Day 2

My second lesson as a member of Tai Shin Kai Karate.

I got my gi but it was much too big for me. Frustrated at constantly receiving gigantic uniforms with the assumption I’ll grow into them (I never have. Not once.), I went to talk to Sensei to ask for a smaller one but he had already started class, so I made do. He later told me it’ll shrink considerably in the wash, and then to sow the sleeves and pants inwards as much as necessary. He does the same to everyone, so it’s not just because I’m short which comforted my slightly.

Just having the uniform made me feel more competent. I could pass myself off as one of them. Nay- I am one of them now. If I may be so bold, I believe I’m getting much better. I’m becoming familiar with the unfamiliar techniques, adjusting to new stances (the fighting stance I love- the guarding hand is not held at the chest but at the stomach, which is awesome) and beginning to learn my kata’s.

I said in my last entry that Ho-sensei uses physics to explain techniques- torque, rotation, resistance etc. I discovered tonight that he also discusses metaphysics: the path of energy and where it can be drawn from. A steady stance to draw earth energy through the feet, a deep breath to draw fire energy through the crown, and water energy which is released outwards from the centre. And even if you don’t believe the spiritual aspect, it’s extremely good physical training anyways. Ho-sensei expects students to train as hard as they can all the time because, as he described in one of his infinite lessons, that striving to beat yourself by even a little will some day add up. It’s challenging, but rewarding.

As far as skill goes, I cannot say but I believe I am almost the
equivalent of some of my class members. I am finally learning to add strength to my strikes. Not only speed (which is important, obviously), but something behind it, the "killing force" as sensei describes it, which aims to drop an opponent with one blow. A difficult thing to do, he acknowledges, but it’s what we train to achieve. A little bit scary hearing him use the term, but I respect it. Although this is my first lesson of applying newfound strength (my reverse punch at its best now has enough power to stagger someone), I have much, much to learn, and greatly anticipate learning it. I am reassured by my progress, even after my first lesson. What I look forward to most is randori, free sparring. It will help me best understand the nature of karate, while seeing what areas I need to improve on, and what weaknesses I can find in both my sparring partners and karate as a style. I think it will be the most useful teaching exercise I can undertake.

The ripple of influence

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the life of
others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of
hope, and those ripples, crossing each other from a million different
centers of energy, build a current which can sweep down the mightiest
walls of oppression and resistance.” Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Tai Shin Kai

About half a year ago I started working night fill at Coles, filling the shelves when the store was closed. With my evenings occupied, four days a week, I didn’t have much time to pursue a new martial art. I’ve been getting unfit and my technique has dulled, and for a while I considered returning to Taekwondo if only to maintain my skill rather than improve it. Now that I’ve finally begun placement, I’ve cancelled my night shifts (moving them to all day Saturday instead) freeing my to pursue what art I want.

I’ve chosen Curtin’s karate club, Tai Shin Kai. I wrote an entry a while ago about it, and my impressions have not much changed. I have the deepest respect for Ho Sensei, and my basic skills are sufficient enough for me to survive in the club. It is difficult for me to resume the rank of white belt, not for rank’s sake, but to face my sheer ignorance and inability. There were many times when I simply had no clue what everyone was doing and copied as best I could. Techniques which are not explained are, at best, taught by patient sempai’s. It sucks to go back to square one, but I am comforted by the memory that I felt the same way when I started out Taekwondo two and a half years ago. Drowning in incompetence, but after a few lessons, a few weeks, I gained enough experience to grasp the basics and begin to hone my own technique and style.

Ho sensei is a serious man. He can laugh and tell jokes, but when he looks you in the eye, you know he can kill you. To coin a DBZ phrase, he hides his power level well, but when he powers up, he strikes faster than the eye can follow, and to be in his presence is to be awed. He uses science (chiefly physics and motion) to support the logic for certain attacks and has clear distinction between training and real life fighting. He includes in his techniques all the practicalities of where to strike so an opponent has the smallest chance of defending. He acknowledges the skill of other fighters and prepares his students as much as he can. He is a patient man and excellent teacher, using Japanese philosophy and emphasising respect to all people.

Although I’m still a novice, I am striving to be humble and to learn all I can. I lack the patience sensei does, and wish to see results instantly or near-instantly. As in Mariokart, my acceleration may be enormous but my top speed is not as high.

I wonder what sort of fighter I’ll be a few weeks from now? I’m learning much more hand to hand rather than hand to foot combat, which is appreciated. I have so much to learn, and as frustrating and hopeless as it can be, I will get there some day, and be a better warrior because of it.

Can’t wait to get my gi this Thursday ^^

The Social Brain- Care2

Just something I think everyone needs to read. Kudos to anyone who doesn’t answer texts mid-conversation.

Social Brain“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” -Rollo May

We are wired to connect to each other. Daniel Golemani’s book Social Intelligence has uncovered new research on social neuroscience has identified brain cells, termed mirror neurons, which actually link us, brain to brain in social interaction. The complex neural circuitry that activates in the brain in every social interaction from the smallest exchanges with a store clerk to the complex negotiations with our life partners not only helps you know what is happening in the interaction, but also cues you on how to respond to keep interactions civil and functional. This also explains why other people’s emotional life is as contagious as the common cold. Studies have shown that a single individual who is either happy or sad can change an entire group’s collective mood for better or worse in a matter of minutes. So it is not your imagination that you start feeling bad shortly after your partner or kid walks in shrouded in gloom. In my household of six, many of whom are growing adolescents, the mood factor is anything but stable. So while I might be wired with a social brain as part of my biological imperative, maintaining strong social connections is hard work and requires practice.

I think our relationship-avoidant nature might have been one of the unstated impetuses for the Internet revolution. The digital communication devices that have come to dominate our social interactions don’t ask anything of our social brain, which explains why people will do and say things on their emails and text messages that they would never do in a face to face interaction. Parental concerns over the obsessive texting that dominates teenage life with kids continuously splitting their attention from the people they are with and the continuous inane conversations that are buzzing the phones is just the tip of the iceberg. Research suggests that the idea of becoming a “crackberry” is not just a psychological phenomenon. The continuous rush of dopamine during instant communications can actually create a physical addiction with the classic withdrawal symptoms.

Ironically, it is our need for social interaction that drives our obsession to connect digitally. Continuous messaging makes us feel good and important, even if most of the communications that are exchanged is just banter. Flirting has taken on new meaning for the younger generation where instead of a look, they get a text message. The devices that we believed would enhance our ability to communicate and connect actually interfere with the real relationships we crave. The ease of two dimensional, digital communications make it natural to prioritize them over our real relationships, because they don’t engage your social brain the way face to face encounters do. But the danger and risks of substituting digital relations for the real thing is deep and pervasive in our culture. The number of relationships that have been terminated by text message is a small marker for the lack of practice and skill building that the new millennial generation is cultivating in developing full relationships.

Sexuality too, is impacted by our new and growing dependence on digital communications. The new phenomenon of “sexting” where over 30 percent of more than 1200 young people reported sending nude photos is another manifestation of technological “connecting” without the wisdom of the social brain. The same girls, who would send their naked body over digital technology, would never consider stripping in front of the same eyes. Even more disturbing is the social brain asleep at the wheel, with a recent survey showing over 66 percent of 18-24-year-olds reported texting while driving, which is provoking many states to institute laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving.

Boundaries need to be drawn, distinguishing between the work of relating and the convenience of chatting or texting. We need to be vigilant to the human moment when we are right next to someone and create a virtual boundary around the machine in our hand. The skill of being present to the moment and the activities that develop our social brain functioning happen in the midst of attending to our primary relationships, face to face. Most of the messages that take us away from the people we love most are inconsequential and can wait.

Our relationships mold not just our experience, but our biology. The mirroring that happens in human interaction shapes us in ways as subtle as sharing humor and as profoundly as how our immune system activates in the continuous battle against bacteria and viruses. The social interaction we crave heals us. Now more than ever we need to teach and learn that the relationships that fill our real time, real life are the priority. They are the only means we have to learning that life is a social event, not a virtual one.

The Greatest Zelda Fan of All Time

Today I heard about a Triforce conspiracy in the images of the Google logo. Apparently (so googled websites tell me) one of the artists stuck a tiny Triforce into some of the images used on the google homepage. And as I searched through the conspiracies, I came across a website linking to The Odyssey of Hyrule, a fansite dedicated mostly to Ocarina. And as I searched through its articles I was humbled the lengths people went to to discover the game’s secrets. Admittedly, I knew almost all of them already, however obscure. I read about Triforce rumours which were plausible but absurd. I read about interviews with Nintendo, gameshark codes which allowed some awesome glitches, the crooked cartridge thing (sneaking past Mido without a sword or shield- he used disposable deku sticks the whole time! That’s crazy!) and how Silvestris is honoured as an artist.

It’s so strange to think that I was once the little boy who printed off Silvestris’ art and framed it in my room, to admire by candlelight in the early hours of the morning. How large a part of my life Zelda was. Truly, I would not be the same person without it.

No, I’m certainly not the greatest Zelda fan of all time. But I love Zelda more than I think anyone could know. Heck, just look at my email address.

I’m not sure why I wrote this. To smile at myself for being so childish, so determined to be a Knight of Hyrule. I like to think at heart, I might just be.

Lessons from Illness

Just something to think about and to remember. I especially love No. 9.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook

I was 19, my life seemed to have fallen apart: I was bedridden, unable
to move my own limbs most of the time, had to give up university and
work, diagnosed with a rare and terrifying illness, and was told my
life would “only get worse.” I couldn’t even imagine worse. Unable to
get out of bed most days I spent what little time I wasn’t sleeping
thinking, praying, and reflecting. “This can’t be the totality of my
life,” I often thought, desperately wanting to have a more “normal”
existence, go to school, earn a living, and be a contributing human
being. Now, most of you may already realize that the story gets better
because I’m sitting here writing this blog and have authored six books
as well. That experience took my life in a direction I could never have
predicted and taught me so many valuable lessons. Here are some of the
things I learned:

1. My self worth has little to do with how much I earn, how much I know, or how much I do.

2.  Connection with one’s soul is inherently valuable.

3. Now that I can work, I am SOOOOO grateful and express this
gratitude regularly. How wonderful it is to express my soul’s purpose
through my work.

4. What a joy it is to be able to get out of bed every morning.

5. How wonderful it is to nourish my body with healthy foods–they played a significant role in my recovery.

6. I am a contributing human being as long as I am expressing my
soul, its light and love, even if it is only in a positive thought or a

7. To stop thinking of the things “I can’t do” and focus on the many
things “I can do.” I heard an interview with a writer who became
disabled from an accident. He said, “before the accident I could do
10,000 things. Now, I can do 9,000 things. It’s incredible to be able
to do 9,000 things.”

8. What a miracle life is in all its myriad forms.

9. To stop judging myself against someone else’s capabilities,
beauty, skills, or other attributes. I am a powerful, beautiful, and
worthwhile human being because I choose to express my soul.

10. What bliss it is to be able to put my arms around my husband and
hold him. The body that I once cursed now gives me great joy. How
incredible it is to express my soul through my body.

Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc, CNC is a best-selling and six-time book author and doctor of natural medicine, whose works include: The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, and The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan. Learn more at:

To Baulk

I realised something today. I’m terrified of responsibility. The holidays have been pretty okay for me! Working in the evenings, doing other stuff during the day, seeing Bethwyn whenever possible. I’ve been busier than I anticipated, but it’s been good busy, happy busy, purposeful relaxation busy. I’ve passed a few games, read a book, went down to Pemberton, that sort of thing. But today, my happy holidays were starkly interrupted by a pressing reality: I’m going on placement in a few weeks. I’ll be working for Centrelink, a government organisation, where I will be a public servant and represent the government. I will be working an actual job, not just as casual "Fill the shelves, don’t worry about anything else, take it easy, have some money" Coles job, a job where I will actually be dealing with people’s lives, sums of money, you know… important stuff like that.

And I don’t think I’m ready for it. I seem to enjoy my holidays because I don’t have to do anything, so long as I can pass the hours and get enough money to survive. It’s not much of an existence, but I’m tempted just to abandon a career, work for a shopping centre doing some crappy job without any accountability or responsibility and live off that meagre pittance so I don’t have to worry about being professional. I might have the skills, deep down, to be a social worker, but I don’t want any of the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t want to have to go out and buy new clothes, or to pack lunches for work, or to only have a half hour lunch break because there’s so much to do… Just leave me to play Phantom Hourglass in my pyjamas and I’ll be set, thanks.