Repetition is the Key….or is it?

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Repetition is the key to improvement and development in many things; learning kihon, ido, kata, and anything really in karate, learning a language, changing a behaviour in yourself or someone else.

But what about when repetition is not what is needed? What about when repetition is contraindicated or even leads to a decline? What about when the root cause of your problem is in fact repetition?

Recently I developed RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), also known as OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome). It’s not new to me. I had it a few years ago, which on the plus side, meant I recognised the signs pretty quickly. My job involves a lot of typing (also known as keying). First time around, it developed due to a combination of keying with high repetition for many years, increasing productivity targets and time pressures (given I had family responsibilities and couldn’t stay back late at work even if I wanted or needed to). I started getting sore arms, so repetition was key….but not in a good way in this case.

I tried various things including ergonomic keyboards and mice, adjustable seating and desks, rest breaks and stretches, but in the end the only thing that banished it (at least for a while) was a creature by the name of DRAGON. Dragon (Naturally Speaking) is a voice recognition software programme. My dragon and I both needed training, but we developed a happy (though sometimes hilarious) relationship over the years. My love of words, double meanings and his tendency to misunderstand me at times, led to some classic errors (usually picked up by me when editing) and me having a right old chuckle.

Unfortunately over the years, and as a result of multiple IT updates, my Dragon started to struggle, and due to the fact that I was so busy and didn’t want to spend my entire day on the phone to technology support resulting in a pile up of work, I ended up mousing and keying way more than I should have been…..and thus…..OOS reared its ugly head again.

My boss came to visit me one day and I showed her the issues. She made things happen, booked me some time to get help with Dragon….unfortunately things got worse after that (both with my computer and my arms). I did have to spend most of my working week getting IT issues sorted, (which meant some enforced rest of sorts) and meanwhile try to sort out my arms which weren’t letting up between one work day and the next (despited the rest), and were being exacerbated by many home activities (though, thank my lucky stars NOT karate).

Things are not perfect. I am still waiting for Dragon and appropriate peripherals at home (lucky my husband is in IT too). I am still having training with Dragon, and support to write lots of scripts to get it to function better within the programmes I need to do my job. I am still doing lots of stretches, massage, icing for my arms, and I am trying to avoid using the PC and other devices at home as much as I can (hence the short post and quiet blog). I am trying to be patient with myself and let myself recover. However it is quite a frustrating, chronic, and invisible condition, and I find myself having to explain why I have been quiet or less productive than normal. Fortunately most of my colleagues, friends, and family have been supportive of me.

Thanks for your patience, and hopefully the next blog will be dictated and without any glaring dragon typos (or maybe I can do a “out take” section for your amusement).

Coming of age.

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This Thursday is the 9th of March. It marks the third anniversary of my first entering a dojo, and my entry into the world of karate.

Things are a lot different for me now, it’s true, I have a different instructor, a different style, an abundance of kata (and a love of kata rather than a fear of it), but, there is one one thing hasn’t changed, and that is the absolute completeness I feel when I am doing karate or thinking about it. That instant attraction I felt for karate in those first few classes has not faded, as some others told me would happen with the passing of years. Who knows what the future holds for me but if I am honest the attraction continues to grow rather than diminish as the months pass.

I was chatting with my Senpai today, about how it feels like longer than 3 years….that maybe my karate years are like dog years! This is due to the many opportunities I have been given, which have afforded me the opportunity to accelerate my learning, the passion and patience of my primary and other network instructors, and the camaraderie of the people I train with.

I remember when I decided to try out the club which has become my home away from home (a long way from home it feels like sometimes, but honestly, I have a smile on my face the whole way to and from because I am so happy to travel the distance for something I love). I did my research and looked at the webpage / blog / facebook presence. One of the things I recall seeing (and it is still there) was: (“start training today and….) “Start Living”. I thought it was a bit over the top at the time to say that, but honestly it has become my reality and it is not a stretch at all to make that claim.

So…..Happy third (re)birthday to me! I say rebirth because really Karate has changed who I am, how I define myself, my whole perspective on life, and I have really started living.

Second Blogoversary: A Song without (many) words

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It occurred to me on the anniversary of my broken toe (and a “skelegrow” reference in a past status on Facebook 😛 ), that it’s been 2 years since I started this blog. Happy blogoversary to me…..I am now a toddler blogger.

I haven’t been writing that much lately. It’s partly a function of being busy as ever but it’s more than just that. There is plenty I want to talk about and say but things are getting so busy and complicated in my head sometimes that it’s hard to share things in a concise way.

I came across Plato’s quote (above) a few weeks ago on a chalk board of a cafe somewhere on my way across town. It really resonates with me because it sums up how I have been feeling in my 40s. I don’t see the meaning of “lover” in romantic sense but more of finding your groove so to speak.

Anyway….I think I will celebrate with a poem of my own. Perhaps one day it will be a song too. I really should start composing again sooner or later.

A song without (many) words.

Rachel Sag (24/2/17)

The more I learn, the more I grow,

The more I think, the less I know.

The more I see, the more I do,

The more I find the person who,

I knew was there, but didn’t know,

Or dream how far I’d have to go.

The more I seek, the more find,

The person I have left behind.

A somebody so unaware;

A someone who was barely there.

A ghostly shadow; Can you see

The shell of someone who once was me?

I recognise but don’t repent,

The hours and minutes as misspent.

The journey traversed over time,

Brought her to me and onto mine.

I now lead on with steady stride,

‘Til I can join and walk beside,

The person who will look at me,

And wonder who she used to be.

Looking back and looking forward. (A year in review.)

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Just a little bit excited about our trip to Tokyo (and Japan)!

It’s nearly time to wrap up 2016 and start a brand new year. Joelle over at A beginner’s Journey has reminded me I ought to be doing a year in review post…..because that’s what you do.

Although, as social media feeds keep reminding me, 2016 has been a year of losses (even in the last week), 2016 has been a pretty good year for me personally. A lot of the people who died were from the world of music and arts. One of that number hit much harder than the others, and was way more confronting, because they were a friend and musical colleague of mine, and they were of my generation and it was way too soon for them to leave. In perspective, I see it as a reminder that (1) we don’t live forever and that is part of the beauty of life, and (2) we should make damn sure we do and say everything we need to today and not wait for tomorrow, just in case….

To be honest I don’t know where the year went. Life has been crazy busy. I have had lots of music commitments, I have continued to work in an ever changing and challenging (often to the point of being frustrating) environment, I have been helping my kids learn various life skills, I have been experimenting in the kitchen, and I have been holiday planning and travelling. In addition to being a musician, a professional, a mum and a wife, I have been training (Karate) fairly intensively this year. So I guess the old adage “Time flies when you are having fun.” is probably a reasonable explanation to why this year has felt so short (when actually it had a whole 24 extra hours!!).

MUSIC

Musically speaking, I have been involved in several performances (both choral / vocal and instrumental) with Lumina and Lyrebyrd and also done some singing and playing just for fun. I have not had time to write anything new but I had one of my works performed again in the fringe and to top it off it was voted by the audience poll as the most popular piece in the concert, (which was an absolute honour, especially considering the programme included some absolute gems).

WORK

I am not at liberty to say much about work but despite its frustrations (mostly related to IT issues), I am grateful for my job and my colleagues and continue to be challenged by my clients (in a more positive way than I am challenged by the IT issues!!). And besides working pays for extras like presents and karate lessons!

PARENTHOOD / FAMILY

I have said it before and it bears repeating: Being a mum (or a dad) never really gets easier; it just gets different. I am a fairly practical mum. I feed my kids, I try to teach them right from wrong, I cuddle them, I read them stories, I give them band-aids (if there is blood), I cough up money for teeth, I make their birthday cakes. I help them learn about the world through experiences, by spending time with them, and leading by example. I try not to shelter them and I am honest when they ask questions (even where others may perpetuate a myth).

I am probably not ever going to be one of those mums who sacrifices everything for my kids. If I was, I don’t think they would ever learn that I am important too, that I should (and do) respect myself, and that I deserve respect. If they don’t learn that, I don’t think they will learn to be independent, or confident, or respect themselves. I love my kids to the moon and back, even though I have moments where I would like to send  them to the moon and ask them not to come back for a while.

The more my kids grow up the more their personalities and preferences, strengths and talents shine through, and the more I realise that despite the fact that they have, by and large, been parented in the same way, they are so different from each other.

My big boy is a very academic and almost pedantic individual, who likes to think, at least when it comes to things like information and concepts. He doesn’t think a lot about feelings (other than his own at times). He struggles to control his moods, and he struggles with the world not being all about him, which has found him in all sorts of strife, particularly at school. He is all about pushing boundaries, and saying no, and he is very stubborn, (like his mum), but hasn’t yet learned to channel that stubbornness into drive.

My baby girl is the more empathetic and caring of my kids. She is artistic, musical and often socially adept beyond her years. She can also be stubborn but generally she uses this rather better than her big brother. She is competitive. If her brother has it, she wants it, especially if it is a skill. She just decides what she’s going to do and practises determinedly until she gets it. This was particularly noticeable when she wanted to swim, and when she wanted to ride a bike. I think at least some of this tenacity and confidence has come about through training Karate, which she really enjoys. She struggles with so many things at school, and because her big brother is (and was at the same age) so far ahead of his peers in things like writing, maths, and spelling, it’s hard to accept (for her and sometimes for us), that she’s normal and not really too far behind behind. I think she has now decided it’s really time she could read properly (and I am all for it) so she’s been struggling her way one letter at a time through books with me.

FOOD AND COOKING

My adventures in the kitchen have been more about making good food in large batches quickly (at least in terms of preparation time) than about making lots of fancy things that take forever to make and 5 seconds to eat (or having the small fry take a look and refuse). I would love more time in the kitchen (and the last 2 days I have had the luxury). Usually though, with work and training and all the other stuff, having meals planned and ready to go in 5 minutes is essential. That said, I have been enjoying some more relaxed meal preparation and catering over the Christmas and New year break while we are all home and unhurried. I have made some old favourites and tried some new ideas. I even made vegan Bailey’s tonight for me and my husband, after he suggested it as a way to use the vast and static collection of whiskey that has now moved house with us about 5 times without much disturbance! (It was delicious and way too easy!)

Another thing I have been playing with is the lowest common denominator approach to cooking. I have several friends with food allergies / sensitivities and other dietary preferences. I have enjoyed the opportunity to prepare fodmap friendly, gluten free, nut free, (insert any other requirement) vegan food, insomuch as it presents as a problem solving activity and an art of deception. I made a lovely pesto yesterday which had to be gluten free (ok), vegan (ok), and garlic / onion free…..difficult but succeeded….and it was made primarily from homegrown ingredients picked fresh from the garden!

Apart from these aspects….the other thing I have been trying to  do is make  use of food / by-products and minimise waste. Of course technically we don’t waste any kitchen scraps since we compost them (or at the moment feed them to the chickens next door), but if there is more I can squeeze out of something before it goes that direction, I will. I have even tried to make my own cleaning and “beauty” products, using things like orange peel, coffee grounds and other things one normally just throws away. I have learned how to take advantage of aquafaba (the liquid left after boiling pulses – eg in the tin or the pot), made my own apple cider vinegar and orange vinegar, invented lots of ways of using up almond pulp from almond milk making and am currently in the midst of inventing new ways to hide use zucchini in recipes, as the garden is going nuts.

TRAVEL

Planning a holiday overseas with 2 kids was fun but difficult. When you are a couple, you hop on a plane and play things by ear when you get there. You can’t really do that with kids. Although I didn’t plan our Japan trip down to the last second, all accommodation and internal transport arrangements were confirmed and booked (mostly independently) before we left. This involved lots of late nights because the kids like to interrupt or suggest the same thing a zillion times while you are trying to arrange things. On the plus side, travelling with a mobile router made life easier and allowed us to be somewhat flexible with the itinerary within an area. Overall the holiday was a success and my only complaint is that we didn’t have enough time. There will be a next time though. I am determined.

KARATE

I have written over 1000 words and only mentioned Karate in passing…..OMG….how did that even happen? This year has been a pretty big year for me. I have learned so much, and gained so much. Sure there have been the observable gains in skill acquisition, but the internal changes and the things I have learned about myself and what I can achieve, were the bigger gains as far as I am concerned.

At the end of last year, my instructor helped me to “step up” my training. To be honest I was pretty perplexed about what “stepping up” would look like since I was already training more days in the week than I wasn’t, but, I went along for the ride, because I love Karate, and to be honest, when it comes to Karate I trust his judgement of what I am capable of (even if that occasionally initially surpasses what I think I am capable of)!

The year has been punctuated by various events of significance and interest, some of which I have written about in other posts throughout 2016. (You can catch up here on Karate posts.) The year was punctuated by several network and wider MA community events, which I had the privilege of participating in, including open and invite only workshops, a tournament, the annual gasshuku in Queensland, and my first 2 network panel gradings. Whilst all of these were enjoyable, informative, and fantastic learning experiences, I would have to say that my happiest times were at regular classes in my home dojo, just learning, learning to teach, and helping others learn.

Training has been full on, and I figured out by the middle of the year (if not before) what “stepping up” involved. By half way through the year it became evident that the plan was for me to do a double grading in November. This initially freaked me out somewhat if I am honest. I knew I would “get” all the kata and the physical requirements in time, but I wasn’t sure I could “be” a second kyu, especially not without having dipped my feet into the muddy (ie brown) waters at 3rd kyu for a good six months. It also meant going things alone for sections of the grading (since the rest of my “team” of purples were grading to 3rd kyu). November came and I was prepared. It’s been 6 weeks or so since I passed 2nd kyu and was awarded a Senpai title. With all my other belts, it took little or no time to get used to the new rank. My brown belt with it’s 2 black stripes, not to mention being referred to in social media and email and text and especially in person as “Senpai” has taken until about the last week or two to feel real and intermittently “comfortable”. At least I actually respond to Senpai now.

In terms of the more personal achievements, the stuff that is perhaps harder to see on the outside, I have been able to move on from some of the mental barriers and stereotypes that had been holding back my mind, and grow in confidence. I have had some support in this process, and there were times where it wasn’t easy, but time and reflection have helped a great deal. In a nutshell it has mostly been about extending and melding my personal attitudes into Karate and vice versa. Given that Karate is really a part of me, this has been a natural progression to some extent, but the “growing up” has been made easier by my “big brothers and sisters” having been there before.

After the excitement of our November grading, which saw us undergo a big colour change and my Senpai and 2 other Senpai at the sister dojo I train with, achieve their shodan, I had a great time helping plan and arrange our dojo end of year Celebration. I felt it was particularly important to arrange something to Celebrate our achievements as a club this year, because, as you can see, it has been big and exciting year, and not just for me personally. That said, at the dinner, I received the inaugural MIK (Most Improved Karateka) Award. I know I have improved but it’s hard to see yourself the way others see you. It was a proud moment for me (if not a surprising one), but not as proud as the moments I have had seeing others in the dojo achieve things they never thought possible.

THE END OR THE BEGINNING OR BOTH

So this is the end of looking back, or is it? Whilst we probably shouldn’t dwell on the past, I am sure that I will look back on this in future, as a reference point at the very least. Looking backwards doesn’t necessarily mean going backwards. Looking backwards can be a stepping stone to looking forwards.

2016 has been a blast. I don’t want to forget it, but I am really looking forward to 2017. I don’t really do resolutions anymore, they are too rigid. My aim in karate and in life remains open ended: To be better today than I was yesterday, and better tomorrow than I am today. With hard work and dedication, this is achievable. I’m up for that.

Left to right:

Top: Dragon fly in Kyoto, Temple Gates (Tori) Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Middle: Me and Kyoshi after 2nd Kyu / Senpai Award, medals from the 2016 TJKN National Championships, Me and Mini Me at the Championships.

Bottom: Mini Me and her flag sparring medal from the kids tournament at Gasshuku, Selfie at the summit of Mt Misen, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Tofu selection at the supermarket, Kyoto (I think).

 

 

The do of parenthood

(and by “do” I mean “way / path”)

parenting

 

Parenting. There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only different.

Kids are different. Parents are different. No matter how many books or blogs you read, no one is an expert at “parenting”. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and you just have to wing it! The facts are: There is no one size fits all. There is no recipe for success. There is only going with what works. Eventually and with any luck, you become somewhat proficient at parenting your own child or children (and even then your style will likely vary between children).

We teach our children to grow up, and they also teach us to grow up, even if we thought we were grown up before we decided to bring them into the world. We don’t do a course or have to earn a degree for our new “job”. We are suddenly responsible for this little (and demanding) person 24/7.

Parenting doesn’t get harder or easier from that moment on; it just gets different. From carer and protector, our role also then incorporates:  teacher, law enforcer, referee, counsellor, and don’t forget all the background stuff like: nutritionist, chef, cleaner, laundry operator, personal trainer, assistant Pokémon hunter…….. It’s a multi-skilled job for which you get paid nothing……at least not in terms of compensatory income. Parenting is the most challenging and dynamic role you will ever take on. Parents are all doing the best they can, and hopefully adapting along the way.

Everyone does things differently. That’s perfectly OK, and perfectly natural for the reasons outlined above.  It’s also natural as a parent, to observe people’s parenting. Who knows? You might even pick up something useful!  It’s inevitable to compare your own style of parenting to others’ styles and it’s OK to reflect on that in the privacy of your own brain. However, when you consider presenting an opinion on someone’s parenting style to them directly, it’s probably best not to or at the very least do so with utmost caution.  An observation is an observation. It’s a snapshot of their parenting. You have no idea what happens outside of that context or on a particular day. You don’t know what is going on for the child or the parent.

Drawing conclusions (even inwardly) about someone’s  parenting style is therefore fraught. Firstly, even if your perceptions about someone else’s parenting style or philosophy does not sit well with you, it should not impact on you as a parent, (and doesn’t need to if you don’t let it). Secondly, most (if not all) of us find it uncomfortable  when others tell us how to parent or prescribe what we should  or should not do based on what works for them. We tolerate it sometimes in our parents because they are, after all, still parenting us, still teaching us….and we them. However if others (or even our parents) tell us how to parent our own children or even question our parenting methods, it’s quite unsettling.

A more helpful approach if you are truly concerned about someone’s parenting style, or the well being of a child, or if for some reason, it is affecting you personally, might be to show solidarity and support, by asking if them if they are OK, or if they need a break. Let’s face it. Parenting is a tough job, from which we can’t resign, and we could all use some solidarity.

Tango “Kihon Waza”

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I would like to preface this post by saying that Karate is not Tango (or any other type of dancing) and Tango is not a martial art of any sort. Now that that is out of the way, I can hopefully progress without treading on any toes (pun intended)….and without upsetting any karate instructors.

I have now been studying karate for 2 and a half years. I am getting to the stage where I am occasionally feeling like I know what I am doing. It’s taken a long time and a lot of patience (on my part and my instructors parts) to get me to this point. A month ago, on the night I don’t train, I decided to try something new and completely different……because you know that comfort zone escape thing I have…..Anyway, I started going to a beginners Argentine Tango class.

OK so it wasn’t quite new, I did take a few classes (with the same instructors) about 12 years ago for a couple of months with my husband, but I remember being really, really bad at it. My balance was poor, my “following” skills were hopeless, I was completely awkward, fairly socially inept about dancing with anyone other than my husband, but mostly I was just a really slow learner who ended up stepping on too many toes. In the end we stopped going. I probably got busy with singing commitments and decided to stick with my strengths.

It was new for me this time in a sense, though, because I approached it as a complete beginner. I had forgotten absolutely everything anyway so why not start with a clean slate?

Tango is a partner dance that requires (at least of the follower – generally the woman) one skill that most of us learn before we are 2 years old: WALKING. OK so how hard can it be?…..one foot in front of the other…..It can be as simple or as complex as your partner decides to make it.

Tango is un-choreographed and thus, the spontaneity of the dance requires you, as a follower, to react to your partner’s cues and be in the moment. It requires you to be comfortable in someone’s personal space and to be comfortable having someone in your personal space. It requires a level of trust in your partner. The timing of each move or step is more internal than reliant on the music or any prescribed beat and this applies to both partners.

Hmmm……some of this new learning is feeling a bit familiar…..it may be slower but there is something mildly reminiscent of  jiyu kumite with the whole being in and responding in the moment thing and feeling comfortable being in close. It may not be individual but the rhythm and timing is a bit like kata. It may be different patterns but learning the steps and flourishes isn’t unlike practising kihon. The names of different moves may be in Spanish rather than Japanese but (as is the case in karate) they generally aren’t fancy talk, they are merely descriptions of what the steps look like.

Studying karate has given me a positive outlook and more determination than I ever had. It has given me a new attitude on mistakes and the definition of success. Learning new skills is not daunting now but something I crave. Karate has improved my physical condition (strength / endurance / balance / reaction times) and it has opened up parts of my brain that I don’t think I was accessing before. So learning new skills feels quicker and easier for me than it ever has.

Consequently at the end of this short course in Tango Kihon Waza, I already feel like I am starting to know what I am meant to be doing (as a follower), and I am ready to learn more. I will continue for the next month and see where it takes me. And incidentally – I have not trodden on any toes in class!!! Yay me!

Stride with pride down the fine line beside.

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PRIDE – Hokori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think, when you hear the word “proud”?

Does pride come in a volume, other than loud?

And can pride exist in the absence of ego?

Does “proud” approach “humble” the further on we go?

 

Where does pride fit in to your self esteem?

How should you give feedback to the rest of the team?

Can the path to humility meld with self deprecation?

Does praise lead to pride? Is it mere adulation?

 

Does the absence of praise lead to self loathing or doubt?

Can a lack of direction drag your arrogance out?

Must you boast? Must you crow, to ensure you are heard?

Can you feel pride within, without saying a word?

 

 

Do you need others’ input to make you feel pride?

Or is it something intrinsic you feel deep inside?

Are humility and pride two sides of one coin?

Or is there a stronger yet more flowing join?

 

Can you walk the line proudly as you stride ‘cross the floor,

Leaving ego and arrogance in a sack at the door?

Can you take a step further? Do this if you dare:

Carry pride away with you and leave the sack there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting the good fight.

 

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A year ago yesterday, at the time of starting to write this post, (22nd February 2015), I acquired my first real Karate injury; a broken toe. The injury was, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, a catylist for positive change. My injury made me realise that it is possible for me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep “fighting the good fight”, where I formerly would have catastrophised for way too long to do so in a timely fashion. Although, initially this lesson was learned in a physical sense, it quickly translated into all areas of my life.

Fighting the good fight means more than just being able to train while recovering. Fighting the good fight means doing your best in whatever you do. Fighting the good fight is looking out for yourself and for everyone else. Fighting the good fight is being proud of who you are and leading by example. Fighting the good fight is being honest with yourself and being honest with others. Fighting the good fight is finding the light at the end of the tunnel and setting your course toward it. Fighting the good fight is living everyday as if it is your last.

When my toe broke, a lot of mental barriers broke too. Sure I had made a lot of positive changes in my life before, but it took breaking a bone to remind me that like bones, life is fragile, and life is precarious, and life can change in an instant. It made me confront the fact that no matter how I live my life, I won’t be here forever.

This made me considerably more determined to share more with people, to plant seeds for positive change, both close to home and further afield, and to lead by positive example. I started to care more about how I lived my life and care less about what others thought about how I lived my life. I started to believe in myself and believe that some of the things I believed in were worth sharing. I know I am far from perfect. Perfection is a long road with no end in sight, so I do the best I can with what I have. So a year ago (25/2/15), when I was finding it difficult to walk, and a bit frustrating not to, my blog, “A work in progress” was born.

It started with recipes (which people had been asking me to blog for ages) but the blog quickly grew into a space for sharing my ideas and reflections on much more than just what was going on in my (evolving) kitchen. I will admit that I enjoy writing just for myself. This is a surprise to me as English was my worst subject at high school, and I disliked writing prose and essays throughout university and beyond. I have, however, found writing this blog to be therapeutic and, at times, even cathartic.

For whatever reasons this blog came to be and continued, I seem to have gathered a reasonable audience now.  Some people give me feedback on google plus or facebook, some on the blog itself, and some in person.

I would like to that each and every one of you for joining me on my journey, (especially those who have over the years encouraged me to start it – you all know who you are!!). I appreciate being able to share something with you. If I have made you smile, if I have made you cry or moved you, if I have made you think, if I have convinced you to try something new, or take a step outside your comfort zone, if I have planted seeds for change, if I have given you insights on what it is to “grow up” and keep growing, then I guess I am heading in the right direction. I am still and will always be a work in progress. I will keep fighting the good fight because life is here to be lived.

(Oh, and happy blogoversary to “A work in progress”)

 

 

 

Harder, better, faster, stronger. There are no excuses.

weakest days

Off days, injuries, bad moods; we all have them at some point. There are mornings we would rather turn off the alarm and go back to sleep than get up and face the day, days when we feel like a truck hit us, afternoons when we feel like we could do with a nap (but don’t have the luxury of being able to have one), nights when we are sick and can’t sleep. And of course, there are times when we perhaps have an inner debate about whether we should exercise or go to training.

In my experience I have found that exercise and or training generally makes things better; makes you forget your troubles, even if temporarily. So, on days when I am tired or hurting for some reason, for me, it’s a matter of “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile” as the song goes, (or, in reality: pack up your troubles in your karate bag and leave them at the dojo door for a couple of hours……perhaps even forget them after training altogether – result!). I figure even if I watch half the time and train half the time, I am still doing better than if I were sitting at home on the couch feeling sorry for myself (and wishing I were at class!).

In the bigger picture though, fighting at your best is not as important as being able to fight at your worst. When it comes to self defence, an attacker isn’t necessarily going to pick on you when you have your A-game on. In all reality, if you are going to get attacked, it’s likely to happen on a bad day. And if you can’t immediately switch on your A game, then your bad day may get a whole lot worse! Being able to fake your A-game might be enough, but to really convince someone else you are not worth messing with, let’s face it, you probably need to be convinced of this yourself.

Realistically, how you feel is more a mental thing than a physiological one. I have niggling musculoskeletal issues and various hang-ups acquired along the journey of life. I can’t tell you the last time that I woke up and I did a body scan only to discover I was feeling 100% fit, well and healthy. I am not complaining, but it is what it is! I also can’t tell you the last time I let it bother me for more than a second, because fundamentally it comes down to this: (1) I am awake, (2) I am breathing, (3) I am aware, (4) I can control my body, and, most importantly, (5) I can control my mind.

If I acknowledge every small ache or pain or emotional hurt, and let it invade concious thought, where would I be? I tell you where…..still in bed. And what room would I have for other concious thought then? Not enough to be on my A-game that is for sure.

Fortunately mother nature gives us incentive and a push in the right direction. In a training sense there are the endorphins (aka happy hormones) produced with physical activity, that start swimming around in your blood and making you feel really good and forget the pain. In a street scenario there is also the whole “fight or flight” thing going on which results in the priming of skeletal muscle making you “Harder, better, faster, stronger” like in the song.

Most importantly the power of the mind; focusing on one thing (eg a punch / a block) for concentrated periods of time, helps clear your other thoughts, the way it would in a mindfulness exercise (as well as having the benefit of building muscle memory!). So next time you feel bored practising kihon (who ever get’s bored practising kihon?) don’t be bored, be mindful.

I was nearly finished this post yesterday and didn’t get around to publishing it then. Strangely, now, I am not sorry I didn’t. Why? Tonight’s class started with our instructor talking about “no excuses” and how it fits in with the dojo kun and dojo etiquette, which was part of where I was headed with this anyway, just not as explicitly, initially.

No excuses means being patient with your self and your body. No excuses means taking pride in what you do. No excuses means respecting your instructor and any feedback / advice from him / her and showing courtesy to everyone you train with and respecting the dojo as a place for training and development. No excuses means letting your spirit rise above any ills going on in the background.

So yes….I went to class tonight, even though it was a long and challenging day, even though the traffic was less than conspiratorial to my efforts at getting there, even though there was a lot on my mind, even though I have a really busy weekend and week, even though I am still limping a bit from a minor foot injury……I won’t go on….you get the picture….I went to class…..and, unsurprisingly, I am not sorry I did.

At the end of the class, as we were packing up, our instructor remarked to me that I hadn’t missed a class since I started training there (except, as I pointed out, for the few before Gasshuku when I was on holiday with my family – and as I explained then I was madly texting my Sempai and Kohai after those classes to see what I missed out on and what I needed to practice). For me personally there are few excuses to not be there, only reasons to be there. Being there is good for me. It is going to make me “stronger, better, faster, harder” for sure……but that’s only the start of it!

 

 

A deeper connection – caught in the web.

social-media-signs

I have been a social media user for about 8 or 9 years now. I used to use it because it was new and fun and all the cool kids did it. I used to play online games like scrabble in the days when I had spare time and no spare kids! Now that I have spare kids and little to no spare time, I find it an easy way to stay in touch and stay connected with friends, especially those further afield (useful since I have lived in 3 cities). It’s also a quick way for me to arrange in real life catch ups, and open or continue discussions related to in real life meet ups post hoc. I also find it an effective means of staying abreast of what is happening in the world and locally. As a busy person, I don’t get time to watch or even listen to the news regularly so I generally hear about things via social media and then further investigate online as required.

I have been observing social media too, more so in the last 3 years. There are obviously algorithms for what I see on my news feeds (regardless of how I set it up even), which ads show if I don’t use an ad blocker, which posts are “suggested” for me, which friends I see the most of, and the list goes on. To be honest, I find the filtering aspect annoying and scary in equal measure. Even though I get the idea of how it all works, why it is used, and even though I know it is programme derived and driven (ie not human operated), it still feels like someone out there is trying to brainwash me, or decide who my friends are, or sway my opinion, or  affirm what I believe in*, just to keep me “using”.

I see photos of peoples’ kids who are the same age as mine, martial arts related posts, posts of my friends that mutual friends have commented on, pro-vegan sites, food porn and recipes, ads for things I have bought in the past, healthy lifestyle pages, positive life quotes, word nerd-isms, cats (I seem to have a lot of friends with cats….and evidently cats breed more cats on social media!!), choral and musical event pages, and the list goes on.

It’s not what I do see that worries me, and I can (and have) hidden things / un-followed and even blocked people whose posts are intrusive,  inappropriate, or just plain weird or uncomfortable; I have even blocked people who seem to have been cyber stalking me.

It’s what I don’t see that gives me cause for concern. I seem to see less and less of single friends, older friends, friends with adult children, friends who don’t have children, friends who I don’t sing with or train with, friends with whom I perhaps have deeper connections than merely demographics, connections that social media filtering doesn’t capture. Equally, these friends probably don’t see much of me (unless I actively seek them out and post on their walls, which I do from time to time), but somehow I feel like I am being pushed away from these friends, who form part of the fabric of my life so far. They are being pushed out of sight, but, despite the effort it takes, I am desperately trying for them not to be pushed out of mind.

My news feed feels like only part of a puzzle, and only a small representation of my world. I want to see everything. I want the good, the bad, the ugly. I want the past, the present and the future. I want to remember who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming.

Social media seems to be weaving an even tighter web via filtering which limits what I want from it. I have thought about closing my social media accounts on several occasions and also about reducing my reliance on them. Unfortunately I am well and truly trapped in the web and until my life gets considerably less busy and complicated, and / or human social interaction becomes more social and less media based again (I can’t see this happening), I will have to stick to social media.

“What a tangled web we weave……..”

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*or occasionally not, like odd posts with the word vegan in them that are highly offensive to vegans; when the fallibilities of a computer programme become obvious.