Hit Yourself But Don’t Wreck Yourself!

Martial arts is often steeped with mystery, and the methods used in traditional training can often look unorthodox and sometimes even dangerous, to the untrained eye. A good example of this is 1984’s The Karate Kid, where we see the wise, old karate teacher instructing the young protagonist the many techniques required to properly learn martial arts before competing in a karate tournament.

Although I’m a big fan of this classic piece of cinema, some of the techniques demonstrated in the movie seem a little, shall we say… off the wall? The thought of repetitively waxing a vehicle or sanding a wooden deck in order to properly learn how to block, falls a bit on the side of the ludicrous to a trained martial artist.

Or does it? Does anyone else believe this? I’m sure that lots of kids in the early 80’s suddenly agreed to wash and wax their dad’s car, in the hopes that it would help them learn karate (Light knows I offered to scrub the tile floors for my mother often enough after I saw this movie for the first time!)

My point is,… and believe me, I have one despite rambling on as I often do, some ACTUAL training techniques do look as ludicrous as the ones depicted by cinema. And the specific training tool I’m referring to in this post, is something referred to as body conditioning.

Body conditioning refers to the practice observed in Okinawa karate, of rubbing or striking the major muscle groups in order to harden and/or strengthen them. And even though this may sound ridiculous, 30 years of practicing Okinawan karate tells me that it is quite genuine, as I have lived it. And I still use body conditioning to this day.

Let’s think about it for a moment; when you perform intensive muscular exertion, such as weight lifting, you cause damage to the muscles. The repair of those muscles requires fibre and hormones that end up causing the muscles to be grown larger and stronger to prevent that same damage. The human body is pretty smart, in that regard.

Before I go any further, I’m going to reiterate that I have no formal medical training, and that you should consult a trained professional before starting any kind of fitness regiment. That being said, body conditioning, or “body pounding” as it has been referred to in some circles, follows very much the same principle as the effect of weight lifting.

By rubbing or pounding the major muscle groups on the outside of the arms, kegs and the abdominals and key target areas, you cause light damage to the muscle tissue requiring the same type of repair as weight lifting. The trick is to cause light muscular damage without bruising. Since Okinawan karate usually requires body conditioning to be done with a partner, the resistance adds a strength aspect to the training tool.

And no, before everyone gets excited, body conditioning won’t help you get ripped the same way as heavy weight lifting or hypertrophy workouts would. But it allows for the hardening of those muscle groups to create a natural “armour” that helps you properly and safely execute blocks against and receive strikes from an opponent.

Another good example of this, is rooted in the Japanese karate system of Kyokushinkai, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyokushin) that observes the practice of full-contact sparring as a general rule, in order to harden the muscles and overcome the fear of being struck.

Ultimately, the lesson I’m trying to impart tonight is that strange and unfamiliar methods of training can be genuine ones, and can lead to wonderful results. One needs only to be careful and never overreach. Train based on your abilities and always allow your body some time to heal.

After all, as general Choi Hong Hi once said, “Pain is the best instructor, but no one wants to go to his class.”

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Hurts So Good…

What does it mean to be in pain? Well, from a strictly medical perspective, pain is when our sensory receptors send a signal through our nerve fibres , all the way up to our brains. Then the brain interprets the signal as pain. The human body uses this signal as an avoidance reflex, meaning it’s telling you that whatever you’re doing is harming your body and should be stopped. (Although not everyone is quick enough to stop hurting themselves, sometimes)

From a Diabetes standpoint, we experience a wide variety of pain. Neuropathy, open wounds that are extremely slow to heal and pain prior to numbness from lack of circulation are simply a few. And certainly not the worst.

It’s not always bad. From a fitness standpoint, pain can be a positive thing. SOME pain is necessary in order to help the body sculpt and grow. The idea here is to know when enough is enough and to stop before serious damage can occur.

But there’s one form of pain that is largely ignored in most circumstances. I’m talking about emotional pain. When something affects us in a negative way, we feel a sort of pain that is often very hard to describe. For some, it’s an increased feeling of fatigue. For others, it can manifest itself in any number of nasty ways including but not limited to, becoming ill, nausea, depression, problems with the digestive tract and even alcoholism or substance abuse. The expression “this breaks my heart” stems from the fact that one usually feels some discomfort in the pit of their abdomen during emotional distress.

The important thing to remember is that what hurts in your heart can also affect your body. Although that sounds a bit cheesy, it’s quite accurate. Sometimes we need to look at the big picture and acknowledge that the pain is going to happen, and take steps to help deal with it as opposed to ignoring it.

Ultimately, pain helps us grow. In any way, shape or form, it allows us to learn an develop. After all, imagine if as an infant you put your hands on a hot stove and it didn’t hurt… You’d likely leave your hand there and keep playing and critically damage your tissues. But by feeling the pain, you learn that “Oops! It hurts to touch the stove. Better stay away!” Most forms of pain will teach you something.

So ask yourself, what is my emotional pain teaching me? Am I doing something wrong, or something I disagree with? Or is it simply a case of doing the right thing? That can also be painful sometimes. Just remember that in grand scheme of things, nothing lasts forever; not even pain. ☯

Save It For A Rainy Day…

Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and do something for yourself. Especially on days like today… This afternoon, we had heavy rains and thunder for the better part of two hours. In fact, there’s still a touch of raining falling as we speak!

One of the best things to do on such a rainy day is brew a nice hot cup of coffee or tea, and curl up somewhere comfortable with a good book. Reading for leisure is something I don’t get to do a great deal of, these days. Between work, exercise and dealing with the whirlwind that is my child, finding a quiet hour to myself has become almost impossible.

I usually always have a few books on the go. As much as I adore reading, I tend to get bored before I manage to complete one, so I leap frog from one book to another. At the moment, I’m reading Robert Jordan’s “The Path of Daggers”, which is Book 8 of a 14 book series called The Wheel of Time. This will be my third time reading through the series. It’s an amazing series, with a rich storyline and characters. I definitely recommend it, if you have several years to contribute to reading a series. I started reading it for the first time in the mid-90’s.

I’m also reading Sean Williams’ “Star Wars: Fatal Alliance”. For my fellow Star Wars fans, this is a novel of the Old Republic. It’s an interest read, although I’ll admit to having a difficult time getting through it.

It’s important to have a variety when reading, but the main focus of my attention right now is a book by Yamamoto Tsunetomo entitled “Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai”.

What makes this book so interesting is that it was written by an actual Buddhist monk. Well, to clarify… It was written by a scribe named Tashiro Tsuramoto in the early 1700’s, and contains the conversations between Tsuramoto and Tsunetomo.

It wouldn’t be published until quite some time later, but the book contains thoughts on the issues surrounding Japan after the battle of Seki Ga Hara, when Japan’s society began to change and the samurai faced difficulties maintaining a warrior class during an evolving period of peace.

Tsunetomo spent three decades as a samurai warrior. When his master died, he was forbidden from following his master into death by law of the current shogunate. Instead, he chose to renounce the world and become a monk.

It was during those years as a Buddhist monk that Tsunemoto shared the thoughts and sayings that Tsuramoto would scribe into the manuscript that would become Hagakure. It actually covers a number of subjects and makes for quite an interesting read.

I started writing this post almost two hours ago and it’s still pouring out there! I think it’s time to put this puppy to bed and get back to reading. So pick up a book and let that imagination run wild. As I like to say:When you aren’t exercising the body, you should be exercising the mind!

Being Blue Can Be Okay… 🥋

Last night I had the pleasure of watching a belt promotion ceremony. My title reflects the fact that the students graduated to their blue belts. it brought back many memories of my own belt promotions from decades ago.

It also caused me to note certain discrepancies in how people train today compared to decades ago. The difference between my home style and the style I train in currently were quite evident last night.

But watching them take their green belts off and tie on their blue… the emotion and the tears that the one student had from the experience… I remember those emotions and feelings well. The sense of accomplishment and the ambition to keep training and pushing forward is quite a feeling.

I think it’s important to fight for what you want in life. I’ve often said that if life had no challenge, then what would be the point? I think it was George S. Patton who said “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.”

I guess I just got feeling a tad nostalgic. One gets that way when one reaches this point in life. Keep working at whatever goals you’ve set for yourself. Your drive and ambition will help you grow. And if by chance, life deems it appropriate to keep you from achieving your goals, I promise the memories you’ll make along the way will be worth the trip! ☯

Don’t Go Chasing Your Aura…

Someone I trained with years ago used to have this saying. “Don’t go chasing your aura…”, he’d say. Of course, he also liked putting peanut butter on his hamburgers. Savage.

What he meant with the saying, was that you should never outreach the outline of your body. The top of your scalp, the width of your shoulders and the outer thighs dictate how far your techniques and blocks should go.

The martial arts requires a significant amount of practice. This practice must include focus and concentration. That takes a lot of energy. And such use of energy can exhaust the body. In a true combat or fight situation, you need to conserve every ounce of energy possible. This means that your techniques need to be simple, flexible and precise. Straight to the point.

Some styles like to focus on maximum power and flamboyance. This often causes arms or legs to stray well beyond the outline of the body, leaving key areas vulnerable to counter attack. And the farther out you reach or attempt to strike, the more vulnerable you become and the weaker your strikes will be.

Although my system has a combination of hard and soft (meaning that a strike should be hard but still contain elements of a block, blocks should be soft but still capable of being a strike) we have always trained in such a way to keep our limbs within the lines of the body. To do otherwise wastes energy and also time that would be required to properly execute the NEXT technique.

Very few martial artists I’ve worked with have neglected to pick up Bruce Lee’s “Tao Of Jeet Kune Do” at some given point in their training. The beauty behind what Bruce Lee did with the martial arts (besides some of his classic fight scenes) is demonstrate the exact concept I’m explaining in this blog post.

In his book, Bruce Lee has drawings of Jeet Kune Do’s ready positions and the eight basic defence positions. These drawings clearly show how the arms are close to the body, with elbows tucked in close. This allows you to be ready and flexible without being tense.

While training, you should focus on being as economical in your movements as possible while maintaining your techniques within the contours of your immediate aura. This will allow you to be faster and more precise.

And remember: if you get to the point where you assume you’ve mastered a technique, it probably means you haven’t. ☯

Mind & Body, You Need Them Both!

The human body is an amazing combination of biological function, mixed with intelligence and self-awareness. I’ve often written about the importance of proper diet and exercise. But it’s also very important to pay attention to the mind.

First and foremost, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between the brain and the mind. The brain is the organ primarily responsible for the intellectual and nervous activity of the body. It controls the body’s systems in tandem with other, semi-independent systems within the body.

However, the mind is something slightly less tangible. The mind is defined as “the elements of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.”

Who you are is more than just the 3-pound chunk of tissue inside your skull!

Who you are despite the state of your body is what is contained within the mind. I’ve had a saying I coined from my youth: “When you aren’t exercising the body, you must exercise the mind.” This is important because most people assume that as long as they exercise consistently, they’ve done what needs doing. I believe this to be false.

There are a number of things a person can do to help exercise the mind. Meditation is a great first step. Not only does it help lower blood pressure and help with overall cardiac and bodily health, but it can go a long way towards helping your mind as well. It can aid in maintain a good mental health and strengthen one’s focus and concentration.

Get more sleep, and be certain it’s GOOD sleep. Your brain works hard during the night while you sleep. In fact, some studies have shown that dreams are part of a thought consolidation that is necessary for proper mental health. This is where the belief that some folks have that you can “sleep on it” when dealing with life’s problems. If you don’t get a solid seven to nine hours of quality sleep at night, you may lose some of the benefits it can provide for your mind and mental health.

There are certain aspects of diet that can help as well, but I won’t get into those too deeply. That errs a bit deeper on the side of the physical brain health as opposed to the mind.

Stay healthy and happy. I don’t think I need to explain that thinking positive can go a long way towards strengthening who you are as a person. This isn’t always an easy task. Life is designed to challenge us (and it’s damn good at it).

Exercise your mind. There a lot of simple ways to do this. Read a book. Do a puzzle. Crosswords, sudoku, the choices are almost endless! It’s been proven that the more conversations you have with your child and the more books you read to them, the more intelligent they’ll grow to be. This concept applies to adults as well, despite having grown beyond childhood.

Continue learning. Most people let go of this as they reach adulthood, but a person’s IQ and intelligence never stops growing. Read the book you’ve been putting off, learn another language. All of these things can help improve your mind. Many people think that it becomes much more difficult to learn a second language once we reach adulthood, but there are actually no studies to prove this. One simply needs to put in the time.

Your mind is not only an important part of who you are, it IS who you are. So it makes sense to train and develop it the same way as you would train and develop your body. Mind & body must work together. ☯

We Didn’t Start The Fire… But We’ll Sure Stoke The Flames!

I tend to be a strange creature in terms of the circles in which I travel. I tend to deal with a number of fitness and martial arts circles, all the while dealing with the Diabetic community. Sometimes the two conflict with each other. After all, there some aspects that are observed in the fitness world that Diabetics would have difficulties with.

One of those aspects involves the metabolism. To touch briefly on this, the metabolism is the chemical and biological process through which the body burns fat and processes its calories. This process is necessary for a person to stay alive, and it can be “somewhat” manipulated to help with weight loss and working out.

First of all, one common misconception is that if you want to lose weight, you should eat less. Your body needs to be fed. That HAS to happen, no matter what your goal. in order to lose weight, you need to consistently feed your body.

Don’t skip breakfast! I’m the worst for this. I usually wake up in the morning and reach for caffeine, typically on auto-pilot. But if you fuel your body right from the get-go, you’re setting the bar for how you’ll eat and metabolize throughout your day.

I’ve often heard it said that eating often throughout the day helps to keeps your metabolism fired up and will help to burn more calories. Although this CAN be true, there are some exceptions.

According to Dr. Edward Bitok with the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at LLU School of Allied Health Professions, the preferred wait time between meal is between 3 to 5 hours. This is the amount of time required for the stomach’s contents got be emptied out into the small intestine.

It’s a bit of a balancing act, since waiting too long can cause issues such as low blood glucose, genuine hunger and other issues. But if you eat too soon, such as folks who eat every two hours, you may be eating more out of habit and cause weight gain through excess calories and such. Here’s the article if you wanna check it out: https://www.insider.com/how-often-should-i-be-eating-during-the-day-2018-5

The ideal proportion that should be on your plate. I’ll admit that I usually don’t have THAT many vegetables on my plate.

Many fitness and nutrition gurus will agrees that eating smaller, more frequent meals will help with weight loss and overall health. Waiting too long between meals will cause your body to go into a panicked “calorie storing” overdrive, since it doesn’t know when its next meal will come. Hence, one of the main reason for more frequent meals.

Here’s the fun fact: if you carb-count properly and check your blood sugars often, your choice of meal plan shouldn’t affect your Diabetes. I eat often throughout the day, although my main meals tend to revolve around lunch and/or dinner. Doing shift work can be problematic as well, since you don’t always get to decide when to eat.

Personally, I make it a point to listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry. What a concept, eh? But eating every few hours will help to ensure to stave off hunger, help to keep your metabolism fired up throughout the day and help to keep you energized for workouts and fitness routines.

Like everything else, what you do will be specific to you. What diet and meal planning one person uses may not be right for you. And if you are a Type 1 Diabetic, straying form the meal plan your nutritionist and/or dietician has set out for you may not be ideal. It may take a bit of experimenting in order to find your niche. ☯