Friday, September 28, 2007

A tribute to my First Internet Sensei

It's been about 5 years since I met Sensei Paul on a forum that does not exist anymore. I was a beginner at Shotokan karate, barely placed a color around my waist, and I had joined a karate forum that I had hoped wasn't too active. At the time, I was homeschooling my kids, and I wanted to try to keep up with the postings. Sensei Paul was the first person to greet me. He was funny, intelligent, obviously knowledgable, and such a warm, welcoming person that I enjoyed each one of our interchanges.

One day I asked him directly to tell me what rank he had achieved in Martial Arts. I remember his response to this day "Which Art? I have a closet filled with titles.. pick one." He wasn't joking. Sensei Paul had been taking Martial Arts since he was a young boy, and has lived a life filled with various experiences. He started off learning Judo in the basement of his Sensei on a dirt floor that they would spray with water to keep the dust down achieving a high rank in that Art. In fact, he admits to me that to list all of his titles of Martial Arts would take forever, so he tells me to "just call him Paul and to think of him as a student of the Arts."

Today he teaches Tai chi. I would like to believe that my youthful exhuberance had some effect on his decision to enter this Martial Art. Through our communications, I kept hearing Sensei Paul expressing how much he desired to rekindle the same kind of energy, and joy that he kept hearing from me. I challenged him to do so, and he responded by exploring more deeply the art of Tai Chi, and achieving the rank of recognized Instructor. I was given the honor of becoming the very first honorary student of his Tai chi club. I am SO proud of my Internet Sensei: His openness to seeing the beauty of all Martial Arts, his willingness to share his knowledge with others, his humility at being able to interact with a lowly white belt beginner with the same amount of respect as if he was speaking with a Shihan, and his perseverence in spite of any obstacles that come his way. If I could have people say to me "You are JUST like Sensei Paul Danelutti..", I would be extremely happy with myself.

He taught special self defense classes to veterans, physically challenged people, mentally challenged people, children, etc. His love for Martial arts, and his joy of sharing the benefits of training have fueled him into a lifetime of affecting those around him, and helping them to believe in themselves, and their ability to surmount difficult challenges. He had the exact same effect on me through just his words sent in my direction as I struggled through my training. He held my hand when I needed support, he virtually slapped my face when I needed a wake up call, he believed in me when I had doubts, he challenged me when I felt overwhelmed. He has been with me through every class offering suggestions, encouragement, and most importantly his presence.. not physically.. no.. he lives in Florida, and I live in Canada. We have never seen each other. No.. Sensei Paul's presence, and words are centered in my heart. His comment to me of teaching with knowledge, and not derision has directed my every effort to help others as I offer people correction in the dojo.

Thank you, Sensei Paul, for sharing my path up the Shotokan mountain, and beyond. Yes, you were right. There is a Black Belt in me, I found it, and I brought it out. I didn't believe you when you said it so many years ago, but I believe you now. There were so many things that you warned me about, and forecasted that became true, and I'm so glad that I had your wisdom, and experience to guide me when things seemed to be helter skelter.

ONE day, it is my desire, to stand upon your doorstep and ask you to teach me. We will both have to be patient because I am still a mother of many children, whose first priority is to create a good future for them. BUT.. Usually, when I desire something as much as this, usually I get what I want. Do not be surprised when I show up, wearing my Gi, ready to shake your hand, give you a HUGE hug, and then have the experience of you helping me up as I "trip".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Note to self, watch what you say in front of your kids.

Non Karate moment, but learned an important lesson about communication:

I caught my son talking to his friends about what cats eat.

"Cats eat other cats" says my son with confidence.

"No Way!" says one of the little girls "They eat cat food."

"Yeah.. and they eat other cats. My MOM says so!!" argues my son "She told me that if we brought a kitten into our home, our cat would eat it for breakfast."

My eyes widened, and I almost broke out into a fit of laughter right there. I meant it metaphorically! Ha ha ha.. So now my son believes that cats are feline cannibals. I must help him realize that cats normally eat mice, birds, cat food, not other cats... at least not usually.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Training my mind ( warning contains some religious aspect)

Today I rested from all of the extra training that I've been doing this week to allow my body to recuperate. I decided to do some reading. I picked up "Spirit of a Sensei: A study of Japanese Martial Arts." written by Andrew Bowerbank.

The most enjoyable part of the book is the first section which looks at a personal in depth discussion on the effects of training in karate, and how well one remembers what they have learned from their past training. Mr. Bowerbank mentions..

"When trying to recall content much later on - for example, in an exam - many students will recall their teacher's passion first, then "follow" this feeling into that part of their memory where they can also recall the required material more precisely." (Pg 22-23)

As I read this sentence, I was hit with the truthfulness of it. Most of my strongest educational memories are attached to the person who taught that aspect of knowledge to me, and the manner in which I was taught. I have the loudest memories from those teachers that had a passion for what they taught. I could almost taste the enthusiasm, and joy that they felt as they shared the knowledge that they had within them. I felt an echo of interest, and curiousity as to why this was so important to them. As I learned more and more, I found myself embracing the joy of experiencing that previously unknown world as becoming my own.

Yes... I want my own fire, desire, and spirit for karate to infect, inspire, and bring others to the same realization of how much good Martial Arts can be for one's progress. I have seen similar concepts in many other parts of life. Almost every expression of a human being's inner creativity, and spirituality. i.e. Dance, paintings, song, sports, etc. It is the person that truly rejoices in what they are doing, and learning that attracts the eye, the mind, and the heart of others.

I've also seen it in my religion. I remember a wonderful quote that said "Faith is caught, not taught." I have always put forth my own joy, spirit, and desire for spirituality in my life as a seed to attract, inspire, and encourage others in their own path. There was so much more to sharing knowledge for me when I taught Sunday school. There was an opening up of "who" I was, and allowing the students to witness the deep vulnerable inner spirit within me.

This kind of revelation is to place oneself in danger of ridicule, and even rejection. Not everyone is attracted to a deep passion, and energy, there are some who are repulsed by such a display of dedication. Yet that is the chance that the teacher takes when putting forth in public their passion for what they have found to be of value to them.

"Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." Albert Schweitzer

Such is why the attitude, and demeanor of the Sensei, and Sempai of a karate club is so important to the development of the lower kyu belts. Enthusiasm, and positive energy is catchy, and lifts the whole class into a level of training with full spirit which helps cement the knowledge into memory. I still have wonderful treasures of memories of moments in the dojo when the whole class worked as one to achieve the challenges placed before us by our Sensei. I remember the sparkle of appreciation, and pride that I saw in the eyes of my teacher as he watched his students surmount, and gain victory over the obstacles placed before us. It was a challenge that we shared together, and found a link of satisfaction among us at our success. We almost fed each other energy as we continued, and continued. Then at the end of class, after line up, I remember hardly being able to stand up from seiza, and watching some of my fellow students just roll over to lie on the ground facing the ceiling in exhaustion... but we all had smiles on our faces. We appreciated what we had achieved, and saw the value in it. This is where I can see Sosai Oyama's motto "All selfish desires should be roasted in the tempering fires of hard training." coming into fruition. By working together, sweating together, relying on each other with each person straining at their fullest, we learn to appreciate the goodness of each other. We share our inner spirit, joy, and dedication in a safe place where it can be encouraged, and even built up. Why did we push ourselves so hard? What motivated us to dig deeper within us to find the energy to meet the challenge? It was the passion, energy, and positive spirit of our Sensei calling out for us to meet his expectations. As a unit our class rose to the call, responded, and gave forth the best that we could. We were a team.. all being led by the guidance, and words of our instructor.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Planning ahead

As I have mentioned before, I want to compete in Tournament as a Kyokushin Adult Kata compeditor.

My goal is to attend a Tournament in Montreal next spring. Now is the time to train, and prepare for that competition. However as a Mom with many kids my time is precious and limited. Also, my body only allows me to train THIS much before it starts to overwork, and shut down. I have to be very careful as to how much I do, and when I do it. Considering that I am continuing my Kyokushin classes 3 times a week, and I'm visiting the Tae Kwon Do classes with my daughter also, I realize that I have to be gentle, and wise with my tournament training at home.

I have set up a blog to keep track of my efforts, organize them as best as possible, and to post my progress. Feel free to visit there whenever you want.

Kata training Blog

Friday, September 14, 2007

Looking at sugar a little more closely

Wow.. that experience that I just went through was something else. I've been looking back at it with introspection. As Sosai Masutatsu Oyama stated "Introspection begets wisdom. Therefore, see contemplation of your actions as opportunities to improve."

My body was sending me huge warning signs as I ate the first dessert that I had had enough calories being put into my system. I was getting loud "That's enough" signs. Yet, through encouragement from others, my resolve broke down and I went for a second, even MORE sugar filled dessert. It didn't take many words of support to convince me to go for more since I mentally wanted to have that treat. Physically, my body was almost screaming.. "No more!" I didn't listen, and I truly paid the price.

Now is where I wonder.. How did my body know that I was eating too many calories? It takes hours for the food to digest, and for the blood sugar level to rise in my system. What signals were telling my body to already start reacting negatively to the oncoming food?

I have read information that states that a person's body will react before that person takes a drink, or smokes a cigarette. Scientists have found that people need only to think about doing such things, and the body already starts chemically preparing for the onslaught. Does our body have a similar system for food intake?
Is there a pre-digestion system that looks at what we already have in our system, and sends symptoms of "FULL". I do know that our body has a system of familiarity. You can only eat so many items of one type before your body sends loud "full" symptoms, but if you switch to another type of food, then your body will feel hungry again.

Through my searches on the internet, I have found this wonderful resource which gives suggestions towards a more balanced, and healthy way to eat food. Here are the first four suggestions:

1.Know what being hungry feels like. This takes some practice. Know that being hungry is a feeling of needing food, any food, in the pit of your stomach. It is not your mind thinking about what it wishes you could eat.

2.When you're eating a meal, stop when you're satisfied, not when you're full. Don't you hate when you feel as if your stomach is so gorged it's going to explode? This is a sign that you have made a mistake in how you just ate.

3.Eat only when you're actually hungry. U.S culture seems to think that people get hungry at about 9 AM, 12 noon, and again at 6 PM. While this may be a generally good schedule for eating, remember that (usually) you don't have to eat at meal time if you're not hungry yet. Also, if you are hungry between meals, go ahead and have a healthy snack.

4.Realize that in general, your portion sizes are probably too big. Accepted portion sizes have practically doubled in the past 50 years. Remember that your stomach is about the size of your fist. Don't expect to stuff 10 times that amount of food into it without negative consequences.

This website is FILLED with wonderful practical tips that I know I will implement in my daily eating. I am aware that the healthier my body becomes, the louder will my body be when it recognizes something happening that is not good for it. Therefore, in the past, when my system was groggy, and less perceptive, eating a large amount of junk food didn't seem to affect me much. I could sit down and eat almost an entire large pizza in one sitting, downing a large pepsi, and then eat a large ice cream blizzard, and I'd just feel a mild complaint. My body was too sluggish to really react. But now.. it looks like all of my efforts to improve my circulation, digestion, and abilities are working. I abused my eating for one thing, and WHAM!! My body slams me with an extreme reaction of response. Hmm.. I guess that this is a good thing.. *wince*

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Taking the bus, and feeling the sugar

Taking the bus:

My husband is not driving me to and from the dojo anymore as he is working in the evenings, so I take the bus. This usually isn't a problem, but this week I wanted to bring the big kicking bag with me. What made matters worse is that I was attempting to carry on my backpack heavy with karate things, AND the bulky kicking bag onto a bus that was packed with Rush Hour travellers.

It was quite a juggling act to not thump one person's head with the bag, and to avoid slamming the legs of another person with the backpack. Suddenly a kind gentleman saw my predicament, and offered to keep the kicking bag under his legs for the majority of the trip. I sighed with gratitude. WHAT a ride that was!! What an experience that I do not wish to repeat.

Here is another experience that I do not wish to repeat. I went out with my mother, and sisters for lunch to celebrate my upcoming birthday. As some of you are aware, I have been changing my diet to reflect healthier eating. However, due to the "buffet" environment, and the fact that I wanted to relax, and enjoy myself. Not only did I get myself one dessert after the meal a chocolate mousse.. I went for another WORSE one.. a triple decked sundae. I walked out of that restaurant totally overfilled with sugar. My stomach felt like a lump in the center of me. Then, about four hours later during karate class.. I felt horrible. My joints felt stiff, and unbendable. I had a headache at the back of my head. I had no energy.. none.. it took immense concentration just to force my body to get into a stance. I was sluggish, and uncomfortable to the point of wanting to give up. I felt like a moving cadaver. I even groaned like a zombie with almost every movement.

I had to admit that the ONLY change this day was that I had eaten too much sugar. I'm not used to eating a ton of sugar like this anymore. Now, I had dumped SO much sugar into my system that I was suffering from it. I swear that I felt so awful it put the "fear" of eating sugar again into me. I'm not kidding.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Here we go to Taekwondo

My daughter comes home with a newsletter from her school stating that Taekwondo classes start this week, and that people interested can come visit, and train for free for that class. Her eyes filled with hope, and that "PLEASE" look, as she asked me if I would take her to this introductory session. "All of my friends are going to this.. I want to go be with them."

Now.. I wasn't against her doing another art as long as she commited herself to this. I was all for her learning more about another Martial art, and seeing the differences. She had achieved 8th kyu in Shotokan, and 8th kyu in Kyokushin. Why not look into Taekwondo? The only concern that I had was finances. Can we afford Martial arts classes again? Ever since I had stopped paying for Shotokan training, our family budget had started having room to breath again. I wasn't eager to start paying for membership fees, testing fees, class fees, tournaments, seminars, etc. etc. again.

With a breath of resignation, I gathered up my Gi, and a white belt, and accompanied my girl to this Taekwondo class to support her interest in another art. It was true that all of my daughter's friends were there, as soon as we entered the gym, she was surrounded by at least 6 other kids her age who were cheering the fact that she had been allowed to come. I saw my girl just glow with joy at being in this environment.. her own school, with her friends.. to do Martial arts.

The Instructor was a very kind, and knowledgeable gentleman who offered a well structured class that appealed to the student. It gave enough challenge, but at the same time allowed the practioner to regroup inbetween sets of exercises.
It was in a similar vein to every other Martial arts class that I've taken, warm up, basics, conditioning exercises, patterns. I had approached the Instructor before class started to mention that I'd like to partake in the class to support my daughter's interest. I didn't wish to sit at the back of the gym and watch when I could be up and training. I warned him that I was already training in a different Martial art, and that I was not seeking to advance in TaeKwondo. He gave me a warm welcome, and invited me to work out with his club doing my own Art on the side.

Well.. after the class, the payments were explained, and I was pleasantly surprised by the affordability of these lessons. This Instructor was obviously doing a type of outreach club for those children who could not afford to learn Martial arts in a commercial dojang. He had made it possible for my family to consider budgeting in Taekwondo lessons for our daughter. Since I was walking my daughter to, and from her lessons on Monday, the Instructor encouraged me to continue "working out" with his club instead of sitting on the bench and watching the class, and to do my Kyokushin kata when they focus on patterns, and sparring. What a SWEETHEART of an Instructor!!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I should have listened to my kids...

"Mom?" my 12 year old daughter said to me with deep concern "It's pretty hot outside, maybe you shouldn't wear your raincoat to karate class."

"But.. I have to leave now to catch my bus, and what else can I wear over my Gi that will hide it?? I'll be fine.." I responded.

"No.. Mom.." echoed my 8 year old son "It's hot out.."

"I've gotta go!.. sorry.. I'll be o.k." I said.

DUH! I should have listened to my kids. I was HOT! SO HOT!!! I had the usual equipment on me for training: shin pads, protection, t shirt, Gi pants, and jacket, and belt on, and then over that I had this big bulky raincoat, and sweat pants over the Gi pants. I was carrying my backpack that felt as heavy as a 5 year old child.

I stood waiting by the bus feeling like I was in standing in a sauna. The raincoat had NO ventilation, and it was a dark navy blue color. People walked past me in shorts, and a t shirt giving me strange looks at how dressed up I was.

I stood there pretending that I was exactly where I wanted to be, and how I wanted to be. Oh Gosh, it felt good to strip away the raincoat, and sweat pants when I arrived at the dojo. I sat in the grass in the shade waiting for people to arrive, and cooled down as much as possible before class started.

That wasn't too keen of me, to put myself through so much heat exhaustion BEFORE class started. My gi was drenched in sweat already, and I hadn't thrown a single punch.

OH... I went to the gym with my husband on Monday. We paid the $10 visitors fee, and I had access to all of the various cool equipment. I tried out the special resistance training machines that use air to cause tension. COOL! Yet.. I kept looking longingly at the basketball court and thinking.. Wow.. such a nice open area for kata. Finally, I couldn't resist anymore. I left my husband working on the various cool expensive machines, and I took off my shoes. I entered the empty basketball court and joyfully proceeded to do kata after kata nonstop. I lost count of how many I did. It didn't matter.. I was having fun. A WHOLE basketball court size of empty smooth flooring space to do kata!! All to myself! No wasps. No neighbours calling encouragement. No people driving by and yelling obscenities. No sticks, rocks, grass, or bumps in the ground. No tables, chairs, or walls to interrupt movement. No children asking me if they can do this, or eat that. No one correcting me as I performed. No one calling out a count, but just me and my kata. I was in heaven! An hour and a half later, I noticed my husband leaving the exercise machines, and I went up to him smiling, all breathless, and with drops of sweat dripping off of each one of my hair strands. I couldn't believe that it was time to go already. Those exercise equipment were interesting. It was nice to see all of the technology at work. It took my heart rate, provided a nice wind, showed me how many calories that I had burned, how fast I was moving, what muscles were working.. but all of this just couldn't compete in my heart with a nice large private open floor space.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The internet is right, it took a year.

About a year ago, I had one of my toenails damaged to the point where it fell off:
Injury, nail pops open, nail pops off

The information that I received on the internet was that it would take close to 18 months for a new nail to grow in. I can attest that finally I have a nail on my toe that looks almost normal, and it has been nearly a year of time. So, although one cannot believe everything that one reads, or learns, one should be open to possibilities and potential knowledge available on the web.

Sure.. I've seen, and read some rather unbelievable statements that I have to shake my head and wonder if it's real. For example, in Japan, is it true that a drinking product is sold called Pocari Sweat where they have factories of an animal called a Pocari housed in a warm environment with collector tubes attached to their sweat glands to capture the sweat, and then they sell this like bottled water?

Check it out.

You MUST be kidding me! Who in their right mind would want to drink the sweat of an animal that looks like a grey half cat/ half rat? Who would pay for such bottled stuff? Who would accept that kind of animal abuse.. IF this this happening? But there it is on the net, over and over, labeled bottles of pocari sweat available for purchase at only $2.60 a bottle. Someone is buying it, otherwise the product couldn't exist.

Not everyone is a nice person on this earth. I like to believe in the goodness of others, and people like to believe that they are always the good guys, but I have learned through experience that there are many who have developed different outlooks, and goals for themselves. Perhaps it is their pride that overruns their good judgement, or perhaps it is internal faulty values that guides their thoughts, but these people make their own lives miserable by the negative emotions, choices, and thoughts that swirl in them.

For example, my daughter and I were riding the bus home. The bus driver had to stop a little sharply for one of the stops. We passengers was unbalanced some by the momentum. My daughter and I calmly brought our balance back into play, adjusted, and waited patiently. However, the fact that this happened totally unsettled one of the lady passengers who then erupted in a cascade of anger, and swear words towards the driver for the next 5 minutes until she stepped off of the bus. She attacked his skill as a driver, and his personal character. I heard the driver defending himself against her charges, and then I realized something important. There was really no need for him to defend himself. The anger, and negativeness of the woman was coming from a spot within her, not from the fact that the driver had to stop the bus more sharply than usual. None of the other passengers were reacting negatively, we all had calmly readjusted our balance to compensate. None of us had the slightest inclination to even complain. This one woman was speaking as if we were "with" her in her opinions, and anger... but we weren't. In fact, what I saw in the eyes of the other passengers was a non-emotive response of "Leave the busdriver alone, get it over with so we can continue in our travels"

That woman got off of the bus, and walked away still angry and cursing. I could see her carrying her anger with her all the way down the street. I turned to my daughter and said "She is hurting herself. This negative anger is causing all sorts of damaging chemicals, and stress hormones to be released into her body which will cause tons of chain reactions. The longer that she carries this anger within her, the more damage she will do to herself. Learn to react to a moment, learn what motivates your response, look at how you are judging others behaviours, and learn to calm yourself down, and see the bigger picture so that you can let go of the little things, and live a happier life." I remember a very good, wise, priest friend of mine saying to me "Standing at the end of a dock crying, and feeling sorry for the whales predicament will not change anything. All that you will get is a headache, and a sore stomach. The whales will be no better off. Choosing not to embrace, or accept the attitudes, and behaviours that has placed the whales in the situation that they are in can change your life and theirs."

I have seen this Pocari sweat product, realized where it's source comes from, and personally decided that I would not support such a thing. I have seen the negative reaction of that woman discharged at someone who was just doing his job, and I have decided that I do not want that in my life.

There are alot of judgements that people like to place on each other which should be shrugged off. Ideas like "fat people shouldn't bother exercising". Honestly, who in this society of overweight children, and adults needs to consider improving their lifestyle the most?? There is no shame in starting off in exercise as a fat person, and working towards a healthier lifestyle by training, and eating more healthy. However, this effort takes humility, because when you start training as a fat person, there are many people with negative judgemental attitudes that will attempt to discourage you from your goal. They will wag their tongues, and give you disgusted "looks" to shame you back into hiding in your home, eating chocolate ice cream, and watching t.v.. Again I quote my wise priest friend "Choosing not to embrace, nor accept the attitudes, and behaviours that have placed the whales in that position can change your life, and theirs."

Since Christmas, my husband has lost 40 pounds, and I have lost 30 pounds. Does that make me a better person? No. Does it change my value, nor the effort that I have placed towards my karate training? No. Does it enhance my knowledge of karate? No. All of these things were there regardless of my physical side. The changes of losing weight means that my clothes are now baggy on me, and I have to get another wardrobe. Also, I have gained some greater physical health benefits. Less chance of diabetes, heart problems, sleep problems, etc. If I had allowed the negative attitudes of other people dictate whether or not I trained in martial arts, I would have chosen a different path. I would have continued avoiding all exercise, and eating tons of unhealthy food. Today, I would probably weigh in over 230 lbs by now, and have such an unhealthy lifestyle that I would have difficulty walking from my kitchen to my dining room. I am SO grateful for the gift that my first Sensei gave to me when I approached him and asked to join his dojo. The honest respect, acceptance, and dignity that he gave to me which allowed me to see myself as something other than a fat, useless, out of shape, sickly, ugly, and unwanted person opened the potential for so much progress in my life. He saw the predicament of the whale, and chose to embrace a different perspective. When others saw futility, he saw potential. It only took the hope of a promise in his eyes that perhaps I might be able to achieve something to fuel the same hopes within me.

Sure.. we human beings can affect each other negatively, or positively, but I believe that in the end, it is our own personal choice whether we stand and cry for the whales, or choose to change ourselves.