Sunday, February 24, 2013

A commitment & Placebos

I am sitting here in my bathrobe at 6 PM, heating pad on my back and a fresh box of Kleenex at my side. I have a head cold and am still recovering from a small back injury. What does it have to do with Kung Fu? Not a thing, other than I decided to meet my commitment to blog weekly, and Sunday is my blog day.
 However, in a related theme, I have been looking at the Placebo effect and its relationship to our health. The main thing I discovered in my reading is that “things that can be measured” have the lowest placebo effect by %, and those “things that can only be felt” like pain, had the highest success rate with Placebos. Hey, wait, there is a Kung Fu tie in here, as Chi is something that is felt, not measured.
Conventional western medicine wants to discount anything that they do not have a machine to measure it with, as set forth in the unwritten rules of the religion of Progress. What is this religion of Progress? It is the belief that things are getting better and better, in a lineal fashion, and the proof is in the machines and inventions that we are continuously improving, which are in turn intended to improve life as we know it. In other regions that do not have this bias, many other things are possible. People that believe that we have a life force or Chi, will also be inclined to believe in energy medicine, Reiki, and maybe, on the opposite end, Voodoo.  These beliefs can cause their brains to reinterpret pain signals as not as severe, lift depression and other effects.
So is the real definition of the “placebo effect” more properly stated as “we don’t have a machine that can measure that”, and the self interested person will look at their body as more than “just a machine” and entertain the possibility that there is more to this than a western world view will admit?
Disclaimer, my wife has been training in energy medicine, and practicing on me. I am still working on sensing my Chi, and am a regular reader of the Archdruid Report, and have his introductory book on Druidism, but have not put in the work required to become a Druid. I also regularly see a Chiropractor and Massage therapist, and try Acupuncture when it seems appropriate. At the same time, I am seeing a lung specialist and am on western type drugs for my breathing condition.
Dennis Donohue

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Angry Worms, Sparring, Back Health and Kung Fu

Angry Worms, Sparring, Back Health and Kung Fu
This Blog post is about how I went from excellent back health to sitting in a chair with my mother-in-laws heating pad, hopefully anyone reading this can avoid this fate.  It all started when I needed to move one of my vermiculture bins to get at the one below it. The upper bin had shrunk to about 2/3 full as the worms had eaten their food, so I didn’t think it would be too heavy. I had Sherri lift the other end of the bin, as I did know it would be somewhat heavy and awkward. The plan was to use my right hand and lift the bin away from the corner, while Sherri lifted the open end, moving it far enough forward that I could get both hands on it. We did the lift, but I felt something in my back “give” as we did so. The rest of the lift and the worm feeding went as planned, and I moved the bins away from the corner before lifting (with both hands) the top bin back in place. The next morning (Saturday) my back was a bit stiff, but not too bad, and Tai Chi class felt like it helped. I took some muscle relaxants and sat in the Hot tub that night and Sunday, and things were getting better.  Sunday was official Chinese new years, and I took it easy, only doing 600 modified push-ups and crunches before  calling it a night. Monday night was sparring class, and the already weakened/aggravated muscles rebelled, pulling my sacrum out of place. Tuesday I was in the Chiropractors, Wednesday I missed class, and Thursday combined massage therapy and chiropractic treatments finally put it back in place. Friday was the first day since Tuesday that I could walk upright without pain, but extended sitting at work was still uncomfortable. Saturday I helped with the silent auction, loading/unloading material, helping with setting up and supervising during the event. Despite being very careful, the hours spent standing up on concrete had their toll, and today I am again babying my back. Tuesday I have another chiropractic appointment so I hope to be able to be mobile for Wednesday’s class. I am a walking warning though about pushing too hard on injured parts, and taking longer than the fastest recovery because of that. I am going to be working on “cane” form for I Ho Chuan, but may need to add in a “walker” form as well.
Dennis Donohue


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Old Man Training

This was commented on by Sifu Masterson a few weeks ago, and as we start the year of the snake I am going to comment on this as I see it pertaining to myself. Now I am not the oldest person on the team, and I am not certain that I am even in the top 5, but it does affect me. Compared to when I was 17 and joined the military, bullet proof and invincible as only a 17 year old can be, I do not heal as fast, and seem to be injured easier. Actually at 17 I was not that bad, being the youngest & smallest guy in class taught me a few rough lessons, combined with life-long lung issues.  Some of these lessons were learned the hard way, such as let’s give the smallest guy in the platoon the biggest weapon, and have him carry it a far longer distance than was appropriate, even for a big guy. This is where I learned that I could “power thru” by force of willpower, and have back problems for several years after, until a significant number of chiropractic treatments were administered. Now I am trying to listen to my body, and when I do something stupid (discover that the worm bin weighs far more than expected when lifting it, off center) modify my exercise to address the need to heal.
Today’s 1000 push up/sit-up challenge is a case in point; I am doing crunches instead of sit-ups and most of my push-ups are off of a counter (30 degrees instead of horizontal) to compensate for the aggravated muscles in my lower back. I have not quit, but am working on something instead of all or nothing. Cardio type exercises are another item I need to modify, as I have discovered. If I push myself in cardio training or during warm up, I will work up the appropriate sweat, and get the benefits, but at a cost. My mental abilities then suffer until I am able to get my blood oxygen levels back up to normal, this means that I am uncoordinated and have difficulty performing techniques that I know and have practiced, for the first ten to fifteen minutes of class. When the actual instruction portion of class is only 35 minutes or so this is a problem, do I work up a Sihing Tymchuk type sweat on warm up, but pay the price mentally, or take it easy and set a poor example for the junior belts but learn more in class?
 Until next time, when you may see me working on perfecting my cane defense
Dennis Donohue

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What am I getting into?

I am observing the tail end of the Dragon teams year, and preparing to enter the year of the snake. At the same time, my company has been sending me for training as a new supervisor, much of which is directly applicable to any team that is expected to function well. The main points that I see as being applicable here is a clear set of goals and expectations.
Here are the goals I am seeing vocalized for the I Ho Chuan teams, in no particular order:
1)      Black Belt pre-grading requirement
2)      School demo team, both weapons and hand forms
3)      Personal development
4)      Dragon dance/Lion dance demo team
5)      Philanthropic organization (fund raising and snow shoveling)
Balanced against that are limited resources, which also have other demands on them. My personal priorities are (in correct order)
1)      Health (without health all else is a wash)
2)      Family and my marriage (the cost to losing these is too high to trifle with)
3)      My employment (which pays for everything)
4)      Kung Fu
I am very familiar with the balancing act required when the desires of upper management exceed the resources provided, within the constraints demanded (stay on budget, work safe, no lost production etc). The only way to survive without a stress induced breakdown, is to get clarification on what the real priorities are, what they are willing to compromise on, what can wait for a better day.
“Perfect” is the enemy of “Good enough”
I recently had to coach a subordinate who was going over time and budget on a project due to attempted perfection. I had to explain the difference between the expectations of a framing carpenter, who will be working with rough lumber, with the final product of his work being hidden behind drywall, and a finishing carpenter doing kitchen cabinets. He was trying to apply the standards of one to the other, and was not realizing the true cost.
How do I see this applying to Kung Fu? From my understanding, Kung Fu is trying for a well rounded Martial Artist, but not an expert in everything. Over history, other disciplines have specialized in one facet or another, but had to drop something to achieve that skill. MMA guys might be the best in a cage match, against a single, unarmed opponent of a similar weight, guaranteed that no friends will show up to help and a referee to stop the match before things get out of hand, but how will they do in the real world?
I joined Kung Fu to get in shape, learn some potentially valuable skills and to enjoy my life in the process. The “Kung Fu is a generalist” take on life fits with my personal values. My request to the team, and its leaders, is for a clear guide to the expectations that joining the team entails, so that I can either agree, or withdraw before the implied contract is in force. Once we have agreed to the terms, I will do my best to honor them. This also implies that if any party to this agreement wishes to change the agreement, that they must again negotiate the new terms, not dictate them.
I want Kung Fu to infuse my life, not wash it away
Dennis Donohue