Strike The Proper Board

Quarantine and self-isolation have had a positive effect on the Canadian population, as many people have chosen to take some of the downtime to start new hobbies, clean out their homes or begin renovation projects that they may otherwise have never considered. It’s definitely a positive thing, and has kept lumber yards, home improvement places and retail locations in the black during this whole mess.

Although I’ve been dealing with small projects like growing a lawn in my back yard and selling my car, I haven’t really tackled anything that’s taken serious effort. But since the basement of my house is damaged and the whole thing will need renovating, I’ve found myself without a workout space. Oh sure, I’ve been able to continue doing things like cycling and I even did my Marine workout in the garage, last week. But I’m losing the striking pad I had mounted on the current basement wall. I needed a solution.

Some of the materials I started with

Since I didn’t consider it safe or in anyone’s best interest for me to attempt basement renovations on my own (I’m great with a sledgehammer, that’s the limit of my renovation capabilities), I decided to construct my own makiwara board for the back yard. I’ve mentioned this training tool in previous posts, but a makiwara is a padded board typically used to condition the knuckles and strengthen your punches. It’s thought to be Okinawan in origin and is mostly used in traditional styes of karate.

Polyester cord to wrap around the makiwara as a striking surface

Most properly-constructed makiwaras can run anywhere from one to several hundred dollars in cost, especially if you factor in the shipping and handling to have it brought to you from whatever distributor you purchased it from. But if the Okinawans can build theirs from scratch, I figured “so can I.” I had several 7-foot lengths of wooden board that was left over from our house’s previous owner. I started by trimming two of these boards to an appropriate and matching length.

The free lumber was definitely a solid start and is potentially the most expensive aspect of the project. I brought my son Nathan to Home Depot, where we purchased a half dozen 6-inch iron bolts with matching nuts and washers. I also purchased a 100-foot length of polyester cord, which would be wrapped at the top of the makiwara as the striking surface. Polyester is a water-resistant material, so it would be best-suited for an outdoor training tool.

Nathan hard at work, screwing the bolts into place

Nathan and I duct-taped the two boards together so that they were flush, them I drilled 3/4-inch holes at five-inch intervals through both boards. I hammered the iron bolts through the holes and Nathan screwed the washers and nuts into place. Once all six bolts were firmly in place, we were able to remove the duct tape and move on to the striking surface.

The wrapping of the makiwara

I left the top strip of duct tape and used a staple hammer to fasten the end of cord to the board, followed by twenty minutes of fastidious wrapping and tightening of one hundred feet of cord. With the exception of Nathan complaining he wasn’t allowed to do this part (and climbing over and under the project while I worked), it went reasonably well and I used the same staple hammer to fasten the other end once the cord was all wrapped.

The completed striking surface

The makiwara was now complete. The next step would require digging a two or three foot hole in the ground, placing the post and filling the remainder with some firm, affixing soil. That was over a week ago. The entire project took a little over an hour and Nathan and I were already tired. So we decided we’d put off the installation until we were able to get some rest and start digging when we were fresh.

Our long-weekend was cut short due to unforeseen circumstances. So on Sunday, Nathan and I took two shovels and a metal bucket and started digging. I didn’t take any photos of that part of the project, since Nathan and I were up to our elbows in dirt. The soil in Regina is a clay composite, which is what’s caused the damage to my basement. It sucks (royally) but it DOES have a benefit for this particular project. Nathan and I reached about twenty-eight inches, which was adequate for the makiwara.

We lowered the post into the hole and packed the remaining space around the pole with the dug up soil. We packed it down after every few shovelfuls, and the clay soil held the post firmly in place. I followed it up with a short length of board to firm up the bracing, placed at an angle at the back. The end result came out quite well, and Nathan and I are quite proud of the job we did.

The finished product!

All said and done, a training tool that would have cost several hundreds of dollars wound up costing less than fifty dollars! Now I just have to find the motivation to get outside to use it. My neighbours have all seen the post and seem to understand the concept behind it, since I explained what it was for. But it may be interesting to see their reactions once I start striking it. There you have it! My do-it-yourself project. ☯

Honesty Is The Best Policy

Human beings learn to be dishonest at a young age. It isn’t something that happens automatically. Normally, one needs to be exposed to certain conditions and factors in order for it to become a common practice. For example, children may begin to lie and be dishonest when they feel that it will keep them out of trouble. As we get older, our motivation for dishonesty includes a myriad of reasons including, but not limited to sparing someone’s feelings, avoiding negative consequences or gaining personal advantage.

But if we stick to the younger age group, the majority of the time kids will lie to get out of trouble or because it will get them what they want. Something akin to drawing on the walls then saying they didn’t do it, even if you catch them with the marker in their hands. My son Nathan does this a lot, for a number of different things. He usually isn’t trying to be intentionally deceitful; he’s just trying to keep out of trouble. This has caused a bit of a phenomenon where I occasionally have difficulty believing things he tells me.

Nathan is a big fan of ginger ale. He likes it almost as much as he likes those little bottles of water flavouring. But I usually try to limit his consumption of soda, since it isn’t the best thing for a five-year old to drink. In fact, on some of the rare occasions when he gets an upset stomach or falls ill, I offer him a small glass of ginger ale as a means of settling his stomach. He’s caught on to this trend and will often feign an upset stomach in order to have me give him a glass. Sneaky brat…

About a week ago, we were midway through our morning when Nathan approached his mother and told her that his stomach was bothering him and he had thrown up. I can’t remember what I was busy with, but when I came back, my wife updated me on Nathan’s complaint and he confirmed it when he came around the corner. He followed it up by saying he needed ginger ale. Nice try, mini-me! Not on my watch!

I explained to him that the ginger ale was to be for when he was “actually” sick and not because he had a craving for it. He tried selling the fact that he had apparently thrown up and flushed it. Oh, really? That’s a handy coincidence. I shooed him away, as I assumed that this was another one of his attempts at getting something he wanted through dishonesty. He didn’t really argue or contest it and went off on his merry way.

Towards the end of the day, I had spent some time on the backyard and was ready for a hot shower and for my evening to wind down. Nathan was upstairs and had even mentioned a few hours prior that his stomach felt better and he wasn’t sick anymore. I was somewhat impressed by his commitment to the bit. He’s usually pretty good at letting things go when they don’t work in his favour.

I went to the downstairs bathroom and saw something that reminded me of an 80’s horror movie… Dried, crusted vomit with just a hint of red (from his stupid water flavouring) was all over the bathroom door, the toilet seat, the floor, my shower mat and most of the corner of carpet just outside the bathroom door. To add insult to injury, there was about a half dozen washcloths in the laundry hamper after he’d attempted to wipe it up himself. Fuck my life…

I spent the next hour and a half cleaning upchuck off multiple surfaces, made all the worse by the fact that it had dried on. If I had just taken Nathan at his word and checked on his story, it probably would have cleaned up easier. I would have still been pissed at the mess, but at least it would have been easier. It reminded me of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. The only difference is that in Nathan’s case, one never knows if he’s just trying to get his way or if something genuinely happened. Needless to say, I’ll happily accept him crying wolf and check on his story from now on. ☯

International Beer Day 🍺

There are no shortages of “holidays” out there, and some of them are pretty far out of left field. I’ve written about a number of these before, and holidays surrounding beer are no exception. Today is International Beer Day, not to be mistaken for National Beer Day, which is celebrated on April 7th. Unlike the latter, the former was founded in 2007 and is celebrated on the first Friday of August. Since its creation, the holiday has come to be observed and celebrated in over 80 countries.

This particular holiday is intended to allow people to “unite” under the banner of beer and celebrate all the different brews offered around the globe. It’s observed by enjoying beer, buying rounds for those celebrating with you and acknowledging the people responsible for the creation of beer. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it might have been just another excuse for people to get together and slam back a few cold ones. But honestly, does one really need an excuse for that?

Both holidays were founded n the United States, but this one is kinda cool because it’s observed in many countries all over the world. In the interest of today’s most boozy of holidays, I thought I would re-share my post about beer facts from my National Beer Day post from last April. Here we go…

Beer holds a particular interest for me. And unlike the average consumer, I enjoy consuming it for the different flavours and different blends, as opposed to the intoxicating effects (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I’m an odd duck in comparison to my counterparts in Canada, as I only start drinking beer when I was 23 years of age in Japan of all places, as opposed to early in my teens like most of my friends. This is mostly because of beer’s significant carb-count and effects on the waistline.

Depending on what history book you read, the first beer is thought to have been brewed by the Chinese almost 9,000 years ago. But beer as it’s brewed today (or close to it) is believed to have been started by the Mesopotamians around 3,500 to 3,100 BCE. Although some scholars think it may have been accidentally discovered when grains used for bread fermented, some postulated that not only was it brewed for its intoxicating effects but also as a dietary staple.

Regardless of who did it first, beer is here and most of us couldn’t be happier. And believe it or not, beer may have some particular health benefits in addition to being the beverage of choice for guitar-playing teens sitting by the fire on a beach. I found an article on a website called EverydayHealth.com, which lists 8 ways that beer is good for you. Here are the ways…

  1. Beer Fights Inflammation. The article suggests that some of the hops used in beer can contain bitter acids that help fight inflammation;
  2. Beer Aids Digestion. Those same bitter acids can also help with the release of stomach acids, essentially helping you to digest;
  3. Beer May prevent Some Cancers. Beer contains Lupulone and Xanthohumol, which have shown promise in fighting tumours. Most of these are just in the study phase;
  4. Beer Builds Bones. Beer contains silicone, which is said to be important for the building of strong bones. The article suggest India Pale Ale (my favourite) as the best source for this;
  5. Beer Is Heart-Healthy. A study in 2012 apparently links the consumption of one or two beer a day as beneficial for the prevention of heart issues, and the prevention of further issues in those who already have them;
  6. Beer “Polishes” Your Teeth. Beer apparently beats out tea and other methods of eliminating the biofilm that accumulates on your teeth if you haven’t brushed for a while, according to another study done in 2012 (were we all just drinking THAT much in 2012?);
  7. Beer Protects Brain Cells. A 2015 study from China describes some benefits in this regard. Finally, a study that WASN’T done in 2012;
  8. Beer Prevents Kidney Stones. Some studies have shown that consuming beer may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.

So there you have it! Beer isn’t all bar fights and hangovers but can actually do some good for you. As with all things, the idea is moderation. Too much consumption can lead to the reversal of some of the benefits listed above, and can also include increased blood pressure and weight gain. So the idea isn’t to down a twelve-pack thinking you’ve found the secret to eternal life! And bear in mind that the average can of beer can be anywhere between 11 to 25 grams of carbohydrates, depending on the blend and size of container. So, know what you’re drinking and how to bolus accordingly.

I’m lucky in the fact that the city I live in has a number of local breweries with their own specific blends of beer. Most of the dispensaries in the province sell a lot of these brews, so there’s a lot of opportunity to try some of them out. So if you have the opportunity to celebrate this holiday, as with all things in life, drink in moderation and be responsible if you happen to be out with friends (which you likely shouldn’t be, since social distancing regulations are still in place). ☯

On A Rainy Day ⛈

The only thing worse than having our movements restricted by current quarantine requirements, even if some of those have lessened, is being restricted even further by inclement weather. Considering the majority of my day gets spent in the sunny outdoors watering my lawn, tending my flowers and cycling, rainy days can throw a damper on my mood and my ability to follow my usual routine. It’s even worse for a restless five-year old boy who is used to coming and going from the backyard at his leisure.

My son Nathan is restless by nature, and is rarely satisfied with anything placed in front of him. He has a ton of toys, games and a small amount of electronics (not least of which is his own iPad) that he plays games and watches cartoons on. None of that prevents him from moving on from one thing to another almost without end, driving his mother and I insane in the process. So a rainy day with no school and no means of burning off energy outside can be burdensome to everyone in the household.

That’s where I decided to get creative and build a bird house with him. I called him downstairs on the promise of a fun surprise that would keep him busy for a while. He had received the materials to build a bird house as a Christmas gift, which I promptly hid away for fear that he wasn’t old enough to properly build it. My second fear is that he would likely damage or destroy some of the required parts, which is what he often seems to do with a lot of his toys.

The finished product, in all its glory!

He approached the wooden pieces with unconfined glee and started grabbing at everything in sight, including a small screwdriver and several small screws. I had to contain his eagerness long enough to explain that there were instructions to follow in order to properly build the bird house. I also explained that if he followed instructions and correctly assembled the project, that I would attempt to hang it outside his bedroom window so that he can watch birds come and go.

We worked diligently for almost an hour. One of us holding pieces of wood steady while the other one turned the screwdriver to fasten them together. It was tiring work for his tiny hands and he often relinquished the tightening of screws to me as he held the wooden pieces instead. But close to the end of that hour, we had assembled his small bird house and he quickly scooped it up to go show his mother and to keep it in his bedroom until we hung it up outside.

An angular view, showing how the pieces are bound to one another.

The only hiccup is that our bird house is plain, unfinished wood with no colour and Nathan insists that it needs to be painted. Further, the rod at the front for birds to stand on needs to be glued in place and we have no wood glue to work with. I promised that in the days to come, I would obtain glue and some bird seed to fill the little receptacle at the front. Then we can install a hook and suspend it from the overhang outside his window.

All in all, it didn’t kill off the entire afternoon but it kept Nathan busy for about an hour and has him pretty excited about the prospect of watching birds from his bedroom. It was a definite change from the usual things he would be stuck doing on a rainy day, like watching cartoons or grating on my nerves. Yet another example of how there is always something to be done. Sometimes it just takes a little imagination. ☯

The Sound Of Silence…

Last week, I awoke to a quiet house. I’m never a fan of Monday mornings… They usually mean I have to get some work done and the week has started, the calm and free time of the weekend has evaporated and dealing with the outside world sets in. But anyone who has children and lives in a “typical” family-oriented home will understand why silence can be a bit of a surprise, sometimes even concerning.

My usual Monday mornings involve a colourful choice between an infant wailing for food or a parent’s attention or my rambunctious five-year old son who thinks that my abdomen makes a pretty good trampoline if I’m quietly sleeping. In fact, since the advent of COVID-19, I’ve set an alarm every weekday morning but have never reached it as my children usually wake me up before I get there. Which is fine, right? That’s pretty normal for a family household.

But last Monday, I awoke to the dulcet sound of Joe Satriani’s “Always With Me, Always With You,” which is my morning wake-up alarm. It’s a smooth, guitar-based instrumental that allows me to wake without being jolted out of my slumber as though someone has connected a car battery to various parts of my body. Anyway, after a moment’s confusion I realized that I couldn’t hear a sound, which in this household is an abnormality.

A mild sense of panic set in as I wondered what was going on. The temperature was in the low teens with a steady rain, so I knew my oldest wouldn’t be playing outside (at least I hoped he wouldn’t) and Monday is a day off for my wife. I stepped out of my bedroom to find my son snoring softly in his bed with his iPad playing cartoons next to him. This is an oddity in itself because he went to sleep here in my downstairs office, last night. This means that at some point, he transitioned upstairs to his bedroom without waking anybody; a miracle unto itself.

The baby was quietly sleeping in his crib and I found my wife sitting on the couch, tinkering on her phone. We said good morning and chatted for a few minutes before it was agreed that my wife should go back to bed and sleep while the baby sleeps. I got a cup of coffee and toasted an english muffin and escaped to the solitude of my basement, which is where I do all my research, indoor workouts and my writing. I settled in and enjoyed my breakfast in a quiet solitude that any parent can agree rarely happens.

So, I sat there… Took sips of my coffee and actually played Mega Man 2 on a badly coded game emulator on my computer. I read a few chapters of a book and checked out a few things online and enjoyed the silence. And you know what? I honestly don’t understand the folks who claim they can’t stand being in silence. It’s wonderful. You can be alone and collect your thoughts, you can enjoy some much needed down time and it’s good for your overall mental well-being.

Eventually the bubble bursts, and it didn’t take long for my son to track me down and begin demanding breakfast. But having that little bit of quiet time every now and again can make a huge difference in one’s life. I highly recommend it. Whether you have a workout, read a book or flat out do NOTHING and just relax, everyone should enjoy a little calm and quiet. Every once in a while. ☯

The Most Unlikely Sources…

Something important to bear in mind is that inspiration and learning can come from some very unlikely sources. Every Sunday, I try to choose someone that has taught me something, guided me or inspired me throughout my life. I hate to admit it, but it’s been a challenge. I’ve mainly tried to keep this contained to martial artists, including the likes of Michele “The Mouse” Krasnoo, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Ronda Roussey and even Miyamoto Musashi. All of these folks have had an impact on my life and have inspired what paths I’ve chosen.

But I’ve also made a point of including people who have inspired or guided me in other ways, like my father. Ultimately, we can find inspiration in negative places as well. I only say this because the subject of this week’s “inspiration” post is someone who has had about as much negative (if not more) influence on the general public as positive. I am referring to a reasonably well-known action star named Steven Seagal.

It may be considered an unpopular opinion by some, but Seagal played an integral role in my interest of the martial arts. After all, he’s a master of Aikido, studied/taught in Japan and starred in a number of action movies that came out during those impressionable years when I was young enough to be impressed but old enough to think, “Hmm, this martial arts stuff is pretty cool!” He moved to Japan and studied Aikido there, and claims to have also been the “first non-Asian to open a dojo in Japan.” Whether this is true or not is anyone’s guess, but he’s had a colourful life prior to returning to the United States where he began acting in movies.

He has starred in almost five dozen movies, although a good number of those beyond the mid-90’s went straight to video. I first saw him when I was ten years old in a movie called Above The Law. In it, he plays a police officer and martial artists who uncovers a government conspiracy and helps put an end to it. Sounds pretty heroic, right? In fact, the majority of his movies have involved the protagonist being some sort of military/police/operative who ultimately saves the day. But that’s the whole point, right? We usually WANT to see the hero win. As a kid, I was awe-struck by Seagal’s ability to use grappling and striking as a means of defeating even the most difficult of enemies. And all of his films up until the late 90’s were pretty bad-ass. I can still watch some of them with deep enjoyment, although much more criticism on his martial arts technique.

Then it gets a bit convoluted. Seagal identifies as a Buddhist and martial artist. This holds some special meaning to me, being a Buddhist and martial artist myself. But it stands to reason that someone who practices a religion devoted to the elimination of suffering in the world should be doing just that, shouldn’t they? Seagal has been the subject of a lot of controversy recent decades, including allegations of sexual assault, violence against the people he works with and has ongoing feuds with the majority of his Hollywood counterparts, notably Jean-Claude Van Damme, as a prime example. Not a very Zen-like approach to life, especially a blessed one such as his.

In recent decades, Seagal has become something of a walking joke when one considers his strange political views, ongoing opinions about how other martial artists aren’t “true martial artists” and his apparent lack of self-care where his body is concerned. The man has ballooned up to the point that he almost looks like a cartoon character! My wife and I recently watched him on Netflix in a film called Maximum Conviction, where he starred alongside Steve Austin. Once again, he was portrayed as some sort of specialist who simply couldn’t be defeated. The movie basically starts out by having him beat up a prison inmate who happens to be over twice his mass!

I’m not saying that a genuine martial artist would be unable to defeat a larger opponent, but given the fact that he was 60 years of age in that movie, couple with how he’s let himself go physically, one needs to face reality at some point. It’s no surprise this was yet another straight-to-DVD movie. Even WITH Diabetes, I consider it a point of health, personal care and importance to try and maintain my physical fitness to the best of my ability; a task I feel that I’m still on top of, despite my gut slowly trying to overtake my efforts. But I digress…

My point is, Seagal helps to provide guidance in a very specific way: he’s shown me how NOT to be. His behaviours definitely don’t fall in line with someone who is a true student of the Buddhist or Martial Way. His concepts and abilities with the martial arts have been questioned for decades, both for their authenticity and truth behind his claims. None of this is how a true martial artists or Buddhist would be intended to behave. When I need to know how NOT to comport myself, I need only think of Steven Seagal. ☯

Happy Canada Day!

Alright, so this is a re-post of last year’s Canada Day. But in reviewing it, I decided that there was little I could add or modify that does this post any justice, so I’m sharing it again.Other than the fact that July 1st carries a bit of a dark stain in my personal life (those close to me know what I’m referring to), my country holds a big place in my heart and I think our national holiday is an important observation on the yearly calendar. Enjoy…

O, Canada! My home and native land… Alright, for those of you who know the anthem, that was pretty cheesy. But today is our National holiday, celebrated on July 1st because Canada became a country on July 1st 1867. For my fellow bloggers and loyal readers who may not be from the Great White North, here are some quick facts about Canada to help you understand what makes us awesome…

The common misconception is that Canada was first discovered in 1534 by French mariner Jacques Cartier. Although it is the accepted belief, the discovery of an abandoned outpost in the Province of Newfoundland suggests that Vikings may have come to Canada as early as 500 years before Cartier.

Vikings aside, French and British settlers began colonizing in 1602. British colonies and territories joined together in 1867 through confederation to become a self-governing country that we know today as Canada.

Although self-governing, Canada continued to be ruled by the British Crown until as recently as 1982, when our Constitution was patriated. The British Monarchy is still considered our head of state.

Our country has the second largest landmass of one country, in the world. Our borders touch three oceans (Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic) and our country has 10 Provinces and 3 Territories. As of today, Canada has a population of over 37 million people and we boast a unique multiculturalism unseen anywhere else in the world.

What else is Canadian? Well, I’m glad you asked… Five pin bowling, the wonder-bra, Trivial Pursuit, the vehicle Odometer, the egg carton, North American time zones, the electric wheelchair, the first plastic garbage bags, the paint roller, the first internet search engine, the first pacemaker, basketball, ringette and hockey, the world-renown Royal Canadian Mounted Police and of course, insulin! (You’re welcome world!)

We thoroughly enjoy our food. In fact, we’ve invented a mouthful of it (see what I did there?)… Poutine, Nanaimo bars, instant mashed potatoes, the California Roll, Chinese buffets, peanut butter and butter tarts, caesars (the drink), Hawaiian Pizza and Coffee Crisp bars!

And contrary to popular belief, we didn’t invent donuts but Tim Horton’s donuts is Canadian and its coffee brand is world-renown. One of the fun and unique things about Canada is that you’ll find local cuisine and dialects specific to particular corners of our nation.

There’s so much more, but I’d need more than a blog post to cover it all. Suffice it to say that Canada has a lot more to it than beavers, moose and donuts. If you have the benefit of living here, hopefully you’re doing something to celebrate today.

If not, come pay us a visit! I’ll grab a two-four of Molson Canadian and some Timbits and I’ll tell you the rest of the story. Stop on in, eh? ☯

Roots In The Foundation

Way back at the end of the greatest decade ever… the 80’s, in case you’re wondering… I met an individual who would change and improve my life. In fact, I would go well beyond saying that he’s saved it, on more than one occasion. I am speaking, of course, of the subject of this week’s inspirational individual: My Sensei, Jean-Guy Levesque.

Sensei began his martial arts journey right around the same time I was born (ironic, isn’t it?). He worked in my home town of Dalhousie, New Brunswick and began studying the art of Judo at a young age. Although he achieved the rank of black belt, he never quite felt as though Judo was the right art for him. This would be where he did his research and discovered an Okinawan style of karate he wanted to pursue. The only problem was that it wasn’t taught in the Maritimes back then.

He found a teacher in Boston, of all places. Sensei packed up his red mustang and left his wife and newborn child behind in order to travel to the U.S. and pursue his martial arts ambitions. He travelled to Boston and found himself under the tutelage of Sensei Robert Blaisdell. At the time, Sensei Blaisdell was taken aback by the Canuck who randomly landed at his doorstep, seeking karate lessons. In fact, Sensei Blaisdell tried to convince my Sensei to seek out a teacher back in Canada as it made no sense for him to travel to Boston several times a year to maintain the skills he would learn.

Sensei wouldn’t be deterred and continued to travel to Boston regularly, eventually reaching the rank of brown belt. At that point, people in my home town of Dalhousie started asking Sensei to teach, which he did, opening his first school of karate in the attic space of an old Catholic School convent. He named the school the New England Academy of Karate & Judo, a name that ne can still see adorning some of my gear to this day.

Sensei and I in 2007

Sensei grew in skills and rank, and starting climbing the black belt ladder. He’s taught hundreds of students in the North Shore of New Brunswick. He fathered two children, a daughter and a son; both of whom have studied karate under his guidance. Sensei became THE leading source of self-defence and discipline back home, and was known as the karate no one stuck with, mostly due to the severe level of discipline and commitment required to keep up with the curriculum.

I walked into his dojo for the first time in early 1989, months before I would celebrate my 11th birthday. I had been diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes six years prior. I was dangerously underweight, I suffered from severe insulin resistance and had already been through a number of comatose events in the previous years. My parents didn’t want me joining karate and were unaware that I was attending class, having left the house on the premise that I was simply going for a bike ride.

Due to my poor health, Sensei could have easily turned me away, claiming that I wouldn’t be able to keep up or train with the class. But instead, he chose to take me in, guide me, train me and help me develop. Over the next year, my health and blood sugars improved, my appetite and my mass increased and I began to hold my head up as opposed to being the quiet, withdrawn ghost that most only noticed when they needed someone to pick on.

Throughout the decades, Sensei has been a mentor, teacher, guide and father figure. He’s given me advice on almost every aspect of life and has helped in all areas of my growth. he’s taught his students with only the bare minimum of tuition fee, the strict minimum required to keep the doors open and the lights on. He has never charged any of his students for belt tests, additional training or even the physical belts themselves. His tutelage has always been about the art and never about the profit, the way any traditional teacher SHOULD be.

A few years ago, after more than forty years of teaching, he closed the doors to his dojo due to rising rental costs imposed by the local school board for the facilities he used. He now trains in private in a small dojo built into his home. He still trains with a couple of the students he once had, but it’s mostly on a one-on-one basis.

Sensei continues to be an inspiration to me because he sought out to pursue his dreams of learning karate and did so, regardless of the obstacles he faced. He managed to build a career and raise a family while doing it. We should all be so dedicated and committed to something. Even if we now live more than two thirds of the country apart, we communicate often and he continues to train me. I’m still learning from him. I don’t anticipate that will ever change. An email here, a photo or video clip there; he continues to add to my puzzle of a million pieces… One piece at a time. There are many who would say that I improved my life through my own efforts. Although they would right, I likely wouldn’t have made it with a lesser instructor with less dedication. Domo Arigatoo gozaimashita, Sensei!

Patience Is A Virtue, But Living Virtuously Is A Challenge

They say good things take time and patience. Yeah… I’ve heard that a time or two, but patience is not always an easy virtue to live with. And most people have an EXTREMELY limited supply of it. I’m no exception. As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

A lack of patience, or impatience, is not always a bad thing. Impatience can lend a number of benefits, depending on the environment and the specific situation one is dealing with. I think that a point I read in a great article by Psychology Today, which states that impatience is often triggered when we have a goal and that it will cost us more than we thought to reach it, is on the money.

Sometimes, when we think we’ll reach a goal sooner than we do, impatience can help light a bit of a fire under us and motivate us to hammer through to reach the aforementioned goals. You can check out the article, it’s pretty good. But the gist is that impatience can help reduce overall cost of reaching your goals because it forces you to get your mental gears turning and consider new and different ideas; something that’s important in everyday life.

The grass in my yard, after several attempts and a SEVERE lack of patience

A good example of this, is my back yard. When my family and I moved into our house a four years ago, we were tickled pink at the size and potential of our backyard. The only downside was that the rather large, open area was overrun by weeds and dill plants and had no grass. That first summer, my wife and I spent hours in the sun ripping out weeds and spraying weed killer until our backs were shot and we both prayed for death.

Nadda. The autumn reached us and we still hadn’t succeeded in getting all the weeds pulled and all the options I looked into in terms of having someone professional come remove the weeds and/or get grass growing, cost an arm and a leg and we weren’t willing nor did we have the funds to be going the professional route. We spent three summers spraying and pulling weeds. Last summer, we managed to essentially salt the earth and destroy everything alive back there. Yay, patience.

This year, I invested some time into tilling the soil repeatedly and planting some grass seed. I even invested in a lawn sprinkler and started watering the soil several times a day (which was killer on the water bill). But after spending the past two weeks watering, pulling weeds and keeping a tight rein on everything, I finally have grass growing in a once-barren back yard.

Now, I have plans for flowers in a circular brick planter we already had in the back yard and at the front of the house, as well as repairing bare patches on our front lawn. Patience can pay off. It’s definitely the lesser evil when it comes to reducing stress and having a simpler life. But impatience can be a useful tool as well, in the right doses and in the right situations. Just be sure that if impatience rears its occasional head, that it remains constructive and not destructive. (I have grass! Woohoo!) ☯

Because It’s There…🌋

Every once in a while, I’m reminded of something that I used to do in my youth. Specifically, things I used to do in my home Province of New Brunswick. I’m originally from a small town called Dalhousie (not to be associated with Dalhousie University, which is in Nova Scotia) but I would frequently travel to a neighbouring town called Campbellton, which is about 25 kilometres away.

Given that Dalhousie was lacking most amenities throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s with the drop in the paper industry as the digital age started to kick in, my friends and I would often lean on Campbellton as it was designated as a city (despite only having about 5,000 people) and had plenty of commerce, restaurants and stores. It also had the only Tim Horton’s in the area at the time, if you can believe it.

So we used to travel up there a lot, and when I hit my teens I started using my bike to cycle from Dalhousie to Campbellton. It’s ironic to think that just at the beginning of this year, I considered 20 kilometres to be a milestone, when I used to bike 25 kilometres to reach Campbellton, THEN bike around town and make my way back to Dalhousie. Oh, how youth provides a certain little something…

My friends Christopher (left), Kevin (centre) and I about to go climb Sugarloaf Mountain

In the late 90’s, I got into the habit of cycling to Campbellton quite frequently. Although once I got my driver’s licence and purchased a vehicle, my dynamic switched up and I started travelling up by car. I needed to find something to replace the exercise I was getting from cycling, so I chose to climb our local mountain, named Sugarloaf. Now, if you Google Sugarloaf you’ll find a number of different locations from around the world. But MY Sugarloaf is located on the southern side of Campbellton.

Sugarloaf Mountain, as seen from Highway 11, heading West towards Campbellton

Just to keep things interesting, I’ll give you some basic stats on this tree-filled lump. Sugarloaf Mountain is an extinct volcano. It was formed some 420 million years ago when thinning of the Earth’s crust allowed it to peak its nosy face out of the ground. It’s about 922 feet from base to tip, and has a walking trail around its base as well as a ski resort and multiple downhill skiing trails on the west side of the mountain.

I started climbing the mountain by its designated hiking trail for the first couple of years. But as I got bolder, I started wearing protective gloves and solid shoes and scaling the vertical sides, as well. I got a few friends to join me on some of those climbs, but they usually ended up quitting within the first 30 minutes claiming that I was out of my mind. And probably with good reason.

The boys and I, soaking wet after climbing back down in the mountain in the pouring rain

I miss climbing. I obviously don’t get to do much of it (none) considering I live in the Prairies now. There aren’t a great number of mountains out here. But I definitely plan on trying to make an effort to reconquer the mountain on the next occasion that I visit my folks. It’ll be interesting to see how different in may be, considering the mountain likely hasn’t changed, but I definitely have!

I haven’t seen or spoken to Christopher or Kevin in over fifteen years. We didn’t have a falling out or anything; we simply got on with our respective lives. And sometimes, that’s the way of it. Friendships sometimes come and go. But the good and happy memories you make along the way are yours forever. ☯