Telegraphing, Not JUST An Old Means Of Communicating…

We do a lot of pre-arranged drills in karate, and for good reason. The development and perfection of most techniques requires hundreds if not thousands of constant repetitions in order for a practitioner to be able to use it on the fly, spurred on solely by muscle memory. Some may argue that drills are useless since you’ll never be able to predict what a random opponent may do on the street. And while this true, there is a means of being able to tell what said opponent may do. I’m referring to telegraphing.

Just to provide some clarification to any non-practitioners out there, the term telegraphing refers to any physical “tell” that may warn you of an opponent’s movement and/or intention. A good example is if you happen to be having a heated discussion with someone who suddenly decides to take a bladed stance. What may have been solely verbal to that point has suddenly become your opponent’s intention to attack you. Another example and the most prominent one, is the lifting or shifting of an opponent’s foot, right before they strike,

Sensei used to be really good at telling me what I’d do before I’d do it. In my earlier days, sparring with him would be challenge, since he’d refuse to attack and insisted that I got used to moving in. So I’d be eyeballing him up and down, tapping into my internal repertoire of techniques and deciding on how best to attack. I’d tense up and get ready for a strike and he’d say, “You’re about to front kick…” or “You’re going to throw a left…” It used to piss me off quite a bit, but he’d be right 99% of the time and the reality is that by observing your opponent, you’re able to watch for those physical tells that will warn you of what your opponent will do.

In some ways (many ways), telegraphing is almost unavoidable. At least to avoid it completely. This is mostly because basic physics teaches us that in order for you to move your body in some given way, there needs to be a shift in weight, shift in centre of gravity and movement of the remaining limbs to maintain balance and precision. The idea is to train yourself to REDUCE visible telegraphing as much as humanly possible so that your opponent won’t catch on to your intended movement. That being said, this is where I refer you back to my earlier comments about drills, which teach you balance and precision and how NOT to flay your hands around because you may happen to be doing a front kick.

Another Sensei story, is how he’d always ask me, “You don’t eat your cereal in the morning like this, do you?” And he’d mimic bringing a spoon to his mouth while lifting the opposing leg each time. The joke was to illustrate that one limb should be able to move independently of the others, and shouldn’t depend on one another unless you experience total loss of balance and need to make them work together to regain said balance. In order words, if you’re performing a kick to your opponent, your hands shouldn’t be falling behind you, or flailing around to keep your balance. If so, you need to work on that kick AND on your balance.

There are plenty of things you can do to try and mitigate telegraphing your movements. Training yourself to push forward from the rear leg as opposed to lifting the front leg to move in, is a great start. However, this requires sliding that front foot as you move, which isn’t always possible depending on what surface you’re standing on, what footwear you’re using, etc, etc… But other things will include performing balancing exercises to help yo stay centred. If you were walking down the street and someone suddenly shoved you from the side, would you fall into a stance and remain standing or would you topple over? Don’t answer that, it’s just food for thought.

Other things you can do is to practice your techniques while maintaining your centre of gravity well enough that you don’t shift your head up and down, don’t move other limbs and don’t lean forward or backwards (or side to side) while performing techniques. I know, I know… It’s easy to say all of this while sitting behind a keyboard. And I’ll admit that it can take a long time and a lot of work to make all of this flow together. But martial arts is a life-long journey, right? Some of it can also simply come down to overall speed and precision. If you’ve trained yourself and are fast enough, it’ll reduce the amount of time for your opponent to be able to identify any tells you may have. As the old saying goes, “Don’t train ’til you get it right. Train ’til you can’t get it wrong!” ☯

How Traditional Is TOO Traditional?

One of the defining characteristics of martial arts is the fact that it’s steeped in ceremony and tradition. For the most part, students usually learn to incorporate those traditions and ceremonies into their practice of whatever art they’ve chosen. If they don’t, they soon discover that they may be better suited to something that doesn’t require all the formalities, like boxing. Or MMA.

Many modern dojos and martial arts studios are of the opinion that the pomp and ceremony is unnecessary and hinders the faster progression of students as it takes away from time that they could be training on actual techniques or drills. Those dojos couldn’t be more wrong. And yes, that may simply be one person’s opinion. But the truth is that the formalities also teach students some important aspects of discipline, routine and attention to fine detail. Such aspects are important to the integrity and proper absorption of the essence of karate. And I have no doubt the same can be said of other styles.

So how does that apply outside the dojo? And that is the question that brings us to today’s post. Is it appropriate or even REQUIRED to refer to your Sensei as “Sensei” when you meet him or her on the street? Considering that it’s a show of respect to refer to your instructor as “Sensei,” why wouldn’t you use it regardless of the environment? But some are not quite as willing to use titles outside the dojo. And in fact, some instructors aren’t comfortable having them used on them in a public setting. It reminds me of two scenarios, of opposing views. You’re probably saying, “Of course it does…”

When I started karate, all those decades ago, I spent the first few classes hiding at the very back. I copied and emulated everything I saw, but I never really had any opportunity to call on Sensei to ask any questions. This is one of the downfalls of being a beginner at the back of the class and is why it’s so important to pay attention to your white belts. But I digress… We reached a class on my second week where we all gathered at the back of dojo and were shown drills, which we’d perform all the way up the class. We’d run along the outer edge of the dojo to the back and repeat the drill.

At one point, I was unclear on the specifics of a certain technique, so when Sensei approached I got his attention by raising my hand and saying, “Excuse me, sir?” He walked over, I asked my question, he answered it and I was back in line to continue. Then as an afterthought, he added, “And when you’re in this class you call me ‘Sensei’ and nothing else. If you ever refer to me as anything else while in the dojo, it will be a hundred push-ups.” Then he walked away. I was mildly taken aback, but it had the required effect. It’s over 32 years later, and I’ve never called him anything other than ‘Sensei’ unless I’m referring to him to somebody outside the martial arts environment.

On the flip side, one of the senior belts who used to teach in Sensei’s absence was usually referred to as “Senpai,” which is a term for “instructor” or the like. I saw the guy at a local grocery store the one day and when we saw each other, I called out “Hey, Senpai…” He paled and quickly hushed me by saying, “Man, quiet down! We’re not in the dojo…” I felt as though he was embarrassed by it. To each their own, I guess. My students consistently called me Sensei regardless of the environment. It’s been almost fifteen years since I had to shut down my dojo to move out to Saskatchewan, and I STILL have some old students who will call me Sensei when they see me. As a sign of respect, it’s kind of nice.

Either Sensei, Sifu, Master or whatever title may be associated to the lead instructor of your school or dojo, it may take some feeling out as to how you’ll refer to them outside the dojo. They may also have a preference in regards to how they’d like to be addressed. Personally, I don’t believe it should be embarrassing if a student refers to an instructor but their title outside the dojo. After all, if you’re in some sort of team sport the safe bet is you’ll likely say, “Hey, Coach!” if you see your coach out in public. Sensei should be no different. ☯

Dancing in The Streets

A little known fact about me that I don’t believe even most of my family members are aware of, is that I LOVE to dance. There’s something about the liberating feeling of allowing your body to move and sway in one’s particular way to a great song. And the beauty of it, is that everyone’s way of doing it can be different. Much like martial arts. And that’s the focus of today’s post: the connection of martial arts and dance.

It’s no secret that I’ve been studying karate for over three decades, but I never really “discovered” dance until 2007. At the time, I was living in the Ottawa area and working as a manager for a local pharmacy. I had the opportunity to get my hands on a couple of tickets for a show at the National Ballet of Canada. I went in with mixed feelings since, well… Most guys usually try to be macho and pretend they don’t like dancing, ballet and things of that sort. And I’ll admit that I may or may not have been on that bandwagon.

Look at this ripped bastard! I mean, c’mon…

But what I saw that night changed my perspective on dance, ballet and all the associated effort and fitness that is involved in the process. I can’t remember what specific production was being performed, but I felt a certain level of awe (and jealousy) at how fast, flexible and nimble the guys on stage were. Sheathed in sweat but moving about effortlessly, I watched as they moved, leapt and even balanced themselves on the single point of a wooden staff, seemingly defying gravity.

And their abs and muscles pissed me off, haha. I have to admit that I was impressed at the athleticism involved in what I was seeing and I couldn’t help but feel that some of the movements and efforts reminded me of doing forms, or kata. I decided that I needed to look into this whole “dance thing” in a bit more detail. A girl I dated in high school had a sister who owned her own dance studio, so I reached out and asked her what my best first step would be. She said I should find a dance school that would allow me to try out for free and give it a go before committing to anything. Now it REALLY sounded like karate.

My journey started in Ottawa’s ByWard Market, where a latin dance club had a “dance lesson” night where they provided free latin dancing lessons before opening up for the evening. It was pretty interesting and challenging, from a structured and instructional standpoint. But with over 50 people and only one instructor, I wasn’t really able to get the kind of one-on-one instruction I needed in order to actually LEARN the type of dance. It became clear that this was a gimmick more for fun than actual instruction. At the risk of getting discouraged, I gave up and left.

That’s where fate decided to intervene. A few weeks later, I received a coupon for a free introductory dance lesson at a small, privately owned dance studio that had just opened. I would love to remember the name of the place and truthfully, I tried to look it up. But with a dozen or more dance schools in the Ottawa area, it’s a bit difficult to jog the old memory. All I can tell you is that it was a privately owned studio located on a little side street and was on the upstairs floor of another business.

I was excited because the coupon boasted a free lesson in salsa, tango and cha-cha, to name a few. I can writhe and wiggle my body to music with the best of them, but this would be the first time I received formal instruction. It was one of the best 90 minutes of my life! I took to dance like a swan to a lake (see what I did, there?) and was able to memorize a lot of steps and do them properly on the first try. It seemed as though studying katas had an unexpected benefit in the sense that I could learn and recall dance moves without issue.

The instructor was pleased and impressed with me and asked if I had ever done dance before or even martial arts. I replied that I did karate and she explained that this was why I had good balance, centering and was able to learn dance the way I was. There were only five couples in total but I was partnered with almost every woman in the room that night, much to the chagrin of my ex-wife who apparently was born with two left feet. Dance, like everything else in life, is not for everyone and she didn’t take to it. Despite how much fun I was having, she was not a happy camper at seeing me dance with other women. Whatever. It was a LESSON for light’s sake… There’s a reason she’s an “ex”… Moving on!

At the instructor’s request, I joined a few more introductory classes and learned the rudimentary basics of dance. I absolutely loved it, and it provided some valuable tools that translated easily into karate. But once the whole “introductory” phase was past, the reality is that I simply couldn’t afford to pay for the lessons. Such is life. I also didn’t enjoy the constant fights I had with my ex-wife every time I attended a lesson. Apparently, she preferred having another woman punch me in the face instead of dancing with me.

The bottom line is that dance and martial arts share a lot of the same valuable benefits including but not limited to flexibility, balance, knowing where to step, increased circulation, a strengthened core and increased control over one’s own body. All of those are fantastic and shared aspects. That’s why, if you’ve ever thought about it or considered it, I would highly recommend dance as a a supplemental means of fitness. Or a primary one, if you aren’t in the martial arts. Ever try Zumba? Combination of cardio and dancing? That shit’ll kick your ass, believe me!

My sons are already obsessed with dancing. Of course, Nathan is all about the twerking… I guess I should just be grateful that he never learned flossing or one of those weird gimmick dances. I also think that precision and accuracy are important, shared aspects of martial arts and dance. And there’s no denying that professional dancers are superb athletes that work extremely hard. Hence, the jealousy at the ripped abs and being able to wear a unitard without looking like a sausage about to burst out of its casing. Not that I want to wear a unitard, of course. Jus’ saying’… Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna dance my way out of that last comment! ☯

WD-40 And Duct Tape Aren’t Always Enough…

I was having an interesting conversation with my Endocrinologist, two weeks ago while we were busy high-fiving and patting each other on the back for an excellent A1C result (which you can see my excitement in the video I posted here). The conversation involved telling me that I was a very “boring” patient, because I took care of myself made an effort to maintain and control my Diabetes as opposed to allowing it to control me.

He explained that he occasionally spoke of me to some of his other patients (without using my name or personal information, of course) in relation to things they should be doing and he wanted my opinion as to what I felt the success of my treatment was attributed to. I gave him my usual spiel about exercising, trying to eat well and testing my blood sugars often, but the biggest factor I provided was the WILL to do those things.

It’s no secret that uncontrolled blood sugars and in fact, Diabetes in general can cause a person to be without energy, drive and ambition. Most importantly, a person who has suffered through Diabetes for any number of years will often just throw up their hands or hang their heads low and say, “Fuck it…” before indulging in an easier lifestyle and all the vices and poor health choices that it includes. And that’s where I differ from the norm…

The body is a complex machine; one that requires constant attention and maintainance. And that’s not just an expression. Although biological in nature, your body IS a machine, with a shit ton of complex and delicate moving parts, functions and movements. You need to fuel this machine in the form of food consumption for energy, patch up and repair when there’s damage and provide supplementation and medications, as well. And all of that is controlled by a meaty computer processor that’s protectively encased in an armoured helmet. Not least of which is that we have a tail pipe that vents gas and expels waste like a vehicle.

Even the most high-end and sophisticated engines will eventually seize if hey aren’t maintained, lubricated and fed the appropriate types of fuel. And the superb machine that is your body is no different. I’ve had this discussion with a number of Diabetic associates that I’ve had over the years (most of which are unfortunately already deceased). Although it can be easy to just eat whatever’s laying around and whatever’s easiest, one needs to put in the effort to eat fresh foods, lean proteins and portions that won’t cause you to balloon up like a morbid, meat-based beach ball. I’m partial to salmon and tuna steaks, and enjoy a carb-free meal of fish and brussel sprouts at least twice a week.

Exercise is already an integral part to keeping oneself healthy and it’s no surprise that it would be all the more important for someone with Diabetes. I’ve struggled for years against weight gain, blood sugar levels and better body chemistry, all of which can be manipulated and improved through exercise. And to be honest, unless you’re part of a club or formal fitness club that you’re paying for, it doesn’t have to take huge lengths of time. At home, I keep my workouts limited to thirty or forty minutes. This allows for a good sweat, an increased heart rate AND it allows me to opportunity to get the workout done before my children make me wish they were old enough to wear sparring gear! The point is that you can hammer out any variety of workouts in the short time that it takes you to watch one episode of whatever you’re binge-watching at the moment.

Between food and exercise, you need to pay close attention to your insulin levels and blood sugars. Maintaining those two aspects of your Diabetes in conjunction with food and exercise will guarantee an increased longevity and less chance of serious Diabetes complications. Most Diabetes complications are permanent. Although you can get SOME organs replaced, there’s never any guarantee. You can remedy an amputation by getting a prosthetic, but this ain’t a sci-fi movie. You won’t be hustling around with a cybernetic limb. At least not yet.

So knowing that it could help you live longer, be healthier and feel better, one would be inclined to think that this would be the only motivation you need. But unfortunately, this is rarely the case. You need to WANT those things. You also need to recognize that stepping up and putting the effort is the ONLY way you’ll get them. An important part of it is to ask yourself what you have to fight for.

Personally, I’d like to live long enough to see the potential birth of my grandchildren and grow old with my wife. I can’t do that if I have a heart attack in my forties because I ate like shit and sat on the couch day in and day out… So folks, work hard at keeping your engine running. It’s the only one you’ll get. And once you’re dead, there are no backsies! So work hard, eat well and make the effort to make all your medical appointments. Your engine will run smoother, longer and you’ll get to reap the benefits that come with a longer, happier life. ☯

Virtual Karate Dojo

It should come as no surprise that just about everything has moved to some sort of online forum in the past year. In my household, we’ve even started doing some shopping and Costco orders online and had them delivered; something we had never done prior to the pandemic. Considering that most things have been slowly moving towards online options in the past decade or so, the pandemic has been that last little push that was needed to force us to do everything else without face-to-face-contact. This week, the karate club I train with started having classes on Zoom.

Our Zoom Meeting Dojo (That’s me in the blue!)

It was a strange and different experience, that much I can say. As you can see from the image above, we all met via Zoom and took instruction from Master Harding as he guided us through an hour’s workout. It was interesting to see everyone who had made do with whatever space they had available in living rooms, basements and home dens. I was among the lucky ones that had a large, open space to work with that included my black, foam workout mats. But as I’ve written in previous posts, karate doesn’t require much more than a four by six-foot space to train in. And the group proved that, over the sixty minutes that followed. ☯

What Are You Doing With Your Hands?

The human hand is a wonderful thing and is comprised of almost three dozen bones. Some of those are pretty damn small, making your hands some of the most delicate appendages on your body. Our hands are used for a number of things that we often don’t realize and take for granted. For example, your arms and hands are responsible for helping you with balance when you walk, run and even while standing. None of which mentions that you need your hands to pick your nose and eat burgers. But I digress…

Given that they’re comprised of so many small bones and have those brittle, breakable fingers on them, why do we depend on hands so much in the fighting arts? This is pretty bold talk, coming from the guy who studies a martial arts style directly translated as the “way of the empty hand.” But it’s not so much the use of one’s hands that’s the issue. It’s the WAY and manner in which we use those hands that’s important. And that reminds me of a story. Buckle up!

Decades ago, I was a green belt in class with Sensei and one of the brown belts. It was a quiet night of just the three of us, and the brown belt was slated to test for black belt within the next month or so. As such, Sensei’s attentions were focused on him for the evening while I was relegated to a corner to practice forms on my own. I was fine with this since, as you all know, I love forms. But I was also keeping an unseen eye on the two of them as they were caught in a rather heated sparring match.

As their speed and movements increased, the brown belt tried to perform a grab of some sort. I can’t be sure if he was trying to grab Sensei’s sleeve of gi jacket, but it didn’t work. Sensei isn’t one for sitting still and he kept moving as the brown belts hands was still trying to get a grip (pun fully intended). Two things happened simultaneously: Sensei executed a strike against the brown belt AND the brown belt’s pinkie finger snagged in the open mouth of Sensei’s sleeve and snapped.

An example of Master Uechi’s hand positioning for Uechi Ryu

The brown belt made every effort to conceal how much pain he was in, but it was very clear that the finger had broken. He and Sensei stepped out so that Sensei could drive him to the hospital to get splinted. It was one of the first times I was left completely alone in the dojo, which was interesting to say the least. And it gave me a wake-up call very early (or what felt early) in my martial arts career about the importance of hand placement and guarding one’s fingers.

Depending on the style you study, an open hand may be necessary. It rather hard to perform proper technique in a grappling style with closed fists. On the flip side, it can be a bit difficult to practice a striking art with your hands wide open. For a style like Uechi Ryu, that combine strikes, grappling and pressure points, it can become a little bit convoluted as you’ll need to combine all of those things. But even while using ANY open-hand technique, the important part is to properly protect your fingers. A broken finger isn’t lethal, by any means. But the pain can be enough of a distraction to cost you dearly in a real fight.

I’m not often a big fan of kicks and I usually favour hand techniques in lieu, especially since raising one’s foot off the ground places all your weight and your centre of gravity on one leg. This leaves you vulnerable and isn’t a comfortable position to be in. That being said, I usually prefer a solid punch or an elbow to using open-hand techniques because I like my fingers and don’t want them breaking. At the end of the day, there’s no easy solution to this dilemma, if you study the martial arts.

You can see Master Uechi’s hand positioning in the photo above. Notice the open left hand while he delivers an empi (elbow strike) with the right arm. Far be it from me to question the way a master places his hands, but those spread fingers make me nervous. Sensei has taught us that above all else, keep the thumb tight against the palm and the fingers pressed together. It’s comparable to bamboo; a single finger can be weak but all four fingers combined will be much stronger.

So, that’s the take home lesson in this instance. I always like to relate things back to the street and in an actual street-based altercation, technique and style usually go out the window in favour of just staying alive. This is why muscle memory and training drills are so important. And if it means life or death, a distraction can mean the difference between walking away or being put down. Protect those fingers, people!

Self-Inflicted Harm…

Objectively-speaking, I’m a bit of a weirdo… I can already hear my friends arching an eyebrow while saying, “Objectively???” But seriously, I tend to dip into the strange and unusual on occasion, but today’s post will be simply something to gross most people out. If you have an aversion to feet, you may want to back out of this post now without proceeding any further.

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying a nice half hour of shadow boxing in my home dojo. As I’ve written in previous posts, I purchased a whole batch of black foam mats that interconnect, making for a nice, open-concept area with a padded floor. Perfect for karate, wrestling, circuit workouts and more. During a particularly spirited portion of shadow boxing, I decided to execute a tuck ‘n roll where I come to a stop, delivering an elbow strike to my “opponent” on the floor. During the roll, I discovered an important detail about those foam mats. Toenails don’t slide on them…

My left foot, in all its bloody glory!

When I executed my roll, I pushed off with my left foot. My big toe was the last thing to leave the mat, which caused the nail on my big toe to press down against the mat. When my toe continued moving, the nail decided to stay with the mat. The bloody line that’s clearly visible along the middle of the nail is where the toenail lifted. I completed the technique and continued on my merry way. It wasn’t until a minute or two later when I threw a front kick with the left foot that I noticed a bright, red drop fly out towards the wall. I looked down and discovered the mess you see above.

It’s not a secret that proper foot health is important to anyone with Diabetes. Over time, most people with Diabetes will develop SOME level of Diabetic Neuropathy, which can lead to all sorts of complications with the body’s extremities, namely the feet. The main concern with Neuropathy is that it can cause a loss of feeling in said extremities, meaning you may not feel the injury when it happens and delayed care can lead to infections or worse.

Another particular concern, is that Diabetes can also lead to lessened blood circulation. With less blood circulation (or slower blood circulation) the required platelets, nutrients and cells required for healing will be delivered much slower to someone with Diabetes, hence the reason you always hear that foot injuries take longer to heal. And that’s if they heal at all. For someone with extremely poor blood sugar control, medical intervention can be required in order to help the wound heal as it may not be likely to do so on its own.

A close-up, just because I’m a sick bastard…

For those of you who may be wondering: Yes, I felt the injury. Albeit not immediately. There was a delay due to the music and adrenaline. I was kind of in the zone. But I noticed the blood BEFORE I felt the sting. No, I didn’t halt my workout. I probably should have, in the interest of cleaning the wound and bandaging it appropriately. But I was about 20 minutes into a 30-minute shadow boxing routine and I didn’t feel the 10-minute delay would result in the loss of my toe.

But it’s important to recognize that if you have Diabetes, wounds should be cleaned and bandaged in a timely manner, even if they don’t hurt. Poor circulation issues and Neuropathy are sneaky bastards and can cause damage if you ignore injuries. Like the freshly forged blade of the samurai, my training mats have now been anointed in blood. Even if it’s mine. Damn it. Nathan plays on those mats. Looks like I’ll have some cleaning to do, once I’ve mended my toe… ☯

I Swear, I’m Not Stretching The Truth…

Stretching is an important requirement to proper health and fitness, and it continues to amaze me how many people don’t take it seriously. For example, I see a lot of karate students who show up to the dojo five minutes before start of class and jump into it cold. There are significant risks to such a practice, which many students seem to forget. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… In the street, you won’t have time to stretch if you get into an altercation and had to defend yourself. While this is certainly true, we stretch and train our body so that in the event of a cold start such as a street fight, your body is conditioned and muscle memory kicks in.

There’s a significant balance between too much and too little, when it comes to stretching. Have you ever gone a full week without doing any exercise? Notice how everything feels tight and it seems a bit harder to move? This is because over time, your muscles will shorten and tighten up if you don’t stretch regularly. This is why stretching is required in order to stay flexible and mobile and to allow full and proper motion of our joints. In fact, some would argue that stretching is more about mobility than fitness. But I believe it holds some importance in both.

The key thing is to not overdo it. You should aim to stretch for anywhere from about five to ten minutes in order to ensure your muscles are warm and pliable. Not to be mistaken with an actual warmup, of course. But after about a ten to fifteen minute warmup, get to the actual workout. It is actually possible to stretch TOO much, and this can lead to injury, damage to ligaments and tendons, pulled muscles and even hypermobility.

Although most people have some form of hypermobility somewhere in their body, it’s not a good thing. Hypermobility refers to the ability of certain joints to move beyond their supposed range of motion, which is a problem that can cause it’s own batch of complications and issues. So it’s important to find a correct balance in stretching and warming up the body.

Stretching should be done right before a workout, although some argument has been made for stretching afterwards, as well. Depending on the type of workout you do, stretching after the workout can help keep the muscles flexible and help prevent stiffness and injury. But you should start by finding a comfortable corner and stretching slowly, breathing and moving comfortably. Although it can be useful to try reaching a bit, it’s important not to extend beyond what’s comfortable. Stretching can provide a feeling of tension, but it shouldn’t be consistently painful or stinging.

Once you’ve stretched and warmed up all the required muscle groups, you’ll want to slip into a warmup. Warmups can contribute to stretching and mobility, but depending on the workout you’re doing are meant to get your heart rate up and the blood pumping. So it’s important to keep the two separate, in terms of completion. Start small, going no further than what your body can comfortably reach. As you fall into a routine, you’ll likely notice that your flexibility is increasing and you can stretch farther. But don’t push it! It isn’t one of those things where if you reach it once, you can reach it again. Muscle tissues will tighten and loosen depending on how frequently you stretch and exercise and how often you don’t.

If you’ve managed to overstretch or stretch too much, you’ll notice a number of symptoms including swelling, redness and weakness of the muscle in question. In fact, it may even hurt while you’re at rest and you may not be able to use that particular overtaxed muscle for a period of time. At home treatment can include some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain meds, resting the muscle in question and using the PRICE method (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) until the injury subsides. The important thing is not to return to stretching the damaged muscle before its had a chance to heal.

If you hear a sharp popping sound while stretching, feel pain at a level that can’t be tolerated or ignore or are completely unable to move the limb associated to the muscle group, you should seek immediate medical care. You may have torn something that can only be repaired at the hospital. It’s important to use your judgement but don’t try to “tough it out,” and injuries can be become aggravated easily. You can stretch after a workout as I mentioned earlier. But if you do, keep it to a minimum as your body will already be tired and it can be easy to overdue it. ☯

Don’t Judge A Baseball Bat By The Matted Hair…

For years, I’ve heard an old adage that says if you’re going to carry a baseball bat in your car for protection, be certain to include some balls and a baseball glove; your lawyer will thank you. The implication there is that the inclusion of balls and a glove will potentially show your intention to use the equipment for their intended purpose as opposed to as a weapon. It’s always made me smile a little when I’ve heard or read it, because my thinking is the SITUATION should dictate if you’re justified, not the tableau that you create around an item you potentially intend to use as a weapon.

The use of weapons is a thing as old as humanity itself, from our ancestors’ humble beginnings with a wooden stick or club to the shiny ol’ red button that world leaders press to annihilate countries. I don’t think it’s a “red button,” actually. I think that’s just something that’s portrayed in the movies. But my point is that humanity has always used weapons in some way, shape and form. And a weapon may be an important tool for one’s self-defence, depending on the situation.

A lot of people think that a weapon needs to be something structured and specific. The baseball bat analogy is a great one because, a bat is intended as an implement for sport. Its use as a weapon is incidental. Or at least it should be. I know some people keep a bat SPECIFICALLY as a weapon. The reason I bring this up is because I’ve often heard people say that a weapons-based martial art is basically useless because you’ll rarely be caught walking around with a sword or a staff. The weapons one trains with won’t usually be readily available.

Depending on where you live and what specific laws outline, it can cause a delicate situation if someone breaks into your house and you’ve run them through with a samurai sword. But setting the legalities aside for a moment, a weapon can be pretty much whatever you put your hands on. Using the example of a sword, I think we can agree that unless you lived in Japan prior to 1868, you’re not walking around carrying a samurai sword nor do you have one readily accessible in your home.

But all the cutting and strike training you take while studying the sword will be just as effective if you manage to wrap your hands around a broom or mop handle and scythe it across your opponent. It won’t gash them open like a sword would but in a self-defence situation, striking with a blade or a stick can potentially yield the same life-saving result. And that’s the important part. That’s the benefit of karate. It’s a weapon all its own and certain movements, blocks and strike are easily transferable to a weapon, should you manage to obtain one in a life threatening situation.

Weapons are a catch-22 because if things get out of hand, they can be taken away from you and used by the very opponent you were defending yourself against. Another great beauty of karate. No one can disarm me of it, so even if I’m empty-handed I always have multiple weapons at my disposal. Obviously, we’re talking about a home invasion or a situation where you believe your life is in imminent danger. One shouldn’t be looking towards the use of a weapon, per se.

Just Because It’s Buffed Doesn’t Mean It’s Nice…

Lifting weights is an important part of health & fitness, even if you’re not necessarily trying to bodybuild. And to be clear, weightlifting and bodybuilding are not one and the same; weightlifting is only one of the activities that a bodybuilder performs in order to build upon themselves, with a score of other important factors at play. I’m certainly no bodybuilder, nor do I aspire to be. I use dumbbells and kettlebells freely, as gaining and maintaining true muscle strength is important in the martial arts and in maintaining the bodily strength required to keep healthy.

And before I go too far into my opinionated rant, let me just say that I have a reasonable amount of admiration for those who are able to sculpt and develop their bodies the way you’d see on a sports network. The old-school Schwarzenegger look may even suit some people, although I find it altogether exaggerated and a bit much. And there’s a significant difference between true strength and bodybuilding. In actual strength training, a person will use the lifting of weight to increase muscle size in order to increase strength, and can use that strength functionally. Bodybuilders are lifting weights solely for the purpose of increasing their size. Although there will be increased strength during the process, it may not be as effective as proper strength training.

The purpose of today’s post isn’t to bash on bodybuilding. As I mentioned earlier, kudos to the folks who are able to sacrifice and work hard towards making their bodies the way they want them to look. Today’s focus is on increasing the mass/size of your body and how it relates to the martial arts and proper health. As it just so happens, being a little too “buff” can have some negative and even detrimental side effects on the human body.

Let’s cover off the martial arts aspect, well… just because! I’ve seen a number of heavily-muscled people walk into the dojo throughout my youth, only to walk out after a few classes. And why do you suppose that is? Well for one thing, increased size will DECREASE your flexibility, mobility and range. You’re stiffer and tend to move much less easier. Just to be clear, I’m referring to people who are REALLY muscled. But in a combat art such as karate, flexibility and mobility are extremely important, for obvious reasons. Are there exceptions to that rule? Absolutely. But the really buff people who still have all the flexibility and mobility are VERY far between.

Speed is another. Your punch may have all the strength of those massive arms behind it, but it means nothing if I can casually avoid your fist because you’re moving like melting butter. The bigger you are, the slower you’ll move. Physics says so. You can only move so fast, as speed equals distance over time. The bigger you are, the more time it takes you to cover the distance, hence slower speed. Picture the difference between a 2-door coupe and an 18-wheeler. It’s easier to achieve a specific speed with the coupe because it takes less time to cover a specific distance due to less weight. There’s your high school physics lesson for tonight. But in the event of a real fight scenario where a person’s wellbeing hangs in the balance, expect that I’ll kick in your knee caps while you’re trying to take a swing. You won’t see it, as your field of vision won’t reach over your massive chest, but you get the idea…

And that’s the other problem is the excess size. You’ll be restricted by your own clothing, for Light’s sake! You’ll have less ability to maneuver in tight spaces, leaving the advantage to the smaller, trained fighter. This is why it’s always been a bit of an issue for me, when people automatically say things like, “Look at how buff that person is. I wouldn’t want to mess with them!” Having big muscles is only one small part of the equation that allows you to use them effectively to protect yourself and others.

And now, because I write about Diabetes, let’s discuss how increased muscle mass relates to health. Don’t forget that the bigger the engine, the more fuel is required to operate it. The human body is very much the same way. The bigger you are, the more calories you’ll need to consume to maintain your body on a daily basis. For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, who needs to calculate carbohydrate intake and take insulin dosages accordingly, this can be a significant problem. I’m not saying it can’t be done; I’m saying that finding that proper balance will be all the harder. And you may cause damage in the process, from a Diabetes-standpoint.

The next issue is the toll it takes on the body. Being too muscular is just as bad as being obese. Don’t believe me? Weight is weight, and your skeletal structure doesn’t grow stronger to accommodate your increase in mass. Your bones, organs and vital bodily systems may not be able to accommodate become too buff. Just think of your heart and how much hard it has to work to maintain all the added mass. That’s why bodybuilders will frequently suffer heart and organ issues. Schwarzenegger himself has had heart surgery. That should tell you something.

There’s nothing wrong with increasing one’s muscle mass. In fact, it’s one of those “happy medium” things where lifting weights a few times a week can decrease the chances of cardiac issues while doing it too much will tax your heart. take it with grain of salt. If we’d pay attention to absolutely EVERYTHING that can be harmful, we’d die of worry instead. Ultimately, the point is that muscle mass for strength good/ Muscle mass for size, bad. Especially from the martial arts standpoint. Just for shits and giggles, here’s a commercial from 2011 for Planet Fitness that makes me laugh every time I see it… ☯