Life Is Short

David Wong once wrote, “…life is a flickering candle we all carry around. A gust of wind, a meaningless accident, a microsecond of carelessness, and it’s out. Forever.”

The fragility life is no secret. No matter how strong or healthy we happen to be, the way life ends is the same for all of us. And there is ultimately no avoiding it.

Regardless of what your beliefs may be, religious or scientific, death is a contemplated reality for all of us. We’ve all wondered and pondered about it at some point. For the most part, our ability NOT to think about it on a constant basis is what makes it possible for us to make it through life every day without freaking out.

Lately, I’ve begun realizing that I have reached the point in my existence where life has started to take away more than it gives. Although life is a balance of give and take, eventually the well dries out.

About a week ago, I heard about a work colleague who passed away. It was tragic and sudden. He was out with members of his family and just… died. The only thing worse than passing away like that is doing it in front of family. What struck me most significantly is that this colleague was the same age as I am. Sort of got me thinking.

Sometimes we take life for granted. We neglect to take note of the beauty and the blessings in our lives. It’s human nature to find it easier to complain than praise. But we need to realize that problems can be dealt with, money can be earned but time can never be taken back. So appreciate the life you have in the moment. If your life has aspects that make you suffer, make a change. Do whatever is necessary to keep that smile on your face! ☯

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One Good Turn…

With everything going on in the world and some of the horrific stuff we can often read on the news, it becomes really easy to become jaded and write off the general public. Trust me, when out and about I often get to point “A”, buy whatever I need then proceed to point “B”.

For the most part, the things I see while out in public generally include people cutting each other off in their vehicles, dropping doors in other people’s faces as opposed to holding them open and general rudeness. It makes one wonder why these folks live in a large population centre when they have the manners and respect for others that would require them to live in a small log cabin in the isolated mountains. But I digress…

At the start of the week, I was out running errands with my wife and son. I stopped at the local corner store to buy a bunch of energy drinks and check my lottery ticket (I didn’t win, by the way. And before anyone gets on me about the energy drinks, my friends and family are aware that I’m addicted to them and at 3/$5 it’s cheaper than getting a daily coffee anywhere in the city, so… 😜)

While there, a gentleman was at the till. He started to place his items on the counter, and as the line formed behind him, he ended purchasing the items for the next three or four people in line. I was floored! He kept saying “add theirs to mine” over and over. These folks obviously weren’t with this guy, and some of them even looked at him suspiciously; but he genuinely paid for the stuff all these people were getting.

Now, without approaching a total stranger and asking what his deal is, I could only make a few calculated guesses. Perhaps he had won the lottery and was sharing the wealth. Perhaps he was paying it forward after someone had done something nice for him. Maybe he was simply a good samaritan and wanted to do something nice. Who knows?

The point is, the world can still sometimes surprise you. Despite how jaded we can sometimes get in relation to everything that happens in the world, some people will still go out of their way to do good. And we can help that effect by being among those who do good as well. As Gandhi once said, be the change you wish to see in the world. ☯

If You Get Punched In The Face, Your Stunt Double Will Likely Laugh At You

Everyone loves a good action movie. Especially an inspirational one. A perfect example of this is my favourite series of movies, Rocky… Although not all the sequels have received the same level of acclaim, I can watch the entire batch of 8 movies over and over and enjoy them as much as I did the first time I saw them (8 movies includes the newer Creed movies, just to be clear).

The first movie sends an important inspirational message; the unknown amateur boxer who trains as though his life depends on it and is given the chance of his career. Although he loses in that first movie, the moral victory sends chills down my spine (if you haven’t seen the original Rocky, I apologize for the spoilers. But the movie came out in 1976, people! You should probably get on that!)

But how much of what we see in movies is genuine and can have real-life applications? Obviously, I’m talking from a combat or fighting standpoint.

Hollywood, and mainstream sports such as boxing and MMA have romanticized the notion of duking it out, round after round, for long periods of time. Even within the martial arts, we train for hours on specific techniques, but these aren’t practical applications as they would happen in a real fight. We simply do this to engrain the technique and commit it to memory so that we can call upon muscle memory when needed.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a real fight where the protagonist and the antagonist square of and circle each other while dialoguing for several minutes before getting into an exchange that includes spinning kicks and multiple blows to the head where each combatant continues to fight it out, unfazed. All the while with a wicked soundtrack by Two Steps From Hell playing in the background…

The average street fight will last less than a minute. This includes both combatants squaring off, taking their stance and exchanging no more than three or four strikes each. This is all the time that’s necessary for one and/or both combatant to fall to the ground and keep pummelling each other until exhausted. And the reality is that if someone even matching your weight gives you a full contact punch to the head, you’re likely going down. Getting punched in the head causes the brain to impact with the wall of the skull and can cause dizziness, confusion, loss of balance and potential loss of consciousness.

In fact, in an article written in HighPercentageMartialArts.com by Louis Martin, he explains that fights “happened most often within thirty seconds” and that “after thirty seconds, the chances of a knockout or TKO dropped sharply.”

Martin goes on to explain what I described above: “Men usually charge at each other with power punches, fall to the ground, and continue punching until they get tired or knock each other out.” His article actually contains a number of interesting statistics and information regarding 200 street fights he observed to accumulate this information. (https://www.highpercentagemartialarts.com/blog/2019/3/6/how-long-do-street-fights-actually-last-and-what-can-we-learn-from-that)

Sports combatants train to build their endurance to surreal levels because they are required to last as long as possible in the ring. Martial artists will spend hours honing their skills on specific techniques so that they’ll execute them using muscle memory when the need for defence arises. But once it comes to a no holds barred ACTUAL fight against the guy who cut in line while you were waiting for your maple scone at the local coffee shop, you’re looking at about a minute at most, as far as the actual fighting goes.

So keep practicing those specific techniques. It’s important to get them down pat before trying to use them. But understand that if you get into an actual fight you’ll get two, maybe three, punches or kicks against your opponent before the outcome is decided. And in the real world, there usually are no actual winners in any fight. ☯

There’s A Reason Why Rails Are Parallel…

We often don’t realize just how intrinsic our personal values are to the jobs or careers we choose. Sometimes, the career chooses us. Depending on the career we pursue, the job’s core values can often coincide with our own. This is what makes us suited to specific careers. So what happens when those values no LONGER coincide with ours?

I’ve often felt as though my personal values were in sync with the core values of my career. It’s one of the aspects that has always made my chosen career feel natural, as though it isn’t just something I do but it has become who I am.

But in the past two years, my trust in my chosen career has become shaken. And my values and the job’s core values has slipped off the rails (hence the title). They are no longer in sync with one another. And this has caused me to lose trust in what I do. Do you know what happens when you stop trusting the career you’ve chosen?

When we reach this point, it becomes important to start looking at potential changes. Change is scary. It brings the unknown and most people are always afraid of the unknown. It doesn’t mean it’s BAD, but as a people we tend to be more comfortable with the familiar and are resistant to change. Am I just stating the obvious here? Sometimes I tend to ramble…

I think it was Ed Parker (who is the one who brought modern Kenpo to North America) who said, “The true martial artist is not the one who fears change, but the one who causes it to happen.” Trust may come and go, and it always makes life harder when the organization you dedicated your life to happens to turn on you, but if you’re amenable to change and willing to take a chance on life, there can only be good things around the corner. ☯

Don’t Pop Your Clutch

There’s a natural inclination, when you’re working out to go hard and go strong right from the get-go! Although there’s nothing wrong with working up a good sweat (I generally encourage it, actually) it may not always be conducive with getting the most out of your workout.

Last Thursday’s karate class was interesting, because we practiced sets of 50 reps. The instructor would provide a specific technique and had us pair off and practice them back and forth for 50 reps each. We did this for almost forty minutes.

I was paired off with a young lad who was a green belt. We squared off and he attacked appropriately and I began practicing the assigned technique. When I had completed my 50 reps, my partner started in and performed his. Here’s what happened…

I started off at a steady, even pace. I focused on form and proper technique. By the time I reached 40 reps, my strikes got stronger and more focused. My partner started off by striking as hard as he could. He focused on strength and sheer force. By the time he reached his halfway point, he started getting tired and his muscles turned lactic.

What does this teach us? Well, it teaches us that learning the technique properly as a first step is of the utmost importance. Strength and power will come later. What is that quote from Bruce Lee? “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Essentially, you need to try and focus on learning things properly before trying to apply it. This is sort of what form and kata are for. When entering the dojo, everyone wants to punch and kick as hard as possible and make it look fancy.

Good things take time. Patience. Perseverance and practice. There are no easy paths and even when you have experience, you sometimes need to back it off a notch and take some baby steps to ensure you gain the most from your training. ☯

Hey, Great! You Showed Up!

There’s a growing trend that seems to have emerged in the last couple of decades; one in which the newer generations are rewarded simply for the effort of trying or showing up as opposed to receiving the rewards of accomplishing the goals through hard work.

If you’re like me and are either Generation X or Gen Y, you’re likely used to how things USED to be. That is to say, you didn’t get anything unless you accomplished the goal, you didn’t move on to the next grade in school unless you actually PASSED and you didn’t get trophies simply for showing up and playing the game. But for Millennials and Centennials, actually accomplishing something seems to be taking a back seat to being praised simply for trying. And I certainly don’t mean to paint all Millennials and Centennials with the same brush, so there’s no need for anyone to get offended (yet another issue with modern society!)

Look, I get it! Acknowledging one’s efforts can be extremely important and rewarding on its own. And it can feel good knowing that a teacher or a coach will still pat you on the back and assure you that “we’ll get it next time”. But the current world perspective may be creating a weaker generation of adults.

According to an article written by Ashuthi Kanneganti in the Queen’s University Journal, “The issue with participation trophies is they promote a disheartening concept: that failure is something to be ashamed of.”

Kanneganti goes on further to say, “Failure can shed light on our shortcomings, and making mistakes is necessary for personal growth.” And the article continues by describing how such practices leave children unprepared to face real life failures later on in life, such as college or university. Many of them have difficulty coping with these failures as they grew up without ever having to face them. (https://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2018-09-10/opinions/participation-trophies-are-creating-a-weaker-generation/)

Another interesting perspective is from Dr. Jonathan Fader, Sports Psychologist, who wrote an interesting article in Psychology Today, in which he explains how trophies and accolades may not be in the best interest of the winners or the losers; pride should be had in the win based on your effort and not the trophy at all! (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-new-you/201806/should-we-give-our-kids-participation-trophies)

So in a world where some schools in the world have adopted a No Child Left Behind mindset, where is the happy medium? Certainly, I was never a “sporty kid” while growing up. Health issues and lack of popularity saw to that. But as I trained in the martial arts, I remember the literal blood, sweat and tears that went into each and every belt rank I achieved. I also had the benefit of knowing that when I wore that belt, it was with the knowledge that I had earned that level of skill and I was entitled to wear that belt with pride, unlike some modern karate schools where you can earn a black belt in two years! (Which is impossible to do properly, by the way.)

Failing at things, regardless of what category of life they fell under, taught me the value and importance of recognizing my skill level and knowing what I had to work on. For most kids, if you reward them even if they failed or lost, you may be teaching them that trying isn’t all that important. After all, why exert yourself if you’ll get rewarded regardless of the outcome?

This has been a hot topic issue for a number of years now, and everyone falls to one side or the other; either they absolutely hate participation trophies or they totally endorse them. I, for one, will be teaching my son that if he wants that black belt, wants that trophy or wants that University degree, he will need to work his proverbial a$$ off and earn it. Otherwise, all we’ll be doing is watering down our society with generations who can’t handle the future. ☯

The Real Holy Trinity

Quite a while ago, I posted about the cycle of life. I tend to forget how long ago, considering I’m close to having posted everyday for almost a year at this point. But given the passage of time, sometimes it becomes acceptable to repeat some of the information I’ve shared. And here we are…

Ask yourself: what is the one thing that all living things have in common? The correct answer is MOVEMENT. All things that live tend to move. This is true of even the most basic of life forms. Plants move to adjust to the environment and some flowers will even turn with the sun.

So, what does movement create? If you answered ENERGY, you are correct. Think along the lines of a hydroelectric dam. Powerful currents of water sent through turbines that create energy. It’s a proven concept of basic physics that movement promotes energy. Almost like running on a treadmill or wind turbines… Movement creates energy, no doubt.

And guess what? Energy creates life. At the end of the day, whether your beliefs are religious or scientific, one needs to acknowledge that we are all essentially made of the same stuff: energy. Down to our atomic base, we are all composed of energy. And even basic electricity has movement contained within it… Electricity is fundamentally the movement of electrons through a conductor, creating a current.

So here’s the equation: life creates movement, movement creates energy, energy creates life and so on and so forth. It’s a cycle, and an important one. If you remove or lessen any of the three, you jeopardize your health and your life. Think of unplugging your smart device, where the current of electrons stops and it is no longer receiving energy. The device effectively loses its “life”.

Look at it this way: If you happen to be a couch potato, you don’t move much. This means that your energy turns stagnant and non existent and you reduce your ability to maintain your life. In medical terms, you gain weight, your cholesterol rises and you basically die from sitting still.

So keep moving. Keep yourself motivated and energized. Even if it sometimes feels like it’s better or easier to relax and take it easy, your body and health will thank you later. ☯