Heavy Training

This isn't just a post about training hard in martial arts -- though it is about that -- it's about training hard when one is very overweight. In the past year, I've lost clothing sizes even faster than I've gained belt ranks, and thinking back on the process, much of it was non-obvious. So, tonight I'd like to collect some of my thoughts where they can be seen by other overweight martial artists and their teachers and ukes. If you can stand and walk, you can start training in martial arts. I spoke to my sensei last summer about two martial arts sessions I'd been asked to lead at a local nerdcon. I was having a major case of imposter syndrome, being only an orange belt[1] at the time and overweight to boot. Sensei chuckled and said he couldn't think of anyone better for the job. "As a general rule, the people who most need to study martial arts never will. Nobody in a room full of computer geeks and gamers is going to listen to a word I say, but you speak their language. They might listen to you." Sensei was right on both counts. The…

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Protection vs. Preparation

A 7yo boy was kidnapped from someplace in Oregon. It's received the kind of coverage parents can only get when their missing child is cute enough to imply profitability to network news directors. During a one-year period studied by the DOJ (stat via missingkids.org), an average of 2,185 children were reported missing each day. Paring the news coverage down to the occassional poster child makes the subject more manageable, but it also gives the illusion that kidnapping is a rare occurrence. Commentary I heard today from parents I know -- really good parents -- was all along the lines of "I just want to hug my kids and never let them go" and "it makes me scared to let my children go anywhere". It's an understandable impulse -- as the parent of a kidnapped (and safely recovered) child, I certainly experienced the instinct to keep my child close at hand. Years later, I have an amazing and increasingly independent seven-year-old. He's got a year of formal martial arts training, and a lifetime of instruction on basic tactics. At seven years old, and as he grows up, Little Fish deserves both a little freedom, and…

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The Warrior Obsession

According to the latest ad for Kings Island amusement park, riding their roller coaster makes you a "ride warrior". I guess we can add it to the list with "road warrior" and "war on poverty". It's standard identity advertising -- that is, making people want something because they want to think of themselves as the kind of person who wants that thing. It's ridiculous, and it sells. There's a reason that the "warrior" image can sell Americans on just about anything these days, and it's a symptom of a real problem with some pretty terrifying results. There's big business in selling tactical gear to people who don't know how to use it, and convincing America that a thousand other mundane consumptions (roller coaster rides, taxes, etc) are empowering, but there's nothing you can buy or ride, and nothing that the government can take from someone else to give to you that will make you a warrior. Unfortunately, consumption is how mainstream America approaches life. The warrior ethos outright rejects passivity and non-responsibility. The warrior knows that with a trigger pull, a well-aimed slice, or a powerful strike, he or she can end…

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A mile wide and a half-inch deep

Martial arts has always been an important part of my life...in theory. In fact, the only thing more challenging that martial arts study, is trying to maintain some sort of coherent study while moving 11 times in 10 years (assuming you count temporary moves). Apart from some periods of exceptionally poor health, I've always studied something, but the something has changed many times based on local availability. Due to the irregularity of my study, and probably at least somewhat owing to my irrational hang-ups about sparring, my martial arts background is about a mile wide and a half-inch deep. Sure, there are many arts on my "tried that" list, but the longest-studied received only a few months of my effort and attention. Some, I only have a few hours of exposure to as part of a larger retreat or event. I really like my new dojo here in Indianapolis, and hope to stay for the long haul. I want the experience and growth that comes with going beyond beginner levels. I want to challenge myself with something other than my ability to adapt to new learning environments, and getting over my fear of sparring for the 15th…

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For anyone who ever doubted that martial arts study teaches kids hard work and discipline.

Today's mail brought a very nice card from my son's and my old Sensei and his wife asking how we've been since we moved, and whether we'd found a new place to study karate. I wrote a short letter in return, letting them know that our new city is treating us well, that we found a great new dojo (which I'll post more about later), and mentioning my son's new found diligence in practicing each day. My son drew a picture for Sensei's wife (a great lady who also helps with karate classes). I asked whether he'd drawn one for Sensei, too. He said "No, Senseis don't want pictures. Sensei will like this," handing me a second piece of paper. It read: Dear Sensei, I do my job at karate every day. and was signed at the bottom.…

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