From This Life To The Next One…

Walking in martial arts circles usually brings with it a fairly rich family tree of karate. One is generally taught by one’s Sensei, who is taught by their Sensei and so on and so forth. For many, if not most students, being able to trace that lineage beyond the first step is pretty rare. After all, most practitioners in the western world open a dojo and may have a photo of those who taught before them, but general contact is pretty rare. I was fortunate n the fact that Sensei has always kept contact with me. Sensei has always kept contact with HIS Sensei and as a result, I had the pleasure and opportunity to take steps up the ladder to train with those individuals.

One of the most notable individuals that I’ve had the pleasure to meet, was Sensei Bob Blaisdell. My Sensei first met Sensei Blaisdell through a magazine advertisement in the early 1970’s. Sensei jumped into his rundown Mustang and travelled on his own to Massachusetts, intent on convincing Sensei Blaisdell to train him in the Okinawan art of Uechi-Ryu karate. Sensei Blaisdell was leery of this random, French, New Brunswicker who left behind his wife and daughter to travel across the border to learn karate. But something in Sensei’s eyes convinced Sensei Blaisdell to take him on and he became his trusted teacher and mentor. He became his friend. He became his Sensei. Over the years that followed, Sensei would travel down to Massachusetts intermittently for coaching, testing and guidance on teaching at his own school.

Me, Sensei, Sensei Eva and Sensei Blaisdell

I just found out yesterday that after 49 years of being my mentor’s Sensei, Sensei Blaisdell has passed away.

I first met Sensei Blaisdell in the early 1990’s, when I was still a skinny punk who thought he knew it all without the common sense to prevent trying to prove it. We had arranged to bring Sensei Blaisdell up to New Brunswick to help us celebrate Sensei’s 30-year anniversary of teaching. I had the privilege of training with him and getting to know him over the weekend. Armed with a heavy Boston accent and swearing as heavily as a Maritimer, it was an instructive and enlightening weekend. The fact he had embarrassing stories about Sensei certainly helped. Usually, it’s the other way around and Sensei shares embarrassing stories about me.

For the years that followed, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence would carry on through all of us. And rightly so, since my Sensei learned directly from him. The thing that most students fail to understand is that their skills and capabilities are a direct result of those who came before them. Had my Sensei not trained with Sensei Blaisdell and then subsequently trained me, I wouldn’t be the martial artists that I am today. Through his actions, Uechi-ryu karate was brought to Northern New Brunswick and endured as one of the only traditional Okinawan karate schools under Sensei’s teachings in that part of the Maritimes for almost five decades. The man’s signature is on my black belt certificate, for light’s sake…

Sensei Bob Blaisdell

It’s always important to know where one’s roots come from, in order to acknowledge where we’re going. We’ve lost touched over the past couple of decades. Some of that is my doing. Life rarely cares about one’s plans. That makes his death all the more tragic. Time is fleeting and can never be taken back. And maybe that’s what makes this loss so hard. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that death comes to us all, and that Sensei may be the next loss I suffer. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s making me acknowledge my own mortality. In either scenario, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence continues to teach me something, even in his passing. Rest in peace, Sensei Bob. You will be missed. ☯️

Not All That Is Cracked Is Broken…

You know, we’re at an interesting point in human existence right now… We boats being more enlightened, more tolerant and more understanding of others; all while both verbally and physically attacking those who are different or don’t share our views, opinions and/or belief systems. Although not the only one, it remains as one of the biggest societal contradictions that I see and recognize on a daily basis.

When I was growing up, I was shunned, bullied and picked on for being different and not sharing the same interests or abilities as my peers. This concept carried on into my adult life and brought me to a time and place where self-image and my acceptance of it, became an important tool to repair the cracks in who I felt I was as opposed to how the rest of the world kept telling me I should be.

This reminds me a bit of kintsugi. Some of you might know what this is or may have heard of it. Kintsugi is a Japanese practice of repairing brown pottery using gold to fill the cracks. The idea is that just because something is broken, it’s no longer useless and can be mended in such a way to make it even more valuable and endearing than it previously was. The idea behind this philosophy is to learn to embrace imperfection and recognize the value in something, even when it’s flawed.

Although potentially beautiful and pleasing on the eyes (you can Google “kintsugi” for examples of what I’m talking about here), there is a significant flaw in this philosophy; one that comes back to a much different viewpoint as it relates to the breaking of ceramic or pottery. I once read a story online where a philosophy professor asked a student to smash a plate on the floor, and the student did so. The professor then asked the student to say “sorry” to the plate and the student did. The professor then asked if the plate had been repaired and when the student said that it hadn’t, pointed out that words can have the same effect.

Although the concept of kintsugi can make a piece beautiful and interesting, there’s no denying that not causing the damage in the first place is equally, if not more so, important. Also, the vanity of believing one can repair something they believe is flawed flies in the face of accepting that not all people share same views, same thoughts, same beliefs… It’s accepting those differing aspects that make us a rational, civilized society. Unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen, we aren’t there yet. ☯️

Taking Care Of Oneself…

Self-care is undoubtedly the most important step one can take for self-health and a better life. Unfortunately, the shoemaker’s kids often go barefoot, which is a fancy way of saying that the average person will always focus on others’ wants, needs and expectations before dealing with their own. The result of this can include things like chronic exhaustion, burnout and depression, which can ultimately lead to nasty things like alcoholism, drug use and a score of other mental issues to numerous to list.

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of neglecting myself and am likely the worst one, when it comes to helping others and doing more than I should. By the time I finally decide to throw in the proverbial towel and take a break, I’ve usually crashed and need almost more time to recover than what I used to take care of others. This is why it’s so important to take care of one’s own mental health before anything else. I recently found a poster at my work that was provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational health and Safety. They listed 10 healthy habits for mental fitness and I found the list interesting, so I thought I would share. here we go…

1. Schedule some “me time,” daily…
I’m a big fane of this, and make a point of trying to do so. Whether it’s ten minutes to myself when I get home to decompress or an evening workout, it’s important to have time for oneself. This isn’t selfish and in fact, will put you in a better state of mind to help care for others.

2. Reward yourself…
Stuffed-crust pizza, anyone? In all seriousness, whether you’re trying to save money or simply don’t abide having too many belongings, rewarding yourself for your accomplishments is important as it keeps you motivated and hungry to accomplish more.

3. play to your strengths…
This is a tough one, especially if you’re like me and believe you can do anything you set your mind to. But let’s be realistic for a moment… I’ll never be a theoretical physicist. I love and excelled in maths and physics, but I didn’t have the time, money or resources to study to the degree that was required (pun fully intended) to achieve that particular dream. I’ll never be an Olympic swimmer because my body encompasses at least two swimmer’s bodies and I have the centre of gravity of a rock. I am, however, quite adept at the martial arts and I’ve played to that particular strength in a number of ways. So while one shouldn’t be discouraged from trying something, it’s important to recognize one’s strengths.

4. Ask for and offer help…
This one isn’t just important for good mental health but for life in general. It would be ignorant to believe that one would never need the assistance of another person in life. It would also be wrong NOT to provide help when someone else asks it of you. Not to be confused with being UNABLE to help, of course. But we’re all trying to muddle through life as best we can; helping each other should be something that comes naturally.

5. De-stress your diet…
Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck this is supposed to mean… maybe it just means don’t eat buffalo chicken bites an hour before bed because you’ll spend all night roiling and in pain. Maybe it simply means making sure you eat healthy and from the proper food groups and try not to eat like a seagull…

6. Press pause once in a while – downtime is good…
frankly, I love this list but I can’t help but feel this is a repetition of #1. I mean, maybe not; downtime and time to oneself could be interpreted as two separate things I guess. Whatever. Go re-read #1.

7. Get regular physical activity…
That’s the gospel, right there! And likely the solution to a vast majority of mental and physical health problems that people face. And I don’t need to remind all of you how often I’ve written about exercising regularly. yet another aspect I could stand to improve on.

8. Set goals and stay on target with a journal…
Meinh… journals can be a good thing for some people. I believe quite deeply in setting goals and working towards them. If using a journal or some form of documentation to track your progress, it can’t be anything but good, right? But setting those goals and keeping your eyes on the prize is extremely important.

9. Practice relaxation techniques and get enough sleep…
I consider myself well versed on the former but I could certainly use some work on the latter. Meditation or even just deep breathing will help will lowering blood pressure and calming you. getting a proper night’s sleep is valuable for a variety of reasons that I’ve written about often.

10. Choose a positive attitude…
This is probably the most difficult one, if I’m being honest. having a positive attitude or outlook on life can be difficult, especially if you;’re constantly dealing with the negative aspects of life. it’s absolutely possible but as humans, we tend to bitch, whine and complain about things watt faster than choosing to be positive.

So there you have it. I thought this list was pretty decent and offers up some good suggestions on how to better maintain one’s mental health and increase one’s overall happiness. ☯️

Are You just Listening Or Also Hearing…?

Relationships involve a lot of work. I’m sure that isn’t news to any of your reading this post, but people often forget that the Beetles were wrong… You most certainly and absolutely do need more than love. I remember a few months before one of my close friends got married. We sat in my garage and had a few cold ones and smoked a couple of choice cigars and talked about his upcoming nuptials. One of the things I explained is that’s although it’s extremely important to love the person you’re with, there are other important components that are required.

Arguably, compromise, understanding and the ability to communicate honestly and openly with the person in question are just as important as loving them and in some cases, more so. And this applies to any relationship in one’s life, friendship, marital or otherwise. Having the ability to be honest and communicate are integral to maintaining the relationship AND maintaining good mental health through it all. Often, relationship failures can be traced to a failure in one or more of these other components and not so much the fact the pair didn’t love each other. But I digress…

The important lesson in today;s post is that as one makes their way through the challenges of life, one needs to do more than just sit and listen. It’s important to actually hear what the other person is saying, as important as it is for them to actually hear you. Often, one person will be trying to start a conversation or impart a message that the recipient simply isn’t getting and this can often be attributed to a lack of hearing, or stubbornness. this can lead to misinterpreted messaging, hurt feelings and a general sense of misunderstanding that will often lead to a breakdown in effective communication. Certainly not conducive to any sort of relationship.

each person is a free-thinking individual with their own thoughts, opinions and positions on whatever matters of the day may be facing them. But the only way to approach such things is with an open mind and an ability to hear what the other person is actually trying o communicate and asking for clarification if you don’t understand. only then can you begin to truly communicate effectively and find the means to compromise and understand the other person’s perspective, which is important to maintaining good relationships. Food for thought… ☯️

One In The Hand Is Worth What?

Listen, life is hard! And rightfully so… Can you picture how badly humanity would falter if everything was simple and easy??? Hell, take an objective look at the world’s rich and elite. All the people who are livin’ large are almost ALWAYS found to be the subject of controversy, crime, affairs and/or drug and alcohol abuse. And there’s a good reason behind that. As human beings, there needs to be challenges and goals to life in order to help us grow and develop. A lack thereof will result in a sort of boredom that can lead to trouble.

This is why it is so important to appreciate the now. Appreciate what you have and where you’re at. Too often, people will always crave and want what they don’t have, instead of appreciating what they already do. Got a three-bedroom house? Boy, I’d sure love to have a five-bedroom house with two bathrooms. Got a four-cylinder car? Boy, I’d sure love to have a high-end SUV. I don’t wanna work… I don’t wanna pay bills… Things are hard and I just want them to be easy…

People always want what they don’t have, and that’s a terrible way to live. I used to live this phenomenon when I was still with the Force. Since they have a propensity to transfer their officers every few years, it was common to move and assume that the next place would be better than the one I currently occupied. Although in many cases, I found myself burned out at my current location, there was no debuting that I had no idea what the next location would bring. This made it extremely important to appreciate living in the now and enjoying whatever positives I had in the current state as they could potentially not be available at the next posting. The same can be said of life in general.

I read something recently that said that the famous quote, “When one door closes, another one opens,” is attributed to Alexander Graham Bell. I’ve spent my life hearing that quote and the first surprise was who penned it, but apparently the quote goes on to say, “but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Of course, a more recent quote I read says, “When one door closes, open that bitch back up. That’s how doors work!” Either way, the lesson is to focus on the positive, appreciate what you have and don’t ignore the entire parade of life so that you won’t miss the caboose. ☯️

Feelin’ The Burn…

It’s not secret that I enjoy trying out new workouts. More than anything else, I fell it’s an important step in keeping things fresh, which in turn will help to keep things interesting when trying to stick to a fitness regime. But different workouts will work different muscle groups and provide different short and long term results, so it’s always good to mix it up and try something different. A couple of years ago, I found a simple body weight workout used by submarine occupants. The idea is that they needed something that could be done on a confined space, without the use of much equipment.

I bring it up because I did the workout the day before last and I’m only today feeling the deep, muscular pain associated with it. But it is a genuinely fantastic workout that works all the large muscle groups and helps to increase strength and stamina. It only takes twenty to thirty minutes to perform and I often use it as an alternative if I’m staying in a hotel or need something quick and easy because I don’t have time for anything else. Admittedly, the portion I use is only part 1 of 2 but believe me when I say it’s enough to get a solid sweat and have your limbs praying for mercy. Here we go…

The circuit is pretty basic. You start with 15 normal squats (pictured above, go all the way down and don’t be lazy) followed by 10 diamond push-ups (push-ups where your hands are touching in front of you, below your chest), 10 regular lunges and 15 regular push-ups. Once you’ve completed that circuit, you start again but this you’ll be doing 14-9-9-14. Keep repeating the circuit and dropping everything by one rep for every circuit. Make sense?

As you work through it, the entire workout should look like this:

Squats/Diamond P-Ups/Lunges/P-Ups
Fall to the floor and pass out… Kidding!

I normally take about 30 to 45 seconds to rest and sip water between each circuit. That being said, once the first and last exercises reach 5 and I’m no longer doing diamond push-ups or lunges, I try to hammer through the last five circuits without resting. It tends to provide that added little bit of burn at the end when one typically wants to throw in the towel. Your lunges can be done with some light dumbbells, if you have them.

For myself, I’ve started doing the entire workout with a 20-pound weighted vest, which has certainly made it more challenging and has given me a better appreciation for folks who live their everyday with 20 pounds more weight than I carry. It’s amazing how such a low addition of weight to one’s overall body makes a significant and noticeable difference. Despite how taxing the workout is, it’s low impact and simple, making it extremely flexible in terms of adding in extras or modifying the exercises.

So there you have it! If you’re looking for something that’s quick, simple and provides an insane burn to your muscles, look no further. I’ve also noticed that this workout doesn’t seem to drop my blood sugars in any significant way. If anything, it sometimes rises by a half point. Remember to stay well hydrated as this circuit will have you sweating out every drop of bodily fluid you may have. And as usual, if you feel unexpected sharp pains, shortness of breath or dizziness, you should stop immediately. Even if the circuit takes a little less than 30 minutes, there’s no reason not to take more time to complete it during the first few times you use it. Stay healthy! ☯️

Trying To Shut ‘er Down…

We’ve all been there… It’s several hours into the night, you should be asleep but you’re tossing and turning before finally staring absently at the ceiling, unable to slip into the sandman’s warm embrace. Although I’ll be the first to admit that there can be medical reasons for this phenomenon, often and for the most part, it’s caused because most people lack the ability to shut down one’s brain. And one would think that we would be in control of our own brain but it just never seems to happen that way…

I talk a big game but I’m notorious for allowing the events of the day and the plan for the upcoming day to dwell in my head, rent-free. This often occurs when I should be slipping into slumber, unless it’s Friday night and I’m enjoying a few libations but that just causes a different kind of poor sleep. But i can certainly attest that whether it’s running through things I’ll say on my way to work, rethinking choices and tasks performed at work on my way home or simply laying in bed worrying about it all, I need to do a bit more practicing what I preach. And now, we’ll get on to the preaching part…

As human beings, we have a tendency to dwell on the past and worry about the future. We think back to things we’ve said and done and tasks we’ve accomplished and we wonder if we could have done them better or differently. We worry about the future as it relates to life and one’s finances. Will I have enough money to cover the rent this month? Can I afford to put gas in the car or do I need to keep taking my bike? Do I have job security? Can I retire in twenty years without working? There’s absolutely no limit to the things that roll around in one’s head at any given time.

However, having this happen when you’re supposed to be getting sleep is not only wrong but potentially harmful. As I’ve written about in previous posts, lack of proper sleep can lead to a plethora of physical and mental issues, not limited to poor cognitive function, increased blood pressure and anxiety. I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds like a fuckin’ spa treatment. This is why it’s so important to ensure you get a proper night’s sleep. And there are a few ways to help that process along.

First and foremost, one needs to learn to shut their mind off. For me, I make a point of blasting some awesome music in the car on my way home and sing along with no apologies (well, the music is awesome to ME, anyways). This helps to reset my mind from the work environment to the home environment. This is a fantastic first step to decompressing and allowing oneself to switch gears. The idea and the whole point is that work should be kept at work. Although some jobs and positions may require some after-honours attention, once your day is done and you go home, work is the last thing you should be dwelling on.

Once you’re home, get on some things that you can do at home. This is more important than we realize because most people have the reflex of getting home and wanting to flop down on the couch and veg out. As appealing as this sounds, sitting idle is one of the worst things you can do, as sitting still gives you too much time to dwell on things. Get up, help make dinner, do the dishes, help your kids with homework and if all else fails and none of that applies to you, hammer out a solid workout, followed by a hot shower and some meditation. Not only will this get you through your evening in a productive manner but it’ll also prepare your body for sleep, which is kind of the whole point.

All the usual things that we all tend to hear about apply as well. Don’t eat to close to bedtime, cut caffeine about mid-afternoon and avoid backlit screens about an hour before bed. All of these things will contribute to helping you nod off faster. Once you’re in bed, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing is an excellent exercise to help you fall asleep. Focusing on your breathing takes your thoughts away from whatever you may dwell on, otherwise. Long, steady breaths are definitely better than short ones. White noise machines are a light-send, as well. You should try to avoid being like me and using your cell phone to stream Netflix to go to sleep.

All in all, it’s pretty easy to say “shut your mind off and go to sleep.” Accomplishing that isn’t quite so easy. Life brings its own unique sets of challenges, stressors and aspects that cause anxiety so it’s no big surprise that some or most of that will keep a person up at night. But the important aspect to remember is that unless you plan on getting out of bed and going straight in to work when your mind dwells on it, there’s nothing you can do about it in the moment and you should let it go and focus on the task at hand, which is sleep. Food for thought… ☯️

Nah, I Don’t Wanna…

Having children can be a wonderful experience, for the most part. On the one hand, you get to see a tiny version of yourself grow and develop into their own person, with their own interests, hobbies and personality. On the other hand, it can be extremely frustrating, especially when you see them doing things you know could be done better or you recognize that there are certain things that you should teach them that they simply don’t want to learn. This can have a measurable effect, both on each of you as well as on the relationship as a whole.

I grew up with an intense craving for martial arts training. Like most kids my age, I was taken with action movies and the prospect of learning how to fight. As I was the victim of bullying throughout my formative years AND I had an immune disorder that was snaking my childhood hell (Type-1 Diabetes, if you hadn’t guessed), karate was a good fit for me. But it didn’t come without some searching, trying and experimenting with different schools and styles. It wasn’t until I found Uechi Ryu that I developed the deep love for karate that I still have to this day, or managed to control my ADHD and Diabetes, none of which I believe would have been as effectively accomplished as it was due to karate.

That’s why, when my wife gave birth to our son in 2014, I started seeing down a narrow tunnel into the future, one that allowed em to see the potential of passing on my skills and teachings to the next generation who would carry Uechi Ryu into the future. As Nathan learned how to walk and run, he began emulating movements that he’d see me do, which included kicking, punching and a variety of karate movements that he wouldn’t learn otherwise. The future looked bright, indeed.

Nathan and I, when he was three years old

When I was younger and training full time, I got to see the results of a parent forcing their child through karate. Sensei’s son, who happened to be one of my closest friends growing up, was Sensei’s only son and first black belt graduate. In “old school” martial arts circles, that’s a big deal. Sensei wanted his son, not only to be skilled but to be the best student he had. The only problem with that is that his son didn’t want it. He didn’t hunger for it. He saw no reason to pursue it. But he was pushed through it until he managed to reach Shodan, after which time he allowed his training to falter.

Oh, he’s returned to it on occasion. One can’t train for as long and as intensively as he had without it leaving some sort of impression. But having been forced to study karate for so many years left an impression on him that never went away. Nowadays, despite having three children of his own, his karate training is all but gone. This is one of the reasons why I pledged never to force my children to learn karate. If the time came that they wanted to train, I would be there for them. In the meantime, I would continue to let them see me train, take it all in and make the decision for themselves.

Nathan, trying to learn to meditate…

That’s why recently, I heard the most wonderful words a Sensei could hear from their first-born son: “Dad, I wan’t to learn karate…” I was ecstatic! I made plans. I brought in old equipment from the garage I hadn’t touched in years. I monitored my blood sugars closely so that I could ensure I could train for an hour without needing to stop. I told my wife about it. I told my work colleagues about. Suddenly, I saw the potential for my son and his own ADHD that I hadn’t contemplated before and recognized it would be something long-lasting that we could do together for years to come.

On the fateful day, which was only yesterday, I got home from work, full of piss and vinegar. I dropped my bags at the door, briefly greeted my wife then looked at Nathan and said, “Tonight, we start training in karate.” I wasn’t prepared for the bursting of my proverbial bubble that came next; “Nah, I don’t wanna…” I was floored. He had been hounding me to learn karate for the past month and now that the opportunity presented itself, he wanted nothing to do with it. I did my best to try and understand why he had suddenly changed his mind or his reluctance but, like most children, all he would say is that he had changed his mind.

I made my way downstairs and trained on my own, with a brief visit from my wife for a short sparring session. It was nearly impossible, hiding my disappointment. The worst part was recognizing that I seemed to be looking forward to it more than he was. I‘ve come to recognize in recent years that I have more years behind me than I do in front. The amount of time I have to impart whatever I’ve learned to my children grows shorter with every passing day and my hope is that Nathan will see me work out just once, where he’ll decide to jump in. In the meantime, I have to be patient. I don’t want to be that parent that forces their child into something like this. Because I want him to retain and carry it for his entire life and allow it to guide him. Such things won’t be possible if it feels like a chore. ☯️

Breaking The Wanted Cycle…

When you tell someone that you have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, they automatically assume that you’re a neat freak or have to organize everything you set your eyes on. However, what most people don’t realize is that there are many different types of OCD and how a person behaves faced with a specific type will differ from person to person. For example, you can have someone who is afraid of germs or being contaminated. This can also be considered as a germaphobe, of course. Then you have the person who always has to finish something they start or has to see something completed, the person who needs order and proper arrangement and the final one, which is a person who will often harbour aggressive and violent thoughts.

One of the important things to remember is that those aspects can often be attributed to other conditions, so if one is thinking that one may have OCD, it’s important to be assessed by. A medical professional. In my case, I have the pleasure of living with a form of OCD that not only sees me try and organize everything I see so that there’s some semblance of order, it also sees me wanting to continue something until I feel it’s finished or completed. Try living that way when you have a full household, including two small children, one of which thinks he’s putting out a house fire every fucking time he uses the bathroom. But I digress,,,

I had enough insight to have myself assessed and evaluated when I went to college and discovered that not only did I have OCD, I also had ADHD, which explained the majority of the attention and cognitive issues I had throughout my formative years. A combination of self-discipline, karate and trying to keep myself from dying due to Type-1 Diabetes complications allowed me to overcome the ADHD aspect. The OCD part of me is a bit more difficult to combat. Especially because I often find myself not wanting to. Although it’s mostly the OCD, I also enjoy organization and order. I prefer to have things neat, clean and see things to their completion. Like an addict who enjoys their fix and refuses to quit, stopping things can be difficult for me, once I’ve started.

In recent years, the appearance of PTSD symptoms have added an unwanted guest to my little acronym party. And since some of those symptoms can mimic or aggravate the OCD and ADHD symptoms, coping can be a significant challenge, especially since some of my earlier coping mechanisms are no longer available. One of the things I’ve been doing in recent years, is writing this blog. Believe it or not, once I started, I had difficulty stopping. And realistically, I don’t want to. It really only became a problem when I started building up a posting streak. It started with me posting for a hundred days in a row, then a couple of hundred. It became a fixed routine that I would write and post something at the absolute butt-crack of dawn so that my followers would have something of mine to read, first thing in the morning.

Before I knew it, I had decided on a goal of writing without missing a day for a full calendar year. At one point, I actually got a couple of weeks away from accomplishing that goal before I somehow missed a day and had to start from scratch. I got it on the second attempt and decided I should try for a cool 1,000 days in a row. I reached that goal just recently and found myself wondering what my next goal should be. I decided I should write as ideas came to me instead of trying to accomplish a fixed goal. However, Mr. OCD still wouldn’t let me skip a day and managed to see me post on a daily basis beyond my 1,000 posts. It took a major amount of effort to actually skip a day and even then, I racked my damaged brain all day, trying to figure out something quick I could post. But I did it.

Then, I managed to take another step in breaking a cycle; I haven’t posted in five days. The first couple of days felt wrong, but I have to admit that by day five, it was kind of nice knowing I didn’t have to sit in front of the keyboard before or after a long day’s work and come up with material to write. Change doesn’t come easy for me and I actually WANT to carry on with my blog, which makes it all the harder. But maybe this is a different type of challenge or goal for me to accomplish. I just commented to my wife that my blood pressure has been significantly lower in the past few days. Less things to complete in my daily routine can mean less stress, which would certainly help lower blood pressure.

This may also be why I’ve been sleeping better, recently. Lately, once I go to bed and fall asleep, I pass out like a rock and don’t wake up until my alarm goes off. Or my insulin pump wakes me. But still… Who would have thought that better blood pressure would make things better. Maybe I need to start listening to my doctors more… The point is, despite my OCD, I still have it within myself to change habits and improve things for myself. And that’s important. Betterment and improvement of self are important aspects of eliminating the suffering in one’s own life. ☯️

Fits Like A Glove…

There are a number of little specifics that you’ll see in different schools of martial arts, depending on how they train, how they operate and what philosophies they follow. Sparring is one of those things that different styles will approach differently. For example, one school I trained with rarely focuses on sparring and rather focuses on kumite. Alright, good for you but kumite is a structured, pre-planned sparring exercise to practice very specific techniques. Another school I trained with does SOME sparring but does so without any protection , which is concerning since they use little to no control methods to ensure their safety. Which is where today’s post comes in…

Proper equipment use and safety is integral to good martial arts training. Growing up, we used to spar at minimum, once a week and our style focuses on striking behind our intended target. This means that we strike hard with the intention of landing several inches behind the surface of what we want to strike, to avoid pulling our punches or potentially falling short of our target. We practice control, where we develop the ability to stop on a dime but there’s no denying that “in the heat of the moment,” accidents can happen and sparring partners can get struck. An obvious example of this would be last April when a very experienced black belt managed to get in under my defences and fractured my ribs.

My sparring gloves, purchased in Okinawa in 2001

First and foremost, the wearing of protective gloves is an important step. I’ve lots count of the number of times a training partner has struck me in the face, ribs or elsewhere and the only thing that has prevented serious injury is the fact that their fists were padded. If you look at the photo above, these are fingerless sparring gloves that I had the opportunity to purchase at Shureido in Okinawa, when I was there in 2001. Fingerless sparring gloves have become more of a norm outside of martial arts, thanks to sports such as MMA. But they have significant benefits that closed gloves won’t have.

The open-handed nature of these gloves allows me to grab and grapple with my opponent much easier than I would if my gloves were closed at the palm. Although other gloves may have more padding and be better for striking, the ability to use a better variety of techniques, such as finger jabbing, thrusting and knife hands, is integral to karate. At least in my style. For the most part, I believe that my rib fracture likely would have been avoided, had my opponent been wearing sparring gloves as opposed to being bare-knuckled.

The next important aspect is wearing a protective cup. The last dojo I trained with never bothered to include it in their training unless they actively WERE sparring. This is a mistake and it can, in fact, be a painful one if you happens to get accidentally struck by a stray technique, even while practicing outside the sparring ring. And contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t only apply to guys; there are protective cups for women, as well as chest guards to prevent painful impacts to sensitive points on the body.

Martial arts is not a knitting circle; one needs to expect that at some point in training, they’ll be struck and potentially even suffer some injuries. It’s part of the learning process. You don’t want to get hit, go join a chess club. But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be precautions, both physical and instructional, that students should take to avoid injury. Respect and care for your fellow practitioners are important first steps. If you’re intentionally trying to “win” or injure your sparring partner, you may want to reconsider your presence in the dojo. But taking some reasonable, physical precautions can also go a long way towards preventing injuries that can debilitate you for weeks and even months. Food for thought… ☯️