Rise And Grind…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All Just One Step At A Time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revisiting A “Sharp” Friend…

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

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

A wakizashi or “short” sword

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Weapon In The Hand Is Worth…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Fit, Or Not To Fit…

Recently, I wrote a post about a new garment I purchased, which is designed to look like a karate Gi. It’s called the “Hood-Gi,” and in case you missed the post, you can shop for one by visiting the Budo Brother’s website here. An no, before anyone gets high and mighty, I’m not being paid endorsement for referring their website to you, this is not an advertisement post and I’m not recommending this product over another. My post was literally just a person, excited at getting a piece of clothing that suits him and seems practical for its intended purpose.

Although I will confess that I draw some level of morbid fascination about receiving such comments, especially in a world where everyone and their dog post daily “fit checks,”showing their outfit for the day, it does raise an important question; one I wrote about in a post a couple of years ago but I’ve written so many posts now that I can basically start recycling from scratch… how much is too much and what kind of swag should one wear?

We all know the scenario. A new students joins the gym or the dojo, they’re excited about being part of something new, something they enjoy, so they start buying swag. All of sudden, the new students is wearing a karate shirt, karate jacket, karate pants and karate g-string… okay, maybe not that last one and I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that would be to train in, but you get my point. A student that joins something new will be motivated to show their pride and represent their club, which is not nothing to be ashamed of. But as the old saying goes, if you paint a target on your back, you should complain about the arrow in your shoulder.

Ironically, a solid example of this is from one of my favourite martial arts show, Cobra Kai. Anyone who’s watched it can instantly tell who’s with the dojo or not. How? By all the fuckin’ Cobra Kai clothing almost EVERYONE seems to be wearing. And one can easily see the issue this causes, considering multiple members of that dojo are easily identified and attacked as a result. Granted, I’ll admit that in the real world, Senseis usually aren’t rich and buying clothes for the entire student roster but the premise is sound.

one would honestly be better suited, emulating the Miyagi-Do students. I totally get that they’re supposed to be the protagonists anyway, but they don’t even train IN their dojo in swag. And this is likely the better approach. I’ve seen the same phenomenon with recently-graduated police officers, who go around flashing their agency’s hoodies or wearing police apparel off duty. no need for me to explain why THAT could be a potential problem! Although on a somewhat lower level, the same could be said of karate swag…

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this myself. When I was in my formative years of karate training, I had t-shirts, track suits, gym bags and all sorts of other shit that let the world know that I was a practitioner of Uechi-Ryu karate. Hell, I have a tattoo on my left pec of our school’s name. It was rare for me to leave the house without at least one item of clothing that reflected our school crest. But as the years have passed and wisdom has slowly set in, I’ve come to realize that subtlety is the better option and although I do still have some “swag,” discretion is the better option and I try and keep myself from becoming a martial arts billboard.

One might ask, what’s the problem with wearing apparel or advertising one’s school? That’s a valid question and some may feel that I’m being paranoid in taking this position. The reality is that we live in a world where violence is often inflicted on others for no good reason other than for the sake of it. And in some cases, broadcasting that you practice a fighting art can make you a potential target to those who wish to impart said violence. Picturing walking into a bar or club with your friends, wearing karate apparel. Imagine a group of drunken idiots who are actually hungry for a fight… Seeing your “ABC Karate Club” t-shirt might just be what they need to say, “Hey, let’s fight THAT guy…”

Admittedly, that’s an extreme example but a valid one. That’s why for the most part, I keep my karate swag and apparel on the down-low. My recently-purchased Hood-Gi basically looks like a canvass hoodie and is pretty difficult to identify as a karate garment. That said, I’ve yet to wear it out in public. At the end of the day, it isn’t about hiding your style or not being proud of your skills. It’s about being humble enough to realize that you don’t have to. And it’s about your safety. Wanna wear your karate t-shirt under your hoodie or jacket? Have at it; you obviously paid for it. Simply consider that it may be in your better interest not to broadcast that you’re a karateka to the world. Food for thought… ☯️

The Hood-Gi…

I pride myself on the fact that I don’t usually endorse or encourage the purchase and/or use of any particular product. My blog isn’t intended as a “shopping” site where I throw out goods or services. That being said, any person who regularly reads my blog on any browser has noticed there are advertisements on my posts but if I’m being honest, they do very little for my bottom line. I’ll often make a point of reviewing books, movies and certain key products without necessarily endorsing them.

But once in a while, I treat myself to something that I feel is worth sharing, and today’s post is just that kind of exception. Like most couples, Valentine’s Day brings an opportunity to do something romantic for our partners, in whatever way we recognize will be something that pleases them and lets them know much we love them. For myself, I actually had a very nice item that I had ordered for my wife but when the product in question arrived, it was nothing like what I assumed it would. I was back to the drawing board.

My wife, for her part, asked me what I would like. And this is where I introduced her to the Hood-Gi. This garment is exactly what it sounds like; the combination of a hoodie and a martial arts Gi. Since I’m subscribed to a plethora of martial arts pages through my Facebook and social media platforms, the good ol’ AI bots that monitor social media pages will often throw martial arts-related pages at me. Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes they’re not. On this occasion, I found the Budo Brothers website…

My Hood-Gi…

I was intrigued by this concept of a Hood-Gi, so I visited the webpage. I found a couple of martial artists who came together almost a decade ago and began designing clothing and equipment aimed at the interest and functionality required by martial artists. My intrigued continued as I found a variety of products on the website ranging from batons, kali sticks and cloths, to the Hood-Gi, which is what I ended up ordering.

Gotta love the blue…

So, what makes this garment so special? Well, the outside of the hoodie is made from actual Gi material. It’s pretty heavy and has some toughness to it. I spent the majority of last weekend wearing it in order to break it in, much like I would with a traditional Gi. The inner liner has a beautiful Japanese “wave” liner inside. Unlike a traditional Gi, which fastens by tying it off at two corners, the Hood-Gi uses magnetic buttons, which I was sceptical about at first but actually hold the garment securely closed.

There’s a normal traditional front pocket as you’d find on any standard hoodie. But the garment also contains side pockets for self-defence items and an inner pocket that can hold your smart phone. The hood is slightly oversized, which almost give it a “Jedi” look. All in all the garment is incredibly comfortable and I’m looking forward to wearing it outside the house as the weather gets warmer (it’s too thick to be worn under a jacket).

All in all, it’s definitely a fun piece of clothing and if any of you decide you want to check out their website, you can find them here. They have a variety of products and just as an FYI, it appears that they ship out of the United States, so just be aware if you’re ordering from another country. Otherwise, the martial artist in me can appreciate the asthetic and functionality of this garment while the old, dad-bod in me appreciates the comfort and look. ☯️

From This Life To The Next One…

Walking in martial arts circles usually brings with it a fairly rich family tree of karate. One is generally taught by one’s Sensei, who is taught by their Sensei and so on and so forth. For many, if not most students, being able to trace that lineage beyond the first step is pretty rare. After all, most practitioners in the western world open a dojo and may have a photo of those who taught before them, but general contact is pretty rare. I was fortunate n the fact that Sensei has always kept contact with me. Sensei has always kept contact with HIS Sensei and as a result, I had the pleasure and opportunity to take steps up the ladder to train with those individuals.

One of the most notable individuals that I’ve had the pleasure to meet, was Sensei Bob Blaisdell. My Sensei first met Sensei Blaisdell through a magazine advertisement in the early 1970’s. Sensei jumped into his rundown Mustang and travelled on his own to Massachusetts, intent on convincing Sensei Blaisdell to train him in the Okinawan art of Uechi-Ryu karate. Sensei Blaisdell was leery of this random, French, New Brunswicker who left behind his wife and daughter to travel across the border to learn karate. But something in Sensei’s eyes convinced Sensei Blaisdell to take him on and he became his trusted teacher and mentor. He became his friend. He became his Sensei. Over the years that followed, Sensei would travel down to Massachusetts intermittently for coaching, testing and guidance on teaching at his own school.

Me, Sensei, Sensei Eva and Sensei Blaisdell

I just found out yesterday that after 49 years of being my mentor’s Sensei, Sensei Blaisdell has passed away.

I first met Sensei Blaisdell in the early 1990’s, when I was still a skinny punk who thought he knew it all without the common sense to prevent trying to prove it. We had arranged to bring Sensei Blaisdell up to New Brunswick to help us celebrate Sensei’s 30-year anniversary of teaching. I had the privilege of training with him and getting to know him over the weekend. Armed with a heavy Boston accent and swearing as heavily as a Maritimer, it was an instructive and enlightening weekend. The fact he had embarrassing stories about Sensei certainly helped. Usually, it’s the other way around and Sensei shares embarrassing stories about me.

For the years that followed, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence would carry on through all of us. And rightly so, since my Sensei learned directly from him. The thing that most students fail to understand is that their skills and capabilities are a direct result of those who came before them. Had my Sensei not trained with Sensei Blaisdell and then subsequently trained me, I wouldn’t be the martial artists that I am today. Through his actions, Uechi-ryu karate was brought to Northern New Brunswick and endured as one of the only traditional Okinawan karate schools under Sensei’s teachings in that part of the Maritimes for almost five decades. The man’s signature is on my black belt certificate, for light’s sake…

Sensei Bob Blaisdell

It’s always important to know where one’s roots come from, in order to acknowledge where we’re going. We’ve lost touched over the past couple of decades. Some of that is my doing. Life rarely cares about one’s plans. That makes his death all the more tragic. Time is fleeting and can never be taken back. And maybe that’s what makes this loss so hard. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that death comes to us all, and that Sensei may be the next loss I suffer. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s making me acknowledge my own mortality. In either scenario, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence continues to teach me something, even in his passing. Rest in peace, Sensei Bob. You will be missed. ☯️

Feelin’ The Burn…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punching Pads, A Mixed Bag…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frosted Fun In Milder Weather…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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