The Uechi Chronicles, Vol. 1: Ricky

It stands to reason that I’ve met and trained with a number of interesting people over the past 33 years that I’ve been studying karate. I’ve seen the entire spectrum, from folks who walked in and tried it out before walking away, to those who toughed it out and developed themselves beyond the basics. And I have a handful of long-standing friendships that have developed as a result. By virtue of this, I thought it would be interesting to get each of their perspectives on what brought them to karate and some of the details of their material arts journey.

I’ve known Ricky for a little over twenty years at this point, and met him while visiting one of my Sensei’s students who had opened a dojo of her own. Over the next couple of years that followed, the student body at this dojo dwindle to the point that the lead instructor chose to close her doors, leaving thee remaining students with little options. Some went off to different styles but a few chose to join Sensei’s dojo and continue their development in Uechi Ryu. Ricky was one such individual.

The man, the myth, the legend… Ricky!

Friendly and always quick with a laugh, I’ve come to appreciate Ricky for his warm-hearted and level-headed approach to life. He currently holds a brown belt and is one of the few active, remaining students of my Sensei’s dojo. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Here are the answers:

1. Why did you join karate?
I joined Karate for confidence and reassurance. I needed that protection not, only physically but mentally as well. I didnt want to go somewhere and be afraid of conflicts. I wanted to protect myself and/or people I cared about. Also, I watched a wack load of movies about martial arts and seen many demonstrations that I found “out of this world” and instantly caught my interest.
Plus, it was cool and deep inside wanted to impress people like they impressed me. Lol”

2. When did you join karate?
”I joined karate in 1997. I was 12-years old at the time.”

3. How many years have you been training?
”When I was younger, I wasn’t taking my training seriously. So it became an on and off thing but when I began to upgrade in ranks, I felt like I needed to change to become better. Focus, determination had to be in me to succeed.
So to answer the question, I’ve been training for over 20 years give or take.”

4. What have you gained/hope to gain from karate?
”I gained the power of mental discipline and a focus I never thought I could acquire. I gained not just friends but a family outside my family.
Physically, I am stronger, faster and tougher.
I truly gained a skill that I can now pass on to people that need it, like I did at the time and to my children one day.”

It’s definitely interesting to hear the different perspectives and reasons behind peoples’ choice to enter into the martial arts. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe I’ve known Ricky for half my life and although we’ll never know for sure, we likely never would have met if not for karate. Another shining example of how the martial arts can provide so much more than just the skills and knowledge of the style. I’m looking forward to providing interviews from a few other people. Stay tuned. ☯️

Sometimes, You Gotta Feel The Burn… Inside!

For most of my childhood, our household meals involved a pretty bland selection. Part of that had something to do with the fact that it seems to be the cultural way back home to basically throw everything into a pot with water and stew it until it’s mush. But another big part of it is the fact that my older brother had gotten a kidney replacement shortly before I came along and had a plethora of stomach and digestive issues, so spicy foods (any spices in general, actually) were taboo in my childhood home.

This meant that I was stuck eating a bland Acadian diet with very little to no exposure to spices and, well… flavour! Picture your pasta being nothing but the noodles and plain tomato sauce with fried hamburger meat. That’s the basic idea, except for every meal. Every. Day. So it’s no surprise that the past twenty years or so have seen me taking advantage and making frequent visits to “flavour town.” this has included experiencing and enjoying a wide variety of ethnic, spicy foods. This has earned me the unfortunate nickname of “Butter Chicken,” for that and others reasons. But that’s a story for another time…

It’s a rare occurrence to look in my refrigerator and NOT find a bottle of hot sauce, Buffalo Sauce or both. And some of my favourite snack foods of choice involve Buffalo Chicken in some way, shape or form. This is why a recent concoction prepared by my wife has had me drooling and begging for more. I’m talking about a slow-cooker Buffalo Chicken dip. See the below image…

As you can see from the image, the ingredients and their respective amounts are all included. It’s a pretty simple recipe. My wife made a batch last week and we gorged ourselves on it using tortilla chips. But once prepared, it can be added to a tortilla wrap on a bed of spinach to make a decent spicy Buffalo wrap or eaten in a kaiser bun as a spicy pulled-chicken sandwich. It’s a pretty versatile recipe. She made another batch this weekend and I gotta say, it’s been a pretty good weekend!

People have a love/hate relationship with hot, spicy foods. Given that consuming too much of it can cause all sorts of digestive issues, including heartburn, diarrhea or ultimately compound or aggravate any of those conditions, it should come as no surprise. But what likely WOULD surprise some folks are the actual health benefits from consuming spicy foods. And just to be clear, when I refer to “spicy,” I mean the spices that bring heat.

According to an article posted on HealthLine.ca, there are a number of benefits based on some studies, including potentially lowering mortality, speeding up the metabolism and suppressing fat cell increase, fighting cancer cells and killing bacteria. The article even makes mention of spices helping to reduce inflammation, arthritis, headaches and even nausea. With all those potential benefits, who WOULDN’T want to bring the heat.

The article goes on to mention that the belief that spicy foods were a leading cause of ulcers has been disproven, and that certain short-term symptoms like stomach pain and diarrhea are temporary and are caused by overstimulation of the nervous system. Good to know. I’m glad I get to add a bit of spice to my life. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go finish the leftover Buffalo Dip. ☯️

How Buddha Got His Groove Back…

It’s been a difficult couple of years for the entire world and very few people have gotten away unscathed. The pandemic caused a lot of upset and difficulty for most people, causing the closure of businesses, loss of jobs and the loss of key life experiences that one will never get back, like high school graduation. As society begins to lick its wounds and the world re-opens (for now), I take stock and reflect on the fact that one of the biggest things that has affected me, besides Nathan being kept home from school, is the closure of my karate dojo.

For almost fifteen years, my policing career has dragged me all over Saskatchewan, to an extent where the thought of joining a karate class was a moot point. After all, what’s the point of joining a martial arts school just to have them lose me after the 3 to 5 that the Mounties usually required at any given one spot? So, it was an important step in the right direction for me when I transferred to Regina and found the current dojo that i train in. Imagine the irony, when I was forced to step away when the dojo closed due to the pandemic.

Oh, we tried the old Zoom training thing, as I posted about here. It was alright, per se… But karate isn’t a knitting circle. Eventually, you need some physical contact with an actual partner in order to train and practice certain techniques. We closed up shop for the summer, as we usually do. As Labour Day came and went, i got a little concerned when I didn’t get the customary “back to the dojo” email that I’ve gotten every year for the past five years. Five years… I’ve been training with the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate for five years, Still feels like yesterday…

Anyway, I got the email on Monday for class on Tuesday evening. I walked into the dojo and time melted away. it was two years ago, before the pandemic and lockdown. The same faces and the same class. the same energy and the same mojo. We were back. I was back. It was glorious. We were all a little excited to be chatting and catching up, so we started a little late. AND we took things a little easy to start off the season (I may or may not have pulled a bicep during a ridge punch) but it was a fantastic class. Next one is tomorrow night and I just can’t wait to get back.

I’ve been so focused on cycling and training by myself, I had almost forgotten the importance and value behind training with others. Who knows what the months to come may bring? With all the variants floating around and the way the world is treating the pandemic, things may lock down again shortly. And if they do, so be it. But when opportunities present themselves, it’s important to jump on them while we can. After all, you never know what you got ’til it’s gone. ☯️

How Did I Get Here?

I’ve always made a point of ignoring my birthday. This usually involved working extra hours, burying my head in a book or doing something that kept me out of the limelight in order to allow this day to pass as quickly as possible without drawing attention to it. It doesn’t help that today is usually memorable to most people for different reasons. Then it was made clear to me a few years ago that when you have children, your birthday isn’t JUST about you anymore.

How did the path to my birthday this year come about? Well, let’s see… On Thursday, I had my eye injections. Loads of fun. Because I’m self-masochistic, I endured the evening’s pain without my usual dose of pub beer. I did, however, enjoy a plate of very filling, “Irish” nachos. These are nachos made with cross-track fries instead of nachos. Quite delicious. So, that wasn’t so bad. But the next day on the way home, a lovely officer of the law was kind enough to educate me on a mistake I made by serving me a $233 ticket. That was SO nice of him. Especially since it was for something I technically SHOULD have known but surprisingly didn’t, despite my previous career.

With any luck, I’ll be getting my hands on a raspberry pie this morning. Combined with some time with my family, it should make everything alright. Today is an important day of reflection for me, to examine where I’ve been, what I’ve been through and where i hope to go. The world has changed significantly since I was a kid, and I’m often amazed at the fact that I’m still kicking. But kicking, I am (karate pun fully intended) and I have too many plans and ambitions to slow down now. Here’s hoping the next year brings better tidings than the last three. ☯

The Most Important Lessons We Forget…

My wife travelled to her home town for a family function, last weekend. And given the nature of the function and speed of the trip, we agreed that both boys would be left home with me. I was fine with this, obviously, as it would allow me some “guy time” with both my sons and allow my wife to fully experience and enjoy the function she was attending without worrying about our 2-year old youngest clinging to her and causing havoc.

It was a good weekend. We did the usual things that a father would do with his sons; ordered pizza, played outside and had a “camp-out” on the living room floor (although the 2-year old didn’t participate in that part). The weekend wasn’t without obstacles, as Nathan conveniently knocked over the lamp in his bedroom, causing a shower of shattered lightbulb glass to spray everywhere, including into some toys, which had to be cleaned and safetied afterwards. Kids, am I right?

Despite the perilous balance between fun and chaos, one outing that took place on Saturday evening stuck out and like most things in life, had me reflecting. I loaded the baby into his stroller, grabbed a clutch of water bottles and granola bars and walked the boys to a local park. Alexander hasn’t had much exposure to outside parks, what worth the pandemic having been in effect for almost as long as he’s been alive. This doesn’t stop him from taking full advantage of the opportunity, once he’s there.

As parents, we often complain about how children constantly need to be entertained. But at its core, that entertainment can be as simple as letting a child walk up some stairs and go down a slide. Over and over and over…. The insight I gained was when a handful of other children showed up to play. I recognized that the parents were much in the same state as I was. A sort of disconnected state of disinterest while closely watching the children.

What I immediately noticed is that all the children became entwined and started playing with each other. A soccer ball was involved, and everyone was laughing and playing and having a blast with each other. The lesson is that this happened organically, without any prompting from anyone. The children not only congregated together but learned each other’s names and accepted each other without any judgement, reservations or prejudices. It was a beautiful thing to see and I appreciated the fact that these children were able to see another person, not race, gender, political views or religion, and come together for the sheer pleasure of having fun.

As adults, we tend to lose this free perspective. Life, responsibility and adulthood, sprinkled with a generous dose of ideology and learned discriminatory lack of trust, makes it so that adults can’t connect without an in-depth back-and-forth of social protocol. And that’s a little sad. How much better of a place would the world be, if we all saw the world through the innocent lens of a group of children playing together? Food for thought…. ☯️

When It’s So Lacking…

Where does inspiration come from? I mean, in all seriousness, I could go on a long-winded rant about how one becomes inspired and where thoughts, ideas and shit comes from. But the reality is that even the most inspired of people eventually tap the bottom of their proverbial inspiration keg. My keg’s dry, at the moment. Usually, I can’t find enough lines to write out everything floating about in my brain. But today…. I don’t know, maybe it’s the rainy weather.

But that doesn’t apply to kids. You ever notice that? Kids have the darnedest way of finding inspiration in the weirdest stuff. My son Nathan is a prime example of this. We recently had our air conditioner replaced and the contractors had a cardboard spool they were using for the piping. They left it behind for Nathan to play with. Once he removed the wooden plates on either end, this is what he ended up with: two Captain America shields and a tunnel. I shit you not.

Nathan and I, enjoying an ice cream.

I can’t say that I ever find myself being jealous of Nathan since, as an adult, I can do some pretty cool shit like drive a car, buy stuff and have sex and he can only do two of those things. But if there’s one aspect that I definitely wish I could get back from when I was his age, or even emulate now, is his imagination. Sometimes he’ll come to me with the oddest combination of LEGO pieces but will have an intricate and expansive explanation of what he’s built, what it does and how he came to build it.

I think that as we get older and we lose our sense of child-like wonder and as a result, our creativity and inspiration is affected. Imagine if we could maintain our creativity to the same extreme as adults as we did as children? The responsibilities of life and constantly having our parents harp on us to “grow up” and be responsible affects those parts of us that let our minds freely explore. of course I say that, but when one considers shit like SpongeBob Squarepants, there are at least SOME adults who are still functioning with the mind of a child. No judgement.

Inspiration can be fleeting, so it’s important to strike when the iron’s hot. I’ve learned the hard way that consistent good ideas don’t always flow freely. And when you’re trying to post a daily blog, dry spells can suck, big time. Of course, I’m always open to guest writers or blog post ideas. I have a comments section… cough, cough! ☯️

The Conqueror Challenges: A Subjective And Objective Review

Alright, so as I’ve often written, I usually don’t make a potion to endorsing specific products or brands. My blog isn’t the place for that sort of thing but on occasion, I’ll get into something or use something that I just can’t help writing about and spreading the news, as it were. One of these cases is The Conqueror Challenges.

I had been seeing these marathon medals advertised on Facebook for months, and it looked pretty solid, so I decided to check it out. I even had people on my pretty limited friends’ list who liked the pages and supported the Conqueror Challenges, so I thought, “Why not try it?” It’s basically the way of the new world, right? Almost ANYTHING can be done virtually, now.

I’m always the first one to be a bit leery about the prospect of trying anything online. The internet is a sketchy place at the best of times, with peoples’ identities and the authenticity of whatever one might be dealing with while taking advantage of things online. With my usual amount of caution and doubt, I dipped my toes in and I have to say that I’m reasonably pleased with the results. Here’s what I found…

First, you start by installing The Conqueror Challenges app. The app is free to download and honestly doesn’t ask for much of anything in terms of information. Then, you pick your challenge. This is where it gets interesting, because you can choose from challenges as short as 30-some kilometres, all the way up to 4,000 kilometres. You can do anything that calculates distance, cycling, running, walking and even swimming.

The only thing I don’t like, is picking out a challenge brings you to The Conqueror Challenges website for sign-up. Then you purchase an entry fee (which is typical for any marathon one participates in, I’ll point out) and they email you a “sign up code.” Once you get the code and enter it into the app, you’re good to go. You can set your own timeframe and arrange for reminders and alarms to keep you on track. I started a 42-kilometre one and set it for 8 weeks because I had no clue how long it would tale me, or how available I would be to work on it. I finished it in two days.

Next, I signed up for one called the “English Channel,” and finished it in one day. Then I slowed my roll and decided to wait and see if they’d actually ship me the medals I earned. It took a while, and good ol’ COVID-19 got its sticky fingers in the pot and caused delays, but I got the medal from my second challenge first, of all things. It’s solid metal, got a nice heft to it and they look pretty sharp. See the photo below…

I used the reverse function on my camera. The medal doesn’t ACTUALLY read like that…

I got my “Marathon to Athens” medal the following week and my “Mount Everest” medal is currently on route. These marathons were 42, 34 and 62 kilometres, respectively. I’ve been motivated enough that I signed up for a 500-kilometre challenge called “St. Francis Way.” I only have 10% of this challenge completed, which is why I cycled like a douche and burned myself out, yesterday by punching out 51 kilometres in one sitting. But i wanted something challenging that would take more than one outing or two, and that would push the envelope a bit. That, and my wife and I agree that the medal is pretty.

There you have it, slime subjective and objective thoughts on The Conqueror Challenges. Some highlights I neglected to mention is that the organization that runs the challenges will allegedly plant a tree for every 20% of a challenge you complete, so it helps in a positive way. AND you can sync your fitness apps with the Conqueror Challenges app, which means I can measure my distance using Runkeeper and it’ll add the mileage automatically to my marathon challenge. All in all, I highly recommend this app, if you want the challenge of a marathon without the stress of running alongside others. Plus, you get to set your own timeline and get some trees planted. I believe that’s what’s referred to as a win-win… ☯️

The Conqueror Challenges: A Subjective And Objective Review

Alright, so as I’ve often written, I usually don’t make a potion to endorsing specific products or brands. My blog isn’t the place for that sort of thing but on occasion, I’ll get into something or use something that I just can’t help writing about and spreading the news, as it were. One of these cases is The Conqueror Challenges.

I had been seeing these marathon medals advertised on Facebook for months, and it looked pretty solid, so I decided to check it out. I even had people on my pretty limited friends’ list who liked the pages and supported the Conqueror Challenges, so I thought, “Why not try it?” It’s basically the way of the new world, right? Almost ANYTHING can be done virtually, now.

I’m always the first one to be a bit leery about the prospect of trying anything online. The internet is a sketchy place at the best of times, with peoples’ identities and the authenticity of whatever one might be dealing with while taking advantage of things online. With my usual amount of caution and doubt, I dipped my toes in and I have to say that I’m reasonably pleased with the results. Here’s what I found…

First, you start by installing The Conqueror Challenges app. The app is free to download and honestly doesn’t ask for much of anything in terms of information. Then, you pick your challenge. This is where it gets interesting, because you can choose from challenges as short as 30-some kilometres, all the way up to 4,000 kilometres. You can do anything that calculates distance, cycling, running, walking and even swimming.

The only thing I don’t like, is picking out a challenge brings you to The Conqueror Challenges website for sign-up. Then you purchase an entry fee (which is typical for any marathon one participates in, I’ll point out) and they email you a “sign up code.” Once you get the code and enter it into the app, you’re good to go. You can set your own timeframe and arrange for reminders and alarms to keep you on track. I started a 42-kilometre one and set it for 8 weeks because I had no clue how long it would tale me, or how available I would be to work on it. I finished it in two days.

Next, I signed up for one called the “English Channel,” and finished it in one day. Then I slowed my roll and decided to wait and see if they’d actually ship me the medals I earned. It took a while, and good ol’ COVID-19 got its sticky fingers in the pot and caused delays, but I got the medal from my second challenge first, of all things. It’s solid metal, got a nice heft to it and they look pretty sharp. See the photo below…

I used the reverse function on my camera. The medal doesn’t ACTUALLY read like that…

I got my “Marathon to Athens” medal the following week and my “Mount Everest” medal is currently on route. These marathons were 42, 34 and 62 kilometres, respectively. I’ve been motivated enough that I signed up for a 500-kilometre challenge called “St. Francis Way.” I only have 10% of this challenge completed, which is why I cycled like a douche and burned myself out, yesterday by punching out 51 kilometres in one sitting. But i wanted something challenging that would take more than one outing or two, and that would push the envelope a bit. That, and my wife and I agree that the medal is pretty.

There you have it, slime subjective and objective thoughts on The Conqueror Challenges. Some highlights I neglected to mention is that the organization that runs the challenges will allegedly plant a tree for every 20% of a challenge you complete, so it helps in a positive way. AND you can sync your fitness apps with the Conqueror Challenges app, which means I can measure my distance using Runkeeper and it’ll add the mileage automatically to my marathon challenge. All in all, I highly recommend this app, if you want the challenge of a marathon without the stress of running alongside others. Plus, you get to set your own timeline and get some trees planted. I believe that’s what’s referred to as a win-win… ☯️

Home Is Where The Cost Is…

There’s no arguing that home is always the best place to be. It’s warm, it’s comfortable and it’s filled with the belongings and possessions that often define us as who we are, to ourselves and to whomever visits. That is, until your home leaks, breaks, has a draft or lack of something critical needed to be safe. Then it can become a costly hindrance that most homeowners would agree they’d love to wash their hands of, in the moment.

I had something of a nomadic childhood as my family and I never resided in the same place for more than three or four years. As a child, it never dawned on me to ask why. My father always worked at the same place and we always moved to places within the same area. But by the time I reached my 18th birthday, we had moved seven times, making for an average of two and a half years at each respective address. Some were longer and some were shorter.

As I grew into adulthood, the trend seemed to follow me. I left for college and spent a year and a half in my own apartment, followed by a string of brief stays in different cities as I had different jobs and spent time trying to find myself. When I joined the RCMP, I continued on this trend as Canada’s National Police Force requires the transfer of its members every three to five years. Until I got to Regina. That’s where the travel train finally reached the station.

This summer marks five years of living in Regina at our little bungalow. It’s not only the longest period of time that I’ve lived in one place, thanks to a change in direction within my career, we now find ourselves here permanently (at least for now). As such, we are starting to examine what may be required for the permanence of our home, including repairs, upgrades and basic maintenance that I can sheepishly admit we had been ignoring on the premise we’d be moving away soon.

The basement of my home, as it was in 2020

During last year’s summer, torrential rains caused the shifting soil to seep ground water into our basement, damaging some personal belongings and rendering the entire west side of the basement unusable. I won’t get into that story all over again, you can read about it here. But as you can see from the photo above, my basement had a rather dated look, so the prospect of getting it repaired and upgraded didn’t keep me up at night. Until I saw the cost…

Home renovations obviously aren’t cheap, by any means. And I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic team from Grasshopper Construction doing the work. I’ve dealt with a lot of contractors and professionals over the past couple of years, and these guys are the best, by far. But they were able to come in and demolish the current basement furnishings and brace the foundation, as well as seal up some problems areas to prevent future leakage.

Last year’s foundation bracing.

As you can see from the photo above, the steel beams prevent further buckling and shifting of the foundation’s concrete, and the lines of colour are where sealant has been used to, well… seal up the cracks. It was a much-needed repair as I don’t have to remind anyone that the strongest part of any structure MUST be the foundation. This applies in all things life but not least of which is a house.

Despite the completed repair, we found ourselves left with a bit of a conundrum. The foundation was repaired but the space was unliveable. This was mostly due to the lack of insulation with the coming winter months, combined with the fact that the floor still had residue from 60-year old carpeting and would result in gross, yellow footsteps all over the house if we wandered about the basement. As previous posts would have shown, I rectified this issue by laying down black mats, allowing me to use the open space as a workout area once the spring kicked in.

Finally, some walls!

It’s been a rough year with half of our belongings crammed into the upstairs space. I’ve read and heard about a lot of relationships and marriages that have been damaged or ended due to suddenly being confined during the pandemic. Personally, my wife and I can’t understand this concept as we were more than happy for the increased time we got to spend together. But consider that confinement, where you also have to compress your belongings into half the space. Our home has looked like a bad episode of Hoarders for the past while. For that reason, I was extremely pleased last month when we were able to bring the crew from Grasshopper Construction back to start renovations.

We began with getting spray foam insulation for the outer walls. This is far better than traditional insulation as the spray foam seals and provides a leak barrier from the outside humidity and seepage. It’s also more consistent, with no gaps or spaces between sections, ensuring better temperature retention. Once that was done, electricians and plumbers a came in to do all the work behind the walls prior to dry walling. We’re currently at what could be described as the “mid-way point,” with most of the dry walling complete and the bathroom being installed.

I get my shower back!

We’re looking at potentially several weeks before everything is complete so that my wife and I can paint. But it will be nice to have the house opened up a bit and upgraded. It will go a long way towards ensuring that this house lasts as a home for the years to come. The thing about home ownership is that there’s always a repair, an upgrade or an alteration that needs to be done. Sometimes you have to pick your battles and decide on what you can do and when. But I know one thing for certain: after four decades of constantly moving every few years, the past five have been liberating. It’s nice waking up and knowing that you don’t have to move. I know not everyone has that benefit. And that’s why I certainly don’t take it for granted. Stay tuned for the outcome of renovations…☯️

The Baby Buddha…

A nice, simple feel-good post today. My toddler was playing with a bunch of stuff that aren’t his toys, as kids are want to do, when he sat cross-legged in a cake dish borrowed from his grandmother. I thought it was a cute representation of a meditating Buddha. Enjoy!