mushin

無心

We’ve grown accustomed to our environment. Constant input. Especially over the last 10 years. I want you to think. Think hard. How often is it you have a period of 5 minutes without stimuli, and sleeping doesn’t count? Probably not that often. Maybe once a year? I don’t know, am I going out on a limb saying that?

I think over the last 10 years our lives have become more stimulated due to technology, mainly smart phones. That train ride, bus ride, visit to the doctors where you sat and enjoyed the peacefulness, or read a book, or went over your life. Those are gone now. Even social gathering are not the same. People no longer just sit together and enjoy the silence when talking is done. The phones come out and that moment is gone where you had the chance to just enjoy the quietness.

But, I think it goes deeper than that. I think we are slowly changing how our brains work. What might have happened during that 10, 20, 60 minute period where you were left to your own thinking? What process would your brain have gone through to keep yourself occupied? What electrical pulses would have fired, what chemical processes would have reacted? Are we reshaping our brains by not letting this happen? There is a strong belief that children’s brains are not developing the same way because they are over stimulated and are always having things done for them, in a sense. No longer are children left to come up with activities to keep themselves occupied, things like drawing, playing with blocks, spending time outside hiking around adventuring or just left to figure out what to do when they are bored.

How many of us have actually gone somewhere and not had any stimulus other than what the natural world has to offer? Even camping has changed. TV’s, radio’s, internet, phones, etc. I remember going camping and portaging through 5 lakes until I ended up somewhere where I was the only person around. I was on an island and there was nothing around me other than animals for about two or three miles. It was amazing. At night I had a beautiful star filled sky above me and nothing but quietness. It can be a profound experience, something that you come to yearn for. When you come out of that location it can be unnerving, getting back to the hustle of everyday life. The business, the impatience, the effect it has in wearing you down.

To the point

That’s interesting and all, but what does this have to do with fitness and health? It’s not everything but it’s something. Do you want to get more out of your workouts? Are you working on a specific goal? Is your physical activity part of a bigger plan, a goal to achieve? Our mind plays a role in this. It can help us achieve what it is we are going after our it can be our downfall.

Let me talk about the title of this post, Mushin. Empty mind, no mind. What does it mean? Not the obvious in that no mind does not mean you don’t have a mind. Let’s look at the two characters that make up the word mushin: 無心. The first character, 無 can be translated into nothing. The second character, 心 meaning heart, mind, or spirit (the word kokoro will also come up when translating this word. To the Japanese everything has kokoro, or a spirit).

So what does mushin mean when it comes to working out, or reaching for your endeavors. Think of it as blocking out all that doesn’t matter, nothing that is important at the moment. I have started to adopt this myself when working out . I try to empty my mind when performing kata or especially when sparring since the only thing I need to focus on or should be focusing on is my kata, or my opponent. But how does this come into play when working out? Simple. Focus on your body’s movement. Focus on your breathing, focus on your heart beating. Focus on your feet landing when running. Focus on your body movement when pressing weight. Take the earbuds out and focus on these things. It will change how you work out.

I want to talk about an experience I had recently when teaching a class. I have noticed recently that I would talk about specific technique, something such as keeping your hands up when striking and how when one hand goes out to strike the other hand reciprocates and protects the jaw. I talked about this for about 2 minutes, showing the technique, giving analogies to help drive home the point. ‘Ok, back on the bags and get striking’ is what I finished up with. The students started hitting the bags again and maybe one student was actually doing what I talked about. I think because of the constant ‘noise’ in our lives we have lost the ability to listen. We hear, but we don’t listen. I stopped the class and talked about this. I said that in this example you have to go up to the heavy bag and tell yourself what you need to do – you have to say it in your mind. It’s the only way your technique will change.

How

So what do you do? You have a stressful event coming up. You fear failure. You fear that you are going to walk into this event and fail. It’s unnerving. And that’s fine. If you didn’t have this fear of failure than what is driving you? But try not to let this fear consume you. Use the fear to drive you. And accept it. Let it push you and help you to prepare for the event. To deny it is to deny something that is a part of you.

Believe in yourself. Know that you have the ability and the skill to accomplish this because you would not be where you are if you didn’t. You will make mistakes. Once that mistake has happened it is now history. No matter how much you let it affect you, no matter how much you regret it, it can’t be undone. Gone. It can’t be reversed. Accept that and move on.

Mushin. Give it no mind. Give it no regard.

Mind your body, mind your breathing, mind your stance, mind your block. Mind your peacefulness.

Don’t mind history. That is for later as we use our experience to better ourselves. But that is not now.

 

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

the sun shines yet I am cold

I reach to the warmth.

 

I wrote a couple posts last week. One post was promising the world to you, to provide all the details of what you need to be successful in your life when it comes to heath and fitness. And it said that post would come soon. My other post wrote about the black belt pre-test that just wrapped up at our dojo. I wrote that post because I had to write something about that day. I had to write it because I kind of knew writing about it would help me understand it better and help me deal with the emotions I still had in me from that day.

So, better late than never they often say. Here is that post I promised.

The solution

How can you be successful when it comes to fitness? Everyone wants to be but not all are. Why? Lack of knowledge? Lack of experience? Lack of ambition? Sure, sometimes. I think lack of knowledge is the main reason. We want to be successful but we are not always educated on what will help us be successful.

I want to put into words what I think people should do to be successful. I hope I’m on the right path. I started this blog in the hopes of helping people so if this is on the money, than hopefully I have helped someone.

The target.

Have a goal. There it is. Simple. Having a goal gives us something to strive for. Having a goal helps to keep us focused on what we need to do to achieve that goal. The goal can be a lofty one or a goal that can be achieved in a short time. If that goal is lofty, be sure to break it down to sub goals. For example if you goal is to run a marathon, break that down into running 10k, 16k, 26k, etc. Running a marathon could take 6 months of training and preparing. Having sub goals gives you the opportunity to reward yourself for the progress you have made working towards achieving that goal, ultimately keeping you motivated.

You have to like it.

Whatever it is you choose to do to stay fit, you have to like it. Why run if while running you are counting the minutes, hoping they go by quick so you can get done with this. You aren’t focused on the enjoyment people get while running but instead are focusing on how much longer until you are done. So why would you continue to run? You wouldn’t and you won’t. No one likes doing things they don’t like. Experiment with different things. Running, biking, yoga, kick boxing, karate (karate, if done correctly is very demanding of the body).

Find something you like and you are very much more likely to stick with it.

Measuring.

So you have found something you like doing. Awesome! Let’s move on to the next part to help us maintain motivation and keep doing this activity. Have you progressed? Are you in better shape? Are you more fit? How would you know unless you measure these things? Is your resting heart rate lower? You don’t know, right? How could you unless you measure it. Are you able to run at 8km/h at 90% exertion instead of 100% exertion? How would you know unless you measure it. But, before you start measuring, be sure to measure you base line. Were you are before you start your program, before you start working out.

I never did that. I exercised regularly pushing myself hard. I guess I was in really good shape but never really realized it. That was until I became injured and had to take time off. A lot of time off. When I recovered and started working out again, I then realized the shape I was in when I could no longer run at 8km/h for 30 minutes. I had no base line. I had no idea, no understanding of the shape I was in. I also didn’t know because I was surrounded with people who were also in excellent shape. I would train, and still train with someone who has amazing cardio and drive that just doesn’t quit. I would often look at her and hope to have her cardio.

Does this make sense? I’ve said it in previous posts, how do you know where you are going if you don’t have a map?

Push.

You have to work hard. Ok. You may think the following is harsh but it is the truth. It is the reality that some of us just won’t face. I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care what excuses you have. I don’t care if you are a man or woman. You have to push yourself. You have to

push

yourself

hard.

Working out at a moderate pace, and low intensity pace just wont benefit you. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want better cardio? Do you want to be stronger? Do you want to feel better? Do you want to live longer? Do you want me to continue? Do you get the point?

Be uncomfortable. Sweat. Be out of breath. Look your worst. Who cares? I don’t. And you shouldn’t either. If you want the above results you have to push yourself. Read my previous posts on benefits of high intensity interval training an you will understand why.

You are worth it so respect yourself and do it!

You made it.

Simple isn’t it. It really is. No need for fancy programs, machines, expensive programs.

You already have the tools you need you just need to unlock those tools and use them.

It’s inside of us and has always been there. Push away the negativity and know that you are amazing and you have everything to be what you want to be. Like I said, it’s simple.

Yours in health,

Darryl

all that there is

‘I breathed in the air. It tasted different today.’

Every day things happen. Work happens. Interacting with people. Driving from home and back home. Sometime things happen that stand out. Mostly it’s just day to day happenings. But, sometimes things happen that will change your life forever. Hopefully that change is for the good.

I don’t consider myself a writer by any means. Most times I when I read what I have written the day before I have the urge to make edits. Some times I do, most times I don’t. I’ll make edits to fix grammar errors, or spelling that I missed but I have learned over the years that if it made sense when I wrote it yesterday, leave it alone. Maybe it will make sense to some one else. Having said that if this post does not make sense to you today, maybe read it again later and it might just read better.

I’m not the same

I had a profound experience this past Saturday. For the first time I was part of a black belt pretest on the other side. Not the candidate participating in the test but one of the sensei facilitating the test. It would be the first time seeing the test from the other side. I get to be one of the voices encouraging, motivating, pushing seven students, 5 young teenagers and two adults. Weeks leading up to this test I would lay sleepless in my bed thinking of how this test would play out. I would think what can I do to help prepare these individuals for the test. I would give nutritional advice during class at the dojo hoping everyone would grasp the importance of fueling up during a 5 hour event (not everyone listened to me, one student brought bread sticks and cheese dip. Really, I’m not making that up). I spent time with each student describing my test and how grueling it was. I wanted them to feel what I felt and to see from my expressions how tough it was. But I knew no matter what I said, no matter how I explained it they will never understand it until they experience it.

Friday night before the test I didn’t sleep at all. Too much on the mind. I was up at 5am to be at the dojo bright and early. Some of that time was to make myself a coffee because I knew it would be a long day. When I arrived at the dojo my sensei was already there ready to go. I could see we were both on the same page, we both understood the gravity of this day. This day could make or break 7 incredible individuals. That is a lot of responsibility. I think that is also why I didn’t sleep. I often fight with myself after I teach class as to how well I performed. Did I say the right things? Did my message come across the way I wanted it to. Did I make a positive difference in people’s lives? I deal with these things often but you can recover from a mistake made in one 90 minute class. I could not make a mistake today, I could not make a mistake that could result in a crushed spirit and potentially impact a life of a young individual. It sounds like hyperbole doesn’t it. It’s not. At the end of this post I’m going to lay out a rough description of the test. You might understand then.

It’s 6am. All those testing are here and I had to kind of laugh to myself. I saw the same things I did when I graded for Shodan rank. Nervous smiles, each student wishing the others best of luck. 5 of the 7 students are off for the run. I’m staying at the dojo to facilitate the workout for the 2 students who due to injury cannot run. I have my plan to make this work out as close to the run as possible. Throwing in running on the spot sprints to replicate running up hills about every 5 minutes. Lots of low impact full body movements to keep the heart rate up. One of the two students stops doing the exercise and switches to running on the spot. I ask her what she is doing and she explains that she feels like she is going to throw up. I told her no worries the garbage can is over there. She gets right back into it. I switch things up from low impact burpees to dynamic cross body movements to sprints. No push ups or any resistance training because that’s coming up after this hour long workout.

The 5 students are back from the run. Exhausted. Some cried from the intensity. Quick break than at it again. 1 hour of resistance training. 15 minutes into this interval and I can see pain. Of course there’s pain. They just completed a 5 mile run. Not an ordinary 5 mile run but one with many hills and stairs and more stairs and even more stairs. 35 minutes in and the pain intensifies. I take a quick count from each individual where they are in meeting the count requirement for each exercise. Some are doing well and some are behind the pace. Once again my observations over the years have been reinforced. The women are out performing the men. Doesn’t matter what age, young, older. It doesn’t matter. Performance is better. Focus is better. Drive is better. After an hour we finish up with the resistance training. That’s it. Time for a quick break.

On to the next round. Kicks, and kicks, and more kicks. Round house, front, side, round house off of the front foot, side and front kicks off of the front foot. An hour of kicks. Deadly. Suck the life out of you if that life hasn’t been sucked out of you yet. Are you following along with me here? This is 8am stuff going on right now. We are only just starting hour 3 and hour 3 is nothing but kicks. But they keep moving forward. I can see the pain in the faces of the students. Gi’s are soaked with sweat. Legs are starting to get wobbly. No one’s quitting yet though. No one has walked up and said I can’t do this anymore. I’m watching this with amazement but not showing it. I can’t. If I do, they might let off and lose focus. Instead I am telling them to kick harder. I’m telling Em that she needs to get her knee up. ‘Jawaad, push that bag with intent’, ‘Suz, stop being soft!’. That’s my role. That’s our role. You don’t get to choose the time and day you have to defend yourself. That time and day might be after a 12 hour work day. You haven’t eaten yet. You’re tired, exhausted and all you want to do is get home, eat, relax. It’d be great if we only had to perform when we are at our best.

Kicks are done. Now into kata. Are you thinking what most people are thinking about kata? It’s easy, isn’t it. Moving the arms around like dancing, looking all fancy and stuff. Not really. If done properly it’s exhausting. You have to be quick, explosive, precise. It’s not easy. Kata after kata after kata. People’s legs are failing. I scan and see muscles twitching as the students are transitioning from one stance to another. Soaked with sweat. Exhaustion on their faces. Callum, a hard working young man has lost focus and has been told to do push ups while the other students continue on with kata. After 10 more minutes we have a break to refuel. Callum is exhausted. He calls me over and tells me he’s so tired. He’s drained. I tell him he can keep going. I tell Callum to ignore that voice in his head. Focus on why he’s here. The body has more and the brain will tell you to stop. He doesn’t know it but I can see he has more. We take a small break between kata so everyone can catch their breathe. Louie and Suzie are on the dojo floor, head down, crying. Spent. Nothing left. The body is crying out in pain.

They keep going.

No one has quit.

No one has come up and said I cannot do this anymore. It’s not for me.

Hour 4

Yakusoku kumite – Pre-arranged sparring. You are trying to hit your training partner and they are trying to hit you. Over and over. Again and again. How long? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? No. 1 hour.

I look at Hadja. Man, this girl has spirit. Her arms can no longer punch like they normally do. They just don’t function the same anymore after hours of punishing work. But I see it. The eyes are the door way to the soul and I see determination. I yell at Hadja and Em that I don’t see anyone trying to win. Who want’s this? Do you want this? I’ve stoked the fire that is there. I’ve fanned the flames that are already there. They remember why they are here this day. The intensity rises. Life is there again. It’s like hour 1 as they each try to outdo the other. The mind has awoken again to the purpose of the day. They want it so bad that they have found life again.

So we move on

Sparring. An hour of sparring. Any of you who have sparred know how tiring it is. How about sparring after a 5 mile run, after an hour of resistance training, after an hour of kicks, after an hour of kata. Yeah. It’s not the same. You are holding onto all you have.

That’s it

5 mile run

500 push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks

hours of bag work, kata, pre-arranged sparring, sparring

Could you do it.

 

Why did I write this? Because I witnessed something that changed me. I know these guys. I’ve trained with these students and then later became their teacher. They have always amazed me. They have always been exceptional students. You have to be exceptional to be testing for Shodan in our dojo.

Ok. I’m lost for words. It reminds me of when I got back from my first trip to Okinawa. I told some friends at work how friendly Okinawans are and someone said something like ‘people are friendly everywhere’. They didn’t see what I saw. They didn’t feel what I felt. Of course, how could they.

It’s the same thing. I saw young women and men bring the best of themselves out that day. I saw 2 extraordinary women bring the best out of themselves that day. Just like how they would never understand my explaining to them what the test would be like, you’ll never understand how this test was to them, or to me.

I don’t look at these students the same anymore. They aren’t the same. They have shown that they can rise to the occasion. They have shown that they have chosen the hard and tough road, not the easy road.

I love these guys and always will.

Why?

I wrote this to show people that it’s possible. You may think you can’t but you can. Here are the stats:

Students:

5 students under the age of 15

1 student in their 40’s

1 student in their 50’s.

What are you doing? Does age matter? In my opinion, no. Your heart matters.

I’ll never forget these fellow karateka’s that tested. I talk about it and I get emotional. I tried to explain it Tuesday night at class and I couldn’t do it justice. I had too many thoughts in my head. The emotion got to me.

Hadja, Emily, Jawaad, Callum, Alex, Louie, Suzie.

They can do it, you can do it. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t fall into mediocrity. It’s up to you.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

the only thing I know…

‘It will make sense one day’

I had to pull this post due to uncertain circumstances, or in other words, on the phone with my full time job for hours. Stay tuned, unless disaster strikes again, a new post will be up in a couple days. Of course this is totally irrelevant if you are reading this a week or more from now.

Call it click bate. Call it misleading.

What is the most important thing to you in being successful in your pursuit of heath and wellness?

I’ll do my best to inform you, but not now. You will have to wait.

Hint: you have it but aren’t utilizing it to it’s full potential.

Yours in health,

Darryl