That Towel Won’t Throw Itself…

I’ve written a number of posts that outline the importance of knowing why you’ve joined the martial arts. These reasons can include improving one’s health, learning to defend oneself or simply the curiosity that many have relating to the martial arts.

There really aren’t any BAD reasons to join, unless your goal is to become a bully or beat the crap out of people. Barring that, a subject that anyone rarely covers is when to step away and quit! Seriously, how do you know when your time in a dojo has run its course and it’s time to walk away? Here are some thoughts…

  1. The school doesn’t meet your specific needs. This is a pretty common one, and it happens much more than we think. Each martial arts school is unique and their rituals, protocols and rules may not suit you. Some people try to “tough it out” because they’re paying tuition, but it’s better to lose a month’s worth of payment than stay with a school that doesn’t;t fit your needs;
  2. You spend more time yawning than sweating. Most new things take a certain amount of effort. But karate requires focus and concentration, as well as a certain amount of precision and speed training. Combining all those aspects can be a touch overwhelming and take some time. If you’re getting bored with what you’re being taught, perhaps it isn’t for you;
  3. You’re in conflict with the instructor’s teachings. Oh boy, where to start on this one! Having been a Sensei myself, I can attest that there’s always the occasional student who decides to “test” the instructor… Either they question the knowledge being quoted or they doubt whether a technique genuinely works or not. This leaves the instructor in the awkward position of either trying to prove his or her point or losing face in front of their students. Losing face shouldn’t matter, but it’s very difficult to teach a fighting art to a group of people who question your skills and abilities. If you feel that you might not be buying what your instructor is teaching, don’t create conflict; just get the hell out!
  4. You’re being forced to be there. I’ve had a lot of students who have come to class because their parents are “making” them. That royally sucks, because most of the time the student drags on the overall mojo of the class because he or she genuinely doesn’t want to be there. I’ve had to have some heart-to-heart conversation with some parents over the years where I’ve gently “suggested” that their kid shouldn’t be back! If you’re being forced to be there, do yourself a favour and talk to your Sensei about it;
  5. You’re “surviving” the class rather than training. I’ve saved this one for last, although it certainly isn’t least. It’s one thing to push yourself and work through a session even on days when you don’t feel like it or during times when you may be feeling a little off. But if you’re checking clock every ten minutes, if you’re loathe to leave the house, knowing you’re going to class and the interest simply isn’t there anymore, it may be time to re-evaluate why you’re going.

The martial arts is like everything else: it should suit your needs and fit your lifestyle. There’s no shame in trying it out and walking away if you discover that it isn’t for you.

I’ve had periods in my training where I felt as though I wasn’t learning anything, or I simply wasn’t advancing the way I thought I should. Sometimes a break is needed, but it shouldn’t be permanent. The idea is that remaining part of a martial arts club that doesn’t;t suit you may take away from the club as a whole. A kind of “only as strong as your weakest link” kind of deal. ☯

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The Right Path Isn’t Always The One Of Least Resistance

Gene Dunn once said, “Your technique means nothing if you’re not using your talents for the betterment of humanity.”  

I began studying the martial arts what feels like a very long time ago.  Thirty-one years ago this year, to be precise.  Although I started this journey with the intention of improving my health and saving my own life against the complications associated with Diabetes, it would end up becoming who I am as opposed to something I was doing.

Martial arts have provided me with more than I could possibly express in written word.  I have carried and used my skills with dignity and with respect for others. Through my study of the Way, I came into Buddhism, which became the central focal point of my faith.  I believe that as a people, we have an obligation to give as much as we get.  And on the occasions where the only possible response to prevent harm to others or myself was violence, I have been swift but just.

My chosen career has carried me far from home and away from my dojo over the past ten years.  Although I have never stopped practicing, it’s been a lonely road considering the rural areas I’ve lived in generally never have martial arts schools.

When I moved to Regina, I was elated to hear that there were several schools that I could explore and I was excited at the prospect of training among other students of the way once again.  I visited MANY martial arts schools over the course of a few weeks and observed several classes.  None of them seemed to be a fit.  Although I wouldn’t presume to classify any one style better than another, I believe a style should call to the person and fit their requirements.

That’s when I walked into the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate.  After observing only one class, I came to realize that it would be a good fit.  Not only because there were some techniques and aspects similar to my own, but because of the ambiance and the manner in which students were taught.

Without hesitation, I was accepted as a student despite being an outside black belt (something that many instructors would not allow).  When I decided I would be testing for my next degree of black belt, I was allowed to step outside of protocol and practice my forms during class even if they were not of the same style.  

For the many who believe that learning the martial arts is simply about learning how to fight, it’s important to look at the quality and value that comes out of a dojo’s students. The growth, maturity and knowledge that is imparted on a student is truly the trademark of a quality dojo. If you consider training, be sure to do your research and find something that is a good fit for you. In the long run, you’ll get much more out of it. ☯

World Diabetes Day

Today is World Diabetes Day. There are a lot of “holidays” that float around on the internet, most created in the US and North America, such as National Donut Day and things of the like. But this one was created in 1991 by the World Health Organization and holds a different theme every year. It is observed on November 14th to coincide with Dr. Frederick Banting’s birthday. For you non-Diabetics who may not know, Dr. Banting is the man who co-created insulin alongside Charles Best.

This year’s theme is The Family and Diabetes. I still remember when I was diagnosed with Diabetes, all the way back in 1982. I recall my parents being visibly emotional and overwhelmed. I don’t remember much about how I reacted, except that I felt my parents would make everything okay. I was very wrong.

Over the years that followed, everything was most certainly NOT okay. I suffered from insulin resistance, Diabetic comas, ketoacidosis and score of other Diabetes-related complications. Carb-counting was not a generally known aspect of Diabetes control at the time, and I often suffered severe highs from that lack knowledge. My mother would often say things like “If you’re hungry, have a slice of bread with peanut butter” or “If you’re thirsty, have some milk”, as my mother assumed these things had no “sugar” in them and should be fine for me. All the while, I was being pumped full of carbohydrates and my insulin couldn’t keep up.

Once I got older and began taking control of my treatment and nutrition, things became exponentially better. After all, it’s much easier treating yourself than relying on others. Especially since you can feel symptoms and issues you may be suffering through much better than family members could. Obviously, I don’t hold my parents accountable for the difficulties I faced as a child. I was the first Type 1 Diabetic in my family and they did the best they could with the information they had at the time.

But family is important; not only for the treatment aspect but also for the support aspect. There were a lot of times as a child where I was denied certain privileges like spending weekends away at scout camps and having cake at birthday parties and such. It made my childhood difficult on top of all the medical concerns I faced. And let’s not forget the half dozen times that I likely would have died in my sleep, had my older brother not recognized that I was having a Diabetic seizure and woke my parents.

Family continues to play an important role in my life. When my wife and I started dating, I’m sure she wondered what the hell she’d gotten herself into after seeing me experience a severe low for the first time. Drenched in sweat and practically eating myself out of house and home, I can only imagine at what thoughts may have been floating through her mind. But these days, she’ll be the first to take one look at me and ask if I’m having a low. She’ll remind me to bolus based on the meal’s carb count and she keeps an eye on me.

Family is an important cornerstone in helping one properly control Type-1 Diabetes. They can give you focus and keep you on the straight and narrow, especially when things get rough. They are taking the journey with you, despite not having Diabetes themselves. As you observe World Diabetes Day, take time to include your family. They deal with it, same as you do. Every high, every low and every mood swing. ☯

Keeping An Appointment = Keeping Your Word

We live in a world that has evolved to limit personal interaction. Almost everything we could ever need can be purchased online, including groceries, clothing and necessities. All of these things can be mailed or delivered, and we never have to deal with someone face to face while doing it. In the meantime, most of us spend the majority of our down time with our noses buried in an electronic device, gaming, checking social media or other online activities.

In fact, I recently ordered my son’s birthday gifts through an online website, based on choices he showed me from a catalogue. I remember thinking that this made my life incredibly easy as I didn’t have to go out to try and find something for him. Such has become the way of the world.

And while there’s nothing wrong with the ease and simplicity that the internet provides, there’s still an expected standard of etiquette that must be followed. Even if you purchase something from a person over the internet, you still need to have the same courtesy, respect and understanding as you would while dealing with someone face-to-face.

I’ll give you an example… My wife and I are members of a few online buy-and-sell websites, which require you to become a member in order to do business. It’s a great tool for selling things around the home that we no longer use. I enjoy it, because I prefer selling an item to someone else who may make use of it rather than toss it out. It allows me to channel my inner KonMari and clear out all the unnecessary clutter from my house. I can almost hear thousands of eyes rolling but I’m sorry to say it guys… There’s definitely something to Marie Kondo’s organizational method. But I digress…

I currently have over a dozen used items posted for sale online. There’s a lot of haggling and negotiating that usually happens. This also relates to the pick-up or delivery of items as well as when the transaction would happen. Because it’s peer-to-peer, this site requires the buyer and seller to work out whether the items will be picked up or delivered, unlike E-Bay and Amazon.

I had a buyer express interest in not one, but three of my items. We discussed a price for the combined items and a time that the buyer would come pick them up. I was tickled pink… Not so much about the few dollars I was making, but the fact I was getting rid of a few items. The expected pick-up was agreed to be on the Friday, which was three days away… A little long in the tooth, as far as these interactions go, but since the buyer planned on taking a number of items, I agreed to reserve the stuff for them and wait until the Friday.

Friday rolls around and my person is a no-show. A major “faux pas” in the peer-to-peer buy-and-sell world. I allowed almost a full hour beyond our scheduled meeting before I reached out, asking if she still intended on showing up. Nothing. I waited until the end of the day and messaged again. Still nothing.

There’s a system in place on most of these sites that allow a person to report someone for “infractions” like no-shows. I know what you’re thinking: maybe there’s a good reason. Maybe there was an emergency or something critical that happened. Maybe so. Here’s the problem: maybe it was nothing. I’ve dealt with a number of people who simply decided, between agreeing and meeting that they were no longer interested and simply didn’t bother to show up. Then they don’t bother responding, since they’re no longer interested.

It’s much easier to ignore someone when you don’t have to deal with them face-to-face. It’s an aspect of our society that is quickly dying out. Courtesy and good communication should have been improved with the advent of the internet, not hindered. But this doesn’t always seem to be the case. Let’s not forget that good communication with each other is the foundation of a strong society. ☯

What Does It Mean To You?

Canada is a wonderful country where many freedoms can be observed that may not be enjoyed in other countries. We are a country of relative peace, in that for the most part our population does not fear walking the streets and most civil liberties are celebrated whereas they are persecuted and interfered with, in other countries.

In recent decades, certain habits have begun to infringe upon traditions that have long been observed. What I’m referring to, is the fact that today is Remembrance Day. In Canada, Remembrance Day is an important day during which we remember the sacrifice of the members of our armed forces who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Remembrance Day has always held an importance place in my family, as just about every member of the family on my mother’s side has served in a branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. My grandfather served in World War II and was deployed to the active front in Europe, before returning to Canada to start his family.

The Red Poppy, worn to observe Remembrance Day in Canada

It’s easy for me to exude pride, based on what I’ve mentioned above. But as proud Canadians, it’s a solemn day that we should all proudly observe, and leave everything else to start taking precedence AFTER! (Steps up on soapbox) This is where those bad habits I mentioned come in…

The unfortunate reality is that for many people, most people in fact, the passing of Halloween seems to be an invitation for people to start decorating for Christmas, and for commercial businesses to start putting up holiday and Christmas displays. This flies in the faces of all those fallen members who have given their lives in order for us to have all the freedoms and civil liberties that we enjoy in Canada.

Some information on Remembrance Day in Canada can be found on the Veterans Affairs Canada website at the following URL: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/information-for/educators/quick-facts/remembrance-day

Let’s take the time to observe Remembrance Day. Although war is a horrible thing that no person should have to endure, we can still show enough respect to thank and remember those who fell protecting us and keeping our country free. ☯

Those Who Forget The Past Are Condemned…

Look, shit happens! I apologize for being so blunt, but life is short, and we all make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes are born of stupidity and bad decisions, sometimes they are a result of life in general and are unavoidable.

It’s okay to make mistakes; this is how we grow and learn. But that’s the key element: to learn from it. Otherwise, we’re condemned to repeat the same mistakes, as the old saying goes.

Paulo Coelho once said, “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.” I rather prefer to think that any mistake that happened once is going to happen again, unless you have an adequate response to prevent it from happening again.

It’s one thing for a mistake to happen, regardless of the source, but if you don’t do something about it, then shame on you. One needs to protect oneself from having the same mistakes happen again. Especially if an outside source is the cause of whatever issue may have caused you strife. ☯

You Gotta Break In The Sneakers

Last night, I had a special opportunity during karate class that hasn’t happened in years.  I had the chance to train with a new student on his very first night of karate.  You would likely ask, “What’s the big deal?”

There’s something special about training with someone when they’ve walked into a karate class for the first time.  Everyone has a different reason for joining the martial arts.  Some do it for exercise, some are looking to learn the art and some have a seriously deluded idea about what martial arts actually is!

But regardless of the reason, there’s a palpable anxiety that people have when they train in karate for the first time.  The mysterious movements, the unknown techniques and the awkward attempts at trying to follow along.  I got to train with a young man tonight who came in with the hopeful gaze of someone looking to learn the martial arts.

He struggled throughout the stretching and the warm-up portion.  Once we started working in pairs, he got some pointers from a few different students and we eventually got to working together.  As his frustration grew while trying to learn some techniques we were working on, I compared his training to buying a new pair of sneakers:

“At some point, you’ve chosen new sneakers, right? Well, even when you find a pair that fit you just right and look good, you have to break them in.  They’re brand new, and the first number of times you wear them, your feet will adjust and shape them to your specific steps and the needs of your feet.  Karate is very much the same.  You have to break it in.  The first few times you do it, it’ll be a bit awkward and it’ll take some time to adjust. But once you do, it’ll feel comfortable. Just like a decent pair of sneakers…”

The class ended with the young man ready to come back the following week.  It’s just one of those things…  When you start learning something new, you have to be prepared to work at it and get used to it before you decide whether it’s for you or not.  You gotta break in the sneakers… ☯