyone prompting them. I understand why anyone would want to avoid it. It can get really tedious. I am not even good in kendo yet but I find it boring and painful most of the time. But knowing that I am not good served as motivation for me to keep doing it. I told myself that maybe someday, something good will come out of it. For me, it has been one of the challenges I have to overcome even before keiko starts. This is one of the things I made sure to follow since that time sensei told us to do it.
  • Aim for beautiful kendo – This is one thing that sensei said that really stuck to me. It is what I want as well. I find it helpful to keep it in mind. I use it as a guide on how to approach my training. It is not a pleasant feeling to be struck in practice or in shiai (match). It can be tempting to keep blocking (without the intention of doing a counter-strike), tilt my head to avoid being hit, or do things that would compromise proper form and technique. So every training, I challenge myself to receive every hit straight on. I know I suck at matches. But I would like to think that getting into that shiai-jo with the goal of playing beautiful kendo is worth the pain of losing.
  • Push – Sensei’s training can be brutal. I may not look forward to it, but I appreciate its true value. There have been occasions in the past that I took a rest even before the official break has been called. To be fair, those were times that I really cannot seem to carry on anymore. Each time, it felt like I let myself and sensei down. It was not a good feeling. I decided to try not doing it anymore. Lately, there have been times when it seemed like I was about to faint. But I chose to carry on. Surviving that feels like a reward in itself.

I would like to share some excerpts from an article written by one of the celebrities I admire. His writings are among the reasons why I’m a fan. I enjoy reading about his thoughts on travel, food, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Here are some of the things he shared in a blog post that resonate with me:

As I say at the top of this episode, as I tape my fingers (in the forlorn hope that it might mitigate the osteoarthritis and Heberden’s nodes associated with grip fighting), I will never be a black belt. I will never successfully compete against similarly ranked opponents half my age, I will never be great at Brazilian jiu jitsu. There is an urgency to my training because I’m sure as shit not getting any younger, or more flexible. I’m certainly not getting any faster. And as I head down the highway on my jiu jitsu journey, the likelihood of the wheels coming off the car grows stronger every day.

But I am determined to suck less at this jiu jitsu thing every day if I can.

I do it because it’s hard. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And because it never ends. Every day presents me with a series of problems that I spend the rest of the day thinking about how I might solve — or at least chip away at. Next day same. And the day after that. ~ SWEEP THE LEG, JOHNNY! by Anthony Bourdain

I am still in the earliest stages of my kendo journey. I am still far from being good at my level. I do not know what my future in this martial art will be. But to borrow Anthony Bourdain’s words: I am determined to suck less at this kendo thing every day if I can.

Keep the Bar Raised

Competence and likeability are hallmarks of great leaders. I have no illusions of being a great leader. I do not even want to lead. Only someone who does not know or understand me would assume that I would want to take on a leadership role. If I found myself in that position in the past, it was often because of necessity. I stepped up when I had to, but I did not seek to be in that role. I may be confident about my competence. But I know myself enough to realize that I am not easy to like. I come on too strong for some people who do not know me. I speak my mind and tell it like it is which not many appreciate, especially from a woman. Men displaying similar traits are often perceived as assertive or commanding while women are labeled as bitches or bossy.

I have no trouble accepting whatever people throw my way. But I cannot lower the bar just to be likeable. This is a real challenge in groups where the measure of being a good member seems to be a person’s capacity to be like everyone else. I see the value of getting along with everyone. But not at the expense of putting indirect or unspoken pressure on others who may live by their own standards.

I have been trying to reign in my outspokenness given my current environment. I have made major adjustments and swallowed my pride in several occasions – far too many for me to count. All these so I could continue practicing Kendo. There are times though that I come to the brink of giving up. Because I find it hard to be myself without being misunderstood.

People have different reasons for practicing a sport or martial art. I have trained in different sports and martial arts over the years with the following motivation:

  • To have fun (read: experience the joy found in playing a sport)
  • To constantly challenge myself
  • To get out of my comfort zone
  • To learn the life-lessons sport offers
  • To develop discipline and cultivate an athlete’s mindset
  • To earn the trust and respect of people I look up to (i.e. the athletes who exemplify the traits I admire, coaches, trainers, sport administrators, etc.)
  • To find role models to emulate
  • To build friendships with people I meet along the way

It is a continuous process for me regardless of whatever field of sport or martial arts I choose to practice. Training for me is a sacred time. I do not want to lose focus by talking unnecessarily. Unfortunately, some people seem to take it as arrogance. Superficial perceptions get tiring sometimes, especially when I opt not to defend myself anymore.

Kendo is all about respect. I have to admit though that it is not easy for me feel genuine respect for people who do not even show respect. I am still trying to understand it in kendo’s context. I think it is easy to give it to anyone including those who disrespect us. But the ones who inspire deep respect in me are those whose words and actions are aligned.

I learned that some members in our club misconstrued some of my behaviors during training as disinterest. They think I do not care about junior members’ welfare and progress because of my hesitation to correct or give feedback. But nothing could be farther from the truth. I care too much.

The reasons I choose to stay quiet and refrain from correcting anyone could be all or any of these:

  • I have been burned by some junior members before. Some can be quite selective on who they choose to listen to. And I did not seem to be in that list. I do not want to repeat the experience.
  • I observe attitude and behaviors towards training first before doing what I think is appropriate
  • I choose not to give feedback or teach anyone who displays unwillingness to listen. For me, it is not about accepting what I say. What is more important is the ability to listen.
  • I do not like teaching anyone anything that I cannot even do correctly
  • I prefer to let my actions speak in training

It is not easy to train when expectations put a lot of pressure for me to lower the bar. It is like being inadvertently forced into making a choice to let go of my personal standards just to be more likeable. I can make compromises, but not at the expense of the things I uphold. So in a time when I feel demotivated yet again in kendo, I remind myself to remember this: Keep the bar raised.

The Long Road To Understanding Traditional Martial Arts

I have shared in previous posts how I was perplexed by some people’s interpretation of traditional martial arts. Some invoked those three words as a sort “simple explanation” to address my questions on health and safety related issues during training. This only fueled my curiosity more. I wanted to look for answers that could help me wrap my head around the responses I got.

I recently stumbled upon an article that made me understand what one of my long-time Filipino martial art practitioner friend has been telling me. It echoed what he said and more.

Reading the article made me think beyond martial arts that evolved into more of a competitive sport. There were several things mentioned that struck a nerve. To quote one of them: “Sport and budo (budo is the term I use to differentiate a martial art from a martial sport) have a few things in common, but not much; although enough, it would seem, to cause confusion. The pursuit of sport karate requires that you win over others. In fact, your success in sport karate, or any sport for that matter, is a direct result of your ability to defeat other people. This mindset runs completely contrary to budo thinking. In sport karate there are winners and losers, but in budo karate there are only doers. Without sounding too esoteric here, the aim of sport karate is to win, while the aim of budo karate is to not lose. As hard as this idea may be to grasp for a ‘newbie’, budo training, pursued with sincerity, leads to the avoidance of conflict; if you don’t fight, you never lose, right? Sport karate does not hinder traditional karate training, it’s a completely different activity altogether.” ~ Budo or Bust by Mike Clarke

I think I understand a little of what he was trying to say here. But I would like to believe that there are many sport practitioners out there across different disciplines who live by the same beliefs and rules that traditional martial arts uphold. Olympism is at the heart of the Olympic Movement. And it shares similar ideals.

Screenshot from http://www.olympic.org/olympism-in-action
e Screenshot from http://www.olympic.org/olympism-in-action

Sadly, competitive sport has evolved in such a way that seems more focused on winning. There are often many factors at play that could explain this. Winning sometimes dictate the level of support like government funding, sponsorships, and more that athletes and their support system can get. That often puts a lot of pressure on athletes to win. But I also know many elite athletes from different sport disciplines who exemplify the values that Olympism promotes.

I believe that this is where the quality of instruction comes in. Finding the right mentors and ensuring that the values are ingrained during training could develop more athletes and martial arts practitioners who embrace the ideals that the two sides of the spectrum represent.

It is always inspiring for me to find people who have journeyed enough in their respective martial arts to gain a better understanding of what it is about. I want to be around people like them. I think our sensei, in his own ways, is on the same path. I am also fortunate to have met many visiting senseis whose actions imparted invaluable lessons on budo. Now, more than ever, I need to pay attention to the ones who get it and try to learn the unspoken lessons from them.

March Highlights – Inspired. Reconnected. Empowered.

I welcomed March, which also happened to be Women’s Month, with a simple goal of doing something, no matter how small, for the women in sports advocacy. Somehow, along the way, small milestones just piled up. I couldn’t think of a better way to end it than how it did – being with like-minded people who inspired and re-energized me to dream and do more.

March 6 – Davao Kendo Club’s 1st Women’s Shiai/Tournament

(Photo credit: Jesh Juson)
(Photo credit: Jesh Juson)

March 8 – Women in Rowing PH featured in our IF’s website and International Women’s Day video

Screenshot from the World Rowing website
Screenshot from the World Rowing website

March 28-30 – IMPULSE Seminar: Empowerment of women in sports in the Philippines

(Photo credit: Krizanne Ty)
(Photo credit: Krizanne Ty)

Looking forward to more collaborations with all the inspiring women and men around me.

Work on a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

As far back as I can remember, Holy Week has always been a time of quiet and self-reflection in our family. My childhood memories include hearing my devout Protestant grandmother telling us to refrain from making noises and instead use the time to reflect on the meaning of Lent. She also taught us to respect Catholic traditions during the Lenten season that may be different from our own.

I am not deeply religious like my grandmother or the many friends I have from different faiths. But Holy Week has become a time of slowing down for me. I often end up spending it in solitude, reading books, or writing in my journal. This week though, I find myself working on a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday just so I can take a few days off work next week to attend this seminar:

(Screenshot from the Powerful Change FB page)
(Screenshot from the Powerful Change Coaching Training International Facebook page)

I was happy to see some familiar names on the email addresses in the communications I received in the past weeks. Giving up my off days from work may not exactly be how I planned my 2016 Holy Week would be. But it is a fair exchange for the opportunity not just to attend the seminar/training but also to see some of the athletes and sports leaders I have not seen for a long time.