Go back to www.tylerkungfuandfitness.com

Posts Tagged ‘Kung Fu’

Committed or Interested?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

There’s a difference between interests and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. – Art Turock

Think about that quote for a moment. It reveals the secret to success.

Commitment.

That’s the answer. Whether for the practice of kung fu, piano, writing, saving money, and even in marriage, consistent, committed practice is the absolute must for triumph.

I found that quote inside Reader’s Digest when I was in college. I guarded it like a cherished proverb and kept it crumpled inside my wallet for years. In ’96 when TKFF opened its doors, I drove a thumbtack through it and it has since yellowed on my office wall. Over the years, Turock’s quote has both inspired me and haunted me. In times of waning endurance, the words fueled my stamina. Other times, I wish I’d never read the beast.

One rainy December day I was to meet Sifu Fogg at the park for a training session to prepare me for my Sifu test coming up that summer. The high was 25, the wind chill 18, and the freezing sleet sliced through your coat and skin. I was so relieved when he canceled due to the weather but he reminded me that I could still train, “because I was young and the cold was good for me.”

Great. Just what I wanted to hear. I pulled the blanket over my head with no intentions of going outside when Turock’s words stung my psyche more than the sleet outside would sting my exposed skin.

Committed or Interested? I asked myself. I threw back the wool blanket, got dressed, and ran to the park.
Consider this bit of info shared by Karen Eden in Ma SUCCESS magazine, December 2009 issue. She states:

• For every 10,000 who sign up for martial arts, fifty-percent quit the first month.
• The remaining 5,000, half will drop in the second month.
• 1,000 will go six months / 500 will go a year.
• 100 students will go two years.
• 3 will receive 1st degree-black level.
• ONLY ONE of 10,000 will become a master instructor.

That’s amazing stuff! Does everyone want to be a master instructor? Of course not, but you understand the pattern. Commitment equals success. What are your goals? Will you achieve them? Will I?

Committed or Interested. Which are you?

Veteran’s Day

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I was ready to post on the topic of learning to fight without learning the numerous forms associated with Mantis KF, when the following hit me. (Will discuss the forms topic soon)

As I post this, the morning rain outside my window is pounding everything in its path. The creek running alongside my house is beginning to flood my front yard and strong winds force huge pines to bow. The sky is a purplish gray. I’m cold.

I find myself wishing for a sunny day, feeling down only because of the weather.

That’s when I notice the date.

November 11.

How selfish and spoiled I am. Here I sit, completely protected from the elements, writing on a computer, when thousands of United States Soldiers are carrying out their duties despite the weather. I watch the rain.

I can’t imagine sleeping on desert floors in 150 degrees as sand granules burrow their way into every cell of my body and mortar rounds hum through the night. Nor could I run through jungles with snakes and snipers ready to kill me.

I can’t imagine flying a jet with a MIG on my tail, or being aboard a ship with huge waves crashing against the hull pelting my face with salt water, soaking my clothes, while enemy subs hope to blow me up.

I can’t imagine fast-roping from a Blackhawk as men, women, and children fire their A-K 47’s at me, or being on a four-man special ops team, dropped off in the black of night a mile away from my target, swimming in shark infested waters only then to crawl through dense tropical forest to infiltrate terrorists’ camps.

I can’t imagine going through all of that and then Americans, the people I so proudly swore to protect and to defend, treat me as a leper when I return.

But you know what? I don’t have to imagine any of that. The United States Soldier has already done it for me . . . for real. These men and women do this day after day because they see the bigger picture. They understand the threat.

U.S. Soldiers are the epitome of servant hood. They love this country and we should love them.

The storm has intensified outside but suddenly, I feel warm, safe.

Thank God for you Veterans. Happy November 11.

Investing in Loss

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Now when I say, “Learn to invest in loss,” who is willing to do this? To invest in loss is to permit others to use force to attack while you don’t use even the slightest force to defend yourself. On the contrary, you lead an opponent’s force away so that it is useless. ~ Cheng Man-Ching

The two kung fu students faced off ready for a friendly bout. The senior student led with his dominate right side. He knew that his right back-fist combined with his right side-kick were unstoppable.

The younger student also led with his stronger right side but he felt less confident than his opponent; he was wearing a blindfold. His balance unsteady, his sense of direction completely off kilter with no idea of where his classmate was standing. He hoped he didn’t look stupid.

His goal of today’s match was to keep his guard up until he made contact with his si hing (older kung fu brother) then use feel to determine where an opening for a strike or kick may be. Even though the fight was to be slow, this took considerable amounts of concentration.

The instructor said, “Begin.”

The younger, blinded student stood; his hands up waiting to feel his si hing’s arms or legs make light contact – thinking he would then ride his brother’s attacking limbs back in on recoil and simply return the strike.

Faster than a blink, the older kung fu brother lashed out with a back-fist, smashing his younger opponent’s nose, followed by a spinning right side-kick sending him into the brick wall.

The young student collapsed to his knees. He felt like his navel had collided with his spine. He couldn’t breathe. Blood flowed from his nose beneath the blindfold, splattering the floor.

Obviously, the si hing did not practice the “Invest in Loss” discipline. Although he clearly held the advantage in skill as well as eyesight, his intent was to show off his techniques, not help his brother.

In order to master the art of mantis fighting, or any martial arts really, the student MUST invest in loss.

In the example above, the seeing student should make light contact with the blind one such as touch his stomach with a “strike”. Blind student feels he’s been hit, too late to block, so he must yield to the blow then grab the hitter’s arm and slowly counter. This teaches both students: The blind student feels which way his body should move in reaction to the blow and then how to set up a counter move. The seeing student also sees and feels how his opponent reacts to his attack and counters thus teaching him how to move and counter. And on and on it goes.

In the past 14 years of teaching, my kung fu has grown exponentially. Why? Investing in loss. As a Sifu, I must continually invest in loss. What good would it do for me to bust-up my students and then continue the evening lesson as they’re being wheeled out to the ambulance. Neither of us would ever grow.

To paraphrase the great motivational speaker Zig Ziggler, “Help enough people achieve their dreams and goals, and yours will be achieved as well.”

The Importance of Horse Stance

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I feel that I should begin with saying that I am in no way a Horse Stance Expert. Like everyone else, my horse stance needs constant work. Every so often, I have to look at my Horse Stance and try to make improvements where I can. I am currently trying to get back into real Kung Fu shape after my almost 4 month outage due to work travel and as I do this, the first thing on the list is Horse Stance. And when I am working on something in my own personal Kung Fu, it always spills over to my Students.

Most martial arts use a version of this stance, and it seems that everyone puts emphasis on a different aspect of the stance. I believe that Horse Stance is one of the most misunderstood stances in Kung Fu, and one of the most important.

Traditional Horse Stance training has fallen off dramatically over the years, and I truly believe that has lead to the degradation of Martial Arts in America. Many martial arts schools have either changed Horse Stance to make it easier, or eliminated it as a training tool altogether. They use a variety of excuses, my favorite being that “it doesn’t teach anything useful.” When I hear that one it sounds to me as if they said “Because I am lazy and don’t care for my students.” There are many things that Horse Stance training can teach, I will cover just a few of my top favorites.

First I will cover what a good horse stance is: feet a bit wider than your shoulders, back straight, legs bent at 90 degrees, with your upper legs horizontal to the floor (hips and knees same distance from floor), knees directly above the ankles, and the shoulders directly above the hips. Do not expect to be comfortable. If it doesn’t hurt, then you are not doing it right!! (though the pain should only be in the legs)

1. The most obvious is that Horse Stance builds physical strength. Strength comes in two types: raw power (lifting) and staying power (holding). Horse Stance primarily builds holding strength, keeping your body steady and solid through the range of motion when fighting.

2. Horse Stance builds pain tolerance. When done properly, Horse Stance hurts; but it is a “good” pain. By that I mean that it is a pain that only occurs when you are in the stance, and leaves no lasting damage. This is extremely useful in any situation in which you must fight for your life, allowing you to ignore a certain amount of pain while still being able to respond and protect yourself.

3. Horse Stance destroys perceived limits. Horse Stance teaches you how to push beyond your “limits.” Most of our perceived “limits” are ones which we place unduly upon ourselves, usually with little or no basis in fact. Take for example a 3 year old and a 30 year old, such as my daughter and I. She can flex to almost any position without problem, where I most certainly can not. This is not because my muscles are not capable of this flexibility, but rather my body has “learned” over the years that normal movement is limited to a short distance. So when I try to take them beyond that “normal” movement, they contract, causing me pain. When I take a mental hold of my muscle and force it to relax, my range of motion increases dramatically. We set similar limits on virtually everything. Practicing Horse Stance can prove to yourself that you can surpass these limits with some good Kung Fu (time and energy, or hard work)

4. Horse Stance builds Strong Character. Regardless of age, sex, race, music taste, or favorite color, Horse Stance is hard. It is hard for everyone. It shows that with some work, you can achieve your goals. A little bit of pain now reaps rewards later on. And if I am willing to put myself through things like this for myself, I am much more willing to help others.

As Sifu has told us several times before, practicing Kung Fu will either make you a better person, or you will quit. I really believe this statement, and that Horse Stance is one of the leading factors that makes this true.

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – El Final

Monday, July 13th, 2009

…Oh crap! I’ve only sparred in class twice and now I’m about to fight Ranger J.J. McQuade.

Miraculously I stood. My hands were at my side, feeling like concrete. My knees wobbled. I dragged my legs across the black line into the ring. I walked like a Zombie. I should’ve been praying, meditating or something as I struggled to a fighting stance. Instead, my mind raced to a story Sifu Fogg had once told me. He said he and Chuck had sparred at Mr. Norris’ home in California back in the 70’s. Sifu said he won. I swallowed and chewed my mouthpiece. Now it all made sense. Chuck commissioned Mr. Clone to Baton Rouge on a revenge mission. Take me out as an example. NOBODY defeats Chuck Norris. I was a dead man.

Judge said go. Chuck Clone smiled. Spit dripped off his chewed-up black mouthpiece. He looked like the devil. He began to circle me. I wanted to turn with him but my body wouldn’t work. He charged with a ridge hand. I thought of ducking but I moved with the agility of a dead cat. I felt the impact from the blow then my feet left the ground. I heard the roar of the crowd as I tumbled through the air. From what others told me, it was beautiful, especially the way my body cartwheeled across the gym floor. Chuck Clone had followed the ridge hand with a spinning hook kick to the back of my head. As I tumbled out of the ring, I thought of Sifu, John, my other classmates. I had let them down; then I though of Rocky. His words to Mr. T, “Come on. You’re not so bad. You ain’t nothin’.” A rush of adrenaline flooded my muscles. I rolled to my feet. Chuck Clone was going down.

I spun around, charged the ring, but Clone wasn’t there. He was already on the sidelines, surrounded by judges and awestruck fans. I was nothing but a forgotten casualty.

It turned out that Chuck Clone was actually a nice guy. He was a student of one of Mr. Norris’ last operating schools, and he’d been an extra on some of Chuck’s movies. None of my KF brothers saw the fight so on the way home I exaggerated a little to make me not look too bad.

Overall, it was a great experience. I learned to face my fear, and I learned of the enormous power of suggestion. The simple fact that Mr. Clone had Chuck Norris Fighting System stitched on his gi made him a giant in my eyes. He also had the skills to back it up, another lesson learned.

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Tres

Friday, July 10th, 2009

…”Competitors,” a voice boomed over the PA, “we don’t have enough fighters in each rank to merit a contest so we will mix all belt ranks divided only by age. Please listen for your name.”

Several competitors cheered, others booed. I wanted to throw-up. The great PA voice in the sky had just announced that I might have to rumble with Chuck Clone. I shot a glance at him. He was pulling on his war-ravaged headgear. Two loose strips of tape flapped side to side. He was smiling the way I’m sure Goliath did when he went out to battle David. I had the feeling, though, that this giant-story was going to have a very different ending. I frantically searched the crowd for John and my other teammates. I needed backup. They were competing in other divisions.

“Jones,” the great PA said, “have a seat on the line.” I sat cross-legged on the black line of the gym floor and sized up my competition. There were nine fighters. Two while belts, four green, one red, a purple (whatever that is) and Chuck Clone. All of us supposedly under 19 but I swear they looked 40. I was so nervous I put my sparring boots on the wrong feet and forgot to lace up my gloves. My mouthpiece was suffocating me. I fought the urge to bolt, or to shout Wait! You have the wrong guy. I’m not worthy to represent the U.S. Kung Fu Exchange! Instead, I sat there and re-taught myself how to breathe.

Since so few fighters, the event was supposed to be set up like king of the mountain. Whoever won the bout continued to fight, but the judges already knew who’d win, so the event turned into “let’s watch Mighty Chuck Clone destroy these weak worthless earthlings”.

All grew quiet.

The judge cleared his throat, looked at the roster. I was the newest. I figured I’d be first. My head felt a hundred degrees. Salty sweat singed my eyes. The room began to tilt. My muscles twitched like I was strapped to a metal chair being torture shocked. I started to stand but the great PA voice saved me–only for a moment.

Out of pure diabolical pleasure, the judges ordered white belts to go last. Sure, allow the lambs to watch the lion eat their parents first. I grew more nauseated with each round. Chuck Clone was incredible. Purple Boy lunged at him with a snap kick. Faster than I could blink, Chuck Clone spun and drove a back kick into Purple Boy’s gut, knocking him out of the ring so hard he refused to come back. The Green Boys did worse. They moved in slow motion compared to Mr. Clone. From one agonizing round to the next, they were either swept, flipped, kicked, or all three, out of the ring without landing a blow. The crowd went crazy. I was afraid my bowels would do the same. Please somebody take this dude out!

Red Man stood, pounding his fists into his palms and bobbing his head side-to-side. I had hope for Red Man. He was bigger, meaner looking, had some wicked dragon design on his gi. He threw one punch. I held my breath. Chuck Clone ducked. Red Man dropped unconscious. The bout lasted 15 seconds. I didn’t even see what he did. The audience sprang to their feet. Chuck Clone was indestructible. No wonder Mr. Norris sent him. The two other white belts reluctantly stood. They stared at the floor with their shoulders slumped. One by one, they stepped into the ring then flew back out, headfirst.

My turn…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Dos

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

…We demonstrated five more techniques and won first place. Great start to a first tournament. John and I went separate ways, and since I was a rookie, I entered white belt division.

It was during roll call that I first saw him. I did a double take, blinked several times to be sure. I thought that perhaps my euphoric brain, clouded from my recent victory, was playing tricks on me, but as far as I could tell, Chuck Norris was standing ten feet away with his back to me.

I stared in disbelief at the guy with blond hair wearing a starched white gi. He had Chuck Norris Fighting System embroidered in bold black letters on the back of his gi and running down each white pant leg. He was talking and laughing with judges and other competitors. My heart started pounding like an out-of-control jackhammer. My palms went clammy. My stomach butterflies began killing each other. He turned, glanced at me and nodded.

To understand my excitement, you need to know how much of a Chuck fan I was. I had seen every movie enough times to memorize the complete dialogue in each film. Play me a half-second snippet of the movie’s musical score, I could tell you the exact movie. I had every magazine with Chuck on the cover, and I had the HBO showing times of A Force of One, The Octagon, and Eye For An Eye, written on my Sports Illustrated Swim Suit wall calendar. I even lost a girlfriend over a Chuck Norris movie. I took her to see my all-time favorite, Lone Wolf McQuade. I didn’t kiss her during the film and she claimed I ignored her. Well, yeah! You don’t kiss during a Chuck movie. I know, I needed therapy, but I had found my calling through the martial arts, and Chuck Norris represented what I wanted to be at that time.

Once I saw his face, I knew it wasn’t Chuck, but only because of his age. The guy was maybe eighteen and extremely fit. Throw a beard on him, add a few wrinkles around the eyes and you had Chuck. He was wearing black tattered hand pads and matching sparring boots held together with duck tape. He moved through the crowd with confidence and a hint of bravado. Everyone seemed to know him, giving him high-fives, pats on the back. I studied his every move, learning. Though not Chuck, he obviously knew Chuck. I mean the man himself sent this kid to represent the entire Chuck Norris Fighting System. Could you be any better? I wanted to absorb everything I could from this guy.

His headgear dangled from his right hand by its Velcro strap. I instantly thought of Hercules holding Medusa’s head. The black Styrofoam head padding also had wide strips of gray tape covering battle scars. His worn, frayed and faded to ash gray, black belt hung around his waist so naturally I wondered if he ever took it off. Chuck Clone was definitely a tournament veteran. Thank God, I wouldn’t be fighting him…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Uno

Monday, July 6th, 2009

As I slid into the back seat of that 1980 Cutlass Supreme at 3:30 in the morning on a Saturday, I had no idea that in five hours I’d come face to face with my greatest hero . . . Chuck Norris.

I hadn’t even been in kung fu for three months, yet here I was with five other students headed to Baton Rouge, LA for our first martial arts tournament. Sifu Fogg had given us a crash course on tournaments for the last several weeks. I don’t remember why this tournament was so important, but I do remember the pain in training for it. Then on the Friday before, Sifu tells us he can’t go. So we were off to Louisiana without a Sifu.

It was late August, 90 degrees before the sun even came up, and the car’s A/C wasn’t the best. The back of my legs stuck to the tan vinyl seats. To beat the heat, I wore my Ocean Pacific tank top, short running shorts, and blue-striped tube socks that climbed to my knees. (Remember, this was the 80’s. Tube socks were cool. Sly even wore them in Rocky III. And if Stallone said tube socks were cool—then tube socks were cool).

Titus, the driver, and proud owner of the Cutlass, was a huge reggae fan. For the three-hundred-plus road trip, we gulped Mountain Dews by the case and bobbed our heads to the syncopated melodies of Bob Marley and others. I truly wanted dreadlocks by the end of the day.

The tournament began at 10. Four wrong turns and two wrong highways later, we arrived at 9:50. We scribbled our names at the registration, rushed to the changing rooms, threw on kung fu clothes, and sprinted to the taped-off section of the gymnasium where we were to compete, doing all this as the tournament director called our names over the PA.

John Cheng and I had entered a “practical self-defense” division. It was an event where you had someone attack you then you showed your stuff by dealing with it. That was the first event and we were scheduled to perform first. (Guess who played the bad-guy.) With no warm-up, we jumped into the center of the ring.

The first technique was to escape a standing chokehold. Due to our tardiness, Cheng and I missed the rules discussion, one of which was to perform the routine slow the first time then fast the second time. I pulled in a quick breath to focus then clutched Cheng’s neck. Already nicknamed “Buzz saw hands” for his incredible speed, Cheng’s left hand shot under my left hand, broke the grip, blasted my temple with his right elbow, rammed a knee into my gut then threw me to the floor. It happened so fast and I hit the gym floor so hard, the crowd actually gasped. The judges rushed to my side, asked if I was OK. I gave them a thumbs-up and sprang to my feet. The previous weeks of intense training with John on full-speed mode had conditioned my body.

After seeing that, officials huddled for a serious pow-wow and decided to bring in a mat for competitors to fall on. They also asked John if he could slow down—three different times…

* * *

The Bug Within

Monday, June 15th, 2009

It was an average enough day. Nothing out of the ordinary, when a strange man came up to me at work. I was helpful and got him what he needed, but I had second thoughts about his mental competence. He went on his way, and I went mine, thinking nothing more of him and moving on to the next customer.

About fifteen minutes had passed and I heard a page on the intercom system. It said, “Mr. Decker to the front lobby, REDLINE.” This means to drop what you are doing immediately and get to the front. This is when my spidey senses told me something was wrong. I could hear the anticipation and nervousness in the person’s voice that called me, and I was off with the speed of a ninja.

Once I got to the front lobby, I saw a manager, a helpful customer, and the same man that I had encountered earlier, sitting down on the ground. I then ask the manager, “How may I be of assistance?”, as I pushed out my chest and dropped the tone of my voice. He told me that the man sitting on the ground made it to the front, left his groceries and proceeded to stand on the counter. He then began to undress. They stopped him from undressing and got him to the lobby and called for backup. Since I was backup, I introduced myself to the gentleman and ask his name.

He was very nervous and couldn’t sit still. He then began to take his shoes off. I called him by name, asked him to sit still until the police came, and asked him to put his shoes back on. He said “WHY. I would never hurt anyone.” He then stood up and came toward me with his hands out.

Without thinking, my body reacted. I blocked his hand, moved to the side, twisted his hand behind his back, and helped his face to the floor. He started kicking violently and yelling. I told him to be still and the police would be here soon. The more he moved and twisted, the further I pushed his fingertips up his back.

The police arrived soon after, and my heart was still beating 100 miles an hour. Once the man was off with the police the manager turned to me and said, “How did you do that?” I gave him the best answer that I had; “I don’t know.” It was really all a blur to me, I really didn’t know what I had done. It was pure animal instinct. It actually kind of scared me. The manager said, “Show me how to do that. That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” It wasn’t just animal instinct; it was the “BUG” inside me busting out. I told him I couldn’t show him how to do it. I could show him the moves, but he would have to come and train to find the “BUG” inside him.

And He Could Show Up Any Day Now…

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

We hovered around the door, watching the young man testing play his staff form for a minute or so before the baritone voice of Sigung Fogg asked;

“Would you guys like to come in?”

Everyone stopped what they were doing to find some extra chairs as we tried to quickly (and subtly?) make our way from the door to the other side of the room, crossing in front of at least 3 Sifus, the tester and a couple of other students. Once we got our seats there were three things I noticed right away:

  1. The test was taking place in a school weight room which was probably the size of our big room, except that about 1/3 of it was filled with weight equipment – and that the whole thing was carpeted.
  2. An odd sticky thwap-thwap sound, and
  3. That there was no air conditioning.

As he moved through his weapons sets I realized that the thwapping sounds were the guy’s shirt – which looked like he’d literally been hosed off in the parking lot – thwapping and sticking against his chest.

After the staff he went into his straight-sword form which was interesting as I’d never seen that.  From the straight-sword he moved to the spear form.  The emotions I felt as I watched him try and try. and try. to pop that spear up off the carpet with his toe at the beginning and then flip it around his back and catch it with the other hand ran from pure heartache to relief, to “Yes!” when he finally got it.  He finished his weapons with Yin Ching broadsword which was the same but with totally different emphases than what we learn at our school.  It was interesting though, after he played his weapons sets he touched hands with a couple of people and eventually got what they called a boxer’s cut which bled quite a bit, but it was watching him struggle so determinedly with that spear form that was more disturbing to me.

While he was fighting, Sifu Perry and his student arrived with the benches and everyone was called into the office where we relinquished our funds and were told to grab a bench and head outside.

It was standing in that parking lot, in the bright sun that made it feel like at least 107°, that caused me to briefly question both my sanity and the black kung fu pants and dark shirts we had all decided to wear.  We’d all lined up and had done a couple of drills when Sifu Curtis came out and just started doing the form.  There was no warning, no “let’s get started”, just straight into the form.

With a jumping inside crescent kick.

Over.  The.  Bench. 

Needless to say, he had everyone’s attention then.  Sifu Curtis didn’t speak much; he would occasionally say something like “now, on your own,” or “ok, from the beginning” but he really didn’t need to, all eyes were on him.

“And then you set the bench down, do a front flip over it and bow.”

We finished the form after that final tidbit of information and then took a break to get some water, find some shade and catch our breath.  As I sat there Sigung Fogg came out from the school and as he walked over to where we had gathered asked

Everyone’s got it? Wintor you got that flip no problem right?”

and instinctually, before my brain could even engage I grinned and answered

Well yeah, frontwards and backwards!”

And just as my brain fired up and realized that maybe, just maybe that wasn’t the most appropriate response, he laughed.  Sigung Fogg has a pretty good laugh.

Sifu Jones asked me to write about my experience that weekend and it’s taken me a while to gather all of my impressions and try to get them compact enough for a blog post.  But there are definitely certain moments that stand out in my memory:

~  The thwap-thwap-stick of Dustin’s shirt;
~  Dustin’s determination to persevere through that dang spear form;
~  The searing heat out in that parking lot;
~  Uh? The jumping inside crescent kick. Over! The! Bench!;
~  Not getting a grunt of disapproval for joking with Sigung (whew!);
~  The smile that completely took over Sigung’s face when I mentioned that it was probably time for another trip to Jucy’s, and
~  Everyone’s enthusiasm, to both learn and help in the heat of the day, in a parking lot in Richardson, Texas in the summer.