“Good Manners Will Open Doors That The Best Education Cannot” – Clarence Thomas

To anyone who doesn’t study the martial arts, it can often seem a touch on the formal side; almost as though proper protocol and etiquette are lost on those who haven’t been exposed to it.

There is no mysticism behind the martial arts. Everything has an explanation and can be demonstrated within the realm of normalcy. However, it is the discipline behind the martial arts that lends to the formality.

There are a number of formal rules one must adhere to when stepping into a dojo, or karate studio. For the benefit of all who do not study the art, I’ll cover the basics ones here…

Bow when entering or exiting the dojo: This seems like a bit of a tiny detail, but it is an important one. It provides a show of respect. respect towards the instructors, respect towards the ones who trained before you, and respect towards the school.

Ensure your Gi, or karate uniform, is clean and pressed: This one is important not only for protocol and etiquette, but for hygiene reasons as well. And you would be surprised how many people overlook it. There’s nothing worse than someone who assumes that their last workout wasn’t intense enough to warrant laundering their uniform. Make sure it’s clean. Not only does that ensure a more “pleasant” environment for yourself and the other students, it shows proper respect for the uniform you wear on your journey…

Stand straight and pay attention: When not executing a movement in the immediate moment, it is imperative that you stand straight and tall, heels together and thumbs tucked into the front of your belt. Keep your gaze towards the front and pay close attention to what the head instructor is saying. Try to avoid looking around and fidgeting. A big part of discipline is being able to focus long enough to build an attention span beyond that of a goldfish!

Acknowledge every instruction given: Different styles will have different ways of doing this. Some will choose a shallow bow when the head instructor provides instruction, some will answer in the affirmative by saying Hai (Japanese for “yes”) or something of the like… The method of acknowledgment will depend on the style and school you’re in.

No food or drink within the dojo: You would think this one would be common sense, but a martial arts school is no place for you to sip your mocha-choca latte while your kid trains. Since the average martial arts class only lasts about an hour and a half to two hours, you can manage this easily without having food and drink within the confines of a training environment.

Get out of the way: If you become injured or over-tired, bow, step back and sit in seiza (on your knees) at the rear of the class. Stay out of the way and remove yourself from the flow of the class until your fatigue passes or your injury allows you to continue. Of course, if your injury is severe or serious enough to think you need to remove yourself, you likely shouldn’t continue as you could aggravate the injury further.

Don’t show up late: This one is a personal pet peeve of mine. Some instructors will say that if you show up late, it’s better to get “some of the workout” in rather than none at all. Although that is a great concept, showing up late can be disruptive to a class, and shows great disrespect to your class and instructors. We all have busy lives. It falls to you to plan ahead and schedule things so that you may attend class. Whether or not showing up late is appropriate will be up to your head instructor.

Don’t waste your instructor’s time: Although you’ve likely paid a fee for your presence, the instructor(s) within the school are there to impart their knowledge and skills to you and others. If you aren’t going to put in your full effort, then you’re wasting your instructors time. Effectively, you’re also wasting your time AND the fee you paid. You’re also affecting the other student’s ability to learn properly. Food for thought…

Respect and train based on your partner: You will sometimes be paired with someone of lower or higher rank than yourself. If you’re paired with someone of lower rank, you become the example of what is to be taught. If you inflict injury upon your partner, you may discourage them from further learning and you will have gained nothing yourself. If training with someone of higher rank, respect should be given and you should take every advantage to learn from this person as they are in the same position you would be if training with a lower ranked belt.

These are the most basic guidelines for training within a dojo. Does it seem like a lot? It probably does, but it is a small price to pay for the rewards one can reap by training in a traditional form of martial arts. And this is only scratching the surface.

The important thing is if you are uncertain about something, be willing to ask. Most instructors are more than willing to let you know what’s required of you while training in their dojo. And if all else fails, feel free to ask me. I know a little bit about it… ☯

Why Can’t We Be Friends…🎶

Life is difficult to deal with by oneself. Humans are inherently pack animals, and we tend to accumulate friends along the way. Friendships are important as they tend to teach us social and development skills that help us later on in life.

Most adults maintain an average of three to five friendships, although most times we only have one or two friendships that can be considered “close friendships”. This doesn’t include one’s “acquaintances”, which differ in that an acquaintance is someone you know and spend time with only on occasion. Friendships are a little more involved in that you know each other’s intimate details and spend an INCREASED amount of time together.

All of this is to say that friends come and go. Some experts believe that the average friendship will only last about seven years. If you manage to find a friendship that lasts longer, you’ve certainly found something special.

Almost 25 years ago, I found a young lad who had quite the chip on his shoulder. I met him at a neighbouring karate club. Given that I was a few years his senior and higher ranked than he, I decided to take him under my wing and befriend him. Although my initial intentions were to help him in his martial arts development, our association grew into a friendship that’s endured for more than the past two decades.

As we grew together, we learned together and it became a friendship more valuable than I could have imagined. Time and different paths in life has caused that friendship to fade over the past few years but I learned many important lessons along the way.

Friendships are important. They help to maintain proper brain health. Friends help us to deal with the situations of life, deal with stress and often provide an impartial sounding board to bounce our life’s choices off of.

Although the benefits of friendships are many, they normally don’t last forever. But as time and friendships fade, it’s important to remember the lessons you learned and the impression those friendships made. Whether good or bad, each one has left an impression that’s helped to mold the person you are today. ☯

Everyone Has A Type…

I write about Diabetes a great deal, mostly because I have been type 1 Diabetic since the age of 4, which means about 36 years at this point. Over almost four decades, I’ve accumulated a LOT of knowledge on Type 1 Diabetes, its symptoms and treatments and what you can do to make your life easier.

Something that has always blown my mind, is how little people actually know about Diabetes. Last year, just over 7% of Canadians were diagnosed with some form of Diabetes. So it isn’t like this is a passing thing.

When I was diagnosed in 1982, people believed that Type 1 Diabetes meant that your pancreas was totally dead and served no purpose. We’ve since learned that not only is this inaccurate, there are several types of Diabetes, and they differ from one another in the same way as candy bars differ from one another despite all having chocolate (See what I did there? A sugar pun…)

Here are the known types of Diabetes: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Gestational Diabetes, Diabetes LADA, Diabetes MODY and Type 3 Diabetes. I’m gonna try and explain them all…

Type 1 Diabetes: This one is also known as “juvenile Diabetes” or insulin-dependent Diabetes. This type of Diabetes is based on the body’s own immune system attacking insulin production, which is what causes the issue. Because of this attack, the pancreas ends up producing very little or no insulin, and patients rely on insulin injections for the rest of their natural lives. There are a number of complications and issues attached to this type and it is the most well-known. But the pancreas still continues to function for other enzymes and hormones, despite this difficulty. This is also the type that I have.

Type 2 Diabetes: This one is popularly known as “adult onset Diabetes”, and the difference is that people with Type 2 experience insulin resistance or their bodies are affected in the way they metabolize glucose. What causes this type to differ from Type 1 is that obesity and lifestyle choices can CAUSE Type 2. This type of Diabetes can also be reversed, given weight loss, diet and proper treatment.

Gestational Diabetes: This one only occurs in pregnant women. It’s referred to as Diabetes because it affects the way your body uses sugar during the pregnancy. Any complications are cause for concern during a pregnancy, but Gestational Diabetes tends to clear up once delivery has occurred. That being said, it should be noted that women who have experienced Gestational Diabetes are susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes, later on.

Diabetes LADA: This is a weird one. Sometimes referred to as Type 1.5, LADA stands for Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, and holds many similarities to Type 1. The difference is that it usually occurs later in life, say after the age of 30, and can usually linger for years before insulin therapy is required. This one is often misdiagnosed as Type 2.

Diabetes MODY: This one is an unfortunate genetic gift. The acronym stands for Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young, and is usually considered a mutation brought on by factors such as obesity, or passed on by the patient’s progenitor. This one is subject to frequent misdiagnosis since it actually requires a DNA test to confirm.

Type 3 Diabetes: This one is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. It involves the neutrons in the brain becoming resistant and unable to respond to insulin. This is necessary for memory and learning. There’s still a lot of research and learning required for this one, but it’s ongoing. It’s also a relatively new form of Diabetes, discovered sometime in about 2005.

There are a number of added sub-types, such as Double Diabetes, Steroid-induced Diabetes, Brittle Diabetes, Secondary Diabetes and Diabetes Insipidus. I won’t get into the details attached to these sub-types, but the United Kingdom’s Diabetes website has a great article thatbdescribes these at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-types.html

Hopefully, this shows all my readers that there’s more to Diabetes than simply avoiding or not eating sugar. It is a complex condition that can affect a person on multiple levels. As usual, exercise regularly and maintain a proper diet, and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about symptoms you may have that lead you to believe you may be suffering from one of the types listed above. ☯

Blood Pressure Isn’t Where You Want To Get High Score…

Diabetes is an extremely complicated condition, and it tends to affect all systems within the body. Recently, I’ve been trying to cover off the areas that seem to have the most impact. One of those areas happen to be high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is one of those enigmatic medical measurements that people generally don’t understand until their doctor tells them it’s too high. Speaking in general terms, a normal blood pressure for most people is about 120/80. This is the optimal range for people looking to maintain proper health, although your doctor will advise you what numbers are proper for your specific health and condition.

So what do those numbers mean? According to http://www.healthline.com, “the top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. This is called diastolic pressure.”

Now that we have the medical jargon out of the way, how does this affect someone with Diabetes? There is a known and proven relationship between Type 1 Diabetes and high blood pressure. Having one automatically puts you at risk for the other.

Diabetes tends to cause damage to the arteries, which can lead to hardening and blood pressure issues. High blood pressure issues can lead to eye and kidney disease or aggravate an already existing condition. There are a number of other complications caused by high blood pressure that can be read on WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/high-blood-pressure

There are a number of easy things you can do to help with blood pressure levels. Eating healthy and exercising are obvious steps. Maintaining your blood glucose levels and keeping your weight down can also help.

Your medical practitioner may also chose to put you on preventative blood pressure medication. Although I’m not a big fan of taking medication that isn’t needed in the immediate moment, this is one of those rare exceptions that prevention is best. I, myself, am on Ramipril, which is an ACE inhibitor that helps to treat high blood pressure.

Readers will likely notice that eating healthy, exercising and maintaining good blood glucose levels are the aspects I keep repeating over and over. But those three steps will certainly lead to an easier life when dealing with type 1 Diabetes. ☯

Smile! It Makes Others Wonder What You’re Up To…

I was on my way home a couple of days ago when I drove past an elderly lady who was walking on an adjacent sidewalk. It’s in my nature to examine my surroundings as I go along, but something about this lady caught my eye in a particular way; she was smiling!

One would be inclined to think that a smile is not a big deal, right? Normally, I would agree. But here’s the thing: this lady had grey hair and was hunched over. She walked with a cane and had a very slow gait. She appeared to have lived through some of the more difficult aspects of life.

Despite the difficulty she appeared to be having, she was looking up at the trees and the sky and had a huge smile from ear to ear. She waved at another person as she walked by. Did she know this person, or was she simply spreading joy and friendliness? And it got me to thinking about the human condition.

We spend most of our lives trying to get things done. We grow up going to school, we study then get jobs, build families and worry about finances. We spend so much time doing all of this that we often forget to take a look around us at the world that’s provided so much beauty.

If this lady is able to enjoy the beauty of life and keep on smiling, then we should really have no excuse.

Life throws quite a bit of stress at us, so it’s important to stop and smell the roses every now and again. As Mother Teresa once said, “Peace Begins With A Smile.”

Don’t Get Burned…

Recently, I wrote about the issues surrounding fitness during extreme weather and the effects of high heat on blood sugars. I’m going to reiterate by saying that during the summer season, blood sugars can be adversely affected by high temperatures. It can be different for some people, but in my case, my blood will often drop.

This can be caused by the body straining to lower your core body temperature through sweating and an increased heart rate due to the heat. This is why it’s SO important to consistently sip water throughout the day. It helps to keep you hydrated and aids in regulating your core body temperature to avoid issues like heat stroke and dehydration.

But before I start repeating everything I posted on a previous day, let’s address the culprit of all these issues: the Sun!

Now before I get into the crux of this post, I’ll take a moment to explain exactly what our Sun is. It is a star. It creates heat by fusing hydrogen into helium and this process is the reason behind the Sun’s light and heat. This energy travels to the Earth where it is responsible for most of the life on our planet. (Although explaining this shouldn’t be necessary, we live in a world where some people actually believe our world is flat, sooooo… you do the math!)

Ultraviolet light, or UV rays, are present in the Sun’s radiation and prolonged exposure to this radiation can be damaging to living tissue. This is where the application of sunblock or sunscreen lotion plays an important role.

Last week, I decided to be a smart ass and cycle for 21 kilometres. The temperatures that afternoon reached the high 20’s, low 30’s (that’s in Celsius) and I took off from home thinking if I got too hot, I’d simply turn around. By the time I started to feel the effects of the heat, I had already gone about 10 kilometres and would have to peddle another 10 to get home!

I drank plenty of water and stayed hydrated but as it is the beginning of the hotter season, I totally neglected to apply sunblock before taking off on my trek. Needless to say I got a nice red-skinned surprise later in the day.

Let’s talk about sunblock for a moment. Sunblock is a topical gel or lotion that’s applied to the skin. It helps by reflecting UV rays away from the skin, which prevents damage and sunburns.

What many people don’t know or understand (and what I only learned a couple of years back as well) is what the SPF number on your sunblock refers to. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the number is a multiplier. So what that means is that if it takes you 10 minutes to start burning and you apply an SPF15 sunblock, you can theoretically be in the sunlight for 150 minutes before you start burning. Theoretically.

You should be applying sunscreen daily, or even any time you step out into the sunlight. According to an article posted by Men’s Health Magazine, the Centre for Disease Control recommends using AT LEAST an SPF15 or higher. To be honest, I don’t recall ever seeing anything lower. Most retail locations in Canada will carry SPF 15, 30 and 50. When I travelled to Japan, they had an SPF110 available, although I can’t speak to whether it was more effective than the 50 or not.

An important factor to consider is to ensure that you apply sunblock properly. Most people tend to dab here and there and assume they’re good to go. But you need to consider full coverage of your bare skin in order for the sunblock to be truly effective. Remember that you may need to reapply more frequently if you are swimming or sweating profusely.

Here’s that Men’s Health article if you want a bit more information: https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19541357/how-much-sunscreen-do-you-need/

Sunblock is important to help with the prevention of certain types of skin cancer and can help you enjoy the hotter season without the perils of getting sunburned. Apply sunblock often, drink plenty of fluids (bearing in mind that caffeinated and alcoholic beverages will contribute to dehydration) and take added precautions by wearing some sun-blocking clothing. Remember, don’t get burned! ☯

If It Is Not Right, Do Not Do It…

The title is part of a quote by Marcus Aurelius, who was a respected Emperor of Rome but was also known as a Stoic philosopher. His book, Meditations, is a great read. I highly recommend it.

I’ve done martial arts long enough to see most students come and go. After all, it’s often been said (in martial arts circles) that only one student in ten thousand will stay with it long enough to achieve black belt. I think we all deal with this at some point; thinking or believing that we aren’t certain why we’re still doing it or if it serves any purpose. I had to deal with one such instance recently.

For the purposes of this post, I will call this student Jane. Jane has been studying the martial arts for a number of years. She’s what I would call an adequate student, meaning she trains hard and puts in her workout. The question becomes whether she practices and pushes herself OUTSIDE the confines of two classes that add up to about four hours within a one hundred and sixty eight hour week!

Green belt level in the mid 1990’s. The pressures of continuing on would reach me within the next few years of training…

What many students fail to comprehend is how much dedication the martial arts require. If one simply shows up to class (even every class without missing any), progression can be extremely slow and even nonexistent. There has to be a certain amount of practice outside of the dojo, at home and during your free time. Study and cross-training are necessary for a student to grow from basic and adequate to promotable.

Jane approached me after class one night and asked me if I felt that karate was worth pursuing for her. I agreed that indeed it was, but that it had to be right for her. When I asked her why she felt the need to question that, she explained that she had been sitting at the same belt rank for the past few years and felt she wasn’t progressing. She felt ignored and believed she wasn’t being given the level of attention she required in order to promote and train further.

We discussed this for a lengthy period of time but at the end, I explained that coming to karate had to be for her and her alone. If her only reasons for being in karate was to get a certain coloured belt around her waist, it may not be for her. That being said, every person feels the need to be acknowledged and have SOME advancement, regardless of what form it may take. She left that night after saying she would put some thought into it and make a decision.

That was last year. I haven’t seen Jane since. It’s quite sad, but it’s an old and typical story within the martial arts. Many students feel that if they aren’t promoting or advancing quickly enough that they are wasting their time. Most students forget that karate is like a fine wine; it must be aged and practiced until perfection is reached. And ultimately, if you think you’ve reached perfection it simply means that you haven’t.

Three generations of karate. Myself as a green belt, next is Sensei Guy Levesque (my instructor) Eva (another student of Sensei’s) and Sensei Bob Blaisdell on the far right (my Sensei’s Sensei)

In the late 1990’s, I experienced the same phenomenon as Jane did. I found myself struggling to get through class. My techniques didn’t feel as sharp or as fast as they used to be. I had reached the rank of brown belt by this point, but it almost felt as though life was grinding to a standstill. I found myself wondering if, considering I had healed and improved my health, there was any reason for me to continue training in karate. I didn’t care about rank; the colour of my belt meant far less to me than how well I could use my acquired skills.

The thought of not being able to do it anymore, or stopping my training created a heavy weight on my shoulders and sent me into a slump. I was lucky to have Sensei to talk me through it and make me understand the further benefits of continuing on.

But there have been times when I’ve had to stop. Sometimes several weeks, at most a couple of months, time away to reflect has often been a tool I’ve used to bring perspective to my training and help guide me back. And I always have gone back.

When I left New Brunswick in 2009 and moved out to Saskatchewan, I had to deal with the prospect of training once or twice a year when I went home to visit. I spent several years training on my own, which meant progress and belt advancements were no longer possible. It wasn’t until late 2016 when I found a local school in which I could train. I won’t lie, it’s good to be back in a dojo environment.

If you’re questioning why you’re doing it, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. If you step away for a little reflection and clarity, you’re not alone. And it doesn’t mean you have to quit. However, if you’ve had that time of reflection and don’t feel it’s for you, then it should likely be accepted as a sign that you should stop. And that applies to all forms of arts and sports, I think.

Be true to yourself. Nothing you do for yourself should be done because it is expected. It should be because you want to. Yes, I’m a firm advocate of pushing through and having the will to go one, but it also has to fit within your lifestyle and your personality. Taking that into consideration, we need to add to the title of today’s post. If it is not right FOR YOU, do not do it!