Sunday, March 15, 2015

What you don't see..

My good friend, Sensei Paul, once advised me "Look at what your Instructor is NOT doing when he/she is demonstrating. You will get more from that knowledge."

I had NO clue what he meant at the time.  I knew that it sounded wise.. but I didn't understand the message.  Now I do.. 

I can think back on a funny moment when I was trying to learn my roundhouse kicks, and Sensei Walter came up to me with a puzzled face... "Funny", he said "I don't remember windmilling my arms like that when I demonstrated."  I wasn't even aware that my arms were flying around, and back and forth as I attempted to keep balance and do a proper kick.

The things that your Sensei is NOT doing is as important, or even MORE important than those that he/she is doing.

How did your Sensei close the gap between him/her and the opponent so smoothly?

How did he/she keep most of their body still while only one part moved when yours seems to sway, bump, and grind into position?

Why is his/her arm placed in that certain place, and not in the other place while yours seems to switch all over the place?

How is he/she putting so much power, and speed into such a little movement.

Their movements show an accumulation of experience, and inner understanding which comes from the years of doing this activity.  So.. when your Sensei goes up front and demonstrates something that you've seen demonstrated so many times before and you think that you know it.. stop for a second, and really watch what he/she isn't doing, and that you are still doing. Try to figure out what you would need to work on to achieve what they already have...

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Having good posture..

Good posture is essential when performing Martial Arts.. but due to the fact that we are putting so much effort into our strikes, and moves, we tend to forget about our posture.

We don't realize that we are making our attacks LESS effective by ruining our posture, and even taking a chance that we might injure ourselves in our efforts.

How often have you found yourself curving your shoulders forwards when punching, or humping your back?  This means that you are sending the power with your arms.. you WANT to send the power with your whole body engaging the core, legs, and hip into the punch.  In order to do this, you need good posture. You need to keep your balance, and bring your body towards your opponent rather than your head and shoulders.

O.K.. this is a picture taken from a workplace safety website in Australia..Workplace safety, but the same concept applies in our whole life.  See how her head, shoulders, and upper torso are leaning forwards creating strain on her back and throwing off  her balance? 

Now she is more balanced, and can last longer at the chosen activity because she is using her whole body in the effort. The same for fighting, and sparring... If you want to increase your stamina, the power of your punch, and your ability to dodge, and move.. you NEED to start working on good posture.

Go into a fighting stance in front of a mirror, send a couple of slow motion punches, and check out what you are doing with your upper torso.. Are you bending forwards? Are you rotating your shoulder, or keeping your elbows in?  Are your knees bent, or straight? All of these things will affect how well you can deliver, and last in a sparring session.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

An update on my Beachbody Program Progress..

My Insanity Max 30 journey is coming to a close, and I am so thrilled with the results.

In December, I was feeling frustrated with the fact that I had spent years, and years of trying to lose weight, and trim up. I had counted calories, changed my diet, went on juice fasts, added extra exercises like running/cycling, etc to my week, and no matter what I did my body stubbornly refused to budge from 165 lbs. I had promised myself that this year was different. I was now 50 years old.. and if I don't get myself down to a reasonable weight now.. I'm going to find it even harder in the future. 

So I jumped into the Beachbody program Insanity with hope, and a "wait and see" attitude. RESULTS speak for themselves: I lost 8 pounds in just 2 months! That would have taken me half a year before.. IF it happened. But even better than this.. my blood pressure has gone down from 130/80 to 115/65. My resting pulse rate is now at 57 beats per minute. This means that my heart is not needing to work as hard to pump blood through my system. My family has a history of heart problems. I can't start to explain how having the knowledge that my system is working better, and more efficiently is helping me feel more confident about my future. I've lost 6 inches around my waist, and one inch around the rest of me.

I feel GREAT! I have so much energy, and I sleep soundly. The healthy eating choices that the meal plan offers has expanded my diet to include things that I didn't even know were good like apples with peanut butter. It's now my favorite snack!

I'm going to be starting another Beachbody program on Monday, March 2nd called the 21 Day fix. It's easy, quick, effective, and enjoyable. The colorful pre- measured containers help you to portion out your food in a creative manner, and there is so much flexibility to the food choices!

Usually people post a Before/After picture to reveal the wonderful results of this lifestyle change.. but I am going to do something different. My teenaged son took this video of me working out.. and I can see how much healthier, thinner, and energetic I am. I want you to see it too.
video

I'd like to invite anyone who is interested in joining me to post a comment down below, or feel free to email me, or  facebook message me. I will set up a Challenge group, and we will support each other through the month of March to lose weight, eat healthy, and feel happier.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Training our minds...

Attached to this post is a message from Mr. Steve Rowe 

"If we hurt our body we immediately set out to repair it. If we cut ourselves we clean the cut and put a plaster or bandage on it, but if we damage our mind and emotions do we do the same? Most of us have a daily routine to keep our bodies healthy, we put in good nourishment and then exercise it to keep it healthy and then neglect the state of our mind, we allow all the rubbish in, forget to nourish it and don't even think about exercising it healthily. We never think 'I've cut my hand, so let's get a knife and make that cut deeper and deeper' and yet that's exactly what we do when our mind and emotions get hurt, we ruminate on it and wind ourselves up into a really bad state. Mental problems and stress are just as likely to ruin your life and kill you as physical, so when you train, remember the balance is 50/50, you need to train your mind as much as your body. If your mind is troubling you you need to pay more attention to it, nourish it with good healthy input, cleanse it and train it for the future."
 
It isn't possible for me to say this message better than Mr. Steve Rowe did today.  Too many people hurt themselves by letting their minds roll and boil in negative thoughts.  Those kinds of emotions send so many stress hormones into your system, it's like beating yourself up from the inside.

I know first hand about this because I spent almost 50 years of my life struggling with depression, and self revulsion.  It has only been the past year that I took a hold of my thoughts, and decided that no more will I hate myself in the morning, feel rejected, and unwanted, and wish that I was dead.  That was then, and I'm not going to let it affect my now. 

Was it easy to stop the dark whispers in my mind?  No.  It wasn't.. but I found that changing my diet to become healthier, doing daily exercise to heal my body, and working on little self help tools that could interrupt the negative and impose positive has helped me immensely.  I learned that it is the same part of our brain that controls anger and sadness.. so when I would start to feel sadness, I would get "angry" at the emotion of sadness.. for some reason this would put my brain into a shocked neutral state where I didn't feel anything.. and that felt SO much better than feeling the horrid dark smothering depression.  In time, I started feeling "happy".. not a fake plastic happy that I would put on to make people think that I was normal, but an authentic happy where I actually was enjoying myself.

I learned that being content is the natural place for our minds. Our brains struggle to get to a feeling of satisfaction, and contentment.  We just have to help them along by allowing the healing to happen.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Martial Artists have an advantage when it comes to controlling stress.. in my opinion.

On those days where you feel that all is turning negative for you, it's time to stop, take a couple of deep breaths, and turn the day around in your mind.

The more stress that you put into your body the more you make it difficult for you to become healthy, lose weight, and feel good.

Our brains send out a cocktail of hormones when we are stressed to help us survive that encounter. Since we used to need to react to stress with fight, or flight. ( either kill it, and maybe eat it, or run away, and not get eaten) our systems see all stress in the same way. 

Our bodies haven't adjusted to the new stress of getting cut off by another driver, or having to stand in a line up at Tim Horton's waiting to buy your coffee as the person ahead of you is having troubles finding their change.

75 to 90% of all doctor visits are based on stress related problems. Think of all of the good that you can do for yourself by lowering the stress level of your day!

First, you have to recognize that you are feeling stressed out.. Most of us are so accustomed to it that it may feel natural. Check to see if your muscles are tightening.. hands, stomach, neck, shoulders. Check your breath.. are you breathing more shallow, and quickly than usual?  We Martial Artists should be quite familiar with this feeling.. it can happen when you are pushing your body to do that one more kick in class, or facing the challenge of testing in front of your Instructor.

If so.. you may need to de-stress quickly. You can do so by deep breathing using your diaphragm. The fact that you are focusing on something OTHER than what is stressing you, that you are flooding your system with oxygen, and removing carbon dioxide, can help give you the best chance to change your stress level.

Again, Martial Artists have an advantage in this area as we are taught often about the value of proper breathing in order to maintain our stamina during a fight.  We train to Kiai with each strong effort thereby activating the diaphragm, and tightening our core.  Deep focused breathing should be easy for us to achieve in any circumstance... except if you are under water.. then I wouldn't suggest it.

Other quick suggestions can be found here: http://www.helpguide.org/…/…/stress-relief-in-the-moment.htm

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Perfection of Character

Each day is a new opportunity to improve your life, and as the Shotokan Karate Dojo Kun encourages us to do.. "Seek perfection of Character".

What is Character? It is the mental, and moral qualities that you carry each day. It is how much you value the things around you, the people next to you, and yourself.

Do you think that you are important enough that you deserve to have a good day? How can you make today a better day for you and for others? How can you take something that had the possibility of being a negative thing, and turning it around so that it becomes a blessing for everyone? 

Nature does that action all of the time. Trees that die, and fall to the ground become homes to the animal life, and places for children to play hide and seek, and a place for moss, and mushrooms to grow. Nothing is wasted in nature.. not even empty space.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Changing it up...

I didn't realize how important it is to change my exercise routine.  It appears that your body gets used to exercise, and after some time will stop improving, and strengthening if you do the same thing over and over.

I LOVE Karate, and I enjoy training in Karate everyday. In fact, doing patterns is one of the ways that I de-stress, and relax my mind.  For me it is a form of intense moving meditation.  It feels right when I finish my kata, and I'm breathing strongly, and sweating from the effort.

However, I found that adding a different kind of work out, like the ones that I've been doing this month in Insanity Max 30, has helped me to get stronger, and faster and it is showing up in my Karate training.  My kicks feel like they have more speed, and control, and I struggle less to do footwork.

You can change up your Martial Arts training by adding speed, or weights, or switching the kata stances. For example, if the kata starts off in a front stance with a downblock, and goes into a backstance.. switch the stances around.. do a downblock with a backstance, etc.  Suddenly, you will have some interesting combinations. I know that I had to think for a good while to figure out how to do a Kata move with full intensity, and land in a totally different stance after turning 180 degrees.  But why not? If you have done the same basic kata for 10 years, it's about time that you play with it a little, and challenge your brain.  You don't have to remember how to execute these kata because you won't need them for tournament, or testing. The main goal is to confuse your body, and mind, and to force it to learn how to control your balance, and still achieve the same strong results. 

Basics are basics, and why shouldn't we mix and match our stances, and strikes. Who knows what will be needed if we were ever in a self defense position? You might end up pushed up against the wall, and have only enough room to send a backfist in an awkward angle. It might be nice to know that your body is capable of adapting, and reacting.