“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey

As usual, I’ve been reserving my Sunday posts for people that have inspired me or motivated me in some way. While going through my Kobo with my wife, we came upon the autobiography of Ronda Rousey, entitled “My Fight/Your Fight.” I started talking about the autobiography and about everything Rousey has been through in her life (up to that point) to get to where she is today. My wife suggested that I seemed pretty inspired by Rousey and that perhaps I should write about her. And here we are…

Many people in martial arts circles and non-fitness circles alike have expressed a love/hate relationship with Rousey. Some believing her to be more of a passing fad than a genuine athlete, some idolizing her as a true martial artist and pioneer in the women’s division of one of the most male-dominated forms of sport entertainment currently in existence. But the truth of it is she’s accomplished many great things. Most of which were accomplished through sheer force of will and has beaten odds that would have crushed a lesser person.

Rousey was born in California in the late 80’s and was born with a condition known as apraxia, which is a particular childhood speech disorder that made it difficult for Rousey to speak in a coherent manner for the first years of her life. This would be one of the first obstacles she’d overcome as she would eventually go on to speak normally, as anyone who has heard her speak in recent years could attest.

Rousey suffered tragedy early in her life as her father broke his back while sledding with Rousey and her sisters. Rousey’s father became a paraplegic as a result and took his own life in 1995. Years later, Rousey would begin training in the martial art of Judo, as her mother had been an accomplished athlete in Judo, having been the first American to win the World Judo Championship in 1984.

Rousey progressed, promoted and moved up the ranks in Judo and won more medals and trophies than I could possibly list here (you should read her biography for deeper details) and never gave up along the way. She faced personal difficulties at home, which saw her leave her family to train elsewhere and injuries that made continued training and development difficult. But along the way, she never stopped fighting, in the physical and metaphorical sense. Rousey became an Olympian by winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic games, becoming the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s Judo since its creation.

After winning an Olympic medal, Rousey retired from Judo professionally, and sought some direction in her life. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of it, my impression was that she slipped off the rails a bit when she failed to find that direction in her own life. I can definitely relate to that, on a number of levels.

Rousey fell into the world of Mixed Martial Arts in 2010 as an amateur, a term that wouldn’t apply to her for very long. She trained with the same passion and fervour in MMA and she had in Judo, and quickly came to make her mark on the sport and ultimately, the world. Her signature move was submission by armbar, and it seemed that no opponent could best her.

Rousey stepped into professional MMA in the following year and became Strikeforce’s Women’s Bantamweight Champion in 2012. Rousey would go on to be the first female signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, after a great deal of debate whether women would ever be in the UFC. Once part of UFC, Rousey was named the UFC’s first Women’s Bantamweight Champion, a title she defended over and over until her loss to another fighter in 2015.

Rousey was away from MMA for about a year before she returned to reclaim her title. She ultimately suffered another loss and unofficially retired from the UFC in late 2016. She was, however, inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018. Rousey has since moved on to professional wrestling, and has continued to make an impact there, as well.

The thing about Ronda Rousey is that despite the obstacles, difficulties and losses she’s faced in life and career, she never stopped fighting. Even at her lowest, when she felt she had nothing more she could lose, she found ways to rise up and pick herself up like a proverbial phoenix. Rousey has gone on to author books, star in action films accomplish inspirational things despite said obstacles.

If you want to learn about Ronda Rousey the person, I would definitely recommend picking up her autobiography, My Fight/Your Fight. You can get it from your local bookstore or you can get it as an e-book for your Kobo, which is what I did. It’s definitely worth the read and will give you insight on her character and her development as a person, as opposed to an entertainer and athlete. But, what an athlete! If you need some proof, just Google her fight record… From Judo to MMA to professional wrestling, the scales definitely tip in her favour.

As most of you know, I’ve never been a great fan of MMA. To a traditional martial artist, the term “mixed martial arts” doesn’t ring true under any circumstance. So, for me to be inspired and motivated by an MMA athlete is a bit of a step out of my comfort zone. That being said, holding a 6th degree black belt in Judo definitely helps. She’s a good combination of traditional and modern, with a warrior spirit to back it up. ☯

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace

You may have noticed that I’ve started taking the habit of writing about someone influential every Sunday. Influential to me, obviously, but hopefully somewhat influential to others once they read about them and learn bit about their accomplishments. This week, I thought I would write about an accomplished martial artist whom I’ve been reading about since my childhood: Bill “Superfoot” Wallace…

Wallace was born in 1945 in the United States and started to dip into the fighting arts through high school when he joined the wrestling team. He later went on to include Judo and had studied this for a number of years as well, but an injury to his right knee forced him to quit the art before he could pursue it to any extend. In 1967, Wallace served in the united States Air Force and it was there that he began studying the Okinawan karate style of Shorin-Ryu, which is a sister style to my own style of Uechi-Ryu.

I remember reading about Wallace as a child, in Black Belt Magazine. I was fascinated by the speed and accuracy of his kicks, and just a little bit jealous of the fact that I could never kick quite as high as he could. My constant practice and development of my roundhouse kick is a result of watching him in action.

Wallace spent many years in the karate tournament circuit, winning the Professional Karate Association’s middleweight full-contact karate championship and retired undefeated. Wallace eventually moved on to kickboxing tournaments, since these tournaments allowed for kicking while the PKA’s karate tournaments did not.

“Have A Blast. Have An Absolute Ball. Because It’s Something You Can Do Absolutely Forever, Your Entire Life. And It’s Just Fun… So Do It.”

– Bill “Superfoot” Wallace

Wallace became known for his fast and devastating kicks, which earned him the name of “Superfoot.” Wallace normally focused his kicks on his left foot, since the injury to his right knee that occurred during his time in Judo made kicking with the right foot more difficult (although not impossible, if you’ve watched any footage of him). This certainly didn’t slow him down in any respect.

Although most people tend to focus on the popular aspect of a person, which in this case is karate, Wallace holds a bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology. Wallace has written many books and has taught karate and coached many others, notably Elvis Presley and John Belushi.

What inspires me the most about Wallace is his undying dedication to the art and to his own self-development. He’s been known to say that no matter how fast or strong his kick may be, he’d continue to work it and develop it in order to improve himself. Having injured himself early on in his martial arts career, most people in his position would throw in the towel and take it easy. Not this man. He stuck to his goals and ambitions and to this day continues to speak and give seminars. ☯

It Takes Two, Baby…🎶

Depending on what your motivation may be, working out by yourself can suck. Royally. On the other hand, certain activities that I train in, like meditation, learning a new karate form or burning off steam on a punching bag, can work quite well when I’m alone. But it stands to reason that having a partner when you break a sweat can have some measurable, noticeable and unexpected benefits.

When I first started the martial arts, I felt exposed. I’m sure some of you have been there; you walk into an environment where EVERYBODY knows more than you do. Potentially. So even though you happen to be standing at the back of the class, you feel like everyone’s eyes are on you, judging you, watching you excessively sweat and gasp for air as they go through the motions barely showing any effort… Nah? Just me? Whatever… let’s carry on…

According to an online article I found on NBC News of all places, working out in a group has the benefit of others’ healthy habits rubbing off on us. The article states that a 2016 study found that “overweight people tend to lose more weight if they spend time with their fit friends […]” Which can certainly make sense if all the time you spend with said “fit friends” happens to be at spin class, yoga, zumba, cycling and etc.

Certainly, there is a great deal to be said for the accountability factor, where it’s more difficult to skip the workout when it’s part of a pre-organized program with others. And you inevitably end up kicking your workouts into high gear in order to accommodate and keep up with others who are doing the same. The above-linked article touches on these aspects as well.

All of this can certainly be true of karate. After those first few classes, I found myself pushing hard to keep up with the other students. Karate is one of those “keep up or be left in the dust” environments where you’re totally free to move at your own pace, but eventually it just won’t be enough. But the camaraderie that develops once you start holding your own is particular. It’s one of the aspects I most enjoy within the dojo.

Ultimately, working out with a friend or loved one doesn’t just keep you accountable through fewer skipped workouts. It can also encourage you to try out new exercises or activities you may not have thought of and may encourage you to push harder in order to keep going. Surprisingly, you may even catch yourself working out for longer periods as you’ll discover something other than fitness. You’ll discover that working out with a partner is fun.

My wife and I occasionally enjoy some fitness circuits together. She’s a champ and is always a good sport, no matter what I throw at her. I enjoy it a great deal, because it not only helps her to stay fit and get the blood pumping, it also allows me to include her in an important aspect of my life. So working out with your spouse is very important. It doesn’t have to be an all-out sweat storm that flattens you for the next couple of days; I rather save those for my friends whose suffering I enjoy (looking at you, Jayden!).

In closing, working out with a partner can also ensure your safety. If you happen to be doing something like lifting heavy weights or hiking in a remote area, having someone with you can ensure that you’ll have immediate help should something go wrong, which can be an important aspect if you happen to have Diabetes and suffer a low at an inopportune time. Not to mention that a little healthy competition amongst friends or loved ones is never a bad thing. So get out there and challenge yourselves. The only limits are the ones we set ourselves. ☯

Getting Caught In The Mouse Trap…

I’ve been doing martial arts for a LONG time, as long as the median age of some of my readers. And I’ve had a lot of role models and inspiring people who have helped me along the way. As a child, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t inspired by some of the on-screen talent that I’ve seen. Some have been traditional, some have been a bit more, shall we say eclectic? And I feel that once in a while, I should pay homage to some of these martial artists, for they’ve done what many have dreamt about through their teens: they became famous.

There’s something of a stigma against on-screen martial artists. And this is for good reason. A lot of what we see on screen isn’t genuine, and is usually choreographed and arranged before being filmed. But once in a while, a little light shines through. And by “little,” I am referring of course, to one of my childhood idols, Michele “The Mouse” Krasnoo…

Due to licensing and copyright laws, I won’t be sharing an image of Krasnoo, but she can be found easily by Googling her name. Krasnoo is originally from California and began studying the Korean art of Tang Soo Do in 1980 when she was just 6 years old! She reached black belt level by her early teens, which although I’m typically not a fan of, she made it work for her.

Over the years that followed, Krasnoo studied and became proficient in a few other styles of martial arts (sound familiar?). She got into acting and became known for her intricate martial arts forms and the colourful use of uniforms. In 2006, she was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame. She’s also proficient in various weapons.

I first saw her on screen in the mid-80’s when No Retreat, No Surrender was released on tape (it was probably Beta cassette, just in case you’re interested in guessing how old I am!) I’ve seen her in a handful of other films, and she became a favourite of mine. I found myself able to relate to her because of her dedication, her study of multiple styles and the fact that she gained her nickname (The Mouse) due to her short height of 5 feet. Considering I’ve felt small through a good portion of my life.

As of the early 2000’s, Krasnoo held a 5th-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, 1st-degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu, which is a similar style to my own Uechi-Ryu, 1st-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a black sash in Wushu Kung Fu. She holds a ridiculous number of championship titles and despite her on-screen time, is a traditional martial artist in the most rudimentary of ways.

Krasnoo has moved on in her life, married with children and all. But she still does some acting and has been a source of inspiration for this martial artist for years. I still watch Kickboxer 4 on occasion and enjoy watching her kick the crap out of people three times her size. We find our role models in the least likely of places, but we take ’em where we can get ’em! ☯

When The Way Is Right…☸️

I don’t deny that one could say I became a Buddhist almost by accident. I hadn’t even HEARD of Buddhism when I started martial arts in the late 80’s, yet here I am. Decades later, constant study and trying to follow the right path. A good portion of my story is a prime example of cause and effect. As I progressed in the martial arts, I was introduced to concepts such as Budo, Bushido’s code and my first introductions to Buddhism.

Despite the accidental introductions (or not so accidental, if one believes that all things happen for a reason) there have been a number of measurable benefits to my years of Buddhist study and martial arts. I originally got into martial arts for the purposes of improving my health, and it has turned out to provide more benefit than that scrawny kid ever could have imagined when he set out on the journey…

There’s no denying that the martial arts has provided me with a number of significant advantages.  The physical requirements and exercise has helped to improve my insulin sensitivity and fight off insulin resistance.  The intense training has provided me with better blood circulation, which as most of you likely know, is VERY important to someone with Diabetes.  Measurable improvements in body mass and appetite followed, allowing me to survive well past the window of expectation that most of my doctors had for me in the late 80’s, early 90’s.

  When I started studying Buddhism, some of the most important aspects that I began to work on were mindfulness, meditation and control of my inner thoughts and emotions.  This is not to say that I don’t display emotions (my wife can attest to that), but my practice has allowed me to control how I externalize my reactions and emotions.  Over the years, this has allowed me to deal with problems and face issues in my personal and professional life in an almost detached manner that allows for logic to step in and for the emotion to come out at a later time.

Something I need to point out is that most people automatically associate Buddhism with meditation, but the truth is that you can reap the benefits of meditation on its own.  Not only from a Diabetes standpoint but for people in general, meditation can do a world of good.  This is becoming a well-known fact, and plenty of people are getting on board.  Meditation is offered/taught in some places of work, schools and a variety of classes where different varieties of meditation are taught.

And yes, there are different types of meditation.  Some of the most popular ones are transcendental meditation, focused meditation, mantra meditation and relaxation meditation are but a few, and it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the meditation that you do.  Just like there are a variety of types of yoga and types of martial arts. 

But some of the benefits of meditation can include lowering one’s blood pressure, controlling pain within the body, improving one’s sleep, helps one to focus and increase self-awareness and helps with stress and anxiety.  All of these things can be helpful with the control of blood sugars and overall Diabetic health.  You can find introductory classes on guided meditation in most major cities, and there are plenty of books on the subject as well.  Be sure to keep an open mind, and if it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t be afraid to  seek out different classes as every instructor or teacher may have a different method of imparting the knowledge.

I may have fallen into some of what I do by accident or coincidence, but I’ll never look back.  One of the beautiful aspects of meditation is that you can basically do it anywhere.  All you need is a comfortable place to sit/lie down, whatever your preference may be.  ☯

To Chi Or Not To Chi…

Does Chi exist? What is Chi? Chi can go by a number of different names: Chi, Ki or Qi, this energy is said to be the animating force behind all living things. In karate, we learn that our energy comes from the hara, or the belly area. This would be why ritual suicide in medieval japan was done by slicing open the belly as opposed to other “conventional” means.

But… Does it exist? This is the question that has been debated, especially in the Western world, for a very long time. Depending on what culture and/or background you may be referring to, Chi is what gives you the energy to keep going. We all have Chi and each person has the same amount throughout all of our lives. The use of that energy is simply allocated to different aspects as we get older. This would be one of the reasons why my 5-year old seems as though he has an endless pool of daddy-crushing energy while I wake up most mornings wondering if my body will actually get me out of bed.

It’s not magic or wild fantasy… I’ve seen some “scientists” speak about how Chi does not exist, there’s no evidence of it and there’s no way to prove its existence. Hmm. Perhaps they’re right, but some of the concepts behind Chi are also rooted in modern science. For example, the Law of Conservation of Energy teaches us that energy never ceases to exist; it is merely transformed or transferred. The amount of energy within a contained system remains constant.

So, ask yourself an important question: What are you? Are you simply the sum of your physical body? Nothing but a mass of tissue, water and bone? If so, what about the essence that makes you, well… you? The person you are, the sentience, the awareness, your personality and the living being that has put in years of existence in this life… What happens to that after you die? Is it simply a light switch that flicks off, or do you believe that your energy will be transformed or transferred?

Thinking about some of these questions can be scary. After all, no one likes to conceive of their own death. But as my uncle always says, “We only do TWO things in life; pay taxes and die!” The joke is many people get away from paying taxes. But death comes for us all. And the question of what comes after can yield anxious results.

I am totally on board with the fact that Chi isn’t some “magic” energy that can be harnessed. When you see people claiming to be able to push over opponents from behind a wall and shatter stone with the power of their Chi and other wild things, I can understand why people would be reluctant to believe or understand Chi. But just because a few charlatans have demonstrated fraudulently aspects, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

That certain “something,” the unspoken quality that makes you sentient and self-aware, can’t be denied. It makes no difference whether or not you believe in gravity; it’ll still keep you firmly rooted to the ground. The same can be said about the energy that makes you who you are. Whether you choose to believe in its existence or not, won’t change the fact that you are still here. ☯

It’s Going Semi-Well, And I May Have Woken Up…

Back in December of 2019, I wrote a post called Here Comes The New Year. I wrote about the New Year’s resolution I was making and I maybe bragged a bit about the fact that I was starting my resolution a month early in order to get a leg up on my goals. I’ll admit that for the most part, things were going decently. Then the world went to hell and everyone had to stay home in self-isolation…

I know I promised I wouldn’t constantly be posting about my New Year’s resolution. But since we’ve already gotten through a third of the year, I felt it might be a good time to provide at least a rudimentary update. Especially since I’ve already identified my weak spots. See, people tend to need something to fill their time. No matter how much we usually think that some quiet, down time would be nice, humans become bored reasonably quick and will do whatever seems reasonable and safe in the moment, in order to entertain themselves.

Friends and associates who know me personally are aware that I experienced my first beer at the age of 23. Since then, I’ve allowed myself the occasional indulgence whenever time and location permits. Although never consuming in order to become intoxicated, some of the gut-swelling effects will take place even if you drink very little.

My Resolution spreadsheet at a glance

If you take a look at the image above, it isn’t hard to see where my problem spot may be. Granted, I didn’t exactly make the spreadsheet easy to adhere to. Perhaps if I’d made the spreadsheet a day-to-day checklist as opposed to a weekly one, there would be more green in the first column. But one drink at anytime during the week currently results in a red “X” as opposed to a green check mark.

Workouts are workouts. I make no excuses for the red in that column. One can clearly see some occasions where I’ve been ill or absent in some manner. Once in early February where I was down and out with a cold and the first week of March when I travelled to New Brunswick, limiting the number of times I was able to fit in a workout. I know, I know… But you always tell us that’s you can workout anywhere and there’s no excuses… As right as that statement may be, sometime life gets in the way.

And the soda in recent weeks is a result of deciding I wanted a little something different than water. I found cases of mini-cans of Diet Coke Xtra. This is a blend that has an extra hit of caffeine in it and, well… y’all know me and my caffeine. Definitely not a permanent issue, but I don’t allow for a green check mark unless I’ve had a full week without having any.

The obvious problem is that first column… Whether one random beer, or the indulgence of several days of quarantine, I’ve only had five green check marks out of eighteen weeks. Last Monday, I travelled to Saskatoon for my usual eye injections. I was upgraded to a jacuzzi suite at my hotel, which allowed for me to soak and relax my back, which has been bothering me lately.

Because I have no sense of temperature and I enjoy making myself suffer, I made the water in the jacuzzi tub far too hot. As a result, I occasionally had to sit on the edge of the tub and allow myself to cool. I unfortunately caught a glimpse of myself in the mirrors that make up the wall behind the tub. I did NOT like what I saw. It seems that months of isolation and beer have had a noticeable effect on the “life-preserver” area of my torso. We are not impressed…

I only have myself to blame, considering the fact that I KNOW full well that people with Diabetes have difficulties with weight fluctuations. Adding beer into the mix has obviously had a negative effect. And even though I’m fully on board with the fact that a person’s value has to do with more than one’s physical appearance, there’s also something to be said about being happy with the person you see in the mirror.

Now, I’m not seriously suggesting that I’m obese. Simply that, for lack of a better term, I’ve pudged up in all the wrong places. As I’ve often written before, weight loss HAS to include a combination of fitness AND proper nutrition. So even though I work out consistently (for the most part, but I did work out 6 days in a row last week), my body will still pack on some pounds unless I cut out the bad and maintain the good.

Hence why I’ve decided to knuckle down and cut out the beer for the next while. I already knew going in that I would have some squares with a red “X” on the sheet. After all, one is more prone to failure if an indulgence isn’t permitted on occasion. But sometimes we need a swift kick in the keister; a wake-up call, if you will. It will be interesting to see what the spreadsheet looks like in September. ☯

When You’ve Bruised More Than Your Ego…

Don’t let the title fool you, today’s post is about actual, physical bruising. let’s leave the emotional bruising for another day… If you train in the martial arts, it stands to reason that you’ll get bruises. Let me repeat that: YOU WILL GET BRUISES!!! If you think, for one moment, that you’ll train extensively in karate or any other style in the hopes of becoming proficient without suffering bumps, bruises and abrasions, you’re kidding yourself.

I’ve recently written about the fact that proper martial arts training requires hitting something. I’ve mostly been referring to the use of pads or punching bags. But when training with a partner, speed and precision need to be developed. This can usually only be accomplished by executing techniques to their fullest extent against your partner. Your partner, on their end, need to develop their blocks in such a way that they can intercept and counter.

I have unfortunately known quite a number of instructors who have adopted a policy of “no touching” in their dojo. Although this can seem ideal, especially in a modern society where everyone gets easily offended and can construe physical contact as something inappropriate (despite martial arts being a contact sport), such a policy does you no favours. It prevents your ability to learn martial skills in the way they were meant to. If your instructor preaches no contact, he or she is doing you a great disservice.

But if you’ll indulge me for a moment as I climb down off my soap box, let’s discuss actual bruising for a moment. A bruise is basically a pooling of blood beneath the surface of the skin. There are different types of bruising, but we’re keeping it simple (for a change). Bruising happens when your tissues come into some traumatic level of contact with something solid. The capillaries beneath your skin burst and release blood into the tissue beneath the skin. The collection of this blood is what we see as a bruise.

Although bruises will initially hurt or ache, the feeling should pass within a day or two. And you should likely know that the bruise will change colours as it heals. That being said, there are certain medical conditions that can cause bruising without trauma to the tissues. Some bleeding disorders like hemophilia, and some forms of cancer, can cause abstract bruising that you may not be able to explain.

You should definitely seek medical help if your bruise is accompanied by swelling and extreme pain, bruising without knowing how it happened and if you suspect you may have broken a bone. If you have bruising and also have blood coming from ANY extremity (nose, mouth, urine…) then it requires immediate medical attention. On the milder side, bruises will usually heal on their own within a week or two at most, depending on the cause.

If you have Type-1 Diabetes, you’re likely already aware that it’s tougher for us to heal ANY wound. A simple bumping of your leg can cause bruising that will need to be treated by a medical professional, through draining or medication. This all depends on how well you manage your Diabetes, especially through the practice of good nutrition, exercise and frequent blood sugar testing. ☯

Don’t Knuckle Under 👊

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the importance of striking in the martial arts; not only from a technique perspective, but the actual practice of striking solid objects (punching bags, pads and mitts) in order to refine and develop the techniques your specific style uses. After all, how can you learn to punch if you never PUNCH something? Makes sense, right?

I think that people in general tend to underestimate the importance of proper technique and practice when it comes to throwing an efficient punch. There are a number of elements to consider: bone alignment, stance, knuckle use and where to chamber the punch from… It’s not a matter of simply throwing the fist out there and hoping to make contact. This is one of the reasons why that first punch in an actual fight usually results in injury.

For years, karate practitioners conditioned their strike through the use of a punching post called a Makiwara. Although some may argue with this perspective, the Makiwara was originally developed in Okinawa. It involved a post driven into the ground and wrapped in rope or padded with rubber or a rice pad. Practitioners would strike the Makiwara in order to develop the knuckles on the index and middle finger, which are the two that SHOULD be used during a proper punch (unless you’re using Kung Fu’s punch, which uses the last three knuckles).

Example of a Makiwara

I tried to find an image of what a karate practitioner’s knuckles look like after years of Makiwara training, but all I found were extreme photos of excessively calloused and swollen fore-knuckles that don’t ACTUALLY happen to martial artists, even when they train consistently. After three decades of hitting everything in sight and doing knuckle push-ups during every class, my knuckles STILL don’t look like the examples provided online. Seriously, Google “karate knuckles” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

That’s MY left fist. Notice the enlarged fore-knuckles without callouses

Those knuckles are the result of years of knuckle push-ups and punching bags. If you do your punch properly, your knuckles, wrist, forearm and elbow are aligned and the two fore-knuckles will be the ones performing the strike. To do otherwise leaves you open to injury; wrist sprains, fractures and breaks, injured knuckles and lack of power behind the punch.

Knuckle push-ups are another controversial subject in martial arts circles. Are they worth it? Are they better than traditional push-ups? Well, speaking from experience, I can say that they provide a certain amount of conditioning for the fore-knuckles. They also help build the forearms, develop bone alignment for punches and builds the chest and triceps. It also helps to strengthen your wrists, but there’s a catch-22 to doing them…

You’re doing push-ups using a smaller area of stability, which can cause loss of balance and risk of falling over and spraining something. You can also injure the small bones in your hand due to the focused stress that knuckle push-ups put on them. So there is some risk in doing them, but they also offer all the same benefits that traditional push-ups do.

As with any other technique in the martial arts, the learning never stops. If you think you’ve mastered the perfect punch, I can promise you that you’re wrong. There’s always room for improvement, so work on finding the technique that works for you. Then train, train, train… ☯

Making An Impact

Of the many benefits associated with the martial arts, being able to train by yourself is likely one of my favourites. In fact, karate is one of the very few methods of training that you can literally do anywhere, anytime and with minimal equipment requirements. Given the current state of the world and the need for everyone to self-isolate, this is a comforting aspect to something familiar that I’ve been doing for most of my life.

But one of the things that is often lacking in some students’ workouts is a fundamental aspect of the martial arts… You need to hit something. Regardless of your reasons for training in the martial arts, you need to ask yourself: Have you ever punched someone? Have you ever initiated a technique and made contact with a solid object, be it a punching bag, board or a brick?

Depending on who you talk to, board breaking has been a topic of hot debate among martial arts practitioners for decades. For some practitioners, board and/or brick breaking is a pointless exercise. In the words of Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon, “Boards Don’t Hit Back.” I’ve never been a fan of “breaking” something in order to develop my strikes properly. I’ve always been more of a bag or pad kind of guy. This is because you can practice and develop your strikes ad nauseam on pads, where boards and bricks require clean up and replacement.

But all jokes aside, you can train by yourself to your heart’s content. But honestly: YOU NEED TO HIT SOMETHING!!! How can you properly train in a striking art without actually striking something. Form and drills are fantastic for building your stamina and developing a technique. But in order to avoid injury in the event you ever ACTUALLY need to hit someone, you need to experience the feeling of your strikes making contact with a solid object; preferably something that won’t yield or give when you strike it.

This is the 8×8-inch punch pad I installed on my basement wall last Wednesday. Believe it or not, I only paid 10 dollars for this bad boy from a shopping website. I mounted it onto a piece of pressed wood, then I bolted the entire thing to the wall stud beneath this gnarly-looking 70’s clapboard. I placed it at chest height, allowing me to practice my punches, elbow strikes, knife and ridge hands. If I were still in my younger years, I’d probably even try doing my roundhouse kicks on this puppy.

Before finding this pad, I was looking into making one of my own. All you need is a square piece of high-density foam. Wrap it in canvass, leather or vinyl and stitch it shut. Then mount it on a backboard and decide where you’ll bolt it. Some of that green foam used for fake flowers can work pretty well as long as dense enough and it’s properly wrapped.

If you can’t get your hands on a punch pad or bag, and don’t feel you’re skilled enough to make one of your own (what am I, a seamstress?), another option is sand punching. Used in a variety of martial arts including karate, fill a bucket two thirds of the way with a fine grain of sand. Then you can practice punching into the bucket in order to build strength in the forearms, wrists and knuckles. If you want to add a little density to the mix, add some water to the sand.

Although fine grains of sand are generally used, my Sensei used to have a canvass sack of crushed rock hanging from a chain in his gym. I’ve never used it, but I can imagine he has. Density and type will depend on your preference and how you want to develop. You just need to be mindful of technique so that you avoid potential injury.

The bottom line is simply that even if you’re training to get in shape or learn to defend yourself, you can’t strike empty air indefinitely. Eventually, you gotta get in there and hit something. After all, you can play Grand Theft Auto until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t qualify you to drive. You need to get behind the wheel of an actual vehicle to do that. That same can be said for your strikes. ☯