The Most Unlikely Sources…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stick” To Traditional Weapons…

There is an unlimited number of martial arts styles from dozens of countries and backgrounds, all across the world. Some are surprisingly similar, despite having never intersected or crossed paths. I guess there’s only so many ways to throw a punch or kick. And throughout the centuries, some weapons decided to come along for the ride.

Having personally spent more than three quarters of my life studying an Okinawan style of karate, I’ve been exposed to a number of “traditional” Okinawan weapons including nunchaku, sai, kama and tonfa. I’ll just let you Google any of those terms that you may not recognize. And given that I’ve studied Kendo in reasonable depth means that I’ve developed some skill with the sword. But none holds a deeper place in my heart than one of the most basic weapons one could think of: the staff.

Let’s get real for a moment and agree that it doesn’t get any more basic than this. A stick is essentially the simplest and most basic weapon a person can grasp, and I’m sure that if we could have been there to see it, we’d also understand that humans have swung sticks around as weapons since the dawn of humanity. Given the styles I’ve studied and the culture from which it came, my version of the stick is referred to as a bo.

A typical bo staff usually measures about 6 feet in length, but can vary and reach almost 9 feet. The length of the weapon usually depends on one’s height and reach. A smaller, shorter version of the bo is a referred to as a jo, and is usually about 4 feet in length. This weapon is normally intended for children and martial artists of shorter stature. The bo will usually be made of a flexible wood, allowing for fluidity of movement and is tapered (thinner at the ends and thicker at the centre), which allows for proper balance during its use.

There are more variations of bo than I could possibly list, but they can be made of various different types of wood and shapes, including a rounded or hexagonal body, or even a square body. The shape makes no difference in the use of the staff and is mainly a preference. The staff has been included in some traditional martial arts styles such as Kobudo, which is an Okinawan style of weapons-based martial arts, or Bojutsu, which is effectively the Japanese martial art of training with the staff.

In simple terms, the staff is one of my favourite martial arts weapons because you can access one almost any place you happen to find yourself in a compromised situation. Mop or broom sticks, maybe garden tools… any wooden length of even a few feet can provide the benefits of bo training. Even if you don’t have access to Kobudo or Bojutsu in your area, many styles of karate will also incorporate the staff and can be an excellent addition to your combat repertoire. ☯

Roots In The Foundation

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

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

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

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

Sensei and I in 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fill Up Your “Punch” Bowl With Proper Technique 🥊

I love a good action movie as much as the next person, and I’ve watched WAY more than my fair share over the past decades of my life. But having studied traditional martial arts and the human body during those same decades has often left me disappointed in how fights and/or punches are depicted in these movies. Often, you’ll see one of two extremes: someone who gets knocked out and gets back up moments later, no worse for the wear or two combatants who pummel each other’s faces and neither goes down until the penultimate moment where one is finally knocked out.

When I’m watching the movie, I’m totally in the moment and I could care less if the protagonist suddenly sprouts a third fist in order to win the fight and get the happy ending that the audience is hoping for. In the aftermath, I usually get analytical and start describing why “that couldn’t have happened that way” as my wife rolls her eyes at my running commentary of proper technique.

First of all, if you’re new to my blog I should start by pointing out that I’m not a medical professional. This means that you can take my description and information regarding the human body at face value, although I’ve studied and applied it over three decades of martial arts training. So, although I don’t have a thick piece of paper on my wall from some post-secondary institution, my accumulated knowledge still has some weight and value.

X-ray view of the human hand

Alright, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get back to the topic at hand. Punching is one of the most basic and rudimentary fight techniques. I’m sure that prehistoric humans closed their fists to hit each other before language was even developed. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. I may be old but I’m not THAT old. Give me a break, here…

But there is significant difficulty behind how a punch is supposed to happen and what the result may be. In considering my opening paragraph, what happens when someone is actually knocked out? The short of it, is that your brain moves around inside the skull and impacts with the sides. Once that impact occurs, the brain experiences trauma and brain cells start to die. Then, a combination of blood flow and neurotransmitter issues cause unconsciousness.

Now that the science of being knocked out is out of the way, quit yawning and take a sip of your coffee and listen to the important part. If you get knocked out as the result of a punch to the head, you SHOULD seek medical attention. Depending on how hard the punch is, there can be all sorts of permanent damage including but not limited to a concussion (which are not necessarily permanent but they are dangerous). But being knocked out will usually take several minutes to regain consciousness and once you do, its followed by confusion, lack of stability and balance. So what you see in the movies where someone gets knocked out then gets back up a few seconds later, full of indignation and ready to carry on is quite inaccurate.

Proper alignment of a punch

Now that the target has been discussed, let’s cover the tool. Punching is a risky proposition. The human hand contains over two dozen bones, 8 of which make up the wrist. There are five metacarpals that constitute the palm with the remaining bones making up your fingers. The wrist and metacarpals are actually pretty delicate bones and require a little something extra in order to prevent fracturing and breaking if you’re to punch someone/something.

This is why proper bone alignment during a strike is so important, because it prevents such injuries. Martial artists will practice punching drills for hours where the proper alignment of the punch is engrained into our muscle memory so that when the moment comes to strike, the punch lines up without thought. This is why boxers and MMA fighters wrap their hands and wrists during training, because they focus on power as opposed to alignment and technique.

To be honest, unless you’re punching to the body or an area of soft tissue, a punch is a terrible technique to use on the head. Considering the fact that the head is wrapped in hard bone and is designed to protect the brain, coupled with the fact that your hand is chock full of tiny bones, throwing a punch to someone’s skull or even the jawline will likely cause injury to your hand. This is the part where you need to hope and pray that your first punch puts your opponent down.

The average punch, even from someone without training is strong enough to knock the average person out. Yes, I repetitively use the word “average” because every punch is different and everyone’s body is different. Something bear in mind. And I totally endorse the fact that the classic “action” scene where the two combatants exchange head strike after head strike without one of them going down can’t really happen. But should your strike not be strong enough, turns out to be a glancing blow or you just happen to be fighting someone with a thicker skull, you need to ensure your offensive tools remain intact long enough to survive the encounter.

All things being equal, if you NEED to strike the head I would recommend using an elbow strike. Yes, yes, an elbow strike means getting in closer to your opponent. But it also means less chance of injuring your hand and staying in the fight. An elbow strike doesn’t require bone alignment and your elbow is hard and stronger than you could possibly make your fist. If you plan on hammering a human skull, that would definitely be the better option. ☯

To Learn Or Not To Learn

Let’s say you haven’t studied karate. Could you perform one of my forms? Right now? Without any instruction or teaching, could you protect yourself or others with a martial arts technique? If you answered no, that would be the typical (and wise) answer. The reality is that learning the martial arts is difficult enough on its own; let alone without the guidance of a proper instructor or Sensei.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a teacher. I know a number of fighters and martial artists that have committed themselves to learning through books, videos and simply by watching others. Although this CAN be accomplished, it’s an extremely difficult road to walk and most are unable to maintain their momentum. It’s a bit comparable to the guitar. When I was in high school, everyone was obsessed with grunge bands, and playing the acoustic guitar.

Tons of people went out and bought guitars with the intention of learning. Some bought primers to learn basic chords, some watched others playing… A few were even motivated enough to learn how to transition through four basic chords in order to play a simple rendition of “Time Of Your Life” by GreenDay (an awesome song, you should YouTube it, if you’ve never heard it). But within a year, most of those people would set down their guitars and forget about them by graduation and likely never pick them up again.

The same can be said of martial arts. It’s all well and good to read as many books on martial arts, philosophy and Bushido’s Code as possible; I encourage it, in fact. But if you want to learn any fighting art, you need at least some rudimentary instruction. You need someone to correct you, someone to guide you and someone to teach you the things you don’t know. Otherwise, how can you ever have a hope in hell of getting better?

I think it’s safe to say that modern society is a mixed bag of people who prefer their independence and people who expect to have everything handed to them. But as the old saying goes (and I forget who said it), “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” If you are looking to learn, seek out a teacher. Find someone who has been where you are and has studied what you’re looking to learn. Not everyone is able to be a student; very few are able to go it alone. ☯

To Master One, Study The Other…

It stands to reason that in order to truly master something, you need to be committed to it. It’s very, very difficult to say, master a karate style if you’re training and/or studying in five different styles. Eventually, the differences in methods and techniques will catch up and confuse you, leaving you unable to properly master any one style.

As Master Robert Trias once said, “One Religion, One Love, One Style…” But your style should never stand alone. There are many things that you can do to help your journey along during your training. Many popular mainstream martial artists that you see on television or on film indulge in a number of other activities that the common person wouldn’t associate with martial arts.

Gymnastics or dance are some of the most popular ones, since they can provide a significant amount of benefit. It’s almost symbiotic, where dance provides benefit to the martial arts and vice versa. I started studying dance back in 2007, while living in Ottawa (that’s right, I can cut a mean rug). I absolutely LOVED it, and the instructor frequently asked me over and over if I was certain that I had never studied dance before.

I finally admitted to studying karate, which she immediately confirmed was likely why I was so good at dance, since it would help with balance, proper stepping and remembering sequences. And there are plenty of options as it relates to the martial arts, including music, poetry, gardening and floristry. But what I’m referring to, is specifically the examination and understanding of other types of martial arts.

Miyamoto Musashi wrote, “To learn the fist, study commerce. To only study the sword will make you narrow-minded and will keep you from growing outward.” It should make sense, right? When was the last time that you didn’t learn at least something from observing the actions of others? The same can be said of martial arts styles. By observing and learning a little something about say, Judo or Tae Kwon Do, I can learn a great deal about the shortcomings of my own style, the techniques I need to develop/perfect and what my style may be lacking as opposed to others.

Don’t be afraid to branch out and explore. As I’ve often said before, if you’re part of a martial arts club that discourages the observation and study of other styles, your respective instructor may not have your best interests at heart. Although you should ensure your dedication to a specific style, learning about others can provide benefits and correction that you may not get otherwise. Another perspective is never a bad thing. ☯

Mind And Body Connection

What is this mind and body connection we hear about in the martial arts? Depending on the instructor you have, you may hear the term often. In some circles, they throw “spirit” in there, and it becomes “mind, body and spirit,” but it’s the same concept. So, what does it mean? What are they referring to and how does it relate to martial arts?

If I have to explain what the body is, maybe you need to turn off your internet and go back to school. Your body encompasses everything that you are, INCLUDING the mind. In some respects, the body can be considered the vehicle of the mind. The real question is, what the difference between the mind and your brain may be. Is there a difference? Of course there is, and I’m going to explain it to you…

Your brain is physical (d-uh, right?). It’s the organ contained in the skull and is the most complex organ in your body. The common human brain contains over 70 billion neurons (when you total up all parts of the respective brain) and those neurons communicate through synapses that helps to control the body as a whole. Your brain is physical, tangible and part of your body. The mind is a tad bit different…

The mind is the invisible part of who you are; your thoughts, feelings, emotions and personality. Everyone has a brain. But your mind? That’s yours and yours alone. It defines who you are and how you behave in everyday life and in all the things you do. Without your mind, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. And THAT’S the difference. How does this relate to the martial arts?

In karate, we perform drills ad nauseam, the idea being that repeated drills will help “drill” the technique into us. And it’s extremely effective. It’s called “muscle memory” and it’s quite good at helping us to train to the point where, if someone attacks we can respond accordingly without hesitation. But the mind still needs to have an active role in there, despite muscle memory.

Mind and body are both part of the same whole, and it’s important that you train with that totality in mind. Your mind will tell you how to feel so that your body can react. Proper training and martial arts cannot be studied without both. So pay close attention to both. This is the only way to truly accomplish any goal, martial arts or otherwise. ☯

Knowing the difference

I’ve been reading about a number of different terms that are used within martial arts circles. Some of them have been confusing me and there’s a difference between some of the terms that are used. I thought I would take the time to cover two of them off, as many people tend to use them interchangeably, even if they’re not.

The first term I want to cover is martialist. This is a term I’ve found in a number of philosophy and martial arts books. So, what is a martialist? And how does it differ from a martial artist? Well, Webster’s Dictionary defines a martialist as someone “skilled in warlike arts and techniques.” A martial artist, on the other hand, is a person who studies an art form developed for the purpose of self-defence and combat, although most of them can find their roots in military or war-based origins.

The next term I’ll cover is Senpai. This is a term that refers to a senior member of a dojo who also instructs, generally ranked below the Sensei. In Japan, the terms Senpai and Kohai are meant to mean “Senior” and “Junior”, respectively. But in karate, a Senpai is someone who steps in and teaches as a direct assistant to the Sensei, but not the Sensei himself (or herself).

I’ll be the first to admit that the martial arts is a rich tapestry that crosses many different cultures and backgrounds. Sometimes, it gets difficult to keep all the different terminology straight, depending on your background and what style you may be studying. Doing an internet search will only get you so far, and there is a fair amount of confusion or inaccurate information out there.

if you already study the martial arts, don’t be afraid to ask you Sensei if you have questions about proper terminology. You should likely do this AFTER class, so as to not take away from the Sensei’s stretching and warm-up before class. If your instructor tells you something vague like how you shouldn’t worry about such things, he or she may not have your best interests in mind. Your curiosities should be accommodated wherever it’s appropriate. ☯

The Sword Saint

This week, I’ve decided to focus my attentions on someone whom I’ve read about since I was a young child: Miyamoto Musashi. Most people aren’t familiar with the name, though he was well-known in feudal Japan as the greatest swordsman to have ever been. People are more familiar with the book he wrote before the end of his life: The Book of Five Rings.

Musashi is thought to have been born in Japan in the late 1500’s by the name “Bennosuke” to a farmer. The history is a bit difficult to trace, but there is some debate as to exactly where and in what Province Musashi was born. Musashi was raised by his uncle after the death of his father, and was taught Buddhism, reading and writing (which was not a common thing in that era).

Musashi’s name was changed to “Takezo” later in life and he began to study the sword, either from his father or under his uncle, fighting and winning his first duel at the age of thirteen. Musashi was said to have fought (and won) 61 duels and battles, leading to the creation of a legend in his own right. He developed and refined his own style of two-sword combat called Niten Ichi-ryu, making use of both a katana and a wakizashi in combat.

Although best known as a swordsman, Musashi was a philosopher, artist, painter and calligrapher. I could go on about the different skills he developed and mastered throughout the course of his life, but suffice it to say that Musashi was a firm believer in studying one thing in order to master another. For example, if you study only the sword you will grow to be ignorant and unaware of anything else. In order to truly master a skill, you need to branch out and have some variety.

Miyamoto Musashi is a source of inspiration for me, because he walked his own path. Although receiving instruction at some point in his young age, he went on to develop and master his own style, suited to his own needs. A variation of his style of swordsmanship is still studied today. He’s written various works and created multiple pieces of art, and can be cited as a source of popular quotes (feel free to Google “Musashi quotes”).

To be honest, I could share quotes and passages from some of his works, but that would scarcely do him justice. If you want to learn all you can about Miyamoto Musashi, my best suggestion would be to get tour hands on a copy of his book, The Book Of Five Rings. The version translated and written by Hanshi Stephen Kaufman is the most popular version (and the most complete one). It’s a fascinating read, and the material can apply to many aspects of life, not just combat. ☯

The Right Frame Of Mind

Developing yourself and reaching a goal can be difficult. Especially when you don’t allow yourself to have a strong frame of mind or proper perspective. Having a partner when you work out can be extremely helpful, as I wrote about in a previous post It Takes Two, Baby…🎶. But although having someone there to spot you and motivate you can be quite the benefit, you need to allow yourself to have a correct frame of mind behind your workout.

The distance I achieved yesterday

A friend of mine recently pointed out something important as it relates to fitness. Let’s say that you’re trying to lose some weight. You intend on climbing the nearby mountain with a partner, which is not only smart for safety reasons but can motivate you to push further in order to keep up. As you start climbing, you begin to feel tired. Your body is having difficulty continuing due to the excess weight that you’re trying to shed, and you feel compelled to stop.

Perhaps you tell your partner you need a rest. Or perhaps you tell them you can’t go on. Maybe you surrender to your body’s urge to have you sit down and give up. A terrible thing to allow, especially if you’ve set yourself some fitness goals that can be important for your health. For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, this can be a common occurrence, since fluctuating blood glucose levels can have the unfortunate side effect of making a person groggy and sluggish.

Yesterday’s route around the Regina Bypass

As I’ve often mentioned before, it’s important to ask yourself why? What is the reason behind your motivation? Your body should and will give out, long before you do. Why do you think people listen to music when they work out? It’s not simply for their love of it, although for some I would believe that’s included. It’s because music motivates us (and in some ways, distracts us from the physical exertion we’re going through).

This is why it’s so important to motivate yourself and stay positive. When I started cycling for fitness this year, I would get home after about a dozen kilometres and my legs would kill, I’d be exhausted and I would feel like total crap. But as you can see from the images above, the day before last saw me hit 65 kilometres. And yes, when I got home my legs killed, I was exhausted and dehydrated and needed food. But I can promise that a dozen kilometres now seem like a trivial amount, and I can do it quite easily in only about half an hour. This is something I wouldn’t have imagined when I started.

Sometimes it’s better to take things in small increments. If I’d hopped on my bike and tried to reach 60k on one of my first times out, I likely would have floored myself and became discouraged. But by staying consistent and building myself slowly, I’ve been able to keep building and developing how far I can go. The same can be said of martial arts or any fitness regimen that you may be attempting.

Let’s get back to our friend who’s attempting to climb the mountain. When exhaustion sets in and you feel like you can’t go any further, there’s no shame in taking a breather. But then, look ahead and spot a point further up the trail and tell yourself, “I can push at LEAST until that tree…” Then go for it. Once you reach that tree, maybe you’ll need another breather, maybe you won’t. But fix yourself another short goal and strive for it.

I think it was a Navy Seal that I had seen years ago, who described taking his training in steps, from day to day. At the beginning of the day, he would tell himself to simply get past breakfast. That’s it. Once this period had passed, he would focus simply on getting through the afternoon. Nothing more. With each piece of the day’s puzzle reached, he would be able to shift his focus and move on to the next, thereby guaranteeing he would make it through the day before hitting the rack. If he were to focus on completing the entire day, he would likely become discouraged and lack motivation. This is a concept that anyone can apply to their daily routines.

The idea is to allow yourself the time to grow. Have a positive and motivated perspective and you’ll go much further. If your thoughts are negative as soon as you begin, you’re sure to fail. how can you be motivated if you’re already defeating yourself? But if you focus on the positive, music, goals, health benefits, perhaps the scenery that surrounds you as you climb, you’re more likely to push farther and accomplish more.

Your own health and fitness is important; critical to your survival, really. And the proper mindset is what will help get you there. For someone with weight issues or Diabetes, staying fit and healthy can mean the difference between life and death. This is one of the reasons I push so hard. Life has too much to offer to lay down and die sooner than necessary.

And Diabetes or not, death will take me. Of this, there is no doubt. But I can promise two things: Death will lose ten pounds in sweat trying to make it happen and he’ll lose a mouth of teeth in the attempt. I intend to go down fighting. (Gee, that would make a great t-shirt) ☯