Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

This is the second of three sections expanding on the original piece titled, Self-defence is Not Just Physical.

In the modern world, being financially stable can be harder than ever, especially when the vast majority of people are living paycheque to paycheque. One of the biggest mistakes the average person makes is not thinking long term, but rather choosing instant gratification; getting something now and having nothing for later. A common belief is that our school systems do not spend enough (or any) time on financial literacy. Basic education should include simple things like how to put together a rudimentary budget, how to prepare your taxes, or how basic investing works.

While we often blame the rich for getting richer as the poor get poorer, one of the reason this trend continues is that either “the rich” understand how to make their money work for them, understand the financial system and how to protect their money, or they have the resources to hire the people who do.

For most of us though, it’s really a matter of understanding we are starting with less. So unless you happen to have the next “big idea” it’s going to be a long term thing. Work hard when you are younger and invest smart, then maybe you can retire in your 40’s or 50’s.

While I am no expert, I can certainly tell you the things that I have learned (mostly from screwing up and being broke). What I can say for certain is that part of personal self-defence is the ability to be ready, financially, to deal with the inevitable financial blows that life will throw at you. Even if that means you had solid enough financials to have a line of credit on hand in case of emergencies. Though having money in the bank is ideal, having financial buffers will save you from the deep hole that is financial ruin. So be smart, and include financial planning in your self-defence plans.

Don’t Spend Past Your Budget

As a martial arts instructor teaching a style that is not overly popular in my region, living on a tight budget is something I have become used to. However, as the world is increasingly difficult to survive in with less money, managing what little you have is key.

A question I often ask myself is, “how do people who make 4, 5 or 6 thousand dollars a month, after taxes, still manage to be broke (or at least say they are)?” It’s probably because they seek instant gratification and buy everything they can rather than preparing for the future. They seek experience and the “now” over anticipating the future. While that’s fine sometimes, do it too much and you may be on the path to financial disaster.

Of course, the less money you have the harder it can be to stick to your budget, because you may have to make important decisions on what to buy or which bills to pay (especially in with complications like Covid-19).

It’s at these times in life when budgeting comes in handy, or rather it would have had you done it. One of the hardest things for people to do, especially when they don’t have much money in the first place, is to include in their budget a “rainy day fund” and retirement savings. They may not seem important now, but they are! (I’ll come back to this.)

A basic budget should include necessities such as housing, food, and, in most cases, transportation. Anything beyond that, at least according “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” may in fact be a luxury. If you have the money to spend more, then have at it. But if you don’t, think, do you really need the newest iPhone?

Ok, so enough talk. In the absence of credit, a budget is simply the act of planning your finances so that money coming in can cover the costs of money going out. If you have no credit, or options similar to this, then a budget is a MUST. If you do not create and follow one, then you may find your self not eating.

Lets look at something simple.

Mike has $3,000 after taxes every three months.

  • Rent = $1,200
  • Food = $500
  • Transportation = $800

After the basics are covered Mike has $500 extra a month. Most people would spend that on eating out or “toys.” A smart planner would take some of that and put it away, even if it’s only a little. Lets say he puts $100 a month away into retirement savings and $100 into a emergency fund, that now leaves $300 for entertainment and toys.

What if Mike works hard and earns a raise? He now has $3,200 every three months. If Mike was already financially stable, why not put the extra money directly into savings or investments. If he was doing fine without it, then he will have a $200 boost in savings without noticing a change in his lifestyle.

While most people these days do not like to operate in a frugal mindset, in the long run planning investments and emergency funds into your budget is crucial; so that in the hard times you are not destitute. So be smart, start early and reap the later benefits of a well planned budget.

Invest Early and Consistently

Assuming you manage to put something away for investments and retirement, the earlier you do it, the better. Have you heard of something called “compound interest?” Essentially it’s interest on the interest. This is the key to long term savings and building your early retirement.

If I put $100 into my retirement savings, and it averages a 3% return annually, then after one year it’s $1236 (depending on the frequency interest is compounded). The next year I put in another $1200, which would also receive the 3%, but so would the original $1236, resulting in $2509 rather than just $2,472. Which basically means that first $36 in interest, which you didn’t invest from your pocket originally, is continuing to grow for you. The earlier you do this the more the interest stacks, and the longer you have the more you earn.

If you started saving for retirement in your 20s vs your 30s the difference in the end number can be quite staggering. The amount of money you would need to put in during your 30s, to get the same results you would have gotten if you started modestly in your 20s, is quite a lot more than you think (the math is out there). I say again; Start early, even if its only $50 per month.

The best way to start early is of course as a parent. Start saving for your child’s future, (and not just for school) in a trust and your child will have an amazing head start. of course don’t just give it to them when they turn 18, make them wait and ensure they have learned financial literacy and good spending habits early.

Another important consideration in favour of investing early, and consistently rather than lump sum, is the ability to average out your costs of purchases across lows and highs in the market. The idea of “buying low and selling high” really isn’t what you think. Even the worlds greatest investor Warren Buffet, doesn’t try to time the movements of the market; he does his research and plays the long game.

Even when the market crashes it can be an excellent time to buy, if you are planning for the long term, that is, if you are buying more conservative “blue chip” funds, rather than trying to play the actual stock market. Which is not advisable, unless you have lots of disposable income and really know what your are doing. For the record, most people I know who play the regular market with only a few thousand dollars (which they can’t really afford to lose) typically lose. So play the long game and be smart about it.

Remember, even if you had invested in Apple, Microsoft, or Amazon early on, only to sell a year later and make some money, it is nowhere near the amount you would have made if you had held on. Of course, there is also no way of knowing which companies will be the next big ones, so if you aren’t sure I suggest leaving it up to the experts.

Nowadays, due to online banking, you can manage your money on your own. That being said, buying the professionally managed funds, in the long run in most cases, is going to give you a higher return than simply guessing and playing the lows and highs. Why? Compound interest and people who know better than you.

So start early, be consistent, and don’t just gamble, play the long game.

Diversify

Unless you happen to get lucky with the next big stock, and cash out just in time for you to see the crash, it’s best to diversify. In reality, even the best investors can’t time the market and may lose billions in one big market swing or crash. Those who come out on top tend to do so because they play the long game and have diversified portfolios, they still have money working for them, somewhere, when a crash outright destroys others.

Diversifying basically means “do not put all your eggs in one basket.” Even if you are playing conservatively and sticking to large professionally managed funds, you should have your money spread out between a variety of categories. Though what percentage is split how is totally up to you. Maybe you have 50% of your money in funds tied to your country, 30% to precious metals, and the remaining 20% in highly volatile, high-risk-high-reward, stocks. Maybe you have a different break down, really it’s up to you and your money managers to decide based on your own comfort and goals. Diversifying will almost always give you more protection if one area does poorly, and can help you with that dollar-cost averaging in the long run, making you come out on top even if times are tough.

Remember, the Dotcom bubble of the ’90s, or the more recent Crypto currency bubble? People lost everything because they put everything into a single venture and lost it all. Consider that if you are hearing about it on the news chances are the people who made the real money are already out and you are just a sucker.

Of course, if you want to put 20% of your money into such risky endeavors, no one is stopping you. You may make a killing, but it is all about when to sell, and most people sell too late. But, if the rest of your money is tied up in safer funds, then at least that 20% loss wasn’t everything.

Be smart, diversify, and (you guessed it) play the long game.

Conclusion

I should remind you at this point that finances are not my expertise, and I, admittedly, I do not have much money. These ideas are based on the lessons I have learned the hard way. Wisdom that only now have I realized I should have known and acted on years ago. But, if you don’t have a lot of money the banks rarely give you the best advisors; you usually only have conversations with sales people at the lower level. If no one in your family or circle of those who you look up has a good grasp on financial literacy, you may find yourself drowning in debt.

The earlier you learn these skills the better. Remember, most “get rich schemes”are just that, schemes. They fail for almost everyone and result in large financial loses. So try not to get swept up in the hype.

Protect yourself and your finances through smart financial self-defence. This includes knowing enough to know when someone is feeding you bullshit. For if you simply give your money to someone to manage outright, and you don’t know enough to check, you could actually find yourself losing it all to the next big Ponzie scheme (read up on Bernie Madoff).

Become financially literate, learn enough to play the long game, and start early. If you do, you will be in better shape than the majority of the population.

Remember, self-defence is not just physical. What other skills might you need to properly defend yourself in the modern world?

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  Mental and digital attacks can be as harmful as physical ones. (©Photo: PIxabay)

Once upon a time, learning to defend yourself was a simple matter of fending off wolves and stopping physical violence from others. OK, not so simple, but still much more black and white than the kind of things we need to defend ourselves from in the 21st century. Where it was once only about the physical, now we need to consider many other factors.

Don’t get me wrong, physical self-defence is still very important, as it is so fundamental (and I have, after all, dedicated my life to teaching others to defend themselves from physical violence). Even though the physical aspect is what would be considered more my area of expertise, I am aware of, and often talk about, other aspects of life that require a kind of self-defence strategy (in addition to the knowledge and skill to deal with them).

I will be discussing three areas of interest that I think people often need help in understanding so that they can properly defend themselves. I will expand on each of these topics in subsequent posts.

These are;

  • Digital Self-defence
  • Financial Self-defence
  • Mental Health Self-defence

Digital Self-defence

Everything that was once pen and paper, to be found only in specific buildings now forgotten, called libraries, is now stored digitally on computers or in the cloud, accessible to anyone with enough skill or patience to trick the systems.

While we often think it’s mainly about having a strong password, many people still use Password01 or 123456 (terrible ideas!). Digital security is so much more complicated than that.

Do you know what a “phishing” scam is? They are very common, yet many people still fall prey to them. In fact, the famous “Hillary Clinton email hack” was traced to someone falling to such a scam (and should have known better); as case in which phishing changed the course of political history for all to see.

Or how about a “porting” scam, in which scammers transfer your phone number to another carrier so they can reset all of your passwords. So much for 2-step authentication.

It can be easy to fall prey to these if technology is not your thing. Best case scenario, you simply have to change a few passwords. Worse case scenario, you have your entire savings cleared out in seconds.

So have you done everything you need to do to preemptively protect your digital self?

Financial Self-defence

Did I mention you can have your savings wiped out if you fall prey to digital scams? That is to say, if you in fact have any savings in the first place.

More and more, especially in the younger generations, people are struggling to defend themselves financially. Either because they can’t manage to save any money or they are not sure what to do with what they have.

Investing can be scary, and preparing for your retirement is something that can be put off for a long time because you feel like you have forever until that day. However, the earlier you learn financial self-defence, and thus the earlier you save and invest, the better of you will be.

Yes, financial literacy is extremely lacking, and it is increasingly harder to manage things yourselves without, ironically, forking out loads of cash to pay an expert. The thing is, the more financially literate you are as soon as possible, the easier choices will be in the future. That is, unless you happen to start during a black swan event, like what’s been going on in the market recently. Then its just bad luck.

Either way, how financially prepared are you to deal with the inevitable ups and downs you will face throughout your life?

Mental Self-defence

This is a topic which I have discussed before, and for many it may in fact be the hardest thing to deal with. How you address it will also depend on where in the world you are when you read this; it may or may not be considered a culturally acceptable topic, or there may not be support readily available for mental health.
Additionally, mental health, realistically, is relatively new topic in its own right, and as a result there are many aspects we are still trying to figure out, which means finding meaningful and closer-to-correct answers can be difficult.

“Difficult” becoming “seemingly impossible” if you are in the middle of a specific mental health crisis. On this I will argue, like all self-defence, that, if you are able to, you are the one most responsible for regulating and rebuilding your mental health; even when you have strong support networks. If you don’t have a support network, then know that you are not alone in the world.

This topic is very sensitive and it is often connected to experiences related to physical self-defence. Or it may be connected to other considerations, such as genetics, family history, or particular non-violent events in your life. Either way, it is a complicated subject and requires a certain level of understanding and knowledge to truly delve into.

Yet day-to-day mental health and happiness may be more important than physical self-defence, assuming you are in a safe country. If you are somewhere that physical self-defence is still a big part of your daily life, then often your mind may be too preoccupied to even realize that you are suffering a mental health problem.

Just know, as with physical self-defence, there are training options for both preventative measures and coping mechanisms to deal with such issues.

Conclusions

One thing to remember, in this world that is increasingly more and more complicated, is the importance of understanding that everything is interconnected. Only focusing on one area of your self-defence really is only looking at one part of the picture. It can be hard to understand it all, but if you are oblivious to the workings of your life, your emotions, and the world around you, then it will be even more difficult to overcome hardships when you are blindsided by events that you could have done something to stop, had you been aware.

Remember, no matter what type of self-defence you are practicing, at the end of the day the only person who can really protect you, is you. Waiting for others to step up may often just mean disappointment, which means further conflict, both internally and externally, which means you may not feel like you have any power at all, which is the farthest thing from the truth.

So what are you going to do to improve your ability to defend yourself, physically, digitally, financially, or mentally?

Cliche New Years Resolutions

These are all good goals, But are they objectively achievable and enjoyable in your life. If you really want them to be, they can be.

Another year has passed and its time for another cliche post about the new years and what to do. Cliches are annoying because they just remind us of things we know but often refuse to accept. Sometimes boring is boring because it works and though we love being creative as it makes us feel special we really should just stick to the cliche because then it would not only be easier but we might actually see more results.

As it is the end of the Christmas week, and moving into the new years its time for those cliche new years resolutions. So in the Cliche, Christmas and New Year spirit lets take a look at some cliches to help guide for the New Year.

The first cliche is to remind you of one of the UTKM Core Principles,

“We never stop learning and growing”

this means no matter what your goals, dreams or wishes for the new year are so long as you learn something and get value from the experience it was well worth it. So Empty your cup and start your journey.

It seems that the path to success is different for everyone. Yet one of the most consistent pieces of advice is to learn from your failures because it will only make you better. Refuse to learn and you might find things rarely go the way you want. And choosing not to do, for fear of failure is just as bad. So what are you waiting for? Have you made your new year’s resolution yet? Made your plans for life changes? Are you ready for personal growth?

If that wasn’t full of cliches hear is another one, though it is a valuable one so remember it well.

“Make realistic achievable and measurable goals”

Its a fairly straight forward one. If you make a new year’s resolution or set new goals and you rarely complete them its probably because they are unrealistic. A surefire way to fail is to set a goal that you cannot actually achieve. Either because it’s more than you can handle. You didn’t think it through completely or you were not being objectively realistic.

For example, if you are 200lbs overweight and you say you are going to lose it in 3 months then you have not just set an unreasonable goal but also an unhealthy one. A more realistic one might be to lose 100lbs per year for the next two years. A plan of action would include hiring a nutritionist and personal trainer to help you on your path. Or if the money is not there then the time to do the research on the internet is an alternative option. Though as we are social creatures it is often very important to know that sometimes we need that extra push from some external supportive source.

Easy so far? I hope so. Heres the last one,

“Make it enjoyable and make it a lifestyle”

If you hate every moment of your New Year’s transformation then it is not likely you will stick to it. If you don’t stick to it you will probably just make the same goal as next year. In relation to the previous point part of making something, a realistic goal is to ensure you can do it. Part of that is not torturing yourself over it.

For example if you know sugar is bad for you but you’ve had it most of your life, going cold turkey might be a miserable path to failure. Instead, curb your sweet tooth cravings with healthier alternatives like honey or maple syrup. This way you can still get your cravings but with a better alternative. Eventually, as you cut back your sugar intake you might find you can go days or even weeks without it.

My New Years Plans

So what am I planning for the new years? Nothing crazy or unrealistic. I Will be going at the end of April to some fairly intense training. So with the encouragement of my significant other, I will be doing an elimination diet with them to reset my system. I will also be getting back into a slightly more rigorous training regiment in order to prep for the training in April.

The goal is simply to get healthier and slightly back in shape so I can peak for the actual training without dying. So I have a realistic timeline to stick too, about 3 months.

The diet its self is meant as a re-set diet to curb any inflammation in my body. Starting with 2 weeks of a nordic Inspired diet, mostly fish and greens. Then 2 weeks, Keto and the 1-month paleo. Starting with the most restrictive diet and then moving towards the least restrictive. Often the hardest part of such diets is the social aspects. As I am doing it with my partner we can support each other and enjoy our meals together. This allows me to maintain the social aspect of eating without the strain of making two sets of food. It also helps us keep each other in check. The original plan we looked into is actually much longer but as we want it to stay enjoyable we figure the 2 months leading up to the training will be much more bearable.

The other thing with reset diets is despite the marking fads they are rarely meant to be long term. The last time I did a strict diet, was only about a month but I saw wonders as it completely reset my metabolism and has since then been fairly easy for me to control my weight and physique without to much work.

The other thing that makes this a reasonable goal is that it fits into my lifestyle already. It’s just a matter of being a bit more disciplined than normal. I usually work out or do martial arts every week, and I generally eat fairly well that combined with the timeline will make this a good experience indeed.

So thats my plan for the new years? What cliche resolution will you be making? Just remember, whatever it is. Learn from it, Make it objectively realistic and something that you will enjoy.

Happy Holidays and I wish you all the best in the New Year.

 

rise-and-rise-again.jpg

Find your inner athlete, become the Lion over time what was impossible will be possible with consistency and dedication. Your inner Athlete Awaits.

When I was growing up, I was not much of an athlete. I was put in pre-hockey, soccer, baseball and probably more than I cannot even remember. What I do remember, is I was never picked first and was always on the worst teams. It did not inspire me much to try harder or put in the effort. Eventually, I stopped doing anything athletic and started putting on a bit more weight than I should have as a kid in elementary (grade) school.

At some point between grade 8 or 9, I was getting tired of being picked on. I on my own, cut out most sugar from my diet and started hitting the gym. I lost a lot of weight and got in better shape than I was before. I even when I had the option in Grade 10 opted to take the fitness-based gym class rather than the regular one. Despite this, however, I was far from the athletic prowess of the naturally talented athletes in my high school.

Despite this and despite not coming from an overly athletic home I was always drawn to some level of physical activity. Pre-Army (IDF), I trained a lot to get ready. As things didn’t go the way I had hoped I ended up in the regular Infantry and lost much of my motivation to stay in more shape than I should have been often choosing sleep over physical activity when free time was available.

Once again I watched as the naturally physically gifted soldiers made the rigorous training look easy from a physical perspective while I struggled. I did, however, learn as a consequence that if you are not physically as capable and you are pushed to your limits more often you may find yourself developing a mental strength you never thought you had. This strength that only the best of the naturally talented individuals will also develop while most of them did not because it was never really that hard for them anyways.

Later out of the army, I finally really started my Martial arts Journey. While I had trained Krav Maga prior to the army, and a little in the army it was after when I started to train more seriously as well as adding BJJ and a variety of other styles into my training.

Again, I was never an athlete capable of keeping pace with the best. But I enjoyed it and kept training. While I did start teaching Krav Maga this was not due to my athletic prowess or skill but rather my ability to teach its self and my understanding of Krav Maga and a more modern holistic approach.

Fast forward to today. With 11 years of Krav Maga training, 7 years of teaching and 7 years of BJJ (Almost 8). I find my self being told by individuals who are just starting out how impressive I am athletically.

That voice in my head always tells me that no I am not an athlete as to me if you are not training full time and doing it professionally than I am not an athlete. Yet to the new people who I can often run circles around in their eyes they see an athlete.

It is now only in this past year that I am starting to consider my self an athlete (A casual one, but still). While Life has not gone the way I would have liked where I can focus all my efforts on training I in many cases am finally starting to possess the skills and ability that many consider athletic.

This past year for a few months I was fortunate to be able to train with individuals who I would consider at the higher levels of skill and in many cases during training, I was able to keep up or and excel past what they were doing. This was the first twinkle I had internally that maybe I might just be an athlete.

In BJJ, I find my self outpacing and often beating people who I used to struggle against and whereas I used to have trouble against younger, larger athletic white belts I now can quite handly beat, much to theirs and my own amazement.

While I am still no genetically gifted individual, I am starting to see that yes, I am finally finding my inner athlete.

The thing is it is no secret, and you too can do it. It simply takes time and consistency.

It’s not so much that I am more athletic than I ever was it is simply a matter of my body has learned how to operate more efficiently. My mind has a firm grasp on the skills that I have learned enough that I can finally adapt and modify as I need, rather than waiting for the answers to be given. and that the hours are really started to add up.

The 10,000-hour rule is something I have often talked about and it is quite a lot of time to put into a specific subject. The thing is that it is for mastery. If on any given thing you only put in 3000 hours you will still be far better than someone who has put in only a few hours.

I have also talked about consistency in training. It is simply a matter of never letting to much time go in between training sessions. While many of us would love to train full time, the reality is for must of us making a good enough living off of it is very difficult and in some cases unrealistic. BUT!, those hours do add up and if you never quit and always did some training one day you may realize you have developed your own inner athlete.

So you weren’t born a natural athlete?

That’s ok. Many coaches would prefer to have someone that is mediocre but puts in the time than have a natural athlete that is lazy. Because over time its the person with more practice that usually comes out on top.

If it takes a year, 5 years or 10 years. If you train enough, even if only once a week you too may find your self looking in the mirror and saying. “Hmm, I guess I am an athlete”

Find your inner athlete, keep training, have fun and you too will become that thing you always wanted to be.

And remember, at UTKM, our motto is Turning Lambs into Lions, so if you stick too it long enough you may find a Lion inside.

By: Jonathan Fader (UTKM Lead Instructor)

 

Know your self.jpg

Sometimes the answers we seek have already been learned but we are too proud, to scarred or too weak to accept the reality. Sun Tzu knew this thousand’s of years ago in ancient china. The full quote goes as such:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There are two aspects of this quote, one the good strategy of studying your enemy is something I can talk about another time as I want to focus on knowing your self.

Fear is a powerful thing. It is a built-in biological mechanism designed to protect us from harm and death. Once upon a time, this was good when the threat was lions and tigers and bears, Oh My! But now in the modern world, we are still using these mechanisms designed to protect us from predators against things like homework, large social structure, modern workplaces, social media and generally far too much stimulus than we are really designed to handle.

What this means is that we often create fear where none need exist.

but did you die.jpgI often say when teaching the only real fail in self-defense or in general is death.

So you are worried about being judged, even if you are judged, did you die?

So you lost your match, but did you die?

So what, you failed your final exam, but did you die?

We often for one reason or another either from external pressure or internal ones activate the fear mechanism to not do something or to stress out when we dont need to. This is not good. If you are stressed due to a perceived fear then you will not be able to focus or perform as well as you can. Which means it might just actually all be in your head. This is what the knowing your self aspect of the quote means. If you are unable to control your emotions and fears in any given situation you will not be able to do the best that you can. If you take every “Failure” as a learning experience then you will ever grow stronger. But if you perceive every “Failure” as a near-death experience your body will treat it as such and you may just spiral into an unproductive fear loop that paralysis you and prevents you from the growth you know you are capable off.

Ask your self honestly, how well do you really know yourself. If you look deep and dont like things about yourself or your life then change it. If you learn what the issues are that are causing the fear it may even help you move forward. One thing is for certain is that if you only ever dwell in your fears than it won’t be better. For you and you alone have the power to change how you perceive things. Whether your fear something or not ask your self honestly, will fearing that thing or not fearing that thing cause you immediate death? If the answer is no, then guess what you have nothing to fear but fear its self.

So how well do you know your self? and what are you afraid of?

P.S. If you lived a full fruitful life, then death is not even something to fear for you will have left a lasting legacy behind you that hopefully caused the growth and development of the next generation of humanity.

Off to the World’s I go!

Posted: August 20, 2019 by Jonathan Fader in Competition, Mental Health
Tags: , , ,

No, I am not talking about competitive Krav Maga. An idea by the way I generally do not support. I am however talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This year will be the first year I compete at the World Master IBJJF Championship in Las Vegas. BJJ is being more and more incorporated into the Krav Maga/Kapap world as we recognized that we must improve ourselves in all aspects of hand to hand combat skills. Training in some grappling outside of Krav is a requirement to be ranked at the upper levels of the UTKM system. Yes, it is that important.

I have written before about why I compete. For me, it keeps me motivated to train. Also, I can learn what I need to work on and grow through competitions.

Leading up to the worlds I have done a few other IBJJF and other competitions. One thing I learned is that I have not been performing at the level I know I can while I am competing. When I freeroll with my training partners I perform much better than when I compete. Over the last few months, I have been trying out different things in hopes of figuring this out. I got in the best shape of my life and trained more than I normally do by far and yet something still wasn’t right. After much thinking, I realized the problem was not physical. While in the past it might have been, that is not the issue now. No, my problem, like many others, is much more complicated.

The problem, you see, has been my mental state all along.

Knowing-is-half.jpg.jpgThe good news is, now that I have identified the main problem I have something to work with. However, knowing is half the battle.

The issue seems to be that when I am rolling with people for fun I am just trying to do the best Jiujitsu I can. I take risks, play around and I have fun. I am free

In competitions, however, I am trying so hard not to screw up. I overthink it and I end up not doing what I know I can do. After losses and wins, I always reflect deeply about my performance. I started to realize that while I certainly lose sometimes to opponents who are clearly more skilled than me, a lot of my losses are because I screw up on something that I shouldn’t have. Only to be thinking, why on earth did I do that.

Then, I realized that for some messed up reason whenever I am clearly winning I managed to lose. I must at some level self-sabotage. This is quite a sobering realization. Not only that I am failing to turn on the warrior mind I know I have but it is also quite possible that I am purposely screwing it up.

The funny thing is I know (FACT) in life or death situations I do just fine because body and mind go into automatic mode and I do what I need to do. In competition, however, as I know it to be a relatively safe environment, I have yet to learn to turn that part of my brain on and not overthink both consciously and subconsciously and end up losing not just the match but to my own worst enemy, myself.

Some solutions to this problem are:

  1. Train more – This is the obvious answer which is true for any style. Train so much that you no longer need to think your body just does. While I will never not train, the level I can train is usually dependent on many factors. On a slow week, I’ll get in 3-4 hours of training. On a crazy week, I will get closer to 10 hours of just BJJ. People often ask me how do I stay motivated. The truth is, I still struggle. Sometimes I train a lot, sometimes I dont. And I don’t feel good or bad about it either way. This then, I suppose, is a work in progress.
  2. Change my mindset – When I compete I should fight to do the best I can rather than worry about points. I know, it’s cliche, but as always cliches are often right no matter how annoying or unoriginal they are. While points do matter, trying to just not lose is nowhere near the same as trying to do the best you can. This is possibly the reason that many competitions now take a submission only approach. Rather than just trying to get points they encourage you to try for the submission no matter the risk. I often enjoy these tournaments, because I tend to do better. Hmm, I wonder why.
  3. Try to turn on my animal instinct – This one is both tricky and not. I have always been a slow starter. This means if my body isn’t totally on I am going to think more rather than just act. The solution for me at least is to start warming up well in advance of my start time. This why I am not going in cold. While some people can simply jump in and compete and win (Marcelo Garcia is notorious for waking up from a nap and winning) I do not think I am one of them.

Though my revolution about my problematic mindset may have come a little to close to the World Master, I will be going in knowing what I need to work on most. I even have several days in Vegas before I compete to contemplate and work on this.

If you are reading this and also struggle at competitions, then perhaps you have not figured out what your individual issue is. Do you train enough? Are you in shape? or is there some other deeper issues you are having trouble with. No matter the reason, if you would like to improve your performance in competition, then it is never too late to figure it out. Especially in the master’s divisions.

So keep training, and for those of you in Vegas, I hope to see you there.

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 2

 

Depression in nabulus.jpg

Depression near Nabulus

 

Fast forward to the middle to later part of my service. Stationed in Nabulus (Schem) on a mountaintop next to a Jewish Settlement overlooking numerous Arab villages. It was a particularly stressful time with little sleep, constant guard duty, pointless riot control that was like a stupid game of cat and mouse. At the same time, my best friend at the time and Spotter had been selected to go to sergeants school which means he would be gone. At the time I didn’t realize how having him, there was helping me to keep my sanity, but apparently, my commanders noticed a drastic change in my behavior after that.

Outside of the army, almost all the people whom I had moved to Israel with had either moved off the kibbutz where I was living or were people I disliked or vice versa. Nothing had gone to plan, and I felt isolated and alone with no support. I was spiraling into a deep depression and didn’t even know it at the time. Thankfully I rediscovered the album Kaleidoscope by Tiesto which had been released a little over a year previously. Though controversial from his fans as it branched away from his traditional style, it might have literally saved my life.

I found myself when not on guard duty, putting my headphones in and putting one or two of his songs on repeat. I could be seen pacing around our room or the base listening to it on repeat on what could probably look a zombie with earphones. At this time the album was the only things that brought me any Joy. One song often found itself on repeat. Here On this Earth feat. The Cary Brothers

“And the sun has fallen, and the backbeat’s telling truths
That you want to hear, and you want to hear again
And the closer that you get, with the force of all the weight
And it’s also clear, do you want to feel her

Want to feel her, want to feel her

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive
For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

And you take your time, because we’ve got all night
Saturday or nothing, we can do what we want
I’m a sucker for your game, it’s the way you tease
And it’s so unreal, when we touch the ceiling

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive
For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

Make it so, it shakes your heart
Nice and slow, but can you let it go
And you feel life fall away, and you have no fear
And you let it go, just let it go
And you feel life fall away, and you have no fear
Can you let it go, let it go

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

Feel alive, feel alive, feel alive, feel alive
Feel alive, feel alive, feel alive, feel alive”

Though the song talks about love, and a person existing giving the person meaning for me it was the chorus that helped me.

“For as long as you are, here on this earth, I feel Alive”

For me, I put myself in place of the lover and the protagonist and as long as I was here on Earth, I felt Alive. Just like the Warrior I had imagined myself before coming, I felt alive, and I was fighting for myself emotionally though at the time I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until much later after I returned from Israel and had a manic depressive episode that I even knew I had depression. But this song grounded me at what would be one of the darker times in my services.

Music. A powerful tool. Intuition says so, Science says so. So how are you going to use it? Early in my life, I used it to enhance my mood negatively. Later, I used it to motivate and drive me forward. Then I used it to stay alive and feel alive. The trick is not just finding music because it is trendy but finding music that not only speaks to you personally but music that can be used positively to enhance your mood. Don’t listen to music to enhance dark moods for this will only make you feel worse. Find music that inspires and motivates and keeps you feeling alive. Use it as a tool to help you with your mental challenges so that you can once again walk in peace.

Conclusion Note:

When I chose this topic to write about I had an entirely different idea in my head of what the final product would look like. But then I started writing. I began to listen to the songs I discuss, some of which I have not listened to in a long time. Not surprisingly to me, though slightly unexpected and certainly surprising to anyone who thinks they know me these songs brought back some relatively strong emotions as I re-lived these times in my life.

This just shows the power of music and its effect it has on emotion. Despite what people think even my self the robot is only human and is still subject to the same general biological rules as everyone else. I thought, am a warrior at heart, and accept my humanity, even if I think emotions cloud judgment far too often for far too many people. So if you have a hard time with emotional control find the tools and use them positively, music is just one of the few tools that can help.

*Originally published Nov 2nd, 2019

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 1

It’s actually because of Matisyahu and his music that helped convince me at the right time to drop everything, move to Israel and join the IDF. Specifically, two songs. Jerusalem and Warrior which also happen to be two of his earlier songs. But with all music, words alone cannot do them justice so here are the songs, assuming It doesn’t get pulled.

Jerusalem:

 

At one point I considered getting the lyric

“Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.”

tattooed on me, in Hebrew as it is a biblical verse. I am glad the tattoo artist convinced Jerislam hebrew.jpgme out of it as it is a bit too religious for my liking now. Instead, I got the Hebrew word for life tattooed on me, to symbolize that I chose life, which I put in the center of my black and white star of David. It not only expressed my identity, as I am a proud Jew even if I have great disdain for religion but also that the universe demands unity of everything. Male and female, right and wrong, and good and evil.tattooed on me, in Hebrew as it is a biblical verse.

However, the second verse of Jerusalem, in particular, spoke to me, which goes as follows:

“Rebuild the temple and the crown of glory
Years gone by, about sixty
Burn in the oven in this century
And the gas tried to choke, but it couldn’t choke me
I will not lie down, I will not fall asleep
They come overseas, yes they’re trying to be free
Erase the demons out of our memory
Change your name and your identity
Afraid of the truth and our dark history
Why is everybody always chasing we
Cut off the roots of your family tree
Don’t you know that’s not the way to be”

It references the Holocaust and how history has attempted to destroy the Jews as a people, uproot us and destroy our lineage. Did I mention I am a proud Jew?

I decided to accept my identity of as a Jew not because I care about the Torah, not because I am religious, not because I like the holidays but because of history. In the end, it does not matter what I think, whether I accept myself as a cultural Jew, a religious Jew, or a genetic Jew. Those around will always see me as a Jew.

Hitler determined that if you had two grandparents that were Jewish, even if you weren’t a practicing Jew you would be considered a Jew and thus subject to the atrocities that were committed under his orders. This was even used in the construction of Israels Right to Return Laws.

Despite claims that there is no anti-Semitism in this world, it is a false narrative. Even when there are mass protests, like the misguided love trumps hate rallies, many of those who claim to operate in the name of love still hate Jews. For antisemitism is real and strong as ever. As such, no matter what I think those who would hate Jews will always see me as one no matter what I think.

This song, as well as the hate of others (irony), made me realize I must accept who I am and be proud of my heritage even if I don’t plan to continue the Jewish practices. This song helps me solidify who I am as a person. It helped me know who I am and accept it. It helped me understand the meaning of the Term Never Again when referring to the Jewish People in particular with that second verse and come 2008/2009 when I decided to move to Israel to join the IDF this was one of the reasons I convinced my self to go.

The second of Matisyahu’s two songs that helped me decide to go to Israel was Warrior

With this song, the line in the chorus,

“You’re a warrior, Fighting for your soul”

spoke to me.

For I am a warrior, fighting for my soul. Lost and unhappy and looking for a purpose.

For I am the Lion, The Wolf and the Fox, and I will fight for me because no one else will. Though I add the animal analogy as I write this, the three animals which I think embody UTKM, the rest was true at the time. I decided, yes I am a warrior. I don’t care if others look down at me, berate me, hate me, or deny my talents and potential. I will do it for me.

I even thought of my Grandfather who was a proud veteran of the Canadian Forces and a proud supporter of Israel. Outside of my Israeli Cousins, I would be the only of his children or grandchildren in North America closer to him that would continue the military tradition. I know he would have been proud of me, though unfortunately, he passed before my service, the memory of him and his dedication along with the song and what it means to be a warrior further pushed my decision to join the Military.

*Originally published Oct 26th 2019

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 3

Your musical brain.jpg

Music is something that has been in the history of man for as long as most can tell. It is sound, vibration, the transfer of energy that creates soothing, or intense emotional reactions. Some of us, are even lucky enough to get goosebumps when we hear music, myself included. Music is ingrained in most cultures in one form or another and can be used for the most beautiful of intentions or used to manipulate you into buying something you wouldn’t otherwise have done.

In 1991 a French Researcher Dr. Alfred A tomatis wrote about something he called the “Mozart effect” in his book Pourquoi Mozart? Tomatis did research into auditory effects of music to help with various mental ailments.

In a follow-up study published in Nature in 1993, Rauscher et al showed using the Mozart effect that listening to particular music could definitively help with spatial reasoning and enhance IQ scores.

In short, something we have always known intuitively, that music enhances mood was shown by the Mozart effect and numerous other studies that music can improve performance and mood both for good or for the bad.

Now that the obvious is out of the way, let’s get into my personal history with music and how two artists, in particular, helped inspire me and get me through some tough times.

When I was younger at home, my parents used to put on things like classical music, opera, or some form of news radio. I used to fall asleep to things like Enya, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli and Peter and the Wolf as narrated by Captain Jean Luc Picard himself Err, I mean Patrick Stewart. I often forget that when I was younger, I was exposed to such things as it was so long ago, but once in a while when I take to time to think back I remember, I do like such music. Outside of that, however, music was not a part of my life as my family, in general, is not of the musical variety.

As I grew older in Elementry school, for some reason or another, I lost interest in music completely. I didn’t understand my peer’s obsessions with the top 10 hits on the local radio stations. Among other things, this was the begging of my realization that I am not really like other people. Perhaps I didn’t understand why they all just blindly liked the same thing like sheep and I rejected music because though I didn’t know it yet I am and always have been a wolf. Because of this at the time, I never used music for the good or the bad.

Enter High school and the standard years of angst. I don’t recall exactly how or why I started listening to it, but I began to listen to angry music like Slipknot, D12 or other such things. At the time I used it to enhance my anger, my hate and the feelings of loneliness and despair as I slipped closer to the Dark Side. Though I had “friends” I certainly never fit in, and looking back I feel like they only kept me around out of boredom or to have another person for their games. Post army, learning what real brotherhood and friendship were like I realized none of them ever were my friends. It’s a shame I didn’t know that at the time for perhaps I would have found different friends and had a happier time.

Later, in high school, I found a different group of friends, those who were also social outcasts but not socially inept. Through them, I found things like classic rock, The Beatles, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC and at the time my favorite Led Zeppelin. Though not any happier with myself or any less angry at least I found music that would no longer enhance such emotions but instead would foster a more open view of the world around me.

As time passed, happiness, finally free of the prison that is the school system. A place not for people like myself, who don’t fit the mold in any way shape or form and someone completely, to this day, unwilling to be a sheep and conform to the lies and laziness of the powers that be.

It was at this time I started branching out into alternative music and EDM and other similar genres.

On January 18th, 2006, only a few months free, while watching the late-night show I saw this performance:

Yes, you guessed it, Matisyahu. If you had read my series on my Camp My Way Experience you would have noticed several of his songs. Though Matisyahu has evolved from his previous personal as that Hassidic Jew singing reggae his music has always spoken to me. Though I am not in any way a religious man in any way I think Matisyahu’s lyrics and music do a beautiful job at capturing what it means to be human.

Whether I knew it or not, like the butterfly effect, changing the channel on this night at this time would set things in motion for things to come and lay the path of my future life.

*Originally published Oct 19th, 2017

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 2

Learn to hit curve balls

Life as we know it is rarely a smooth journey. We might not always get where we want to go or things might not go how we would like them. Sometimes your day is wonderful, sometimes it is not.

But sometimes a life event might hit you like a tonne of bricks. From the death of a loved one to a break up to the loss of employment to your favorite Netflix show ending. Some of these are more tragic than others but from person to person the effects may feel the same. Perhaps a sense of loss. Perhaps the feeling of emptiness has washed over you. Or even you feel without purpose. If such an event happens what can you do?

First, I think its totally ok if you need time for your self. A little time for quiet and lack of stress to help calm your nervous system might be exactly what you need. It can however easily spiral. If you find your self for more than two weeks in such a state especially if it feels more like depression than quiet reflection then it may be time to get help.

Luckily for you, if you are reading this you are probably one of the lucky ones. You already have one of your best medicines. The fact your do Krav Maga, BJJ, Karate, Kickboxing, kung fu or insert your style here. (Please note that if you feel something is seriously wrong, please consult your doctor or mental health professional preferably someone whose the first reaction isn’t to just prescribe something).

What you may fail to realize is that your martial arts school is not just an outlet to let of attitude-change-life-quotes-Favim.com-1657043.jpgsteam physically but it is also a social group which you belong too. You think you dont have friends? well, you do if you train martial arts. It is unlikely that in the entire group of people you regularly punch in the face or try to choke out you can’t find one or more people to find support from. And you might not even need to take it that far. Simply being around other people that you like for an hour or two a day will most likely help you feel a little better.

Perhaps you learned something new that gave you a sense of accomplishment to lift your spirits. Perhaps you met someone new and you taught them something and that lifted your spirits. Perhaps simply being with people knowing you are doing something rather than sitting alone with a drink helped you out. You never know what it is but something will most likely help you feel better even if only a little.

Yes I know, you may not feel like going, you may still feel immense pain inside but you need to force your self to go and train. Just do something with people around.

I can speak from experience as recently something happened that I was less than thrilled about and while I took some time for my self I told my self ok nows the time to train. I then went to all the classes I could fit in my schedule and I can say I definitely feel better. I found the support I needed, and the sense of accomplishment by training the amount I would love to be on the regular.

I know I am not the only one as at any given time one or many of my students are going through a hard time. Usually, they stray away from training and I encourage them to come and train. Lately, I think the environment has been a good one and more students seem to be coming when they are having a hard time. Just know if you haven’t figured it out by now I think this is the right thing to do.

Of course, there is always a caveat. An outlet to make yourself feel better can always spiral into an addiction. Yes, you can train too much. If you train so much that everything else in your life falls to the wayside that perhaps you can train a little less. Especially if it’s not helping you achieve other goals in your life. The other thing to be aware of is physical burn out. Know your limits stick within them. Sometimes in order to hide the pain people train so much, they end up breaking their body down in a way that is just not healthy. So you always need to do little mental and physical checks to see if you are training the appropriate amount without totally overcompensating.

For example, in a normal week, I might train 2-4 times. This past little bit I have been training 10+ hours a week. Though I feel much better mentally I can say that physically its time for a break. So as I sit here writing this I am also taking 2 days off so that my body has proper time to rest.

So just remember, its the journey that matters the most. Learn what you can and strive to grow and learn. But most importantly be happy, or as happy as you can be in the process. Sometimes it will happen in leaps and bounds and sometimes only millimeters at a time. So long as your forward momentum overall is still going forward then things are probably not as bad as they seemed. So when life throws you a screwball, train more, be around a supportive group of people who have the same goal and remember you are here to train Krav (Insert other martial art) so that you may learn to walk in peace both inside and out.