Archives for the month of: November, 2011

Good day to you!

My foot’s nearly back to full health, I’ve been getting up early to do my workouts, and I’m feeling pretty good. This week I’d like to talk about a hopeless mishmash of philosophy and character traits that I feel are related to the martial arts.

I’ll begin with a quote from Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of Shotokan Karate) which I may have mentioned in this blog before: “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.” For a silly, media-based example, in the original Karate Kid, the deuteragonist (ooh fancy-talk for the secondary protagonist), Mr. Miyagi shows himself to be a superior martial artist to the secondary antagonist, John Kreese (the Cobra-Kai Sensei). Mr. Miyagi’s character is contemplative, serene and kind-hearted, while Kreese is a short-tempered, underhanded sadist. We see that the iconic Karate film equates the true path of the Karate-ka with developing a strong spirit and a strong body, rather than the body on its own. While this is a good example of what I feel to be part of the true philosophy of Karate, Hollywood is rife with poor examples, so let us dwell no further on media representation.

As part of graduation requirements for Kyu belts at Black Belt Schools (and similarly at other dojos), each student must complete an act of charity to receive one of their stripes. This can be organizing a fundraiser or participating in one, but it must involve a sacrifice on the part of the student for the benefit of others. Thus, even the most talented martial artist, if unwilling to be charitable, will never progress, while a less talented student with a kind heart will learn more and go further.

Training in Karate is at best difficult, and at worst gruelling, and will force you to confront and push through your mental and physical boundaries. This may involve changing one’s attitude, improving one’s physical health, or going back to the beginning of a technique to understand it further, and more often than not all of these. For example, I began my training in Kempo Karate, which emphasizes very deep and wide stances. This is an excellent way to improve one’s leg strength, and taught a great deal of perseverance while sitting in a deep horse stance (wallsit – wall) for 3 to 5 minutes. However, in beginning Goju-Ryu, I had to adjust to much higher more practical stances, which gave better stability and balance. While this was less demanding, physically, it required me to completely change my attitude to my stance and realize that at the end of the day, the techniques should be practical rather than showy. This is a significant mental barrier that I had to overcome. I’m sure I’ll push through a few physical barriers too before my grading is over.

Another character trait that the martial arts develops is fearlessness. I’d like to illustrate by paraphrasing a story I recently read:

An officer was speaking with his superior about the regiment he was in charge of. He said that one of the soldiers (Samurai) was completely fearless. The superior claimed that no man is fearless and went to see for himself. They found the man training with his regiment, and told him to commit Seppuku (honorable, ritual suicide). The man immediately kneeled and began making preparations. He unsheathed his sword, and just before he could plunge it into his stomach, the superior told him to stop. He asked why he had shown no fear. The man’s response was that a long time ago he had decided to conquer fear inside himself. He tied a very weak string to a very sharp sword and hung the sword over his bed, just inches from his throat. At first, he found it very difficult to sleep, as he was afraid of death, but eventually he grew to accept that death was immediately present, sword or not, and he learned to sleep soundly. There was nothing to fear from a sword in his own hand when compared to one hanging above his throat.

It is this fearlessness that a martial artists seeks. The martial arts are inherently violent, but in facing this violence, one learns to find peace in it. People often say, after hearing that you’ve trained in some martial art, “I guess I’d better not make you mad,” when in reality, somebody that has trained seriously will understand the impact of using violence and is the least likely to hurt another out of anger (though the occasional one slips through: see Cobra-Kai Sensei).

In the end, I feel, that the martial arts are a preparation for death. This may sound odd, or even offensive at first, however it should not be. I read an interview with a master of Karate, who said something similar to, “No matter what, be courageous. For then, even if a boulder falls out of the sky and crushes your body, nothing will ever crush your spirit.” Much of what we as humans do shows our preoccupation with our own death: keeping healthy, leaving a mark on the world, penance. The martial arts are no different. We hope that in learning to be truly courageous, we shall keep this courage even in death, and that we can face our final moments, not with fear and struggle, but with the quiet dignity befitting a fearless Samurai.

And now for a word from our sponsor, the Weekly Recap!

Monday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes meditation
  • 10 acts of kindness

Tuesday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 30 minutes meditation
  • 9 acts of kindness

Wednesday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 30 minutes meditation
  • 10 acts of kindness

Thursday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 30 minutes meditation
  • 9 acts of kindness
  • 10 rounds of sparring

Friday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes meditation
  • 9 acts of kindness

Saturday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 8 acts of kindness

Sunday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 8 acts of kindness
  • 10 km jogging

So for Week 6, I did 1120 push ups, 1120 sit ups, 112 rounds of seipai, 130 minutes of meditation, 63 acts of kindness (record), 10 rounds of sparring, and 10 km of jogging. I’m pretty content with how things are going. Still need to do a bit more meditation, but I’m right on track with everything else. Except jogging. But who likes jogging anyways…

Cumulatively, I’m at: 5890 push ups, 5720 sit ups, 573 rounds of Seipai, 645 minutes meditation, 263 acts of kindness, 55 rounds of sparring, and 30 km of jogging. So yes, I need to jog more. I guess that’s one of those physical barriers to push through… Anyways, new goal for finishing is the 19th of December, which will give me some time to pull together the Break-a-thon so long as all goes according to plan. Need to write an essay in there, and interview a living hero. Anybody know of any heros?

How about this guy?

 Hello, you lovely reader, you!

One of my responsibilities over the next little while is to organize the next graduation at Black Belt Schools (plug plug plug). Since nothing particularly exciting happened this week, I’m going to commandeer this blog post from its original purpose and use it to outline my plan for the graduation.

One of the previous graduations was held outdoors at Guelph Lake, and the students spent the day afterwards at the beach. It was pretty awesome. I had been trying and trying to think of a good idea to make this graduation stand out. My thoughts, in temporal order, were: 

  • Beach (can’t do beach, it’ll be cold)
  • Movie Theatre (movie theatre’s expensive, and watching a movie is less exciting than going to the beach)
  • Roller Skating (roller skating’s in mississauga and renting the area is similarly expensive)
  • Gymnastics Party (we do karate, not gymnastics)
  • Break-a-thon (… -wait that’s not bad!)

Considering the first two ideas were stolen, I’m thinking brainstorming’s not my forte. Anyways, the break-a-thon seems like a good idea, and is the one I’m beginning to pursue. The concept is that it is a fundraiser in which the participants collect sponsors for breaking a certain number of boards. The more boards broken, the more money collected. Combining it with other demonstrations and breaking events could turn it into a day long event which I think the students may really enjoy.

As a side note, there is a certain ethical dillema in picking a fundraiser before picking a charity. On the other hand, I fully intend on ignoring that dillema.

The charity I’m thinking may be best to approach would be habitat for humanity, as they do good work, and my feeling is that there probably isn’t much ill will towards them, unlike my previous consideration, the Westboro Baptist Church Foundation. As well, they may be able to help in procuring boards, as they’re partnered with Home Depot.

As far as a location goes, my ultimate goal would be to do it at the Cambridge Centre, as its centrally located for the students, and would be amazing publicity for Black Belt Schools. For insurance reasons this may not be possible, though at my last dojo we did several demos at the Cambridge Centre, so we’ll see. Settling for a gymnasium may be a necessity, in which case I’d be looking at schools and churches most likely. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

My goal would be to have the entire club involved with all of the students participating, and the majority of parents volunteering. Combining it with a kick-a-thon would allow the students who can’t necessarily break boards yet to still participate. As well, opening it up to other dojos to have them participate could make the event something very cool in the community (dojos don’t tend to associate well with each other. Usually we end up brawling when there’s more than two students from another school, as basically every Kung Fu movie ever can attest to). So I have a fair bit of work cut out for me over the next little while, but ha, what else is new. I’ve never really organized something like this before, and at worst it will be a learning experience, and at best it could be a very cool community event, which raises funds for a very good cause.

With no further ado, let us proceed to the weekly recap!

Monday:

  • 220 Push ups
  • 220 Sit ups
  • 42 rounds of Seipai
  • 10 minutes meditation
  • 10 acts of kindness

Tuesday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 9 acts of kindness

Wednesday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 16 rounds of Seipai
  • 40 minutes meditation
  • 15 acts of kindness

Thursday:

  • 8 acts of kindness

Friday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 160 Sit ups
  • 6 acts of kindness

Saturday:

  • 200 Push ups
  • 200 Sit ups
  • 24 rounds of Seipai
  • 8 acts of kindness

Sunday:

  • 280 Push ups
  • 280 Sit ups
  • 40 rounds of Seipai
  • 25 minutes meditation
  • 2 acts of kindness

So for Week 5, I did 1180 push ups, 1180 sit ups, 138 rounds of Seipai, 75 minutes of meditation and 58 acts of kindness. This is pretty good, and I’m getting close to catching up, however I’m finding it hard to make time for my workout along with keeping up with my online course and getting good rest. So I’m going to try getting up at 4:40 AM to get my workout in before work. We’ll see how this goes next week.

Cumulatively, I’m at: 4770 push ups, 4600 sit ups, 461 rounds of Seipai, 515 minutes of meditation, 200 acts of kindness, 45 rounds of sparring, and 20 km of jogging. This section feels more and more badass every week.

But not as badass as this card trick:

So, until next week, cheers!

Hello… You!

This week, I’ve been (you guessed it) sick! So much for getting used to my new routine; working out gets a lot more difficult when you can’t breathe properly. But all’s well that ends well, and I am, once again, well. Life’s been fairly tame the last week, though my busy-ness is steadily increasing. I’ve gone to physio twice now to get my foot looked after, and it looks like I’ll be going twice a week to that for the forseeable future. Apparently there wasn’t a serious fracture, though I suffered a sprain of the joint between my left, fifth metatarsal and proximal phalange (or, as I hope my medical jargon obfuscated, “I hewt my widdle toe.”). So in my spare time (HA! SPARE TIME!) I’ll be soaking it in hot water and rolling a tennis ball around with it. I’ve been using this non-butterfly-twisting time to contact dynamo gymnastics to find out what I could do to use their facilities for myself and the demo team, and apparently they have an adult program starting soon, so that’ll be added on to my schedule in short order.  Beyond all that, I perform a magic and juggling routine with my partner/assistant/girlfriend, and we’ve gotten a couple of bookings over the next little while. Any suggestions on time management strategies would be very welcome.

Oh yeah, I’m falling behind in PD2 (online course for students in their first co-op term).

Man, Christmas break is gonna be awesome.

So, to recap, on my horizon I have:

  • Maintaining my workout schedule
  • Physio twice a week
  • Preparing the demo team
  • Beginning at Dynamo gymnastics
  • Preparing for/Doing my own performances
  • Catching up on PD2
  • Writing my essay, “What Karate Means to Me”
  • Interviewing a living hero
  • Preparing the next Kyu belt graduation

Writing it out actually makes it seem more manageable. Maybe there will even be room for sleep over the next little while.

Anyways, let’s get on to the weekly recap:

Monday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 9 acts of kindness

Tuesday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 40 minutes of meditation
  • 5 acts of kindness

Wednesday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes of meditation
  • 5 acts of kindness

Thursday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes of meditation
  • 7 acts of kindness

Friday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes of meditation
  • 10 acts of kindness

Saturday:

  • 30 Push ups
  • 9 acts of kindness

Sunday:

  • 200 Push ups
  • 200 Sit ups
  • 7 acts of kindness

So for Week 4 I did: 930 Push ups, 900 Sit ups, 70 repetitions of Seipai, 100 minutes of meditation 52 acts of kindness, and no sparring or jogging.

Cumulatively, I have: 3590 Push ups, 3420 Sit ups, 323 rounds of Seipai, 440 minutes of meditation, 142 acts of kindness, 45 rounds of sparring, and 20 km of jogging. It seems like the only thing I’m staying abreast of are my blog posts (ignoring that this one was a day late).

And lastly, in an act of abstract narcissism, for those of you who read to the end, here’s a video of me using nunchucks at a tournament (comments, questions and criticisms are welcome… except criticisms):

Until next week, Cheers!