Why So Sensitive…?

Have you noticed that the world has changed its point of view significantly in the past ten years? Maybe it’s just me… I remember a time when people would speak with one another before a problem, became prominent, first and foremost, and everyone wasn’t so damned sensitive about everything.

“I identify as…”

“That offends me…”

“You know, SOME people may not appreciate your point of view…”

It seems as though no matter what you do nowadays, you can offend someone with almost anything you do. One of my favourites is how medical professionals have started getting offended when a patient offers up an opinion…“Oh, let me guess! You Googled that, didn’t you? Congratulations, you can searcgh for things online! Maybe you’d like to be the doctor???” Considering how many medical professionals I’ve dealt with due to my Type 1 Diabetes, I’ve had this retort thrown in my face on a number of occasions. I guess that all things considered, I can’t blame them! In my line of work, I’ve had people suggest that they know the law better than I do. Although that hasn’t saved them from getting charged. And with the World Wide Web at everyone’s fingertips, where does a professional draw the line in knowing when a client is simply postulating and not threatening your skills?

The other issue that seems to have changed radically in the past ten years is what I like to call “The Holiday Effect”. Canada is home to diverse cultures and multiple backgrounds. And even though we are living in 2019 and should all be able to just get along, this tends to cause an unmeasurable amount of head-butting! We see a great amount of that during the Christmas holidays. These days, saying “Merry Christmas” seems to have taken the wayside and the preferred greeting is “Happy Holidays”, so as to not offend those who may not celebrate Christmas.

Really? So just because you don’t celebrate Christmas, I can’t wish you a happy one, based on how I was raised? Seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we be advanced enough in our development by now that we can respect and ACCEPT all beliefs and cultures?

As a Buddhist, I generally tell people that I am a student of all religions and beliefs. I pride myself on being open to anyone’s perspective (at least until I learn that it is realistically harmful to themselves or others, of course). But where do we draw the line at how far we are willing to change ourselves in order to accommodate others? And is it appropriate to do so?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I change my habits to accommodate someone of different background or culture in order to accommodate them. Many would believe that it would be insensitive if I didn’t do so. How far does it go before it starts becoming insensitive to me?

These days, it seems everyone gets to choose the core aspects of themselves: Their name, their gender, EVERYTHING! And people get outright offended when you don’t refer to them based on their chosen lifestyle or perspective. And you know what? It’s okay to choose your own way of life. Maybe it’s not quite okay to get offended, and even angry, if I don’t understand, especially when I don’t know you.

A part of me believes that the advent of social media has made things worse. These issues have plagued the world for decades, but the arrival of information at the world’s fingertips has made it possible for us to hear about these things, even experience them in a much more comprehensive manner than we would of, say ten years ago.

The bottom line is this: No matter what your cultural, religious, racial or ancestral background may be, we can all co-exist. The world is a mighty big place (even at its current population of approximately 7,700,000,000 people (as per the World population Clock at http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/). But despite that fact, there’s room enough for us all to carry our beliefs with us, without disturbing or interfering with anyone else’s. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas and you don’t celebrate it, no big deal! Just say thank you for the well wishes and move on. I’m certain your respective beliefs teach you to appreciate kindness, and it would be just that! If you identify in a way that may not be clear to other people, don’t get offended or angry; embrace your right to explain it so that people understand. We are all capable of learning, so take the opportunity to teach. If someone offers up a suggestion regarding something related to your professional trade, don’t take it as an insult; simply use it as an opportunity for open dialogue (and remember that YOU are the professional and the opinion is simply that: an opinion).

Let’s find the balance. Let’s learn to co-exist with one another. In a world where every culture is available and visible to the entire globe, it becomes more important than ever for us to learn to get along.

Balance!

Happy Pi Day!

Today is Pi Day, due to the date description being of 3.14, which is the most commonly known form of Pi.

Pi is a number that is considered a mathematical constant and was originally used to calculate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it diameter. The number is has been since been used in various mathematical and physics formulas. Because the number is named “Pi”, it is often represented by a Greek letter and is often referred to as “Archemede’s Constant”. The Pi number is a mathematical constant with a never-ending decimal representation that never repeats itself. Many people enjoy showing their prowess by how many numbers AFTER the decimal they can recite.

These days, Pi Day is celebrated as a day to enjoy just that: Pie! Since the use of the Pi constant is in relation to a circular constant, a pie is the perfect way to represent this. So have yourself a slice! And just to demonstrate the number for those who are not familiar with it, this is the longest form of Pi after the decimal I was able to find (without searching too deeply):

3.1415926535897932384626433

I love me some Chocolate Pie!


We Sometimes Only Recognize The Light Because Of The Darkness…

Depression is a very real thing. Unfortunately, the term “depression” is thrown around far too much these days, as most people generally use it as a word to describe simply feeling down. The reality, however, is much more elaborate.

The American Psychiatric Association defines Depression as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” One of the big problems associated to depression is that the person in question will often be unaware that this is what they’re going through. The website goes on to describe some of the symptoms as changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of energy or increased fatigue and often obvious thoughts of death or suicide. These are just to name a few. More can be read on this at the actual website (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression)

I believe that most people have suffered from depression at some point in their lives. It’s not a sign of weakness nor is it a sign that they “can’t handle life.” Sometimes it sneaks up on us when we least expect it. Sometimes it comes as a result of matters that are outside our control, which is the case for yours truly.

It’s a lot easier to deal with if you happen to have a good support system in place. Great friends, great wife and an awesome four-year old Tasmanian Devil who destroys everything in his path but makes me giggle as he does so (that’s my boy!); these things all go a long way towards helping me deal with the frightening demons that accompany depression.

Sometimes I feel as though my body won’t respond to my brain ordering it out of bed. Some days I can’t seem to get to sleep, regardless of how exhausted I am, and when I do I’m plagued by nightmares. Motivation seems to bleed out of me for even the most beloved of activities (and I don’t think I need to explain how this can affect play time with a four-year old). There is constant pain and often lack of understanding as to how life could have gotten to this point… Any of this sound familiar to anyone out there?

The good news is that for the most part, depression is treatable. If you’re able to speak to someone, reach out. Your family doctor can definitely be a fantastic resource and can refer you to people who can help. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of harming themselves, make sure to dial 911! Otherwise, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service can be reached by dealing 1-833-456-4566 and they even have a Crisis Text Line that you can reach by texting “TALK” to 686868. They have some different ways of contact, which you can check out here: https://thelifelinecanada.ca/help/crisis-centres/canadian-crisis-centres/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=suicide%20hotline%20canada&utm_content=!acq!v3!39436515258_kwd-55273995352__288566371603_g_c__&utm_campaign=Branded+-+Canada&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIht_D-Kv-4AIVBS9pCh1RIwcsEAAYASAAEgJtq_D_BwE

The bottom line is that we wouldn’t recognize the light if it weren’t seen from the dark. There’s always a way out and it’s always worth fighting for. If there’s one thing that the past ten years have taught me, it’s that even though I’ve seen and dealt with things no person should have to, I know I can still find the strength to fight if I can just dig down deep. The strength you need is right there. Make sure you search for it, and never be afraid to ask for help.

Take care if yourself before you can take care of others!

National Nap Day

Today happens to be National Nap Day in the United States. Now, I happen to be Canadian but I am a firm advocate of the power of napping. Here are some facts…

Naps have been proven to increase memory and can even lower the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. There are a number of doctors who believe that naps are almost as important as exercise and should be included in your weekly routine the same way as exercising.

Some work industries actually believe in providing nap periods throughout the work day as studies have shown that a small nap in the middle of the work day can help increase productivity and imagination. The Japanese have this practice and they call it “inemuri” which means “to be asleep while present.”

Certain studies have found that napping can help reduce heart issues and just knowing a nap is coming can help lower your blood pressure. And contrary to popular opinion, napping will NOT affect the sleep you get at night. Of course, this is offset if you decide to nap for hours during the day. Then you start falling into a deep sleep cycle and can cause grogginess that can last despite coffee and the other fun stuff you may take to wake yourself up.

But the takeaway here is that naps can be good. So if it’s a rainy afternoon and you have a cozy couch and thick blanket, stretch out and let yourself drift off for half an hour to sixty minutes. I took a nap this afternoon, which is how I’ve managed to post twice today! Sleep well!

Fear Is Temporary. Regret Is Forever.

Many years ago, someone in my life once told me that “we often find our destiny on the road we least thought to travel.” I can’t recall who said it to me, but it’s been a guiding principle that I’ve followed throughout my entire life. The closest I’ve ever found to this saying is Jean de la Fontaine’s saying, which reads “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” Pretty close to what my forgotten role model was trying to relay, I think.

In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to examine life and the opportunities it provides. Keeping with the Buddhist state of mind, it’s important to remember that for every opportunity, there is the chance for loss. I’ve experienced a lot of good opportunities in my life, but I’ve also had life firmly kick me in the gonads more times than I can count. The thing is, and I often say this to people, is that life rarely cares about your plan.

I’m a fighter. Through and through, I’ve taken on every obstacle that life has thrown at me. But about a year ago, I had a bad turn of luck. The proverbial rug has been pulled out from under me, as it were. My year has been one of difficulty, on my family, my home, my career and on myself. It hasn’t been easy. When these difficulties slapped me out of my comfort zone, I could have sat in the corner and sulked about it with my head in my hands. I know that most people in my position would have. But instead, I embraced the opportunity that this difficulty produced. I learned new skills. I made new friends (you know who you are). I used the silver lining of my situation to contain the otherwise dark cloud of what was happening to me.

We always hear people talk about what they regret in life. But here’s the thing: you should never regret anything in life. Regret is a weight on your soul; a blight on your existence. Regret saps your positive energy and makes it difficult for you to focus on the positive. Is it possible to consider how you would have done something different? Sure! but every decision you’ve ever made and every event you’ve ever lived through has brought you to the hear and now. If you ever had the opportunity to go back and change something because you regret it, you would ultimately change the person you are now. And the person you are now is great.

L. Ron Hubbard said: “Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today and you make your tomorrow.” And I’m going to say that you can never reach the top without a rough uphill climb. So get at it. One step at a time and one foot in front of the other.

A Moment To Yourself…

Human beings, as a rule, are pack animals. We tend to gather, live and travel in groups. Evolution has brought us to that point. And although there are some people who actively choose to spend their entire lives alone, the societal norm generally involves growing up in a family dynamic. This is followed by becoming an adult and building a family of one’s own and so on and so forth…

But you really shouldn’t deny the importance of taking time for yourself. Even when involved in the expected dynamic of life, some time alone can lend to a number of benefits.

In 2017, Forbes Magazine posted an article entitled “7 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone”. I won’t provide all the details about the article, but some of the benefits listed describe how spending some time alone increases empathy and productivity. Being alone helps to spark creativity and build certain mental strengths. Learning how to be alone can also help to curb certain behavioural issues in children. I’ll admit that I’ve faltered in this aspect, as my son generally feels the need to be attached to my hip and generally refuses to spend any time alone.

Meditation can help. Obviously, I’m a firm advocate of taking some time to meditate daily. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of being “too busy” to maintain this practice, despite my study of Buddhism.

It’s important to plan for some time alone. This helps you to plan certain aspects of your life and get to know yourself better. Amy Morin, the Psychotherapist who wrote the list, recommends that setting aside even just 10 minutes a day can help. This obviously includes shutting off all your electronic devices, of course.

Everyone needs a little time alone. Considering the possible benefits, ten minutes to yourself every day can go a long way towards helping you cope with the hustle and bustle of daily life.

The article is a short read and has a lot of good information. It can be found at https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2017/08/05/7-science-backed-reasons-you-should-spend-more-time-alone/#67f8832d1b7e

The Wonder That is the E-reader

I’ve written before about reading and how it seems to have become a bit of a lost art in today’s technological society. People tend to prefer their smart phones, tablets and devices as opposed to the classic paperback that you need to carry around.

A lot of people don’t seem to realize that there’s a happy medium: e-readers. An e-reader is a small, hand held device that can be used to read an electronic version of books, magazines and newspapers. And since the books are simple text files, you can store hundreds (in some cases thousands) of books on one device.

I know what you’re likely thinking. You’re wondering, what is the difference between an e-reader and an actual tablet? Well the answer to that is simply this: a tablet is an electronic device that is designed to perform multiple functions, much like a computer. An e-reader is simply for reading.

Also, a tablet’s screen emits light, which is not great on the eyes for prolonged use. An article posted by the University of Birmingham explains that when using a computer, the user should take a ten-minute break for every hour in front of a screen. Otherwise, the extended screen time can lead to eye strain and irritation. This would be the same concept for a backlit screen such as a tablet or smart phone.

In general, e-readers are not backlit screens. They use a technology called “E ink”, which is commonly referred to as “electronic paper”. They require normal room lighting to read, but the benefit is that they use very little power or memory on your reader. One of the disadvantages is that they take longer to load or refresh a page, which can be mildly bothersome if you read extremely fast.

E-readers are nice because they come in a variety of sizes (memory and physical size) and depending on your needs, range from anywhere start in the low to mid twenties’ all the way up to several hundred dollars. When you consider that the average paperback is usually about twelve dollars or so at time of release (Canadian prices), this can be an optimal choice as e-books are often less expensive than their physical counterparts.

I got pretty lucky. In 2009, I purchased a Kobo Mini from a local retail store. It was roughly about eighty dollars at the time and it was 50% off, so I got it for about forty dollars. I’ve got dozens of books on it, and it fits conveniently in my back pocket. Now, the Kobo Mini I have seems to have been discontinued in recent years (at least, I can’t seem to find it for sale anywhere). but the Kobo Aura is comparable.

At the end of the day, I’m still a firm believer in holding a physical book. Turning the pages, feeling the paper and the weight of it… maybe I’m just old school that way. But e-readers are definitely a wonderful and easy-to-use alternative that helps combine the “old school” with the newer, more technological age.

An example of the e-reader I have

Regina Institute of Kempo Karate

For almost three years now, I have had the honour and pleasure of training at the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate. Although not directly related to my own style of Uechi Ryu Okinawa Karate, Kempo provide many similarities and techniques that relate to my own style.

Tonight (March 7th), I had the opportunity to sit with Master Greg Harding, Head Instructor for RIOKK (Regina Institute of Kempo Karate). He was willing to answer a few questions after one of his evening classes. Here’s what he had to say:

ME: Alright, I’m here with Master Greg Harding, Head Instructor for the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate. Master Harding, thank you.

Master Harding: Hey Shawn, a pleasure.

ME: Umm, I guess the first and most basic question would be, how long have you been studying the martial arts?

MH: I started various martial arts before I got into Kempo and that would have been when I was a young tyke. First experience I would have had was with Judo, I would have been about nine. And then, my parents allowed me to… in our community, it was kind of, everything went through the YMCA. So, it was Judo at the “Y” and then the next year I was allowed to take karate with the Judo. And then, umm, my dad had a friend who was doing boxing out of a small gym in Regina, here, and my dad got me into that, which was kind of a nice thing for me. So, that would be my earliest experience. When I was, uhh… before I hit high school, I was not a teenager, that was when I got into Kempo. And at that time, the person I trained with, Dwight, he was doing Kempo and Kali and so I literally started with Kempo and Kali at the same time. And that would be, well… let’s just put it this way, I’m pretty old now so that’s about forty-some years ago… about forty, I’m gonna say forty-two… forty… coming on forty-three years!

ME: So, how many of those years have you spent teaching?

MH: Umm, I was… when I was… when Dwight still ran the school, I was assisting him with instruction, running classes at that point. We would have been in the 80’s, and what are we now, 2019 now? So, about in ’83 on, I’m guessing ’84, so somewhere in there. So, a few years now. But, I’d like to think that even though there’s been times that I’ve been instructing the class, it’s always been the fact that I’ve had more to learn than to ever teach (laughs).

ME: So, what can you tell us about Kempo? Where does it get its roots from?

MH: Well, many different branches of Kempo… the branch that we have, and almost all and anyone in the same family… we have strong correlation with any group that connected out of Hawaii. In umm, pretty much after World War II into about the 1960’s, early 70’s time period, whether it’s Canada or the US, even into parts of Europe, if one of the instructors had come through that Hawaiian group. And that would be with Mitose and Chow. Prior to them, early in their career there was guys like Mitobe. Umm, interestingly enough, at that time period, there was also a lot of Philipine people were actually there in Hawaii because they were there to like, harvest. They were brought over to work on the fields. And so a lot of them got into training but they also brought with them their family art of variations of Kali. And it’s kind of neat that for me, when I started in Kempo, having the Kali right there. But also, it had been with different generations, if you will, back and forth. And, umm, so there’s historically, one of my hobbies has been to look back and to try to match up with different people in the influence. And there was quite a few visiting people that trained and played with each other that we would trace the influence of the Kali into THAT Kempo family, that we’re part of, way back into that time period. Umm, some pretty interesting people from that time period visited, and went through with the Kempo. But the lineage that would go with that, would be sort of two strands; one would be Chinese lineage that brought it into Hawaii and sort of had a lot of the Shaolin foundation. And then there’s also a lineage, sometimes nicknamed as “Moar” or “Pine tree” that came out of the Okinawan area. And then the two blended really well, because I say, umm, respectfully, two really strong characters. Umm, not that others weren’t influential but Chow and Mitose kind of allowed the two to blend. And a lot of people would give the credit to, just slightly ahead of them in terms of years, Mitobe sort of resurrected the grappling side. At one point, people would refer to as Kempo, as Kempo-jujitsu, because the grappling was so dominant. And then it sort of lost flavour to, where hands and feet became more for striking. And then the influence of Mitobe thankfully, affected that family direction to get the grappling back.

ME: Wow, so a lot of… a lot of secondary influences were brought into the style?

MH: Absolutely. The one beautiful thing about it, that’s always been in Kempo, is its always been one of those systems where it wasn’t so much of just do what I say… there’s always been an expectation of question and explore. And that’s another signature of that crew that came out of anyone that was descendants from that time period and that group is that it was sort of driven and became part of their heart, to believe in spending some good quality time with, umm, being able to ask a question kind of wonder. And enjoy inviting people. And not being afraid to look at “oh, you do it differently”, what does that mean for me to learn from you? And you know, in some cases there’s been some criticism, well… If you’re not strict with how you look at things, then you know, it’s kind of a question of, is it wishy-washy? Where Kempo looks, from the way I was brought up, is flexibility equals strength, not rigidity.

ME: So, in all of your years as a teacher or as a student, or both, what would say has been your biggest obstacle to overcome?

MH: Uhh, well, I… time! Uhh, you know, I think as I get older, I certainly appreciate, but umm,… when we’re young and I mean youthful in experience, not just age, umm, we never value time to put in the repetitions. So we put them in then we never think of that one day we’re gonna wish we had time to still put in repetitions. And then, at a time period where, we always lose some key, amazing people, although we know that their spirit lives on from what they’ve taught us. But you never have enough time with the people that have influenced you and I look over the years as I’ve aged, and I think of all the people that have spent time with me and have given me the gift of their energy, their life’s blood in the martial arts, if you will. And as they’ve passed on, you hope that you have enough time to pass a, little bit of them on? And it’s umm… you wish that sometimes… in a perfect world, classes would never end!

ME: True! (Laughs) Okay, so out of all that, then, if you had to narrow it down to one thing, what do you feel is the most rewarding aspect that you’ve gotten from martial arts?

MH: Definitely the relationships with people. People that, for no reason, will give you the gift of all that they know. It’s funny but, martial arts, just by the culture you know, when people look from the outside in and they think “oh, it’s about fighting” or you know, it’s a lot about discipline and… all of which is true. I mean, let’s face it. It is a study of warfare and it takes a lot of self-discipline. But the generosity of people is what’s touched me over the years. And I think of all the years… I’d never say I was a gifted student, by any means. But there is always someone who took their time to share with me. And I really, to this day, cannot thank them enough and appreciate that. And I hope that when I’m working with some little students, some little guy like I was that, you know, there were days I didn’t know which foot to put forward, left or right, and someone would have to coach me “no, no, change your foot!” And you know, when you run across that, it just kind of brings you back to that time period. It’s like the cycle sort of stays alive. So the challenge for me has always been to appreciate and enjoy those moments. But to learn to let them go, as people do move on. Sadly, all we have then is the memory they gave us and the time they shared with us. And then actually just enjoy the fact that you can channel that on to the next generation. And keep that balanced in your head so that you don’t get overwhelmed (laughs).

ME: Would you do it all over again?

MH: Absolutely.

ME: If you could go back to the beginning and… we’ll call him “White Belt Greg Harding”… If you could deliver a message, what would it be?

MH: Well, you know what? The instructors were delivering pretty good messages to me. Truthfully, one of the reasons my parents put me in the martial was I had trouble with discipline, I had trouble with concentration and somewhat I had trouble with behaviour. And so, umm, all those things that the instructors struggled with, they were pretty straight with me about what I needed to do. I would go back in time, to be honest, Shawn… I’d be talking to myself, I’d be saying “You probably don’t believe it now, but there’s a lifetime here!” And my instructors back then always talked about it as martial arts is for a lifetime. As you’ve aged in the martial arts and you’ve been around for a while, you sort of start to realize that yeah, that’s kind of cool. It is. And as you change in how you approach things, because of your age, but it doesn’t mean it ends. I think the kid I was when I started thought that it was gonna be a one or two classes, and I’d be done. I don’t know if that kid was capable of realizing that there was gonna be more than one or two classes anyways (laughs).

ME: And here you are all these years later.

MH: Well, age is one thing. But like I said, people kept me around. And they were pretty generous because I probably wasn’t the best student to keep around. But they never gave up on me.

ME: That’s good! So Master Harding, is there anything you’d like to pass along to my readers in terms of the martial arts or the philosophy you’ve followed for all these years?

MH: Well, I’m humbled by the question. I think that the most important thing I’ve learned is that there is a wonderful brotherhood, sisterhood, family that comes with those who train in traditional martial arts. I recognize that a lot of martial arts enjoy competitive sides. There’s competition based on it. But the hours that a person puts in and the people that you train with all those years,… and it becomes kind of like a family. And those are relationships that I’ve cherished, and I think are some of my strongest friendships, are because of that. And that’s certainly something that I would hope for anybody in the martial arts. It was what I loved about it and I would hope that anybody else could get out of the martial arts is that true feeling of what a real friend is. And how you really can, literally, some days feel like you’re dying and sweating to the point where you don’t know if you can do one more. And yet somebody there helps you bring that energy through yourself. Next time, you do that for them. And the time that you put in, and that hard work… Not a lot of people will ever know other than the person beside you. And those are some good friendships formed. I also think that the nicest thing, also, is there’s so much nowadays where it feels like everything’s out there for everybody else to share and to celebrate. And I’m maybe a little old school in the sense that I think it’s nice to have something that maybe you do that not everybody else knows about. Only your closest of friends.

ME: Love it! Love everything about it!

MH: Yup!

ME: Thank you, Master Harding!

MH: Well, thank you Shawn. It’s a real pleasure and, as I’ve said, it’s humbling to be asked. So, thank you for your time.

It’s always interesting getting other folks’ perspective on something you’ve spent most of your life doing. My thoughts reflect many of the points Master harding brought up. Over the decades, I’ve forged many friendships through the martial arts and they’ve been the ones that have consistently remained.

Martial arts is almost the “jack of all trades” of the sporting world. Whether you’ve started to learn to defend yourself, to get into shape or the camaraderie, there’s something for everyone.

If you live in the Regina, Saskatchewan area and would be interested in checking out a class, they are every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 6:30 at 40 Dixon Crescent, where you’d get to meet the Blogging buddhist in person.

For more information on the Regina institute of Kempo Karate, you can visit the website at shao-lin.ca/content/regina_institute_kempo_karate

Repetition is key, Repetition is key… (see what I did there?)

We live in a very technology-dependent society. Nowadays, you can see people sitting together at coffee shops with their eyes down at their smart phones or laptops instead of conversing with each other. Don’t get me wrong, considering that I’m writing in my blog at this moment, I’m also a firm advocate of the technological age. But one of the outlying results of this modern trend is that we as a people have developed a shorter attention span. This has a significant and real impact on the study of traditional martial arts.

Martial arts in general involves a lot of repetition. In fact, my style of karate is descendent of a Chinese Kung Fu lineage that generally required its students to study and practice the same form for three years before anything else was taught. Can you imagine? How many of you would willingly join a recreational sport that required you to repeat the same series of movements over and over for three years before you could move on? It does happen in some sports, but it’s usually intermixed with other aspects that make it so you don’t really feel like you’re repeating a redundancy. I have had students, even recently, who have complained about the fact that they feel as though they are not progressing and are always doing the same thing. This sometimes brings us to question what we’re doing here or why, while training in a martial arts school.

In my youth, my Sensei told me a story that applies to this concept: A young man in a small Province in China dreamt of training with Shaolin monks in the art of Kung Fu. His family sacrificed and did everything so that he could travel to, and be accepted into one of the best monasteries in the country. The young man travelled for days and camped outside the monastery for nearly two weeks before the monks finally admitted him as a student. The student was excited to begin his life as a “kung fu monk” and of the mystery of the teachings that would follow. For his first few days, the student became acclimated to his new surroundings until finally asking one of the masters when he would begin learning kung fu.

The master arched an eyebrow at the young student and asked “So, you wish to learn kung fu? Follow me!” The master brought the student into an empty room with a hard wood floor. The room had a small hole about two feet wide, in the centre. The hole contained a pool of water, which was fed by the local well.

“Until you are told otherwise, you will kneel before this well, and pull out the water with your right palm, like so…” The master demonstrated the movement until the pool of water was half empty. The master then picked up a mop and cleaned up the water into a nearby bucket. Once the process was demonstrated, the monk left the student on his own to begin his chore. The student was despondent and felt that he had come to the monastery for nothing.

Every morning, the student would wake, eat a light breakfast, then spend his day pushing water out of the pool with his right palm and cleaning it up with the mop. Over and over, he repeated this chore diligently. All the while wondering when he would learn something of Kung Fu. Always wondering when he would learn something useful.

After one year at the monastery, the young student was permitted to visit his family. The student’s family gathered all the relatives together for a big celebration. They were so proud to have a true Kung Fu monk in the family. When everyone got together for the meal, everyone teased and prodded, asking the student for a demonstration of everything he had learned in his year at the monastery. The student’s frustration grew until his anger finally got the best of him. He stood up and loudly yelled, so that the entire family could hear: “I HAVEN’T LEARNED ANY KUNG FU!!!” and slammed his right fist down on the solid oak table at which he was sitting. The wooden table split cleanly in the middle, right where the student had struck it. The family as well as the student stared at the broken table in awe.

Turns out that the year the student had spent pulling out the water and cleaning it had developed an immensely powerful right arm for punching, striking and attacks.

Sometimes the wisdom of our instructors eludes us. We don’t always understand the lesson until we see the result. Have you ever seen the hit 80’s movie the Karate Kid? Mr. Miyagi had Daniel-san doing all sorts of crazy chores that he could have sworn was getting him nowhere. It wasn’t until Mr. Miyagi demonstrated the movements in a karate context that Daniel-san finally began to understand the purpose behind the lesson. And that, my friends, is the ultimate message: wait for the purpose behind the lesson. I’m not necessarily advocating that the Karate kid was an accurate portrayal of important martial arts, but it did impart some important lessons.

While practicing any fighting art, the constant repetition and routines may seem tedious and pointless. But anything worth having comes only after effort and hard work. So, stick with it. Whether it’s martial arts, hockey, gymnastics or any other sport you may choose to participate in, that repetition will end in positive results; AS LONG AS YOU STICK WITH IT!

Exercise and the Effect on Blood Sugar…

Diabetes is a ridiculous creature. It requires a level of balance and work that most people just don’t seem to understand. The problem is, something that works one day may not work out quite so well the next. One needs to find a delicate balance between food, insulin and exercise to maintain some semblance of good health.

When I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1982, there were a lot of things lacking from my routine to make it a proper one. Carb counting wasn’t a thing (at least not for me) so insulin dosages were something of a guessing game. My glucometer (blood testing machine) weighed almost three pounds and it took almost two minutes for a blood sugar reading. I won’t get into the process it entailed, but it was way more complicated than the simple, ten-second finger poke I do today. The common belief at the time was that food increased blood sugar and exercise lowered it. Although this is isn’t completely false, it isn’t completely accurate either.

The human body contains some 79 organs (depending on one’s definition of an “organ” and what medical journal you’re reading). Your body has this tendency of trying to make all your internal systems work together in harmony. That being the case, your Endocrine System (the internal system that contains the Pancreas) will work to compensate for some of the things your Pancreas lacks. For more information on these individual systems, check out Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organs_of_the_human_body)

Although I usually only work for about sixty minutes, on average, sometimes my workouts have gone for as long as two hours. When you perform intense, physically-draining exercise, your body generates adrenaline. Adrenaline is wonderful stuff. It relieves pain and alleviates some of the stressors on the body during critical moments. It also has one other unexpected side effect: in increases blood sugar. So if you’re having a total kick-ass workout and you’re having a blast and you feel that “runner’s high”, chances are that your blood sugar will rise, not drop (despite the physical exertion). If you’re doing something consistent (like running, cycling or elliptical) you’ll burn calories and lower your blood sugar. I don’t want to say that cardio in general is boring, but it doesn’t produce the adrenaline kick that high intensity workouts do.

The primary issue with this is that if one tests blood sugar levels right after a high intensity workout and takes an insulin dosage to adjust for the high, blood sugars will bottom out once the adrenaline dies out and the insulin kicks in.

There’s no magic formula to circumvent all of this. If you have Diabetes, all you can do is plan and adjust! WebMD has a good page relating to this. It can be found at https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/exercise-lower-blood-sugar#2

Things have changed considerably for me since 1982. My blood sugar is tested via wireless sensor attached to my bicep. My insulin is delivered through an insulin pump. The benefit of all these gadgets is that I’m down to one needle every three days, at most, as opposed to over a dozen needles, including blood testing and insulin injections. I’ve been taught how to carb count and calculate appropriate insulin dosages based on my specific metabolism.

Be consistent, check with your doctor before starting any major fitness regiment but stick with it. Diabetes often causes a sort of lethargy or feeling of laziness. This doesn’t mean that you can’t push beyond this feeling and experience a solid burn through your workout. Diabetes doesn’t prevent good fitness; it is simply another obstacle for a strong fitness enthusiast to work through.