You Can’t Help If You Don’t Know

We often like to believe that the world as we know it is at its most chaotic and that things have never been this weird or strange. But in truth, things have pretty much always stayed consistent. In their own way. We generally feel like there’s been a measurable change in society because recent decades have opened a spigot on accepting everyone and everything, combined with a complete and total inability to process and accept criticism, judgement and opinions. It’s a toxic combination as it’s breeding a world where people can claim to be whatever they want (even if they aren’t that particular thing) and shame on you if you tell them different. Have you experienced this? I recently did and what’s worse is, it was with someone I’m actually acquainted with. I can’t imagine the further shit storm I would have faced, had I been a stranger.

One of the things that’s always lit a fire under me is how folks simply EXPECT you to know something about them. And of course, every situation is specific and circumstantial to the moment, but sometimes one needs to acknowledge that there has to be a bit of give to your take. A good example I can provide is from almost twenty years’ ago when I managed a restaurant. We had a gentleman who came in, almost on a daily basis. He was a bit older than I was and was usually accompanied by what appeared to be family. Nothing out of the ordinary, other than the fact that he was in a wheelchair. This was not a temporary thing and he had obviously had something happen to him, earlier in life.

Through coincidence and circumstance, I had never had the opportunity to serve him. Then one day, I did. I took his order, accepted his payment and held out his change, which he accepted. Then I made the apparently offensive mistake of offering to carry his tray to the table… Now, I totally get that everyone is on their own journey and we never know what they’re going through and so on and so forth. And that’s quite true. You never know what’s bubbling underneath the surface. But the way this gentleman reacted to me was disproportionate to the fact that I was simply making an offer to help. He took instant offence and became irritated, asking me how I dared to assume he was incapable of carrying his own tray.

Being as I had worked at that particular job for quite some time and had plenty of practice at staying calm in the face of customer anger, I simply took a step back, held my hands out placatingly and apologized, as the man grabbed his tray, laid it across the arms of his wheelchair and pushed off. He executed each movement with the kind of over-exaggerated jerkiness that made it clear he was upset. He also never broke eye contact, glaring at me the whole time. Holy shit. What just happened? I asked the two other floor managers I was working with if they knew the story, but neither of them did.

Since I’m a firm believer in allowing matters to cool before addressing them, I left the man alone but I chose to address one of the family members he had with him. I explained what had happened and I asked her if she knew why he had taken such offence. She explained that it was mostly a pride thing, as he always tried to be as independent as possible despite being in a wheelchair. I wanted to tell her that I understood but that he may want to reconsider his approach, since the person he’s addressing may not know that. instead, I just said that I understood and asked her to apologize on my behalf as he seemed to be pretty pissed at me. She nodded understandingly and said that she would.

This begs the question? Was I the asshole? And no, I don’t mean in general, before any of my friends or family jump on THAT particular bandwagon. But was it fair of this person to use their anger on me like that for something I didn’t know about? One would think that it would make sense to offer aid to someone who is in a wheelchair and although it could be understood that such a person would want to retain independence and do things for themselves, would it not be the better approach to simply explain that, rather than get angry?

The rights and acknowledgment of a large number of different groups has become a hot topic around the world. One good example is gender identity, which has become something of the norm in recent years. We always see stories on the news about people who have gotten into physical altercations and public arguments because someone might have said “sir” or “ma’am.” Every person has the right to their identity as they see fit, but is it fair to unleash the hounds on every person who may not know? You can see and read about these situations almost every day as they relate to politics, gender identity, handicap and the less visible diseases and sexual orientation.

And although I know that this can be a bit of a touchy subject, it begs an important question as to whether it’s more important to receive the correct acknowledgement or be treated in a specific way as opposed to making it clear in the first place. I think that if I address someone by a particular title, I would like to be informed if I’m incorrect. This would be much easier than starting an angered tirade that can easily snowball into something uglier. I’d rather not have that person emotionally explode in my face because they identify as something other than the term I used.

I’m not referring to times when dealing with specific folks who feels it necessary to work AGAINST any particular group. That’s an entirely different bag. I’m referring to the normal, everyday interactions that we have while out in public (not that THAT happens much these days). Harmony and peace would be so much easier if people would simply take a moment and say, “Please address me this way…” or “No, thank you. I can manage this on my own.” As a Diabetic, I’ve often had people try to be accommodating or helpful. Especially when they’re “helpfully” suggesting what I should or shouldn’t eat… But that’s for another post. My point is, I view such instances as a chance for education and clarification. If every person did as much, it could go a long way towards preventing so many negative encounters. Food for thought… ☯

Make Sure It’s For You

Look at that bald, handsome devil! I may be a bit biased, of course. This is me on my way to work, last week. Despite the current pandemic situation, I don’t have the available space or resources to be working from home. So I go to the office. There are a very limited number of staff working on site at the moment. And most employees have taken to dressing somewhat more casually than they usually would, with a full office. So, this begs the question… Why do I go through the effort of a clean shave and a properly tailored suit? I do it for me. Plain and simple.

Appearances aren’t everything, and this much is true. But there’s definitely something to be said about taking some steps to improve your self-image by dressing and/or training in such a way that makes YOU feel better about YOU. I could no doubt sit in my office in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but my suit makes ME feel professional and improves MY self-image. This leads to healthier, happier days and better productivity as a result.

This line of thinking came to mind when I was having a conversation with one of the guys at the office, who mentioned his disdain for people who constantly post photos of themselves without a shirt and flexing at the gym. He commented that he wondered who that was for and felt that it was a bit on the braggy side. I can honestly say that I agree. I know people who do nothing but posts constant stream of photos of themselves in various flexing poses and such. I know, I know… THIS, coming from the guy who just threw a GQ pose into his blog post…

I’m mostly referring to the folks who don’t post the photos to show their progress or to show the “before” and “after” side of their journey, but just take photos for the sake of flexing for people to comment on them. There’s a big difference between having a healthy image of oneself and being narcissistic. This is a personal opinion, of course. I’m sure there are those who feel that constantly posting photos of themselves does in fact help them to self-motivate and work towards their fitness and self-image goals. And as they say, to each their own. It simply isn’t the way a humble person does business.

The simple bottom line is this: Dress to impress. But it better be to impress yourself. How you look and feel to yourself is the primary importance. As long as you have a positive self-image and feel great, you’ll project the confidence and energy that you need to be successful. And if you’re brave enough to share your fitness journey through photographs, be sure that it’s also being done for you and your continued well-being. You’ll be all the better for it. Food for thought… ☯

When Bad Habits Can Be Good

I’ve been known to have my share of bad habits, from lack of sleep to eating a plate of nachos when I’m too lazy to make an actual meal. But, can there be times when bad habits can actually have some benefits? I’ve done a fair bit of searching, only to find that the articles that typically deal with the “benefits” of bad habits refer to things such as cursing, consuming too much coffee and fidgeting. But what about some of the more common bad habits that no one claims any benefit to? Are there any? I believe so…

A short while back, I took a couple of hours to indulge in the holy trifecta of bad habits: a cigar, a beer and a comic book. Classically, all three of these things are viewed as unhealthy. There’s no argument here, that smoking is bad for you. I have the benefit of saying that I have the occasional cigar every few months and it isn’t a consistent habit. That’s how I rationalize it. The occasional glasses of wine or beer are a bit more frequent, and one needs to recognize the calories, carbohydrates and effects it can have on a Type-1’s blood sugar levels. Coming books certainly aren’t a bad habit, per say. But there are obviously better, more constructive uses of my money and time if I wanted to read something.

My trifecta. Don’t judge my choice of beer.

As I was sitting there enjoying my little treasure trove of bad habits, I got to thinking about what it is I ACTUALLY get out of indulging in these habits. And I came up with a few reasonably good points. This is a short list, and I in no way endorse or encourage the use and indulgence of the above seen items in the photo. This is simply my opinion and what I feel I get out of it.

Relaxation: If I have to explain the how’s and why’s that alcohol can relax a person, then you’re either a minor who shouldn’t be drinking anyway, or a someone who has simply never had a drink, which is good. Stick with that. But the “ceremony” of sitting back and sipping on an ice cold beer on a sunny afternoon has a distinctive calming effect. And being calm is good. The aroma and warmth of the cigar also has a calming effect;
Time Alone: No matter your familial situation and ESPECIALLY given the current state of the world, taking some time to spend on your own is important and has its benefits as well. Time alone allows you to collect your thoughts, contemplate the days that have passed and allows you to partake in reading or just enjoying the day, without interruption;
I Can Meditate While Doing It: This is more of a “me” benefit, but if monks can sit in a meditative state while incense is burning and coiling around them, my cigar should be no different. Considering life obligations and distractions, meditation no longer happens for me as often as I’d like. These little quiet moments are an opportunity to do just that. This isn’t traditional or typical, but one can get themselves to a point where they can effectively meditate while performing other actions, such as these;
Enjoyment: And this last one simply points to the more selfish side of me. I enjoy the occasional beer. I enjoy the occasional cigar. And I certainly wouldn’t be the Alpha Nerd that I am if I didn’t enjoy comic books. Granted, I essentially enjoy reading in general.

Are these bad habits? Yes. Could I live without them? Absolutely. And that’s the difference. When stating these “benefits,” I’m not referring to the unfortunate folks who have addiction or are slaves to their bad habits. That’s an entirely different ball game. And I can certainly admit that all of these things have a financial cost to them that could likely be allotted elsewhere. But as everyone has no doubt heard, at some point in their lives, you can’t take it with you. Happiness is important to proper health and longer life. ☯

You Can’t Please Everybody

Everybody wants to be liked. Of course, they do. Even the people who puff out their chest and claim they don’t care what other people think would prefer to be liked than disliked. This is a natural compulsion and it makes sense. After all, life is always easier when dealing with people who like you than the opposite. But the big problem is that you can’t please everyone. No matter what you do, there’ll always be someone in the equation displeased with what you say, do or think. Trust, I know. I used to be one of the people who tried to please everyone…

Although the average person tends NOT to think so, complaining about the negative always seems to be easier than simply appreciating the positive. If people could simply be happy with what/who they have, the world would likely be a more peaceful place. And if you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of keen on the whole peace thing. I used to try and accomplish this by doing exactly what was described above: trying to please everybody.

I can remember some specific circumstances of when I’ve done this. I remember the one time where I attended a party with a handful of people. (I know, right? We actually used to do things like gathering in groups and the police WOULDN’T show up) Anyway, I lost a bet and it fell on me to buy the “adult beverages” for the evening. Beer. I had to buy the beer. There were only a handful of us and we had a bit of an organized game night happening… D&D. We were going to be playing D&D.

So, I accepted my loss and graciously purchased a case of beer, which would provide each of us with a couple of drinks. This was more than adequate for our early 20’s metabolisms and we needed to keep our heads clear for the game, anyway. Out of the friends who were there, there was ONE guy who decided he was unhappy with the brand of beer I purchased. Now, I know what you’re thinking: the guy should have been reasonable and appreciated the drinks he was getting for free, regardless of the brand. That should have the way of it.

Instead, this guy indicated that he doesn’t drink the brand of beer I brought and wouldn’t be drinking it. Some of the others indicated their disapproval of this opinion, especially since it was brought for him and it was free (albeit through the loss of a bet). But as the game started, the guy actually pouted a bit and would glare at me regularly. I should probably point out that I was the storyteller, what’s referred to as a Dungeon Master in D&D circles. But I’ll stop firmly establishing my throne in nerdom and point out that it was ridiculously childish and distracting while I was trying to focus.

So, what did I do? Did I tell him to suck it up? Did I tell him to stop being petty and have a couple of drinks, since they were provided for him at no cost? Did I have enough of his petulance and kick him out of the game. No. No, I didn’t. I put the game on hold, asked him what brand of beer was his favourite and actually went to the corner to grab him a 6-pack of his own. I brought it back, he smiled and grabbed a bottle and we got on with our game. I’d like to say that it was because I just wanted to shut him up, but back then I genuinely just wanted to please most people.

Should I have done this? In retrospect, I shouldn’t have. All I accomplished was showing this guy that complaining and pouting about something would eventually get him his way. If I’d been smart, I would have put my foot down so that the rest of us could enjoy our game. The debt incurred by the bet had been repaid and there were bigger fish to fry. All I really accomplished that night was putting myself out further than I should have. Sure, all the guys got what they wanted that night so I guess that in a way I “pleased” everyone, but at what cost.

I recently read somewhere that “You can lie down for people to walk on you and they will still complain that you’re not flat enough. Live your life.” An that’s quite true. It’s always a beautiful thing when you can get along with everyone, but it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll ever be able to please everyone. If you make a meal, there’ll always be an aspect of the meal that someone at the table won’t like. The important thing to remember is the effort you’ve put into the things you do. If there are some who don’t like it or aren’t please with you, so be it. You can’t base your life on whether or not you’ve pleased everyone. ☯

“But Daddy, Zombies Are Real…”

That title isn’t just an abstract one; these are words that my 6-year old son chose to utter, just a few weeks ago. When I asked him what made him believe that zombies were real, he explained that he had seen them in “real shows,” not cartoons. So they must real. This not only prompted me to have an in-depth discussion with him about the realism of what he sees on television, regardless of cartoon or live, it also prompted me to thoroughly scrub his restricted list on Netflix, since he obviously accessed something he shouldn’t have been watching.

The unexpected result that it had, was it caused me to question how easy it would be to survive through a “zombie apocalypse.” This thought is further deepened by the fact that I’ve recently started re-reading a bunch of Brian Keene books, a well-known horror novelist. He’s had some really great ones, including The Rising and City of the Dead. But the one I’ve been reading recently is called Dead Sea, and it follows the story of a down-on-his-luck protagonist who saves a couple of kids from fires and zombie hordes when the zombie apocalypse comes. They wind up on a ship on the open sea, hence the title. CAUTION: There will be spoilers on this book, ahead. Here’s the cover, in case anyone is interested in looking it up:

So, you may be asking yourself, “Why are we talking about zombies on a Buddhist/Fitness/Diabetes blog?” Well, the answer is quite simple: because I can. But even more so, sometimes it can be refreshing to take a different perspective at things, and books often provide a means of doing just that. But what’s more than that (he says, calming his sarcasm) is that something that a lot of these stories bring up is a person’s propensity to keep fighting and survive, even when faced with what appears to be insurmountable odds. And as I mentioned in the second paragraph, it’s made me question and wonder what my odds of survival would be when faced with a situation like a zombie apocalypse.

First, let me start by pointing out that the possibility of zombies is something I find ridiculous at best, for a host of reasons. Between rigour mortis, decomposition and the concept that reanimating dead and rotting tissue in such a way as to allow mobility is an impossibility, I’m of the opinion that zombies are right up there with vampires and unicorns. Anyone with a medical degree that could correct me is free to do so in my comments section. Granted, at least the concept of a horse growing a horn out of its head is more likely than a reanimated corpse. But I digress…

The topic of this post is actually supposed to be about survival; a topic that the main character of this book touched on quite well in the first page of the first chapter. He said, “Listen… you never know what you’ll do until you find yourself in an impossible situation, so don’t ever say never. Survival instinct is a motherfucker, and when your back is against the wall, everything changes. Everything. I know. It did for me. It all changed for me.”

In the pages that follow, a number of specific aspects of dealing with any survival situation is addressed. The need for food, supplies, a safe haven for rest as well as the resources to protect yourself are all aspects of such a situation. And not only protection from whatever may have prompted the emergency, but from the people who would benefit from it as well. There are always some of those. Even in the face of our current pandemic, there have been people who have sought to use the current state of the world to their advantage, preying on those who may not know better.

I think the reason this story resonates with me so much, besides the fact I occasionally enjoy the horror/fantasy genres, is the fact that about midway through the book once everyone is aboard ship and cruising to relative safety, a character named Stephanie is identified as having Diabetes and being without insulin. She succumbs to a Diabetic coma and passes away in her sleep shortly thereafter. And THAT more than anything provides an important wake-up call for me, from a survival standpoint. It raises the question of how long would I last in an apocalypse scenario given that I would need to find some means of securing an insulin supply and the materials needed to inject it.

In all reality, I can live without my pump and even without a blood glucose monitor. It’s not ideal, but I could do it. I lived until my late 30’s without a pump. And in a total breakdown of societal resources where stores and retail locations would ultimately be looted and emptied of their contents, insulin may not be everyone’s top choice of things to grab. So I could potentially manage to scavenge and find an adequate supply. For a while. Even when you consider that a breakdown in utilities could mean that insulin supplies stored in pharmacy dispensaries would eventually spoil due to temperature extremes and lack of proper refrigeration.

But then what? If society breaks down, it’s doubtful that there’ll be manufacturers still producing insulin. So, although I could no doubt survive for a period of time (especially since the self-defence aspect would be no issue) there would no doubt come a point where, no matter how prepared I am, the Diabetes aspect of me will cause me to succumb to the new, apocalyptic environment in which I find myself. Maybe that’s why I enjoy these types of stories so much; because I know they involve an environment I couldn’t survive in and is the only format through which I can experience it. Not that I WANT to experience a disaster… I’m jus’ saying’…

Hopefully, we’ll never have to deal with an “apocalyptic”-level event in our lifetime, but it’s humbling to think about how a simple medical condition that I’ve lived with for almost four decades would bring about a swift end for me, based on the state of the world. It’s a bit of an eye-opener. Even if I fortified my home, stored non-perishable foods and did everything I could to be prepared in the event of a cataclysmic event, my downfall is more likely to be, not from zombies, lack of food or the inability to defend myself but from the lack of a small, glass vial. ☯

A Pressure Cooker Of Opinions

One of the benefits of having trained in the martial arts for as long as I have, is that I’ve mostly seen it all and have almost tried it all. You’ll note that I don’t make a point of saying I’m “good” at it all… Martial arts is a marathon, not a race and there’s always something further to be learned, experienced and discovered. So, I’ve seen a lot and the important distinction that needs to be made is that not everything that’s taught is effective. And this is where pressure points come in.

I’ve written about pressure points before; in fact, it may have been in recent months. Age and the drafting of daily posts tends to make one forget what they have written the month prior. But it’s always a good topic to cover, especially for new students or practitioners who may be interested in learning karate or martial arts. In simplest terms, a pressure point is where you use one or several fingers to strike an area of the body where it will cause pain, compliance and/or dysfunction. Although knocking someone out is a very real possibility in a fight, things like the Vulcan nerve pinch, which render an opponent unconscious with a mere touch, aren’t actually a thing.

The thing about pressure points, is that they’re what I tend to refer to as a “support mechanism.” What I mean by this is that they aren’t intended to be used on their own. Usually, one would need to deliver a strike or two and get control of the individual BEFORE trying to hit a pressure point. Although there are some pressure points that you can access through an actual strike (hitting the groin is a good example), these are the rarer ones. Although learning them is all well and good, and I should point out that I’m a big fan of drills in class, the use and execution of pressure points in a real life situation is a whole different ballgame.

Picture this, if you will… You get into a situation that has escalated to the point where it appears that the need to defend yourself is imminent. You no longer have the option of walking away; at least not without getting struck from behind and getting injured. So, you square off against your opponent and try to evaluate what your first move should be. Here’s the thing: it should DEFINITELY not be a pressure point. The dojo environment allows you the opportunity to feel around, locate the pressure point and practice using it.

That’s all well and good, but one needs to recognize the fact that every person’s body is different. Some people will be more sensitive to certain points than others and what worked quite well on your partner in the dojo likely won’t have the same effect on an opponent in the street. Especially since your dojo partner will just stand there and let you grope around for the pressure point. The opponent on the street doesn’t plan on standing still. In fact, if you walk up and try to access a pressure point, you’ll likely be flattened on your ass before your finger jabs ANYTHING.

I like pressure points as they can be very handy as a control mechanism through pain compliance. And they’re sure fun to poke lightly when I’m wrestling with my son. The best part is seeing him trying to duplicate the effect on me. But they should never be used as a standalone technique. Should you miss, can’t locate the specific point you’re trying for or a particular opponent has a body type or muscle tone that won’t let you access a point, you could place yourself in a compromised position where you face serious injury. Food for thought… ☯

Unlike Footprints In The Sand, A First Impression Rarely Washes Away

It’s a pretty classic story; you attend a local business or service and received really, really bad service from the salesperson. This may be one that you’ve never met before, but they seem standoffish and not really interested in selling to you or helping you. You leave the location thinking about how bad your experience may have been. Then, while chatting over coffee with a friend you discuss your experience only to have your friend indicate he’s dealt with that sales person before and they were wonderful and the service was great. Was it just you? Either way, the first impression that salesperson gave you marked him AND that location in your mind as a place to avoid.

Impressions mean a lot from the perspective of the person looking out at the world. I use the example of a salesperson because it’s a simple and easily understood example. But I’m sure you can think of others. For example, let me tell you about two different people you might see out in public. The first is a young male, well dressed, shirt and tie with dress shoes. He’s clean-shaven and looks to have an ever-so-slight smirk on his face. He appears happy and seems to be on top of his game. At first glance, most would think he may be a local manager or business person. The second person is wearing torn, dirty sweatpants, has at least a few days growth on his face, hair askew and is wearing a canvass coat over everything that quite frankly, smells a bit off as you walk by. At first glance, one might be inclined to believe this person to be homeless or derelict, looking to pander for change or a free meal.

What do you think? Do you agree with those descriptions? From a personal standpoint, first impressions make a difference because they set the bar for how people interact with you. If you’re meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time and you keep a straight face and seem standoffish, that impression may lead them to think your not personable or good as a partner for their child. But if you take the time to smile, shake hands and/or hug (depending on the family, of course), you’ll make a much better first impression. The point is, impressions can last and although every person’s perspective and view of the world may be different, it’s usually pretty difficult to change that impression once it’s been made. It’s a reflex that humans have that’s somewhat connected to our survival instincts.

Now, it’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between making a good impression and worrying about what others think of you. Those are two entirely different things. If you were to tell me that I shouldn’t care what others think of me, I would agree that you are correct. But unless the meeting of someone has an underlying negative connotation anyway, making a good impression is important. Almost as important as never judging a proverbial book by its cover, which brings us back to our two subjects from the second paragraph. I’m sure you’d like to know who and what those two characters actually are…

The first man, the one in the suit; he’s actually a homeless guy who’s been crashing on friend’s couch. He’s barely eaten in the past week after losing his previous job due to illness and he’s on his way to an interview that he hopes will provide him with a new career. His smile denotes his optimism and hope for the future. He sees good things ahead, and plans on benefiting from them. He borrowed the suit from one of his uncles so that he could make a good first impression.

The second man, the one with the hair all over the place and smelly clothes that looks like he may be a homeless person? He’s actually a successful investigator with a large, family home just outside the city. He’s built his businesses to the point that he can be home or absent from work whenever he chooses and never has to worry about money for the rest of his life. Why is he dressed this way, with a strained look in his face? Because he helped one of his neighbours clear out his back lot after some light flooding dragged forest scraps and waste into his yard, hence the filth and the smell. He worked in similar industries in previous years and knew he’d be able to help.

If you had known this information about those two at the very beginning, how would it have changed your impression of them? It would be lying to say that it WOULDN’T have, right? But as I said, first impressions can be important and although I mostly refer to the impression you yourself make on an approaching party when meeting them the first time, impressions are the message that others send to us when meeting for the first time. So always put your best foot forward. No matter what side of the counter you find yourself on, no what kind of attitude or personality the other person has or what certain biases may surface in your brain. You’ll be all the better for it AND you’ll go a certain way towards making a better world. ☯

It’s Not Your Job To Belittle A Job…

It can sometimes be easy to forget that all jobs in modern society are necessary, especially when some of those jobs are ones that we would generally prefer not to do. For example, I think we could agree that the average kid usually doesn’t say they want to be a garbage collector when they grow up. But without people to DO that job, imagine the mess and inconvenience we’d be in? It’s lucky for us that there are folks who are not only willing but able and happy to do these jobs so that we don’t have to find out. But it would be nice to see some appreciation, as well.

Through my late teens and most of my twenties, I paid off student loans and made my money by working at a local fast-food restaurant. For obvious legal reasons, I’d rather not name the restaurant but it usually has arches up front, if that gives you any indication. I lost count of the number of people who commented negatively about my working there and belittled the job as a whole. Although i can admit that it was by no means a “glamorous” job, it taught independence, skills, the value of hard work and introduced me to the world of management that has eventually led me to the hear and now.

Some years later, I held a job as a janitor. I swept and mopped floors, emptied trash receptacles and washed windows. Most people in the building wearing suits and carrying briefcases would walk past me without ever noticing me, despite my occasional smile or wave. I was “beneath” them. But this job taught me attention to detail, perseverance and the importance of cleanliness. And it would have been interesting to see the results of my team and I not cleaning their building for an extended period of time.

I guess one could easily say that I’ve done a bit of everything, and I’ve always believed that each and every different job I’ve held has taught me something, provided me with something and has helped make me a better person. This is why it seriously bothers me when I hear someone say something along the lines of, “If you don’t study hard and get a degree, you’ll end up like THAT…” As though any given job they name doesn’t have value and worth. Some of that is based on modern society’s belief in accomplishing BIG things. But what’s big? Sometimes it’s simply a matter of perspective.

“Flipping Burgers Is Not Beneath Your Dignity. Your Grandparents Had a Different Word For Burger Flipping – They Called It Opportunity.”

– Bill Gates

No matter what you do in life, so long as you give it your all and do the best you can at what you’re doing you’ll always find its value. Nothing is beneath you, and no one should ever belittle you for what you do. And should you happen to be the one doing the belittling, shame on you. If you’ve never been below your current station in life, at least understand that every job is essential and pertinent to your existence; even a job you’d prefer not to be doing yourself. And lastly, money isn’t everything. There are plenty of sources that have proven that if you do what you love, the money will come. Unless what you love is sitting on your couch eating nachos. Then, I can’t help you. ☯

Clash Of The Styles…

If there’s one thing that everyone knows, regardless of whether they’ve studied martial arts or not, is that there’s a HUGE family tree spanning several thousand years when it comes to the martial arts. Different styles, different schools and different families can sometimes make it difficult to know and understand if one style is better than the other or which one you should pursue, if you’re looking to do so. The reality is that there isn’t so much one style that’s better than the other; it’s about how it’s taught and how it works for you. I’ve written about this on a few occasions.

It can be difficult two schools of opposing view come face-to-face, especially if they happen to be training in the same complex or their respective dojos are on the same city block or something. It’s reminiscent of those old, corny kung fu movies where you’d always get one clan or style that would be feuding with another. “Our kung fu is stronger than yours!” I used to love those movies. No stunt doubles or CGI, just clean, semi-realistic fighting fun. It was a guilty pleasure of mine as a kid. But I digress…

If we were to use generalized terms to describe TYPES of martial arts, we can easily classify them under four categories: Traditional, Modern, Weapons-based and Hybrid. I’m sure that some fellow martial artists would divide these categories differently, so I should likely point out that this is a personal perspective and not necessarily something official and/or recognized. But when I hear of any given style, I usually find myself able to place them in any one of these four categories. Still with me? Good. Moving on…

Traditional martial arts describes “pure” styles that were developed at the start of of a specific martial art’s existence and usually involves a lot of protocol, ceremony and tradition. Further, they rely on training methods that many mainstream fighters consider ineffective, such as forms. It can cover a variety of methods including striking, grappling, pressure points and joint manipulation. In my experience, I’ve found that teachers of a traditional art tend to be the most difficult and inflexible, claiming their style to be the best one and everyone else’s is junk. They’ll usually discourage their students from exploring other styles and learning or adapting techniques from elsewhere as it would “cloud” their own techniques.

Modern styles are ones that are pretty recent in their development and often include the combining and amalgamation of one and/or several traditional styles. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with modern styles, they often boast a slew of benefits when compared to traditional styles, even when this is not always the case. It also won’t necessarily be a combination of a pre-existing style but can be something created by someone else, using previous martial arts training as a starting point. Jeet Kune Do is a very good example, with his foundational use of Wing Chun Kung Fu as the starting point, although JKD is seen by many as more of a philosophy than and specific style. But an applied philosophy, if nothing else.

Hybrids are a different type of creature. These are the ones that usually a mixture of something that’s pre-existing. What differentiates them from the modern category? Mostly the fact that a given school will provide certifications for any of those combined styles. Although Kyojushinkai (a modern style) is a style of karate developed by combining various other deeper-rooted karate styles, one would only train to achieve belts IN Kyokushinkai. But hybrids will allow you to achieve belts in various styles. For example, if you work out in a dojo that trains in karate and judo and the instructors can/will issue belts in either of those disciplines. Although some options can be nice and it can be useful to add some variety and incorporate techniques from other styles, trying to achieve belts in two styles simultaneously can be confusing and difficult. And many new age styles of “academies” actually follow this practice.

Weapons-based is pretty straight forward. We’re talking your Kobudo, Kendo, Iaido, Kyudo, Escrima… Anything style of martial art that primarily teaches the use of some sort of hand-held weapons. Are any of these four inherently better than the other three? Not necessarily. I would say it depends on what you genuinely hope to get out of your martial arts experience. Each one has their benefits and disadvantages. Traditional styles can be very rewarding. I study and train in a traditional style, myself. But it can also be pretty restrictive if you’re training under someone who doesn’t allow the flexibility of exploring techniques outside of the existing curriculum. Modern styles can be more accommodating but may lack some of the traditions and history of a traditional style.

Hybrid styles or schools, I would say, carry the most disadvantage. This is a personal opinion of course, but hybrid schools can “muddy the waters” for a beginner trying to properly train in the martial arts. Although variety is the spice of life, it can be very difficult to properly master one style when studying many in tandem. If you happen to join a martial arts academy that carries this hybrid philosophy, my recommendation would be to choose ONE discipline and stay with it (unless you hate it or it doesn’t work for you) with some cursory or occasional visitation to the other styles in order to gain some variety.

Take all these descriptions with grain of salt. As I’ve often written before, the choice of style and training method has to work for you. It can be frustrating, but it can take trying and training with a few different schools before you find one that suits your purpose and goals. And be wary of instructors who bad-mouth or speak negatively of other schools or dojos. Respect and positivity should be ever-present values in ANY dojo. If those don’t exist in a given school, you likely won’t have a good experience, regardless of what your training goals may be. Train hard, my friends. ☯

A Little Taste Of Electronics…

My wife and I are both avid readers, with thousands of books lining the east wall of our home’s living room. Lately, I can’t even be sure who’s coming out ahead on the number of volumes read, since I’m currently reading Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time series for the third or fourth time and it’s a large, 14-volume series with about 600 to 700 pages per volume. It makes for pretty long reading, especially with children in the house as a distraction. And no, my 6-year old doesn’t sit still for books, before anyone suggests that.

Anyway, I recently started taking public transit to get to work and since it’s about a 20 minute bus ride, a friend of mine recommended that I use that time to read. Although I’m inclined to agree that this is a better option than sitting idle or crying on the bus, I was faced with the prospect that I carry a pretty full briefcase and didn’t have room for the collector’s edition volumes of Jordan’s books. Even the average pocket book wouldn’t have much space allowed in what I currently carry.

My friend decided to be a smart ass and said, “There’s an app for that,” referencing my post where I wrote about the various fitness and health apps I use. You can read THAT post here. But then e-readers were brought up and I remembered that not only am I a big fan of e-readers but I have one of my own. And weighing at only a couple of ounces and thin as a wafer, I could easily slip it among the other items in my duty bag. Problem solved.

Me, with my e-reader. I look like Powder!

A modern solution to a small problem. I don’t know if I would necessarily say that not having something to read on the bus is inherently a problem, per say. But it’s nice to have the option. This damn thing is so small that I occasionally forget that I have it. And to the friend who reminded me, thanks for the recommendation. It definitely takes the boredom out of the bus ride. ☯