Why Are You Hitting Yourself???

I’ve occasionally written some posts that have elicited some pretty “strong” responses from people. Especially within certain sports and martial arts circles, some old school practitioners aren’t always game to hear about things they don’t want to change.

That being said, I want to discuss a particular bad habit that some modern martial arts practitioners have adopted in the past two decades: holding one’s hands on front of one’s face.

There is a significant difference between boxing and the martial arts. Boxers train for hours on end to endure repeated hits to the face and body, all while delivering them to their opponent as well. It is a sport. Mixed Martial Arts, or “mixed up” martial arts as some associates of mine have called it, have included these aspects into their fights as well. Although not boxing specifically (I’m guessing this is where the “mixed” part comes in), MMA includes many of the characteristics of boxing.

Boxers and some MMA fighters tend to square off by keeping their hands close to the sides of their faces. This is intended as a means of guarding the face and making it easy to block incoming strikes to the head and the deep bend of the elbows helps to block shots to the body. Unfortunately, to the traditional martial artist, this is a HORRIBLE way to face an opponent.

The big problem with this type of “face guarding” is that it has a tendency of blocking part of your field of vision. You’re effectively preventing yourself from seeing all around you. The other big downside is that you’re leaving your hands very close to your face, which can lead to an unintentional game of “why are you hitting yourself.” Especially when your opponent crushed your own fists and forearms against your face because you didn’t see their attacks coming due to the decreased field of vision. From your hands. Because of your shitty fighting posture.

When squaring off in a proper fighting stance, one needs to stand comfortably with the feet equidistant apart. the hands should be closed into fists and the arms should have a slight bend and at chin level. The hands will be well away from the face in front of the body. This allows a full field of vision around your immediate area and also allows you to respond and block much quicker than if your hands are right in front of your face.

Obviously, this information is based on opinion and the techniques used by my specific style of karate. I’m certain that some of my counterparts would have some “corrections” or style-specific differences. The takeaway here is that when practicing, you must train yourself to keep your hands at a relaxed posture, away from you face. this allows for the best field of view and best ability to properly execute blocks in a real fight situation. Although the normal human reflex is to cover up when someone is throwing punches, overcoming that fear and being able to trust your hands will help ensure you prevent getting smacked in the face. ☯

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Even If You’re Hard-Headed…

I wrote a post a few days ago about the reality of fighting in the street versus how they happen to be portrayed on film or even in the context of a class or gym. Following that, I had some people ask for clarification regarding the comment I made about how getting struck in the head is likely to put you down.

Just to be clear, I’m not a medical practitioner. I’ve mentioned that a number of times, but you’d be surprised how often people tend to call me on the information I share, despite making it clear from the get-go that I’m not a freakin’ doctor! So keep this in mind as you read the information I’m about to share…

First of all, if you get punched or kicked in the head by another person, it causes your brain to bounce around. Seriously! Although it isn’t all that cartoony, it will suffer some movement. And because there isn’t a great deal of space in the brain pan, the brain will likely bounce and rebound once or twice.

Unlike the romanticized image that Hollywood has created, no one has the genuine ability to receive multiple blows to the head and keep on fighting with little more than a split lip or bloody nose. Even after only one punch, the receiving person is likely to experience dizziness, nausea and loss of consciousness. This is one of the reasons why real fights barely last a minute.

That’s at the low end of the spectrum. On a more serious level, getting struck in the head, even once, can result in skull fractures, concussions and damage to the brain stem.

According to an article posted by Queensland Health, a person with a concussion may or may not have lost consciousness. They may suffer from headaches, memory loss, nausea, dizziness and ringing in the ears. Since many of those symptoms can also occur WITHOUT a concussion, it’s important to get yourself checked by a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms after being struck.

The article also goes on to describe other conditions such as damage to the brain stem, brain hemorrhage or hematoma and swelling of the brain. The article can be read here: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-alerts/news/one-punch-medical-effects-can-kill

And yes, one of the myths that has at least touch of truth to it includes the fact that a person CAN actually die from one strike to the head. Ultimately, the martial artist and Buddhist in me feels compelled to say that one should avoid physical confrontations at all costs. But should it happen and you get struck in the head, the next step (once you’ve explained your actions to law enforcement) should be to consult a doctor. ☯

If You Get Punched In The Face, Your Stunt Double Will Likely Laugh At You

Everyone loves a good action movie. Especially an inspirational one. A perfect example of this is my favourite series of movies, Rocky… Although not all the sequels have received the same level of acclaim, I can watch the entire batch of 8 movies over and over and enjoy them as much as I did the first time I saw them (8 movies includes the newer Creed movies, just to be clear).

The first movie sends an important inspirational message; the unknown amateur boxer who trains as though his life depends on it and is given the chance of his career. Although he loses in that first movie, the moral victory sends chills down my spine (if you haven’t seen the original Rocky, I apologize for the spoilers. But the movie came out in 1976, people! You should probably get on that!)

But how much of what we see in movies is genuine and can have real-life applications? Obviously, I’m talking from a combat or fighting standpoint.

Hollywood, and mainstream sports such as boxing and MMA have romanticized the notion of duking it out, round after round, for long periods of time. Even within the martial arts, we train for hours on specific techniques, but these aren’t practical applications as they would happen in a real fight. We simply do this to engrain the technique and commit it to memory so that we can call upon muscle memory when needed.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a real fight where the protagonist and the antagonist square of and circle each other while dialoguing for several minutes before getting into an exchange that includes spinning kicks and multiple blows to the head where each combatant continues to fight it out, unfazed. All the while with a wicked soundtrack by Two Steps From Hell playing in the background…

The average street fight will last less than a minute. This includes both combatants squaring off, taking their stance and exchanging no more than three or four strikes each. This is all the time that’s necessary for one and/or both combatant to fall to the ground and keep pummelling each other until exhausted. And the reality is that if someone even matching your weight gives you a full contact punch to the head, you’re likely going down. Getting punched in the head causes the brain to impact with the wall of the skull and can cause dizziness, confusion, loss of balance and potential loss of consciousness.

In fact, in an article written in HighPercentageMartialArts.com by Louis Martin, he explains that fights “happened most often within thirty seconds” and that “after thirty seconds, the chances of a knockout or TKO dropped sharply.”

Martin goes on to explain what I described above: “Men usually charge at each other with power punches, fall to the ground, and continue punching until they get tired or knock each other out.” His article actually contains a number of interesting statistics and information regarding 200 street fights he observed to accumulate this information. (https://www.highpercentagemartialarts.com/blog/2019/3/6/how-long-do-street-fights-actually-last-and-what-can-we-learn-from-that)

Sports combatants train to build their endurance to surreal levels because they are required to last as long as possible in the ring. Martial artists will spend hours honing their skills on specific techniques so that they’ll execute them using muscle memory when the need for defence arises. But once it comes to a no holds barred ACTUAL fight against the guy who cut in line while you were waiting for your maple scone at the local coffee shop, you’re looking at about a minute at most, as far as the actual fighting goes.

So keep practicing those specific techniques. It’s important to get them down pat before trying to use them. But understand that if you get into an actual fight you’ll get two, maybe three, punches or kicks against your opponent before the outcome is decided. And in the real world, there usually are no actual winners in any fight. ☯

To Chi Or Not To Chi, That Is The Question…

What is chi? It’s a term often associated with the martial arts and usually referenced as something mystical in popular cinema. Chi or Qi, depending on your source, is defined as a pseudoscientific , unverified concept that is believed to be the underlying “life force” or energy that sustains life (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi).

In the Japanese martial arts, this is referred to as the Hara. More specifically, we tend to centralize this to the stomach area, although it doesn’t refer to the organ itself. But it is considered the energy field of the body that sustains us (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hara_(tanden))

I’ll admit that I’m a weird mish-mash of traditional and modern beliefs. Although I don’t believe we encapsulate an unseen, unproven energy field that sustains us and makes us stronger in the martial arts (if we can tap into it), there’s no denying that from a purely scientific perspective, we have to concede that we are primarily composed of energy.

This energy is based on the atoms that constitute us, and in no way forms some unseen energy that allows us to pulverize bricks or knock people over without touching them.

I’ve written a few times on the fact that living things tend to move, and movement creates energy. This energy is required to maintain life. One needs to wonder what the possible connections may be, between the scientific energy that we know to exist or the pseudoscientific energy that’s been discussed and studied for over 2,000 years. ☯

Stress Is A Hell Of A Drug…

Most days, it seems as though there really isn’t a great deal of much that DOESN’T affect my blood sugar. It often feels as though if I take a breath the wrong way, my blood sugar may spike!

The past two years have caused a massive ball of stress in my gut. My thoughts often stray to the situations I’ve been dealing with. you wouldn’t think that worrying about something, being anxious or stressed, would adversely affect blood sugar, but it does. Here’s why:

When we become anxious or stressed, our bodies produces hormones. Some of these stress hormones can prevent the release of insulin in a normal person. But since most of us Type 1’s don’t really produce insulin anyway, those hormones tend to cause a whole bunch of other damage.

I think that most of us would agree that an hour and a half isn’t a significantly long period of time. Right? Or is that just me? My last karate class was a bit of a brutal ordeal. I started class with a normal blood sugar level. This usually means that I’ll stay level, maybe even have increased blood sugar, by the time class ends. This is because the release of adrenaline usually includes the release of glycol and causes spikes in blood sugar levels.

But this wasn’t the case for me. About an hour in, I was hit by a sudden wave of nausea, which is weird because nausea isn’t usually one of my low blood sugar symptoms. I bowed out and staggered over to my gym bag and tested my blood sugar through my sensor. I was sitting at 3.2mmol/L. For those in the know, this is starting to scrape the bottom of the blood glucose barrel!

I excused myself and wolfed down a handful of sour grape jellies, which resulted in a jump to 8.7mmol/L in under an hour. I have to be honest, fluctuating levels of that magnitude are exhausting. Add to the fact that class wasn’t out yet, and I tend to be too hard-headed to stop, even when it’s what’s best for me.

I spent the remaining half hour in a bit of a daze, trying to consolidate my sudden increase in blood sugar with the fact I still had to push myself to complete the class. All of this to say that even the mildest and most normal of human emotions can have an adverse effect on blood sugar.

All of this is to demonstrate how very important it is to test frequently and always be prepared. Carry sugared goods on your person at all times. Be sure to adjust your insulin levels and consult your medical practitioner often. Fine tuning and careful monitoring can often be the only way to ensure your continued health. ☯

Don’t Pop Your Clutch

There’s a natural inclination, when you’re working out to go hard and go strong right from the get-go! Although there’s nothing wrong with working up a good sweat (I generally encourage it, actually) it may not always be conducive with getting the most out of your workout.

Last Thursday’s karate class was interesting, because we practiced sets of 50 reps. The instructor would provide a specific technique and had us pair off and practice them back and forth for 50 reps each. We did this for almost forty minutes.

I was paired off with a young lad who was a green belt. We squared off and he attacked appropriately and I began practicing the assigned technique. When I had completed my 50 reps, my partner started in and performed his. Here’s what happened…

I started off at a steady, even pace. I focused on form and proper technique. By the time I reached 40 reps, my strikes got stronger and more focused. My partner started off by striking as hard as he could. He focused on strength and sheer force. By the time he reached his halfway point, he started getting tired and his muscles turned lactic.

What does this teach us? Well, it teaches us that learning the technique properly as a first step is of the utmost importance. Strength and power will come later. What is that quote from Bruce Lee? “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Essentially, you need to try and focus on learning things properly before trying to apply it. This is sort of what form and kata are for. When entering the dojo, everyone wants to punch and kick as hard as possible and make it look fancy.

Good things take time. Patience. Perseverance and practice. There are no easy paths and even when you have experience, you sometimes need to back it off a notch and take some baby steps to ensure you gain the most from your training. ☯

The Real Holy Trinity

Quite a while ago, I posted about the cycle of life. I tend to forget how long ago, considering I’m close to having posted everyday for almost a year at this point. But given the passage of time, sometimes it becomes acceptable to repeat some of the information I’ve shared. And here we are…

Ask yourself: what is the one thing that all living things have in common? The correct answer is MOVEMENT. All things that live tend to move. This is true of even the most basic of life forms. Plants move to adjust to the environment and some flowers will even turn with the sun.

So, what does movement create? If you answered ENERGY, you are correct. Think along the lines of a hydroelectric dam. Powerful currents of water sent through turbines that create energy. It’s a proven concept of basic physics that movement promotes energy. Almost like running on a treadmill or wind turbines… Movement creates energy, no doubt.

And guess what? Energy creates life. At the end of the day, whether your beliefs are religious or scientific, one needs to acknowledge that we are all essentially made of the same stuff: energy. Down to our atomic base, we are all composed of energy. And even basic electricity has movement contained within it… Electricity is fundamentally the movement of electrons through a conductor, creating a current.

So here’s the equation: life creates movement, movement creates energy, energy creates life and so on and so forth. It’s a cycle, and an important one. If you remove or lessen any of the three, you jeopardize your health and your life. Think of unplugging your smart device, where the current of electrons stops and it is no longer receiving energy. The device effectively loses its “life”.

Look at it this way: If you happen to be a couch potato, you don’t move much. This means that your energy turns stagnant and non existent and you reduce your ability to maintain your life. In medical terms, you gain weight, your cholesterol rises and you basically die from sitting still.

So keep moving. Keep yourself motivated and energized. Even if it sometimes feels like it’s better or easier to relax and take it easy, your body and health will thank you later. ☯