The Possible Light At The End Of The Tunnel…

I was sitting in my living room last Wednesday, basking in the aftermath of a solid supper of two jalapeño cheddar burgers. I’m totally kidding. Not about eating two burgers; I totally demolished those! I’m kidding about the fact that I was basking in anything but pain. The jalapeño burgers were painful to eat, digest and think about. But I digress… Shortly after supper, while I was in the living room with my wife and infant son, I received a text from a friend of mine.

Now, one might be inclined to ask, “But Shawn, don’t you ALWAYS get texts from friends?” First of all, shaddup! Second of all, texts rarely have this level of importance or solicit as much of a reaction from me. This text message contained a link to an Edmonton CTV article indicating that there is a possibility that a cure for Diabetes may have been discovered. No, that’s not a typo. You read that right.

The article, published on November 17th by CTV News Edmonton, opens with a bold statement in its first line, “Scientists at the University of Alberta say they may have discovered a cure for Diabetes.” Apparently, their new process has already cured Diabetes in mice and the research team is hopeful that they’ll eventually be able to test it on human test subjects. You can read the article for yourself here.

The lead researcher is Dr. James Shapiro, who is a well-known rockstar in the Diabetes community as the creator of the “Edmonton Protocol” some twenty years ago. This protocol involved injecting Diabetes patients with insulin-producing islet cells in order to allow their bodies to produce and regulate blood sugars without daily injections. This was a fantastic breakthrough and an amazing step forward in Diabetes treatment. I had even looked into it myself, when it first came out.

One of the big problems is that the protocol doesn’t work for everybody. There are conditions that make the patient receptive to the treatment, and even for those who can get the treatment are usually stuck using anti-rejection meds for the rest of their lives in order to keep their bodies from rejecting the injected cells. Dr. Shapiro and his team have apparently found a way around this obstacle.

According to their new claims, the research team have somehow found a way to turn a patient’s own cells into islet-producing ones, circumventing the need for all the anti-rejection meds and side effects that accompany the Edmonton Protocol. Their current research has shown that they’ve been able to reverse the effects of Diabetes in mice to the point where the Diabetes is effectively cured. If successful in human trials, there is a very real possibility that we could see a cure for Diabetes within our lifetime.

Just reading the article brought tears to my eyes. After all, finding a cure for Diabetes is the “hopeless hope” of every T1D. And I’d be lying if I said that I even remember what life is like without Diabetes. But it’s gotta be better than this. Watching the video made even more misty-eyed (Thanks, Kristen!). As is the case with most scientific research, funding is the main issue. Dr. Shapiro requires additional funding for equipment and research in order to perfect this new treatment.

The video that accompanies the article discusses a man, whose son has Type-1 Diabetes, who has decided on a goal of raising 22 million dollars by 2022. He made a pretty good point; if every Canadian with Diabetes donated simply $22, Dr. Shapiro would be well beyond the funding required to make this work. With over 400 million people with Diabetes worldwide, it would really suck if there’s a cure on the horizon but no one could get it because of funding.

Between drying all the tears the article caused, I tried finding where one can donate for this specific cause. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything so if one of you does, please include it in the comments so I can share it and pass it on. Diabetes has taken up such a large portion of my life and has helped mold me into the person I am today. I’ll admit that I would likely feel a bit lost if I suddenly found myself clear of it. But I’d adjust. Definitely. Read the article. In case one link wasn’t enough, HERE! ☯

The Masks We Wear…

“If You Wear A Mask Long Enough You Begin To Forget Who You Are Beneath It.”

– Alan Moore

I don’t have cable, nor do I watch the news or carry any subscriptions. I’ve recently taken to listening to morning news radio when bringing Nathan to school so that I won’t be completely in the dark with what’s happening in the world. And it’s a little difficult to avoid writing about issues surrounding COVID-19, considering we all get slapped in the face with it on a daily basis. Literally.

With this clever pun, I refer to the wearing of face coverings or masks. Although I’m uncertain about the state of this requirement around the rest of the world, many if not most Canadian Provinces have made the wearing of a mask or facial covering mandatory by law in public places, with Saskatchewan being no exception. In fact, facial masks have, until recently, been required on a location-by-location basis, being entirely dependant on the business itself to impose the wearing of the mask.

Most Provinces have legislated the wearing of facial coverings or masks with heavy monetary fines imposed on those who are caught without them. In Saskatchewan, fines ranging as high as $2,000 plus surcharges were imposed on the participant of a protest against the wearing of masks, which took place in Saskatoon (Star Phoenix). This isn’t something new, although most of Canada is starting to jump on the “mandatory” bandwagon for any towns or cities with a population higher than 5,000 people.

There’s a growing number of people with some very strange ideas and concepts related to COVID-19 and face masks… It isn’t all that surprising, since even the most common sense of concepts are often met with conspiracy theorists and the typical bullshit that people try to come up with, either due to ignorance or mental health issues. It’s a bit like trying to convince people the Earth isn’t flat. It doesn’t matter how many scientifically-proven reasons are given, these folks are still stupid enough to think the planet is a flat disc.

Sometimes, there’s just no convincing some people. And that’s fine! People are entitled to their opinions, so long as it doesn’t endanger others. And this happens to be the category we fall under, when it comes to wearing masks. I could spout the information that’s basically become general knowledge by this point, wearing the mask is more about protecting the population than the one person, it prevents spread by blocking virus droplets, it isn’t a substitute for social distancing… blah, blah, blah!

We’ve heard all of this stuff on a weekly basis for the past eight months, so I won’t regurgitate it. What I AM going to do, is discuss some specifics about the proper wearing of a mask. Take these for grain of salt and I encourage you to do your own research if you have any doubts. So long as you do your research somewhere reputable like the World Health Organization or Health Canada. If you get your information from The Onion, then I can’t help you…

First and foremost, cloth masks are just fine. As long as you ensure that they contain two or three layers and are made of a tightly-woven but breathable fabric such as cotton, you’re good to go. You shouldn’t wear masks that have exhalation valves, as these are designed to prevent particles from coming in and may not stop them from going out. This means you may inadvertently be spreading the virus, should you happen to be a carrier who doesn’t show symptoms.

Try to avoid solid or non-breathable materials like leather or plastic. Masks with a clear, plastic window are all the rage right now with people believing they’re great for allowing people to see each other’s smiles and facial expressions. But realistically, they just make it much more difficult to breathe through. Although they potentially have their place in situations where a deaf person may need to lip read, this isn’t the norm and you should stick to something snug-fitting, made out of cloth material or the single-use paper masks. Same goes for those stupid masks with built-in straws. Just drink your damn Slurpee when you get home!

Wash your masks! I can’t stress this one enough! I wear reusable masks and my wife and I made a quick grocery run after eating at a burger joint, the one day. I accidentally burped into my mask and nearly passed out! You wouldn’t wear your underwear indefinitely without laundering them (or maybe you would, I’m not here to judge) so why would you continue to wear a mask that you’re exhaling bacteria into? Just like hand-washing, you need to maintain proper hygiene when it comes to the wearing of these masks.

There have been a number of posts circulating online about how wearing a mask for long periods can increase the amount of carbon dioxide that you breathe back in, but it’s all bullshit that’s been disproven ten ways from Sunday. Masks are far too breathable for you to take in any significant amount of CO2 from your own exhalation. Not to mention that every breath you exhale is still oxygen-rich enough to constitute a second breath. Why do you think giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is acceptable? But the bacteria build-up is a very real thing and your masks should be laundered after a couple of outings or disposed of, if they’re the disposable, paper kind.

Cover your nose. This one drives me up the fuckin’ wall, honestly! What’s the point of wearing a face mask if you simply leave your nose uncovered for all your COVID-19 boogers to come flying out like mortars on a battlefield? Use some common sense and wear the mask properly! It’s kind of like wearing a condom, if you don’t wear it properly, there will be consequences. Except those consequences likely won’t kill you like COVID-19 could. But I digress…

First responders and medical professionals wear facial masks for hours and hours on end, most for a minimum of 8 hours during scheduled shifts but some for very much longer, with no lingering negative effects other than putting up with the mask itself. That’s been happening for longer than I’ve been around. So, a long time. Unless you have a serious, diagnosed pulmonary issue, are someone with cognitive or mental health issues making comprehension difficult or have suffered some trauma involving the covering of your face, there’s really no excuse for simply not obeying what is now the law and WEAR. YOUR. DAMN. MASK.

To the conspiracy theorists, I offer a question: what possible benefit could there be in convincing the population to wear a face mask? From a conspiracy perspective? Seriously. Give me an answer. I’ll wait. No, honesty I won’t. At the end of the day, maintaining social distancing is something that should have started years ago. Many countries have taken to wearing face masks in public for decades. None of this is new. And considering there have been almost a million and half deaths from COVID-19 worldwide, I think that slipping on a mask for half an hour while you pick up your groceries won’t kill you. But COVID-19 might. Food for thought…☯

Even A Smile Shows Teeth

There have always been those who would bring harm to others, either physically, emotionally or professionally. Although it may seem like a pretty cynical view, learning to acknowledge and understand that not everyone can be trusted is a significantly important way to protect oneself. I’ve come to realize over the years, through my personal and professional life, that trust is a dangerous commodity, albeit a necessary one.

It can be difficult to know who to trust. Even when a person is nice and welcoming, they can forget you in a heartbeat, or fail to be there when you need them. This can lead to the distrust of people in general. Meanwhile, even when certain people seem like absolute assholes or ignorant, they may give the shirt off their backs if they think it will help you out. It can make navigating the social world extremely difficult.

It reminds me of a story I heard from a character in a movie I watched years ago. The story always stuck with me, and I think it applies quite well to modern society. Here’s the story:

“Once Upon A Time, There Was This Little Sparrow, Who While Flying South For The Winter Froze Solid And Fell To The Ground. And Then To Make Matters Worse The Cow Crapped On Him, But The Manure Was All Warm And It Defrosted Him. So There He Is, He’s Warm And He’s Happy To Be Alive And He Starts To Sing. A Hungry Cat Come Along and Clears Off The Manure And He Looks At The Little Bird And Then He East Him. And The Moral Of The Story Is This: Everyone Who Craps On You Is Not Necessarily Your Enemy, And Everyone Who Gets You Out Of Crap Is Not Necessarily Your Friend, And If You’re Warm And Happy No Matter Where You Are You Should Just Keep Your Big Mouth Shut!”

– Electra, Assassins (1995)

The delivery of this revelation comes during a point in a Sylvester Stallone movie where there’s a lull in the action, and is meant as a mild comedic diversion in the middle of an otherwise dark movie about contract killing. It elicited a laugh from me, the first time I watched the movie. But I feel it provides an important lesson in the modern world as well. Trust, as I said, is a valuable commodity. And it can be extremely difficult and frustrating knowing when to share said commodity.

Although I may once again be showing my cynical side, we live in a world where a date gone wrong may result in claiming sexual misconduct, where online purchases can result in the money being taken without any goods ever being delivered and of promises made but never kept. It makes navigating through all the bullshit not only difficult but somewhat dangerous. It also makes friendships difficult to establish and maintain.

I’ve had so-called “friends” who have smiled and been nice and fantastic in person, but have either stabbed me in the back when I wasn’t looking or simply weren’t there to provide the basic elements of friendship when they were needed. One good example I can provide, is a friend who has good moral value similar to my own, expresses the existence of our friendship, yet time and again I’ve been stood up without warning when trying to meet with them or get their assistance with something. This person may be the nicest person in the world, but they still suck as a friend.

On the flip side, I have associates within my social circle (if I can really call it that) that are often loud, opinionated and rude. But during times when I was lowest, these associates will be the first to step forward and lend a hand. Like I say, it can be confusing. It would be nice to simply have people in one’s life that share common interests, goals and values and that you never have to second-guess. But that simply isn’t how the world works.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting in ANY way that one shouldn’t have friendships. Friendships are an integral part of a normal human existence; normal being an extremely subjective term, of course. But the idea is to protect yourself, especially during online interactions where you can’t ever be definitive about a person’s motives. Take your time with people and trust only so far as it allows the association to develop without putting yourself in a compromising position.

Last but not least, appreciate the friendships you do have. My inner circle is so small, it’s basically a dot. But I consider friendship to be a “quality not quantity” consideration. I prefer to have the friends whom I only speak to about once a month but that I can trust wholeheartedly, than the ones I hang out with every week but may be stealing the money out of my swear jar when I’m not looking. And trust me, that fucker’s full! ☯

Home Should Be For Rest

Listen, I’ve heard this argument for well over thirty years. There’s never been a satisfactory answer, at least not to me. But even when I WAS in school, it was a well-worn argument that apparently would never have any resolution. Should homework be included as a part of a child’s education? Should students be expected to perform school work and studies once they leave the classroom and go home? The answer to that question depends on which side of the fence you fall on.

Personally, I was always the kind of student who managed to get most work done within the confines of the classroom. YEs, I know! That sounds like bragging. And it probably is. My parents never really had to pester me to read or study or do anything that would be considered studying, because I usually did it on my own. But when I did get homework, I knocked it out of the park first thing.

But even in modern times, what does this say about our modern educational system? When I know that my son has spent seven to eight hours in the care of the school system, I usually feel that it’s inappropriate that I have to push my child to perform schoolwork outside the confines of his classroom. I consider that if I put in an 8-hour shift at work, I assume I can relax and unwind when I finally get home to my family. Familial obligations considered, of course. So why wouldn’t the sam be true of my son, who is only a child?

Honestly, my personal opinion is that if one’s lesson plan is properly drafted and executed, then students should be in a position where they need to do “school work” once they get home. This doesn’t include studying things that may be coming on a given day. For example, if my son has a spelling test at the end of the week, he can fully expect that he’ll be practicing that shit at home. But serious homework assignments should take a bench and wait for the following day, if the teacher hasn’t managed to fit it in to his or her full day of class.

Do you agree with this perspective? Let’s consider that some students have extracurriculars to consider. In Canada, many students will participate in dance, hockey or martial arts outside of class hours. If they spend an 8-hour day in school then head off to said extracurriculars, that leave very little time for homework. And extracurriculars are extremely important. They can help train and groom a perspective youth for the future. But by the time I usually got home from karate, I was ready for a hot shower and bed. Homework was about as far from my mind as it could get.

Nowadays, I deal with my 5-year old who complains that if he isn’t in school, he shouldn’t be doing schoolwork. I hate to agree, but he has a point. You wouldn’t be expected to put in a shit-ton of work beyond your 8-hour shift. So, why are our children expected to do schoolwork once at home? It’s definitely food for thought, because I’m straddling a sharp, splintery fence where this issue is concerned. I think there are some things that NEED to be passed on to be completed at home. But for the most part, home should be where kids can do what they do best: be kids. ☯

What’s Your Type? Hopefully Not Stereo…

Hey, the world is full of stereotypes. Especially when it’s about something we know nothing about. For example, did you know that not all people who cut me off in traffic are f$%kin’ idiots? Holy shit, right? I never would have guessed that one. But seriously, as a people we tend to lean on our stereotypes and assume things before truly getting to know the very thing that we’re judging. One good example of this is the fact that I’ve been studying Buddhism for over twenty years.

Can you imagine, trying to explain that the religion you study is NOT the one you were baptized and raised on? My mother sure has an issue with it. She attributes it to “all that karate stuff,” but it sure makes frank conversations about Buddhism difficult, at the best of times. The only gratitude I have is that I never had to explain this to my grandmother, light rest her soul. She would have bathed me in Holy Water and probably would have tried to have me burned at the stake (NOW who’s using stereotypes???)

The point is, I’ve been faced with a number of stereotypes in the past two decades. And despite the fact that I can understand some if not most of them, I thought it would be ideal to dispel and/or explain some of them. For example, did you know that not all Buddhists shave their heads? Some will shave their heads in observance of someone’s death. Others will observe Tonsure (shaving of the head) as a means of discipline, humility and devotion to their order. But some Buddhist can and WILL have a full head of hair. You’ve been warned…

Another aspect is meditation. Believe me, if I could spend six to eight hours of meditation every day, I’d be in nirvana-based heaven. The truth is, it doesn’t happen all that much. At least not in a modern, family-based times. When I do get to meditate, my 5-year old son loves to run circles around me on the floor to see how long it takes to break my concentration. If I’m lucky, his mother will come take him away before I end up giving him a free karate lesson, but the chance to meditate seldom comes along.

I feel that it’s important to point out that five minutes of meditation is better than none at all, but some days, it just can’t happen. And that’s okay, so long as you make some time at some point throughout your week, to meditate in some given way, shape or form.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in decades is likely control over my emotions and demeanour. People think that someone who studies Buddhism is supposed to be stoic and without outward emotion. Well, for one thing, Stoicism is something totally different from Buddhism, although there are some similar aspects to both. But the reality is that I am not Buddhist because I am calm and controlled. Rather, I am calm and controlled BECAUSE I study Buddhism.

In reality, even when I present a calm exterior I usually have a roiling storm of raging waves beneath the surface. I feel and experience emotions and reactions in the same manner as ever John and Jane Doe on the street, although they usually don’t get expressed externally. And even when they could be expressed externally, I often don’t have the normal, every day emotional tools to do so. But the assumption that a Buddhist will be passive and emotionless is pretty inaccurate. If someone threatens me or someone I love, I’ll hand them their ass in the same manner that any respectable martial artist would.

The important thing to remember is that most of us are open to conversation. Although most people don’t go around screaming their religion from the rooftops (unless they’re writing a blog about it) we’re always open to questions and education. If there’s something you’re not sure about, just ask. If you’re dealing with someone who IS screaming their religion from the rooftops, you should probably be concerned. But that a different issue. ☯

Fake It ‘Til You Make It…

Something that drives me absolutely batty is when I see folks intentionally going out of their way to prove martial arts as something fake. It’s one thing if someone takes steps to expose someone they know for a fact is teaching a fake form of martial arts, but I’m referring to those who simply have a blanket belief that ALL martial arts are fake. As someone who has spent over three quarters of his life studying traditional martial arts, I can promise you that genuine fighting arts, such as they are, are anything but fake.

Unfortunately, movies and television make a pretty good attempt at portraying martial arts as something mystical and almost ethereal. But the true reality of martial arts, if it’s a genuine style, is that it requires a shit ton of hard work and dedication to hone one’s skills in this respect. I found myself falling down the YouTube rabbit hole last week, and ended up watching a bunch of videos where “fake” martial arts were being exposed.

Some of the stuff those videos showed was beyond borderline ridiculous, if I do say so myself. With this thought in mind and with all due respect to the hundreds of YouTube videos exposing fake martial arts, here is my top 6 list of things that the martial arts does NOT do:

  1. We’re not undefeatable: Masterhood is something that should happen organically. A student should never get into the martial arts with the thought of “I’m gonna be a master” in their heads. Although I’ve often said that no reason is inherently bad, there are some obvious exceptions. But no matter how long you trained and developed yourself, there will always be someone stronger and better skilled than you. Even though I’ve had the benefit of being the victor in the fights that mattered, there are some that I’ve lost. Martial arts does not make you invulnerable;
  2. We don’t keep secrets: The true goal of every traditional martial artist is to develop a student who will pass on the teaching in order to guarantee the continuation of the style. The concept of a master holding back a “secret technique” so that they can win any fight. Once we take on a pupil, we teach them everything there is to our style, albeit in due time. Advanced techniques obviously aren’t shared with someone who JUST started. The material is doled out according to experience level and skill. But we don’t hold anything back. Our systems wouldn’t survive if we did;
  3. We can’t move or affect people/objects without touching them: Some of my favourite videos are the ones where you see some fuckin’ idiot holding a hand out to someone charging at them, only to have the charging pupil pass out or fall over from an “unseen force” or energy that the “master”is projecting. This is, without exception, only effective against the master’s own students and never works in a real environment. Because it’s fake;
  4. There’s nothing “mystical” behind what we do: Martial arts isn’t some magical or mystical thing that originated from a spiritual source. Not to be mistaken with the fact that some us are “spiritual,” but martial arts is based strictly on how the human body moves, responds and functions. That’s it. Strikes, blocks and movements are all based on how the human body allows them. Even the styles that profess their origins from animal movements are still using natural movements of the body. There’s very little more natural or instinctive than a punch or a kick. We’ve been doing that for as long as we’ve existed;
  5. We don’t feel the need to compete: With the exception of a couple of times where I’ve demonstrated forms, I have never participated in tournaments. The need to pit myself against another person or style has never been necessary, nor do I want to. trust me, when I say that my martial skills have been proven in the line of duty on more than one occasion;
  6. We don’t hide our history: If the instructor or “master” you speak to can’t answer some basic questions about the style, where he was certified or who he’s trained with, he or she is likely a sham. I was trained by Guy-Sensei in New Brunswick. He was trained by Nakama-Sensei in Okinawa who was trained by Uechi-Sensei. I’m third generation, directly under the style’s Grandmaster. I obtained my black belt in 2002 in Dalhousie, New Brunswick after training in Okinawa during the previous year. I can explain the lineage and creation of my style with ease, and any true martial artists should be able to do the same (beginner’s being the exception).

There are a number of fakes out there, as with any sport or industry. Even though it can easy to watch all the uploaded videos and assume that martial arts are fake or ineffective, the important takeaway is that even someone who has spend decades training in a style can still be defeated on camera by someone else. This doesn’t mean that martial arts are fake; it simply means that you need to keep a keen eye open for some of the things I’ve pointed out.

Otherwise, recognize and acknowledge that like boxing and MMA, someone who has trained for long years in martial arts of any style and has put in the effort will undoubtedly have the skill and capability to defend themselves and others. So maybe it isn’t a fight you wanna pick. Granted, the YouTube videos are definitely good for a laugh. Some people will do anything for a buck… ☯

Best Of The Best

Listen, anyone who reads my blog regularly, knows that I’m not here to endorse any specific source or product. But once in a while, I feel it necessary to speak about particular books or films that have had an impact on my life, training or beliefs. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to re-watch a movie from my youth that had a definite impact on my choices regarding the martial arts. I’m talking a little movie called Best Of The Best…

Released in 1989, the movie follows the journey of five American fighters who are chosen to be part of an American Karate Team intent on competing against five fighters from the Korean team… In Korea! The team couldn’t be any different from each other, with a traditional Korean Tae Kwon Do champion, a dedicated karate practitioner who has a young son (sound familiar?), a chubby, hillbilly asshole who challenges everyone’s patience and even includes a caucasian Buddhist to add some flavour to the group.

I tried to find a promotional poster to share with the post, but there was nothing that was free or wouldn’t have cost me a ridiculous amount just to share, so I’ll satisfy myself with sharing the movie’s IMDB link here. IMDB is a phenomal tool for reading about a movie, but if you have Canadian Netflix, it’s on there right now and you should stop what you’re doing and watch the movie immediately! Starring Eric Roberts and Philip Rhee, the movie includes many aspects that I can relate to (minus competing, of course) in relation to my own martial arts journey.

This’ll be a short post, especially since I don’t want to provide any spoilers. But if you want a decent, realistic martial arts movie, Best of the Best is definitely the movie for you. It can feel like a bit of a slow burn at times, but the story is solid, the training is realistic and factual and the message is timeless. I’ve seen this movie almost a dozen times, and I never hesitate to sit through it when I see it cross my path. If you want a story of true martial arts prowess and dignity, pop a bag of Orville’s best and fire up your Netflix and watch Best Of The Best. If you love martial arts, you won’t be disappointed. ☯

World Diabetes Day 2020

I know I harp on many of these so-called “holidays” that seem to riddle the calendar with every passing month. But this one just happens to be personal to me, for obvious reasons. Every year on November 14th, which is the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, we celebrate World Diabetes Day. November is already Diabetes Awareness Month in most medical circles, but today is a day where focus is brought to the growing number of people being diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes.

World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 but the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization, and is often recognized by the signature blue circle logo and is usually accompanied by a different theme every year. But rather than get into all the hubbub that is yet another yearly holiday, I thought it would be a good idea to remind folks about the actual discovery of insulin and a bit of its history.

As most may know, insulin is a peptide hormone created by beta cells inside the pancreas. Insulin helps with the processing and regulating of carbohydrates by absorbing glucose from the blood into various tissues of the body. Beta cells release insulin into the body in response to blood sugar levels, specifically high ones. Insulin plays a number of different roles outside of this, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll keep it simple.

Although the discovery of insulin is attributed to Sir Frederick Banting and his lab assistant, Charles Best, it should be noted that the road to insulin’s discovery started over 50 years before Banting made the discovery. The relationship between the pancreas and Diabetes was therefore established during the late 1860’s and 70’s, with a number of experimental treatments never quite hitting the mark. It also surprised me to discovery just how many of these experiments were performed on dogs. Whether this is because they constitute a large mammal or because they were simply available is beyond me. Oh, how they were different times!

Starting in the early 1920’s, Banting and Best began experimenting with islet cells and injecting them into a Diabetic dog, which resulted in a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels. In January of 1922, the first injections to human patients were given and the rest is history. Banting won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923, for the discovery of insulin. He shared the prize with Charles Best and sold the patent for insulin to the University of Toronto for a dollar.

The world would be a significantly different place if insulin had never been discovered. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here. But the millions of people who have been diagnosed with Diabetes certainly wouldn’t be either, as that diagnosis was basically akin to a death sentence before insulin came along. This isn’t really a “celebratory” holiday; you won’t likely catch people throwing parties or going crazy in any significant way. I mean, good on them if they do! Hopefully, they take the time to count the carbs in their drinks while they celebrate… ☯

Nobody Ever Wins A Fight

Fighting is an unglamorous thing. Although it looks real neat and epic on the big screen; two trained fighters squaring off, monologuing to each other then beating the living crap out of each other for almost half an hour before one of them finally succumbs to that one punch or kick that puts them down… What bullshit! I can promise you that a real fight is normally nothing like that. Even “professional” fighters train for hours and hours for a scheduled match and even they usually deal with heavy exhaustion by the end of it.

“Nobody Ever Wins A Fight…”

– John Dalton (Patrick Swayze), Road House, 1989

I’ve been training in the martial arts for over thirty years now, and I’ve run out of fingers on which to count the number of fights I’ve been involved in. To be clear, I refer to the fights that were in the line of duty or in the defence of myself or another person, not sparring matches or in karate class. None of them have been by choice, and the few of them that were a “choice” were not mine to make. But since I’m sitting here writing this, they were obviously mine to finish.

As time and the years have elapsed, I’ve taken stock of the old adage that a true martial artists trains to fight so that he or she will never have to. I can say with firm honesty that I have never been the one to start any fight I’ve been involved in. The choice to take violent action has always been made by my opponents, although they’ve always regretted it, soon after. I’m sure that sounds like bragging, but rest assured that I say it only because it illustrates an important point: every fight MUST have a victor and a loser. Any true battle that is seen to its conclusion can only be as such.

So, which one will you be? I’ve read that you win every battle you never fight. That may be true. It’s kind of hard to lose if you don’t fight to start with. But it all depends on one’s reasons. I’ve lived with the belief that violence is never a reason. You should never seek out violence or to do harm to others. That being said, it would be a great dishonour to sit back and allow events to unfold if violence is visited upon your family and loved ones. At this point, learning to fight so that you’ll never have to is no longer a choice. Someone else has already made the decision and has dragged you into the consequences.

I’ve never stepped onto a sparring competition mat. Ever. The concept of fighting for a plastic trophy has always left a bitter taste in my mouth. My Sensei never believed in it, either. He always said that if I chose to participate in tournaments that he only had two conditions: never to ask him to train me for it, and to make damn good and sure that I won. And in truth, I’ve participated in forms on a couple of occasions when I was invited to attend certain tournaments. And form, or kata if you will, is a beautiful demonstration of the discipline that is learned din the martial arts. But even on those instances, I never demonstrated in a competitive manner.

I believe in peace. I believe in “live and let live.” And so should you. If you choose to fight, you must be certain that your reasons are noble. And worth it. The protection of yourself. The protection of others. To keep your family and loved ones safe. The preservation of peace. Upholding the law. There are some reasons worth fighting for. But even in those circumstances, it should never be your “choice” to fight. But once the choice is made, be certain that you win. Especially if your reasons are noble and honourable. ☯

Remembrance Day

November 11th is well-recognized in most Commonwealth countries as a day where we take the time to recognize those who died in the line of duty during the First World War. In Canada, the day is observed with the wearing of a poppy on the outer collar or lapel in the weeks that precede Remembrance Day, couple with the calling of the roll on the day itself, observing a period of silence during the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

For me, the day holds a special place in my heart. Most of my family has served its country in some given way, shape or form. And in a variety of uniforms, no less. My own service has come at great personal cost, in recent years. As a result, I’ve had difficulties remembering why I put on a uniform in the first place. I need only to look at the history of the world to understand why it’s so important to remember the past. Or be condemned to repeat it.

My grandfather and I in 2009. Generations of service.

It’s important to properly observe this day. If there’s one thing that pisses me off beyond reason, it’s when I see people starting to decorate for Christmas right after Halloween is done. Is Christmas an important holiday? Yes. Absolutely. But is allowing a period of remembrance and observance for those who fell in order to guarantee our freedom important, as well? I would say so.

My grandfather taught me everything I ever needed to know about honour, duty and obligation. They say that when an amputee loses a limb, they can still feel pain in that limb. Phantom pain, non-existent but felt nonetheless. Although gone, the pain is still real and very much felt. This is how I remember my grandfather. Gone, but still very much felt. I remember the stories my grandfather told me about his time on active front lines in Europe during World War II. He may have always been a simple working man from the North shore of New Brunswick. But to me, he will always be the hero who helped to keep his country free.

Today is important. No matter what country you may be reading this from, what your background or your beliefs may be, remember your heroes and remember their sacrifices. Hopefully, the world will never be foolish enough to engage in the sort of battles it did in the early 20th century. ☯