Archive for the ‘Mental & Physical Health and awareness’ Category

The exercise and mental focus found in Krav Maga training helps balance internal strife.
So one May walk in peace Audio by Jonathan Fader

“So that one may walk in peace”, the wise words of Imi Sde-Or, highlighted in the UTKM student guide and white belt workbook.  To me it certainly has a compelling draw; not only as a journey, but as a destination.  I’m a lifelong learner who has exhausted many of the usual avenues in trying to keep balance in my life and to feel at ease. Over time I noticed that all my endeavours to achieve this sense of stability lacked a universal application, resulting in the need to move onto the ‘next’ thing. I was successful and restless at the same time, and I was starting to feel like the clock was running out on finding a means for me to balance all of life’s ups and downs. After almost a year of poking around the UTKM website, I attended my first Krav Maga session on March 19th, 2019, not quite sure what to expect or how I would respond.  

So who the hell am I anyway?

Well, basically, I’m a middle aged dad with two intrepid grommets (active kids who can’t drive), a dynamic wife, and I love to ski and kitesurf. Believe it or not, I’m on my 40th season of riding sticks in the snow, and my old man knees reveal themselves whenever we do side lunges during warm up.  I’m on my second (third?) career as a teamster in the film industry and I keep my life simple by being active, hanging out with my wife and kids, and doing some of that skiing stuff in the backcountry mountains.  This sounds easy, but I have a complication that throws this ideal state into flux: my soul seems to have a tendency to either drive or attack itself.  This unsteady state has been the fire under many of my successes, but also the root cause of many unnecessary life problems that I have brought to bear on myself and my family.

I’m relatively easy going and hardworking but I also have a deep-seated temper.  With this all-over-the-map mix, it feels like my soul has either an itch that needs scratching or a scar that needs healing (perhaps both?).  My upbringing was pretty solid with lots of opportunity for success, so I’m not claiming a ‘woe is me’ scenario.  I have no idea how this internal state came about but I do know that when I’m not in a training scenario that involves a routine and pushing limits, I get restless, frustrated and worst of all, angry.  In my personal experience, the expressions of rage are not about being mad at something but more about ‘losing control to gain control.’ It’s fleeting, fragile, and ineffective, as the fallout tends to be greater than the gains.  In the past I controlled this uneasiness through competitive endurance sports, but the feelings of peace and stability started to decline when I could not complete the required 20-30 hrs of training time per week.  At age 41 all of my left ankle ligaments had to be surgically repaired and I knew that I needed to move away from doing all types of adventure sports, instead seeking to embrace lifelong activities that challenged my body and mind.

So why Krav?

As I mentioned before, I have engaged in many different activities to bring about some ease to my ongoing restlessness, ranging from competitive cycling, skateboarding, playing bass in bands, and completing an MBA at UBC.  These endeavors certainly did add a positive element to my life but they all missed one essential element: a lifelong universal application.  Once the event or opportunity was over, the skills and training that satisfied my soul’s itch/scar conundrum would fade away.  Essentially, it took me almost a lifetime to realize that my relentless pursuit of new activities was never truly meeting my needs and that I needed a baseline skill that I could bring to any activity of my choice.  If I’m the only caretaker responsible for keeping my life in balance, then I need an universal approach to help manage the ever-changing elements of my life, including my emotional cycles, its benefits and its responsibilities.  

Ted Climbs Mountain tops both real and metaphorical

The UTKM whitebelt handbook states that “Krav Maga is not a martial art but rather a mentality and self-defence system that starts with critical thinking and situational awareness.”  Bingo… the philosophical match I was looking for, with the training scenario that I enjoy.  More importantly, the UTKM curriculum also emphasizes gradual skill building and deep appreciation of the basics. I love new things and the ‘soul itch’ I described earlier has a tendency to drive me too quickly, desiring progression vs mastery of skills that I have learned. This has always caused some interesting problems. For example, my ankle injury was due to the fact that I tried to land a skateboard trick in my 40s that I couldn’t even pull off in my 20s… oooops.  With Krav I learned to embrace a new learning approach that would test my resolve through simple physical movements in complex scenarios. I find that it is impossible to feel restless or uneasy if my body is positively fatigued and my mind has been challenged to act.  

After two years, one busted hand and several sparring humiliations, is it still a good match?  

Well, my ongoing restlessness feels more often in balance than not, and I love the fact that Krav is an ongoing mental and physical discovery, which is adventure at its finest!  After a long week at work, I enjoy the challenge of requiring myself to be 100% present for several hours. My daughter and I spend the drive home laughing about our various sparring mishaps, but also talking about things we learned.  It’s a shared experience that I would never trade for anything, and I one day hope to bring my son along (he’s training BJJ at Budo Martial Arts).

Still not convinced by my post? Well, today I had my commercial driver’s medical exam to renew my class 1 license and the physician was a little in disbelief over my low heart rate and ideal blood pressure despite an average 85 hr work week. The physician joked that I did not look like a typical ‘truck driver’ and that I seemed very relaxed and engaged for a Sunday morning.  I left that appointment with a feeling of pride knowing that with all this training, lifelong learning, and exposure that UTKM brings to us students, we really do get the opportunity to “walk in peace.”       

Written by Ted E. – UTKM Yellow Belt

For training online visit www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

Balancing Ego: Sometimes you must build it up, sometimes you must push aside. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

As this series has been on martial arts and ego perhaps its time to define “ego” as per the dictionary:

e·go – /ˈēɡō/ noun

  1. A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. “A boost to my ego”

Similar definitions:

  • PSYCHOANALYSIS: Ego – the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
  • PHILOSOPHY: Ego – (in metaphysics) a conscious thinking subject.

In layman’s terms it basically means “how we see ourselves, how we think of ourselves, and how we value our self-worth relative in the world.” Ego can help or hinder you. A healthy ego can give you confidence which will allow you to accomplish the tasks that you wish to do without the inner dialogue, that is often negative, to hold you back. If people perceive you as confident than they may be more willing to help you or follow you. On the other hand, an unhealthy ego may also help you achieve your goals, but will also hinder you socially as those around you may simply consider you arrogant and unworthy of listening to or following.

One thing that seems to be consistent with regards to ego, healthy or unhealthy, is that you must build a healthy view of yourself that is positive while trying your best not to push your ego onto others. There is a reason people like modesty or other comparable personality traits; because if your ego is too much, for one reason or another, especially if someone has a negative view of themselves, they will perceive this as an attack on their ego.

In short, people are hard. Yet, we are innately social creatures that need to be around others. Yes, it’s very complicated.

So with that definition (somewhat loosely) established in an super-overly simplistic context let’s talk about how this relates to martial arts.

The Instructor

Being a martial arts instructor is a challenging job. Depending on how you approach the activity it can be very rewarding, a long struggle, a hobby, or an enjoyable lifestyle. I would say that if 4 out of 5 businesses fail, 4.99 out of 5 martial arts or fitness business fail. It is naturally a hard business to get into. When you start you think, “I want to take my hobby into a lifestyle that can make a living.” It should be no surprise however that most martial artist who do it more seriously actually don’t make very much money. For those who do make money it is usually due to a difficult journey, both physically and mentally, that simply through consistency and hard work eventually paid off.

It’s this fact, that until you reach business stability it is quite common for the grind to affect the ego of the instructor, as their self worth is tied into their hobby and now livelihood. (After all, marrying a martial artist is often frowned upon as they are no doctor, lawyer, or something traditionally more prestigious.) During this period of stabilization it is often quite common for the instructors ego to feel unappreciated as students (at least in modern times) make all sorts of demands on the instructor, some reasonable and some not. Often the demand is to progress them faster or make things easier or “do things differently.” For a martial arts instructor this can be quite tough on the ego. A question is often asked; “Do I do what they want to keep business alive, or maintain my integrity and stick to my guns with the proper way to do things?” The latter can be quite difficult, as it often means less business and ultimately a view of yourself and your position in life that may include a lessoning self worth.  

It is assumed that all martial artists, through discipline and “spiritually grounded mind, body, and soul,” have a good, strong ego that is not too much or too little; so they, of course, are expected to have a positive self worth at all the times. This is simply false, because, like all persons, the martial arts instructor is human, with an ego.

For those who do well, their self worth and ego are boosted and they see themselves as a valuable member of society, contributing to the physical and mental growth of others; which includes the shaping of healthy egos in their students. Either from making students realize they aren’t as good as they thought, bringing their egos down to a more reality-based plane. Or by helping them build their ego through confidence, by achieving goals and making progress as they rise through the ranks.

A martial arts instructor with an over-inflated ego and self worth, with a little charisma, can very quickly become a cult leader, teaching nothing more than bushido for the sake of boosting their ego. Beware the McDojo!

A martial arts instructor with an under-inflated ego (a.k.a. a low self worth), no matter how good their skills are, may have a difficult time inspiring others to develop themselves and stick too the difficult path that is the martial artist.

The instructor must remember to manage their ego while also managing the skills and development of others, and remind themselves it isn’t always about them but about developing others.  The method in which this will be achieved varies, as there are many paths, but some paths will attract fewer students and others will attract more.

The important thing for the instructor though is to always keep in mind; why they are doing it and what about it makes them happy?

Some instructors may be totally happy with a modest living, so long as they can practice and teach their arts. Others may only be happy with thousands of students and will achieve this at all costs.

The balance is a tricky one.

What is too much ego, or the right balance of ego, confidence, and self worth really depends on the person.

But the martial arts instructor who fails to understand that ego is part of not only being human but is ingrained in the martial arts for practical, philosophical, and historical reasons, may find themselves in the worst of all worlds.

For how is any student to learn properly if the instructor loses the most important battle of all, the eternal one that isn’t with the opponent but the ego and the internal dialogue?

The Student

The student wants to learn martial arts for ego, self worth, and more. Just like the instructor, they too have an eye on being something more, something better. Though for them the journey with the ego is different.

Some come in thinking they are tougher than they are, others not as tough as they are. In both cases there is often an underestimation of the time it will take to achieve their goals. When this is realized it is often the first ego beating that a student has. Fear, doubt, or just life gets in the way and although they may tell themselves they will train they do not follow through with their original plan of becoming “the ultimate warrior.” These students lose the battle with the ego with questions like; “What if I can’t do this?” “What if I am not good enough?” “What if I can’t train enough?” Before they even really start to try, their ego and confidence says “it’s easier to quit now then to keep going,” because it will, of course, be easier than the path to the goal they originally had.

Another battle with ego students sometimes experience is with the school itself, the instructor(s), and their training partners. Though martial arts is ultimately a solo activity, rather than a team activity, it can often make students forget that there are other people to consider; the instructor, the school, and other students. The student makes it about themselves and only about themselves. They care nothing for the struggles of the instructor or the school, or how they may help benefit their fellow students. It is a battle between the ego’s demand for the primacy of the self and the social demand for others. It can be far too easy for the ego to take over and make the journey only about the self. This will ultimately lead to less desirable results, as the instructor may simply gloss over the difficult student, or other students may not want to train with them. The ego must not win this battle if the student expects to have the best journey, to the best version of themselves, to achieve their martial arts goal. The ego will say this is an “individual journey,” but without the instructor, the schools, or the fellow students, your progress will simply be hindered and it is a battle that must constantly be fought, remembered, and managed.

Of course, there is the student that is a physical specimen and let their ego run wild, for they are the destroyer of worlds. This is, of course, what the ego says. No one challenges you and you are the best. While it may be true in your world, your gym, you may simply be a big fish in a small pond. This student also fails to realize, through the blindness of ego, that being the best physically is not the main goal in martial arts, just part of it. In Krav, at least, it’s to walk in peace.

Running around with an over-inflated ego will only ever cause conflict, both internally and externally. If this student let’s his ego win, eventually he won’t just fail, but the internal story that the ego has weaved will come crumbling down and the once high view of self importance will collapse into the pit of the question, “who am I without my physical prowess?” Some rebuild and some do not. It is an ego trap easily avoided by developing the other areas that one can gain by training martial arts.

The opposite student to this is the one with no developed ego at all and almost no self worth. Perhaps there are no physical skills present. Often these students rely far too much on the opinions of their instructor or others, and not enough confidence comes from within. Accepting their starting point, and the difficult journey ahead, is often far too difficult a challenge to face and will only be another metaphorical blow to their already poor self worth. A student like this must realize the importance of developing their ego and realizing that much of the martial arts journey is actually solo. If you quit to early, you will never grow; but that is, of course, easier. If they put their ego aside and simply do, rather than resist they will find positive growth not only in the ego and self worth, but in the other physical-oriented aspects that is martial arts.

Final Thoughts on Ego

There are, of course, many other ego traps or challenges that students or instructors may face. The only way to find out which ego battles you might struggle with is to start your martial arts journey and never stop, even if it only means casual training. A battle never stopped is a battle never won or lost, but rather a journey. Which is how you probably should view the hardest battle of all, a journey with ups and downs and loop-de-loops but one that only ever should have progress and nothing more. This battle is not with your instructor, your students, or the world around you, but rather the battle within, the one with your ego, the one with yourself, the one that matters the most.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

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Old rivals, and their egos, come face-to-face once again in “Cobra Kai”(source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

If you like martial arts then there are a few people and concepts you probably familiar with, no matter what decade you were born in. Bruce Lee is, of course, one of the most famous. But how about Mr. Miyagi, the legendary, Okinawan karate master played by Pat Morita in the 1984 movie The Karate Kid, and in three sequels? (Not to be confused with the 2010 re-make of The Karate Kid, starring Jacki Chan as the martial arts mentor Mr. Han, in which they aren’t even learning Karate but rather Kung Fu, the traditional systems of Chinese martial arts. NOT THE SAME.)

Anyway, Mr Miyagi taught Daniel-san traditional Okinawan Karate (the system originated in Okinawa, not the main islands of Japan) to help learn to defend himself against the bullies from the Karate dojo Cobra Kai, taught by military veteran (and mild psycho) John Kreese. In the original movie the rivalry culminates with young Daniel LaRusso defeating his main bully, blonde bad boy Johnny Lawrence. This propelled Daniel to a good and successful life, and led Johnny to a life of alcoholism, bad parenting, and poor life decisions. This is, of course, as we now know seeing the characters 30 years later in the “Cobra Kai” series on Netflix. With the SAME, albeit now adult actors, which is a great thing for a series to do.

This is where I give you the spoiler alert. If you didn’t already know that Daniel won the tournament in the original movie, well too bad; it was made before I was even born so you should know by now. But, if you aren’t caught up with the latest season of Cobra Kai yet then be warned, there may be some mild spoilers ahead.

If are into martial arts and the original movies, then you will love this series! It is pure entertainment combined with continuing the original storyline, with the added bonus of considerably more character development; which makes this series a must watch in my opinion. The show includes, at various points, almost all the same actors from the film series (where possible, R.I.P. Pat Morita), and adds some new faces, which is something I would love to see in other, older series.

Johnny decides he wants to start teaching Karate again and opens up his own dojo. Needless to say Daniel finds out and all manner of ego-driven shenanigans ensue. Daniel also tries to get his daughter to start training Karate again. Long story short, Cobra Kai competes in the famous “All Valley Karate Tournament,” despite Daniel’s effort to keep Cobra Kai banned, and Johnny’s champion prevails. Daniel looks like the bully and it looks like Johnny is doing good again. Season 2 sees the return of Johnny’s sensei, Kreese, who is just as nuts, if not more so, than before. A school rivalry builds between Johnny and Daniel’s schools, which results in a fight with serious consequences. More ego-driven violence and shenanigan’s occur as everyone, Johnny, Daniel, their students, and their own kids, is trying to prove themselves, their Karate prowess, and their ego.

All around it’s great fun to watch. However, intentionally or unintentionally, it is showing the negative side of martial arts and human EGO. It also perpetuities the bullshit idea that training in martial arts makes you a violent person. Which makes me concerned that any “Karen” who walks in on their child watching it will then go on a Karen-rampage to try to stop all martial arts from occurring. You actually kind of see this in Season 3, where school trustees, who are clearly vanilla people who know nothing of combat, simply panic and try to ban all Karate.

Karens aside, it really highlights the EGO of “who is the best?” Ego is a powerful thing, it can help you or hinder you. It can give you strength and courage, or make you crumble. As mentioned in the previous post of this series “My Martial Art is Better Than Your Martial Art” (and as implied or stated by me numerous times), there are many factors to “who is the best” and this means not everyone can be the best.

This is why it’s important to understand, for your own ego, are you capable of being the best, and if you are, are you putting in the work to be the best and stay the best? Or if you are not capable of being the best, are you happy just being the best version of yourself that you can be? In the latter situation, people often quit training in martial arts altogether because of their ego. They cannot accept they are not the best because of some factor or other, so they stop rather than continuing to strengthen themselves. No, not everyone can be the best, but not everyone needs to be. You just need to be better.

Now, if you are the best, as proven by competition, can you stay the best? For many it is short lived and for others it’s a long journey, but eventually you will fall, and the question is can your ego handle it? A good example where the answer was “No” was the dominant female UFC champion, Ronda Rousey. When Rousey finally fell, she fell hard and fast, and never really recovered mentally. I am still waiting for the in-depth documentary on her life, as it will most likely show how an unchecked ego will only lead to a massive crash and a pit of emotional despair.

Personally, I dislike the need that so many people have to boost their ego through martial arts, as can be seen in the Cobra Kai story; those once bullied become the bullies when they finally have the power to do so. This is an aspect of the show I do not like, as it depicts how without proper guidance many people can take power and go sideways. After all, “With great power comes great responsibility”- Uncle Ben, Spider-man.

Cobra Kai, at least as of the end of Season 3, has yet to show how losing can actually check your ego back in place, teaching you that maybe you aren’t as good as you thought. Which means you can either work hard to get better or you can simply be content with working to be in a better place mentality and physically, and know that, outside of competition, you know your abilities and can walk in peace. This aspect is something I would love to see more in the martial arts world. As we always follow the champions and the best. We strive to be them and are motivated by them. It is the winners we look up to. Except the truth is for most of us, either because we are a casual practitioner or just lack that certain something required to be the best, as martial arts practitioners are doing it just to be a better version of ourselves.

This obsession over ego and winning can be problematic and give a bad image to all the Karens out there who look down on the learning of violence. For most people learning to fight makes them less likely to fight, because they realize it’s actually quite hard and carries a high risk. Some never learn, but that’s because they have other personal issues that were there before the training and should be dealt with separately.

Cobrai Kai does a very good job at showing the kind of damage ego-driven conflict can do when it starts going out of the ring or out of the dojo and into the streets. It starts to look like the petty gang conflicts you see globally, where even the slightest look can result in someone hospitalized or dead.

While ego is inevitable, it is part of the human psyche, it must constantly be checked in all aspects of martial arts, including in its portrayal. The days of using martial arts for life and death are gone in many countries. And while some may long for those days, the reality is our lives are better when this kind of wanton violence against each other is generally unacceptable.

If the only portrayal of martial arts comes off as negative and simply for the purpose of violence, it could be possible that things go sideways and people once again loose the ability to defend themselves.

This is very problematic. When a group of people do not know how to defend themselves there can be catastrophic results. The film “Demolition Man,” with Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone, plays on this idea: A society that had lost not just the ability, but the understanding of violence, is at a loss when a mad man of old comes out of prison and wreaks havoc.

We must understand the importance for everyone to learn and understand violence; hoping we never have to use it, but knowing we can if we must. If you are an ego-driven person then temper your need to win, or your rage, and express it in the appropriate arenas, and work on yourself in other ways so that it never gets out of control harming others in the world around you.

Cobra Kai shows many of the negatives of violence, and what can go wrong when it is undirected or misused, though it attempts to demonstrate the positive aspects through the peaceful lessons from Mr. Miyagi, as re-taught by Daniel-san. Yet even he, now without his mentor, seems driven by his ego to always be right and win at all costs.

Whether portrayed in Cobra Kai, or the movies, or seen in real life, one of the most important journeys for any martial artist is learning to manage and control their ego, lest it blind them from achieving the ability to walk in peace in all aspects of life.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

The benefits that vaccinations provide to humanity far outweigh the potential harms from the exceedingly rare side effects. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Okay, as this is a topic that will be discussed ad nauseum this year, I thought I would apply some basic critical thinking. This is, of course, part of a series, the first being The Initial Response and the Virus and second being Context, Masks and Stats.

I thought I would also clarify (if it wasn’t already clear) why I write about topics that often many people think have nothing to do with self-defence. I believe that Krav Maga is truly about learning to walk in peace (as originally intended). This approach, should be clear in my series Self Defense is not just physical. This means that when I hear students, friends, collogues or family making grossly incorrect comments, on either side of the political isle, or others simply expressing confusion about some basic reality that is affecting their mental health (among other things), I feel it is my duty to do or say something. Either to quell there fears, or to educate them with more correct information (most up to date).

To those who believe that everyone should “stay in their lane”, I respectfully disagree.

One thing is for sure, COVID has applied immense pressure to society, and the confusion and non-nonsense, FROM ALL SIDES, conspiracy theorists to experts to politicians, is a big part of the problem.

So, if my writings help you, then wonderful, if they just make you hate me then, by all means. And, like many, while I may be extremely annoyed at how many governments have handled the situation and decisions they are making, it does not mean that I am also anti-science or anti-Vax. In fact, the importance of vaccines cannot be stressed enough, but that does not mean there are no issues with them.

Vaccines in General

I am just going to go ahead and say it: If you are outright against vaccines or fall into the “anti-vaxer” category, then you are not applying critical thinking at all. This is not actually a political thing. In case you have forgotten, much of the anti-vax movement started relatively recently in California from very Left-wing people. It just happens that now many of the anti-vaxers reacting to this specific event tend to be on the Right. This means it is an apolitical issue, so please stop accusing “the other side” of being stupid.

No, vaccines are not going to give your kid autism (that whole rumour started with one fraudulent paper). Historically vaccines are responsible for ridding most of the world of many previously horrible ailments, for example small pox, measles, polio, etc.. In fact, they have been so effective at snuffing out of many of these diseases which plagued humanity, that in many Western countries they do not even give the vaccines at all anymore. I’m actually kind of upset that I never received vaccines for some of these illnesses, because, you know, what if shit hits the fan and I’m not vaccinated against these something that suddenly becomes a problem? GIVE ME MY VACCINES DAMMIT!

With that being said, to sit here and pretend that vaccines are not without drawbacks is also foolish. There have been, and will continue to be, lawsuits, periodically, not just for vaccines, as in the US alone they have paid out over $4 billion in compensation. In fact I recently listened to the podcast Kill Tony, a comedy podcast, in which one of the participants suffered nerve damage due to vaccination, so it does happen.

The general attitude is that the benefits outweigh the potential harm… by a long shot.

For the COVID-19 vaccine however, even if there are some risks (which may include death) many governments are not allowing financial recourse for any damages, which is morally wrong. So, before you call someone names or insult them because they have concerns about vaccines recognize that these concerns are not entirely baseless.

Additionally, pretending like pharmaceutical companies are not morally corrupt corporations, with a very questionable history, is also silly. It can easily be seen in the recent $8 Billion lawsuit against Purdue Pharma related to Oxycontin’s role in the opioid crisis in the US. (To be fair, the responsibility also lies on the shoulders of any corrupt doctor whom prescribes something when they know better.)

With regard to the current vaccine for COVID-19, it has been said if you suffer severe allergic reactions then perhaps it may not be advisable for you.

Vaccines and other medications are very expensive to produce and as a general rule companies won’t even bother unless they think they can recover their expenses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Which makes sense financially, but for the betterment of humanity’s health makes little sense. But it is what it is, and the concern from the producers is a legitimate concern, this doesn’t mean someone is a conspiracy theorist.

Again, as a general rule, MOST of the time vaccines have done more good than harm, BUT, don’t pretend there are not potential negatives for some people.

How Do Traditional Vaccines Work?

I thought I would do a short section on the science behind vaccines, as many people really do not understand how these things work. They hear or read something online that sound ominous, or they don’t understand, and that’s why they decide they don’t like vaccines. First things first; TRADITIONAL vaccines have been used for a long time now and have a long track record of success overall. However, in the early days I bet lots of things didn’t go as planned, because we just didn’t understand enough. So if you dig, you will always find some negative examples. But, again, we don’t have polio, measles, and other horrible viruses/diseases (for the rest of the article I am just going to say “viruses,” but some afflictions that vaccines have helped with may be from other sources) on mass, in general anymore because of them. So overall, fairly good.

Vaccines introduced the virus an Active form, Passive form and other types into your body in a controlled fashion. This is intended to train your immune system to fight off the actual virus should you encounter it in the future. Yes, that means they do inject a small bit of the offending organism, along with other “science stuff,” into your body. If it is Active, it’s a reduced viral/bacterial load (ie. not enough to take hold and give you the illness). If it’s Passive, they use an inactive (dead) form. Other methods employ a part of the virus, etc.. (click on the link for better description)

All to teach your immune system how to deal with it if you were to ever get it.

If you were to encounter something like Smallpox, you may have immunity after having it because your body has now learned how to fight it off. But that’s assuming you are still alive, and most likely you are now severely disfigured. This is why vaccines teach your body how to deal with it before it is encountered. Your body is like, “Hey, I know this! Go away!” and either you are mildly sick or don’t notice it at all. With some illnesses you can only catch it once before you are messed up with disfigurements or dead. Hence you can’t just “get it” in order to develop immunity. Thus many illnesses that require vaccines are those with which the consequences are simply too dire.

Yes, you can get slightly sick after getting a vaccine, exhibiting mild symptoms of the illness or experiencing some minor side effects. This is largely due to the fact that genetics, and humans, are complicated and there is no way of knowing who will react to what. Some people’s immune systems will react more severely than others. I can remember receiving one vaccine as a child that was so painful I could barley move my arm for several days. This does not mean, however, that you are dying or that they injected a microchip into you! It does mean however that our medicine and science is not at the point where we can be so precise that we can have custom doses for each person and we probably wont have for a long time.

Stop expecting perfection, it does not exist.

The COVID-19 Vaccine

Enter the Covid-19 vaccine, which is NOT a traditional vaccine but rather a mRNA-based vaccine.

Just so you know, DNA and RNA are different structures life on this planet is based on. Coronaviruses, like the common cold, are RNA-based, which essentially means they can evolve and change at a pace our medical science has yet to keep up with. This means that, so far, we have never completely eradicated a RNA-based virus and vaccines for them require regular updates (eg. an annual flu shot).

Unlike traditional vaccines they essentially use a “key,” a protein or RNA-type thingy (yes, very scientific word), that teaches your immune system to fight off the virus.

Something to remember about the mRNA vaccines is that they are a relatively NEW technology and there is no longitudinal data, on mass, from which to assess how this will affect us in the long run. Which is a legitimate concern, as, historically, there have occasionally been issues with new technologies when they have not been tested on a wide enough population over a long enough period.

With that being said, numerous studies (one such study) have been carried out globally, on exceptionally large test groups (in the tens of thousands), which is really good, considering traditional test groups are considerably smaller.

However, a legitimate concern from many is, what was the make up of these test groups? Was it a diverse group of people, with thousands of people from White, to Black, to Asian? Or was it, as many studies are, limited to a particular group of people? It’s a legitimate question, as the medical field often ignores the genetic differences in groups when developing things because that would make research more expensive, or the politics of race and culture complicate the matter. But nevertheless, it is a concern and something worth considering. I would hope, as this is a global endeavor and studies have been done all over the place, that this is something that was taken into consideration, but without reading the data from the studies, indicating the makeup of these groups, it will be hard to ascertain.

Another issue is some people actually have been advised not to take the vaccine, that is, individuals with severe allergies. This group essentially has immune issues, for a variety of reasons, which means no vaccine, no normalcy. This was specifically for the Pfizer vaccine, but who knows, it could apply to the other vaccines from the variety of companies producing it, but, as always, without further investigation we may not know until much, much later.

What concerns me most about the vaccine is how numerous governments (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3) have limited or blocked the ability to seek proper compensation should things go wrong, especially if it is made mandatory. If I was a citizen in such a country this would be very concerning to me, as it goes against historic precedence and is extremely immoral and unethical. For many the fact that the companies producing the vaccine are protected from liability is a concern, though a moral argument can be made, on both sides, as to why or why not this should be allowed.

So let’s assume that the vaccine, in its various forms, does what it says it is going to do, which is to provide a 94-95% barrier to stop you getting, or spreading COVID-19 after both shots (less so if you only get one dose). Then within reason lockdowns and mask mandates should disappear. If they do not I would be very, very concerned.

If it does work as they say, preventing the spread of COVID, then the idea that EVERYONE MUST get immunized against COVID to help promote some kind of herd immunity is actually quite silly. This is because, as has been made clear, MOST people under 60, who are reasonably healthy, will not have significant issues should they contract the disease. Which means those who are vulnerable or at risk probably should get vaccinated, and everyone else should if they want. However, to claim everyone MUST take it and that it’s MANDATORY, actually seems very un-scientific to me. Whether asymptomatic people can transmit the virus and how many people are asymptomatic seems to be up for debate, as numbers range between 20%-80% of those who test positive. One thing is for sure, the vast majority of people under 60 who encounter this virus are not at risk of severe complications or death. Thus the idea that if you don’t get vaccinated you will die or the world will end makes no sense to me.

If, for whatever reason, the vaccines are not as effective as they claim, then our options are really to learn to live with this and learn to be healthier in general. We will not know, however, until this thing is rolled out and the next year is upon us. So buckle up and hold on.

While the speculation around COVID herd immunity numbers are up in the air, it should be evident by now that this may be irrelevant at this point, with most people being relatively fine; especially if COVID becomes another annual virus (being RNA-based). Normal herd immunity, by the way, for something like measles requires something like 95% of people to be immune to prevent mass outbreaks. So really, protecting the vulnerable and accepting that most people who get COVID will be just fine is probably the way to go.

Either way, I really want the fear mongering to stop.

No matter the virus what we really need is to see a greater push toward healthier living and better dietary choices, as well as more preventative medicine options in the Western medicine world.

Something I have yet to see from most major world leaders…

Testing

I’ll keep this short, but testing throughout the entire pandemic has been a source of confusion. Most governments did not do widespread testing early enough, particularly where it mattered, at points of entry. Some countries did not even do widespread testing at all, favouring instead targeted testing, and had great success (like Japan). But how testing is used, and it’s results measured, can greatly affect the perception of how bad the pandemic actually is. So it’s worth noting.

In Canada, we are using 3 types of testing: PCR, Point of Care, and Antibody tests. PCR is the most widespread, but also the most problematic and the source of many of the issues, whereas antibody tests are hardly being used at all.

The PCR test, to keep it simple, checks to see if you “have something,” as in are you sick, did you have the virus, is there any virus in there at all? Even the creator of the PCR test said it’s not a good test to get accurate numbers (he did not say it cannot test for the virus, it can). This means this test can produce false positives, meaning you may have the cold and you might test positive. Or you could have had COVID weeks ago, didn’t even know it, are fine now, not contagious, but you would still test positive. This means that it is likely, as most of the world is using PCR, that the positive rate is being presented as higher than they actually are. This is why as soon as you saw mass testing, the positive rates SPIKED dramatically in the second wave, yet the hospitalization rates, while they rose to, didn’t spike through the roof at the same rate.

Scientists and governments may prefer an artifactually high number, to make people take the situation more seriously, but, as I mentioned earlier, I prefer honesty over fear mongering. While COVID is a serious problem it should be obvious now that, either because of the widespread use of the PCR testing or politics of COVID, we will never know the real number of active COVID cases. Just like we will never know truly accurate numbers for the flu and common cold.

But, since it is a global issue, I really think they need more accurate numbers so that better policy decisions can be made. Just my two cents.

Conclusion

While I, like many people in the Krav Maga world, am very against the way governments are reacting and behaving I still support genuine science, that is to say actual reality, not what is being portrayed. NO, I do not believe COVID is as bad as it’s being presented to us; many of the problems are to do with failed policy, reactions, overreactions, etc. As I have made clear in this series, numerous governments got it right, unfortunately most did not.

But when it comes to vaccines, while there are obvious concerns even from a scientific perspective (it was produced rapidly and mistakes could have been made, it’s a new technology, it has no long term data, etc.) vaccines, on the whole, have been positive for humanity.

Personally I never get the yearly flu shot; because I am young and healthy and it’s not a big deal if I get the flu, when I am older, however, I would re-consider this stance. This is because flu and cold vaccines are very different than, say, those for measles, because of that tricky RNA thing.

So on this same logic, when it comes to the COVID vaccine, I am in no rush to get it. HOWEVER, if you are over 60 or an at risk individual, I would definitely consider getting it as soon as you can (from a little poking around I would prefer the Moderna one over the Pfizer) as you are the ones who need it. IF the vulnerable are protected the the death rate from COVID should be negligible, even if only half the population gets it. ESPECIALLY if it turns out that it is going to be an annual shot, then, logically, it will be just like the cold and flu shot; those who are at risk get it, and everyone else do what they feel is best for them. So, no, I am not for mandatory vaccination for this particular virus, it doesn’t make sense to me. If we were facing aerosolized Ebola however, I would be Kraving my way to the front of that line!…JK.

The point of this series was to give some perspective from the eyes of critical thinking. Experts, politicians and those on either side can sometimes get tunnel vision and stop thinking clearly in a broader perspective. On some issues I fall on one side of the isle, and on others the other side of the isle; this is how it should be if you are practicing proper critical thinking. To entrench yourself in the camp of LOCK DOWN, LOCKDOWN, or in the camp of HOAX, then you are not operating with any critical thinking at all.

COVID is not a hoax, it’s just really, really, really, poorly managed by our “dear leaders.” BUT given that many countries that have done well barley lockdown, like Sweden (though they admit they should have been a little more cautious), or countries like Japan didn’t do mass testing, means that perhaps the camp of LOCKDOWN also isn’t applying critical thinking.

So, I hope this series has been of help to you, either to open your eyes to one side or the other, teach you something you didn’t know, or clarify something you thought you knew, then I am glad.

Just remember, self-defence is not just physical, it is everything that comes together so that you can learn to walk in peace, be it physical, social, financial, mental, or spiritual. In these crazy times, sane voices and rational discussion with critical thinking must be our priority, lest we all go mad and fail to learn to walk in peace.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

Getting a workout in could be as easy as challenging the kids to a “sit-up contest” (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

When my first daughter was born, my martial arts training faded into the rear-view mirror, and my overall fitness with it. It is a big adjustment to have another human being be more important than you in your own life. At some point you have to make serious changes to compensate for the new stresses, obligations, and pitfalls, otherwise you are in danger of becoming someone who you don’t want your children to look up to.

Finding the “Time”

I am a firm believer that, as a parent, you don’t “deserve time to yourself” (“deserving” things is a marketing ploy, an appeal to emotion in order to sell you spa packages and chocolate), in fact, sacrifice is your new normal. However, as parents we are still human (mostly), and therefore still NEED to take care of our bodies, maintain social ties, express creativity, and pursue passions; otherwise what type of role model are we?

Let’s be honest, we all “found” the nearly 3 FULL DAYS it took to watch all 8 seasons of Game of Thrones, so we aren’t really talking about “time” here, we are talking about “energy.” At the end of a long day you are tired; work, life, and the kids/partner have drawn the life force from your body, and the last thing you want to do is expend more of it on exercise.

Ironically, multiple studies have indicated that as little as 20min of low-to-moderate intensity exercise, just three times a week, can reduce feelings of fatigue. Whereas more committed regimes (30-40min of moderate-to-vigorous) will improve on your mood and fitness, in addition to your energy levels.

Logically, if you improve your energy level (and mood) you will find that you have more “time” for your family and a greater willingness to attain the balance we all need between Family and being human (ie. your physical, emotional, mental health)

Beyond energy, overall fitness is important for a few reasons:

  1. Maintaining your fitness means you will be around longer for your family.
  2. Physical fitness contributes to mental and emotional fitness, allowing you to contribute positively to family interactions.
  3. Teaching your family good health habits will mean they are happier and around longer too.
Finding the Actual Time

“I don’t have time to ______, I have kids!” is a classic excuse for not doing … anything. Once we have tackled the real, underlying problem of energy, it can, depending on your family’s schedule, be difficult to find the minutes or hours to engage in non-parenting activities. (Remember that “sacrifice is your new normal” concept?)

Step 1 is to make good health a priority. Not just “make time for it”, but actually make mental, emotional, and physical fitness a family value; talk to your kids about what you are doing, and teach them why it is important (especially as you get older), and invite curiosity.

Common tips for carving out this time:

  • In the morning
    • Get up before everyone else and fit in a work out, read, or meditate. Everyone else is asleep, so they won’t miss you. (Sleeping in is bad for you anyway!)
  • At night
    • As above, but hit that 40min routine after the kids are in bed.
  • Break into small chunks
    • If you cannot find a solid 30-50min span during your day, then sneak in exercise in the smaller gaps without being totally absent. I find that opportunities for an elevated heart rate arise throughout the day with my kids; running beside them on bike rides, playing tag, swimming,etc.. HIIT routines are great for utilizing gaps in the day, as they can be done effectively in as little as 20min (though you may need a quick clothes change and wipe-down if you are doing it properly).

Remember, this isn’t just about “working out.” While exercise has knock-on effects for your emotional and cognitive well-being, you should be seeking opportunities to maintain balance in the non-physical aspects of your life as well. If you can make time for exercise, you can make time to call an old friend, draw, meditate, etc..

Make Self-care a Family Activity

A fourth tip (more of a philosophy), for finding the actual time for your health and wellness is to involve your family in the activities you are engaging in. Combine any or all of the first three tips and incorporate the rest of your clan, directly or indirectly. For some families this becomes a bonding experience, a point of pride, or even a family tradition.

Whether you are sharing time in calm silence, challenging each other’s creative skills, cooking (a great way to teach nutrition, self-reliance, and science/creativity), or starting a basic exercise routine, you need to be aware that you are working in a group with varying levels of ability. Make sure that your expectations are realistic and plan accordingly. For example, have variations of each exercise that your kids can do safely, give time to your less proficient readers and have material they can work with, allow kids to “help” you if they can’t do something themselves. (I got lucky, both of my girls are very physical and are fascinated by the martial arts)

There is plenty of advice out there for how to tweak the activities you already love so that your “new recruits” can participate: Icy Mike, over at Hard2Hurt, has a great video on pad holding when training martial arts with inexperienced family members. And horror/B-movie superstar, Bruce Campbell, espouses the benefits of “Lollygagging” as a means of mental health maintenance. He defines Lollygagging as “the act of doing exactly what you want for an indeterminate period of time (preferably outdoors) for no particular reason.”

You will likely find that there are a lot of options for getting your crew into full-body health. The earlier you instill good habits in your young people, the easier it will be for them to maintain those habits throughout their lives, seeing these as an essential art of life (as we all should!). Children often don’t know the difference between play and exercise; you can use this blissful ignorance against them!

Be Wary of the Two “Busy Parent Fallacies”

Two common imbalances that I have seen among my fellow parents come in the guise of good choices, but are, in truth, thinly veiled excuses for neglecting yourself or your family:

  • Hiding from Family via Self-care
    • This occurs when you are never around due to the over-prioritization of your own health. You are always escaping family obligation and time with your kids (which can be tedious!) by forever having a workout, training session, or other “me time” requirement. Your brood needs you. Yes, working out or engaging in self-care is harder when you have to schedule it around others, but, re-read the above tips and you will be able to figure something out. Often you will end up with a hybrid (balanced!) approach, where some activities are done together, and some are on your own. Having a supportive and informed partner helps A LOT!
  • Hiding from Self-care via Family
    • This comes in the form of justifying the lack of action on your health and mental/emotional stability (and that of your family’s), due to claims that you are over-prioritizing “quality time” with your kids, or putting their needs first. While this may be noble in intention, it is often a socially acceptable excuse to let yourself go. I’ve been there, I know! It is really easy to say “I don’t want to be tired when I have to deal with the kids tomorrow.” But, eventually I discovered that shirking my workouts resulted in it being difficult to keep up with them and lift them over my head, plus I fell out of shape I became irritable (that’s not good for me or them). Again, re-read the sections above; exercise gives you the energy and mood stability to keep up and be chill!

Ultimately, this is a balancing act (the theme!), you will find that it is probably best to transition slowly at first; do some things early, some things late, and some as a group. This is a process, don’t be afraid to re-start, re-assess, re-think, and you WILL find something that works to get you back in the gym while fulfilling your duties as a parent, or back in the family while staying fit and sane.

In Summary

The goal is balance. Doing what you need to do to maintain your family life, while at the same time ensuring that you maintain yourself (so that you are of use to said family). Let’s not forget, as a parent you are now responsible for the well-being and development of a Human. They are famously complex creatures, and, like it or not, they are looking at you as the model for how to live and act; so it is of the utmost importance that you figure out how to maintain balance between improving their mental, emotional, and physical wellness, and your own. Ask yourself, honestly, what do you want them to see when they look up to you? For those moments when you feel weak, find strength in the example you are setting.

Written by: Corey

Sitting in silence can calm the mind and reduce the stress from constant stimulation. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Balance is the current theme: A simple idea, yet one we all seem to struggle with. At first the problem is understanding “what does balance looks like for me?”, then it becomes “how do I put some pieces together to achieve balance?” The easiest, and more understood, aspect is the balance in your physical life (fitness nutrition, etc.), but here we will, once again, discuss the challenge of mental balance.

This is a topic I am well versed in, both personally and otherwise. I have written a lot about it in the past, whether from the point of view of meditation and mindfulness, how music effects mood, or the overall notion of “mental Self-defence.” One thing is for sure, this is one of the most difficult areas in your life in which to find balance. (I, myself, am still trying to maintain and manage this one.)

For some of us it is harder and for others it is easier. If everything has always been good in your life, then it’s much easier to maintain a happier mentality, though if you go too far you may find your self having been sold on Toxic Positivity. On the other hand, if all you have ever known is sadness and pain, then getting out of that mindset might be quite difficult and you may find yourself grappling with Clinical Depression. The key, and something we don’t like to admit, is that we actually need a balance of all our emotions. We as humans must learn to control our more animalistic and compulsive tendencies to let our emotions overwhelm us. It’s time to channel the inner Bene Gesserit in all of us, and realize that without this control we are more animal than human.

Once upon a time emotions served us well, guiding us away from danger without thinking too much. Unfortunately, our ancient nervous systems are slow to adapt to the constant input of the 21st century. When we only had to find food, shelter, and company (and safety from animals, the weather, and marauding tribes who want to rape and pillage), we actually had a lot more quiet time! We would work during the daylight, and rest at night while the dangers lurked in the dark. Sure, we lived shorter lives, where everything could kill us, but they were nonetheless far simpler.

Nowadays, our longevity is far less of an issue, but now we have so much more to deal with. Constant notifications from our pockets, constant forms of entertainment, and constant stresses from bills, work, and complicated interpersonal politics with far too many people than we evolved to handle.

No wonder people are losing their shit these days.

The fact is we have lost our mental balance, that is, a balance between being stimulated and finding inner peace through quiet.

If you feel like you are overstimulated and overwhelmed chances are, well, you are. In times like this the trend is towards meditation and time with your own thoughts. But for many the idea of meditation is completely foreign or uncomfortable. Recent studies have even shown that, for some, meditation can actually make their anxiety or depression worse. Unfortunately, as usual, there is no “one size fits all” solution. But for most of us there may be some benefit to finding the calm within the storm through practiced quiet time. Yes, that’s right, I said “quiet time” rather than meditation.

While there is lots of research on the positive benefits of meditation, I often wonder if it really is just about taking quiet time to think and be without all the noise. For me, personally, actually sitting down and meditating is quite challenging, as turning my mind off can be a difficult. So, if it’s not for you, then simply find the time to be calm and quiet.

For me lately, I have found great benefit in taking walks. No music, no podcasts, no companions, just me, myself, and I. During these walks I think about anything, or nothing, without the pressure of asking “am I doing this right” as many people unconsciously do with meditation. Find somewhere you like to go, perhaps close to a park, or just walk to a bench, sit, and people watch, with no real goal. The goal, ultimately, is to find a way just to be.

Simple right? I mean, it really is. Yet so many of us still forget to make the time for quiet. We know when we take care of children it’s important for them to be comfortable in the quiet, yet as adults we seem to forget this skill.

You don’t need to get swept up in some cult-like yoga center, or breathing practices, (though non-cult ones are great, like Wim Hof Breathing). All you need to do is realize that to find your mental balance in this chaotic, loud, and distracting world we have built, is to find the time for some unstructured quiet time, where you can calm your nerves and just be.

Seeking the balance inside that you always needed, may be only a matter of finding comfort in nothing. Not in a philosophical way, a literal one! Is it just that easy? You will not know until you try.

So, seek your mental balance and find your inner quiet, then, hopefully, that storm that so many of us think we see on the horizon may quickly fade into nothing more than dust on the wind.

Written by Jonathan Fader

Attaining physical balance can be daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Last week I wrote about the need for balance, using the metaphor of the Jedi, Sith, and Grey Jedi. On a surface level it may seem it’s just about morality in Star Wars, something I hope you enjoyed (unless you had a severely deprived childhood). Really, however, it was a mirror of real life. Today, and perhaps always, us humans have a tendency to be drawn toward extremes when really the centre is where you must be.

On the macro level the “centre” is somewhere around the average of society as a whole, or the median behaviours and beliefs of that society. On the micro or personal level the centre can very wildly, as what the centre is for one person may be considered extreme by another. Yet we must all find our own centres if we expect to enjoy the rest of our lives.

The first aspect of centre balance, and in today’s world perhaps one of the most important, is finding balance physically.

Diet/Nutrition

Often we beginning making healthy changes by, logically, introducing exercise, but, really, what we fuel ourselves with is a more important starting point. The modern consumer advertising landscape can make it difficult to know what is healthy, given all the confusion created by marketing and cost-saving measures. The first thing you need to understand is that the food industry is demonstrably corrupt (ethically and technologically), which is why we have been dealing with so much misinformation for so many years. (Listen to this episode of The Rubin Report featuring Dr.Mark Hyman to get a idea of the big picture.)

Remember how, for many years, the Healthy Eating Pyramid focused on breads and grains? (Canada preferred circles and curves) This was partially due to the (continued) corrupting influence of various food & beverage lobby groups, but also due to the fact that, at the time it was developed, the major global nutrition problem was lack of calories (or rather access to food), so governments focused on getting people easy and cheap calories, like bread. Though, as we now know, heavily processed foods, like many breads out there, may not actually be good for us.

Now that the modern goal really is health and nutrition it’s time for the marketing machine (of corruption) to try to convince us consumers that their products are the best option, one way or another. In the same ad-space there are companies and groups touting the benefits of vegan/vegetarianism while others promote a fully carnivore diet. Polar opposites! While some people may benefit from restrictive diets due to specific issues such as the various autoimmune diseases, the best advice for most is actually a balanced diet, containing fats, protein, and healthy carbohydrates. In other words, eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish (with out hormones or additives), and a good dose of fats.

Fats are good you say? Yes, they are very important! For years cholesterol was demonized outright, and while there is good and bad cholesterol it is still not properly understood by and large. The CDC simply says that “too much cholesterol” puts you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. and that “cholesterol can be confusing“, but new research out of the Mao Clinic (and others) suggests it is actually your cholesterol ratios that matter. Of course, most doctors will still recommend some kind of medication for higher cholesterol instead of checking the ratio or recommended dietary changes.

How about the word Carbohydrates. Lets make this clear in most cases you will at some point need them. Even the Keto diet is not meant to be long term, but rather a reset diet for your body and metabolism. By carbohydrate, again, I mean whole vegetables and fruits. Some breads may be okay, depending on your genetic make up and whats actually in them. Fresh, homemade bread will always be better on account of your control over the ingredients. “Wonder Bread,” for example, is so processed it is hardly bread at all.

And as far as meat is concerned, I can speak for myself in that whenever I have gone off meat for too long my body breaks down. Some people may be able to get away from that for the long term, but others may not. Remember, genetics and other factors can change who needs what. Without proper testing (which costs money) it can be hard to know how your body processes certain foods and nutrients. When it comes to meat, organic, grass-fed beef, without hormones or antibiotics, fresh fish, and free range chickens, are what you want. Factory farming is disgusting, and should be banned, that does not mean that we shouldn’t eat meat, rather, that means we should change the acceptable methods for raising and harvesting our meat. (And, yes, the damage that cows do to the environment has been widely exaggerated, so get over yourself if you are still confusing bad farming practices with eating meat in general.)

So how do you decide? Well, balance is what most of us need. Therefore, find a ratio of meat/fish/chicken, whole foods for carbohydrates, and fats that works for you best. Maybe even throw in some intermittent fasting and you will find that attaining the balance you seek, for all aspects of your life, was actually made easier by simply changing how you fuel yourself and what you put in your face-hole.

Exercise

This is normally our first thought when we consider getting healthy and finding our physical balance. It is a huge market and, yes, of course, full of BS and corruption. How many trends and “magic fixes” have you seen that took your money or your sanity?

Remember, in the absence of fancy programs or equipment, all you actually need is your body, some time, and movement to get in shape. Bodyweight exercises are some of the best, as they can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone, and don’t put excess strain on our body. Which makes them a great place to start from.

Walking, jogging, and running are also easy to get into, even if you have to start slow and work up to full runs. Although, running, if done excessively can damage your knees and other joints, so change up your cardio and try not to do it too much. Sprinting is, in many ways, more efficient, especially if you do not have a lot of time. Try doing ten, 100m sprints, as fast as you can, and you will feel like you just ran 10 marathons.

Other ways you can work out to build muscle and other hormones, is the classic method of lifting weights. Personally I think the Russian methodology of “never going to your limit” is probably a healthier way to approach this type of exercise. I know many powerlifters out there will disagree, but, much like those who run all the time, the practice can eventually (and often rather quickly) wreck your body.

Yes, some people can run and lift super heavy their whole life without problems, but, remember, if we seek balance then using the outliers to measure ourselves may not be such a great idea. Most of us are in the middle of the bell curve on any given thing, and if we try to do what the outliers do, we may just wreck ourselves.

No matter how you choose to get physical, from running, to lifting, to the martial arts, you need to find something to do.

The importance is not what you do (although this does depend on your goals) but the fact you are doing it and doing it consistently.

Conclusion

If you eat poorly and don’t exercise, which is so many people these days (for example 40% of America is obese and the idea that it’s okay to be unhealthy is being pushed by pop-culture) just remember, you are not living a balanced physical life. Additionally, you will be prone to poor health and at higher risk of premature death.

Seeking balance means getting active and staying active by finding activities you actually enjoy doing. For example, I have enjoyed running and lifting for a while, but, in the long run, I don’t actually get that much enjoyment out of them. This is why I choose to train in the martial arts. However, for the sake of balance, I use the other activities to balance out my physical fitness the best I can, as that is the goal. Do what you enjoy most of the time, but supplement that with other, supportive activities, enough so that your body can stay healthy in a balanced way; not just cardio, not just strength, not just agility.

No matter what you do, stay active and eat properly, and don’t jump onto the next trend just because it’s what the media has told you to do. Look at the research, on all aspects of health and fitness, and you will see that the vast majority of health science points towards balanced diets and balanced exercise programs which involve activities that are enjoyable but also push you (without destroying you).

So what are you waiting for? Channel your inner Grey Jedi and start your journey towards physical balance. Correct your weaknesses and improve your strengths.

Written by Jonathan Fader

*I am not what you would call an “Expert” on these things as I do not have any letters after my name saying so. However, with direct access to those at the forefront of nutrition and health through the internet in many cases I (or you) may actually know enough to make informed and updated decisions.

A while ago, I wrote about taking control through training. What I was really talking about is achieving balance. Now, more than ever, Balance is what we need. In a world where it’s more important to “take a side” than to seek the truth, a world where it’s easier to believe what you are told rather than research it in depth from multiple sources. Now, more than ever, both as individuals and as a society, do we need to learn to take a more moderate approach.

 

Audio by Jonathan Fader

Enter the Jedi and the Sith. In the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are presented as the “good guys,” with the Sith as their polar opposite “bad guys.” This, of course, depends on who you ask.

The Jedi, disciplined warrior monks, claim to seek balance in the Force, yet their own moral superiority (among other things) blinded them to the quiet rise of the great Sith Lord Palpatine. If we look at the actions and beliefs of the different Force-user creeds, it could be said that the not so often spoken about Grey Jedi are actually the ones who seek balance.

(I am using the codes as in the photo though there are various versions.)

The Jedi Code is as follows:

“There is no emotion, there is PEACE. There is no ignorance, there is KNOWLEDGE. There is no passion, there is SERENITY. There is no chaos, there is HARMONY. There is no death, there is THE FORCE.”

Sounds nice right? So how did these warrior monks, bolstered by a set of seemingly simple guidelines, get so overwhelmed? Simple, they did not actually seek balance. Rather, they took a generalized, non-interference stance and planted themselves firmly on a “moral high-ground.” Even when asked or subtly manipulated they avoid getting involved in universal events. They assumed they were always correct and that their actions, as long as they are in line with their code, were beyond reproach. Can you relate? Maybe you can or maybe you can’t, but often this is the view we take of whatever group we have decided to latch onto, acting as though any other group might as well be the SITH.

The Sith Code is as follows:

“Peace is a lie, there is only PASSION. Through passion, I gain STRENGTH. Through strength, I gain POWER. Through Power, I gain VICTORY. Through victory, my chains are broken. THE FORCE, Shall free me.

Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Which is often how we view the Other. We assume someone or something we disagree with must only want to take power and control over us, to impose their ideals on us. While there is certainly truth in that regarding the nature of the Sith, their code is much more about personal growth than you may have realized.

This is part of the reason the Jedi failed; they became stagnant, unwilling to grow or change, the Sith, however, were adapting and changing, growing into better versions of themselves until they could strike.

Of course, it’s easy to demonize that which is the Other. But, if you really know Star Wars, then you know that not everyone thinks the Jedi are pure and innocent.

The problem with both of these creeds is that they do not actually seek balance, that which the Force (the universe) actually wants. The Jedi, much like many priestly sects, deny their true feelings and desires, and in doing so they deny the true nature of living. Their denial of what they truly are caused misstep after misstep because they were not using all the strengths they possessed, and refused to embrace their full potential.

The Sith, on the other hand, do not seek balance because they don’t deny any of their feelings. They don’t even try to control them. They unleash it all to try to bend the Force to their will. This, of course, leads to erratic and foolhardy acts. After all, there is a reason that there are not many Sith around at any one time. They all kill each other.

The irony of this is that, if you go too far in one direction they become one and the same. If you are too puritan, too ideological, then you may become so rigid and uncompromising that you find yourself eating your own (much like the Sith) because there is no balance to rein you in.

While the Jedi did not literally destroy themselves, their blind actions and/or inaction led to their downfall. But in a more real world sense, ask yourself: At what point does your group, based on strong beliefs and political ideology, come full circle and turn into the Other whom YOU though were the intolerant ones? When do the Jedi Become the Sith?

If you are honest, you will see it often throughout history.

The solution is true Balance; to control yourself and to embrace new ideas, to leverage the strength of both views and meet in the middle.

Enter the Grey Jedi!

Never heard of them? That’s because the movies don’t talk much about them but they were there (first mentioned in a comic and first seen in a video game).

They adhere to the following code:

“There is no light without the dark. Trough passion, I gain focus. Through knowledge, I gain power. Through serenity, I gain strength. Through victory, I gain harmony. There is only the force.”

Even on a quick read it is far more balanced. They embrace their true nature, while controlling and cultivating personal growth in the process., and they understand that the Force is something bigger and simply is.

The Grey Jedi tend to still be Jedi at heart, seeking peace and balance in the universe, but bending the code to allow for change and growth (in a balanced way).

It was, after all, a Grey Jedi who guaranteed the survival of the Jedi Order after most were gone. I am referring, of course, to Qui-Gon Jinn, who was the one who discovered the secret of life after death, despite the fact this is not something the Jedi would do. This allowed Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi to continue guiding those who came after them, keeping the Jedi alive.

So it is balance which we all, deep down, seek. Yet it is the hardest thing to do because we either define ourselves by rigid rules or labels that (we feel) cannot be broken, or we allow our emotions to overwhelm us. Both are disastrous in the long run. Any change is difficult due to the required self-reflection (you aren’t always right!), and the realistic assessment of your beliefs, behaviours, and choices (you can’t party ALL the time). Achieving balance is the hardest task many of us will ever face.

So most don’t.

Start by asking yourself: Am I truly seeking balance within myself? In my political opinions? In my religious beliefs? Am I being restricted by unbending rigidity, or losing myself in uncontrollable emotions?

No matter what path you take, if you are truly honest with yourself, then you will be on the first step on the journey towards balance, a mental and emotional stability which will help you find the peace and serenity that you seek.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Editors Note: This post was originally written on November 9th, 2016, As we are currently doing a series on injuries we thought we would re-post some past articles on this topic. This one was written by Assistant Instructor Dave Young who is a professional musician as well as martial artist. Like many who train martial arts, injury is a big concern, especially if it can affect your ability to do your other hobbies or your job. Yet, many musicians train in the martial arts without issues, like David Lee Roth of Van Halen. The discipline and consistency needed for music is much like that of the martial arts, so it should be a natural draw for musicians, but fear of injury can often prevent many from learning something they always wanted to learn. See our previous post on Injury Anxiety. This, however, has never stopped Dave, who has since moved out of the city and we wish him the best. We know he will continue his martial arts journey no matter where he is, so keep an eye out for this bearded warrior.

Audio By Jonathan Fader
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In any martial art, there is always the risk of getting injured. I think most martial art and self-defence students have experienced at least one mild injury during their training. This is the trade-off; training that is meant to prevent violence requires violence, so it must be imbued with an inherent risk. Yet, being trained allows you to reduce risk in a real fight.

How can you avoid injury in training and avoid injury in a real situation?

As a musician, my hands and my brain are the two most important things that allow me to write, record, and perform. Thus, throwing punches and getting hit in the head may seem counter-intuitive towards preserving these body parts. There is a balance between avoiding injury to maintain my ability to work, and taking the risk of injury to be able to defend myself and my family.

First of all, I am NOT a fan of being punched in the face or hit in the head in any manner.  Many studies show that repeated blows to the head, even those that don’t cause concussions, can cause long-term changes in the brain and have lasting neurological effects. That being said, it is very important from a Krav Maga perspective to experience high pressure real world situations and be able to react appropriately.

In a fight, you are going to get hit, so experiencing the real thing in a simulation-type environment is invaluable as a learning tool.  At UTKM, we spar in a very controlled manner, and this is great for safety.  Even so, accidents happen. Everyone is at a different point in learning to control their strikes (and their emotions), so the best way to avoid getting hit, and protect your brain, is to train hard and improve your technique.

The best way to avoid getting hit, and protect your brain, is to train hard and improve your technique.

When it comes to protecting my hands, the same idea applies: Hone your technique.  I work hard on improving my technique so that I retain thorough muscle memory of the proper movements and positions, whether I’m punching a bag, focus mitts, or sparring with one or many opponents. This reduces my chances of injury — remembering to keep my hands up, fist at 45°, elbow slightly bent, and so on. When I ingrain this into my muscle memory, I won’t need to remember to do it in a distressing situation, my body will know it and do it.

Better hurt in the gym, than killed on the street

Perhaps, I will never be required to fight for my life or to protect my family. Nevertheless, in the end, I would rather train hard and perhaps break my hands defending myself successfully, than be overly worried about hurting myself in training and ending up seriously injured in a real confrontation.

In a fight, you are going to get hit, so experiencing the real thing in a simulation-type environment is invaluable as a learning tool.

Written by: Dave Young.

Audio by Jonathan Fader with additional commentary

Foreword:  This piece was originally written and posted on January 12th, 2017, it has been updated and re-edited for 2020. Last week our editor posted about his experience with injury in the martial arts, as well as injury anxiety in the post “Once Bitten, Twice Shy: Overcoming Injury Anxiety“. As a Martial Artist and Instructor I can say, without a doubt, that fear of injury and injury anxiety are a common, if not the most common, the reason why people abandon their martial arts journey. For some students, it is a situation they experience, witness, or hear about in class that pushes them past their comfort zone, which in turn triggers this fear (or self-doubt) and they stop coming. For others, they suffer an actual injury and never come back due to this fear. Then there are those who finish our first test (which is VERY HARD) and they no longer want to continue because the fear of further challenges sets in. To me, however, getting injured and coming back stronger is the sign that you may in fact be a true martial artist or warrior. No one ever said it was going to be an easy, joyous journey, but the skills and personal development you gain from self-defence/combative practice is more than worth it. This post discusses the most disastrous injury I have ever had and my road to recovery. I believe that if you truly understand your body and become your own doctor, learning how to properly recover and become stronger (with proper research), then it will reduce the fear of injury (which may be inevitable in martial arts training for most) allowing you to continue to grow, develop, and challenge yourself. Something that is increasingly important in a world were people no longer like to be challenged. With that in mind, read on for my story of injury, pain, and recovery.

Pound for pound, the knee is the strongest offensive strike that the human body can generate. But many folks out there, whether athletic or not, find out that, with one wrong movement, or one wrong hit in the wrong way, this strong offensive weapon becomes as limp as a wet noodle.

In my case, it was the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. I am not even 30 and my knees are already going! This can easily make a person feel old. It reminds me a line in the spoken word piece, Wear Sunscreen, by Australian producer Baz Luhrmann in which the advice is given:

“Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.”

Here I am, supposedly in my prime, and my ACL is torn on one side, making me I feel like an old man as my other knee is going too. Ironically, I’m surprised they lasted this long. As a Rifleman, Light Machine Gunner, and Sniper in the IDF, I often carried far too much weight for my little legs and knees to handle. Add to that all the road running I used to do… I guess my knees had a good run (pun intended).

People are consistently shocked by how quickly I recover, post-injury and post-surgery, and get back into regular activities. I’m usually met by skepticism and rolling eyes when I tell people, “don’t worry I heal fast!” As the doctor said, “It’s people like you I worry about the most.

Don’t worry, I heal fast!

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I wish I could heal like Wolverine

I’m not Wolverine, and I don’t have a “mutant healing factor” or other superhuman resiliences. In fact, I don’t really even consider myself very athletic; one of the reasons I was drawn to Krav Maga. So why should I heal any faster than anyone else?

The truth is I don’t heal any faster than the average person. But I have a theory as to why people think and say such a thing.

Let’s begin by breaking down the injury and recovery:

First, I would like to be critical about the medical system. Even in Canada, we have a broken medical system, in my opinion. Generally, doctors are experts in acute injury diagnosis and treatment, but when it comes to post-injury recover they are almost clueless. They do not employ a holistic approach and they rarely understand, to the level that they should, aspects of medicine and healing. In Canada, though our medical care is largely covered (I say largely, since there are still costs…), there is a serious shortage of qualified professionals and equipment. In my case, when I was injured I knew it was something more serious than the “just a sprain” that the doctor assessed it as.

The day after my injury, my doctor was overbooked (it happened late at night). So I went to the ER instead, which had a long wait time, as usual, due to overcrowding. Finally, after several hours, I see a doctor, only to be told they think it’s just a sprain. They sold me crutches and prescribed me light painkillers. A week later, I finally managed to see my regular doctor and was told something similar. The idea of an MRI scan wasn’t even mentioned until I went to a physiotherapist, which was covered by WorkSafeBC. This is appalling to me because, as far as I know, the sooner a proper, accurate diagnosis can be made the faster a surgery or rehab can happen, and the faster I can heal and recover. All these things would lead to a better experience for both the patient and medical professionals, with lower cost for the medical system overall.

The idea of an MRI scan wasn’t even mentioned until I went to a physiotherapist.

So why didn’t I get sent for an MRI right away? Well, if you are unaware, the whole nation of Canada has fewer MRI machines than some individual cities in America. This results in a long wait list, and even when you can get bumped to the front of the line through WorksafeBC, there is still a resistance to sending you.

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ACL Injury

If I had been sent for an  MRI within 2 weeks of my injury, as should have happened, they would have discovered that I had a seriously torn ACL and meniscus. But since it took about 2 months to get the MRI, albeit it was faster than the normal 6-9 month wait, they would have discovered it sooner and not wasted time thinking it was something less serious.

This means that, even in a country like Canada with a so-called advanced medical system, there are serious problems and you really cannot rely on the advice of just one so-called medical professional. A lot of times, these people are tired, overworked, and too accustomed to patients who exaggerate their symptoms. Although in my case, I was under-exaggerating my injury since I have a high pain tolerance; so they assumed it was nothing despite the details I was verbally indicating.

When I finally had the MRI, I was referred to a specialist. Once I saw the specialist, things moved forward rather quickly. Her question was basically, “so when do you want the surgery?” Great, right?

Back to the main topic about my not-Wolverine healing abilities:

Here is my theory as to why people have the perception that I heal faster than average; One of the biggest problems in the medical system is the over-prescription of pain killers. In my opinion, this is one of the main hindrances to how fast a person can get back to their normal activities.

When I am teaching my kids’ Krav Maga classes, often every little bump and every little scrape becomes a big deal. I always teach these children the same simple lesson:

There is a difference between pain and injury.

Pain is your body’s natural way of giving you feedback to assess whether something is a possible threat. However, it is a very simplistic system and doesn’t always know the difference between something that is actually harmful and something that is not. As a reasonably developed species, we should be able to use our conscious mind, based on our experience and the mechanism of the pain, to know if it just hurts or is an actually injury. I always tell my students that “pain is good and injury is not.” You should fight through pain when it is just pain, but stop when pain is related to an injury and take the care of injuries seriously.

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Pain is your body’s natural way of telling you there is possible danger. (Image source)

Thus, I am not a fan of pain killers prescribed by doctors. Generally, medication should only be used when necessary; such as taking acetaminophen for a fever, or NyQuil and DayQuil for a serious cold. It should also only be used a long as needed, which is usually a day or two. Yet, doctors often prescribe 2 weeks to a month, or more, of serious, heavy-duty painkillers, which can be highly addictive to a lot of people. They tell you the maximum you should take and for how long, which means that you should not take all the pills you are given, but people still do. Which leads us to…

The issue with painkillers and other meds

By taking painkillers for longer than you need just because you were prescribed them, it dulls your body’s natural pain responses and you can no longer “hear” your body’s feedback. Eventually, if you take them too long, your body’s pain threshold will have shifted and your overall tolerance to pain without painkillers will have been reduced. By the way, this is the start of addiction when it comes to painkillers, as you will constantly be trying to maintain your new pain baseline, which is now only achievable through the pills themselves. This is why heroin, when medically supervised by doctors in hospitals, is a better pain alternative than morphine and is less addictive. Yes, you read that right, but I won’t get too science-y. The fact remains that the layperson’s understanding of painkillers and other meds is dramatically limited.

Addiction issues aside, there are two main problems: Either, you diminish you ability to feel when pain becomes injury, then you push yourself too hard, or, you become docile and don’t know when your injury is ready to begin rehab because you no longer know the difference.

This is why post-injury and post-surgery, I rarely take painkillers for more than 2-3 days. I typically only use them to help me sleep and overcome the initial acute pain, which is often a bit more than I would like to deal with. However, even if I have to walk with a limp, I would rather get rid of the medication as soon as reasonably possible, than to rely on it like crutches and lose my body’s natural senses and abilities.

Generally, in both studies and anecdotes, evidence shows that the faster you get back to regular movement (within reason) the faster you can heal yourself. The body is both an inefficient piece of junk and an amazing machine. If you take painkillers longer than you need to and cannot receive the appropriate pain feedback, then you cannot properly heal yourself. Many also go wrong by using painkillers to “push through” pain, which is not advisable because then you cannot know when the body moves from pain to injury, and this is a crippling mistake for many athletes.

Listen to your body

If that means you don’t do anything that day, then you don’t. If you can push another day, then you do. But the sooner you get back into simple things, like moving, walking, and doing regular day-to-day activities, the better.

Have you heard of those people who work their entire lives, and then in their late-70s or 80s, they just stop or are forced to retire and then die? I think this is a great analogy for muscle atrophy.

If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Have you heard of that? Surprisingly, muscle atrophy can kick in very quickly, usually at around 72 hours of non-use. Which means if you take most doctors advice and rest up to six weeks, you will see major muscle loss and the recovery will be much harder. Often, doctors and physiotherapists hesitate to push people, and thus continue prescribing fairly basic exercises, which may be great for office workers, but not for the athlete.

As an athlete, sometimes safe, yet serious, strength training is required. For me, the results of my post-injury recovery were not happening as fast as I would have liked. It was my first experience going to physio, and I did everything they said. However, my impatience comes from being told to do very boring exercises with minimal results. What’s more, I would have to stop what I was doing 4 times a day, for 20-30 minutes, to do the exercises. It became a hindrance to my work with no benefit to my recovery.

So I started doing my own exercises, which limiting myself to light squats and deadlifts. Two months after my initial injury, I was doing 200lb deadlifts, no problem. Of course, I was wearing my knee brace and would end a set if there was any discomfort. However, with this approach I saw far quicker recovery than when I had just listened to the so-called experts.

I am not trying to discredit medical professionals, this is not at all what I am trying to say. The problem is that, due to the system, or lack of experience, or scarce resources, there is often a disconnect between injury and recovery. The sooner rehab starts, the faster people can get back to normal activities, the faster and better the overall recovery.

How do I know when my doctor is right or wrong?

Sometimes, of course, you should listen to professional advice when it is legitimate. In my case, I listened when the doctor specifically asked me not to bend my knee more than 90 degrees for 6 weeks, regardless of pain. This is to allow the fixed areas, specifically the meniscus, time to properly heal and become as strong as required. However, all that it means is simply that I should be careful and modify my exercise to adhere to that specific limitation. I can still attempt light squats with limited range of motion, despite what the doc might think.

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How I’ll feel when I finally get to do BJJ after all these months…

Healing and returning to normal happens faster when I listen to both my body and the advice of the doctor and physiotherapist. Your body knows itself best. As long as you are fairly self-aware and attuned to your body’s messages, you should let your body guide you. And, seriously, don’t rush. As an athlete, I know that pushing too much too quickly because you want to get back in the game and prove yourself, is not a good idea. For me, this has meant no Krav Maga or BJJ for at least 2 months, and no rolling or sparring for 3-4 months.

There is still a dispute as to whether it makes more of a difference to get surgery ASAP and then do physio, or vice versa. It is my opinion, as an athlete, that surgery should happen as soon as possible, and you should do physio before and after surgery. It is fairly conclusive that doing physio and rehab to get back to regular activities ASAP means a better recovery. In my case, the longer I had to wait for my surgery, the worse my other (uninjured) knee got. Having a surgery done ASAP means your body will not have to go through multiple healing processes and can get back to what you love to do with less risk of degradation of your other areas of the body due to compensation.

So stay off the painkillers when you don’t actually need them. Get moving and get healing. When it comes to injury recovery, push when there is no pain, and rest or stop when you feel pain. Through time, you will know if the pain is related to the injury or whether it just hurts. Remember…

Pain is fine. Injury is not.

This is my secret. Simple, really!

Written: by Jonathan Fader