Because It Can’t All Be About The Meat…

In the past year, I’ve tried a wide assortment of meat alternatives and veggie based alternatives that I never would have considered, even just a few years ago. I still favour my Mushroom Swiss Burger from FatBurger and I can’t see myself ever swaying from it. But I would be lying if I said that vegetables aren’t loaded with a wide variety of health and nutritional benefits that make adding them to your meal a good idea. I usually favour a cruciferous option, like broccoli or brussel sprouts. But I seem to be the only one in the household who likes them. I know brussel sprouts are pretty universally hated, but sprinkle a bit of cheese on some broccoli? Fuggedaboutit…

As I have a firm belief in the balance of things, I like to point out how there’s inherently a good and a bad side to all things. We already know that vegetables can provide vitamins, minerals and nutrients that some other foods may not. And there’s certainly the benefit of feeling full for longer that comes with having plenty of green on your plate, steering one away from over eating and helping with the reduction of your total daily caloric intake. But what about veggie-based meat alternatives?

A balance can be important if you’re trying to control say, oh I don’t know… your carbohydrate intake so that you can maintain better blood sugars… From a fitness standpoint, vegetables are important for a variety of reasons besides what they provide your body for building and healing muscles tissue and there are also some vegetables that will help you to sleep and digest better. If you’re looking to replace some of the meat in your diet with an alternative, it would be helpful if you gained all these benefits in the process, right?

If we get to the meat and potatoes of it (see what i did there?), some of the meat alternatives mentioned in the opening paragraph may not be all they’re cracked up to be. And this is where the BAD side of things comes in. I’ve written about this before but as I’ve tried different things, I think it’s pretty important to recognize the potential pitfalls of trying to replace everything in your diet with a vegetarian alternative. Here’s a short list of things to bear in mind when purchase veggie-based meat alternatives at the supermarket:

  1. They’re Loaded With Preservatives: This is the first and probably the top one. Anything you eat that’s been mass-produced and sold at the supermarket will go through some sort of processing that will involve preservatives in some given way, shape or form. Without getting into the specifics surrounding potential pesticides used for crops, you can be certain that real vegetables and real cuts of meat won’t have all these preservatives, making them the better option. There are a number of negative effects to the over-consumption of preservatives, including some forms of cancer. No, I’m not trying to say that eating these meat-alternatives will give you cancer! Simply that excess preservatives have been long found to be bad for the body. Moving on…;
  2. They’re Also Packed With Salt: I’ve often written about the importance of checking the nutritional label when eating something packaged. People rarely consider the amount of sodium they may be eating when consuming something “healthy,” and portion sizes are often not proportionate with how much a person would actually eat. I learned this lesson the hard when, in an effort to reduce the amount of carbs I consume in a day, I was starting my morning with a mug of chicken broth. Sounds like a warm, reasonable way to start the day. But the portion size is usually about half a cup of vegetable broth, which accounts for roughly 25% of your daily sodium intake. Once I’ve guzzled down a full mug, I’ve already packed on well more than half of my daily intake of sodium and it’s first thing in the morning. And speaking of carbs…;
  3. They’re Full Of Carbs: I was pretty excited about six months ago when I found a package of buffalo “chicken” bites that were made with cauliflower. They tasted even better, which made me believe I had found a healthy alternative to eating platefuls of buffalo bites made of chicken, which happens to be my next food addiction after burgers. Then I realized that despite being made from vegetables, the bites had almost double the amount of carbohydrates than traditional chicken bites. It probably didn’t help that they were battered. Not so great for a Type-1 Diabetic who’s trying to control blood sugars and the amount of carbs he’s taking in!
  4. They Can Cost A LOT: Processing and packaging food that’s been prepared in any particular given way gets costly, and that cost is usually reflected in the item’s price point. It’s made all the worse when you have to make something look like something else. Have you seen the chicken nuggets made from vegetables? I swear, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, based on appearance. The point is, a small box of cauliflower buffalo bites will usually cost about as much as a traditional box of buffalo chicken bites, making them ridiculously costly.

So the big question is, are these veggie-based alternatives better for you? From an overall and Diabetic standpoint, the answer is a resounding NO. You’ll end up taking in as many carbohydrates, if not more than your traditional versions and you’ll pay more for it, to boot. Watching your sodium intake is quite important when you have Diabetes, as proper kidney health is always a concern at the best of times. The only way to balance the scales (except for the cost aspect) would be to eat significantly less of the alternatives, which could potentially leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.

On the flip side, if you’re okay with eating small amounts at a time and you’re looking for a veggie-based alternative snack, they can be okay. So long as you bolus correctly for them and take the sodium into account. The long and short of it (let’s be honest, I always go for the long…) is that you’re better off having yourself a plate of carrot or celery sticks with a touch of ranch dip, a hot bowl of broccoli with cheese sprinkled on top or even a bowl of boiled Brussel sprouts with a touch of melted butter and pepper. Any of those will be far healthier, satisfy you and make you feel full for longer, whether you have it as a snack or part of your meal, and you’ll get all the included benefits without any of the preservatives. ☯

Spatial Awareness

The world is a dangerous place, and it’s made all the more dangerous by people who ignore their surroundings and have no sense of spatial awareness. This can apply to a martial arts context as well as in everyday life. In the video below, I share my thoughts on that very thing. ☯

In Memoriam

Siblings can be a Light-send, despite the occasional rivalry. Not only do they share blood ties, they can be your backup in times of trouble, a welcome celebrater in times of joy and a tandem member of the same generation with whom you can grow up and share the memories of life with. This makes it all the more tragic when one of these siblings leaves this life before they were rightfully intended. This also brings me to my older brother, Stéphane.

On this day 30 years ago, in the early morning hours, I was awoken by my mother who told me that we had to get dressed and get to the hospital as my brother was comatose and would likely die before sunrise. Being as I was only 13 years old, my concept of death held no comfort for me and in fact, simply told me that I would be losing my only sibling and never see him again after this visit. This was mixed with the unhealthy belief I had developed from years of seeing him “on the brink,” only to come out of it and be released from the hospital a few short days later. The first night of my life that I was wrong would prove to be the last night of his.

We arrived at the hospital shortly after midnight. We were met at the elevator as we exited on my brother’s floor, by our family doctor and long-time friend, Dr. Edward Furlong. Some readers from New Brunswick (if there are any for this post) may recognize that name as he was also the Minister of Health and subsequently, Minister of Education for New Brunswick during the first decades of the 2000’s. He greeted us solemnly and walked us to my brother’s room. We could hear his moans floating down the hallway, which elicited my first and only question of the night: “I thought he was in a coma?” The doctor explained that he was, but that some unresponsive people could still make sound, under certain circumstances.

I walked into a scene that until that point, I had only seen on television. My brother was lying on his back with his head slightly elevated. He had tubes coming out of both arms, his nose and all about his head. There were multiple machines with displays, beeping and moving with a measurable rhythm. And once or twice every minute, a low moan of pain escaped from my brother’s unpainted lips. The scene immediately melted any illusions I had for his survival, as similar scenes I’d scene in movies were usually one that accompanied death, soon after. I broke into tears at the realization that this genuinely was the last night I would see my brother alive.

My parents discussed providing me with a private room so that I could potentially get some sleep as it was expected to be an extremely long night. My parents held fast to the belief that my brother would pull through, so they had unfounded expectations I would be going to school the following day. I was brought to an unoccupied room on the other side of the hospital’s wing, a fact which would become important, later in the story. I took off my shoes and slipped under the starched hospital sheets. Although it was the middle of the night and I was exhausted, I obviously couldn’t fall asleep.

I was pretty much a sobbing mess, thinking about all the times when I’d been frustrated and angry with my brother. Instead of focusing on all the good memories, thoughts of all the times we fought or disagreed came to mind, generously sprinkled with the number of times I said harsh or cruel words to him. I instantly regretted each and every one of them and swore a silent oath to make it up to him if I were ever given the opportunity, painfully unaware the chance would never present itself. I was visited frequently by either of my parents, Dr. Furlong and the score of nurses who were keeping an eye on me. I couldn’t hear my brother from where I was, but the constant visits kept me on edge as I kept expecting every person to be the one who would ultimately bring bad news.

Short minutes after the 3 a.m. hour I finally fell into a peaceful sleep, which would be immediately interrupted by my father who had come to announce that my brother had passed away, almost to the very minute that I had fallen asleep. At the risk of sounding creepy, my mother’s side of the family has been often known for strange coincidences such as this. But even the nurse who had been keeping an eye on me was able to confirm that I had fallen asleep almost to the minute that my brother finally passed. I like to think of it as his way of sharing some much-needed peace as he finally obtained his.

The weeks that followed were a blur and quite surreal. At my young age, I had unfortunately attended funerals before but never for a member of my immediate family. During the funeral viewings over two days, I sat a chair next to his coffin and never left his side, painfully aware that once that lid was closed I would never set eyes on my older brother again. It was the greatest sense of loss I had ever felt in my life to that point, for a much needed life lesson that nobody wants. Once the funeral was over, my parents and I took a trip up the Gaspé coast to get away for a bit. It was a pleasant trip, but there was always something to remind me that our family unit was a member short. And always would be.

So, why would I choose to write about this today? Well, besides the fact that today marks the 30th anniversary of his death (despite not being something one celebrates) it also dawned on me that I usually observe this day privately and I’ve never written my thoughts on how that night impacted me. And I believe it’s important. I’ve written about my brother before, and I can tell you that his personality and willingness to fight to live and survive was passed on to me. He is the biggest inspiration in my life in relation to fighting the odds, no matter what. I attribute my ability to never give up and think positive to him. He was certainly more of a teacher to me than he was ever aware.

My brother Stéphane (Left) and I

At the end of all things, his cause of death was heart failure, despite the multitude of health issues that could have done him in sooner. There is great irony in the fact that despite being a young man with the biggest heart, his heart was what finally gave out. I guess that makes sense as his heart was always what he used most. Even now, 30 years after the fact, I’m still brought to tears while writing these words. Considering I’m not the most emotional dude on the block (some rocks show more emotion than I usually do) this goes a long way towards showing the impact he had on my life, for as short a time as we were together.

Hold your loved ones close, dear readers. I often say that life doesn’t care about one’s plans. And we never know when we may lose someone near and dear, or when this life ends for ourselves. It warms my heart to know that my son Nathan now has a younger brother, Alex. Whether he realizes it or not, it’s comforting to know that he’ll have some backup, should anything ever happen to my wife and I. Even now, I pray you’re resting in peace, brother. Whether in this life or the next, I’m confident we’ll see each other again. ☯

Letting Me Off My Leash, Free-Range Diabetic

I don’t think I need to explain that people take most common, everyday things for granted. I experience this a lot because despite the advancements I’ve lived through in the past 38 years, it’s difficult to move around without a SIGNIFICANT amount of supplies. The fact that I’m fed up of it likely makes it sound way worse than it is. But eventually, a guy gets tired of carrying around a man purse just so that he can run some errands throughout the morning without concern. The “for granted” aspect comes in because most people fail to recognize how lucky they are to be able to just step out of the house with abandon.

A week ago, I decided that I would sit through a specific bus route that I would be using for work. This was so that I could time out my entry into the city in the mornings without the concern of being late. Alexander was napping, Nathan was gone to school and my wife was hard at work in front of her own computer, so I felt it was a good opportunity to go out for an hour or two. I started to pack my usual shoulder sling of supplies, when a wave of impatience struck me and I decided to go in a different direction.

I tested my blood. Perfectly normal with no insulin “on board.” Good. I took some sinus medication so that I wouldn’t suffocate through the wearing of a mask in public for a couple of hours. Excellent. That shit’s supposed to last a few hours, anyway. I had my wallet and identification, and I grabbed a face mask and stepped out the door. I waited a matter of minutes at the bus stop and after a 22-minute bus ride, I was in the downtown core and stepping into the local shopping centre.

Not my mall, by the way. I didn’t want to be the creepy dude snapping photos in the mall.

I spent about an hour and a half downtown, walking around and browsing through some of the shops before grabbing the bus for the return journey. My blood sugars didn’t bottom out, I didn’t die and I didn’t find myself needing anything that I would usually pack and drag along. It felt really nice, being able to just step out of the house and go somewhere. It felt “non-diabetic.” I’d like to say it felt normal, but I’ve had Type-1 Diabetes for so damn long that being Diabetic feels normal to me.

I’ve managed to compress what I carry throughout the course of a day into one small, single-shouldered sling and it usually contains the following:

  • Fast-Acting Carbohydrates: I favour jellybeans as they seem to work fastest for me;
  • Nasal Spray: I’ve had some mild sinus issues since childhood and occasionally need a spritz. Wearing a face mask also makes it harder to breathe;
  • Blood Glucose Meter: Besides the fact that my insulin pump seems to be a temperamental bitch who screams at me every couple of hours despite smooth blood sugars, frequent blood sugar testing is still required to ensure the proper calibration of my CGM. Plus, should there be an issue with the CGM, I need to have the ability to properly ascertain my blood sugar levels; and
  • Extra Supplies: This is a broad one, but it can involve anything, including spare pump supplies, extra insulin or added lancets and strips. There can be a lot more, depending on the situation.

Most of the time, it’s just for when I go out. But realistically, when I travel to Saskatoon overnight, I often opt for something small and portable to carry. Considering I travel up, get the injections, sleep it off then drive right back down the following day, I make a point not to pack a huge suitcase. There are no nights out on the town, requiring extra clothing or special stuff. But when I make a point to stop and take notice, I really never leave the house without bringing a whole shwack of crap! This comes from years of situations where I’ve developed a “better to have it and not need it” mentality, as it relates to Diabetes.

It felt nice to be out for a few hours without dragging a bunch of stuff. I almost felt normal, walking among people. Note that I said “almost.” Besides, as I said earlier, I’ve had Diabetes for so long that it seems normal to ME. I can hear some friends thinking, “Shawn? Normal…?” Come on, guys! Give me a break! I’m about as normal as I’m ever going to get. But seriously, if you’ve ever had a friend text you to randomly go for coffee or you’ve decided to go sit through a movie on a whim, appreciate that freedom for what it is. There are so many things that a Type-1 Diabetic needs to consider before leaving the house that it almost makes it tedious to do so. Don’t take the little freedoms for granted. Sometimes, they’re the best ones. ☯

Not All Karateka Are Created Equal (The Invisible Armor)

One of the problems with telling people you do karate, besides what I wrote about a few days ago in relation to having others prove how tough they are, is the fact that the average person will assume you’re able to kick ass. The truth is, people join karate for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to wanting to lose weight, get in shape, improve their physical and/or mental state and potentially learn how to fight or defend themselves. Honestly, I’ve even seen some folks who join karate with the only goal being to socialize and be around other people. Granted there are a lot of better, easier ways to socialize than joining something as complex and intricate as karate.

But so long as your goal isn’t to intentionally harm others or turn yourself into a bully, the sky’s the limit. One of the beautiful things about karate is that there’s something for everyone. But the reality is that not all of us are top-tier fighters who can fend off any opponent. Movies and television have also done a pretty good job of spreading this belief, when you see a protagonist fighting off large groups of assailants with reasonable ease and skill. But none of that is realistic and if I’m being honest, only about one percent of people who join martial arts will become proficient at the skills they study.

That may seem like a bit of a narrow view, so allow me to explain with an example. Some years ago when I was still in New Brunswick and training in Sensei’s dojo, one of my high school teachers decided to join. I won’t guess at her age and it would have been rude to ask, but I knew she was of at least one generation older than myself. Obviously, since she was a teacher of mine when i was in high school. But suffice it to say that she joined for the physical and mental improvement aspects and had no physical constitution to allow her to participate in combat or even light sparring. Although she no doubt learned SOME skill while training with us, it would be doubtful that she would have the ability to fight off anyone but a much weaker assailant.

The truth is that this will apply to quite a number of karate students, regardless of how much they train. And if we’re being honest here, everyone kind of has their “specialty.” Some favour forms, others like pressure points or weapons, some may enjoy sparring and fighting. Most students will become reasonably proficient at the specialty they enjoy and as much as it would be nice to say that all karateka are jack and jill-of-all-trades, this is rarely the case. Although I’m quite fond of forms and absolutely LOVE doing kata, I consider myself a sledgehammer as compared to a scalpel. I can brawl with the best of them, but I’m not so great with the specific, fine-muscle techniques.

My point behind all of this, and the message is mostly for the non-martial artists, is that just because someone studies karate or any other martial art, that doesn’t mean that they’re good to go and can pull an Ip Man and fight off a crowd of enemies in one sitting. And the realities of actual fighting versus what the majority of people see on television also make such things impossible. So, if someone you know tells you they study karate, don’t bother to ask, “Could you kick THAT person’s ass?” Because the likely answer will be, “No. No, I can’t.” ☯

April Fool’s Day

Believe it or not, April Fools, which is an unofficial holiday celebrated on April 1st, has been around for hundreds of years and is observed across the world by playing pranks or jokes on an unassuming person. This is usually followed by yelling “April Fools” when the prank has been executed. You may not get this unless you speak French, but I found an article on History.com that explains that the origins of April Fools potentially dates back to when France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. Those who were behind the times and still celebrated the New Year during the last week of March/first week of April were considered “April Fools” and would often have pranks played on them, such as sticking paper fish on their backs. This is why in French, these folks would be called “poisson d’avril,” which would have been nice to know when I was a kid. But I digress…

I thought that today, instead of a top-heavy post with tons of information, I’d keep things light and share some of the pranks I’ve had played on me through the decades. I can honestly admit that I was never one to play the pranks, myself. I usually found myself being on the receiving end. So without further ado, here are some of the top pranks I’ve had played on me by others…

Years ago, I was a manager for a fast-food chain and was working a tandem shift with another manager through a reasonably busy dinner period. Some of the younger staff knew me as an easy-going supervisor and had no qualms about pranking me. At one point, I get told that the employee at the drive thru window badly needed change for the customer currently at her window. They said it was a rush, since it was holding up the line. I responded accordingly and ran down the drive thru hallway, which my loyal staff had sprinkled with floor soap (without the water). The result was my so-called “no slip” shoes sending me careening down the hallway and slamming into a wall, with half a dozen teenagers laughing hysterically as I picked myself up. I thought having them mop up the soap would have been deserved justice, but they considered it a small price to pay for the laughs they got.

Some time ago, I was working at my computer and I had my supervisor come running past me while strapping on his gear saying, “Come on, Shawn! We have an emergency, we gotta go!” I jumped out of my seat, grabbed my coat and slammed my arm through the sleeve only to be rewarded by a showering spray of shredded paper flying out of the hand-hole and littering the floor. My co-workers dropped their panicked facade and doubled over laughing, once again making me the butt of the joke. Don’t even get me started on how my field coach used to throw a quick squirt of pepper spray into my morning coffee when I wasn’t looking…

There’s a lot more, but some of it isn’t suitable for print and some are rather embarrassing. I know, I know… That’s probably the good stuff you’d love to ACTUALLY hear about. But I also want to keep this post reasonably short. The point is, I’ve never really been much of one for playing pranks, but they can be fun in the right context. The important thing is to make sure you do nothing that has the potential to cause damage or injure anyone. And if playing pranks on your co-workers, be sure to keep it appropriate to the work environment AND the person you’re doing it on. We don’t all have the same sensibilities… ☯

Let’s Take A Break… Fast!

People tend to have bad habits in their daily routine. And very few people are the exception. Hell, I have many bad habits that I often TRY to avoid but I would lying if I said that my efforts are often half-hearted. But a VERY bad habit that people have is skipping breakfast. Now, I’ve written posts about the importance of breakfast before and whether or not it genuinely is the “most important meal of the day.” On the home front, the jury is still out but there certainly are important benefits to ensuring that you consume that first meal of the day upon waking up.

The whole point behind the breakfast meal is to do just that: break your fast. And as most of you already know, a “fast” is a period of time where you don’t eat. When you hear of someone “fasting,” it’s usually associated with a LONG period of time often for medical or dietary reasons. But the reality is that we fast every night, from the moment we go to bed until we wake up in the morning. Unless you compulsively snack at night. Which is another bad habit. Which I also occasionally have. My point is that breakfast is intended to be the first meal of your day that breaks your overnight fast, hence the term “breakfast.”

You may be thinking, “Why is this cheeky mother-f%&ker giving us the definition of breakfast?” Well, simply to impress upon you the importance of starting your day with a proper meal. The take-home lesson is that you should have your breakfast within an hour or two of waking up as it will be the first batch of vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body receives after a period of fasting. You should also think of it as refilling the fuel tank for your engine after it’s emptied itself out.

According to a good article on WebMD, “Skipping the morning meal can throw off your body’s rhythm of fasting and eating. […] If your body doesn’t get that fuel from food, you may fell zapped of energy — and you’ll be more likely to overeat later in the day.” The article goes on to say that your breakfast doesn’t need to be huge, but should include a variety of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and fibre.

However, an article posted by HealthLine.com seems to have an opposing view in that they claim that there is no evidence that breakfast eaters are healthier, that eating breakfast boosts your metabolism for the day and that in fact, skipping breakfast can have some benefits for folks who do intermittent fasting. It’s unusual for me to find a topic where those two sources oppose each other, but it’s kind of refreshing. The article caps off by explaining that breakfast is optional, won’t boost your metabolism and doesn’t automatically lead to weight gain and obesity. Basically, if you don’t find yourself hungry when you wake up in the morning, there’s no need to eat.

I’ll be the first one to agree that every person is different. Actually, I’ve written about that very thing on more occasions than I can recall. So although it may be true that skipping your first meal of the day is a matter of choice, it may not be the smart one for everyone. And this is where the Diabetic aspect of this post comes in. If you have Type-1 Diabetes, skipping a meal can be problematic. Especially if your insulin’s basal rates and your specific condition requires you to eat, first thing in the morning. You may wake up extremely high or low blood sugar.

Although I’m a big believer that a person with Diabetes can do anything that a non-Diabetic can, intermittent fasting is possible but problematic and skipping meals will skew your blood sugar control. And despite what any source material may say, I believe it’s critically important for all people to start their day with a good hit of nutritional fuel to start your day. It may not stroke your metabolism and may not affect your weight, but it helps to guarantee you won’t have that “early-morning slump” because of an empty stomach.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the jury is still out on whether or not breakfast is the MOST important meal of the day. But it’s safe to say that it is IMPORTANT. Most people unfortunately tend to skip breakfast because they’re rushing off to work or taking care of their children before taking care of themselves. Personally, I usually enjoy a toasted english muffin with a slice of cheese. Some carbs and protein, doesn’t fill me to bursting and gets me on my way. It can be just as simple as that. And speaking of which, look at that! It’s breakfast time… ☯

A Little Something To Inspire…

I usually write my posts ad nauseam, and often require a number of edits to eliminate them being twice as long as they are once they’re posted. Once in a while, I like to post something that simply to look at, without all the necessary background, citations and references. So, here’s what I found last week while randomly surfing the web…

I forget exactly where I found this little gem, but I’ve seen it floating around in a few places. What I love about this photo is the absolute look of intensity and determination on the kid’s face, despite the fact he’s tethered to what appears to be an oxygen tank. I’m ignoring the fact that he appears to be one belt shy of black, despite his young age. Let’s not go there.

But it goes a long way towards showing how much determination can pay off in the long run, and the fact that motivation has to come from within. This little guy reminds me of myself when I was younger. All guts and determined to live and grow stronger, despite the pitfalls and medical challenges that life threw at me. As long as you keep fighting, may lose some battles but eventually you’ll win the war. ☯

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. ☯

Moving Meditations, First Ride Of The Season

I’m not one for posting more than once per day, but today was particular… Anyone who’s been following my blog for a while is aware that I frequently posted about my bicycling milestones, all through out the summer and fall last year. Given that temperatures hit the high teens today, the whole family took advantage of the warm weather to spend some time outside. During this time, I opened up my garage and cleaned my SUV… You know, typical warm weather stuff.

One of the things I did was grease up the chain on my bike and inflate the tires to the proper pressure. Once that was done, I couldn’t resist taking a quick spin around the block to try the ol’ girl out. I was wearing a hoodie and jeans, completely unstretched and unprepared. But I managed 1.5 kilometres in just a few seconds over 5 minutes. I spent the early afternoon running some errands and picking up my Diabetic supplies, all the while thinking about my bike. Once I got home, I couldn’t resist changing into fitness gear and going for a more substantial ride. Especially since a snowstorm is calling for tonight.

My first outing of the season. Not bad for a first run.

My wife was taking advantage of a quick nap while the baby was sleeping and Nathan was occupied, so I threw in the earbuds, slapped on my helmet and took a ride. 10 kilometres in 37 minutes is far from my best time, and I can admit that I didn’t really do any cross-training through the winter months. But it felt nice to get out and peddle, listen to some rocking’ tunes and enjoy my first outing since snow hit the ground.

I don’t know if a snowstorm will hit as expected, as it’s still 14 degrees out and we’re slipping into the wee hours of the late evening. But once this weather starts holding permanently, I’m looking forward to training to reach my goal of 200 kilometres. This is the goal I had for last year, but I only ever reached about 75 kilometres before it started getting too cold to be out. I’ll try not to be a constant pain in the ass and post about nothing but cycling. But I intend on keeping track of my progress and hopefully reaching the goals I fell short on last year. ☯