The Right Path Isn’t Always The One Of Least Resistance

Gene Dunn once said, “Your technique means nothing if you’re not using your talents for the betterment of humanity.”  

I began studying the martial arts what feels like a very long time ago.  Thirty-one years ago this year, to be precise.  Although I started this journey with the intention of improving my health and saving my own life against the complications associated with Diabetes, it would end up becoming who I am as opposed to something I was doing.

Martial arts have provided me with more than I could possibly express in written word.  I have carried and used my skills with dignity and with respect for others. Through my study of the Way, I came into Buddhism, which became the central focal point of my faith.  I believe that as a people, we have an obligation to give as much as we get.  And on the occasions where the only possible response to prevent harm to others or myself was violence, I have been swift but just.

My chosen career has carried me far from home and away from my dojo over the past ten years.  Although I have never stopped practicing, it’s been a lonely road considering the rural areas I’ve lived in generally never have martial arts schools.

When I moved to Regina, I was elated to hear that there were several schools that I could explore and I was excited at the prospect of training among other students of the way once again.  I visited MANY martial arts schools over the course of a few weeks and observed several classes.  None of them seemed to be a fit.  Although I wouldn’t presume to classify any one style better than another, I believe a style should call to the person and fit their requirements.

That’s when I walked into the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate.  After observing only one class, I came to realize that it would be a good fit.  Not only because there were some techniques and aspects similar to my own, but because of the ambiance and the manner in which students were taught.

Without hesitation, I was accepted as a student despite being an outside black belt (something that many instructors would not allow).  When I decided I would be testing for my next degree of black belt, I was allowed to step outside of protocol and practice my forms during class even if they were not of the same style.  

For the many who believe that learning the martial arts is simply about learning how to fight, it’s important to look at the quality and value that comes out of a dojo’s students. The growth, maturity and knowledge that is imparted on a student is truly the trademark of a quality dojo. If you consider training, be sure to do your research and find something that is a good fit for you. In the long run, you’ll get much more out of it. ☯

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My Gut Isn’t Fat, It’s A Fuel Tank For A Deity…

One of the common misconceptions that many people have about Buddha is the depiction often used in the Western world of a fat, bald little man. This depiction is not actually of Buddha, but of a 10th-Century Chinese monk known as Budai.

Budai is almost always depicted as smiling or laughing, in a seated position with a protruding stomach. Budai has been incorporated into Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism and is believed by many to be destined as the next Buddha after Siddhartha Gautama.

Depiction of Budai

Budai was a wandering monk, and would often be said to predict people’s fortunes. He claimed he was an incarnation of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future.

Siddhartha Gautama was a monk who taught in India between the 6th and 4th Centuries BC and is the person on whose teachings that Buddhism was founded. Gautama was believed to have been born in what is now known as modern day Nepal, and some accounts are that he was born to royalty. Gautama renounced his princely upbringing in order to become a holy man.

Depiction of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama

One could write indefinitely on the intricate details of this topic. There are a number of different variations and some of the details are a little vague, but like most faiths it all depends on what source you research your information from.

This is a bit like the game some may have played in grade school, Telephone Game. It basically involved sitting in a circle and the first person whispers something into the next person’s ear and so on until it reaches the last person, who speaks the message out loud and reveals how the message may have unexpectedly changed.

The background of some of Buddhism’s origins is a bit similar. With the passing of time and modernization, the Western world has come to recognize Buddha as a little fat man who smiles and little else, which is genuinely unfortunate. ☯

Keeping An Appointment = Keeping Your Word

We live in a world that has evolved to limit personal interaction. Almost everything we could ever need can be purchased online, including groceries, clothing and necessities. All of these things can be mailed or delivered, and we never have to deal with someone face to face while doing it. In the meantime, most of us spend the majority of our down time with our noses buried in an electronic device, gaming, checking social media or other online activities.

In fact, I recently ordered my son’s birthday gifts through an online website, based on choices he showed me from a catalogue. I remember thinking that this made my life incredibly easy as I didn’t have to go out to try and find something for him. Such has become the way of the world.

And while there’s nothing wrong with the ease and simplicity that the internet provides, there’s still an expected standard of etiquette that must be followed. Even if you purchase something from a person over the internet, you still need to have the same courtesy, respect and understanding as you would while dealing with someone face-to-face.

I’ll give you an example… My wife and I are members of a few online buy-and-sell websites, which require you to become a member in order to do business. It’s a great tool for selling things around the home that we no longer use. I enjoy it, because I prefer selling an item to someone else who may make use of it rather than toss it out. It allows me to channel my inner KonMari and clear out all the unnecessary clutter from my house. I can almost hear thousands of eyes rolling but I’m sorry to say it guys… There’s definitely something to Marie Kondo’s organizational method. But I digress…

I currently have over a dozen used items posted for sale online. There’s a lot of haggling and negotiating that usually happens. This also relates to the pick-up or delivery of items as well as when the transaction would happen. Because it’s peer-to-peer, this site requires the buyer and seller to work out whether the items will be picked up or delivered, unlike E-Bay and Amazon.

I had a buyer express interest in not one, but three of my items. We discussed a price for the combined items and a time that the buyer would come pick them up. I was tickled pink… Not so much about the few dollars I was making, but the fact I was getting rid of a few items. The expected pick-up was agreed to be on the Friday, which was three days away… A little long in the tooth, as far as these interactions go, but since the buyer planned on taking a number of items, I agreed to reserve the stuff for them and wait until the Friday.

Friday rolls around and my person is a no-show. A major “faux pas” in the peer-to-peer buy-and-sell world. I allowed almost a full hour beyond our scheduled meeting before I reached out, asking if she still intended on showing up. Nothing. I waited until the end of the day and messaged again. Still nothing.

There’s a system in place on most of these sites that allow a person to report someone for “infractions” like no-shows. I know what you’re thinking: maybe there’s a good reason. Maybe there was an emergency or something critical that happened. Maybe so. Here’s the problem: maybe it was nothing. I’ve dealt with a number of people who simply decided, between agreeing and meeting that they were no longer interested and simply didn’t bother to show up. Then they don’t bother responding, since they’re no longer interested.

It’s much easier to ignore someone when you don’t have to deal with them face-to-face. It’s an aspect of our society that is quickly dying out. Courtesy and good communication should have been improved with the advent of the internet, not hindered. But this doesn’t always seem to be the case. Let’s not forget that good communication with each other is the foundation of a strong society. ☯

Those Who Forget The Past Are Condemned…

Look, shit happens! I apologize for being so blunt, but life is short, and we all make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes are born of stupidity and bad decisions, sometimes they are a result of life in general and are unavoidable.

It’s okay to make mistakes; this is how we grow and learn. But that’s the key element: to learn from it. Otherwise, we’re condemned to repeat the same mistakes, as the old saying goes.

Paulo Coelho once said, “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.” I rather prefer to think that any mistake that happened once is going to happen again, unless you have an adequate response to prevent it from happening again.

It’s one thing for a mistake to happen, regardless of the source, but if you don’t do something about it, then shame on you. One needs to protect oneself from having the same mistakes happen again. Especially if an outside source is the cause of whatever issue may have caused you strife. ☯

You Gotta Break In The Sneakers

Last night, I had a special opportunity during karate class that hasn’t happened in years.  I had the chance to train with a new student on his very first night of karate.  You would likely ask, “What’s the big deal?”

There’s something special about training with someone when they’ve walked into a karate class for the first time.  Everyone has a different reason for joining the martial arts.  Some do it for exercise, some are looking to learn the art and some have a seriously deluded idea about what martial arts actually is!

But regardless of the reason, there’s a palpable anxiety that people have when they train in karate for the first time.  The mysterious movements, the unknown techniques and the awkward attempts at trying to follow along.  I got to train with a young man tonight who came in with the hopeful gaze of someone looking to learn the martial arts.

He struggled throughout the stretching and the warm-up portion.  Once we started working in pairs, he got some pointers from a few different students and we eventually got to working together.  As his frustration grew while trying to learn some techniques we were working on, I compared his training to buying a new pair of sneakers:

“At some point, you’ve chosen new sneakers, right? Well, even when you find a pair that fit you just right and look good, you have to break them in.  They’re brand new, and the first number of times you wear them, your feet will adjust and shape them to your specific steps and the needs of your feet.  Karate is very much the same.  You have to break it in.  The first few times you do it, it’ll be a bit awkward and it’ll take some time to adjust. But once you do, it’ll feel comfortable. Just like a decent pair of sneakers…”

The class ended with the young man ready to come back the following week.  It’s just one of those things…  When you start learning something new, you have to be prepared to work at it and get used to it before you decide whether it’s for you or not.  You gotta break in the sneakers… ☯

We’re Only Human

We all get old, eventually.  It’s one of those few uncontrollable aspects of life that none of us can escape.  We can, however help to alleviate what happens as we age.  Most of this involves having good eating and fitness habits and staying away from the nasty things that can potentially bring our existence to an end.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions of being “old” per se, but some age is often felt rather than gained.  I have to admit that in recent years, my blocks have gotten a bit slower, my techniques a little sloppier and my ability to get up and go has got up and gone (Yes, I just referenced an earlier blog post of mine!)

The shirt I just got yesterday

It really doesn’t take a great deal…  A few too many break days, skipping meals or lack of sleep and your health can easily start to fall off the rails as you get older.  This is especially true for Type 1 Diabetics who depend on a proper balance to keep things in check.  And balance really is the key!

Start by getting proper rest.  The average adult requires between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.  As long as you’re getting it all at once (unlike me, who occasionally cluster naps) it should go a long way to helping you rejuvenate yourself.  Many of your body’s systems are working at resetting and/or resting while you do. This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t eat heavily before bed.

And while we’re talking about food, make sure you’re getting your three meals a day and that they’re properly balanced with vegetables and proteins to help with muscle repair and growth.  It’s okay to have some cheat days now and again, as long as you don’t go overboard.

Last but not least, get some damn exercise.  Even when you’re sore, tired and just plain fed up… it gets exponentially worse if you just sit back and do nothing.  You have to keep moving.  Movement is life.  Even if you just start by doing some light stretches first thing in the morning, it’ll help to get the blood flowing, make you more alert and start your day off properly.

All of these points become increasingly important as you collect more birthdays. Muscles become less flexible, joints are less limber and if you don’t keep up with everything, you may find yourself seizing up. ☯

You Chose Poorly…

Free will is a hell of a thing.  By its very definition, we misinterpret free will as something we have complete control over.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, our free will allows us to make choices, discern right from wrong and choose the path on which we walk.  But that doesn’t mean that these choices are always in our best favor.

Over the years, one of the things I’ve noticed is that people usually don’t acknowledge the destructive nature they have on their own lives.  Often causing their own suffering, they make choices and do things that anyone watching from a distance can easily see as wrong or improper. But we rarely ever realize that on our own.

Free will allows us to act at our own discretion.  However, our discretion is not always in our own best interest or the interest of those around us.  That’s something I’ve learned the hard way, especially in my line of work.

Choice can be difficult, especially when you leave yourself without options

I’ve often written that opinion and advice are simply that, and a person is free to accept or reject that opinion and advice at their leisure.  But as intelligent beings, we must acknowledge that opinion and advice must be at the very least heard if not accepted.  This is because it’s often the only way to genuinely realize that we may be on the wrong path.

Then again, someone else’s opinion or advice may be incorrect as well.  After all, we’re all different and one person’s perspective may not be the same as ours.  The important thing to remember is simply this: if the choice you make causing damage or suffering in another, it’s wrong.  If the choice you make causes damage or suffering within your own life, it’s wrong.  And last but certainly not least, if you make a choice or cause an action that you KNOW to be wrong and you do it anyway, it’s definitely wrong.

It’s often difficult to see beyond our own immediate wants and needs, and sometimes the prospect of screwing someone else over (for lack of a better term) to meet our goals may seem appealing and even ideal.  But I can promise that all things eventually come out in the wash.  And if you’ve done wrong, that wrong will be exposed. So do right.  Be honest.  Be true. You’ll be amazed at the feeling of freedom you get from always being honest and doing right.  And you’ll come to find how much easier and less complicated it is.  Choice is never easy.  Hey, it’s not meant to be.  But knowing what the end results will be should be a no brainer. ☯