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