The end of the beginning, but not the beginning of the end.

When you see a door about to close, you can choose to climb out a window, stick around to see what pans out…..or do both.

This Sunday will be the last time I attend the first dojo I ever attended. My journey there started about 18 months ago, and, had I not stepped through the door that sunny Sunday, and had I not met my first Sensei, I would never have been introduced to Karate at all.

This is not the beginning of the end; merely the end of the beginning. By this I mean to say that I am certainly not quitting Karate and I am not quitting the club. Unfortunately though, the club is closing (at least for the here and now), and so, my Sunday morning ritual will come to an end. ūüė¶

I am eternally grateful to my first Sensei for giving me a great start, for inspiring me to think for myself, for igniting within me a passion for martial arts, and for filling a void which I had not realised had been there before. I am grateful to him for showing me a broad spectrum of techniques, not shying away from teaching take downs, grappling and the like. I am also grateful to him for (it seems now serendipitously) introducing me to my new Sensei, 12 months ago (though I had no idea at the time that he would be my new Sensei).

I know closing the door¬†must have been a difficult decision to make, and I appreciate the courage it would have taken to announce it to people, several¬†of whom have been training with him for many more years than me. I know he won’t stop training and I wish him every success with the direction he is heading. I know we will likely see each other around, and I hope he gets to see me progress too, because I would like him to be proud that he helped start me off on the road with a solid grounding and direction.

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Gratitude, Repentance, Forgiveness, Loving-kindness and the a/theist question.

Who made it? How did it all begin? Does it matter in the general scheme of things?

Today was Yom Kippur (the “Day of Atonement”). It is the last of the Jewish “High Holy days” or “Days of Awe” which started 10 days ago with Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year).

During the “Days of Awe”, we ask for forgiveness and we forgive others, for any wrongs done during the year. Essentially to make peace with God, you first need to sort it out at ground roots level and make peace with each other. We also ask God to be “written and sealed” for a “good year” in the “book of life”.

I was raised as a Jew, in a Jewish home, by Jewish parents and grandparents, and as an active part of the Jewish community. I married a Jewish man (much to my only¬†then surviving grandmother’s relief), and I am now trying to raise Jewish children. We bring in¬†Shabbat (the Sabbath) every Friday night, with blessings for candles, challah bread (mum even makes a vegan gluten free loaf for me now) and wine / grape juice, surrounded by family and friends, and we also¬†try to get the kids involved with the Jewish festivals (which generally involve particular foods as well as other traditions) as much as possible.

My oldest child (6 going on 17) has lately started asking me curly questions about religion, and about God. Had he asked me 2 years ago, he may have received more definitive answers from me, along the lines of what I had grown up with. However, the more I think about it, the less logical,¬†and, more pertinently, the less important the whole religion thing, and the whole God construct seems. Don’t get me wrong, the moral constructs and the traditional aspects I was brought up with, I really have no problem with; it’s just the theistic aspects, which have, of late, caused me some cognitive dissonance.

So back to where I started, Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement. The great thing about the day of “Atonement” is it is a day of doing pretty much nothing but introspection; you literally get to be “at-one” (see what I did there?) with yourself and your thoughts. So there I was today, in synagogue, fasting (yes that is challenging for me but I coped), and praying (but to who?), but mostly just thinking. As usual I came up with a list of questions, most of which I can’t answer but they were along the lines of:

  1. Why do we need a day of atonement? Surely if we could just be kind, moral / just all the time, or even if we had an off day and screwed up, apologise? Same goes for if someone else hurt us and apologised….could we not just¬†accept their apology, move on and let it go?
  2. Where does God fit in to this anyway (if God is in this)?
  3. Why do we need to give thanks to God for our lives, or for other things as opposed to just being grateful in general and making the most of our time here?
  4. Does God really have any say in our destiny, in whether we live or die? I know the “book of life” thing is meant to be a metaphor, but seriously, if we have free will, then how can God stop us from doing things which will adversely affect our time on this planet?
  5. Do we have any more or less control of our lives than God (if God exists) does?
  6. Can I still be Jewish if I don’t see the importance of God¬†existing?

As I said, I really don’t know the answers to my questions. Faith is something to which logic cannot be applied;¬†you can either choose to believe or to not believe. At this point I think I am probably in the camp of choosing to be somewhat ambivalent about it. I still think having a community and a heritage are very important but concerning myself about attributing the creation of the world or the control of the destiny of myself, others, or indeed the planet / the universe is something I would rather leave on the sidelines. I really don’t consider that¬†my life will be any less meaningful as a result.

Dry DIY – and the smell of chai?!

bad hair day? Chocolate is the cure all….even for this!

A while ago I posted about my use of the “no poo method” (“No-poo” review.). Incidentally I am still using this method to keep my hair clean and have never been happier with the state of my hair.

But “poo” or “no-poo”, my lengthy locks take ages to dry so I prefer not to wash my hair more than once a week. This can present problems re timing. I train most days and training = sweaty head, oily and potentially stinky hair.

I had been reading about DIY dry shampoos – you can buy commercial ones but I figured making one would be fun and if it wasn’t effective I could just use it to make a cake with later!!

I found a few recipes and tinkered them to form my own concoction as follows:

  • 1/2 cup tapioca or arrowroot flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (probably not for blondes)
  • 2¬†tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon bicarb soda

Essentially you put the ingredients in a jar, bung the lid on and give it a good shake and it is done!

Next make yourself a simple sprinkle lid. I used baking paper with holes in it and a rubber band to secure it to the top of the jar.

To use this product simply sprinkle it sparingly on the oily parts of your hair (eg roots), leave in for a couple of minutes to sog up the oil, and then brush out until your hair looks normal and there is no powder coming out when you brush.

It seems to work really well with the oily factor and also makes your hair smell very pleasant.

The one weird thing (though probably not unpleasant) I noticed was that when I¬†exercised and started to work up a sweat, there was a distinct aroma of “dirty” chai (ie chai spiced hot chocolate) in the air…..I wonder if any of my training buddies noticed it tonight!

Mmm…..what is that smell…..it isn’t sweat…..more….. um….sweet!

Rosh Hashanah / New year’s cup cakes

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It’s Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) starting this Sunday night. Food wise, this traditionally involves (among other round foods), a big, round, honey cake, which is neither vegan or gluten free.

Here is my take on my mum’s traditional (and much loved) version. I suspect people will try mine too though…..since they seem ever curious as to how whole food vegan things can actually taste good!

DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 2.5 cups oats (if you can’t do oats you could probably sub in buckwheat flour or other gluten free flour – let me know how it works though as I haven’t tried it yet)
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

WET INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cups date syrup (about 1 cup dates soaked in boiling water and blended)….or just use maple or rice malt syrup if you prefer.
  • 3/4 cup coconut butter (I used fresh home made coconut butter which I made from dessicated coconut but¬†you could use regular one melted although I would tend to reduce quantity and replace liquid with a bit of extra water or non dairy milk)…you could choose to use rice bran oil and it would likely be fine too.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used home made Apple Cider vinegar but regular would be fine)
  • 1 cup boiling water

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 160-170 degrees.
  2. Line standard muffin tins (made about 18) with patty pans.
  3. Put dry ingredients in food processor and blitz until flour like consistency.
  4. Add wet ingredients and blend to a thick batter.
  5. Fill patty pan’s about 1/2 – 2/3 way up the tins.
  6. Bake 15-20 mins until skewer comes out clean.
  7. Cool on rack.

Note: May be frozen for later use.

Holding ground: Roots to routes and routes to roots. A two way street on the way to the way.

I am one of those leaves up the top somewhere!

Karate for me is a passion I have only recently discovered. Another major passion in my life started when I was much, much, younger. That passion was, and still is, music. I will, one day, blog about how my concurrent pursuit of music and martial arts has helped me in both, but in this post, I want to explore something more basic; the importance of remembering where things all began.

The reason I bring up my music “history”, however, is by way of introduction. One of the most influential musical educators¬†I had the fortune of working¬†with¬†throughout high school, university, and beyond, gave me some sage advice when¬†I finished¬†high school; ¬†“Never forget your¬†roots”. It has been over 20 years since then, and I have never forgotten it. The¬†meaning of his words has made more and more sense over time, and branched out to apply to many areas of my life (not just music).

In the dojo the other night we spent an hour in class going over kihon (basics). This is nothing unusual, and is obviously vital to both roots (staying connected with the style) and routes (continual improvement and development of skills /  forward progression). What was slightly different though was that this time the major (almost sole) focus was on dachi (stances). I had been thinking about writing a post on remembering your roots and routes, but, this class gave me yet another angle to talk about. This was literally a class working on staying grounded (and moving on) from the roots up; how could I resist?!

So, why is it important to remember your roots?

  1. You can stand up and be proud of what you are doing if you know why your are doing it and you can hopefully start to explain the origins to anyone who is interested.
  2. You can encourage others just starting out, much more empathetically, if you remember where you have been; the further down the road you are and the more you “remember your roots” the more you can connect with beginners and the more they can connect with you. (I speak as someone on the receiving end, primarily.)
  3. History is important, can be very interesting, and it is an evolving process; you are part of it.
  4. As with  the roots of a tree, they are the foundation of everything, without which you end up with a tumble-weed! Having (or not having) a good grasp (or foot Рhold in this context) of dachi illustrates this in a very literal sense!

Why is important to remember your routes?

  1. It’s important to have a path ahead so you can look forward to achieving your goal(s).
  2. It’s important to remember where you have been and how you got to where you are, in case you need to go back to retrieve something you lost¬†along the way, or,¬†equally¬†importantly, to help others to follow.
  3. Recalling how you “got” things is vital to learning and “getting” more things.
  4. Seeing the way forward and backward gives context to a long journey that is “the way”, and that is “life”.

So, stand tall, well rooted (yet flexible), grounded but proud. Don’t forget your own roots,¬†or¬†the¬†routes you have travelled. Don’t lose sight of the routes you wish to travel or forget the roots of the history you are now part of.

Dojo (Hei)-ku{n}

Dojo kun

This is my 3rd attempt at Making the Dojo Kun. Other Scroll is out of sight behind us. The first were painted on canvas with the heiku and kanji in this post. It’s all a learning curve!

pride

Pride

Hold your head up high.

Humble, but not hesitant.

Be a leader; Shine!

patience

Patience

Frustration – pointless.

Your goal is firm, yet shifting.

Practice hard, gently.

courtesy

Courtesy

Kindness costs nothing,

Yet gives much to ev’ryone.

Respect; care matters.

spirit

Spirit

Look within yourself.

Mind, body, being, unite;

Intent, skill, meaning.