Rise And Grind…

I’ve never been much of a morning person in general. I know what you’re thinking; is ANYONE ever really a morning person? But in my case, it’s pretty much always been an issue of consciously forcing myself to function for the first few hours of my mornings. I’m often surprised that my posts are so coherent. During my school years, I always attributed it to just being a teenager. I mean, what teenager DOESN’T fall asleep in class, right? But considering it’s carried on into my adulthood, it’s pretty clear that I just can’t handle morning in general. At least not without several hundred milligrams of caffeine pumped into my system.

For years, I’ve tried to find a way to incorporate fitness into my morning routine. The thought behind this is pretty simple; increased fitness first thing in the morning will increase blood flow, raise my heart rate and start my day off with a kick. I may even potentially need less caffeine, if I’d manage to get my little dynamo pumping. But most attempts I’ve made have failed. What usually happens is when m,y alarm goes off, I’ll roll over, nope the fuck out of it and reset the alarm for an hour later.

The root of the issue is it has to start with you. No matter which way you look at it, you have to show up. Tired? Sore? Don’t feel like it? Too fuckin’ bad! Keep showing up and do it. It sounds ideal but most people, myself included, often can’t bring myself to do this. I’m not suggesting that you should work out if you’re injured or ill but otherwise, “pushing through it” is a very necessary part of a successful fitness routine.

A few months ago, I had this bright idea to get a membership for. A local swimming pool, since they have lane swimming that starts at about 5:30 in the morning. I figured I could sneak in there in the morning, hammer out 30 minutes of laps, grab a shower and make my way into work. I recall from my academy days that lap swimming is an incredible cardio workout and works almost all the muscle groups in the body. It would have been fantastic. Would have been. Had I been able to get myself out of bed to start doing it.

I needed to do something simpler. Something more straightforward. Something that allowed me to just jump straight into it without thinking about not and didn’t involve dealing with the public, first thing in the morning. This is where I came up with a simple circuit that I could do as soon as I woke up. It only takes about fifteen minutes, or closer to twenty, depending on how exhausted I am, I can do it in my basement before grabbing a shower and heading to work. I have a set group of exercises for Monday to Friday and I do it despite whatever structured workouts I do in the evening when i get home from work. I call it my “tragic warm-up to help embrace the pain.” Here it is:

– 30 jumping jacks;
– 30 push-ups;
– 25 high knees;
– 10 burpees; and
– 25 crunches.

– 20 squats;
– 35 push-ups;
– 35 crunches;
– 35 jumping jacks; and
– 35 high knees.

– 30 jumping jacks;
– 30 push-ups;
– 25 high knees;
– 10 burpees; and
– 25 crunches.

– 20 squats;
– 35 push-ups;
– 35 crunches;
– 35 jumping jacks; and
– 35 high knees.

– 30 jumping jacks;
– 30 push-ups;
– 25 high knees;
– 10 burpees; and
– 25 crunches.

It’s reasonably gruelling, especially first thing in the morning. I’ve also had days where I’ve simply skipped working out in the evenings by virtue of having done this morning gem. But it’s had the desired effect, in that my caffeine intake has lowered and I have a bit more energy and drive. granted, I also bottom out and get tired as shit by the time the end of my day comes along, but this is when you should be winding down and getting tired so you can sleep a full night, right?

Anyway, because I believe that variety is the spice of fitness, I thought I would share this with you. To be honest, I printed off the sheet this workout is on so long ago, I can’t remember if I found it somewhere or created it, myself. But it suits the purpose. Tomorrow is Monday and I will once again be seeing if I can’t “rise” to the occasion and make my way through the circuit. But it’s definitely worth trying, if you’re looking for something quick and effective to kickstart your mornings. Enjoy! ☯️

It’s All Just One Step At A Time…

Roughly 99% of people who walk into a dojo to join a style is doing so for the very first time. That is to say, they’ve never done martial arts before. And no, before y’all get snippy, I’m not saying that’s an actual statistic, it’s just my observations over decades of training in several dojos. One of the biggest challenges the new students face is the fact that they walk in, knowing nothing. This can leave them anxious, awkward and shy, which can make the learning experience harder and occasionally embarrassing. What sometimes makes things harder, is when you have a new student who thinks they know everything. That just makes things harder on the current students and can even be disruptive to the class in general.

The concept of learning in traditional martial arts will usually involve learning from someone who ISN’T the Sensei… As odd as this may sound, one needs to recognize that there are usually several students and only one Sensei, meaning that he or she may not necessarily have the time to spend with every student, even on their first day. This means that assistant instructors and even junior belts may be charged with teaching new students their basics on the first day. And this doesn’t sit well with everybody, especially those who think they already know better and feel they’re entitled to the Sensei’s attention. And as we all know, entitlement is currently the spice of society…

I remember an experience from years ago, when I was still back home in New Brunswick. Sensei had a policy that when a new student stepped into the dojo, one of the junior belts would show them the basic exercises and opening of our first kata, so that they would be able to keep up during their initial classes. This would usually involve fifteen minutes of kicks, punches and the opening of Sanchin, which is the first (and last) kata we learn in my style. this can be important and prevents the embarrassment of a new student standing there watching as the rest of the class engages in something they aren’t familiar with. There can be some of that even IF they get that initial show ‘n tell but at least it’s mitigated, somewhat.

I remember this one time, a large, muscled, athletic-looking guy came into the dojo. one of the first things he mentioned while introducing himself was that he was a hockey player and weightlifter. Although it isn’t completely unexpected that someone athletic would expect to be able to catch on to something athletic quicker than the average person, it would be a grave error in judgement to try and assume you know better than others who have been doing the art for years. Apparently, my turn had come around as Sensei asked me to show this individual the basics before his first class. I was comfortable with my level of skill and had no issues in showing the basics to someone else. I was motivated and pleased to be helping someone out.

I walked up to the guy and introduced myself. He was pleasant enough during the introduction. That is, until I explained that Sensei had asked me to show him the basics. He glanced down at my belt and saw that it was white. granted, my belt had a green bar on it, which in adult grading, is only one level prior to testing for green belt. But to his credit, this guy wouldn’t have known that. he held up his hands in a placating gesture and said, “no offence.” I don’t know about you, but experience has taught me that whenever someone says “no offence,” they’re about to say something that will likely offend.

He explained that he didn’t feel it was appropriate for a beginner to be teaching him and wanted to wait for Sensei. I responded that although I understood that perspective, Sensei usually used the 15-20 minutes before class to stretch and counted on the junior belts to show new students the basics. he said “no thanks,” walked away and began stretching in imitation of Sensei. When class began, the new student was completely lost. He gave it his best try and followed along with the class as best he could. Sensei noticed his struggle and the fact that he appeared not to know the basics and asked what I had shown him. he told Sensei I had shown him nothing.

The class carried on and Sensei came to talk to me about it after class let out. I explained what had happened and what had been said. He instructed us not to provide guidance or instruction to the new student unless he came and asked for it. Which he didn’t. Ever. The guy showed up for a couple more classes and then we never saw him again. Some say that was a harsh approach but the reality is that it was karate, not a fuckin’ knitting class. Besides, if you’re told something needs to happen a certain way in order to learn properly, one would assume that you should give the benefit of the doubt and do it. This guy chose to struggle and go against the flow before realizing he wouldn’t catch on. Be like water, dude!

Of course, had he stuck it out, he would have eventually caught on, received correction and started learning. But that was his choice. Martial arts is like a ladder. The students above need to help bring up the students below, in the hopes they’ll someday be above and help those who helped them. That being said, the one below needs to be willing to receive that help in climbing to the next rung on the ladder. Otherwise, they’ll always find themselves watching from below, while others continue to climb the martial arts ladder. This is something important to bear in mind, whether you’re currently a student of the Way or someone new contemplating joining a dojo. ☯️

Revisiting A “Sharp” Friend…

I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve been studying martial arts for over three decades and I’ve trained in a number of different disciplines during that time. Two of the styles I’ve played around with involve the sword. I mentioned the wakizashi in that post, which prompted questions about exactly what that was. Since I wrote a very nice post back in 2020 about this very thing, I thought I would re-post since, well, after 1,500 posts, I’m bound to repeat myself somewhere, right? It also gives me the opportunity to correct a few typos from the original post that I hadn’t noticed at the time. With that in mind, everything below this first paragraph was posted here on April of 2020. Enjoy…

Although it’s normally ideal to stick to one style so that you can master it (or at least attempt to), it gets a bit difficult NOT to dip your toes in the proverbial martial arts pool, from time to time. Training in the Way of the Empty Hand is usually the best option as it means that you’re never disarmed. But I would be lying if I said that the prospect of training with a weapon hasn’t appealed to me, from time to time. With that in mind, I began studying Kendo and Iaido. I studied for a number of years, although I didn’t stick to it long enough to reach mastery. But I have enough skill with a blade to make it a useful implement of self-defence if necessary.

A wakizashi or “short” sword

Samurai swords are iconic and have come to be recognized in and out of the martial arts world. An extremely fluid weapon, the samurai sword was normally a symbol of military nobility in feudal Japan, and was considered to be the soul of a samurai. The wearing two swords was outlawed by the Japanese government during the Meiji Restoration (I’ll let you Google that) but they continued to be used by police and military personnel.

So, what’s known about these famous swords? Well, samurai swords are unlike any other swords in the world, with their unique curvature and single-edged blade. They’ve been forged since as far back as the 10th century, and there are legends of the first actual katana being forged by a wordsmith named Amakuni Yasutsuna as far back as 700AD.

Samurai swords, or katanas as I will refer to them from here on in, are characterized by a long, curved, single-edged blade that is at least twenty-four inches in length and a grip that is long enough for both hands to hold. When samurais wore the two swords, the katana was the longer of the two, with the shorter sword being between twelve to twenty-four inches in length and called a wakizashi.

Because the wakizashi was shorter and had a grip that would only accommodate a single hand, it was generally used for closer combat as opposed to the katana, which was better suited for full combat (once the samurai worked their way through the plethora of other weapons they carried BESIDES swords).

Last but not least is the tanto. This is a short, dagger-style sword that usually measures six to twelve inches in length. Although intended more as a stabbing weapon for close combat, the edge could also be used for slashing. Over time, it became more ornate and acted as a ceremonial dagger, but there is a martial art called tantojutsu, which focuses on the use of the tanto.

The creation of a katana is an entirely unique process. Unlike most swords that are forged by pouring molten steel into a mold, then tempered, katanas are created by forging and combining multiple layers of different types of steel. The layers are folded, over and over again and the curvature happens over a long process of curing and tempering.

The forging process creates a curved blade that combines softer and harder metals. Hard and soft… Sound familiar? (☯) The curve and flexibility of the blade makes the katana incredibly fluid and durable. Then the blade is sent to be polished, which can take weeks, in order to get that mirrored look.

Katanas are fascinating weapons, and would often be customized with images, lacquered scabbards and even family crests and symbols on the guard and grip. And as Ryan Reynolds said in X-men Origins: Wolverine, “I love this weapon more than any other thing in the whole wide world […]. You whip out a couple of swords at your ex-girlfriend’s wedding, they will never, ever forget it.”

At the end of the day, learning to defend oneself with your bare hands should be your primary goal. After all, you’re more likely to find yourself WITHOUT a weapon than carrying one. But should you find yourself with a weapon, it’s also nice to be able to use it properly. The sword is definitely an ideal weapon to train with as it can translate to basically any stick or length of weapon you may wrap your hands around. Food for thought… ☯️

One Weapon In The Hand Is Worth…

I’ve been doing martial for well over thirty years now. In fact, I’ve reached the point where I’ve somewhat forgotten EXACTLY when I started, which makes it difficult to put a firm number on the years I’ve been a practitioner. If I go from memory, I’m pretty confident I started karate when I was ten years old, which means I’ve been practicing for thirty-five years this Spring. on the other hand, the year 1990 sticks out in my head for some reason, which would make it only thirty-three years. Not much of a difference and the only way I could confirm would be to see my original registration form, which Sensei would have back in new Brunswick. Fat chance of that, even if he should happen to still have it.

Even though my focus over those decades has been Uechi-Ryu Okinawan karate, I’ve dipped my toes in the proverbial pool and tried out a few different things in my time. If I had to put a number on it, I’ve trained in at least seven or eight styles, with some of them involving arts that don’t involve empty-hand fighting. When you ask the average person what they know about karate, they’ll usually point out the punching and the kicking, with rarely a mention of weapons. Which makes sense, if you look at the literal translation of karate. But it might surprise some to know that the average karateka usually WILL train with weapons at some point…

Outside of Uechi Ryu, I’ve trained in Kobudo, Kendo and Iaido. The first was because Kobudo goes very much hand-in-hand (pun intended) with karate and owes its roots to Okinawa. The last two, I got into because my parents were kind enough to buy me a wakizashi when I was younger and I wanted to learn how to use it, as opposed to leaving it in my closet. Most people are familiar with Kendo, given the use of the armour and grilled helmets you see when they square off, combined with the bamboo sword known as a shinai. Iaido is a bit of a different, still focused on the sword, that trains the practitioner to draw and execute techniques quickly, with a focus on situational and environmental awareness. It focuses on speed and accuracy.

Although everyone’s martial experience will differ based on their wants, needs and expectations, I chose to pick up a weapon because I knew that the day could potentially come when I would face an armed opponent and it’s never a good idea to do that empty-handed. I mean, if someone came at me with a sword and I had nowhere to go, what the hell am I supposed to do??? That bullshit that you see in movies where the person “catches” the sword between their palms is total bullshit. A properly honed sword, moving at a speed intended to kill, would slip past a defender’s palms with ease. And even if all the stars aligned and the defender managed to stem the sword’s approach, a skilled practitioner of the sword need only adjust the forward angle by a couple of degrees in order to cleave the defender’s hand off at the wrist. Assuming the sword is properly sharpened, of course. But I digress…

It paints a bit of a bleak picture but it’s a realistic one, which most people don’t usually adopt. What I like about Kendo and Iaido, is that the teachings allow me to apply techniques without necessarily holding a sword. If I find myself against someone with a weapon, I can adequately defend myself using a length of broomstick, a baseball bat or a random stick on the ground. It’s a better prospect than facing off against an armed opponent, empty-handed. Kobudo, for me, has its place but has been less useful throughout the years. After all, you won’t find most weapons associated with the art easily. Nunchucks are illegal in Canada, finding properly-weighed kamas is unlikely and walking around with a pair of sai on the streets is cumbersome and not recommended. The bo or staff is effective training as it falls under that same umbrella as sword training. I still own the last two, but seldom do I ever get to effectively train with them.

But let’s get into the meat of the post, which for those of you who frequently read my stuff, already know that I’m going to cover some of the positive and the negative aspects. And there are some of both, with weapons training. The positives are pretty obvious and I’ve already mentioned them; additional techniques, ability to defend against an armed opponent and the overall ability to actually USE the weapons you’ve trained with. By virtue of that, one would ask what possible negatives there could be. The biggest and most concerning is one that most people don’t consider, going into a confrontation: you could be disarmed. The problem with that is it opens the possibility of your chosen weapon falling into your opponent’s hands and being used against you. Not so ideal, if you train with a bladed weapon.

The second is more of a personal dislike but it ties up one or both of your hands. In karate, we use a variety of techniques that involve the open hand and grappling. If you’re using weapons that include both hands, like kama, sai, tonfa and even the bo, both your hands are tied up with your weapon and the ability to isolate and grip your opponent is lost. As I said, this is a personal dislike, since my karate style involves getting in close to one’s opponent an often involves gripping the gi, clothing, hair or other parts of your opponent so you can deliver the blow without them backing away or dodging. The last disadvantage I’ll point out, although I’m sure there are more, is the fact that training in some of these weapons styles may alter and change one’s stances and overall techniques they use in their home style. That can be detrimental to your advancement and progress.

All in all, training and familiarizing yourself with weapons is a positive thing. It’s a good addition to one’s martial arts toolbox and can be useful in certain situations. The same rules apply, when searching for a weapons school to train with. Make sure the style suits your wants, needs and expectations and be wary of the McDojo aspects I’ve written about so many times before. If a teacher is trying to sell you on joining by twirling a staff above their head, you should probably walk out. That theatrical shit has no use in the streets and may look cool but will likely get you hurt, more than anything else. Food for thought… ☯️

Some Salty Facts…

I don’t think I could sit here and try and convince anyone in general that salt is good for you. For the most part, the average person goes on with their day, knowing that the consumption of salt can cause some pretty serious health complications in one’s body. That being said, it’s important to recognize that salt has its place in a person’s diet and isn’t ALL bad. This would seem like a good time to point out that I’m not a doctor or a health practitioner and the post that follows should not be construed as anything by my own option. Moving on…

First and foremost, salt will cause in most folks what I like to call the “diabetic endless cycle.” As you consumer heavier quantities of salt, you’ll become more thirsty. As your thirst increases, you’ll consume more fluids, which will kick your kidneys into overtime to expel the excess and you’ll urinate more often. Wash, rinse and repeat. This is about the closest someone without Diabetes could come top understanding one of the issues that happens to someone with T1D, as it relates to blood sugar, drinking water and frequent urination.

realistically speaking, the human body does need salt. Salt is typically composed of roughly 40% sodium and 60% chloride and people will often use the terms “salt” and “sodium” interchangeably. Although too much can cause harm, salt is used by the body for good muscle and nerve health, proper balance of fluid levels in the body and to help absorb certain nutrients that we need to stay healthy. For example, while consuming too much salt can lead to dehydration, so can too little salt. Since you need salt to balance the fluids in your body, cutting out salt completely (or trying to) can lead to some issues.

In fact, one of the issues that too little salt can cause, is a condition known as hyponatremia. This is a condition where your sodium levels are too low, which will cause bodily pain, nausea and a score of other health issues too numerous to name. I had a bout of this condition a couple of summers ago, where I went on a near 100 kilometres bike ride and guzzled down water for the hours I was out. The sun was blazing and it was hotter than hell. I was sweating profusely and expelled too much of my body’s mineral salts, which caused the symptoms of hyponatremia.

All of that being said and like all things in life, balance is key. While one needs salt to remain healthy and too little salt can cause significant issues, too much salt can cause bloating, dehydration, blood pressure and cardiac issues, kidney disease, kidney stones, stroke and a partridge in a pear tree. The key is proper balance and a healthy intake of sodium/salt that helps to strike that balance. Since every person is different and may have pre-existing health conditions that would contribute to this, you consult your family physician or health practitioner to determine what a healthy level of sodium may be for you. ☯️

Feelin’ The Burn…

It’s not secret that I enjoy trying out new workouts. More than anything else, I fell it’s an important step in keeping things fresh, which in turn will help to keep things interesting when trying to stick to a fitness regime. But different workouts will work different muscle groups and provide different short and long term results, so it’s always good to mix it up and try something different. A couple of years ago, I found a simple body weight workout used by submarine occupants. The idea is that they needed something that could be done on a confined space, without the use of much equipment.

I bring it up because I did the workout the day before last and I’m only today feeling the deep, muscular pain associated with it. But it is a genuinely fantastic workout that works all the large muscle groups and helps to increase strength and stamina. It only takes twenty to thirty minutes to perform and I often use it as an alternative if I’m staying in a hotel or need something quick and easy because I don’t have time for anything else. Admittedly, the portion I use is only part 1 of 2 but believe me when I say it’s enough to get a solid sweat and have your limbs praying for mercy. Here we go…

The circuit is pretty basic. You start with 15 normal squats (pictured above, go all the way down and don’t be lazy) followed by 10 diamond push-ups (push-ups where your hands are touching in front of you, below your chest), 10 regular lunges and 15 regular push-ups. Once you’ve completed that circuit, you start again but this you’ll be doing 14-9-9-14. Keep repeating the circuit and dropping everything by one rep for every circuit. Make sense?

As you work through it, the entire workout should look like this:

Squats/Diamond P-Ups/Lunges/P-Ups
Fall to the floor and pass out… Kidding!

I normally take about 30 to 45 seconds to rest and sip water between each circuit. That being said, once the first and last exercises reach 5 and I’m no longer doing diamond push-ups or lunges, I try to hammer through the last five circuits without resting. It tends to provide that added little bit of burn at the end when one typically wants to throw in the towel. Your lunges can be done with some light dumbbells, if you have them.

For myself, I’ve started doing the entire workout with a 20-pound weighted vest, which has certainly made it more challenging and has given me a better appreciation for folks who live their everyday with 20 pounds more weight than I carry. It’s amazing how such a low addition of weight to one’s overall body makes a significant and noticeable difference. Despite how taxing the workout is, it’s low impact and simple, making it extremely flexible in terms of adding in extras or modifying the exercises.

So there you have it! If you’re looking for something that’s quick, simple and provides an insane burn to your muscles, look no further. I’ve also noticed that this workout doesn’t seem to drop my blood sugars in any significant way. If anything, it sometimes rises by a half point. Remember to stay well hydrated as this circuit will have you sweating out every drop of bodily fluid you may have. And as usual, if you feel unexpected sharp pains, shortness of breath or dizziness, you should stop immediately. Even if the circuit takes a little less than 30 minutes, there’s no reason not to take more time to complete it during the first few times you use it. Stay healthy! ☯️

Punching Pads, A Mixed Bag…

Yesterday I wrote about a fantastic opportunity I had last weekend, to go work out on my trusty punching bag. During this workout, I mentioned a punch pad I had in the garage as well and some inquiries to my inbox led me to think that folks didn’t know what I was referring to. The thing is, I have to striking stations in my garage. The first is my punching bag. The second is a small, square pad bolted to the wall. This pad was originally installed against the wall in my basement but since renovating, was relocated to the outside.

My punching bag, with the punch pad clearly visible on the wall to its right…

Striking a punch pad that firmly in place provides different benefits to one’s strike training. For example, I think we can all agree that for the most part, when you strike a person, they’re going to move. Unless they’re Kryptonian, it’s unlikely that they’ll be firm in where they stand if you punch or kick them. A punching bag is pretty good at simulating that effect. A punching bag also allows for a variety of striking techniques, from kicks to punches, elbow strikes to knee strikes. The pad won’t necessarily allow for all of that.

That being said, the pad has some distinctive advantages as well. Besides making my strikes look more impressive to my son (the garage shakes when I punch it), its small size requires a level of precision to my aim that the punching bag is far more forgiving on. So long as I throw a punch at the bag and be cautious not to roll my wrist on it, I can pretty much punch anywhere with the understanding that I’ll hit it. The pad is far less forgiving, having a surface area of about 6×6 inches, requiring me to ensure my aim is true. The alternative is punching a solid wall…

The pad also won’t give or move away once struck. This changes the dynamic behind how I strike. The possibility of sprains or injury increases, but so does muscle development and strength. Since the pad doesn’t yield under my strike, every punch builds greater power. This can be handy when one is learning to punch properly or is looking to ensure proper bone alignment during strikes, since a few degrees in the wrong direction will hurt you more than whomever you intend to strike.

My pad, when it was still newish and fastened on my basement wall

As useful as this punch pad can be, it has it’s disadvantages. Kicking the pad is less than ideal. Some other striking techniques, such as varieties of elbow strikes, can’t be performed on the pad or depend on the angle of approach. Admittedly, I purchased this striking pad a few years ago when I was too cheap to purchase a full punching bag for myself. It was a cost-effective alternative that still let me add some striking to my training routine. Eventually, I moved the pad out to the garage when we demolished and renovated the basement. I got my punching bag soon after.

Since the basement renovations were completed in the fall of 2023, I could have moved the pad back inside. this would make strike training more accessible during the winter months. But i just can’t bring myself to mar the newly dry walled surface of my basement walls. And given that we have a little one in the house, making the walls shake by constantly pounding on them likely isn’t ideal either. But there you have it! That’s the difference between my punching bag and my striking pad. ☯️

Frosted Fun In Milder Weather…

One of the big things that makes winter drag on for me, is the inability to use my bicycle or my punching bag. Oh, sure… I could be like of those sorry idiots you see riding the city streets on a bike in the snow. But I value my life a little too much for that. And the issue with the punching is imply managing to stay outside in the cold for that long. Even if I only use the bag for a half hour, the extremes colds we get in Saskatchewan are often enough to make it unwise, if not outright dangerous.

That’s why let weekend was a welcome gift, with temperatures actually rising above 0 degrees. Recently, my wife and I have started sending our oldest outside to play on the weekends. That likely makes it sound like we didn’t before and I should probably clarify… Because he now has a Nintendo Switch as well as a disabled iPhone on which to do homework and stream Netflix Kids, he very rarely wants to do anything else. Getting him to play in the great outdoors has become something of a challenge, despite the vast plethora of toys and gadgets he has in his play shed that he can use to entertain himself. but I digress…

On Saturday, I noticed it was only -1 degrees outside. As usual, I shut down all of his devices and coaxed him outside to play. He put in his hour and came back in, citing fatigue. Once he was curled back up in a corner and playing his games, it dawned on me that I should have joined him. The milder weather would have been an excellent opportunity to hit the bag. Instead, I ended up doing a workout inside, as I usually do. Recently, I’ve been trying to push myself to workout on a daily basis so that I can hopefully start to shed some of the winter blubber from my mid-section.

The following day held weather just as nice, so I decided to join Nathan outside and do a 30-minute punching bag circuit that I have on my phone. It involves striking the bag for a full minute, then taking a 30-second break. Wash, rinse and repeat for a half hour. It’s pretty good at working up a sweat and as long as you put in the effort, it’s a pretty good way to burn calories and tone the arms, as well. I got through the circuit and made my way back inside the house, tired and sweaty but satisfied. I noted some pros and cons to working out on the bag in colder weather. And I’m gonna share ‘em with you now…

On the positive side, it was remarkably easier to breathe. Since I usually spend time on the bag in the summer, the heavy humidity and high heat not only make it difficult to breathe but it also brings me closer to dehydration with every punch. I didn’t have that issue. I also didn’t need to stop for water as often or sweat as profusely into my eyes. That being said, now is a good time to remind everyone that just because you’re not sweating, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to stay hydrated. That can be a bit of a slippery slope, kind of like neglecting to use sunblock in the winter.

Another good thing is that I had to keep moving in order to stay warm. Granted, it was only about -4 degrees but wearing a long-sleeved dry-fit shirt under a sleeveless hoodie didn’t do much to keep the chill at bay. This resulted in a need to keep moving constantly in order to maintain my body’s warmth. The result is less stopping and less breaks throughout the workout, resulting in a better burn. I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to lag and slow down once I reach the halfway mark of my bag workouts. This was an easy way to ensure that didn’t happen. Keep moving or get cold.

Of course, as with all things in life, there is a con to every pro and this workout was no exception. Although it was great to get out on the bag and blow off some steam, there were some negative aspects to this workout. The first is that my Bluetooth speaker died. Kaput. Done. Useless. Despite having nearly a full charge when I went outside, the cold weather drained the battery and the music died. Don McLean would have a conniption. Worst part is, it died in the last ten minutes or so of the workout, which is when I’m at my most fatigued and need that slight boost that good music gives you, in order to push through.

This same effect happened to my phone, having gone outside with a battery nearing 100%, only to step back inside at less than 25%. Although neither of those things may seem like a big deal, and I’ll admit that they’re not, they still affect the overall workout. But neither of those were as important as the fact that the battery to my insulin pump also drained. Not completely, thankfully, but it still drained. The user’s guide for the pump also clarifies that it should not be kept in constant heat or cold, and this would be one of the reasons why. A more ideal solution would have been to disconnect the pump for the 30 minutes I was outside and preserve the battery. Hindsight, am I right?

Lastly, were my blood sugars. Working out in colder weather has a harsher effect on the body. Not only are you working out but your body is actively trying to warm you up/keep you warm. As a result, my blood sugars dropped quite drastically over the 30 minutes that I slammed the bag. No big deal for someone constantly prepared for blood sugar issues, but less than ideal. And that’s something to bear in mind, should one decide on a workout that takes them away from the house, like jogging or skiing. Close monitoring of one’s blood sugars and good preparation can mean the difference between being in danger or enjoying the milder but still cold, weather.

All in all, it was good to get out of the house and get back to the bag. It certainly renewed my appetite for the striking aspect of my training. Although forms and shadow boxing are great, sometimes you just need to actually strike something in order to properly develop your techniques. I would say that being outside was a positive influence on Nathan but the little lazy ass came and sat in the garage for the entire time I was outside. Despite being supposed to play and get some exercise, he opted instead to just sit there. Bloody kid! My attempts to get him to use the punch pad didn’t fly, either. Oh, well. Here’s hoping next weekend is just as nice and I can put my lessons learned into practice. ☯️

Nah, I Don’t Wanna…

Having children can be a wonderful experience, for the most part. On the one hand, you get to see a tiny version of yourself grow and develop into their own person, with their own interests, hobbies and personality. On the other hand, it can be extremely frustrating, especially when you see them doing things you know could be done better or you recognize that there are certain things that you should teach them that they simply don’t want to learn. This can have a measurable effect, both on each of you as well as on the relationship as a whole.

I grew up with an intense craving for martial arts training. Like most kids my age, I was taken with action movies and the prospect of learning how to fight. As I was the victim of bullying throughout my formative years AND I had an immune disorder that was snaking my childhood hell (Type-1 Diabetes, if you hadn’t guessed), karate was a good fit for me. But it didn’t come without some searching, trying and experimenting with different schools and styles. It wasn’t until I found Uechi Ryu that I developed the deep love for karate that I still have to this day, or managed to control my ADHD and Diabetes, none of which I believe would have been as effectively accomplished as it was due to karate.

That’s why, when my wife gave birth to our son in 2014, I started seeing down a narrow tunnel into the future, one that allowed em to see the potential of passing on my skills and teachings to the next generation who would carry Uechi Ryu into the future. As Nathan learned how to walk and run, he began emulating movements that he’d see me do, which included kicking, punching and a variety of karate movements that he wouldn’t learn otherwise. The future looked bright, indeed.

Nathan and I, when he was three years old

When I was younger and training full time, I got to see the results of a parent forcing their child through karate. Sensei’s son, who happened to be one of my closest friends growing up, was Sensei’s only son and first black belt graduate. In “old school” martial arts circles, that’s a big deal. Sensei wanted his son, not only to be skilled but to be the best student he had. The only problem with that is that his son didn’t want it. He didn’t hunger for it. He saw no reason to pursue it. But he was pushed through it until he managed to reach Shodan, after which time he allowed his training to falter.

Oh, he’s returned to it on occasion. One can’t train for as long and as intensively as he had without it leaving some sort of impression. But having been forced to study karate for so many years left an impression on him that never went away. Nowadays, despite having three children of his own, his karate training is all but gone. This is one of the reasons why I pledged never to force my children to learn karate. If the time came that they wanted to train, I would be there for them. In the meantime, I would continue to let them see me train, take it all in and make the decision for themselves.

Nathan, trying to learn to meditate…

That’s why recently, I heard the most wonderful words a Sensei could hear from their first-born son: “Dad, I wan’t to learn karate…” I was ecstatic! I made plans. I brought in old equipment from the garage I hadn’t touched in years. I monitored my blood sugars closely so that I could ensure I could train for an hour without needing to stop. I told my wife about it. I told my work colleagues about. Suddenly, I saw the potential for my son and his own ADHD that I hadn’t contemplated before and recognized it would be something long-lasting that we could do together for years to come.

On the fateful day, which was only yesterday, I got home from work, full of piss and vinegar. I dropped my bags at the door, briefly greeted my wife then looked at Nathan and said, “Tonight, we start training in karate.” I wasn’t prepared for the bursting of my proverbial bubble that came next; “Nah, I don’t wanna…” I was floored. He had been hounding me to learn karate for the past month and now that the opportunity presented itself, he wanted nothing to do with it. I did my best to try and understand why he had suddenly changed his mind or his reluctance but, like most children, all he would say is that he had changed his mind.

I made my way downstairs and trained on my own, with a brief visit from my wife for a short sparring session. It was nearly impossible, hiding my disappointment. The worst part was recognizing that I seemed to be looking forward to it more than he was. I‘ve come to recognize in recent years that I have more years behind me than I do in front. The amount of time I have to impart whatever I’ve learned to my children grows shorter with every passing day and my hope is that Nathan will see me work out just once, where he’ll decide to jump in. In the meantime, I have to be patient. I don’t want to be that parent that forces their child into something like this. Because I want him to retain and carry it for his entire life and allow it to guide him. Such things won’t be possible if it feels like a chore. ☯️

Beef Isn’t JUST What’s For Dinner…

It’s a pretty typical scene… The parents work towards preparing a family dinner and everyone sits at the table. One of the children takes one look at their plate and says, “That looks yucky, I don’t wanna eat it…” I’ll give you three guesses as to what he’s pointing at but you’ll only need one. That’s right, he was referring to his vegetables. It’s a pretty common story, one that often carries one into adulthood. I mean honestly, if you put meat, potatoes and veggies on my plate and told me I could only pick two, it’s a pretty clear bet about which of the three would get left behind.

People will often go for the food choices that appeal to their taste and preference, which, on the one hand, makes quite a bit of sense. As an adult, most assume they’ve “done their time” with being told what to eat during their childhood and so, they’ll eat as they see fit during adulthood. Although that concept makes sense in theory, it only carries you as far as what tastes good on your tongue and doesn’t say much for the fact that proper nutrition requires some of the tasteless green stuff that most of us prefer not to have.

in fact, good healthy and proper nutrition requires everything that people who claim to be tying to get healthier avoid. One big one is carbohydrates. On the one side, I try and keep my carbs as low as possible since the more carbs I eat, the more insulin I have to take. Increased carbohydrates can also lead to weight gain, which is a significant pain in the ass to a Type-1 Diabetic in his 40’s who may be trying to slim down the inflated dad-bod. But I the sad reality is that carbs represent a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, where you need carbs for energy to work out but only the calorie deficit that cutting carbs can bring will lead to weight loss.

For the most part, if I’m eating something and I anticipate working out, I’ll reduce or omit vegetables and carbohydrates since they also act as fillers. Nothing worse than trying to work out and put your all into something when your gut is full and you’re struggling to breathe for two reasons. Although most fitness gurus will agree that the only way to lose weight properly is to burn more calories than you take in, there has to be a balance. You need energy to exercise but you need to reduce the amount of food that gives you said energy in order for that exercise to slim you down.

So, what if you just fight through it? What if you decide you’re an absolute champ and can reduce your carb and calorie intake and just hammer through the effort? There are a number of symptoms and effects that you’ll likely feel as a result, and none of them are pleasant. I found a lovely little article posted by HealthLine.com that covers some of the worst ones quite nicely…

The top one is that you’ll be low on energy. If your take in less than the minimum calories you need in a day, your resting metabolic rate will lower and you’ll constantly feel tired because your body can’t support everything. This can sap your motivation and lead to skipping exercise because you just don’t have the energy? Sound familiar? I may or may not have written a post recently about that very thing. Self-recognizing certain health issues can go a long, long way. But I digress…

Being constantly hungry is another issue. And it plays into the old scenario where you go on a diet and try to lose weight, only to crash and binge-eat on a cheat day because your body is craving the calories you’re missing. It’ll also affect the quality of your sleep. So even if you sleep for eight hours because you’re exhausted from the low energy, that sleep won’t rejuvenate you and will likely be poor, especially if you feel hungry while trying to fall asleep.

There’s a host of other potential symptoms, including irritability, anxiety and constipation. You can click on the HealthLine link above to read further details on all of the symptoms they’ve listed. The reality is that while trying to decide how best to reduce your waistline, you need to be cautious and not reduce your calorie intake so far as to affect the very results you’re trying to achieve. I prefer to keep my meals low-carb, if not only because of the insulin requirement but for the weight loss effort. However, some of the symptoms I’ve described above have been what I’ve been feeling over recent months, which makes me raise an eyebrow. ☯️