It Ain’t All Gear And Logos…

I wrote a post about karate gis yesterday, and focused a bit on brands, cost and durability, which I think can be pretty important if you’re a life-long student OR you’re just starting out and thinking of taking the Nestea plunge and buying your first gi. It can be a pretty particular decision, especially when the cost involved can be substantial. But since you can read about that here, I won’t get into all of that. Rather, today’s post will focus on what you wear OUTSIDE the dojo. Yes, you read that correctly…

There’s an interesting phenomenon that takes place when someone joins a club or organization that I’ll reluctantly admit that I’ve been guilty of, myself. They tend to purchase and wear a lot of swag. Basically, what I mean is that if a student joins a dojo, it usually won’t take long for them to start purchasing and wearing a club t-shirt or hoodie, wearing a track suit or buying the “yearly” dri-fit shirt. These items will often be worn out in public, either through a sense of pride or because they paid for it and don’t want to leave it sitting in their drawers.

And I get that… As I mentioned, I’ve been guilty of this myself. In fact, I still have some stuff that I occasionally wear, albeit under something else or in such a way as I don’t turn myself into a walking billboard for whatever location is involved OR I don’t turn myself into a walking target, which is the bigger concern. I was having a comment conversation with a fellow blogger who also happens to be a fellow martial artist (here’s looking at you, Silk Cords) and we were talking about how talking about karate or wearing karate apparel outside the dojo will usually incite short-sighted fools to try and prove themselves by fighting you.

My favourite hoodie, with my “old school” crest from 30 years ago

Just to be clear, it’s not a BAD thing… Being excited and proud to have joined a dojo can be a good thing. And if you feel the need to wear a dry fit shirt with a giant yin yang on the back that says “karate” (I have one of those) then by all means, fill your proverbial boots. Just be aware of the type of attention you may draw. It kind of falls under the same category as avoiding the muscled idiot who goes to the bar wearing a “Tap Out” t-shirt… If he or she if advertising themselves in THAT manner, in THAT environment, the safe bet is they’re likely looking for trouble. I could be wrong and/or biased, but that’s also based on observation.

After a while, the fascination with wearing all the swag wears off, and the student becomes aware that such clothing items are best left to memory. Even students in Okinawa don’t wear karate apparel outside the dojo, and karate is the equivalent of what hockey is, here in Canada. Except the kids, of course. On class nights, you can them running to the dojos clad in their gis. I have an exception that comes in the form of the hoodie you see in the image above.

The crest I have on the shoulder reads “New England Academy of Karate and Judo,” which is Sensei’s school. I got that crest all the way back in my early white belt days and my intention is to never let it go. But let’s be honest, unless you get real cozy, you won’t be able to read what it says anyway. But the best way to win a fight is to never have had it in the first place. So, best practice is to keep from advertising yourself in such a way as to make a target of yourself. ☯

I’ve Worn Out My Crotch…

So if I haven’t grossed you out or scared you off with the title and you’re still reading at the moment, today’s post will be about karate uniforms. The “crotch” comment mostly references the wear and tear that the stitching on the crotch of one’s pants potentially go through during karate training. Mostly. But we won’t get into the “not mostly.” That can be for another day. But I digress… Moving on!

Karate is most often associated with the wearing of a white, cotton uniform or gi. But what most people are usually unaware of, is that karateka or students originally didn’t wear any sort of uniform while studying karate at all. In fact, you can still find a number of old black and white photos of Okinawan practitioners, training on the beach in nothing but a pair of shorts. In a lot of ways, this was preferable as it allowed teachers to see if proper muscle tension was being used by the students.

An example of a typical, white karate gi

The introduction of the recognizable, white karate gi as we wear it today came about as a result of it being introduced by Jigaro Kano, the founder of Judo, who developed the gi, which was later adapted by Okinawan Karate. Nowadays, you can see all kinds of ridiculous bullshit, depending on where you are and what dojos are available. I’ve seen karate gi of all colours, including blue, red, pink, camouflage and even multi-coloured. Since some of those colours have snuck their way into some dojos’ ranking systems, I think the whole thing is rather stupid and moves away from tradition. But that’s mostly because I’m a traditionalist.

Others may feel that it’s an evolution and one that’s unavoidable. After all, karate started with no ranking system at all. You had a teacher and you had students. No matter what your opinion or thoughts on the subject may be, the reality is that joining a modern karate dojo will usually involve the purchasing and wearing of a karate gi at some point, which brings me to the content of today’s post. Over the past 30-plus years, I’ve burned my way through about a dozen different gis, for many different reasons. I’m going to share some of that here, so that if you’re looking to buy a martial arts uniform for the first time, you’ll have an unbiased opinion of multiple brands. This is where I should clarify that I neither endorse nor discourage any specific brand of sports apparel, nor have I accepted any compensation for any positive comments provided herein. Buckle up!

First, let’s start with the basic, bare bones options. As seen in the photo above, I use a black, cotton karate gi that’s manufactured by Century Martial Arts. I use this one because the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate where I currently train, use black gis as opposed to white. Not a big deal and I’ve often worn my white gi on laundry days when I didn’t have my black one available. This cotton gi is single-layered and single stitched, making it ideal for beginners and junior belts, since there may not be as intensive a level of grappling and grabbing involved. It’s also comfortable and easy to wash, making easier to maintain even though it may not last as long as the subsequent brands below.

There are a few of these really good North American companies that manufacture some reasonably low cost karate gis. I love Century Martial Arts! They have an American and a Canadian website and have a ton of martial arts training equipment. But I need to calm down; we’re talking about uniforms. In New Brunswick, Sensei used to obtain his basic karate gis from a company called GeneSport, which is based out of Quebec. They had that same single layer and single stitch hem, making them an excellent, low-cost option for beginners. I went through three of them during my time climbing the junior ranks. But once I stepped up to brown belt and things got rougher, I needed something that could keep up.

Next, we have the Tokaido. As you can see from the tag above, this is a 100% cotton karate gi that has double and sometimes triple-stitched hems for durability and strength. This company boasts being the oldest manufacturer of karate uniforms. I went through two of these during my years climbing through brown and black belt. They’re of a much thicker cotton and are an excellent quality. I can highly recommend this brand to someone making a long-term commitment to karate. I still have one today!

That being said, buyers should be aware that you’re paying quite a bit for that quality. As a comparison, my last GeneSport gi was roughly $40 (in 1996) and my Century gi was approximately $60 (2016). My last Tokaido cost me $230, but I still HAVE it! And it’s still functional, despite some holes here and there. So deciding on which brand to settle may have a great deal to do with one’s budget, especially if you join a McDojo that’ll charge you an arm and a leg for absolutely everything. But before I go on a rant, let’s move on to the last one…

The last brand I’ll touch on in this post, is Shureido. This company holds a special place in my heart, as it is a small, privately owned manufacturer of karate gi and martial arts weapons and equipment located in Naha, Okinawa. I visited this location in 2001 when I traveled to Japan, and I had the pleasure of getting myself a karate gi with Uechi Ryu’s banner embossed directly on the gi jacket. My black belt is also from Shureido and is stitched with my name and karate style. It’s pretty sharp.

Although they have a US distributor and an official Facebook page, there doesn’t seem to be an actual website available. This puts them in a bit of a different category than other manufacturers. I’ve recently reached out to the US distributors as well as sending a message to the Facebook page, without any response thus far. But since they cover all Okinawan and Japanese territories as they relate to karate and kobudo, I would imagine that they’re pretty busy. Cotton material and double or triple-stitched, these gis are top-of-the-line and are prominently used in the tournament environment. At least they were, when I was there in ’01.

These are the top-tier of price range, with a gi costing anywhere ranging from $250 to several hundred dollars, depending on size and accessories. Since I got a specialized gi and specialized belt, my package cost me well over $350. So it may not be ideal in terms of budget. Another issue is that my increase in size over the past five or six years has made it to snug to train in, which is problem. But I’ve had that gi for twenty years, at this point. It’s seen me through my black belt test and all the fun, in-class violence that ensued.

What level and quality of gi you decide to purchase depends on your perspective. An advanced student who buys one of the lower-priced, single-stitch gis may find themselves replacing it within a year or two as it’ll get torn to shit while sparring and grappling. That’s the issue I used to face. So if you burn through three or four of those gis, you’re already halfway to the cost of a basic Tokaido gi, which will be tougher and last longer overall. So you need to find a way to balance the scales.

You may also find yourself limited by the requirements of your dojo and what THEY require. Most traditional and functional dojos don’t care what their students wear, so long as they train hard and put in some effort. That is, until the time comes for a significant climb in rank. Most dojos don’t want to issue a green, brown or black belt to someone in their sweats and a Blink-182 t-shirt. But if you reach those ranks, the safe bet is you’ve invested in a gi already. The important thing is to have your gi loose enough to be comfortable and allow movement, while being snug enough to prevent snagging and grabbing on your opponent’s end. ☯

How Traditional Is TOO Traditional?

One of the defining characteristics of martial arts is the fact that it’s steeped in ceremony and tradition. For the most part, students usually learn to incorporate those traditions and ceremonies into their practice of whatever art they’ve chosen. If they don’t, they soon discover that they may be better suited to something that doesn’t require all the formalities, like boxing. Or MMA.

Many modern dojos and martial arts studios are of the opinion that the pomp and ceremony is unnecessary and hinders the faster progression of students as it takes away from time that they could be training on actual techniques or drills. Those dojos couldn’t be more wrong. And yes, that may simply be one person’s opinion. But the truth is that the formalities also teach students some important aspects of discipline, routine and attention to fine detail. Such aspects are important to the integrity and proper absorption of the essence of karate. And I have no doubt the same can be said of other styles.

So how does that apply outside the dojo? And that is the question that brings us to today’s post. Is it appropriate or even REQUIRED to refer to your Sensei as “Sensei” when you meet him or her on the street? Considering that it’s a show of respect to refer to your instructor as “Sensei,” why wouldn’t you use it regardless of the environment? But some are not quite as willing to use titles outside the dojo. And in fact, some instructors aren’t comfortable having them used on them in a public setting. It reminds me of two scenarios, of opposing views. You’re probably saying, “Of course it does…”

When I started karate, all those decades ago, I spent the first few classes hiding at the very back. I copied and emulated everything I saw, but I never really had any opportunity to call on Sensei to ask any questions. This is one of the downfalls of being a beginner at the back of the class and is why it’s so important to pay attention to your white belts. But I digress… We reached a class on my second week where we all gathered at the back of dojo and were shown drills, which we’d perform all the way up the class. We’d run along the outer edge of the dojo to the back and repeat the drill.

At one point, I was unclear on the specifics of a certain technique, so when Sensei approached I got his attention by raising my hand and saying, “Excuse me, sir?” He walked over, I asked my question, he answered it and I was back in line to continue. Then as an afterthought, he added, “And when you’re in this class you call me ‘Sensei’ and nothing else. If you ever refer to me as anything else while in the dojo, it will be a hundred push-ups.” Then he walked away. I was mildly taken aback, but it had the required effect. It’s over 32 years later, and I’ve never called him anything other than ‘Sensei’ unless I’m referring to him to somebody outside the martial arts environment.

On the flip side, one of the senior belts who used to teach in Sensei’s absence was usually referred to as “Senpai,” which is a term for “instructor” or the like. I saw the guy at a local grocery store the one day and when we saw each other, I called out “Hey, Senpai…” He paled and quickly hushed me by saying, “Man, quiet down! We’re not in the dojo…” I felt as though he was embarrassed by it. To each their own, I guess. My students consistently called me Sensei regardless of the environment. It’s been almost fifteen years since I had to shut down my dojo to move out to Saskatchewan, and I STILL have some old students who will call me Sensei when they see me. As a sign of respect, it’s kind of nice.

Either Sensei, Sifu, Master or whatever title may be associated to the lead instructor of your school or dojo, it may take some feeling out as to how you’ll refer to them outside the dojo. They may also have a preference in regards to how they’d like to be addressed. Personally, I don’t believe it should be embarrassing if a student refers to an instructor but their title outside the dojo. After all, if you’re in some sort of team sport the safe bet is you’ll likely say, “Hey, Coach!” if you see your coach out in public. Sensei should be no different. ☯

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign…

Sometimes it blows my mind how society has grown to do some rather, well… stupid things. I’ve made a point of flagging this blog post strictly as an opinion piece, because I’m going to be doing a significant amount of venting. Y’all are going to feel the experience of a frustrated and angry Buddhist. Buckle up. Like everyone else, I occasionally find myself in a “mood,” and if I should happen to be in front of a key board when this happens, posts like this come into existence.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a rather lengthy post (aren’t they all?), which you can read here where I described the futility and stupidity behind things like “No Nut November,” the consuming of Tide Pods and condom snorting, as well as a variety of things like the Cinnamon Challenge. It seems as though every six months or so, there’s some new, idiotic thing that society decides to try as a challenge or to try and obtain as many clicks on social media as possible.

A good example of this year’s collection of Darwin Award nominees includes a woman in the United States that decided it would be a good idea to use a spray version of Gorilla Glue in her hair instead of her usual hair spray. Have any of you read about this? To make matters worse, she thought it would be a good idea to document the whole thing via one of their social media accounts and post it for the world to see. Obviously, there was a significant amount of backlash from the public, which should be expected when one does something as monumentally idiotic as using glue on one’s hair and sharing it with the world.

The part that’s sad is the fact that this woman seems to have increased her following as a result of this, has acquired significant amounts of money through crowd funding and received celebrity attention. For gluing her hair!!! It took significant hospital resources as well as a four-hour surgery to rectify the bad case of helmet head, which I honestly feel could have been surgical time used for people with genuine medical dilemmas as opposed to this bullshit. But maybe I’m just bitter at the fact that the world loves to focus on this shit when my fellow bloggers and I struggle to develop a following while producing readable content. But I digress…

The lady in question is apparently making a full recovery and will be fine, despite the stupidity of her actions. But rumour now has it (since I couldn’t find a confirming source) that she and her lawyer have the intention of suing the Gorilla Glue company since there’s no warning label explicitly explaining that one should not use their glue as an alternative to hair spray. Did I miss something? Was I comatose during the pandemic at the Zoom meeting where it was decided that we, as a society no longer need to use common sense?

I recently used Gorilla Glue to fix a broken pirate eye-patch of my son’s and I have to say… All the while I was using the glue, I had absolutely NO irresistible urge to apply some of the glue to ANY part of my body. It would seem unnecessary, under the circumstances, to REQUIRE that a warning not to use something like chemical glue in one’s hair be placed on a specific product. Nor does it seem fair that this company should be sued or held to task because of someone else’s stupidity. It makes me ask the important question: Why does everybody need a sign?

A little music release to ease the tension of the post…

It reminds me of the “landmark” case in the early 1990’s when a woman sued McDonald’s Restaurants because she scalded herself with a cup of their coffee. She was awarded nearly a million dollars from that lawsuit and it prompted almost ALL coffee-serving locations in the world to start printing “Caution: Hot” on their coffee cups. Some people think it was a worthy cause while others think it was a frivolous use of the court system. I don’t know about you, but I already knew coffee was hot. I’ve always known coffee is hot. And when I’m handed a cup of coffee at a restaurant or eatery, I do two things. I thank my server and I ensure the lid is on tight. Wash, rinse and repeat.

The latter would seem important, as a woman in BC has apparently filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s as well in January of 2020, for receiving a coffee and having the lid pop off and spilling hot coffee on her. Really, people? Why with all the suing? This isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems. Unless the employee intentionally pours the coffee on you, clean yourself up, learn from the lesson and move on! In fact, it has more of a feel of people trying to cash in on whatever they can find. It’s a rather sad state of affairs, really. There’s so much in the world that deserves our attention and that we should be working on. Instead, we’re growing into a society where the dumber and more frivolous the act, the more support and social media gathering it garners.

The morbid side of me is anxious to see what the remainder of 2021 will bring, since the whole glue thing has started the year off with a bang. The last but likely not least bit I’ll complain about, is how a lot of people these days are now making a living off of doing things of this nature. Ever hear of “social influencers?” I won’t even start on THAT one, it can be another post for another day when I feel that climbing on my soapbox is a worthy workout for the day. But when I think about how hard I’ve worked my entire life for to salary I make, only to have things like this spring into existence, it makes me seriously reconsider moving my family to a remote location and setting up, off the grid. End rant. ☯

The Most Difficult Choice…

As is the case when I have a few free moments, I was letting myself fall down the YouTube rabbit hole last week when I came across a short video that I thought was some sort of Spider-Man fan fiction. I enjoy Spider-Man as much as the next comic enthusiast and it was only a four-minute video, so I clicked on it to see what it contained. It turns out that it was the ending to “Marvel’s Spider-Man” video game on the Playstation 4 and it was emotionally crushing…

I’ll link the YouTube video at the end so that you can watch for yourself but despite the lesser graphics involved in the facial expressions, this is the first time that the ending to a video game nearly moved me to tears. Anyone who’s read any of the comics or watched any of the movies is likely aware that Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man’s Aunt May is the one who deals with raising a super-powered teenager on her own after her husband dies.

I haven’t played this video game; in fact, I haven’t had a game system in this house since I sold my xBox 360 last year. But the game seems to involve a sickness of some sort that requires inoculation through a serum. The clip I watched shows Aunt May laid up in a surgical bed, apparently dying of this sickness with Spider-Man standing nearby holding the only vial of serum. The doctor who’s apparently overseeing things tells Spider-Man that he can give May the serum and she’ll live, but the cost will be that there will none left to replicate and millions will die. Or he can let Aunt May die and allow the serum to be replicate, thereby stopping the sickness and saving uncountable lives.

The scene is powerful and emotional, and you can feel the tortured effort as Spider-Man makes the difficult yet apparently correct choice by slamming the vial down and walking away. The YouTube clip ends with the scene of May’s burial, where her headstone reads, “When you help someone, you help everyone.” Despite the dim, cold basement I was watching this from, I felt the heat rise in my face and the telltale lump in my throat that predicted the tears that would inevitably start welling up. In the midst of my emotional vulnerability, it led me to wonder: could I have made that choice? Could I have let someone I love die in order to save millions?

This isn’t the first time that an impossible dilemma is presented to a protagonist. I’m reminded of “Sophie’s Choice,” a movie from 1982 where the lead character portrays a polish immigrant who had to choose which one of her two children would be killed and which one would accompany her to a concentration camp. The terror and internal struggle, not to mention living with the decision afterwards, is unimaginable. There have been plenty of other such examples in cinema and books but that ones sticks with me.

Imagine this scenario for a moment… You’re sitting by a loved one’s bedside. Maybe it’s a spouse or a child. And you’re given a choice: cure them and let them live but others will die or let your loved one die and possibly save the lives of multiple people. Could you make that choice? WOULD you make that choice? I think that at the heart of it, we’re all aware of what the right thing to do would be, but acknowledging it and being capable of it are two entirely different things. I’ve always considered myself a good person, yet I don’t know if I could bring myself to let my wife or one of my children die, even if meant saving multiple lives. Some would call this selfish, but it’s part of the internal morals we all have that sees us want to protect the ones we love above all.

Anyway, I know this isn’t a bright, happy post but it’s certainly one to get you thinking. We often take life for granted and the reality is that choices that are depicted in the clip below often do happen, albeit maybe not including costumed heroes and a city-wide sickness. People are forced to make “live or die” choices for loved ones on a daily basis and I can’t imagine the torture involved in making such a choice. Hug your loved ones close, folks. And pray that such a choice is never yours to make. Here’s the video clip… ☯

Why So Negative?

There is suffering in the world. You may have heard me say this a time or two, and it’s one of the basics behind the study of Buddhism and trying to find inner peace. In my experience, a good amount of that suffering stems from people’s negativity and complaining. I’m certainly not innocent of this, as I occasionally do my fair share of complaining about stuff, but long-term negativity can lead to a host of problematic issues within one’s own life (which I wrote about here).

A few months ago, after some soul-searching and because of certain professional needs, I decided to reconnect with the social media world. I had closed down all of my social media accounts back in late-2018 and with the exception of this blog and email, I had no contact with the online world. I got my news and current events from the radio like I did when I was a kid, and from word-of-mouth. The latter is nice, especially due to the current state of the world as it allows me to connect with people in a direct way as opposed to through a computer screen.

Although it’s been wonderful to reconnect with some old friends that I would otherwise be unable to communicate with, I’ve also been bombarded with a social feed FILLED with negativity. The worst part, and what’s caught me by surprise, is that most of it always seems to come from the same handful of people. Although one can easily believe that we all have some of “those days” when we need to vent and complain, there’s something inherently wrong if every day, every post and every comment includes negative content or “speaking out” against someone or something.

I’m actually a big fan of the “scroll on by” concept, wherein one can simply ignore and move on when they see something they don’t agree with online. But despite that concept, there’s a definite effect that involves negativity encouraging negativity. It’s kind of the same effect that leads to riots and mass disturbances; being exposed to it in the immediate moment or the long term will eventually cause you to join in. After all, human beings are inherently pack animals.

If you haven’t read the previous post that I linked in the opening paragraph, take a quick look to see what actual physiological effects that constant negativity will have on your body. People don’t realize that when they’re in a constant state of complaining and negativity that they’re not just working towards pissing off the people in their immediate environment, they also cause damage to themselves. Take a look at someone who has an ulcer as a result of years of stress, fear and/or trauma. Negativity can easily takes its toll…

Folks, it’s easy for me to sit behind my keyboard and try to tell everyone to stop being so fuckin’ negative… I would love it if society understood that the problems of the world should be dealt with rather than posted about. I often think about my chosen career as a prime example. There are a lot of people who like to complain about my industry. But those people are always more than welcome to train for it and see if they can do better. But at the end of the day, we should all be working a little bit harder to try and keep things positive.

More than anything else, this is what the world needs, right now. Not complaining about the state of affairs, how matters in the public are dealt with or constantly bashing one’s own industries. And not everyone needs to hear you complain about why you think something is wrong, especially when law and perspective may prove otherwise. Negativity is insidious, and you’ll be surprise to look up eventually and realize that if all you do is complain and be negative, that’ll be the environment you exist in. And there’s no easier way to guarantee unhappiness than to be negative all the time. I’m sure y’all know some people like this. Now if you’ll excuse me, I got some folks to unfollow and scroll on past… ☯

Is This Thing Even On???

You know, it dawns on me that I’ve been writing in some given way, shape or form since I was a child. In fact, my mother recently discovered a short story I had written and given to her when I was about ten years old. It was about 32 pages long and contained a story set in the far future involving cyborgs and fighting for freedom. Not bad, for a ten year old. I didn’t think anything of it and just wrote it for fun.

Through junior high and high school, I toted around a 300-page spiral notebook in which I spent class writing an exciting story about a subterranean world that was run by children. Think “Lord of the Flies” meets “Journey to the Centre of the Earth.” In fact, I had a childhood friend who used to read a chapter at a time as I wrote it. Despite getting caught by a number of teachers, they usually encouraged my writing and were supportive of it; albeit not in class. I ended up giving my friend the notebook prior to graduation when the story was finished. All things considered, I wish I had kept it.

But those things have always kept a fire lit within me to write. Even my chosen career has seen me develop the ability to research, take comprehensive notes and write explicit and detailed reports that would be used for legal and court matters. This is one of the reasons why, when things at work went awry and I got sent home (where I sit idle, to this day) I wanted to find a way to continue to maintain those writings skills, that ability to research and provide explicit and detailed writing. The end result is this blog.

I wasn’t sure what would come of it, when I started. I wanted to write about something I knew, hence the Buddhism, Karate and Diabetes aspects. If I’m being honest, I didn’t assume I would grow a readership and was simply writing for the hell of it to increase the above-mentioned skills. But as my posts became longer and more intricate, I started to realize that there was a significant level of satisfaction and gratification to seeing the number of views and likes I would receive on a given post.

Given that I’ve been a blogger for over two years now, I look back and recognize that some of my posts have been funny, informative, occasionally inappropriate and sometimes bordering on rude. But I’ve built myself up to almost 300 followers, which I consider to be amazing. I wouldn’t have assumed that this many people would take an interest in what I write. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet and communicate with people from around the world in a way I likely wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t started this blog.

Where am I going with this? Well, I’ve worked pretty hard at making all of this work. I research most things I write about and maintain reputable sources, usually citing them in the actual posts. I spend hours at a time in front of a keyboard, editing and changing until I feel it reads well. I recently started a YouTube channel related to this blog, where I can discuss topics that maybe don’t REQUIRE research and I can just pour out my thoughts. I’ve even overcome my personal dislike of mainstream social media and The Blogging Buddhist has its own Facebook page.

I consider one of the advantages of the current pandemic (if there really IS any advantage) is the fact that I’m home and can contribute all this time and effort to writing the posts I do. The flip side of it, is that I’ve been assuming that the pandemic has freed people up to READ as much of my blog as I write. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. On average, I get about a dozen people who read my posts on a given day. That’s less than 5% of my viewership. I’ve aired almost a dozen videos, with more in the planning stage and being edited but I only have 4 subscribers to my YouTube channel. And both of those are linked and cross-posted to the Facebook page on a daily basis.

Honestly, it’s been difficult to see other blogs and webpages that basically have nothing to them, with thousands upon thousands of followers. I don’t like admitting to jealousy and I dislike the thought of jealousy even more than admitting to it, but it can’t help but rear its ugly head in this situation. There’s a blogger out there who writes ABOUT blogging. That’s it. And the irony is that every few months, this writer basically repeats donation requests through PayPal to the point where it constitutes begging, because he doesn’t hold a traditional job and needs money to feed himself. Somehow this joker has almost 36,000 followers.

Everyone has their own journey to take, and I would never try to take away from the reason a person has for writing. It just irks me when you have someone working so hard on the one side while having someone who basically phones it in on the other, and the latter has over a hundred times the amount of followers. This is where some uncharacteristic bitterness comes in. I’m sure I’ll center myself and let it go, but sometimes you gotta vent. Am I right?

At the risk of making this post way longer than I intended it to, I bring all of this up for a reason. The reason is because today marks the 365th post in a row without missing a single day. This means that I’ve been posting daily content for literally a full calendar year, without missing a beat. I consider this to be a personal goal that I’ve achieved, and one that I’m happy with. At the end of the day, I write because I want to maintain my skills and share the information I’ve gathered over the course of my chaotic life. And because I love it. That’s got to be the most important reason. When the day comes that I no longer enjoy researching and writing on these topics, that will be the day I shut down The Blogging Buddhist permanently. Until then, I’ll just have to keep plugging away at it. One post at a time. Keep reading, folks! ☯

Well Then, Maybe YOU Want To Be The Doctor…

Being diagnosed as Type-1 Diabetic at the tender age of 4, I’ve had the benefit and burden of surviving my childhood with a plethora of different doctors, specialists and all-around know-it-alls who love the sound of their own voices and providing unsolicited opinions. But i would be lying if I said that I didn’t owe my survival through said childhood as a result of those medical professionals. During my childhood, my parents lacked the education, resources and information to provide the level of care that was required to help a small child survive Type-1 Diabetes. I mean, they did the best they could with what they had. But there’s no doubt I’d be dead by now if not for the care and advice from the many doctors I’ve had over the years.

But one thing that’s grated on my nerves in recent decades, is the use and aversion to Dr. Google. Y’all know Dr. Google, right? It’s a pretty common practice that people have where they look up their symptoms online and make clinical decisions for their health based on what they’ve found. I don’t need to tell you that this can be an extremely dangerous practice and I certainly don’t recommend it. That being said, there’s a growing number of reputable, peer-reviewed sites that can lend some invaluable information when the situation doesn’t allow for an 8-hour hospital visit or a doctor’s office visit that would likely only be scheduled months down the road.

Such sites can include some of my favourites like WebMD, Healthline.com and the Mayo Clinic’s website. One good example of this is when my wife successfully identified our son’s tendency to soil himself as Encopresis, a condition in children where bowel movements are painful so they hold it in to avoid said pain, resulting in clogged fecal matter that needs to be softened and passed through increased fiber and water intake. (Notice that I used the Mayo Clinic’s page to define Encopresis)

We didn’t just blindly accept the condition as what was happening but the information we gained gave us the ability to ask Nathan the right questions and, as a result, lead to an at-home treatment the ultimately cured the condition. Otherwise, we might have been looking at doctors’ appointments, tests, invasive probes and attempted prescriptions over days and perhaps weeks, for a simple condition my wife was able to identify in one afternoon of reasonable and proper research.

But most doctors despise this practice and not only frown on it but will directly berate patients when they hear that they’ve “checked online” in relation to something medical. One good example comes to mind from the early 2000’s when I was totally and completely exhausted, regardless of sleep. I was always dizzy, had bad headaches and my body and joints ached constantly. Although the internet wasn’t quite what it is now, I was able to research some information and found a condition referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Based on my symptoms and the possible causes of this condition, it was recommended I see a doctor. Which I did. Then I explained. And spent the next twenty minutes being lectured on the fact that HE was the doctor and HE’d decide what my diagnosis is.

In a way, I get it. Doctors and medical professionals spend years, huge amounts of money as well as personal commitment and sacrifice to become the professionals that they are. I can understand that it would come as a slap in the face to have Joe Everyday walk into your office and tell YOU what the diagnosis is, before you’ve even had a chance to examine them. It would be like a white belt starting at my dojo and trying to tell ME how to punch or kick because they saw Van Damme do it differently.

The problem is that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome usually passes within a few months and can occur without warning or reason. There are risk factors and possible reasons, but nothing proven. I was basically ignored and sent home with the recommendation to “get some sleep,” despite my explanation that sleep wasn’t rejuvenating me. And there lies the issue: hospital and clinic wait times have just as much effect on the medical staff as they do on the patients. Doctors often double book and have to hustle patients through as quickly as they can, without having proper time to evaluate and diagnose what may be wrong.

On the flip side of things, we have those peer-reviewed sites I mentioned. You know, the ones written by doctors then reviewed and confirmed by other doctors? It’s not a good thing when a patient assumes to KNOW what’s wrong based on a few web searches. But by the same token, it’s also wrong for a doctor to dismiss a patients questions and concerns BECAUSE their information originated from the internet. After all, it’s fuckin’ 2021, people! I’ve heard multiple responses from doctors including, but not limited to:

  • “Would you like to be the doctor or would you like to let me do my job…?”
  • “Oh, you checked online?! I guess you have all the answers, then…”
  • “People need to stop risking their health by depending on the internet!”
  • “I’ll decide on that, thank you very much!” (usually before they’ve even heard my concerns)

There are many more, but online everything is the way of the world. Although skilled and likely cranky due to debt, doctors need to understand that provided information mixed with the patients genuine concerns shouldn’t be dismissed or taken lightly. After all, if you could diagnose and heal a patient in days using shared information rather than weeks, wouldn’t that be a good thing? Work smarter not harder, right?

I’ve been pretty lucky that such encounters have usually been the result of clinic or on-call doctors and not my usual family practitioners or specialists. But if you choose to use the world’s information to help in your medical care, be prepared to stand your ground and deal with some of the more judgmental and touchy doctors that are out there. This shouldn’t discourage you from doing research and looking at what may be causing a particular ailment, so long as you use common sense and call 911 if you’re bleeding or are suffering an immediate emergency. The internet can only do so much… ☯

Don’t Judge A Baseball Bat By The Matted Hair…

For years, I’ve heard an old adage that says if you’re going to carry a baseball bat in your car for protection, be certain to include some balls and a baseball glove; your lawyer will thank you. The implication there is that the inclusion of balls and a glove will potentially show your intention to use the equipment for their intended purpose as opposed to as a weapon. It’s always made me smile a little when I’ve heard or read it, because my thinking is the SITUATION should dictate if you’re justified, not the tableau that you create around an item you potentially intend to use as a weapon.

The use of weapons is a thing as old as humanity itself, from our ancestors’ humble beginnings with a wooden stick or club to the shiny ol’ red button that world leaders press to annihilate countries. I don’t think it’s a “red button,” actually. I think that’s just something that’s portrayed in the movies. But my point is that humanity has always used weapons in some way, shape and form. And a weapon may be an important tool for one’s self-defence, depending on the situation.

A lot of people think that a weapon needs to be something structured and specific. The baseball bat analogy is a great one because, a bat is intended as an implement for sport. Its use as a weapon is incidental. Or at least it should be. I know some people keep a bat SPECIFICALLY as a weapon. The reason I bring this up is because I’ve often heard people say that a weapons-based martial art is basically useless because you’ll rarely be caught walking around with a sword or a staff. The weapons one trains with won’t usually be readily available.

Depending on where you live and what specific laws outline, it can cause a delicate situation if someone breaks into your house and you’ve run them through with a samurai sword. But setting the legalities aside for a moment, a weapon can be pretty much whatever you put your hands on. Using the example of a sword, I think we can agree that unless you lived in Japan prior to 1868, you’re not walking around carrying a samurai sword nor do you have one readily accessible in your home.

But all the cutting and strike training you take while studying the sword will be just as effective if you manage to wrap your hands around a broom or mop handle and scythe it across your opponent. It won’t gash them open like a sword would but in a self-defence situation, striking with a blade or a stick can potentially yield the same life-saving result. And that’s the important part. That’s the benefit of karate. It’s a weapon all its own and certain movements, blocks and strike are easily transferable to a weapon, should you manage to obtain one in a life threatening situation.

Weapons are a catch-22 because if things get out of hand, they can be taken away from you and used by the very opponent you were defending yourself against. Another great beauty of karate. No one can disarm me of it, so even if I’m empty-handed I always have multiple weapons at my disposal. Obviously, we’re talking about a home invasion or a situation where you believe your life is in imminent danger. One shouldn’t be looking towards the use of a weapon, per se.

Just Because It’s Buffed Doesn’t Mean It’s Nice…

Lifting weights is an important part of health & fitness, even if you’re not necessarily trying to bodybuild. And to be clear, weightlifting and bodybuilding are not one and the same; weightlifting is only one of the activities that a bodybuilder performs in order to build upon themselves, with a score of other important factors at play. I’m certainly no bodybuilder, nor do I aspire to be. I use dumbbells and kettlebells freely, as gaining and maintaining true muscle strength is important in the martial arts and in maintaining the bodily strength required to keep healthy.

And before I go too far into my opinionated rant, let me just say that I have a reasonable amount of admiration for those who are able to sculpt and develop their bodies the way you’d see on a sports network. The old-school Schwarzenegger look may even suit some people, although I find it altogether exaggerated and a bit much. And there’s a significant difference between true strength and bodybuilding. In actual strength training, a person will use the lifting of weight to increase muscle size in order to increase strength, and can use that strength functionally. Bodybuilders are lifting weights solely for the purpose of increasing their size. Although there will be increased strength during the process, it may not be as effective as proper strength training.

The purpose of today’s post isn’t to bash on bodybuilding. As I mentioned earlier, kudos to the folks who are able to sacrifice and work hard towards making their bodies the way they want them to look. Today’s focus is on increasing the mass/size of your body and how it relates to the martial arts and proper health. As it just so happens, being a little too “buff” can have some negative and even detrimental side effects on the human body.

Let’s cover off the martial arts aspect, well… just because! I’ve seen a number of heavily-muscled people walk into the dojo throughout my youth, only to walk out after a few classes. And why do you suppose that is? Well for one thing, increased size will DECREASE your flexibility, mobility and range. You’re stiffer and tend to move much less easier. Just to be clear, I’m referring to people who are REALLY muscled. But in a combat art such as karate, flexibility and mobility are extremely important, for obvious reasons. Are there exceptions to that rule? Absolutely. But the really buff people who still have all the flexibility and mobility are VERY far between.

Speed is another. Your punch may have all the strength of those massive arms behind it, but it means nothing if I can casually avoid your fist because you’re moving like melting butter. The bigger you are, the slower you’ll move. Physics says so. You can only move so fast, as speed equals distance over time. The bigger you are, the more time it takes you to cover the distance, hence slower speed. Picture the difference between a 2-door coupe and an 18-wheeler. It’s easier to achieve a specific speed with the coupe because it takes less time to cover a specific distance due to less weight. There’s your high school physics lesson for tonight. But in the event of a real fight scenario where a person’s wellbeing hangs in the balance, expect that I’ll kick in your knee caps while you’re trying to take a swing. You won’t see it, as your field of vision won’t reach over your massive chest, but you get the idea…

And that’s the other problem is the excess size. You’ll be restricted by your own clothing, for Light’s sake! You’ll have less ability to maneuver in tight spaces, leaving the advantage to the smaller, trained fighter. This is why it’s always been a bit of an issue for me, when people automatically say things like, “Look at how buff that person is. I wouldn’t want to mess with them!” Having big muscles is only one small part of the equation that allows you to use them effectively to protect yourself and others.

And now, because I write about Diabetes, let’s discuss how increased muscle mass relates to health. Don’t forget that the bigger the engine, the more fuel is required to operate it. The human body is very much the same way. The bigger you are, the more calories you’ll need to consume to maintain your body on a daily basis. For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, who needs to calculate carbohydrate intake and take insulin dosages accordingly, this can be a significant problem. I’m not saying it can’t be done; I’m saying that finding that proper balance will be all the harder. And you may cause damage in the process, from a Diabetes-standpoint.

The next issue is the toll it takes on the body. Being too muscular is just as bad as being obese. Don’t believe me? Weight is weight, and your skeletal structure doesn’t grow stronger to accommodate your increase in mass. Your bones, organs and vital bodily systems may not be able to accommodate become too buff. Just think of your heart and how much hard it has to work to maintain all the added mass. That’s why bodybuilders will frequently suffer heart and organ issues. Schwarzenegger himself has had heart surgery. That should tell you something.

There’s nothing wrong with increasing one’s muscle mass. In fact, it’s one of those “happy medium” things where lifting weights a few times a week can decrease the chances of cardiac issues while doing it too much will tax your heart. take it with grain of salt. If we’d pay attention to absolutely EVERYTHING that can be harmful, we’d die of worry instead. Ultimately, the point is that muscle mass for strength good/ Muscle mass for size, bad. Especially from the martial arts standpoint. Just for shits and giggles, here’s a commercial from 2011 for Planet Fitness that makes me laugh every time I see it… ☯