Friday, August 23, 2013

Taking a Break

Inspiration has been lacking and I won't put out bullshit, so The Santa Fe Ninja is taking a break. Maybe a month, maybe longer.

Peace

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rapid Weight Loss and Dehydration

               The use of rapid weight loss techniques (dehydration, extreme calorie reduction) has long been an issue in wrestling. Though many steps have been taken to change the rules of wrestling to prevent rapid weight loss, these techniques are still widely used. With the rise in popularity of mixed martial arts, we are seeing the spread of these rapid weight loss techniques into a larger section of the population.

               The topic is rather controversial, as a number of wrestlers have died from these rapid weight loss techniques(1). Virtually no health professionals support the use of these techniques, yet they remain in use. This is largely due to the fact that scientific research is ignored and weight loss techniques are passed down from coach to athlete(2), something I have witnessed personally.

               Basic scientific studies on the effects of dehydration and low glycogen stores show that the athlete's bodies will be less effective when engaging in competition. The actual effectiveness of lowering one's weight has not been widely investigated in wrestling or MMA, though one would assume that due to basic physiological principles, it would lower the effectiveness of the athlete's performance.

               The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) believes that lowering an athlete's body fat percentage below 6% is unhealthy, and that these rapid weight loss techniques lower performance.

               From all available research, it would appear that lowering an athlete's body weight through dehydration and extreme calorie restriction are a bad idea for optimal performance.

               One aspect of wrestling that was changed to try and prevent the use of dehydration was the changing of weigh in times. Where once they would weigh in 24 hours ahead of time, they now weigh in several hours before competition. This obviously causes the effects of dehydration to be much worse, since there is no way to replenish all the fluids that would be needed to be replenished in a severely dehydrated body. That being said, some athlete's still engage in this practice, and many wrestlers restrict their calories. Because of this, they are, for the most part, low on glycogen stores. Being that wrestling is a largely anaerobic activity, this would seem to be a poor idea.

               MMA, however, still allows it's athletes to weigh in 24 hours before competition. Because of this it is not uncommon for these athletes to lose 10 - 20 lbs of weight in water the day of weigh ins. The use of IV's after dehydration is widespread. The effectiveness of this is hard to gauge. I myself have lost 10 lbs in water weight (from 145 to 135) been given an IV, and competed the next day. In the 24 hour recovery period I was able to eat and drink a large amount. I feel as if I filled my glycogen stores and that my 
effectiveness was not lowered. My body felt as good as it did when it was hydrated and fed normally.

                In MMA and other competitions where striking is used, having a larger frame that is capable of generating more force when punching or kicking is useful, so if your opponent is dehydrating himself to get to a lower weight class and you aren't, he will most likely be much larger than you. I believe a new metric should be created, rather than relying on weight alone. Instituting urine specific gravity tests (testing for adequate hydration levels), much like those used in college wrestling could solve this problem.

               As the rules are set now, I believe an athlete does have a competitive edge if they use dehydration in MMA and maybe even in highschool wrestling. I also think that the rules should be changed, in wrestling and MMA, to remove this competitive edge. As of right now, I haven't heard of anyone pushing for this in MMA. 

Sources listed for once!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Micro-post: Exercise and Baseline Happiness

               Caught myself sleeping, almost forgot to write something up today. Forgive me. It was a leg day.

               I find one of the greatest benefits of regular exercise and training is that it keeps my baseline of happiness high. What I mean, is that it is almost impossible to fall into a deep despair. When someone I'm close to dies, or when a relationship ends, or when I get my ass kicked I get sad. It's a natural reaction, but I have an exercise schedule and I keep to it.
              
               When I'm doing squats, or rolling, or trying not to drown, there is no room in my mind for despair. I can't feel sorry for myself and do pushups at the same time.


               Afterward, the chemical cocktail that exercise releases relaxes me. The aching of my body lessens the pain in my soul. I can be sad, but only to a certain point, because whether I'm in a good or bad mood I'm still going to have to get off the couch and get my work in. 


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Protecting Our Children


 Taking personal responsibility for one's own safety is not something that is stressed in our society. This is especially true for children. Children are innocent, pure, and it is thought that they should be able to live a life devoid of responsibility for their own safety. They are supposed to be protected. 

 Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Assaults, both violent and sexual, can happen at any time. There have been instances of children being sexually assaulted while out to dinner with their family, in the public restroom. I believe an important thing to remember is that anyone, at any time, can be assaulted.

 I don't say this to instill fear. Indeed, if Steven Pinker is to be believed, human to human violence is on the decline. I personally expose myself to environments which might be considered dangerous, but when I do so, I take steps to safeguard myself. 

 Firstly, I believe awareness is key. Knowing where the people are in your environment, what kind of environments are dangerous, and when it is time to leave are all important parts of personal safety. 

 Second, once awareness as been established, a mental framework for setting boundaries and remaining assertive in the face of aggression must be established.

 A small example: While taking part in a political protest march, a loud, aggressive homeless man began walking near the line of people. As soon as he came close to me I stepped away, keeping him out of striking range. A woman behind me, chose to ignore him. She got punched in the head. Don't do that.

 After awareness and boundary setting skills have been acquired it can then be helpful to learn certain martial arts techniques to defend against an attacker. Without the previous two skills, even an experienced martial artist is at an extreme disadvantage in a dangerous street situation.

 For children, the same principles apply. Though they may not be able to effectively protect themselves using martial arts, they can learn awareness and boundary setting techniques which could save them if they were to be assaulted. I think this is something that should be taught in schools. The "Just say no to strangers," policy is a little to simplistic, especially since a large portion of sexual assaults are perpetrated by people who are not strangers.

 It's not fun, it isn't pleasant, but I believe these are things we need to speak to our children about. These are skills that our children need to learn. 


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Athletes, Alcohol, and the Growing Acceptance of Marijuana

               I'd like to preface everything I’m about to write with this: I don't support the use of alcohol or marijuana for athletes. I believe anything that may have negative net effect on an athlete should be removed from that athlete's life if possible (evil girlfriends included).

               That being said, I would like to delve into the topic of recreational drug use by athletes. Though high intensity sports discourage many athletes from using any recreational drugs, alcohol and marijuana are still in use by many.

               Mainstream American culture tends to accept the use of alcohol and demonize the use of marijuana. For a man to say he's going to celebrate a win with a beer is normal. Replace beer with joint and it's headline news. Recently, I have noticed an increase in the acceptance of marijuana use in the MMA, BJJ, and grappling community. I believe the reasons for this are physiological.

               Both alcohol and marijuana are used as a kind of stress relief. Because of its illegal status, marijuana can be less of a communal activity, though in many social circles it is used for the same reasons as alcohol: stress relief and peer bonding.

               Alcohol, however, causes far more problems for an athlete's body than does marijuana. A short list of alcohol's effects on athletes: impaired ability to repair tissues (muscles), impaired glycogen production (less energy), dehydration, impairs ATP production (decreases endurance), impairs absorption of micronutrients needed for ATP production, increased weight gain (the body treats alcohol much like it treats fat, very detrimental to athletes that need to maintain weight), impairs learning ability, weakens the immune system, and impairs the sleep cycle.

               Marijuana is noted for decreasing cardiac stroke volume (how much blood your heart pumps per beat), an increased heart rate (bad for endurance), impairing learning ability, impairing the immune system, and creating respiratory problems if smoked. There are also some studies suggesting marijuana can lead to an increased risk of developing psychological issues if used before the brain is fully developed. For this discussion, I will assume we're just talking about adults.

               As you can see, for most athletes, marijuana is less detrimental to athletic performance. This is especially true for sports where aerobic capacity is not as important, such as MMA, BJJ, and grappling. I think an honest assessment of these drugs must be made. Just looking at the effects of these two recreational drugs, I believe alcohol will always have a detrimental net effect on athletes. I believe the argument that marijuana can have a positive net effect on athletes can be made, depending on the amount of stress the drug relieves.
              
               Personally, I have never used marijuana and I don't plan to any time soon. I drink approximately one alcoholic beverage a month, if that. My main drug is coffee. I believe stress relief can be accomplished without the use of any drug (including prescription drugs). I urge young athletes to seek out non-drug methods of stress relief. One method I have found to be quite pleasant is the use of binaural frequencies. Several programs are available (Brain Wave in the apps store). There are also many songs using this technology available online. I find it gives me a little endorphin rush and helps with relaxation.

               That’s all I have for now. If you want my sources, ask for them. If you disagree, bring your arguments.


Peace

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nutritional Supplements

               One of the more profitable sections of the fitness industry are those companies that create supplements. This is also where a majority of misinformation about sports nutrition is seen.

               Walk into a store dedicated to selling supplements and most people are convinced of several things. The first is that their fitness related problem, whether it be an inability to lose weight or gain muscle, can be solved by one of the many products available for purchase. The second, is that all the claims of increased performance found on the supplement packaging can be trusted. They can't.
              
               The majority of shady claims are structural / functional claims. An example would be, "Helps to increase energy." How it may help, and what their definition of energy is, is usually not stated. These kinds of claims are not regulated by the FDA. These claims are regulated by the FTC, though a product can be on the market for some time before it is reviewed. Though supplements are supposed to list all ingredients contained within them, they are actually allowed to be placed on the market before their product is tested.  Obviously this is dangerous for athletes who have to deal with a state commission, or college athletes who may be tested for performance enhancing drugs. In the past, supposedly benign supplements have been found to contain performance enhancing drugs.

               So, if not supplements, what should you put in your mouth to get a performance boost? A balanced diet, for one. Most supplements don't outright lie. They claim that they do one thing or another, based on some of the vitamin or mineral content contained within them. If an athlete is deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral, using a supplement that provides that micronutrient can be beneficial. However, it's almost always safer and cheaper to eat a natural food that contains that micronutrient. Most studies done on the subject have shown that  an overdose of vitamins or minerals has little to no benefit. Also supplements are one of the easiest ways to ingest too much micronutrients. In the case of a mineral like magnesium, this can lead to nausea, diarrhea and a bad day.

               Many young men I talk to, between the ages of 14 and 21, think they need to use meal replacement supplements (protein shakes) so that their muscles will repair. For most people, this is not true. The majority of these  recreational athletes could drink a small bottle of chocolate milk directly after their workout and then go eat a balanced meal and recover perfectly well. These meal replacement supplements are often times expensive and there is no need for the majority of the population to use them.

               Where they can be useful is for serious athletes who engage in 3 to 4 hours of moderate to intense exercise a day. These athletes, depending on their size, may need to ingest up to 5,000 calories a day. Some athletes, such as those involved in ultra endurance sports, may need more than that. That is a lot of food and a calorie dense meal replacement supplement can help them get the calories they need to repair body tissues and replenish their energy stores. For your average gym rat, these supplements are a waste of money. I'll probably have a few more blog posts on this topic, because I've only scratched the surface of this topic. 

In the mean time- eat some fruit, a tuna sandwich, drink some chocolate milk, and get swoll.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Micropost - The Division of Mind and Body


               The idea that the mind is separate from the body is an old concept, though, in today's world I have seen it attacked by materialists, as well as those who are religious.

               Regardless if the mind and body are separate, I think the idea that they are separate can be useful.

               I've been an athlete for roughly ten years. When I was young my training and conditioning  were filled with stress. I knew the conditioning was going to hurt me. It was a requirement if I wanted to get stronger.

               When I was about 20 I began reading a lot of hippy/new age books. In one of them they spoke of Buddhist monks who could run inhuman distances. They would run at night, focusing on a single star until they fell into a trance. When they came out of it, they would be at their destination. This was appealing to me because, at that time, I was routinely woken up by unpleasant men and told to go run a 5k. I tried the trick of staring up at a star and falling into a trance. It didn't work for me, but the idea was planted in my mind.

               Fast forward to me at 23. I began practicing lucid dreaming techniques. One of these was to lay in my bed, completely still. When a person does this, several things happen. The first, is that the body begins itching. The trick, is to let the itch, itch, and continue not moving and just relax. If you can do this, the next step is to allow your body to begin breathing by itself, without your input.

               The body then begins to fall into sleep paralysis. The arms and legs go numb, or feel as if they are sinking into the bed. The feeling of my body breathing without me and losing feeling, all while I was completely conscious flipped a switch in my head. Since then I rarely view the feelings of my body as my feelings. To me they are wholly separate, which makes it much easier to get in those final sets of pushups, or relax and act intelligently while I'm being strangled.

               I suggest  everyone at least try putting their body into sleep paralysis while they are conscious, as it is a novel feeling. Simply lay down, and don't move for the next 20-30 minutes. Having complete darkness helps.

               This post is already too long.

               Peace.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Failings of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program circa 2010


                When I was a young man, 19 and without any real direction in my life, I wanted two things. I wanted to have a job that would keep me in good physical shape, and I wanted to learn how to be a martial arts badass. I think it might have been a recruiting poster of some faceless man in cammies throwing a side kick that got me thinking about joining the Marine Corps.

               There were myriad reasons for my attraction to the military, but number one among them was the promise of learning a deadly martial art. Military martial arts...just saying those words evokes mystery and power. And so, it was with great sadness that I learned the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) was mostly useless.

               Here is the problem. On paper, MCMAP looks like a good martial arts system. There are punches, kicks, ground fighting, knees, eye gouges, compliance techniques- everything you could want. The problem is that nearly every technique, from the jab to the ground fighting, was taught by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Many of my instructors had taken a six week course and were thrown back to their battalions to teach MCMAP. Imagine giving a BJJ white belt with a month and a half of experience a class of 20+ students to teach.

                Things would get out of hand quick, and they did. Injuries abounded. 

                One reason behind this was inexperienced instructors. Another reason was that training only occurred every few months, and when we did, we focused on ego driven training. There was rarely an enjoyable rolling session. Usually it resembled a school yard brawl, with all your friends cheering for you while you fought for your reputation. The loser rarely learned anything, and  was often dealt with harshly. In losing there was only humiliation. This might be why people would sometimes refuse to tap, and arms were snapped.

                In the midst of all this, I was lucky enough to find a safe haven. There was a small BJJ club that met on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the on base wrestling gym. There is where I learned to relax, to release my ego and work with others to become a more effective martial artists. It paid off, in that almost no one in my company could really touch me when it came to ground fighting, and my skill level was that of a regular white belt. Also, for those that don't know, I am a small man.

               So, why isn't MCMAP effective at making Marines dangerous martial artists and what could be done about it? I'll try to lay it. 

                First, the ego driven training needs to be removed. This is part of the culture of the Marine Corps, especially among infantrymen, and it hinders all forms of learning, from CQB training, EOF drills to martial arts. 

                Second, instructors need to be heavily trained. Most of the instructors I came across couldn't throw a proper jab, hook, roundhouse, or do simple ground fighting sweeps. That's unacceptable.  

                Third, commanders should allot time to be training these techniques every day. Most days, as an infantryman stationed in North Carolina, I spent my time reading books or playing video games. One reason MCMAP isn't widely trained is because the instructors were incapable. Spending more time training ground fighting, hitting pads, practicing disarming and compliance techniques, in a egoless atmosphere, would do wonders for morale in my opinion. 


                Those three changes could seriously help the state of MCMAP. I think bringing in outside martial arts instructors to help facilitate these changes might be necessary. Regardless, if the Marine Corps' training methods don't change, MCMAP will continue to be mostly useless.

            For dramatic effect, I give you this video. Its already made the rounds, but I think its worth watching again. I want everyone watching it to understand that most Marines who have received MCMAP training, from tan belts to brown belts, even some black belts, would have fared exactly the same as this Marine did.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Micro-post - Losing Weight

               This post will cover a few of my thoughts on losing adipose fat tissue, not cutting water weight. Over the years, and in high school wrestling in particular, I've had people tell me how to lose weight. This advice usually consisted of someone telling me to eat less and exercise more. Not much help. So, being that I'm on the weight loss portion of my periodized exercise plan, I figured I'd share and idea that I have found works for me.

               Firstly, I eat until I am full. I can't help myself. It doesn't matter if it's kale or ice cream, if I'm eating it, I'm eating it until I am no longer hungry. Because of this I have found that foods with a calorie density over 2 calories per gram will make me gain fat tissue. The way I measure calorie density is by taking the calories in a serving, and dividing it by the grams (serving size). Because nutrition labels have hundreds of different ways that they classify serving size, I always do this division so that I can see how foods actually compare. The reason for this is that I'm going to eat a stomach full of that food. Its calorie density is very important.

               Once I have taken all my foods and figured out their calories per gram, I see which ones are highest, and which ones I think I can replace. Tortillas are the highest (3 calories per gram) thing I eat, but I find it very hard to stop eating them. However, I have found that I can take whole fat yogurt (0.8 calories per gram) and switch it out for all the oranges I want (0.4 - 0.5 calories per gram). This doesn't seem like a big deal, but I eat about 600 calories a day in yogurt, so when I switch that food item out for something that has approximately half the calories, I have a negative calorie balance of about 300 calories.      
        
               I have found this to be an effective method of easy weight loss. It isn't fast, but this, along with an increase in exercise allows me to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

               Now imagine if someone is constantly eating something like cold cereal (usually 3.7  calories per gram) or pop tarts (4 calories per gram) and they switch that out for a less calorie dense food. That can have a major impact. Small note alcohol is 7 calories per gram. Whenever I start drinking alcohol I notice an increase in my fat tissue.

              Also. Back in 2010 there was a teenager in Santa Fe who dressed up like a ninja and went into jewelry stores with a hatchet to steal there wares. If you Google "Santa Fe Ninja" he's on the top of the queue. I assure you, that is not the true Santa Fe Ninja. My beard is far more powerful. I'm gunning for that punk's spot.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Simplicity and Perfection

             With the simplest tools, the most amazing things can be done. An artist can have access to the most powerful imaging technologies, but truth can still be shown with a simple brush and paint. The trappings can often get in the way. Martial arts is no exception.

               What draws many people to martial arts is the style and flash. Spinning backfists and sacrifice throws. Of course they have their place, but perfection, to me, is rooted in simplicity.

               The more advanced students at my jujitsu academy seem to have a few techniques that they work on religiously. I personally only use four or five submissions and 90% of my taps are from one of those submissions. Wrestling is much the same. I have a few takedowns. They are mine and I can transition between them seamlessly. They are simple and everyone knows how to defend them, but I drill them. I tweak them and make small adjustments until my execution is just a little bit sharper than my opponent's defense. And that is where I win.

               I am relatively new to striking, but I apply the same principles. I sit in front of a bag and throw jabs. Throw it out, leave the arm loose, tighten the fist, shoulder impacts the jaw, hit with the right part of the fist, bring it back straight into my guard. The first punch most people learn is deceptively complex. I pawed at the air, or the bag, for six months before I threw my first decent jab. I practice those basic strikes over and over and each time I come back to them, I find some small thing I'm doing wrong.

               With these simple tools, sharpened to a keen edge, the martial artist can do amazing things. That is what most people miss. What we remember are the stunning, impossible moves that end the fight. We forget that what got the fighter there, most of the time, were basic moves, drilled continuously. Simple footwork, clean form. If you've been training for less than ten years, that is where I suggest you focus your training. Still, leave room for the spinning elbows and flying knees. They look really cool.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Technology, Religion, and Transhumanism

I missed my deadline yesterday. Had a surgery, finals hitting for me, deal with it.

 Now, for today, I give you a presentation on technology, religion, and transhumanism. Click the pictures and the bubbles on the top left of the pictures for lengthy monologues. Go from smallest pictures to biggest pictures for optimal experience. Watch the movies. I suggest you open another window and listen to this music while you go through it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXS8PJn0Tfs

Note: There are some small incompatibilities with my technologies. Might need to highlight and scroll down to read some texts.


http://flowboard.com/s/1fxx

Sources:
C.G. Jung
William James
Peter Diamandis
David Noble

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lies My Self-Defense Instructor Told Me

            I know this post's title is a little sensationalist, but I couldn't help myself.

            I believe self defense is often misunderstood by the majority of people I come into contact with. Say the words self defense and the majority of people think of brutal martial arts techniques, weapons, and firearms. In most cases, I believe all three of these are counterproductive to the goal of self defense,  which is self preservation. A majority of people I speak to, men and women alike, see self defense as a violent repelling of an offender. While this has its place in self defense, it should be a small part of one's self defense training. 

              The larger issue, and one that is often overlooked, is the negation of physical violence through verbal posturing, de-escalation techniques, body language, and awareness. I have used each of these facets of self defense in the real world many times (in Iraq, as a social worker in Toledo, as security for an Occupy encampment), but I have never needed to use physical force in order to protect myself.

               Martial arts is a percentages game. All the blocks, strikes, and techniques increase the likelihood that you'll win a fight, but there are no guarantees. A high level boxer has a good chance of beating a normal man in a standup fight, but the improbable can happen. Sometimes the improbable is personified as a sneaky bastard with a lead pipe that you didn't see. Sometimes it’s a knife, or a gun. You can execute a perfect double leg, take mount, and start viciously beating your opponent, but none of that matters if his buddy boots you in the head and sends you into a comma. Martial arts, firearms and other weapons can increase your odds of survival in a worst case scenario, but if you stay out of physical altercations all together, your odds of surviving a dangerous situation are much higher. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Micro-post Conditioning for Martial Arts


              Micro-post, so I'm going to fly through my thoughts on this. I believe the most important aspect of martial arts conditioning is maximizing your body's anaerobic energy system. Quick biology lesson. The body has three energy systems. The phosphagen system is used for very short bursts of activity, such as a dead lift or sprint that can't be maintained for more than 10-15 seconds. Anaerobic system (no oxygen used) is used for activity that can't be continued past two minutes. Activity that can be continued past two minutes primarily uses the aerobic system.  In competition the body relies primarily on short bursts of anaerobic activity lasting from 30 seconds up to nearly two minutes. In between these sprints, your body uses it's aerobic energy system to replenish some of your spent energy.

               The best way I find to train this is using continuous interval training. One example is using a Tabata clock and a 20 second work, 10 second rest method. I usually use six exercises, doing each exercise seven times. Each exercise is done as fast as possible. I alternate between arm, leg, core and full body exercises. I try to make it sports specific by having practicing double legs, wall walks, working the heavy bag, or doing updowns to name a few examples. For me, this provides the closest approximation to what my body goes through in a martial arts competition. It's a sprint of activity, followed by a short chance to catch my breath, back to a sprint of activity, for a continuous twenty minutes.

               Of course, practicing your actual sport is the most effective ways to get in shape for competition. However, I find that these workouts allow me to learn how to optimize my body's recovery time, how hard I am capable of pushing, what it feels like when I need to ease up, all without having to worry about someone grinding my face into the mat. This allows me to understand cues from my body when I'm sparring or rolling. I know when to push and when to pull back. This is a skill that I feel gives me an edge over many opponents.

Questions or refutations, post a comment.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nationalism and Martial Arts

               Those who watched the Silva vs. Weidman fight last night were treated to some odd happenings. Chief among them was the major upset of Silva losing to Weidman in the second round. There was also the notorious showboating and taunting that Silva is known for, though I think he took it to a new level.

               What I found most odd about the fight was the crowd's reaction to Weidman winning.  As Weidman lifted the American flag over his head portions of the crowd began chanting 'USA! USA!". Personally, I was one of the louder spectators, cheering as I saw Silva go down, but it never occurred to me to see Weidman's win as one more point for the good old USA. It felt eerie; the droning chant, the US flag held upside down. It gave me the feeling that some of the people present were headed away from patriotism, toward nationalism. When I say nationalism I mean: excessive or fanatical devotion to a nation and its interests, often associated with a belief that one country is superior to all others

               What place does nationalism have in martial arts? If we look back twenty, thirty years, the martial arts world was a different place. Martial arts were separate and distinct, usually being associated with a particular nations or geographic region. A bias that had the same flavor as nationalism was present in many schools. Bruce Lee's films were known to highlight his use of Chinese boxing against western boxing thugs.

                I experienced this to some extent as a young man growing up in Montana. The only real martial art that was practiced in my town was wrestling, and only at the high school level. Because we were so isolated all wrestlers had an inherent arrogance when it came to their ability to fight. They saw boxers as pushovers, Jiu-jitsu as 'gay', and any martial arts that utilized kicks as stupid (because they'd be taken down easily). This faulty worldview was helped along by the early success of some wrestlers in the UFC using ground and pound tactics. My illusions of wrestling's superiority to all other martial arts was shattered when I began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other striking arts.

               For anyone who is a follower of MMA competitions, I think many of these feelings have been dispelled. With such an open rules system, what works in physical combat is kept, while what doesn't work falls into obscurity. The lines are not drawn so think anymore. Everyone trains a grappling art, everyone trains take downs, everyone trains striking. Where the punch, armbar, or double leg originated from is becoming less and less important.

               Though people are losing their fanatical support for certain martial arts styles, many still cling to the country of origin of fighters. This is obvious when GSP fights in Canada, or any Brazilian fights in Brazil. It may have something to do with the collective wanting to share in the victory.

               An example: Weidman won, Weidman is American, America won, I’m American, I won.  

               I feel connected to the fighters, not because of ethnicity, nationality or martial arts styles, but because they are martial artists. I have that connection whereas many people who do not train regularly, don't. As far as ideals and desires go, I probably have more in common with a Brazilian martial artists than I have in common with most Americans. The fights are there so that I can witness whatever truth comes out of the fight. The truth that was presented to me last night was that if you drop your hands and act silly long enough, you'll get knocked out, eventually.

               But back to nationalistic feelings and fighters. I feel more connected to people based on shared disciplines, rather than our shared country of origin. I feel connected to anyone who is struggling and working hard at becoming what they want to be. I wonder if more people focused on bettering themselves through disciplines, if nationalism might fade away. Then perhaps we could start seeing everyone as human beings, not as American, Iranian, Ugandan, or Brazilian.

              Quick word on logistics. I've changed the comment section so anyone can post. I'd love to hear what anyone has to say on this subject.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Micro-post - Play as Divine Action

               Short post today. Something to think on.

               I believe play is a way to come closer to perfection, to divinity. It is a path to egoless action. To play, to release attachment to outcomes and engage genuinely in the moment, with joy, is a high calling. I feel as if our culture discourages adults who play, until that play transforms into mastery.

               When I perform cartwheels in a park, or dance in an unabashed manner, I feel as if other adults tend to be threatened by this. I'm no better. I catch myself being incredibly judgmental of adults who engage in play in the outside world. I believe this lack of play has resulted in a large number of adults being disconnected from their bodies, from their true thoughts.

               Today, as you engage in the festivities (if you're American) I suggest you engage in play. Let your inhibitions go unchecked. Enjoy life.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bullying

       As a people, Americans tend to be aggressive. This aggression can take many forms, and it permeates our society from the top down. Since I have little experience as a venture capitalist, I will scale down to a micro level and talk about our schools, a topic I have slightly more experience with. 

Aggressive behavior is commonplace in our schools. News stories and government initiatives targeting 'bullying" make the rounds once or twice a year. The solution most often offered is to is impose stricter punishments on 'bullies". I will admit that something should be done to prevent children from being verbally and physically abused by their peers, but I don't believe that enacting stricter punishments will stop these instances of abuse. It's similar to increasing jail time for certain crimes. This punishes people that transgress against the law, but it doesn't actually lower than instances of crime. 

I think we need to look at the problem of bullying from a personal level. First lets define bully. I consider it to be anyone who uses aggression as a tool to have their needs met.  Money, material goods or peer recognition are examples of a bully's needs. This aggression can be verbal or physical. I consider the main attribute of a bully to be this aggression. 

Here is where we run into trouble. Few children self-identify as bullies. The reason for this, as I see it, is that our society allows for several labels to be applied to people who exhibit aggressive behavior, both positive and negative. Nowhere is this more evident than in our media, namely movies and video games. In the stories we tell ourselves, 'bad guys' exhibit aggressive behavior, but so do our 'good guys'. A common theme used in movies and television is the quirky sidekick who absorbs verbal and physical aggression from the protagonist. Because our society views aggression as being both positive and negative, many children I have dealt with view their own aggression as positive, or justified, even if it is obviously not. 

Even if they are brought before a councilor or a group of their peers to have their actions laid before them, they will often not accept that their behavior was that of a bully. Humans do not like to place negative labels on themselves. If, by chance, a human does apply a negative label to themselves, they often refuse to accept the legitimacy of the society from which the label came. An example would be a criminal, who self identifies as a criminal, and has a kind of pride in that label. In this case the individual will most likely continue the aberrant behavior, and we are no better off. So, labeling people doesn't work. I believe we have another option, but it will require a radical shift in perspective. 

Here it is. All aggression is negative. All aggression is bad. Now, I'm sure were I having a conversation with individuals, I would start getting a large number of 'what if' questions that would put these assertions to the test. 

What if my girl friend is being beaten by five men in an alley? Should I non-aggressively ask them to stop?

No. The obvious answer is that there are times when aggression is justified, and even needed, but it is always a negative experience. It is always a bad thing, and should be avoided at all costs. Most children don't understand this. Hell, there's a large percentage of adults who don't understand this, as can be witnessed by going to a local club, pub or bar. I believe that if we want to see a drop in the aggressive behavior, then we need to characterize that behavior as negative and undesirable, regardless of the justifications. 

Self-defense can still play a roll in keeping our children safe, as long as it is truly self-defense. I have seen many instances of children attacking their peers and claiming that they were defending themselves, even if they were striking someone who was running away. True self-defense involves extracting yourself from dangerous situations before they become a problem, sometimes at the expense of your ego. Physical violence in a self-defense situation should be almost unheard of.

An individual who beats someone, or uses verbal aggression to belittle another person shouldn't be lauded as a hero regardless of the situation. A person who uses aggression to resolve a conflict, justifiably so or not, should receive no more glory than someone who mops up the floor. The behavior should be demonized, not the individual. This is a radical statement, and I'lll accept criticisms of it, but I do think that this shift in values will lead to fewer instances of 'bullying'.

Thoughts?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gear Review: Knife - CRKT M16



Quick switch from my regular posts. Every now and then I come across a piece of gear that I like to recommend to everyone I know. One that I am constantly telling people about is Columbia River Knife and Tool's M16 folding knives. There are around 46 different variations. The major differences are in color, blade style (tonto or spear point), serrations, hilt (full or single), size, and integrated functions (glass breaker and seat belt cutter). For the average person I would suggest a spear point tip, serrations and a blade not larger than 3.5 inches, but a lot of that is up to preference. On to what I like about all of them.

I'll keep this short and sweet.

All M16 variants have a dual locking mechanism. Whereas most folders can be closed with one mode of input (pushing the locking mechanism to the side), these CRKT folders require two modes of input (pressing down the safety, then pushing the locking mechanism to the side), making it much safer. This is also what is known as a virtual fixed blade. I've used regular folders before and nearly had a few accidents. I've had zero close calls with my CRKT folders.

The M16s have a simple to use opening assist. A wrist flick, combined with pressing down on the assist opens the knife. I find that my opening time is as fast as a spring loaded knife.

Third. These knives come with a dual edge and are exceptionally easy to sharpen. The serrations need to be sharpened rarely. For the serrations I suggest taking it into a professional, or buying the right tools to sharpen them.

These are the most ergonomic knives I have ever used. I suggest buying one with a longer handle. The 4.8 inch handles fit my hand best. For most people the spear point is a better option than the tonto blade. Tonto blades are harder to sharpen and it's harder to make clean draw cuts with them. Tonto blades do look more intimidating, have a stronger tip, and supposedly are better at piercing body armor, if that's your thing.

        The knife in the picture above is my zombie apocalypse knife.

        One problem that some people complain of is that these knives can be hard to close one handed. The video below will show you the simplest way to remove the knife from your pocket, open it, then close it.

How to close a CRKT M16 folding knife




Sunday, June 23, 2013

World War Z - Spoilers Inside (but you shouldn't care, that movie sucked)


I can't prove anything, but it seemed to me that World War Z was designed to make vaccinations more appealing. In my peer groups, vaccinations have been falling out of favor. I don't know many people who take yearly flu vaccinations, and I know several people who have not vaccinated their children. Though the movie obviously made some money off of Pepsi product placement, I don't think it's too farfetched to speculate that they might also have received some support from companies who create vaccinations, or the backers of these companies. No proof, but I think it'd be worth looking into, if anyone who reads this is an investigative journalist.

Why do I think this? Many of the details from the source material, World War Z the book, were changed, to the detriment of the movie.

 First, the incubation to full infection period of the virus is roughly 12 seconds to ten minutes. This fast turnover, from normal human to flesh eating, undead zombie, makes for spectacular scenes in the movie, but is far removed from the book. The book had a much longer incubation time, if I remember correctly it was at least as long as a day, maybe more.

The reason many zombie universes allow for a longer incubation period is so that the virus is capable of spreading to all corners of the world, because of our vast transportation infrastructure. Some rich man gets bitten, and tries to flee to another part of the world. The plane lands 18 hours later, he gets a hotel, then turns. With a 12 sec incubation period the virus would move through a city like a wild fire, but the threat would largely be contained to a geographic area, as governments would quickly destroy any planes or ships leaving the area. . With the long incubation time, the threat is spread worldwide before it is understood to be a threat. With a short incubation time, the immediate threat is great, but easily contained.

Second, these zombies are like suicidal, kill happy, lions. They sprint and leap and bite and show far more coordination than the average American citizen, unless they are fighting Brad Pitt. This, coupled with the speedy infection time, makes it completely impossible to fight these zombies using conventional means. Even the solution proposed in the book World War Z, which included firearms, would not be sufficient to quell this form of zombie tide.

Most of the characteristics that make up these zombies are ridiculous, even by zombie standards. It truly looks to me like the makers of this movie set out to make a movie where vaccinations saved the day, then tailored the universe around that. Some of the zombie's abilities, such as the ability to 'sense' if someone has a fatal disease, seems to be lacking in logic.

But hey, it’s a summer zombie movie, who cares?  
I do. Damn it.

The parts of the movie I enjoyed the most were the last two minutes, where they were showing large scale zombie conflict. They left out all the best parts of the book. In fact, I think the only thing they took from the book was the Israeli response to zombies. Any of the storylines from the book would have made a better movie.

In my opinion, this movie was CDC propaganda. I'm making no comment on vaccination's effectiveness or safety. What this movie seems to be doing is trying to sway public opinion toward viewing vaccinations as a positive thing. I think it does a decent job at that. As a zombie movie, its lame.

Hiking, Mental Toughness, and the Acceptance of Pain

               Walking with a pack. When I was in the military we called it humping. Some people have superiority complexes, and believe you can't call it 'hiking' unless you are in the wilderness. Well, I don't care much for where it's done, but walking long distances, far away from home, with all of your basic needs strapped to your back has done me good. (Notice my narration voice is far more provincial when I talk about outdoorsy stuff.)


My father introduced me to hiking. I usually didn't do it with a pack, but with a rifle during hunting season. The distances we covered weren't huge, maybe three to five miles in a day, but to my ten year old self it seemed like I'd been through a true ordeal. Fast forward to the military.

My father's hikes were designed to keep me from getting too tired. He wanted me to have a nice time. Every hike I encountered in the military seemed designed to make my life as miserable as possible. I had Inadequate sleep, because we had to be up at 3:45 to get our weapons. I had inadequate stores of energy in my body, cause I hadn't eaten breakfast. My pack was too heavy and the twenty pound rocket launcher and eight pound rifle I had to carry didn't help. Neither did the flack jacket or kevlar. Moving the gear around didn't help. One thing you learned was that you were going to be in pain. There was no way around it. No matter how you arranged your gear, or carried your weapons, it was going to hurt. In the words of Stephen Pressfield, the Marine Corps taught me to be miserable.

That might not seem like a valuable skill, but it has served me well. I find that there is a separation between my body's pain, and my mind. When I am in pain, I no longer need to respond as if it were bad. This has helped me immensely during my conditioning training. It has allowed me to set aside my pain, and figure out a way to lessen it.

When I ride my bike, if I am pushing hard, my legs burn. If I switch my breathing pattern so that I am taking in more air, the burn begins to subside. If I'm doing burpies, instead of concentrating on my pain, I concentrate on economy of movement.

If there is one thing I have learned about fighting, it's that you are going to be in pain. No matter what you do, you're going to get tired. You can't escape it, if you try you're probably going to get hurt, or put on a weak show. The best thing you can do is accept it. Live there, in the pain, and remove your attachment to it. This was taught to me by hiking.

If you are reading this and you feel you need to increase your mental toughness, strap a pack to your back (35 pounds will do) with a little food and gallon of water and go walk twenty or thirty miles. It doesn't need to be in the wilderness, it could be around your town. I suggest you walk for three hours, then take a one hour break, rinse, repeat. Take some mole skin, wear some moisture wicking socks. If you've never done it before, you'll want to quit after the first hour. You'll probably tell yourself that it was a stupid idea, or that it isn't even a good way to train. You'll come up with  many reasons to quit. I suggest that you don't. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Roll in the Creation of a Warrior

               Because it is Father's Day I've decided to speak about the role my father played in my life, as it relates to martial arts and the warrior archetype. As I was growing up I wasn't aware of what I was striving towards, but looking back on my young self, it's obvious to me that since I hit adolescence I have been seeking to personify the righteous warrior. That term sounds silly, but it's the best way I know to describe it. This seeking has had its boons and repercussions, but where did the seeking come from?

               I can distinctly remember the first time my father introduced me to martial arts. It was after watching a television episode wherein a father teaches his children, who are in danger of being eaten by dinosaurs, some karate techniques. I guess it inspired my dad, because after that episode he had us doing katas from what I think was kung fu. From that point on, every few months, my father would slap box with me, wrestle, and stress the importance of being kind and never using force to harm another person unless you had no other choice. These small training sessions, and the lessons that went along with them, were fun, but they didn't change my world perspective. No doubt they planted seeds  that would guide me as I grew older, but even now I only half remember them.

               There is however, one moment that I remember perfectly clear. When I was a child, I had what might be called night terrors. To put it simply, I literally believed that a werewolf was going to claw through my wall, or run down the hallway, and eat me. A few times a month I would lose composure and scream for my mom and dad. This didn't go over well at three in the morning, when both of them had full time jobs to work. Their reactions ranged from sympathetic to angry. My father even tried to reason with me.

               "Where do you think I'd be if those creatures were real?" my father asked.

               "On the roof with a gun?"

               "No, I'd be dead," he said.

               At that point I fell into another fit of crying, and it certainly didn't put my fears to rest. After many of these episodes, for some reason, my father took a different approach. I screamed, he came to my room, but he didn't turn on the lights, he didn't speak angrily. he quieted me down, and walked me out into the living room. I tried to flip on the lights, but he stopped me.

               We sat in the living room. Light from the moon snuck in from between the curtains. The house had an eerie feel to it in the dark. I hadn't ever sat in it like this. If I was ever the one to turn off the lights I ran to my room as quickly as possible. My father took me through a small meditation, then he walked me around the house. We pretended to stalk, to slip from shadow to shadow and hide there in wide martial arts stances. I've no idea how long we did this for, but I went back to bed with a quiet, fearless mind.  This taught me many things, but the most important was this. If you fear something, envelope yourself in it. Face it, move toward it, understand it, then gain power from that understanding.

               I've gotten into trouble by moving toward my fear and seeking to personify the righteous warrior. It's what caused me to become a foot soldier for the military-industrial complex. I came out lucky on that front, as I don't have any physical or psychological damage to speak of, but it has also guided me toward everything in my life that I consider good and worthwhile. It has allowed me to follow dreams and ideals, rather than easy paths set before me.


               Small acts can change a child's life, and give them strength. I believe that contemplating, and acting on that idea can change lives.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Midweek Question

               I've noticed I get a spike in traffic on this blog every Thursday. I'm not sure why, but I figure it means I should drop something down midweek. Here's a chance to expand community through communication, and let others gain some insight from your experiences.
              
               I have several disciplines. The major ones are martial arts, exercise, flute playing and writing. In all of these things, I seek to improve. They fit well together. When my body is worn out from martial arts and exercise, I can still better myself by playing the flute or writing. Playing the flute helps to calm me when I'm nervous about competing in martial arts. It also helps me access my creativity. I play sometimes when I'm having 'writer's block'. Writing forces me to think deeply about subjects. This often gives me insights into my training methods (exercise and martial arts) that I wouldn't have otherwise had. Exercise releases stress, which aids me in all aspects of my life.

Are there any disciplines in your life that complement each other?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Connections Between Food and Exercise

               Many humans living in first world countries don't engage in strenuous physical activity often. For a large majority of people exercise is low on their list of priorities. They know that they should be exercising, but they don't. If they do happen to begin an exercise program, it is rare for a person to adopt it into their life permanently.  Part of the problem was discussed last week; people don't know how to create effective exercise programs. Another factor that I believe plays a major role is diet, or food choices.
               Here is what my own experiences have shown me. Using my body for exercise gives me a large amount of feedback about how my body is performing. Because of my exercise routine I have become aware of how my body is affected by my water intake, carbohydrate, fat and protein intake, by different sleep and rest patterns. Before I used my body seriously, and had a baseline of performance, I didn't realize that my everyday food choices directly correspond to how I feel.
               From speaking with friends, family, people I train with and individuals at different gyms, I find that many people eat their meals by default. They pickup what is easy and what they are used to. This isn't necessarily a problem, unless the person in question wants their body to feel good and perform well.
               When a person begins a new exercise program, they often complain of feeling terrible or not having energy. Part of that is because they are out of shape. However, I am in shape, and that is exactly how I felt the week after my last fight when I went crazy and ate a 'normal' American diet. I ate lots of bread, a lot of meat, few vegetables and probably twenty scones. I drank a beer, maybe two every other night and at the end of the week I felt terrible. When I started doing timed exercises again at the end of the week, while still eating poorly, my reps on pushups, sit ups, burpies and squats had all dropped. I didn't even want to get out of bed. It took me about another week of eating clean to get back to where I felt good exercising.
               Now my diet wasn't even that extreme compared to what the average American eats. I ate no fast food, most of the bread was 'healthy' and the meat was often grass fed. What I am suggesting with all of this, is that if you are having a hard time sticking with an exercise program, look into your food choices. Try changing to healthy alternatives. If you want an idea of what that looks like, look into the USDA's MyPlate food suggestions. They aren't perfect, I don't agree with all of them, but it is a good baseline to work from. If you have a reasonably healthy diet, exercise is far easier.
               Once you have a decent diet, play around with your macronutrient intakes (carbs, protein, fat) and see what feels best for your body when you are exercising. Every human has a system of feedback built into their body. To benefit from it, you must listen to it. Unless you are going to go talk to a professional dietitian, you are the best judge of what you should be eating because you know how it makes you feel. Are their athletes who eat like shit? Yes. Are they the best that they can be. Probably not. Our bodies are a complex mix of chemical reactions, what you put into it does matter.


 Lastly, a website I found helpful.              www.supertracker.usda.gov

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pain = Strength. Right?

               Having witnessed close family and friends attempt to get in shape and adopt a healthy lifestyle, I have noticed two barriers that pop up for most people. The first is running; the second is diet. This week, I'll talk about running.

               For many Americans the first and only instruction they receive in how to maintain a healthy body type comes from physical education (PE) classes and school sports. From my own experiences as a child, and from what I have witnessed while working in the school systems, children are taught that fitness comes down to three exercises: running, pushups, and situps. In many sports coaches will use distance running and sprints as a way to exhaust their players. From school sports and PE many of us learn that to feel pain is to become strong. This is reinforced by says such as "Pain is weakness leaving the body."

               Because of what they were taught in school, it is not surprising that many out of shape adults will opt to run in order to get back in shape. They usually aren't capable of doing more than 5-15 pushups or situps with proper form. They will, however, push themselves to run for twenty minutes or so. They choose running because it is painful, during and after the exercise, and they view it as a way to lose weight. After all, they have been taught that pain = strength. This then leads to an intense force of will being applied in order for the person to make themselves workout. They can keep this up for one to two weeks, then their workouts taper off and they are back to not exercising at all. It is my belief that, unless you are already in good shape, running is an extremely stressful exercise, both on your body and your mind. It is easy to quit doing it in the winter, or in very hot weather. If you are starting a workout routine, and you are using running as your main exercise, you're at a high risk of burning out.

                I suggest anyone who has a desire to become fit, but has no training in how to accomplish that goal, pay for a few sessions with a reputable personal trainer. Have them create a weekly workout routine for you that includes mostly low impact exercises. One mental attitude that I would like to eradicate from the fitness world is that pain = strength. Of course there is some muscular pain involved with getting into good shape, but it must be done intelligently and deliberately, or you run the risk of going through a lot of pain, and making small, or no gains. It is easy to make an athlete feel pain, but it's hard to make them strong.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Butcher's Mindset

               Our society glorifies violence. I believe that anyone who looks at our society truthfully would agree to that. Nearly all movies, even those made for children, show the good destroying the evil in righteous combat. The same can be said for many video games, and even books.
                I take issue with this because I believe the idea of the 'good' fighting the 'evil' is far removed from reality. Casting someone as evil is a good way to dehumanize them, but it doesn't allow for the truth of the situation to be seen. I'll give an example.
               If a man attempts to kill me with a knife, and I end up killing him instead, it would be easy for me to rationalize that he was evil and stop thinking about the encounter all together. The truth of the matter is this. He was a complex being, with hopes, dreams, desires, people he loved and people who loved him. His motives for trying to kill me were probably complex as well. If I were put into his exact situation, I might have responded in the same way. Thinking of the man I killed in this manner is far messier. It leaves me open to feeling pity, remorse even.
               I personally believe that everything living has an innate spiritual aspect to it. A sliver of the divine, sewn into its being. When I enter into a situation where I am preparing to kill another being (human or animal) I find myself shutting this idea of innate spirituality out of my head. I deny that that being has a spiritual aspect. I like to call this denial the 'butcher's mindset' (a term taken from an old kung fu instructor).
               In my experience, it is damaging to adopt the butcher's mindset. Whenever I am forced to kill something (or prepare to kill someone) my emotions fall flat. I am no longer capable of the same depth of feeling. My introspective tendencies fall away as I try to ignore the reality of what I did. I try to rationalize my actions, as best I can, given my world view. After a few hours, maybe days if it was an emotionally traumatic incident, these side effects tend to fade. For many veterans who have been forced to kill their fellow man, the side effects of that event stay with them for years, if they ever overcome them at all. I personally have a great amount of respect for anyone who kills livestock for a living. If I needed to kill an animal in order to eat meat, I would most likely never eat meat again.
               The butcher's mindset relates back to our over glorification of violence in this way. I noticed that many of the young men I taught when I worked in the middle school had adopted the butcher's mindset in an abstract sense. They thought that killing certain humans was a good thing, perhaps even a fun thing. They thought nothing of killing animals. I believe this is due in large part to the playing of first person shooter video games and because many of them have never actually killed anything. How many virtual murders has a child perpetrated by the time they are ten in our society? For most children the answer is at least over one hundred. Placing cross-hairs over another human form and pulling a trigger is normal, exhilarating, and rewarded. How many of these children have helped their fathers butcher livestock? Very few. They have never been confronted with the reality of killing.
               I'm not advocating that anyone keeps their children away from video games, but I do think it's important to educate our children on this one fact. You pay a spiritual price whenever you kill. The act of killing does damage to the one being killed, but it also damages the perpetrator of the violence, regardless of how righteous their motivations might be.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Overcoming Laziness


            I ride my bike roughly ten miles a day. I probably work out twelve hours a week, not counting my bike riding time. I also have a confession.
            I'm lazy.
            I am, in fact, one of the lazier people I know. Whenever I tell people this, they usually laugh me off and assume that I'm joking. I assure you, I'm not. It would probably be more accurate to say that my natural inclinations lean toward laziness. I love to lay around and do nothing. It's pretty hard to get me to leave my house and do anything that isn't prearranged into my schedule, as my friends can tell you. So, being that I'm lazy, how do I force myself into keeping an active lifestyle?
            First, and most importantly, I try not to force myself to do anything, because that's a losing game. I personally adhere to the idea that willpower is a finite resource. I only have so much willpower to get me through the day, and I use up small bits of it whenever I need to make a decision. Some psychology texts also refer to this as ego depletion.
            To negate this effect, I don't decide to say, ride my bike seventy miles a week. Instead, I just don't own a car. I change the way my life functions. Let's use an analogy. I like to think of my life as a constantly moving river. If I want to change the way it is flowing, taking a bucket and trying to heave the water elsewhere (using my willpower) isn't going to do much. To get the change I want, I need to change the topography of my life. That's one reason I don't own a car. At this point in my life it I don't really need one, and if I had one I'd never ride a bike. If I want food, money or human companionship, I need to get up, get on my bike, and ride a few miles. This lifestyle choice keeps me at a baseline of fitness that is higher than your average person, even if I stop all of my other exercise routines.
            That is one example, obviously it won't work for everyone, but I believe the theory is sound.
            Another way I structure my life is by making my exercise routine as accessible as possible.  I make workouts that I can do in my bedroom. If I have to get up, put clothes on, pack a gym bag, drive to the gym, put gym clothes on, then decide what machines I'm going to work on that day, I won't do a damn thing. That many choices = ego depletion.
            However, if I have to roll off my bed, put on some underwear, and start doing jumping jacks, I'll probably do it. Which leads me to my next tactic. I make the first two exercises in my workout deceptively easy. If I have to start with squats, pushups or updowns, I'll never start my workout.
             If I start with a few jumping jacks, I'm already in the zone when the time comes to do updowns, and by then it's easier to push through than it is to stop. I also suggest creating three to four 20 minute workouts for yourself and using them for most of your exercise days. Once you create those workouts, that's another decision that you don't need to make.
            With that said, you'll still have to make a few decisions if you want to start an exercise routine. But the fewer decisions you have to make, and the more you structure your life around that routine, the easier it's going to be to keep up.
            Before I end, here are two things I have learned to be true for 90% of the population. If you eat dinner before you workout, you're probably not going to workout. If you plan to wake up early in the morning and get a workout, you probably won't workout then either.

Also, if you want to hear some beautiful warrior meditation music, check out my soundcloud @ https://soundcloud.com/thesantafeninja .

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dancing, Muay Thai, and the Hater Inside Me


    Four months ago I embarked on an exciting journey. I began taking my first college classes. Being that I had never registered for college, mistakes were made. One of those mistakes was my enrollment in a class  for something known as The Nia Technique. I didn't know what to expect, and in my naiveté I didn't google it to find out.
    Upon arriving to my first class I noticed that the class was mostly made up of empowered middle aged women. There was one other man, and he didn't look like my type of guy. He looked like he enjoyed tofu and saying namiste.
    After introductions we engaged in an activity that I think is best described as 'hippy dancing'. It involved a lot of waving arms, swinging hips, and spins. This first class, I mostly stumbled around as I tried to mimic the instructors footwork and battled my inner demons. These demons, kept up a constant dialogue, telling me how foolish I looked, telling me men aren't supposed to move that way, as well as spitting vitriol about the other people in the class and how they danced. Overall, it was an illuminating experience that showed me two things about myself. I didn't know how to dance, and I was incredibly insecure, which is something that I thought I had overcome.
    Over the next few weeks, I continued to go to the class, even as I was informed that I should not have taken the class, and that I was not receiving credits for it. I continued the class because it made me incredibly uncomfortable. One rule I have created for myself, and a subject that deserves full exploration in its own right, is to move toward my anxiety. If I am worried about something, or something scares me, I want to move toward it, figure it out, and conquer my fear. 
    I found that learning these dance moves much like learning new martial arts techniques. It involved watching someone's body, then mimicking their movement, and eventually making it my own fluid motion. While I learned these moves some part of my mind was continually trying to convince me that I looked like an idiot, that everyone else looked like an idiot, and that I should be angry. This struck me as interesting, because it reminded me of when I first started practicing Muay Thai.
    The first Muay Thai class I attended began with jump roping, and then the instructor said "Shadow Box." Before this class I had no real idea what shadow boxing was, though I'd heard the term. Everyone else in the room began punching at the air, doing roundhouses, and making funny noises. I tried to mimic them, though I had no idea how to throw a proper punch. In my head, a ruthless judge popped into being. He attempted to find any fault he could in my fellow classmates, as well as telling me I was doing everything wrong and looked foolish. This voice persisted throughout class, and many classes thereafter. At times, it made the experience wholly unenjoyable. Eventually, once I reached a moderate level of ability, this voice subsided. Instead of degrading myself and those around me, I simply enjoyed practicing the movements. I thought that harsh judge within me had disappeared.
    Fast forward to my Nia class. The dark judge had cometh once again. I recognized it, though that didn't help to quiet the chatter. The only thing that did seem to help was coming to the dance class regularly and pushing through the dance moves, no matter how uncomfortable they made me, which is the same technique I used to get through my Muay Thai class.
               I've been in the dance class for 15 weeks now and more than half of the people who started in the class have stopped coming, including the only other man in the class. I comment on this, because I see the same thing happen in Muay Thai quite often. We will get classes of 15+ people every few months. Slowly, the class will be whittled down to about 6 people again. I'm sure there are many reasons for people to stop taking Muay Thai or Nia, but I believe this harsh self criticism might have something to do with it. For those who may suffer from this, I encourage you to continue taking these classes. Your discomfort will fade and you will learn to enjoy the movement, whether it's a roundhouse or pirouette.