Are you switched on?

Just a quick update to get in a sneaky post I wrote for TINO a while back!


I think there’s an insidious disease that’s pervading our lives, and I’d go as far to say that at least 95% of the people you know have it. Most people aren’t aware that they’ve contracted it from somewhere- it probably came into their lives so early and so subtly that they just accepted it without knowing what was happening, or what would happen because of it. I’ve been seeing symptoms of it over the past decade or so, but I think that in the near future things are going to get a whole lot worse. What’s this perfidious disease, you ask? Why, you’re staring at it right now. It’s called technology.

Okay okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But I’m actually being quite serious here. Twenty, or even ten years ago, our parents and grandparents didn’t have any of the issues that young people face today. There was no such thing as cyber bullying, the easiest way to contact someone was through landline or in person, and the kind of entertainment people carried around involved marbles and packets of cards. Today, people (especially young, tech-savvy people) face a very different kind of problem.

Have you ever woken up early in the morning because some idiot’s sent you a text? Do you check keep facebook open, constantly checking if you have any new notifications? Have you ever felt frustrated that the internet’s stopped working? These are all symptoms of hyperconnection. What that basically means is that we’re always in touch with other people, at all times, in all places. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing- in fact, it’s quite remarkable. A hundred years ago, it was practically inconceivable to imagine being able to Skype with your cousin in Indonesia, or to instantly receive an email from anywhere in the world. But being so rigged up to technology has its own dangers, and I’m worried that no one’s aware of what’s happening to them.

RadioNational’s “All in the Mind” had a look at some of the adverse effects of being so hyperconnected. Lynne Malcolm, the presenter, has a look at the psychological disorders that can develop from having a phone in your pocket, from maintaining a sense of general anxiety whenever your phone goes off, to narcissistic personality disorder. It’s a brilliant show, and well worth a listen to. You can download the audio here.

But I think our reliance on technology goes a little further than just keeping in touch with our social circles. Something I’ve noticed is that, whenever I’m waiting for something, I’ll whip out my phone and play a game to pass the time. I do this in restaurants, in shops, in my kitchen, at my girlfriend’s house, even in the toilet. And I’ve seen other people do it too- my Dad recently figured out how to read e-books off his phone, and as a result he’s always reading. Even when my family went out to lunch together, he spent a large part of it with his head bowed, staring at a tiny screen.

From examining my own thoughts and talking to him about his, I get the feeling that people are desperately trying to keep entertained 24/7. As a culture, we fear silence, boredom and stillness. At least from my own experience, there’s been a growing compulsion to maximise efficiency and to always be doing something. For example, if we haven’t used up much of our monthly download limit, my Dad will just download dozens of files that he’s probably never going to read/watch/listen to. But he feels better knowing he’s made the most of his time and resources, and that if he ever has “a spare moment”, there’s plenty he can do to keep himself occupied. He also complains about never having enough time to do things, so he’s caught in an endless cycle.

Why have we become so dependent on technology for happiness? Once during a blackout, my brother got so bored that he declared that there was nothing to do and went promptly to bed, even though it wasn’t yet 7pm. The world has changed so much in the last decade- I can barely remember what life was like before broadband, and that really, really worries me.

But last week, my martial arts club headed into the wilderness for seven days, and part of that involved leaving all electronics at home. No mobiles, no iPods, no computer access or phone calls (excepting emergencies)… And when I got back to the city, I didn’t miss it at all. When we drove close enough to receive radio signal, I turned off the radio rather than listening to pop music. When my phone started receiving messages again, I glanced at it to see if there was anything important, then ignored it. I had not the slightest desire to check emails or facebook (though I was vaguely curious to see if a package had arrived for me). My friends and I knew that none of that crap was really important, yet there are people in the world who go to ridiculous lengths to get the perfect profile pic, or who compulsively check their emails every day. And having been temporarily freed from that illusion, I considered it a huge waste of time and energy. If only people realised how much more there was to life than their Xbox’s and iPads!

So here’s my challenge for you. Turn off your phone, right now. Sign out of your facebook/twitter account. Disconnect from some piece of technology you’ve been using for three whole days. One day is probably just enough time to go through the withdrawals without appreciating any of the benefits. Trust me, it’s manageable. I didn’t tell many people I was going incommunicado for a week, and when I got back, almost nobody noticed I’d been away. The world will keep spinning if you stop trying to control it for a little while. Just try it, and see what happens. There’s so much to gain, I can’t even begin to tell you how much.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m shutting down this computer and going to go see my girlfriend for dinner.


Fight Club: Round 4

Hm! Can’t believe it’s been over a year since the last one. October 2010, February 2011, February 2012, March 2013. More-or-less once a year on average my martial artist friends will meet up to give each other a good beating!


I’m quite tired so I’ll make this brief. Only four of us were there this time, the Asian crowd of Bert, Manchoon, Andrew and myself. Andrew is by far the most experienced of us with his incredible skill, ferocious attitude and amazing technical knowledge. I was keen to fight with Bert, who was of a similar skill level to me in stand-up and ground fighting when last we sparred a year ago. Since then he’s started BJJ lessons and I wanted to see how much of a difference they’d make in his skill level. The results were surprising – it was hard for him to engage me in a grapple, and when he did, I was able to hit him or pin him with techniques other than joint locks. In our later grappling-only sessions, he was much better than me and his technical knowledge really shone through. In terms of injuries, Bert came close to throwing up from an uneasy breakfast and too much pressure on his stomach during grappling. Despite a general “no face strikes” rule (due to my wisdom teeth and sword-bashed tooth), I hit a lot of people in the face. It was only after Andrew barraged me with chest-punches over and over and over and never once hit me above the shoulders that I realised he was going for body-strikes intentionally and out of kindness. Sorry everyone! But I did knee Manchoon in the head, and did get side-kicked in the cheek when I accidentally nudged his leg a little higher than intended. Few scratches and bruises, a bloody nose, but nothing too serious this time!


General feedback is that I’m harder to hit than previous years. It seems that I’ve spent enough time with the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts to give up my faux-kickboxing and actually apply randori- some excellent adapting of techniques and deflections. Some not-so-great ones either, but I’ll work on those! In terms of grappling, I don’t really know too many joint-locks, but my defence is quite good. I guess when it goes to grappling I’m getting an excellent idea of “bad positions to be in” and so do everything I can to avoid them. I think I’d probably benefit from a few months (or years!) of classes. Some very satisfying leg catches, cold-wind-blows-on-two-ears, back kicks, side-kicks, front kicks, seiruto and uppercuts. Gotta watch my face hits, though XD


Lessons include:

  • When doing a gun-disarm, move the arm first (it’s faster) with minimal telegraphing, catch in front of the trigger-guard, punch away from you as you shift your body off line, drop-step in as you punch, grab under the hammer (without crossing the front of the barrel) and flip 180-degrees to break. Flip back 90-degrees to clear, pull back, tap the cartridge, cock the slide. Or just hit them with the gun.
  • Alternatively, grab the wrist with the left hand, the barrel with the right hand, shift off-line and punch away. Flip 180 to break, flip 90 to pull back.
  • In grappling, “half-guard” is when you have one leg under your opponent and one leg between you. “Full guard” is when you have both legs between you. When you have no legs between you, you have been “mounted”.
  • To dismount someone, trap one hand, plant both feet close to your butt cheeks, drive your hips off the floor by “bridging” on the balls of your feet and buck to the side you’ve grabbed. If you haven’t grabbed an arm, they’ll reach out to stabilise themselves. Grab it and buck again in quick succession. If they’re sitting high up on your chest (and not your pelvis), buck over your head instead.
  • The hierarchy of positions is: They’ve got your back, side control, half guard, full guard (neutral), side control, mounted, you’ve got their back. I think.
  • When someone has you in full guard, they’ll probably try and pin your head to their chest so you can’t do anything. To escape, push against their chest with your hands and work your way down until your hands are on their pelvis. Arch your back, have one foot planted close to their butt, the other away from them, and get up. Push one knee down to break their guard.
  • When applying an arm-bar, get your butt close to their side, your feet close to their other side, and rotate their pinky to your chest. Pull their head down for an alternative lock.
  • To choke someone with your legs, trap one arm and catch their neck in the crook of one knee. Hook your other knee over your ankle and squeeze. Try and get 90-degrees in the bend and be slightly side-on. Alternatively, take them to the floor for a different effect. Their arm chokes one side of the carotid, your thigh, the other.
  • When you get tired, don’t stop moving. It might seem easier to just take a few hits, but it makes it so much worse. You get worn down until you fall down, and then it just gets harder. Keep moving, keep being a threat.
  • Range is everything. Charging in and being aggressive is not ideal, but at least forces your opponent to defend themselves.
  • Aggression is 90% of the fight. Be able to turn it up at will, even if you don’t want to. It is seriously one of the most important things you can learn in martial arts.
  • Don’t just take hits! Defend! No, they may not hurt at the time, but that’s because your sparring partner is holding back and wearing foam pads to protect you. Treat them as serious threats, don’t just brush them off.
  • Always be prepared to attack. However you move, move so that you can fire something off. Don’t ever compromise your own readiness.

That’s enough now. Night everyone!