If it Isn’t Hard, Is It Even Worth Doing?

I read an interesting quote by Ashton Kutcher, of all people, that says, “If it doesn’t seem insurmountable, how is it going to be a life purpose?” An interesting quote and deep meaning behind it, confirming my opinion that knowledge and wisdom can come from any source. Of course, as some of my readers would and have pointed out, a quote is only as good as the confirmation of its source. Realistically, unless one is in a position to actually speak to the source to confirm the quote’s accuracy, it’s up in the air. However, that makes the words no less true. But I digress…

The point and purpose is to speak about those “insurmountable” goals and life purposes and how you can get past the BELIEF that they’re insurmountable. When I look back at my life, I recognize that some of the goals and purposes I planned for myself seemed impossible at the time. Considering I’ve achieved almost everything I set out to do in life, it almost seems laughable that I was as concerned as I was that I would REACH those goals. But Everest always looks insurmountable until you’re touching the flags at the top, right?

When I was younger and I stepped into a dojo for the first time, my health was waning, I had no support from the outside on my choice to start training and I believed my life would end before I reached my late teens. That first class was among one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, considering my blood sugars dropped, I had no physical constitution and the workout was gruelling for those who had been there for a while so you can probably imagine how difficult it was for me. But like taking that first step up the mountain, completing that first class paved the way for me to push froward and reach my goals. The same can be said of most things in life.

It’s important that goals and purposes be difficult. Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. If you can simply coast through to the finish line, it technically isn’t a race, right? But while contemplating that thought, it’s important to bear in mind that difficulty is a subjective thing. Maybe walking ten minutes to the corner store is a fuckin’ joke to me and I don’t consider it exercise, despite walking for twenty minutes, round trip. But someone else may have difficulties in mobility, health issues and other problems that make walking for twenty minutes a significant challenge. This means that it’s important never to judge someone else on their chosen goals, even if they may seem like less to you.

Another important quote that I like, in case y’all haven’t noticed that I love quotes, is attributed to Muhammed Ali who said, “Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.” Getting started and building one’s momentum is what will usually get you there and accomplishing your goals. Just remember that when it gets hard, and it will, that’s normal. If it isn’t hard, it isn’t worth doing. The easy path isn’t challenging. Food for thought… ☯️

The Iron Maiden…

Iron plays an important role in the function of the body. In fact, it serves a number of different roles, including helping the body to make hemoglobin, which is the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It also contributes to make myoglobin, which carries oxygen to one’s muscle tissue. oxygen is kind of important to, well… stay alive, so y’all can see how maintaining good iron levels can be extremely important. As with all things in life, the key aspect is to strike a proper balance between too much and too little.

People don’t often realize it, but iron also helps convert one’s blood sugar to energy, which means it plays an integral role in Type-1 Diabetes and the proper overall control of one’s blood sugar levels. All of that, combined with the fact that it will also help to strengthen one’s immune system makes iron a pretty tough supplement. Get it? Tough? Iron? No…? No one gets it? Very well… Moving on! There are a number fo different sources to get iron in one’s diet. Let’s look at a few of my favourites…

Spinach: Besides having a reasonable level of iron, spinach is also high in Vitamin C, antioxidants and can decrease inflammation in the body.

Legumes: Most people don’t necessarily know what’s meant by “legumes,” but they’re far more common in people’s diet than they realize. For example, my wife and I enjoy beans in our homemade chilli. Beans, along with lentils, peas and a few others, are high in iron as well as a reasonable source of folate, magnesium and potassium. they also tend to pack a decent fibre punch.

Red meat: Alright, if things are misspelled from this point on, it’s because I’m drooling at the thought of a decent-sized steak, brazed over a hot grill with delicious seasonings, and served with a side of steamed greens covered in butter… FML, I’m hungry… but seriously, most red meats contain zinc, selenium, B vitamins and, you guess it! Iron. There’s no need for me to tell you that red meat contains a reasonable protein punch as well, making it a perfect all around food to accompany whatever side you see fit.

Dark chocolate: Sign me up! Besides the fact that dark chocolate has a decent dose of iron, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the total sugar. It apparently has to do with the difference in process from making milk chocolate. Who knows? What am I, a chocolatier??? All I know is that my wife and I usually prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate anyway, so life is good.

Fish: What can I say? I’m a Maritimer, born and raised. I love fish in all its forms and all its preparations. And fish have a bunch of stuff that’s good for you but it’s also high in iron.

Although all of this sounds great and you’re likely writing up your grocery list for a kick ass barbecue, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much iron in one’s body will result in organ damage, organ failure as well as cirrhosis and even lead to Type-2 Diabetes. Moderation is key. A simple blood test will reveal your iron levels and where you’re sitting. So, what if your iron levels are too low? That’s what we’ll cover next…

If you read that first paragraph again, you’ll notice that one of the main functions of iron is to carry oxygen. Lack of oxygen in the bloodstream will cause numbness in the limbs, weakness, pale skin and fatigue. You may also experience headaches, dizziness and blurred vision. How do I know all of this, you may ask? I could be a smart ass and say I looked it all up. And you’d be right. But I also know all of these things because my wife recently discovered numbness in her right arm and fingers. Considering we both have fatigue and weakness, it was hard to think much of it until she pushed the issue at the doctors office and a month later with iron supplements, oxygen flow to that arm is back to normal and no more numbness.

We often think that since we’re not hungry after we eat that all is well. Nutrition is about more than just filling one’s belly and not being hungry. But when it comes to something as important as iron, finding that happy medium for YOU is important. Too much iron, big problems. Too little iron, also big problems. Finding the balance, as with all things in life, is the key to ensuring proper nutrition and proper health. Food for thought… ☯️

Like Riding A Bicycle

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and despite the fact some of my followers may have wondered why I didn’t post about that yesterday weren’t here to see my two sons and I showering my wife with gifts and taking her out to eat before relaxing at a park so the boys could burn off some energy. Combine that with the fact i spent an hour on the phone wth my own mother and I think we’re good. Mother’s Day is one of those holidays where one need only to open their favourite social media platform to see the words plastered a few dozen times by a few dozen people. But I digress…

Once everything was said and done and I had hung up with my mother, I decided to take advantage of the unexpectedly nice weather (it was supposed to be raining) and take my first bike ride. I had been putting it off for days, despite some rather balmy weather we’ve had in Regina but since everything was said and done and my wife had settled in for some television and cross-stitch, I decided to blow the dust off… Although my original thought was to ride a short, 10-kilometre stint that should only take me about half an hour, I stopped just shy of 7. Out of breath and sweating profusely, that 20-minute ride was enough to show me that I have plenty of work this summer, rebuilding what’s been lost while my rib cage healed up.

Once I got back to the house and sat down to rest with some fluids, I looked at the punching bag and decided to tentatively throw a few “light” punches to test the waters… That is to say, i wanted to see what would still hurt and what wouldn’t. A couple of straight and hook punches on each arm showed some mild aching but no sharp pains or debilitation. This meant that should be able to slowly start doing some work, physically, over the next week and slowly introduce myself back into karate. My plan for the week is to start doing some short sets with light weights in order to strengthen newly healed muscle and get things nicely stretched out. Once that’s done, I should hopefully be able to sneak my way back into by next week. Fingers crossed! ☯️

Let’s Get Physical… Therapy…

The body has a number of redundancies in place that happen when healing from a wound or injury. This includes the fact that if your go without using muscles for a significant period of time, they’ll shrink, wither and potentially get weaker. There’s also the issue that if the injury INVOLVES the musculature and it needs to Medan be regrow, the new muscles will need quite a bit of work before they can be used at the capacity that they were prior to the injury.

A good example of this is reflected from the fact that for just a little longer than a calendar month now, I’ve gone without karate classes and basic exercise. And no, this doesn’t make me lazy! No, YOU shut up! I’ve slightly reduced my food intake, within reason, and I’ve kept myself moving. I simply haven’t been training as hardcore as I usually do. As a result, I’ve dropped from 217lbs to 209lbs (or 98 to 95 kilograms, for you metric folks).

Despite the weight loss, it isn’t great news. The pounds I’ve shed come as a result of lost mass, not weight reduction. My muscles have shrunk by virtue of being used significantly less in the past month and doing next to no physical activity. So, I started trying to do a few little things. I started by raking my front yard, which probably wasn’t the greatest thing to start with, since the movement puts direct stress on the area of my torso that I injured. It also doesn’t help that my 7-year old was supposed to help but ditched me in favour of playing with his baby brother. Damn kids. But i digress…

For some people, physical therapy, or physiotherapy as its also known, is required in order to get back up on the proverbial horse after an injury. This usually involves an actual therapist who will use hot and cold, massages and certain exercises to help recover from injury as opposed to using prescription drugs or mainstream therapies. You may be asking, “But can’t I get massages, apply heat and cold and exercise on my own WITHOUT using a therapist?” Why, yes. Yes, you can. The difference is a therapist will have certain specialized and focused methods of getting you there faster and in a safer manner.

I’ll admit that I would be the first one to injure myself further by doing too much, too soon. hence why I’m trying my damndest to take it slow and ease back into things. That being said, I’m chomping at the bit to start doing stuff, especially in light of the fact that the weather has been so nice in my area. The other important aspect besides one’s weight and muscle mass, is that absolutely EVERYTHING affects blood sugars in someone with type-1 Diabetes. So it becomes all the more important to closely monitor your blood sugar readings, especially if your level of fitness and your food intake are changed. ☯️

Let’s Get Some “Cycles” In…

I always get a kick out of the term “putting some cycles in.” It’s a term my boss uses as a unit of time measurement when referring to projects and things, rather than just saying how much time it takes. “I’ve spent a lot of cycles working on this…” Love it! But my title mostly refers to an actual cycle, or bicycle. With the warmer weather kicking it into high gear and the snow having apparently made a disappearing act for the season in Saskatchewan, getting my bike out and prepped for as many kilometres as my body will permit has become my seasonal challenge.

Since my trips out on the bike can often reach the hundreds of kilometres in one sitting (I only achieved 100kms on one occasion, it’s usually closer to 60-80 kms), I’ve many people Diabetic or not, ask me how I manage such distances, in the heat, without severely low blood sugar levels and avoiding dehydration. I did this last year but I thought I would provide the list of things I ensure I carry with me when going out on the bike.

First, I should point out that I have a couple of attachable bags on my bike frame; one that sits up beneath the seat and one that sits on the top bar of the frame in front of me. The one underneath the seat carries a small, basic travel first aid kits with gauze, disinfectant and bandages (and band-aids) because you never quite know when you’ll fall off the bike and cause minor injuries that shouldn’t sit untreated, especially if you’re far from home. this small pouch also carries at least one version of fast-acting carbs, which for me, means jellybeans or Swedish berries. If I have room after all that, I’ll also jam a couple of granola bars and some protein. This location is great for all of that because being under the seat keeps it all out of the sun so it stays cooler, for the most part (it also keeps the chocolate chips in my granola bars from melting).

The pouch on the top bar has a windowed cover, which is supposed to allow me to display my iPhone. this is so that I can watch the mounting mileage counting on the screen. The two issues I’ve found with this, is the summer heat will often cause the phone to overheat and stop functioning until it cools or will outright kill the battery. The issue with the former is that I’m stuck either sitting still in the summer heat until my phone cools down or I keep peddling, all the while not logging the right amount of distance due to the phone cancelling out. So now, I just keep the phone blanked and hidden inside the pouch.

I also keep my wallet or at minimum, SOME form of identification in the event I’m in an accident or get lost, etc. I usually bring my debit card in the event I need to purchase further food or transportation home if I get sick or something of the sort. If I’m using a source of music that can’t be clipped on my clothing, it also sits inside this top pouch. Last but not least, I carry a bottle of water on a bottle rack on the frame as well as a bottle of water on a belt pouch around my waist, equally to roughly a litre of liquids to stay hydrated.

Some people don’t find this to be a lot but the reality is that even on a long-distance ride, you need to find that sweet spot between staying hydrated, not filling your gut to the point it starts sloshing around in your belly and preventing the intake of TOO much water while simultaneously losing mineral salts through excess sweating. This causes a condition known as hyponatramia. This is where you have too much hydration versus the amount of mineral salts in your body. That’s why electrolyte drinks can be useful. I generally keep a bottle of water and a bottle of sugar-free Gatorade and alternate between the two.

Spending the nicer seasons out on a bike can be liberating and it’s great exercise. But whether you have Type-1 Diabetes or not, it’s important to be prepared, especially if you plan on being out for a significant distance. proper preparation (say THAT three times fast) can mean the difference between a fun ride in the sun or a potentially harmful medical situation. Happy cycling! ☯️

Can’t Walk A Mile In Someone’s Shoes When It’s Painful…

Well over a month ago, I suffered a pretty painful injury during a karate seminar as a result of trying to spar like I was still in my twenties. I was doing pretty good, for a few minutes. In my head, I was moving with the same speed and grace as I did when I was first graded as a black belt. In reality, I was moving with the level of grace that a thick sap slowly moves its way down the trunk of a tree. And I paid the price in pain…

My opponent caught me with a straight punch to the upper ribs, with his dominant hand, no less. There are three important lessons to be learned from that experience; one for me, one for him and one for both of us. The lesson for me is that I shouldn’t have walked into an oncoming punch. Although I was throwing an attack of my own at the time, focus should be on preserving and protecting oneself first. You can’t protect yourself or others if you get taken out.

The lesson for my opponent is that at his level of skill, he should have been able to control his strike and even halt it short of impacting. One of the differences that I’ve noticed with Shotokan as opposed to Uechi Ryu, is that the practitioners are all in, on every strike, even in practice. Although this can be useful in developing strength to your strikes, it can be detrimental to one’s overall control. But I digress…

The lesson for the two of us, is that even a strike that isn’t at full power can still be devastating when properly applied. After all, if a strike from 1 to 10, where 1 is a light touch and 10 is the intention to kill, I seriously doubt that my opponent, who just happens to be a practitioner in the same dojo as I am, had ANY intentions of killing me. But the results of that strike have been enough to keep me on my ass for the past month, proving that an effective strike doesn’t have to be “all in” to be effective.

The past month has been increasingly difficult, especially in the first couple of weeks. I’ve had a hard time moving and every little thing, including but not limited to sneezing, coughing, burping and farting has sent me into spasms of pain where I’d be seeing stars for several minutes before it would finally subside. Don’t even get me started on the challenges of showering or using the washroom. A month has passed but the pain has not, although it is getting better. Damaged muscles can take weeks and even months to heal. But I’ve learned to appreciate some important aspects along the way…

My father has been wheelchair-bound for almost 20 years, now. Cursed with a degenerative spine, he’s been living with constant, 10 out of 10 pain for years. Nothing has ever worked for him or is expected to. It’s pain he simply has to live with. And although my pain is nowhere near at the level his is, I can appreciate certain aspects that constant pain causes. Here are a few things that you should never say to someone who is in pain:

1. “The pain can’t be that bad.” I’ve spent years hearing people talk to my mother and make that very comment about my father. For one thing, what’s only a 5 out of 10 pain to one person may be much, much worse for someone else. No one has the right to gauge your pain for you.
2. “Why are you so tired?” Constant pain is exhausting. People don’t tend to think so because when a person is in pain, their last thought is of getting sleep. The problem comes from managing that pain over a long period of time. It takes its toll on the body and can be devastatingly exhausting. Most chronic conditions will be like this. I have a dear friend who has fibromyalgia (hopefully I spelled that right) and although she wears a brave face, the constant pain makes getting through the day with a smile quite challenging.
3. “You’d feel better if you got up and did something.” No, no, I would not. I’ll be the first to admit that one shouldn’t just flop down and refuse to move until ALL pain has subsided. Besides the fact that sitting idle can be a problem for someone with type-1 Diabetes due to poor circulatory and nerve-related issues, there’s the danger of stiffening up from doing nothing, which can extend the amount of time required to heal. Don’t even get me started on loss of muscle mass and atrophy. But sometimes you gotta baby that injury and allow your tissues to heal. This can mean putting your feet up and letting the finely-tuned machine that is your body do its job and fix the injury before you push yourself.

Everyone’s pain is different. I can honestly say that although I’m not on the same pain level as my father, I can certainly sympathize with some of the issues he faces with his back being out of commission. Makes me appreciate all the more, how some people, even medical professionals, try to push him in ways his body is incapable of responding. Don’t ever judge someone else’s pain. You can never tell how an individual may be feeling or dealing with a particular pain. And no one has a right to gauge your pain but you. Food for thought…☯️

A Barbecued Update…

Get It? Barbecue? As in, barbecued ribs? Because my ribs are injured? Okay, maybe I was reaching on that one but i know some people that would have found that incredibly hilarious. But I digress… Since it’s been about three weeks since it happened, I figured it would be time to provide a cursory update on how my injuries are faring. For those who may not have read the previous posts, I took a straight punch to the left ribs during a weekend karate seminar, which led me to believe I had a fracture. It’s been a brutal few weeks. Here’s the breakdown…

The injury happened on the Sunday and on the Monday morning following the incident, I had to “turtle” my way out of bed. That means I had to rock myself back and forth so that I could essentially roll off the bed. I had no strength or balance on the left side of my body and every movement, breath and step i took shot pain throughout my entire body. Good times. I was lucky enough to be working from home that day, so I was able to at least work in the comfort of my home.

The following day, after recognizing that it was a passing ache that would subside over a day or two, I contacted the dojo and let them know I would be out of commission until I could have the injury assessed and figure out exactly what was happening. This left me with a bit of a conundrum. I don’t have a family doctor, so I had the choice of either trying to go to the emergency room and waiting for an entire day to have some over-exhausted and under-staffed doctor tell me it was a pulled muscle and to take ibuprofen or try and get the services I needed through a walk-in, which would be less of a wait but the unfamiliarity of the doctor combined with the lack of laboratory and x-ray services on site would be an issue. This wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to prolong over days.

My wife had the idea of giving me a scheduled appoint she had made for herself on the Friday. It was with a doctor who normally sees our son Nathan, so there was some familiarity. I saw him on God Friday and the clinic actually had an x-ray attached, so I would be in good shape. However, the x-ray clinic wasn’t staffed on a statutory holiday. I had to return the following morning but I was given the time of day and actually got the x-ray as well as some prescription-grade anti-inflammatory pills and muscle relaxants.

After an extensive wait, I was able to check the results of the x-rays online where the doctor determined that there was no fracture or break of the ribs. Okay, great. This likely meant it was damage to the muscle wall over the ribs, but I’m not a doctor. I had no idea how to expedite healing this injury. I did what anyone in my position would do; I went online. Most sources seemed to recommend the same thing: rest and applying heat and/or cold to the affected area. There are a few problems with this.

Health and fitness is a kept skill. One can’t simply say, “Oh, great! I’ve reached my ideal weight or fitness goal. Now, I can let myself go and relax…” Even once you reach your goals, it’s important to continue working at it or else you risk losing muscle mass, gaining weight and having your overall health go off the rails. As it’s been a few weeks of taking it easy and resting up, my muscles have started becoming weaker and I’ve lost some mass. The only silver lining is that my blood sugars have remained basically unaffected.

I stopped taking the anti-inflammatory pils I was prescribed when I discovered they were causing heavy nose bleeds. I won’t get into the details of the hows and whys, but the photo above shows how I got a pretty nasty nose bleed during my lunch hour, at work. I was just fortunate enough that none of the blood landed on the tie. You can tell that some of the blood lightly toughed the fringe of the suit jacket, but I was able to brush it clean. Overall, it’s been a pain in the ass… Or a pain in the ribs, I suppose.

It’s slow-going and a work in progress. I can get in and out of bed and in and out of chairs without crying like a little bitch, which is a plus. I’m getting SOME sleep, despite needing to frequently move from the bed to the lounger back and forth due to the discomfort. I know there are worse injuries out there and I could be dealing with much worse. That doesn’t lessen or take away from what I’m currently dealing with. I just can’t wait to get out there and start getting back into karate and get my bicycle out. There’ll be some rebuilding to do, once everything has healed up. ☯️

Get A KICK Out Of This Story…

Sometimes I look back on my younger years and I become nostalgic for the past. During my youth, I never travelled much or wandered far from the comforting confines of Northern New Brunswick but it continues to surprise me how full a life one can have, even living in such a small environment. And no environment could have given me as much as my home. Here’s one of the memories drifting to the surface of my psych. Buckle up…

This story takes me all the way back to 1989. I was 11-years old and my older brother had another two years of life ahead of him. My health was waning and life wasn’t going so well for me. Increased insulin-resistance and the development of ulcers in my stomach saw me hospitalized almost as much as my brother. in fact, we often shared a hospital room together. I’ll let you decide whether that’s cool or just a little bit sad. But I digress…

I was in 7th grade and we had oral presentation to give in class on a topic of our choosing. As was usually my choice, I spoke about Type-1 Diabetes, its causes and how it’s treated. Because of the number of students, we had two separate 7th grade classes; 7A and 7B. I was in 7A. Didn’t mean I was smarter or further ahead. I think it went by alphabetical order. Anyway, on the third day of presentations when we were all done, the teacher announced that someone from 7B would be sharing his presentation with us.

In walked my friend Guillaume. My Sensei’s son. Friend and adoptive brother. He was asked by the teacher to share the same presentation as he had to his class in exchange for bonus points. Considering she found the presentation worthy enough to share with another class, I had difficulty grasping WHY he would need bonus points, but whatever kept me from doing actual work was fine by me, back then.

Guillaume went on to give a presentation about Uechi Ryu karate, how long he had been practicing it and the benefits it provided him in life, thus far. He capped off his presentation with a demonstration of a form, or kata, which I now know as well. While the rest of the class was busy snickering at the movement and making fun of him, I was captivated by what I was seeing. The flow, the movement, the gracefulness… My eyes were open to the potential of what I was seeing.

It was at this point that I had called Guillaume at home and asked about class times and location. I joined the same month. I had tried other styles and attempted different things, but none struck quite as deep in my soul as Uechi Ryu did. I would go on to study Uechi for the next 33 years. It would ultimately save my life and help forge me into the person I am today. All of that from a simple ten-minute presentation in class. Nice.

Our instincts provide for more than we usually assume. And as the old saying goes, we often find our destiny on the road we least thought to travel. All things happen for a reason. If the teacher hadn’t asked Guillaume to share his presentation with out class, I might have never been exposed to Uechi Ryu. I likely never would have joined. And my health may have continued to deteriorate to an uncorrectable level. Who knows? I certainly don’t. I just know to appreciate life as it’s been offered and continue to live life with no regrets. ☯️

Some Further Ribbing…

Last Friday morning, I had a doctor’s appointment to try and figure out if the constant, piercing pain in my side is actually the result of a broken rib or simply something muscular. After all, getting punched straight into the ribcage would no doubt crush/bruise some muscle tissue, as well. It’s been a pretty disappointing week. The pain has kept me from sleeping or sitting comfortably. The only positive aspect is I’ve been shoving fluids down my throat, non-stop for the past couple of weeks to keep from coughing. On Saturday evening while watching television, I sneezed unexpectedly and almost passed out from the pain.

My visit to the doctor’s visit was inconclusive so he had me scheduled for x-rays to try and examine the injury. Since it was Good Friday, the x-ray clinic wasn’t open until the following day, so an appointment was made. On Saturday morning I returned to the clinic and they took several shots of my torso, facing different directions. The technician was able to say that she couldn’t see any obvious break but that the doctor would examine the x-rays and get back to me. Since it was the weekend, she advised it likely wouldn’t be until Tuesday before I heard anything. Guess what day it is?

Obviously, I didn’t hear anything back yesterday and it’s still the wee hours of the morning. But if it IS muscular, there’s nothing to be done but rest, take it easy and let it heal. Ironically, even if my rib is fractured, there’s nothing to be done other than let it heal, as well. The only thing worse than being hurt is having nothing that can be done about it. the only silver lining is I was provided with anti-inflammatory pills and muscle relaxants. The latter has allowed me to at least get some sleep at night, but my mobility and ability to do anything but the mildest things around the house and at work are still hindered.

My inspiration to write has also been somewhat hindered. It’s hard to focus when your entire torso is piercing with pain. Hopefully, this passes soon. Besides the fact that I’m missing a HUGE amount of karate, right when I was finding my groove and really getting back into it, I’m not doing much physically, which is playing havoc with my blood sugars, my weight, everything… As I always say, life doesn’t care about one’s plan. I’ll blow the dust off once I’m cleared to resume. Hopefully, that happens before the roads are clear and dry so I can start out on the bicycle. ☯️

Clash Of The Titans!

It often surprises me how few people know of Uechi-ryu… In fact, even most people within martial arts circles don’t seem to know it and those who do, seem to know very little. But i consider my style to be a titan nonetheless… One of the original three Naha-Te styles from Okinawa and the one that has guided me through the challenges of life for over three decades. It wasn’t an easy choice to recently choose to start on a new journey with a new style, but Shotokan has treated me well; a fact that was reflected last weekend during a two-day seminar featuring several senior, high-ranking instructors.

The weekend started on Saturday morning. It was a gloomy, cloudy day that threatened to weep its load onto the world. I was a bit nervous, having never attended a “seminar” before. I had no idea what to expect. Would I be tested on what I knew? (which wasn’t much, at this point) Would I be asked to demonstrate my own style to see how I stacked up? (which wouldn’t have been a big deal) The mystery of the unknown caused a certain level of anxiety that I wasn’t enjoying. But I looked forward to it and packed my bag with some fast-acting glucose, water and my karate gi and made my way down the road to where the dojo was located.

I walked in and was greeted by one of the usual instructors I see on a nightly basis and another, whom I didn’t recognize. I was introduced and found out that he was an instructor from Saskatoon. I started to get dressed and realized I had forgotten an integral part of my uniform: the belt. Already, the day had not started on the right foot. I told the instructor I would be back shortly and dashed out the door. I got back just in time to get dressed for class and get lined up. A number of senior instructors had appeared but there was no chance for me to be introduced.

The morning went by in a blur, despite being two-hours long. Starting at 10:30, we went through a series of drills, techniques and concepts that tickled my brain and made me completely forget about the passage of time. By the time the noon hour hit and we broke for lunch, I was exhausted, sore and drenched in sweat. A little voice in the back of my head told me I should stay home in the afternoon and succumb to that fatigue. The next session was set to start at 2:30 in the afternoon. i had some time to contemplate my mortality and how difficult it had been to train all-out for two hours for the first time in years.

Although class was an absolute blast, I spoke to my wife about the prospect of staying home for the afternoon. In her infinite wisdom (she’s often far wiser than I) she explained that I had committed my Saturday to the seminar and that if I was seriously interested in learning Shotokan that i should at the very least finish out the day. I nodded my agreement and had a light lunch, followed by a forty-minute “old man nap” to refresh myself. I made my way back for the afternoon session.

The afternoon was an absolute blast. We did some pairs training and even some 3-on-1 techniques. My previous style never focused much on facing off multiple opponents so this was entirely new for me. Despite the initial vestiges of fatigue I felt, I was suddenly re-energized and hammered through the afternoon with an enthusiasm I haven’t felt since my 20’s. I got home with a grin splitting my face from ear-to-ear and my wife only had to take one look at my face to understand and asked, “You’re going back for tomorrow’s session, aren’t you?” I didn’t need to answer. She already knew.

The following morning’s session started at 9:30 and everyone was pleased and surprised to see me. Knowing my current limits, I had explained that I would only be attending one day’s worth of the seminar. It was nice to be received so well and we started off the morning with a bang, following up on the techniques and training that we had started the previous day. The morning’s session ended with doing one-on-one ju kumite, which is basically free fighting. At one point while sparring with another black belt, I zigged when i should have zagged and took a round punch to the back ribs. The wind fell out of me and I finished the match. But I felt an explosion of pain behind my ribs.

When the session closed up at 11:30 for lunch, I explained to the instructors that I was happy I had made the morning’s session but that I would not be back in the afternoon. By the time I got home, the left side of my back had almost completely seized up. The only saving grace is that I’ve suffered fractured ribs in the past and this didn’t feel like that. I was thinking I had managed to bruise the muscle tissue over the rib cage, which was why I could still breathe clearly but it was quite tender to the touch. A hot bath and a heating blanket later and it started ot feel better by the time I went to bed.

It’s feeling almost completely normal now, after a couple of days for recovery. But it taught me a couple of very important lessons. Or maybe reminders, since it’s stuff I should have already known. I need to guard better; I’m not in my 20’s anymore and I can’t depend on having greater speed than my opponents. And accidents will happen, sure. But when they happen in the dojo, injuries are likely to occur. After all, as I’ve often said, this is karate. You want to take up a hobby where you don’t get injured, go join a knitting circle! ☯️