Testing One’s Medal…

I think I’ve gone overboard… A couple of years ago, I signed up for an app called the Conqueror Challenges. In short, you pay a marathon entry fee, which is pretty standard when you enter a marathon, and you perform a “virtual marathon,” completed a certain amount of distance in a certain amount NPF time. It’s a neat concept and the money you pay goes to planting trees or cleaning up plastic on the oceans. All in all, it’s pretty neat as a concept.

I started seeing advertisements for this thing on facebook and as I am with all things, I was a bit sceptical. After all, we now live in a world where almost EVERY advertisement for a downloadable game fails to accurately reflect what the actualmy is. For that reason, I sought out the guidance of others. I had a Facebook contact who often shared their link, so I asked him if he’d participated and/or ever received any medals. He said that he hadn’t participated himself but that one of his coworkers had, and he had physically seen the medals.

Alright, I was reasonably certain this wasn’t a scam and could be something worth trying. Considering the total cost was under $40 Canadian, I was willing to risk the loss if it fell through. Considering I’m not a big fan of large crowds and mass public gatherings at the best of times, this suited me perfectly. I downloaded the app and signed up for my first challenge. If memory serves me correctly, it was a “Marathon to Athens” and was 42.2 kilometres in distance and was to be completed over 3 weeks.

The collection… a few are missing, sitting at home.

The beauty part about these challenges is that you get to set your own pace, set your own timeline and you can include any of your fitness workouts that involve distance. Cycling, running, elliptical, even swimming! When I started doing these, I focused primarily on cycling but I started incorporating my walks, as well. Since I was measuring on a daily basis, it became an interesting challenge to see how far I actually walked in the course of a day. On average, I was putting in about 6 to 8 kilometres of walking, just around the office and going on breaks. That didn’t even include going to the grocery store or running errands after work!

When the summer ended this year, I decided to back it off a notch. At about $40 a piece, there’s a whole lotta money sitting on that wall. Plus, my summer was somewhat tame in terms of how much I cycled, compared to last year. That’s why I opened by saying I think I’ve overdone it a bit. But the medals are definitely gorgeous and if you’re looking for something to spice up your fitness routine, this will definitely do it. I don’t have any link to share but if you Google “Conqueror Challenge,” you’ll find it. If you’re an iPhone user, the app is also available through the App Store. ☯️

Commando: A Review (Heavy Spoilers)

It feels like I’m writing a fair bit of reviews on films and television series… And that’s because I am! No big secret, I’m a fan of a god flic, especially something that was aired in the good ol’ 1980’s. There’s just something about that decade that’s near and dear to my heart; likely the fact that my formative years took place during that decade. But there’s something about watching a solid action film that doesn’t stress out too much about the script or even the plot points and focuses on plenty of action and explosions. 1985’s Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is no exception.

Commando tells the story of a retired Special Forces commander named John Matrix who lives a secluded, quiet life with his young daughter, who just happens to be played by Alyssa Milano. I was a HUGE “Who’s the Boss” fan, so Milano is just the icing on the cake. Their lives are disturbed when members of Matrix’s team are systemically killed and the military assumes Matrix is next, and warns him. Matrix’s daughter is kidnapped and Matrix is blackmailed into performing a heinous act to get her back. Of course, instead of complying, Matrix becomes a one-man army of vengeance as he works to getting his daughter back.

I’d like to say the movie still totally holds up to modern times. The truth is that I likely only think so because I was a child of the 80’s. Most people nowadays likely wouldn’t get the references and comedy behind all the violence. Basically, Matrix makes his way back and enlists the help of an unwitting flight attendant who not only helps him gear up and get equipped to rescue his daughter but ends up being a key point to the story. It should be noted that the girl’s mother is never mentioned or referenced during the movie.

The movie reaches its climax when Matrix flies to a remote, private island where he absolutely decimates an army of opposing soldiers who are guarding the antagonist holding Matrix’s daughter hostage. Although I’m sure there are plenty of forums and discussion threads that would identify the impossibilities or inconsistencies of what takes place in this movie, sometimes it’s important to just sit back and enjoy the ride. This movies does just that, providing a gratuitous amount of action scenes while managing not to take itself too seriously.

As one would expect from a classic 80’s action movie, matrix rescues his daughter, annihilates everyone in sight and manages to kill the bad and save the day. The movie ends on a pretty cheesy note, with matrix marching down to the beachfront where U.S. Army forces storm the beach and somehow immediately recognize Matrix as a friendly, despite the fact that majority of them likely never served with him. He’s permitted to simply walk away and fly off with his daughter and newfound “associate,” without any debrief or information on what went down during his time on the island.

Honestly, it’s a pretty fun thrill ride, if you can get past the dated format of the movie and its plot points. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, worthy of being included among classics like Conan the Barbarian, Predator and Red Sonja (yeah, I said it! Fight me!) I know not many people were pleased with Brigitte Nielsen’s portrayal of the famous, red-haired comic book heroine, but I think it totally stands up. If you’re looking for something action-packed, fun and easy to watch on a Saturday night, Commando is currently streaming on Disney+ and I highly recommend it. ☯️

The Little Engine That Couldn’t…

Have you ever noticed how finding the motivation to do something is usually difficult, if not all-out impossible? Why do you believe that is? If it’s something one WANTS to do, it would stand to reason that motivation should almost be self-fulfilling, right? But it never is. And there’s a genuine reason for that, that most of us don’t think about. You see, most people go through life assuming that motivation comes first. You’ll often hear one saying, “I need to get motivated to do this…” But that isn’t the way motivation works.

Loosely defined, because I LOVE to loosely define things, motivation means the general desire or willingness to do something. An easy example would be to say that I am motivated to learn karate or motivated to lose some weight and get in better shape. However, contrary to what the average person believes, motivation will almost assuredly never come first. Motivation comes as a result of success, and one can’t have success unless they make a start. Only then will one be motivated by their goals and achievements.

If I use myself as an example, I started karate at a tender young age at what feels like an eternity ago. When I first walked into the dojo, I wasn’t motivated. I wanted to be there, don’t get me wrong. I had goals and ambitions to achieve by starting in it, but I couldn’t rightly say I was motivated by karate. As I started to train and began to see some change brought on by my efforts and started achieving goals, I became motivated to continue, motivated to train harder, motivated to pop my clutch and study like a man possessed, which came about as a result of my success in learning some of the art and becoming proficient.

Had I not experienced that success, I likely would not have been motivated to continue with my training, which is what frequently happens to many people who join. I use this an my example because it’s an easy one, and one that I’ve experienced myself. But this concept applies to just about anything one does in life. Let’s say you decide to want to cycle 55 kilometres in the coming summer. You won’t be “motivated” to reach 500 kilometres; you’ll set the goal for yourself and become motivated to reach your goal once you’ve started to gain mileage and start seeing how your cardio and overall health is starting to increase.

It’s important to think of motivation a bit like momentum. If you try to run, you can’t leave your starting point at full speed. You need to get yourself moving and build up your speed through your own strength. The product of the runner’s mass and speed is what is considered momentum. Much like momentum, motivation can’t be achieved from a starting point; it needs to be fed and grown, and will only be experienced once you’ve reached a certain momentum in your goals and achievements.

Hopefully that makes sense and I haven’t muddied the waters. Too often, I’ve spoken to people who have said, “I’m just not motivated to do it, anymore…” Of course, you’re not! Because you haven’t achieved any of your goals or seen any progress. You won’t be motivated until you do. So if you feel yourself “unmotivated” in any particular thing you’ve undertaken, don’t believe that this is a reason why you should be determined to stop or walk away. A shout out to my friend, Ricky, for the idea to write about this! ☯️

Walking Off Into The Sunset…

When people think of quitting something, they usually associate it with giving up. On the extremes side, people associate quitting with cowardice or abandoning something they should keep hammering at. That’s why we always see little quips like “winners never quitting” and such. And while I can agree that one should never quit something if it will compromise one’s goals, there are circumstances under which walking away from something is not only acceptable, but ideal.

When one decides to undertake something important in their life, it can become all-consuming. For example, if you decide to work on your fitness and get into shape, there’s a lot of perseverance and sacrifice that needs to happen. Quitting will prevent you from reaching your goals and it’s important to work through the obstacles and difficult aspects of that particular goal if you expect to achieve it. This can be the same with work goals, dietary goals and any achievement-based art, such as karate.

When I joined karate in the late 1980’s (Yes, I’m old as time. Moving on!) I did so with the intention and motivation to save my own life. Type-1 Diabetes was consuming me and I had complications that put me in very real danger of losing my life. My goal in joining the martial arts was two-fold: increase my overall health and learn to defend myself. I can admit that over the past 34 years, I have not only accomplished those goals but I’ve exceeded them in ways that I never would have expected.

What’s important with something like karate is that you CAN’T quit if you expect to progress and learn the art. But you should only be doing the art if it lights a fire inside you and you’re passionate about it. If that fire goes out and the passion dwindles, it becomes tedious and almost onerous to try and continue, and it can lead to being more of a hindrance to the overall art than contributing to it. It is at that point where one needs to take a serious look at oneself and consider that walking away may be the viable solution.

At some point in life, and I’m specifically referring to myself, one reaches an age and state of physical being that also no longer accommodates the stresses and rigours on the body required to actively participate in the martial arts. Granted, I never assumed I would reach that point in my 40’s but Diabetes is a hell of an inhibitor. Recent injuries and health matters have brought me full circle to where I understand that maybe fighting people half my age in the dojo is no longer a goal of mine. I’m still passionate about the martial arts but I fear the fire inside may have gone out.

At some point, this happens to all martial artists. Even Sensei, decades ago, had a point where he simply stopped coming to class. The dojo was managed by a couple of the senior belts in his absence. It was a scary time, since none of us knew if he’d come back. Eventually, he found his perspective and renewed sense of purpose and came back. In my early 20’s, I gave up and quit karate for several months as a result of my body no longer keeping up with the same speed as I had in my teens. I went back, of course. But if that was in my 20’s, can you imagine what my body feels like now?

I guess the point is that nothing in this life is ever truly over until one chooses it to be so. I may be walking away right now, but I will never truly QUIT karate. I can’t. I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s in my blood and part of my DNA. This is proven by watching how my 3-year old throws a punch without ever having been taught. So, who knows? Maybe after a period of reflection and contemplation, I will see fit to return to the dojo and train with others. I’ve been walking this journey alone for so long now that maybe the dojo is no longer a suitable environment for me to train. Time will tell.

A person’s reasons are their own. If you feel the need to quit something, whether it’s that job you hate or a sport or hobby you no longer wish to participate in, be true to what you need for yourself. My karate training will continue. The arena in which I participate will simply be different. I’m not fading away, I’m simply walking away; potentially to start a new chapter. ☯️

When Reality Slaps You In The Face…

I tend to harp a lot on visual depictions of the martial arts. As much as I love a good action movie, it’s very difficult to ignore some of the liberties and exaggerations taken by film makers when it comes to fighting. This is especially true in the case of two individuals taking and giving multiple strikes to the head or body and jay keep on fighting. It would almost be laughable if the adolescent in me wasn’t so immersed in the action sequences and storyline. But I digress…

As much as I’ve written about the differences between what happens in real life and what happens in the movies, it dawns on me that I rarely talk about the other important difference that happens in material arts circles; what happens in the dojo versus what happens on real life. Or what happens in a tournament setting, as the stakes are potentially different on a mat than in a dojo.

There’s no arguing that the dojo is a controlled environment. Accidents can still happen and injuries can still be sustained (as premised by the fractured rib I got, last spring) but for the most part, there’s structure, control and oversight. The goal is to learn and train. Practice takes place to ensure good muscle memory. Sparring takes place so that one can sharpen fighting skills and further develop that muscle memory but there’s always a control in place.

In tournament or on the street, such controls are not in place. The motivations and goals are different and therefore, a practitioner will use their skills differently. I believe an acquaintance of mine put it best where he explained that comparing a tournament to sparring in a dojo is like walking a high wire versus laying a rope on the floor and asking someone if they can walk on it. It’s a pretty apt comparison since almost anyone could walk on the rope while it’s laying on the floor. Tie that rope a 100 feet above ground and see how well a person walks across it, then.

Sensei has never been a fan of the tournament environment. As a result, I’ve never done more than dabble in it, myself. Karate, for me, has always been for the preservation of my life, both physical and medical, as well as for the protection of others. But in the interest of knowing one’s limits and understanding one’s skills, tournament can be extremely good as you may be exposed to aspects that you wouldn’t in the dojo. Food for thought… A shout out to Boris for the idea for this post. ☯️

Unexpected Teachable Moments…

Studying martial arts is not only a life-long journey, it’s complicated, twisted road that usually includes multiple obstacles and issues along the way. One of the biggest obstacles, is when one gets a teacher who pays no attention and doesn’t help their students. This can be discouraging and may result in the loss of many students who may have gone on to be skilled and capable martial artists. Not only is that not a good look for any dojo, it also contributes to the dilution of the style, as those capable students could have gone on to eventually pass on their teachings.

If you’re a student, new or experienced, an important thing to watch out for is a lack of teaching or instruction. This can be a sign that perhaps that dojo isn’t for you. Or maybe it’s a McDojo and all one is looking for is the monthly tuition payments. There are unfortunately a lot of those out there and they can be tricky to spot. Sometimes, the dojo in question just happens to be a stagnant environment. One good example I can give is a dojo I studied with for about four years. When I signed on with them, considering they were of a different style, I expected to start over at the white belt level.

However, it was agreed that since I had reached and earned the rank of black belt, I should continue to wear the rank and we’d fill in the gps as I got tested at each individual level. After four years, I was barely ever taught anything beyond the very bare minimum and even then, there was never a focus on any ONE thing. There was always a general sprinkling of a dozen different topics during one class, making it very difficult to learn and develop. Being as that I am an unusual hybrid, too advanced to train easily with the beginners and too new to the style to train with the advanced ones, it was a difficult few years.

The workouts were decent but I was never given any one-on-one coaching, instruction or learned anything beyond techniques that I’ve already been using for decades. Despite dropping subtle reminders (one does not DEMAND testing in karate), I was never taught anything or progressed within the style. It led to my departure, even when I got word that classes were continuing on. That’s me as a student. If you’re an instructor, you have even MORE responsibility. Although there are certain aspects that can be taught by some senior belts to help out the Sensei, a head instructor ultimately has the responsibility of ensuring that all students advance and learn in due course.

The success of each student, and ultimately the entire dojo, depends on the proper teaching and passing on of the knowledge. Unlike some classic kung fu movies, masters don’t hold back that one technique that gives them an advantage over everyone else. A proper Sensei dedicated to the art will not hold anything back and will teach everything they know in hopes that the art will continue to live on and be taught to others. That’s why, if you go to a dojo where they won’t give you any time, ever, you should probably go. Find a different school and pursue your martial arts elsewhere. It’s important to find a school where you not only feel comfortable but accommodates your journey. Food for thought…☯️

It’s All In Your Head…

I think one of my biggest love/hate relationships is with action or martial arts movies. On the one hand, I absolutely love me a good action flick. John Wick, are you kidding? Love that movie. Kickboxer, Bloodsport and the original karate kid movies, to name a few. On the other hand, watching a fight scene for me is like trying to watch a science fiction movie with Neil Degrasse Tyson; he’s likely going to point out all the impossibilities in a sci-fi flick. I’m really no better.

Movie fight scenes are usually the climax of the storyline, with two combatants or more squaring off against one another and fighting, usually for their lives, for whatever cause or justice they may be seeking. The prolonged nature of these fights usually present certain impossibilities when it comes to a real life fight. First of all, the sheer amount of daily training that fighters have to go through in order to make it through a professional fight is unreal. And those are only a few minutes per round, at best. So seeing a thirty minute fight with high flying techniques and impressive shows of strength and some acrobatics thrown in, isn’t just unlikely; most human bodies can’t sustain that level of exertion for that long.

But the biggest issue I have is with all of the hits to the head that we see in movies and on television. The opponents exchange blow after blow after blow and just keep right on fighting until the penultimate moment where one overpowers the other. The problem with this is that the ability to shake off a strike to the head isn’t something you can train for. And getting punched or kicked in the skull can cause all sorts of short term injuries and effects, the likes of which we usually don’t see on screen. I’m writing this post in the aftermath of having taken ONE punch to the head recently,

Even one strike to the head can potentially cause headaches, dizziness, blurred or darkened vision, memory loss and problems with one’s balance. If your head is struck in just the right way, you can potentially suffer a concussion, which is a traumatic brain injury that usually results from the brain jostling around inside the head. According to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, “Some concussions cause you to lose consciousness, but most do not.” This is important because it continues to impress me how some people, even in karate, have often said ‘Oh, you don’t have a concussion because you didn’t pass out.’

Although most mild concussion will pass in a short period of time, you should seek out medical attention if you experience bouts of frequent vomiting, if you do lose consciousness, bleeding from any orifice or if your symptoms worsen over time instead of getting better. Hopefully I’m not freaking anyone out; not every hit to the head will cause any or all of these issues. It’s just something to be cognizant of. After all, I got hit to the head last Wednesday night and had a light headache for the evening but was fine by the next day.

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it, don’t believe everything you see on television and in movies. Even if you are a karate practitioner and train consistently, don’t assume you’ll necessarily be able to maintain a sustained confrontation and experience multiple hits to the face and head and just keep going. Your body just isn’t designed to take it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Karate Kid. Sweep the leg! ☯️

Supplementation, Part Quatre…

As I explained the last time I posted this, this is my fourth time posting this material and no, I’m not being lazy. I consider the consumption of vitamins and minerals to be an important part of maintaining one’s health. It’s no surprise that modern nutrition is sorely lacking in most people and with every reposting of this material, I’m reminded of the importance of taking a steady multivitamin on a daily basis; a fact my doctors keep reminding me, as well. With the colder weather hitting our area (we’ve had frost on a couple of mornings, already) and everyone’s immune system taking a hit, vitamins and supplementation are very important. So, bearing in mind that I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, here’s what I posted all the way back in June of 2019. Enjoy!

One of the key reasons behind the consumption of food is to obtain carbohydrates for energy. The human body requires energy to carry on normal functions and, well… stay alive! But what else do we get from the food we eat? A proper diet will also include a number of vitamins and minerals that we require to maintain proper health, growth and energy levels within the body. We’ve all heard about getting enough vitamins from a young age. I remember getting my Flintstones vitamin everyday as a kid.

But if you’re like most people, you’re likely wondering what these vitamins are for and what they do. My goal is to cover off the main ones here:

Vitamin A: This is an all-around vitamin that provides a number of functions including but not limited to the proper health of various bodily functions, tissues and helps to fight chronic disease and is known to be good for the eyes.

Vitamin B: This one is a bit complicated, as there is a large grouping of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that fall under the “B” category. In general, B-vitamins are used for energy production, immune function and absorbing iron. Some them include B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) and B12. There are a few more that I can’t recall, but B12 is considered amongst one of the most important of vitamins overall because it helps you turn food into energy.

Vitamin C: At some points, this one has been referred to as the sunshine vitamin. I’m thinking that’s mostly because people’s main source of Vitamin C is from citrus fruits. But this vitamin also helps with iron absorption, immune function and is a natural antioxidant that helps with the elimination of free radicals. Eating citrus fruits are also what sailors used to eat on long voyages to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with the strengthening of bones and teeth. Our bodies are designed to self-generate this vitamin naturally through exposure to sunlight, but obviously that needs to be done in small doses. Modern life has created an environment where more people spend their time indoors, away from the sun. So supplementation becomes important.

Vitamin E: A pretty straight forward vitamin, this one helps with proper blood circulation and clear skin.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood-clotting. In order words, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, small cuts or injuries can cause excessive bleeding that can become dangerous.

Folic Acid: We hear people speak about this one as being necessary during pregnancy. And they would be correct! Folic Acid helps to prevent certain complications during childbirth but is important to everyone for proper cell renewal. This one is also known as Folate, or Vitamin B9 (as listed above).

Calcium: Most people should be familiar with this one. Teeth and bones, people! Teeth and bones! Good calcium levels are required to keep those body parts healthy.

Iron: This helps to build muscle tissue naturally and helps with proper health of the blood. As an interesting sidebar, it’s also what makes your blood red through the reflection of light!

Zinc: Immunity and Fertility. I’m a little unfamiliar with this one and haven’t had the opportunity to research it a great deal.

Chromium: This one is near and dear to my heart. Because it helps to control blood sugar levels. Chromium is what helps all the systems of your body to get the energy they need when they need it. Some traditional medicine practitioners will suggest Chromium supplements for Type 1 Diabetics who may have difficulty in maintaining proper levels.

Magnesium: This one helps your body to absorb all the other vitamins and minerals. It also acts as something of a relaxant to muscle tissue and play a role in proper muscle contraction.

Potassium: This mineral helps with the proper hydration of your body and helps to control blood pressure.

There are many others of course, but I’ve tried to cover off the main vitamins and minerals required for a proper diet. We get most of what we need by eating regularly and including a variety of healthy foods. A lot of people take a daily multi-vitamin, which is fine. But unless you are experiencing symptoms or unexplained illnesses, there shouldn’t be a need to actively try and take added amounts of anything. Your medical practitioner should be able to advise you if further supplementation is required. For example, patients who are recommended to take Folic Acid and Iron during pregnancy.

Obviously, all of this is extremely important; not only for proper health and fitness, which is important to me, but to help with Type 1 Diabetes as well. Taking a daily multivitamin can help to ensure that your body gets everything it needs, in combination with carbohydrates, lean proteins and fibre. My wife Laura originally gave me the idea for the post I wrote in 2019 when she asked about B-vitamins. Every time I re-post this material, I think of her. The credit for this post is all her! ☯️

Your Roots Are Your Foundation…

Continuing on my recent trend of gaining knowledge in the least likely of places, I gleaned some important insight from a movie I’ve probably seen more times than I can count. But it’s true; if we’re willing to listen, we can gain wisdom and insight into life, our journey and the martial arts. All one has to do is be willing to do more than sit there and stare idly at the screen, whether it’s the television, your smart device or whatever. But before I go off on more of a rant than I have to, I should stop digressing and get to the bloody point of today’s post…

There’s no denying that the most important aspect of any style of martial arts, is its foundation. Without a solid foundation, a practitioner will never progress or grow beyond the basic elements of a first-day practitioner, nor will they be able to set goals and truly learn the art. Further, someone who somehow muddles through on a weak foundation will always have a weak martial arts constitution and will never truly learn the adapt to the style they endeavour to learn. As they say, the strongest structure built on a weak foundation will still collapse.

I some ways, many ways, learning the martial way is a bit like growing a tree. Contrary to what one might think from looking out at a forest, there are actually quite a number of important factors that have to line up in order for a tree to grow. The right soil, the right sunlight and the right conditions all have to be in play in order for the roots to take hold. However, once the roots DO take hold, the tree will then determine how it grows, depending on all the factors I mentioned above. Some plants and flowers will even turn towards the sun throughout the course of a day. The path the tree takes in its growth is up to the tree; much as the path the martial artists takes to grow is up to them.

When a martial artists begins their training, they’re presented with the basic elements they need in order to learn the martial arts. These basics are the equivalent of the tree’s sunlight, soil and water. Only once these elements are implemented can the martial artist’s foundation “take root.” From there, the martial artists must decide for themselves how they’ll grow and progress. Much like a tree that will wilt and rot under the wrong conditions, a martial artist will also stagnate from taking the wrong direction. Being given the proper fundamentals and allowing the basics take root won’t be enough. The martial artist also has to be positive in their training and daily life.

If we look at the other side of the equation, dropping seeds into a bucket of water may cause them to sprout, but they likely won’t grow and thrive since they’d be missing several key elements needed to grow properly. By the same token, if you learn shitty basics from a McDojo or a poor style, you won’t grow or thrive either. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you seek out a dojo and style that suits you and fits your overall goals. You also want a Sensei who is engaged and willing to train you in order to cement that starting foundation.

At the end of the day, ensuring you have strong roots is important. Once you have those roots and your foundation is established, how you grow is up to you. Much like the tree that decides its path, you need to decide what kind of person and martial artist you’ll grow into. With strong roots and a strong heart, not only will you achieve whatever goals you seek through the martial arts, you’ll also positively contribute to society in a way that will allow you to shine like the beautiful bonsai tree that you are. Food for thought… ☯️

Size Matters Not…

One of the big things that makes karate so particular, is the fact that you don’t have to be big and strong in order to study and practice it. I still remember asking Sensei’s son, back in the late 1980’s about what it takes to be successful in karate. The conversation went a little something like this:

ME: “What do you need to be in karate? Do you have to be strong?”
HIM: “Nope.”
ME: “Do you need good speed?”
HIM: “Nope…”
ME: “So, what do you need?”
HIM: “Just concentration.”
ME: “That’s it???”
HIM: “Yup, everything else comes later…”

It would take a year or two before I would realize that he was right; despite the fact I was a scrawny little punk with no constitution and no bodily strength, I started to gain mass, speed and precision, all of which started increasing exponentially based on how hard I focused my attentions on my training and concentrated. Who knew he’d be right? I guess it was bound to happen once, right? (Just kidding, Guillaume! Please don’t track me down and kill me…)

Size and strength goes a long way. After all, if two people square off and one is 6-foot-5 and 230lbs and the other 5-foot-7 and 185lbs, there’s a VERY strong likelihood that the bigger guy’s strikes will have more of an effect than the little guy’s. But the eventual development of speed and accuracy is what closes the gap. It’s like basic, high school physics teaches us; if two objects of different mass are accelerating at the same rate of acceleration, the one with the heavier mass will have the greater force on impact. Or similarly, if an object with half the mass accelerates at twice the rate, it will have the same force on impact as the larger one.

I don’t want to muddy the waters with a bunch of physics (I’ve done enough of that in other posts). My point is that the smaller and less imposing opponent can still pose as much of a challenge to defeat as the larger, more muscular one. That ability comes from consistent commitment, concentration and focus on your art and skills. I have to say that a great demonstration of that concept comes from the most unlikely source: Star Wars. In Empire Strikes Back, Yoda makes a point of telling Luke Skywalker, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not.”

That was in 1980. Imagine my surprise and the collective gasps and surprise everyone had, 22 years later during Episode II: Attack of the Clones, where Yoda fought against Count Dooku and suddenly emerged from the diminutive, walking cane-carrying little green character to an absolute whirlwind of flips, acrobatics and lightsaber techniques. Given his limited screen exposure during the original trilogy, it came as a pleasant surprise to see him using his Jedi skills in all their glory during the prequel trilogy. This was reflected further during Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where he fights against the Emperor.

The lesson here is that despite his small size, Yoda turned out to be amongst the most skilled and capable of his peers. The same concept applies to karate. When I look back at the weak, tiny and physically unimposing stature I had when I first started karate as compared to how I am now, I recognize that concept within myself. Granted, some of my mass and stature can now be attributed to my dad bod. But I digress… This is one of the things I enjoy about Cobrai Kai, as well. Some of the main characters were presented as having been what some consider to be skinny nerds, only to eventually turn out to become champions.

It shows that you should never allow what you perceive as your limitations to hold you back. Where you go and how your progress is entirely up to you. Karate has a place for anyone who choose to commit to it. Although different styles will suit different people, once you’ve decided on karate, you can go a long way towards building yourself up and achieving your goals. All you need is focus and concentration. Food for thought… Hey, look at that! I wrote a post that combines my martial arts and my nerdy, geeky side! Go, me! ☯️