Category Archives: movement

Teaching Children The Way of Harmony

The following is a press release, which I wrote for my dojo, to be released to a local newspaper (hopefully soon! Please, Sunstar Davao!).  Doing press releases and stuff like that isn’t really my forte, but we do need to advertise if we want the dojo to survive and thrive.  So here I am doing my bit to let people know we exist.  Now if you will excuse me, I need to go into Marketing mode now.

Parents, are you interested in letting your children learn martial arts? This summer, Bu Yuu Kan dojo is offering six weeks of introductory Aikido classes for children from ages 6 to 12 years of age. But before we talk about fees and schedules, let us first make something clear: what is Aikido, and why should you let your child study it?

What is Aikido?

The word “Aikido” is often associated with action star Steven Seagal, who is himself a high-ranking instructor as well as Aikido’s most famous exponent. Anyone who has watched Seagal’s early films will likely associate the martial art with brutal throws and joint locks, done in a smooth and calm manner. It is not uncommon to hear this from people who don’t really know what this martial art is all about: “Aikido? Yan ba yung kay Steven Seagal? ‘Di ba bali-an yan ng buto?” (Aikido? Is that the one that Steven Seagal practices? Isn’t that bone-breaking stuff?) While there certainly is some truth to that, there is so much more to this martial art.

Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art developed by the late Morihei Ueshiba. “Ai” is translated as “harmony”, “union”, “joining”, etc. “Ki” is often translated as “energy”, “life force”, or “spirit”. “Do” means “way”, “path”, “art”. Thus Aikido may be translated as the “Way of joining energy”, “path of harmonizing spirit”, or simply, the “Way of Harmony”.

To the observer, an Aikido demonstration looks like a flowing, whirling dance among the participants. Aikido movements are circular and spiral. The movements are designed to allow the practitioner to neutralize the opponent/s by blending and redirecting his/her attacks into throws, locks, or pins that exploit the attacks’ speed and power. By utilizing the force of their attacks, it is possible for the skilled Aikidoka (Aikido practitioner) to neutralize even bigger, stronger, and more powerful opponents. Indeed, the more powerful the attack, the harder the throw or pin.

The Way of Harmony goes beyond the martial context, however. It also has ethical and moral dimensions. Indeed, the highest form of Aikido application would be to neutralize one’s attackers without harming them. The Aikidoka realizes that simply defeating an opponent, while perhaps necessary in certain situations, is at best a short-term solution. In the long run, it is necessary to work for lasting peace and harmony. Therefore, the first and most important opponent for the Aikidoka is himself/herself. Or as the Founder would say: “True victory is self-victory.”

The practice of Aikido reflects this philosophy. There is no sparring or competition. Aikidokas take turns in the nage (defender) and uke (attacker) roles, practicing two-person and multiple-person drills that teach the techniques and principles of Aikido. Students practice controlled falls on specially designed mats – these help them absorb the throws, locks and pins with minimal impact and reduced risk of injury. An attitude of caring and mutual respect among Aikidokas is emphasized.

What will your children learn?

The summer introductory course will be taught in eighteen (18) 90-minute classes, to be held three times a week for six weeks. In this period your children will learn the fundamental footwork and body movements of Aikido, as well as basic rolls and controlled falls. Because this is a class for children, there will be less emphasis on the combative aspects of the art, except for a few basic techniques that will be practiced slowly under the supervision of the instructors and senior students. They will learn how to apply the Aikido movements to evade strikes and escape from holds, while taking care not to injure their opponents. They will also learn to fall safely, which is a valuable skill that can be transferred to other physical activities. Furthermore, as this is a Japanese martial art, they will be exposed to the traditional culture of Japan.

Through this practice, your children will be able to cultivate the following qualities:

  • Discipline
  • Focus
  • Respect
  • Self-restraint
  • Confidence

They will also be able to enjoy the following health and fitness benefits:

  • Flexibility
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Agility
  • Mind/body coordination

Finally, they will be exposed to the philosophy of Aikido, which is resolving conflict not simply by defeating an external enemy but also and ultimately by addressing the roots of conflict.

Fee and schedule:

The fee is Php2000/student for eighteen (18) 90-minute sessions. They will also receive two Aikido Kids T-shirts. The classes are every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Start of classes will be on April 7, and the last day will be May 16. We also have adult classes on the same days from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm, if you’re interested in joining.

What to bring and wear:

Your children may bring a change of clothing and water, although we do have a water dispenser in our dojo. Since this is an introductory course, wearing Aikido uniforms won’t be necessary. Your children may come in jogging pants and t-shirts.

Dojo address and location:

Space 17, Level 2, Esmar Plaza, Illustre Extension, Davao City. The building is behind OroDerm hotel in Magallanes Street.

About Bu Yuu Kan Dojo:

Bu Yuu Kan Dojo is an Aikido club under Seiwakai Inc., a non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to the practice and instruction of the art of Aikido. Seiwakai Inc., is under Seiwakai Japan, an organization founded by the late Koichi Shibata (8th dan black belt) directly affiliated with the Aikikai Foundation in Japan.

 

For inquiries, text/call mobile no: 09228678733 (look for Ronald)

And like our Facebook page: Seiwakai Aikido Buu Yuu Kan Dojo

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Reluctantly, for the Time Being

“Raf, we have a problem…”  So began my senpai’s (all you non-Japanese out there, read that as dojo senior) sentence last Wednesday.  But let’s backtrack first to several months before, when I informed everyone in the Aikido dojo that I was taking a year’s time off from Aikido to focus on my FMA practice.  That meant I would neither practice nor handle any classes.  That shouldn’t have been a problem given that there are several black belts in our organization, myself included.  But for reasons that I’m too lazy to elaborate here (let’s just say that we now have two dojos, effectively dividing the number of qualified instructors in half – but it gets WAY more complicated than that), there is a current shortage of available instructors in the new dojo.

And so once again I find myself reluctantly stepping up to teach.  I say ‘reluctantly’ but dammit I really do miss being on the mats, and I am looking forward to this Thursday evening.  It’s just that…

…you know the feeling that maybe you’ve bitten off way more than you can possibly masticate and swallow?

Thursday evening is when I go to my FMA class in the local YMCA.  Make that Thursday 7:30 to 9:00 in the evening.  Aikido class is from 6:00 to 7:30 in the evening – that’s assuming people will come on time.  Good thing both classes are located relatively close to each other in the downtown area.  That would mean that by the time I arrive at the YMCA they will probably be at least halfway through the basic methods and drills (assuming they start on time).  That would also mean that I will be coming to FMA practice at least a little tired.  That concerns me.

I can only allot one evening a week for martial arts training.  Let me rephrase that: given my current life situation, I am only willing to budget one evening a week for martial arts training in a formal class.  I can train on my own any time – it’s the evening classes that I’m referring to here.  Squeezing in two martial arts in one evening then going to work the next morning may be too much for my body – and maybe even my mind – to take.  I don’t think it’s healthy and sustainable in the long term.

People in their twenties will probably not appreciate this yet, but when you get to a certain age you will feel the aftermath of any physical activity you practice like you’ve never felt them before.  Your recovery time will not be as fast.  I know because when I try to do too much in terms of training – whether it’s martial arts, parkour, or whatever physical activity that floats your boat – I either start getting cranky, or sick, or injured.  Heck, having a hangover from drinking one too many beers the night before feels worse and seems to last longer than before.  So if in the past you worked out, had sore muscles the next day then the day after you felt fine, now it might take you two days to recover.  Add to that your daily responsibilities, your job, the chores, the kids, the other things you also want to do…

Anyway, that’s the reason I wanted to take time off from Aikido in the first place.  Given my life situation, both in terms of what I need to do and what I WANT to do, it just made sense to focus on just one martial art for a year.  That way I could also squeeze in some parkour training, plus music, plus writing, plus spending time with my family IN THE EVENINGS (because, DUH, I have a freaking day job)…. blah blah blah… yadda yadda yadda… I’ll stop here.

Now you have an idea why I am reluctant to go back to the dojo.  So why go back at all?

The simple answer is: I am needed there.  Of course I could have said no.  That’s a very basic discipline, by the way: the act of saying no.  No, I will not do X.  No, I will not commit to A at this point because I am already committed to B.  No, no, no.  And I’ve been very good at saying no this past several months.  But I will not say no just for the sake of saying no.  Right now, somebody has to handle the Thursday Aikido classes.

Right now, that person is me.

Reluctantly, for the time being.


On What Is Normal

And when your idea of Normal is someone else’s idea of extraordinary, you inspire, you start to shift what’s possible, and you elevate the kind of person you are, and thus the kind of life you are going to lead.

And when your Normal is extraordinary, just imagine what your Exceptional could be.

Khaled Allen

A few months ago I pulled a muscle in my back after working on my straddle press to a handstand and doing hindu pushups afterwards.  As far as injuries go, a pulled muscle isn’t exactly serious.  It can be, as I would learn that time, very painful though. It hurt for several days, and the night before the fourth day I had to sleep in a semi-reclined position on the couch because it was already affecting the way I breathed.  Heck, changing position or otherwise engaging my core in even the slightest of efforts hurt.  So I got a chest x-ray the next day just to be sure it wasn’t anything serious (I figured it was a pulled muscle but I wanted to be sure),   then went to see my doctor.  He took a look at the x-ray, felt around that spot on my back and told me it was indeed a pulled muscle, and that he felt a particularly hard knot on my back.  I explained I’d been working out and – well, this was roughly how the conversation went:
Me: Well, last time I worked out hard was last Tuesday

Doc: What was your workout last Tuesday?

Me: Handstands…

Doc: What!?  You can do that?

Me: Yup, and I also did hindu pushups.

Doc: What!?  You can do that?

Me: But y’know I’m relieved.  It’s a good thing I got the x-ray and called you, because I was beginning to worry that maybe I’d fractured my back or something after practicing throwing last Saturday (NOTE: I had attended an intro course for Pencak Silat that Saturday.  And yes, I am well aware that had I actually fractured my back I wouldn’t have been able to move, much less workout afterwards, but I have a rather active imagination that sometimes works against me.)

Doc: What did you throw?

Me: Oh we threw each other…

Doc: WHAT!?

I’m sharing this story because it made me think about the difference between what I think is normal and what others may think is normal.  Most 34-year-olds I know do not include handstands and tumbling moves in their workouts.  I don’t even know a lot of 34-year-olds who workout on a regular basis.  And yet, this is exactly what I do.  This is normal for me.  It ain’t normal for other people, though – not in my experience anyway.  Which is why although I found my doctor’s reaction funny enough to share online, I wasn’t really surprised.  He must have thought I was either crazy or freaking awesome – or both – for having such, erm, physical physical activities.

What’s funny is in the circles I frequent, there are people who can make me look like a wimp, both in terms of physical ability and in terms of bad-assery (is that even a word?).  Granted, I am neither a professional fighter nor am I a professional traceur, but I can say with confidence that I am no weakling.  Call me a wimp and I’ll probably just grin and say with confidence, “care to test that hypothesis of yours?”  And yet I personally know people in my Kali class who could literally mop the floor with me then have a beer and a cigarette afterwards if they felt like it – hell, who could do all three at the same time.  I have a guy in my Aikido class who can pop off several clapping pushups without even breathing hard.  The same guy is so flexible he makes me look stiff – and I make everyone else in the dojo look stiff!  I know people who do CrossFit, and people who, like me, cross-train in different martial arts.  I have a niece who dead-lifts and does diamond pushups.  I can’t even do a single diamond pushup.  What is normal for them is not normal, and in some cases not even possible, for me.

When I look back at my youth though, and what was normal for me then…

What was normal for me in my early twenties was to go to bed at 1.  Going to bed at 11 was early.  Normal fun for me was getting drunk, high, or preferably both.  It meant going out not just on weekends but also on the days before and after weekends.  Normal was finishing a pack of cigarettes and contemplating opening another.  It was smoking a joint and getting the munchies.  Normal was being just under 200 pounds and trying to hide in really baggy clothes that were also, well – let’s just say I didn’t so much dress up as much as just put on the most comfortable pieces of cloth that I could grab.  Being a chain-smoking, booze-guzzling, pothead and couch potato was normal.  Gasping for breath going up a flight of stairs?  Normal.

These days?  I sometimes look back at my old normal in disbelief.  “That was normal?”  If I stay up until 10, that’s freaking late for me.  Normal for me is waking up at 6 to make breakfast, then working out before everyone else wakes up, and then sitting down to breakfast.  Normal fun for me is staying home to play with my kids, and having the occasional beer or glass of red wine with my wife after we have put the children to bed.  Normal is training parkour and freerunning, and looking up parkour and freerunning tutorial videos on YouTube in my spare time.  Normal is yoga on recovery days.  Normal is having sore muscles after a hard workout.  It is going to martial arts class once a week.  It is popping off one-arm cartwheels and rolling on concrete.  It is being able to do things that I could not have done in my twenties or even in my teens.

This is my new normal.  And you know what?  I’m keeping it for as long as I can.  Until it’s time for another normal.

I guess, if there is anything I’d like for my readers to take away from all this, it’s that what is normal for you can change.  If you choose it.  What is your normal?  What would you like to be the new normal?

********************************************************

Photo source: author’s Pinterest
This post was inspired by the article “Elevate Your Normal” by Khaled Allen (that’s where I got the quote at the top).  Check out the rest of his article, hell, the rest of his blog, if you want to be inspired.


For the New Year: Officially Starting the 5:2 Intermittent Fast (and returning to my bad-ass ninja training)

Today is my first ever 5:2 Intermittent Fasting day.  I’d decided during the holidays that I would give this at least 3 months.  As I’m typing this I am aware of a feeling of lightheadedness.  I’ve been feeling it all day.  I don’t recall ever having gone this long without food – not while I am awake that is.  I have had several cups of tea throughout the day to add to my two cups of black brewed coffee earlier this morning.  The lightheadedness comes and goes.  The Filipino phrase nalipasan ng gutom (literally, passed-over by hunger) comes to mind.  The feelings of hunger have definitely passed me over today – lots of times.

I’m pretty much okay, though.  My wife and I were concerned that I’d be cranky the whole day (something that tends to happen when I’m hungry), but so far so good.  Or maybe it’s because I’ve been psyching myself up for this for almost a week now, ever since my brother and his life partner gave me a copy of Mosley and Spencer’s The Fast Diet.  I guess there is a difference between feeling hunger as a result of purposefully and enthusiastically skipping a meal, and being hungry and just wanting to eat already but not being able to immediately do so.  There is a sense of control and purpose in the former, and maybe that’s why I haven’t snapped at anyone yet.  Don’t get me wrong: it is not the most comfortable feeling in the world.  But it’s not as unpleasant as I thought it would be.  It also helps that I have dinner to look forward to, which should be about an hour from now.

Anyway, below is my basic fitness and nutritional plan for the first quarter of 2015.  The nutritional plan is meant to help with my physical training in two ways: first, less excess weight makes for easier movement and less strain on the joints; second, less excess fat will help me fit back into my clothes.  I actually still fit in my training clothes, but I don’t wanna wait until I’m too big to fit in them before I take action.  Most of my pants are really tight now.

Nutritional plan:

Mondays and Fridays are fast days, the rest of the week I can eat normally.  I’m mulling over having Wednesday as an added fast day every other week, making it a 5:2, 5:3 fast plan but we’ll see how it goes.

Bad-ass ninja training plan:

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: yoga in the morning.  Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays: alternate between bodyweight circuit training (my Workout A) and tumbling supersets (my Workout B).  Tumbling supersets is performing cartwheels, parkour rolls, and working on floor kips in supersets.  Tuesday evenings is for Kali class.  Thursday afternoon is for parkour/freerunning practice.  Saturday afternoons is for solo Kali practice.  Sundays are rest days, though I may sneak in a few minutes of jump rope Tabatas if I’m feeling energetic.

That’s pretty much it for the first three months of 2015.  We’ll see how it goes.  Happy New Year everyone!


The Feeling of Having My Arms Replaced with Jelly

I am going to fall.

I’m going to lose my grip and fall backwards on my ass…

That’s pretty much what I was thinking while training for pull ups this morning.  I say “training for pull ups” instead of “doing pull ups” because right now, I can’t even do a single pull up.  And I don’t recall ever being able to do one even as a kid.  Well, there was that time in 6th grade when I could jump up to a bar and pull myself up – but I’m talking about a proper pull up from a dead hang, without the help of a jump.

The problem with training for pull ups when you can’t even do a single pull up is that the solution can’t be as simple as “Just do more pull ups.”  How can I “just do more” of what I cannot do?  If I could do even just one that would be enough – I’d just work on adding one more rep every session.  That’s why I’ve been working on my upper body strength: because right now I’m relatively weak. My biggest weakness is my grip.  Part of it is my body type: I have small wrists and small hands (which is also my problem when working on my handstands), making it hard for me to maintain my grip for long.  It also doesn’t help that I am overweight by about 8 kilograms (that’s 17.64 pounds for those who measure in pounds).

Hence the thought of losing my grip and falling backwards about halfway into the set.  I’d been working on reverse row-sit backs, and still had a set each of straight arm bar pull ups and TRX bicep curls to look forward to.  This, after practicing getting in and out of a straddle press to handstand against the wall, followed by a set each of hollow body pushups and TRX tricep extensions.  Just another normal handstands-and-pull ups training day, a.k.a. upper body strength day, a.k.a. “try-not-to-fall-on-your-ass” day.

Training for pull ups really is a pain in the ass – well, more like pain in the forearms and hands actually – but it’s also rewarding.  I like the feeling of getting stronger gradually.  Sure I’m still weak, but every session I get less weak.  And even if after a couple of months or so I still am unable to do more than a single pull up, that one pull up will be more than zero!  And it will really help with my parkour and freerunning, especially once I start training wall runs and under-bars.  It will even help me keep my grip on my kali sticks during FMA practice.

So I welcome the feeling of having my arms replaced with jelly in the morning.  It’s all good training.  And look!  I can still type.  Oh yeah!


Ground Training

I am a beginner in Parkour and Freerunning.  That means that you won’t see me doing those crazy leaps from buildings, running up or flipping off walls, or any of that stuff any time soon.  Are you kidding me?  I wanna have fun, not kill myself.

So how do I train?  On the ground.  No obstacles – just the hard, firm, but ultimately much safer earth.  This way I can train in moves without worrying too much about getting hurt.

This also solves the problem of finding training spots.  All you need is enough space.  If you go outside to a park, a field, or a vacant lot, you’re good.

Now I have my own way of training on the ground, but here’s a video from the Tapp Brothers of how to train on flat ground.  If you’re a beginner looking for a way to train safely and you happen to be reading this, bear in mind that this video assumes that you can at least perform the roll with reasonable proficiency (meaning it doesn’t hurt when you do it on concrete), as well as know the proper mechanics for the other basic moves shown.  If not, I recommend either subscribing to the Tapp Brothers’ YouTube channel or going to their website.  They have tons of free useful parkour and freerunning tutorial videos*.  And no, I am not paid to say this – I just know their stuff is useful because I use them in my own training.

*They also offer more (I imagine) comprehensive and structured programs that you have to buy online.  I haven’t tried those out so I can’t say anything useful, but judging from the usefulness of their free stuff I say if you have the cash and you’re willing to part with it to buy their program, go for it.


Day 2 of Going Back to Ninja Training – Err… Parkour/Freerunning and Martial Arts

I feel sore.

In places I didn’t expect, though in hindsight I should have expected.  After all, going back into tumbling after a few weeks of not tumbling is bound to make one sore in the core.  It’s just that I expected to feel it more on my abs and sides, and I’m feeling the soreness on the sides of my lower back.  Must be all those cartwheels.  Yup, definitely all those cartwheels.

After a long period of relative physical inactivity due to suffering and recovering from sinusitis (hey, remember when I said my week-long headache may have been caused by my dental issues? Yeah, turns out it was acute sinusitis.  Go figure.), traveling out of town twice – first for a wedding and then for a live audition (more on that on the next blog post), and then recovering from said travels and THEN recovering from having my wisdom tooth removed, I finally officially returned to my regular physical training routine.  It helped that yesterday was a holiday, which meant I didn’t have to worry about getting things done by 7 so I could leave for work by 8.

So before breakfast I worked on:

  1. Cartwheels – both regular (2 arms) and single-arm cartwheels for my right side, which is my stronger side; and regular cartwheels for my left side.  I intend to work up to doing single-arms on my left as well, but all in good time.  I have noticed a significant improvement on my left: I’m more stable and I travel in a straighter line than I used to.  So it’s just a matter of time.
  2. Parkour rolls – on a yoga mat over a tiled surface.  No, I’m not bragging.  Okay, maybe a little.  But only because I used to stack said yoga mat over some thin kiddie puzzle mats.  No more.  If I’m gonna train in Parkour and Freerunning, I’m gonna have to get used to rolling on hard surfaces.
  3. Jump rope intervals – this is a new one for me.  I’ve never used a jump rope as part of a regular routine before.  I patterned my intervals after the Tabata protocol – 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest x 4 + 60 seconds cool down – but I rested 20 seconds instead of 10, and I didn’t go all out like you’re supposed to in Tabata.  Hey, I’m jump rope virgin!  It’s okay to take things slowly.

After breakfast I still had some time to kill before a 10:00 meeting, so after I felt reasonably settled in my stomach, I proceeded to practice the 13 basic strikes of Kali.  I would have finished it with a minute of Carenza (free play) but my son borrowed my stick and we ended up playing sword-fighting.

In the afternoon, I was still feeling okay so I decided to practice some Aikido sword movements then finished with the 24 forms of Taichichuan.  I learned the 24 forms a few years ago when I was in graduate school.  I only took a few lessons though, just enough to learn the forms.

So that’s what I did yesterday that left me feeling sore.  This morning I worked on my straddle press to handstand and freestanding handstand.  For straddle press, I worked on doing the against-the-wall progression where my head and back are supposed to press tightly against the wall as I stand in a straddle and roll up into a leaning handstand and slowly roll back down.  I still can’t quite do it – and I’m pretty sure it is more psychological than physical – so I placed two chairs behind my legs, placed one foot on each chair, then rolled from there.  After a couple of reps, I kicked up to a handstand against the wall, then worked on pulling away both feet and holding that freestanding position as long as I could.  To date, I have never gone past 4 seconds.  It’s pretty frustrating, but it is what it is.  Sometimes all you can do is just train your ass off.  It is comforting to know that even though I can’t still pull off a 10-second freestanding handstand, I can tell that I have gotten better in the past year or so.  This time last year I was still struggling to kick up to a handstand (again, it was more of a mind thing than any actual physical shortcoming).  And as I’ve mentioned earlier my cartwheels have improved, which can probably be attributed at least partially to my handstand training.

Well, there you have it.  Two days of ninja training.  The original plan was to also include pull up training this afternoon, but I ran out of time.  Oh well.  Next time.  Tomorrow is recovery day, and I’m looking forward to a massage in the evening.  Yippeee!


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