Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Druids,Sprints and Marathons

Today’s post by Arch Druid John Michael Greer, at, challenged his readers to get up from the computer, and lower the thermostat by 3 degrees. Not because it would make a huge difference in the world, but because they would be doing something tangible and constructive, whereas all the talk in the world would just make you look like a hypocrite without that action. Kung Fu is similar in that talk without action will get a similar lack of respect, but how do you know which way to turn your personal thermostat? If you approach a year of I Ho Chuan as a sprint to the finish line, jumping through hoops along the way, and a beach chair, margarita and a life of leisure the reward at the end, then you would probably have the furnace at full roar, damm the torpedoes (injuries) or the final cost.  If however you are into practicing for the marathon of life, and I Ho Chuan is a training session with some of the best coaches around for this lap around the sun, pacing yourself wisely is the order of the day. I am trying to create my 2013 goals such that I develop a good steady cadence that will enable me to finish in style, still going strong many laps down the track of life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Competitive Blogging

When I was told that weekly blogging was a requirement of I Ho Chuan, I thought, hey no problem, I never missed a week in the fight club blog, this isn’t that different.  However, the reminder to the Dragon team that they need to keep up to date with their blogging got me thinking. One of the big differences is feedback. With Fight Club, there was immediate feedback from your competition, and a ruling by the Sifu in charge on whose was best. Sometimes blogging with I Ho Chuan feels like blogging into the Void, does anybody even read this thing? I know that when somebody comments, either in the official comments or verbally, that the feedback means a lot to my motivation to continue. So if you like feedback, give feedback. I will try and make a point of letting people know that I read their blogs, as I know that I appreciate feedback. The next problem is that I have not figured out how to score these things so that we can get some competitive action going, any suggestions?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sleep, another goal for 2013

While choosing goals for the 2013 I Ho Chuan year, I was concerned that I would fall into the trap of “just get out of bed an hour earlier” or variations on that theme. I have found that for optimum performance, I need to average about 7.5 hours of sleep a night. Without this much sleep, averaged over a week or so, I notice a few things, such as my ability to focus drops, and my wife reports that I may become slightly “crabby”. I have never noticed the crabby part, but I do know that I become somewhat more cynical, and also let my “inside” voice out more than I should. I have survived on less than 4 hours of sleep a night while in military boot camp but that was partially an exercise in brainwashing (stress tests) combined with behavior control.
  As I still need to keep a paying job, with all the perks of a steady income, and I do like being married to my wife, sleep must be accounted for. At some point in the future, I may become enlightened enough to control my body to the point that I need less sleep, but I also want to sleep in a warm bed until that time. I ask others who are contemplating their next year’s goals to ask themselves what boundaries they need to protect, encourage or set in order that their real goals can be accomplished.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Guns Goals & Motivations

I have been thinking of what my goals for 2013 I Ho Chuan will be, and one I have thought of is to take at least 3 people shooting. There are several reasons, some self-interested, some a bit more broad.
My personal reasons are that I like to go shooting, shooting is something that needs practice, and I did not make time to go last year.

The next reason is the more broad based one, education. A gun is just a tool, and the more familiar a martial artist is with these tools, the more likely a successful defense, or if they end up in possession of a gun during a confrontation, the ability to use it safely. I have told new shooters that a gun is like a chainsaw, no more (or less) dangerous. It does not make someone a psycho killer any more than a chainsaw makes you go to Texas and start massacring people.

One of the last times that I went shooting, I took someone who had never shot a pistol before, and only had Hollywood for a reference. Now, if you watch many movies, you know that a) the good guy just waves his gun in the general direction, often while executing a summersault or other gymnastic action, and either fires a single round which magically hits his target like a heat seeking missile, or b) fires 47 rounds from a single magazine, all of which miss any innocent bystanders, and instead hit the bad guy like a freight train and throw him through the nearest plate glass window. Bad guys of course never hit the hero, but also miss all innocent bystanders.

The reality is that shooting is a skill, not a special effects department. This seems to have a lot of parallels with the Martial Arts in my view. Another parallel is in the weapons laws, which, in my opinion are racist and sexist. Racist in that traditional weapons of the orient (two pieces of dowel and a string?) are against the law, and sexist in that almost all “ladies guns” or “purse guns” marketed to women in the US are specifically prohibited in Canada to the law abiding citizens (criminals, by definition ignore these laws).
So every person that I can take shooting is one more person that knows the truth, and will be less likely to swallow the propaganda of those that would take my guns away. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Level 10, Lazy or....

I just read Sifu Princes blog "Level 10" and had some thoughts on why I have often not operated at level 10 myself. From the time I was an infant, I have had below normal lung capacity and lung issues, but not bad enough to warrant medical intervention. The side effect of this was that I did not enjoy any type of exercise that required cardio endurance, which happens to include most sports. I was not physically inactive, but favored sports where I could put in a short burst of effort, then rest. The other factor was that I am easily bored by repetitive exercise, such as weight lifting (Zoning out about the time my blood-oxygen levels would have dropped, I wonder if there is a connection...).

I joined the military as a young man, which has some mandatory fitness goals, and did OK in that department, but never excelled physically. A funny thing though was that the military uses push-ups as a disciplinary exercise, where any infraction (real or imagined) earned push-ups as punishment. So although I did a lot of push-ups, I did a lot less than many of my peers, as I quickly learned not to be caught doing whatever it was that was earning the push-ups. 

Forward a few years, and I started King Fu with my wife, who is much more motivated than I am, and some things have changed. My initial motivation was to get rid of a bit of middle aged spread, and learning some valuable skills sounded good too.  At this point the aversion to push-ups had to be dealt with, so I did them, but never enjoyed them (they were still too close to punishment in my value system). The main saving grace for me was a combination of stubbornness and cheapness, as I did the math and figured out that if I only went to one class a month, it was a very expensive class, but if I went to all my classes and open training, the cost of an individual class was pretty cheap, so I made a decision not to skip classes without a substantial reason, especially if the reason was that I was just feeling tired or lazy. 

 Now I am up to brown belt, and have a medical diagnosis of COPD, a variation of asthma. I have discovered that certain brands of toothpaste aggravate it, and have removed as many other factors that could aggravate it as well (such as pet dander from Sherri’s birds) and gluten from my diet. The learning in this is that the asthma has been affecting many of my behaviours towards physical exercise. The lack of oxygen during exercise made sure that I was not very good at most of it, the lack of social acceptance that came with the lack of physical prowess further cemented the attitudes I was developing, and exercise used as punishment was the icing on the cake. My normal reaction to doing something that taxed my respiratory system was to avoid it or dial it back until my oxygen levels came back up, which also explains my aversion to weight lifting (it’s hard to concentrate on good form with low blood oxygen levels). I had always assumed that I was just lazy, and had many people confirm that self assessment, and was quite comfortable with it until I became involved with Kung Fu. Slowly the incompatibilities of “lazy” and “Kung Fu” became more apparent, as I did want to learn, and did try to improve. I told my doctor that I was concerned that I was winded after walking up four flights of stairs at work, he said that I was in good health for someone my age, I might just be getting old.  I accepted this, and carried on doing my best at Kung Fu, even pushing myself hard enough at the shuttle run to become physically sick from the effort. My skills were improving, I was progressing, but my stamina remained poor. 

This didn’t change until I failed my annual medical breathing capacity test (someone my size should be able to move 3 liters of air with my largest breath, I was actually testing out at 1.2 liters). I work in a plant that contains asbestos, silica dust, coal dust and many other nasty things that can affect lungs, so Workers Comp mandates annual testing, then medical follow up too rule out workplace causes. I was eventually referred to a lung specialist, tested and diagnosed with COPD, or chronic obstructed pulmonary disorder, with an unknown organic (read non-work related) cause. 

Drugs were prescribed, the house cleaned and the birds moved to an area where their dust would not affect me, and a connection was made with when I first started using Sensodyne  toothpaste and when I started having the more serious problems. I have removed Gluten from my diet, as it can cause an assortment of issues, including inflammation of your joints. My joints have improved, and I no longer get the “arthritis” feelings n my hands and wrists with weather changes, and if gluten was causing inflammation in my joints, my lungs could have been affected as well. I suspect that the gluten has been causing problems all my life, and the toothpaste pushed things over the edge.

 My lungs are getting better,  my stamina is noticeably improving, and with it many other facets of my Kung Fu are also improving (one down side, at last Saturday’s fitness class and forms seminar, my lungs held out enough that most every other muscle  was worked to exhaustion, with the following 3 days being painful to move).

The conclusion to this post is for others to look at why they are not able to perform where they want to be, and to see if outside factors are the root cause. The lung issue has modified my behaviour over the years, it will take time to change it, but I am seeing positive changes now that something has been done. I hope that this post can help others in the same situation I was in, as ignorance is not always bliss.