Much Like A Coat, Your Opinion Should Be Checked At The Door

It continues to blow my mind how brazen and “cheeky” some folks become when protected behind a keyboard in the safety of their home. Even with some of the more enlightened societal concepts that have supposedly become the norm, many still believe in calling out others and speaking against them in online forums.

I recently read a post by someone who had been listing some homemade clothing and purchases they had made at a thrift store. Almost immediately, someone hit up their comments section and started calling the person out, claiming that wearing second-hand clothing was disgusting as you had no idea where it came from and that the writer should know better. This was apparently even someone who KNEW the writer.

This is a pretty tame example and they tend to get worse. I, myself, have even had people commenting and arguing with me in relation to martial arts and Buddhism on this blog! Kind of hard not to, I guess, since religion is one of the most disputed topics of conversation out there. But I’ve even had it where I’ve been verbally insulted and attacked on my blog posts. I tend not to allow an argument to ensue and simply block person and their comments as I don’t abide by unnecessary negative energy.

It’s almost a safe bet that if you go online (on any forum) and say left, someone will say right. Then they’re usually game to argue their view to the point of becoming insulting and belittling to the writer. So why are people like this? For the most part, I can almost guarantee that the same people wouldn’t be arguing like this, if they were face-to-face with the person in question.

The popular term that has labeled to this phenomenon, is known as “trolling”. This is not to be mistaken with people who genuinely want to discuss and even debate their opposing view through your comments section. Trolls basically take the time out of their day to comment in a negative fashion against anything they find online. They usually make it a point to make their comments as insulting as possible and are actively hoping to elicit a reaction from people.

An article posted on PsychologyToday.com states, “[…] trolls have markedly different personality styles: they are more narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic and sadistic.” This basically means that they comment for their own self-gratification based on the responses they elicit as opposed to actually contributing to the conversation. Nice, eh?

The article goes on to explain that the best thing you can do with trolls, if you find them commenting on your post or article is to simply ignore them. This can be quite difficult, if your post is of a personal nature or you’ve vested yourself in the message you’re sending. But if you don’t engage them, you essentially take away their influence against you.

Here’s the article, if anyone wants to give it a read: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/significant-results/201408/what-you-should-know-about-online-arguments

For those who may not be a troll, I like to use a popular term I’ve found often online: “Just scroll on by…” Basically, if you don’t like what you see or read, there’s nothing wrong with just scrolling past. There is no genuine need to comment. Unless of course, you wish to genuinely debate. In which case, let me grab you a coffee! We’ll be here for a while… ☯

Balancing What You Eat Can Help At Balancing Your Life

“Wow, my blood sugar is great, right now! Time to f&*k it up with lunch…” This is a typical line I often say to my wife when I test my blood and find it sitting in an ideal range. Having Type-1 Diabetes makes it reasonably difficult to find balance. On the one hand, some food items have some very clearly defined carbohydrate counts. On the other, depending on your current state of health, mood, hydration and the weather (I wish I was kidding), the same food item you ate yesterday can have a measured difference in effect on your blood sugars from the day before.

Finding a diet that works is very subjective, and having that diet work in relation to your blood sugars is by no means an easy task. For example, did you know that about a cup of a rice krispies cereal has about 25 grams of carbohydrates, whereas the carbohydrates in something less generic, like Special K is about 22.75 grams? (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/best-low-carb-cereal-brands#medium-carb)

Although this doesn’t seem like a HUGE difference, a two or three gram difference in your meal’s total carb-count can make a big difference in the overall blood sugar levels of the day. But are carbohydrates the worst concern in your diet?

Carbohydrates are fuel. That’s the simplest way of looking at it. Along with protein and fat, it is one of the essential aspects of nutrition that’s required. The problem with carbohydrates is that some of them will burn much slower than others. This can play hell with your insulin dosage. If you take X number of units for Y grams of carbs and it has a measured effect on your blood sugar curve, you may see a noticeable difference with the same amount of carbs in a food that’s processed slower.

For example, if you compare 100 grams of red meat against a half cup of beans, the beans clearly win out where total nutrition is concerned. Beans will have more protein, almost four times the iron and magnesium and contains none of the cholesterol that you’d find in meat. However, that half-cup of beans will have 22 grams of carbohydrates to bolus for, where the meat will have none.

The difference is you CAN take insulin for the carb in the beans. Fighting off the long-term (and sometimes not so long-term) effects of cholesterol are a little more difficult; not to mention the effects on the cardiac system and your overall health.

Another good example are eggs versus tofu. I’m gonna start by saying I am a diehard hater of tofu and I refuse to even have it in my house. Although very nutritious, I’m not a fan of eating something that either has a gelatinous feel or looks like something I scraped out of the lawnmower. But I digress…

While half a cup of scrambled eggs will certainly have less carbohydrates than tofu, it also contains more than three times the amount of saturated fats as tofu. I’m still not eating tofu! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!! (Hides under the covers in his bed and pouts)

Last but not least are chick peas. I have a friend back home who is a big fan of chick peas, and for good reason. If you compare equal amounts of chick peas with let’s say, chicken breast… chick peas will have an almost equal amount of protein as chicken but with none of the cholesterol. Chick peas also pack a decent amount of fibre, whereas chicken has none. And fibre is one of those dietary staples that most people seem to neglect.

There are plenty of sites around the internet where you can get nutritional measurements for common foods, so I’ll leave it to you to find your own information. Your family doctor or medical practitioner should be able to refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist if you have questions or concerns related to your food intake.

The bottom line is that in the face of all these fad diets and nutritional trends out there, you need to find a balance in what you eat. Lower carb counts can help to lose SOME weight, although this is only in small amounts and usually doesn’t last. So choosing foods high in protein and minerals that your body needs may be worth the added two or three units of insulin you have to inject at mealtime. The key is knowing how your body will metabolize the specific carbs you’re eating, and distributing your insulin accordingly. ☯

Bald As A Baby's Bottom

Those who know me well are aware that for the most part, I’ve kept a shaved head. This has had a bit to do with aspects of my beliefs, although one might be surprised to know that I don’t NEED to shave my head, I simply choose to do so as a show of discipline and as a sign of my devotion to said discipline.

If I can be BRUTALLY honest, it also plays a role in the martial arts as having a bald head gives a sparring opponent one less thing to grab onto. This has also been a practical application in my chosen career, as the very real threat of someone pulling on long hair and exposing a throat is a significant concern.

However, what most people don’t know is that you can practice Buddhism and NOT be bald. It’s not actually a requirement. In Buddhism, the shaving of one’s head and face signifies one of the first steps involved in becoming a monk and starting a monastic life.

This has been a common trait in monasticism for a number of different religions throughout the ages, including but not limited to Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and some sects of Christianity. This was usually done as a means of showing religious devotion or humility, but has also been used as a rite of passage at certain stages in life.

But for Buddhist monks, the shaving of one’s head acts as a symbol of denouncing worldly attachments. It also helps to act as a symbol of monkshood and to emulate the Buddha, who also shaved his head prior to attaining enlightenment.

So yes, Buddhist monks shave their heads and this is an observance they must follow. No, Buddhist practitioners who are not ordained as monks are not required to do so. Some of us simply choose to do so for the reasons I mentioned in the first paragraph. And no, rubbing a Buddhist’s bald head for good luck is absolutely NOT a thing. In fact, it is strongly discouraged. ☯

The Learning Stops When The Attitude Begins…

Karate requires a lot of dedication and commitment. This should go without saying, although as an instructor I have often found myself HAVING to say it. I have had a number of people who have come to train and have seen it all: sports enthusiasts, athletes, boxers and practitioners of a different style of martial art. But one thing remains consistent, regardless of your background: you have to start from scratch.

“Empty Your Cup…”

Zen Proverb

I’m sure some of you have heard the story… The one about a scholar who visited a wise Zen master and asked him to teach him Zen. Although the Zen Master did his best to try and teach the scholar, he kept interrupting and providing his own stories and opinions. The Zen Master calmly suggested that the pair have tea.

The Master poured a cup for the scholar. Although the cup was full, the Master kept pouring until the cup was overflowing. The scholar asked the Master to stop because the cup was already full. The Master agreed that it was and replied, “You are like this cup; so full of ideas that nothing else will fit in. Come back to me with an empty cup.”

There are a number of different versions of this story. I believe that even Bruce Lee offered up his own version at some point, but the lesson remains the same. You can’t walk into a dojo with a chip on your shoulder and expect to learn something. This reminds me of two stories…

“Empty Your Cup So That It May Be Filled; Become Devoid To Gain Totality.”

Bruce Lee

The first story goes back to the late 80’s, early 90’s… I was a white belt on the cusp of promoting to green. I had been training hard; three days in class and the remaining days, training at home. I was pretty good, despite being in my teens and how much of a conceit that likely sounds. I had gained mass and became larger than life; speed and precision were my tools.

One day, we had a guy who walked in off the street and wanted to learn karate. As was our custom, we explained that he could try a couple of classes to see if he liked it and if it would be something he would pursue. The man agreed to this and participated in his first class. It seemed to go well.

On his second class, we were paired off and practiced some punching drills. As luck would have it, I was paired with him. He struck me several times, causing pain and some mild injury. He had a grin on his face and when I explained that we weren’t supposed to be having contact with each other for this drill, his explanation was that this was karate and I should be able to block if someone punched. Really, asshole? That’s what you’re taking from it?

Sensei saw the entire exchange and opted to pair up with the man on the next run. Foolishly, the man tried the same tactics with Sensei, who was having none of it. Sensei exchanged blow for blow with the guy, without harming him (in any significant way). The guy inevitably ended up bowing out and stepping to the back of the class. Sensei stopped the drill and followed the man to the back of the class and spoke the words that have stuck in my head for almost three decades…

We are here to learn and teach karate. In order to learn, you have to let yourself be taught. You can’t learn if you bully your way through the people trying to teach you. And you certainly don’t come into a karate dojo with the attitude you possess. Come back when you’re ready to learn…”

The man left and we never saw him again. The second story comes much more recently… It started when I joined the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate in 2016. By that point, I had been studying karate for over 28 years. I hold a black belt and have proven my skills more times than I could count.

But when I walked into Kempo to watch that first night and the head instructor asked if I’d ever studied karate, I admitted that I had. But I wanted to learn their art in as pure a way as possible. I told the Master that I wished to start with them as a white belt. He was taken aback, considering I was already a black belt.

I walked into the Kempo dojo the following class with a white belt around my waist. I’ll admit it felt strange, wearing white around my waist when I hadn’t done so in over twenty years. But I bowed into the class and was as proud of the white belt around my waist as I was of the black one that represented my style.

The head instructor ended up forbidding me from wearing white, as he considered it an insult to my Sensei for me NOT to acknowledge my rank. The next class saw my gi adorned with my black belt, but I still held fast to the back of the class and remained humble. And this has been my practice for the past three years.

I’ve had opportunities to coach and correct some of the junior students, which has been great. But for the most part, I’ve accepted my role as a student and have spent the majority of my time learning as opposed to teaching. And this is the important part of today’s post…

The most important part of mastering any skill is rooted in one’s ability to learn. You have to open yourself up not only to learning, but to criticism and correction. Even if you’ve studied something prior to walking in, you have to be willing to admit that you may know NOTHING about the art you’ve chosen to add to your repertoire.

Although studying two arts at once includes a significant number of issues on its own, as long as you humble yourself and be wiling to empty your cup, there’s always a little more room to learn.

Think about it… Let’s examine one of the most basic techniques in the martial arts: a punch. If a 20-year student tells you that they’ve learned how to punch, that’s fine. If that same 20-year student told you that they “mastered” how to punch, they’d be lying as there’s always something more to learn.

And that’s how you should approach anything you try to learn. Face it as a beginner and learn as much as you can. Even a master can be humble in the face of learning something new. ☯

If The Smell Doesn't Kill You, The Benefits Will Heal You…

Yeah, it isn’t the prettiest fragrance in the vegetable world, but damn is it delicious! I’m a big fan of garlic, and I use it in most of my cooking. Garlic comes in many forms when used in the kitchen. You can buy garlic butter, garlic powder and even garlic spread. And that’s on top of the usual fresh whole cloves and chopped, freeze-dried garlic.

Most people obviously know that garlic is a vegetable (I hope), but something many don’t know is that it’s related to the onion. And on top of the delicious flavour it adds to my stir fry, it has a number of proven benefits for the body, as well.

Garlic contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals, including some B vitamins, calcium and potassium.

Fresh garlic has been studied and shown to boost immune systems, reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart issues. Taking garlic supplements has even been shown to help reduce pre-meal blood sugar if taken over long periods of time.

According to an article posted on WebMD, there is a bad side to garlic. Considering it has the potential to lower blood sugar, it’s definitely something to watch if you’re eating it in large amounts. Other problematic issues includes heartburn, bad breath and a distinct and noticeable door of garlic when you sweat. Lovely, eh?

There are also some medication interactions to watch for, if you eat large quantities of garlic. You can check them out here: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-300/garlic

At the end of the day, we mustn’t forget the most important benefit of garlic: it’s delicious! Fresh, chopped garlic always adds a little “je ne said quoi” to your meal, whether it’s a stir fry or a meatloaf. Did I mention it’s delicious? I recently found an in-store made garlic spread that’s pretty good on toast. The best part is that my son seems to have taken to it and can’t get enough, as well (the five-year old, not the three-month old).

So, garlic it up! Just don’t forget to keep your toothbrush close by to eliminate that death-breath afterwards! ☯

From "In-Class" to "On-The-Streets"…

I think that one of the biggest issues facing the martial arts is the misconception that what we learn in class is an accurate depiction of what you can expect in the streets. Unfortunately, there is a HUGE gap between the barefoot, gi-wearing structure of a dojo and the harsh, life-threatening realities of a real fight in the real world.

For the most part, the dojo environment is structured, controlled and there is minimal (although not non-existent) possibility of injury. The head instructor usually dictates what techniques are practiced and what drills are performed, and this leads to a controlled environment that allows a student to learn and develop at a proper pace.

But what happens if said student finds themselves squaring off against someone outside the dojo? Putting aside the premise that a martial artist shouldn’t be using their skills to fight out in public, there are a number of differences that would catch you by surprise…

  • The apparel: A karate gi is usually made of sanforized cotton, and allows for a certain level of flexibility and breathability. If you get into a fight in public, you’ll likely find yourself wearing regular civilian clothing, including but not limited to denim pants and/or coats or coverings that may hinder your movements and techniques:
  • The feet: Although certain kicks differ with different styles, the kicks I’ve trained with rely heavily on the toes and the top of the feet. Front kicks and roundhouse kicks can’t be properly executed the way they would be in class if you’re wearing footwear. Although sneakers may allow you to throw a kick in a pretty similar way as you would while barefoot, there will still be a discrepancy and therefore a possibility of injury, if you do it while wearing shoes or boots;
  • The techniques: In general, we pretty much train that if an opponent throws a high punch, we excuse a high block, right? In-class drills have a significant level of structure and control, which we lose once we face a real-life scenario. If a real opponent throws a high punch, you may find yourself dodging and striking as opposed to blocking and counter-striking.

The point behind all of this is that it’s a good idea to continue drills and techniques in class, and especially sparring. The practice as well as the sparring will go a long way towards developing muscle-memory and help you in the event of a real-world application of your art. But one should nonetheless be aware that there will be differences and even hindrances that will occur in the field. They could come as a surprise and cost you the battle, should you not be prepared. ☯

"Where Have You Been?"

Karate is a strange creature. For the most part, people tend to come and go in weird intervals throughout the calendar year. And they can hardly be blamed. Sometimes life just gets in their bloody way and there’s nothing we can do about it. I know that for myself, I’ve had work and familial obligations that have often prevented me from attending class. I’ve often had a particular instructor ask me, almost every time he’s seen me, “Where have you been?”

This is a question that has grated on my nerves, regardless of the source, for over thirty years. For the most part, I tend to get a workout in about four to six times a week, depending on appointments, work and other life obligations that seem to slither their way into my personal schedule. But the point is that my fitness and my karate are engrained into my weekly routine, in such a way that surpasses the two classes a week that I attend.

But every once in a while, these absences will be noticed by an instructor or someone else and they always seem to consider it necessary to ask why I’ve missed the classes I was absent for. Needless to say, this is a bad idea for any student, especially beginners.

Karate (or any martial arts) is a lifetime commitment. I know guys who only studied the Way for a few months and still retain some of their lessons and apply them to their everyday lives. The overall effect martial arts can have on someone is measurable, but the emotional effect it can occasionally have on one’s life is palpable…

I’ve had times in my youth when I missed a number of classes. Either because I was exhausted, sick or just plain didn’t feel like coming out. I would often scuttle my way back into class and feel ashamed at my lapse in discipline and hoping that no one would take notice. One of the benefits of being a white belt or junior grade, is you tend NOT to stand out when you’re at the back of the class.

But as far as those periods when I didn’t FEEL like training… Imagine if I was berated and pestered about my absence back then? This might have led to my departure from class for a longer period of time. But instead, my absences were considered a time of reflection and I was always welcomed back.

In my current school, I have a particular instructor who seems to make it his business to point out and ask about any absence I may have. He does this to most students, but if I’m being honest I consider myself to have a bit of a louder voice than most.

“Where do you think I’ve been…?” I usually ask. I point out that in the period where I haven’t been to class, I’ve usually managed to work out three times, which is one workout more than the scheduled classes I have with my current dojo.

This is one of those times when it’s more important to focus on the why and not the what. We all have times when we lapse in our attendance and skip a few classes. There’s nothing wrong with that, inherently. The important part is that you go back. And if you happen to be a senior belt or instructor, do both yourselves a favour and don’t poke the beast! Take your student’s absence in stride and teach them accordingly! ☯