Tuesday, August 18, 2009

For Once, I Agree with Jim and Sara Brady

News stories like this will only serve to turn Americans against guns and gun owners

In court, when two judges arrive at the same conclusion but through different methods, it is called a concurring opinion.

That's what I've come to today with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. I've never agreed with them before, but I do agree that if you're going to a presidential event, you need to leave your guns at home.

Those who know me, know that I am a staunch supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. I've written and spoken extensively about that view. In this blog, I've written about how I enjoy living in Florida because I can take my kwan dao, my gim or the my three-sectioned staff to the neighborhood park and enjoy a quiet training session along the Hillsborough River. In other places where I've lived, such as California, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, I'd be committing a felony if I did that.

Believe me, I am no friend of the Bradys. I learned first-hand how poorly gun control works to prevent gun violence when I was 18 and found myself staring down the business end of a .38 revolver. I've seen how well gun control d
oesn't work in New York City, Boston and Oakland, CA., three cities with abominable crime rates despite their strict gun laws.

But this week, as President Obama and members of congress take part in town meetings to discuss healthcare reform, some boneheads decided that now is the time and place to make a statement about the 2nd Amendment by showing up armed.

That's just what responsible gun owners don't need is more dumb (expletive deleted) perpetuating the stereotype that gun owners are a bunch of inbred, right-wing reactionaries bent upon violence if they don't get their way at the ballot box. Yes, we do have a legal, Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But by carrying them at these to
wn hall meetings, we are not making a statement, but instead playing into the hands of those who would ban everything from pocketknives to semi-automatic rifles.

God forbid if some psycho actually does take a shot at Obama. If you look at the history of gun control, you'll see that high profile assassinations are often the catalysts for more controls on weapons.

The killings of Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. did a lot to turn the tide against gun ownership. Many new laws restricting carrying of weapons were passed in response to those shootings. *

In California, the Black Panther Party sought to make the same statement about the right to keep and bear arms as today's right-wingers are attempting to do today by carrying rifles into the state capital in Sacremento. The response by the California legislators and several local governments was to place more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms in that state.

Images like this, showing Black Panthers brandishing rifles, went a long way to scaring people into supporting gun control during the 1960's.

In 1980, the killing of John Lennon also spurred the call for more gun control.** Three months later, the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan kept the anti-gun momentum going. What's more, that shooting turned White House press secretary Jim Brady, and his wife, Sara, into two of the most vocal and most successful opponents of the right to keep and bear arms following his near-fatal injuries at the hands of John Hinckley, Jr.

So speaking on behalf of responsible gun owners everywhere, leave your weapons at home if you're going to one of those town hall meetings. All it is going to take is one accident, or one nutjob to turn the tide against us once more.

* I don't believe for a second that all the gun control in the world would have saved the Kennedys or King. I don't claim to know the truth about how and why they died, but I have no doubt that their killings were orchestrated by factions within our government. Because of this, their assassins would have had access to weapons no matter what the law said.

**I'm no fan of John Lennon, but I have my suspicions about his killing, too. It just seems strange to me that such prominent foes of the Vietnam War all met the same untimely end.

Monday, August 17, 2009

No Workout, Just Some Ruminations

Some examples of classical conditioning found in both Okinawan Karate and Chinese Kung Fu.

I haven't worked out since Wednesday of last week. The respiratory issues are still kicking my ass. Tomorrow I'll be going back to my doctor for a refill of the antibiotics.

Thursday, Don paid me a visit. Due to illnesses and family obligations, we haven't had any chance to train together while he was home. Though we didn't get to practice, we did have a great exchange of information as we watched a DVD of some of his kung fu brothers going through Yau Kung Mun sets.

It was one of those times of information overload. There was just too much good stuff to recount it all here. Mainly, our conversation centered around the differences in the forms between different branches of Yau Kung Mun. In fact, we saw versions of two of the most advanced fighting forms of that art, the Sup Baht Mor Kiu
(18 Devils Bridge) and the Mung Fu Chuit Lum (Fierce Tiger Charges from the Forest) that were almost unrecognizable from what he and I practiced.

It can get confusing sometimes to see all the differences between the various sets, even in schools of the same style. I've studied Yang Taijiquan with three teachers who all have trained with Cheng Man Ching, but none of their forms bear a
ny resemblance to each other.

Cheng Man Ching (1901-1975)

But one thing I've come to appreciate about Don is that nothing is set in stone for him. While he has his way of performing the sets and the basics, he is willing to allow for some latitude in how others practice the techniques. While we strive to remain faithful to the spirit of those who've gone before us, we realize that people and times change.

You're not likely to see a 200-pound Shaolin monk with a 50-inch chest. Or a (ahem!) 34-inch waist. So we have to make some allowances for the size and shape differences to make the art work for us.

And if you can't make it work, then it's time to try something else.

On another topic, my birthday is in November and there is this book on "The Art of Hojo Undo: Power Training for Traditional Karate" that I would like to add to my library. According to Amazon.com, it is scheduled to be released in September.

The product description says that the book not only teaches how to use this equipment, like stone dumbbells or padlocks, but how to make it as well.

If that's the case, I can't wait for this book. I look forward to getting out my tools and making some more gear for my carport kwoon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sweating It Out

"Sweating is how you give your insides a bath."
Jean-Claude Van Damme *

I'm not much of a fan of the Damme guy, but I'll give him credit where it's due. Sweating is how you give your insides a bath. It's a way of purging your insides of toxins, bacteria and viruses.

My old boxing coach, Steve Williams, was a firm believer in the value of sweating. So much so, that true to his Native American upbringing, he built a sweatlodge on his his property, using it religiously (pun intended) to remove pollution from his body.

A Native American sweatlodge, similar to the one my boxing coach built. To the Native Americans, sweating helped to purify your body and mind.

I've put that idea to use during Monday's and today's workouts. I'm still fighting a little bit of that strep, so I kept it light. Today's session lasted 45 minutes, but half of that was a much needed stretch.

But once my muscles were good and relaxed, I walked out into the humid noontime Florida sun. The thunderclaps in the distance let me know that a deluge is coming down and threatening to keep me indoors for the next few days. I set out to get done what I could.

I've been wanting to get back to using my kwan dao, but since I know I'm nowhere near healthy enough to swing around a 15-pound polearm, I decided to do some staff sets in my circuit. Today's circuit included four runs each of the Siu Sup Jee Kuen (Small Cross Pattern Set) and Luk Hup Guan (Six Coordinate Staff) from Yau Kung Mun. Between each run, I did a set of five reps with the abwheel and five claw pushups.

A slightly different version of Sup Jee Kuen, but you gotta admit, it looks cool in this video.

I managed to get through it without fainting. Still, as winded as I was, I managed to squeeze in one run of the Mook Yan Johng Kuen (Wing Chun's Wooden Dummy Form).

*Yeah, I know that picture's not that Damme guy! I'd rather look at some model glistening than see him sweat like a pig even if that's what this article is about!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Training While Sick

It's one of the biggest questions ever faced by any athlete.

How much can, or should, you exercise while you're sick? It's well-known that people who do exercise regularly tend not to get as sick as often as those who don't.

But what about when you're already sick? What can or should you do when you have that full-blown cold or strep throat?

I've been dealing with that question a lot lately. I've had several health issues keep me from training as hard as I would have liked to this summer. My old knee pain acted up on me a few weeks ago, then it was some stomach issues, then a cold that morphed into strep throat.

I find that doing a workout when you're just starting to feel sick can help prevent the onset of disease. Gichin Funakoshi claimed that by running through some kata, he could sweat out a cold before it took hold of him.

In my experience, sometimes a light workout late in the progression of an illness can be what's needed to fight off the last of the bug. But the secret, whether trying to head off an illness or purging yourself of what's left, is moderation. Pushing yourself too hard can cause a relapse.

So yesterday, I did my first workout in a couple of weeks. I kept it light, working on some chain punches or straight blasts, a couple runs each of the Siu Lam Tao and the Mook Yan Johng Kuen, with a little bit of the ab roller between runs.

Altogether, I spent a grand total of 20 minutes. Not a whole lot of time. Probably equal to the amount of time children get for recess these days. But it did make me feel better to get off my ass and do something.

And my lungs and sinuses do feel a little bit clearer today for yesterday's workout.

I'll probably keep it short again today. Maybe 20 to 25 minutes, tops. Maybe I can blow out the last of this creepy crud.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fighting a Bug

Yeah, you gotta dig those old educational films

Yes, it's been quite a summer.

First I have some undiagnosed stomach issue that may or may not be my gallbladder. I've been jumping through all kinds of hoops trying to find out what exactly the problem is and how to treat it.

Meanwhile, for the past three weeks, I've been eating a very low-fat diet. I've lost eight pounds, but it's hard to see how much of that is also atrophy from the missed workouts. Still, this diet is very boring. It's much harder than when I gave up red meat for Lent earlier this year.

I like chicken well enough. I've been eating it almost every day. But in addition to red meat, I've also abstained from cheese, butter and most sweets. I also cut back on the amount of spicy food I normally eat.

That's hard because I do love spicy food. I also believe that my generous use of spices and herbs improves my health, especially my digestion and my metabolism. Most importantly, it has helped me to beat my salt addiction. There are so many ways, and much better ways, to flavor food without added salt, and thanks to my use of herbs and spices, I rarely use salt.

Then late last week, Vitaly and I got hit hard. He has strep throat and I'm fighting a cold. I've had strep before, so I can recognize the symptoms and I don't believe that I have it. Still, this cold is in my chest and I am doing my best to avoid having to use antibiotics.

Kimchi - that nuclear-hot Korean sour kraut that is good for what ails you.

For the past four days, I've lived on chicken broth, rice, ramen noodles, grapefruit juice and kimchi. I credit the latter with keeping my sinuses clear and helping me load up on antioxidants. I don't know a native Korean who doesn't believe that their national side dish isn't a miracle cure. Based on my experiences with the stuff, I have to agree.

Still, it once again puts a hole in my workouts. I'll be taking it easy and eating even more simply than usual.