Archive for the ‘Physical Health’ Category

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

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.

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

Injuries can be frightening, recovery can be challenging, but keeping at it will stave off fear.
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Tearing my soleus – inner calf muscle – was the worst soft tissue injury I have suffered in my life (maybe I’m lucky?).  After skipping for 5min to warm up, I took part in an agility drill that involved jumping over a partner, then dropping prone and crawling under them.  On the third jump I felt and odd “squelch” sensation in my calf and tightness preventing me from extending my foot properly.  I stepped to the side and, thinking it was a simple cramp, I started stretching it out and working the muscle to loosen it, then continued into the next drill. (I found out later that stretching is the worst possible action of can take when dealing with a tear, as it, logically, exacerbates said tear!)

It turns out that tightening your calf/soleus through one activity (skipping), then immediately loading it in another (jumping) is a perfect storm for muscle mangling.  I was also informed, much to my chagrin, that soleus tears are so common in men over 40 that they are referred to as “The Old Man’s Injury” (ugh… time is real!)

Recovery was relatively straightforward; don’t stretch, take it easy for a few days, then slowly strengthen it by way of controlled exercise. I thought it wise to take time off of Krav maga, as bursting and kicking are fundamentals. Nothing too complicated, and not a terribly painful healing process.

On the road to a full recovery!  No problems!

However.

The first day back to training, after four weeks off, I was trembling as I prepared for class.  I felt totally fine on the way to the gym, in fact I was happy to get back at it, but as I took off my shoes to step onto the mats, my hands were shaking.  What if my first sprint sets me back to square one?

Over the years I have encountered many people who cite “fear of injury” as their main reason for not starting to train in the martial arts or self-defence (or to justify avoiding exercise altogether).  I get it; people don’t want to suffer injuries.  But, I’m not talking about “fear of injury” in the sense of “*whiny voice* don’t wanna get hurt”, that is simply good ol’ self-doubt paired with cowardice (let’s be generous and say “self-preservation”), I’m talking about the realistic fear of suffering a chronic, debilitating injury. 

I expect it is often the case that “fear of injury” in the latter sense is more accurately a “fear of re-injury;” you have experienced the physical/mental/emotional pain of injury and recovery, possibly accompanied by a loss of mobility for the duration, and most likely had to stop training, thus you don’t what to go down that road again (or worse, end up with a more permanent problem).

Of course, in the martial arts, or any physical activity, you must accept that there is a degree of risk involved simply from participating (some injuries are caused by partners and are, to a certain extent, out of your control.)  But in many cases the injury, as with my soleus tear, are surprising.  So it may be the unexpected nature of certain injuries that contributes to the onset of anxiety.  Sure, you walked in expecting to be punched, bruised, or, at worst, KO’d, you are at peace with those potential consequences.  But then you pull a bicep.  Okay, it could happen.  It heals, but not quite 100%.  Now you start to feel weaker along the chain or arm muscles.  This leads to you straining you wrist due to weakened overall punching form, etc..  Your willingness to take a punch did not prepare you for being hindered by a common sports injury.  Not only were you unprepared, but now this injury has led to diminished performance in a set of techniques, techniques that, in turn, diminish your overall performance.  Now you are less confident and less likely to push yourself and, by extension, less likely to improve.

When a nonathletic individual suffers an injury, he or she is faced with the difficulty of completing normal daily tasks due to pain and a loss of mobility. Once the person returns to pre-injury level, he or she is still only faced with the challenge of completing normal daily tasks. An athlete on the other hand, is not only faced with the challenges of daily functioning, but also faced with the challenge of returning to the field… the act of returning to play forces an athlete to participate in the exact activity that caused the injury initially.

(2008) “Fear of Injury, Kinesiophobia & Perceived Risk”, p.289, Injuries in Athletics: Causes and Consequences.

Thus the rational fear of injury, gained from experience, can be very real and, if left unchecked, can become a mental/emotional/physical hindrance. (In extreme cases, if your fear or anxiety is allowed to take hold and increase, you could end up with full blow traumatophobia, abnormal fear of injury, or kinesiophobia, fear of moving due to pain, both of which may diminish your quality of life and delay recovery.)

You enjoyed that activity you were engaged in (let’s assume so, otherwise why would you pursue it?), but now your recreation/fitness/lifestyle activity has betrayed you and the joy it provides is replaced by pain and fear.

I’ve been there, twice.  Trust me, it sucks.

So, how do we mitigate anxiety?

First off, when you are injured go see a doctor.  Have the injury treated if it requires immediate attention (eg. cuts and breaks). If it doesn’t require a trip to the Emergency Room, great, but still see a physician to check for related, possibly hidden injuries (eg. concussion).  Furthermore, seeing a doctor will help in determining the full extent and nature of the injury; for example, is it a soleus tear rather than the calf cramp you “expertly assessed” it as.

After receiving a professionally trained opinion regarding your initial injury, you want to take action.  While I am not a psychologist, it stands to reason that exerting or maintaining control and actively engaging in a solution that improves your situation should help reduce the anxiety surrounding the injury or mechanism of injury.  While this may not entirely eliminate the possibility of fear, as some is natural, it should reduce the intensity.  (Be mindful that “control” via avoidance could set you down the path of the aforementioned phobias.)

Know that, in the vast majority of cases, you WILL heal, you WILL get back to doing what you love.  Don’t give up, don’t stop taking care of your mind and body!  A positive mindset and an active participation in your own recovery will, logically, make it easier to face the injurious activity once more in the future:

  1. Get Checked Out – After the initial injury, you will want to see both a doctor and a physiotherapist, preferably a sports focused one (if you can, everyone’s resources differ.)  I say both because doctors are great for diagnosing and treating acute injury, but physio specialists are better for helping you develop and execute a recovery plan.
  2. Understand Your Injury – You don’t just want to heal your wounds and get back at it; you want to understand why and how you were injured, in order to reduce the chances of a re-injury and so to your fear of re-injury.  Take the responsibility of learning about the anatomy and physics that got you into trouble in the first place, and then get better.  Sometimes this means understanding basic kinesiology, sometimes it means learning to keep your hands up in sparring.
  3. Set Rules and Expectations – Be honest about your limitations and create guidelines for yourself in order to stay active in a safe manner.  Everyone is different, and every injury requires a different approach to healing and rebuilding.  Here are some general considerations:
    • Modify Activities – Go slower, engage in reduced intensity or lower impact versions of exercises/techniques/drills.  It is in your best interests to be honest and realistic. For example, in the martial arts, it is unlikely that you can train throws, takedowns, or groundfighting while recovering from an injury. But, again, it varies based on the nature of the injury. Talk with your instructor, any competent one will be able, and willing, to accommodate you.
      • Are you allowed to “audit” classes?  Ie. Attend class to watch and listen, but not participate.  This is a good way to stay in the headspace of your activity while healing.  Plus you will be surprised how much knowledge you pick up by watching others
    • Be Realistic About Severity – Be aware of how limited you are in range of motion and level of exertion. Are you able to participate safely (for yourself and others)? Will one wrong step re-injure you, or worsen the severity?  It may be that some time off is required.  Talk with your instructor!
    • Know Thyself  – Yes, more, deep self-reflection is required!  Are you the type of person who can actually sit on the sidelines, will you follow your own rules?  If you are like me, possessed of a sometimes reckless willingness go harder than you should, let those around you know your self-imposed limitations and let them help you stay accountable.  If you cannot keep yourself reined-in enough to train safely, maybe do something else to keep fit while you recover?
  4. Keep Active! – Don’t fully stop unless you really have to.  “Stay off it” isn’t always accurate, scientifically informed, advice, even coming from a doctor.  Broken arm?  Focus on your lower body, or use this as a time to start engaging more cardio work. I find that Humans have a sort of mental inertia, stopping fully will make “getting back on the horse” much harder.  Additionally, your removal from any activity allows you way too much time to think and creates a void for negative memories of the injury to grow and exaggerate, impacting your comfort level with said activity when you return, thus increasing the possible onset of fear and anxiety (if you return at all).
  5. Re-Check – Reassess the injury as it heals, then reassess the plan for recovery in parallel.  Also, don’t neglect your mental well-being throughout the process!  Consider how you are feeling; what are your thoughts regarding your return to action, do you feel a creeping dread, do you feel fine until it it’s “go time” (like I did)?  Should you see a counselor to help with overcoming the fear of re-injury or the anxiety of returning to 100%?  There are sports therapists who specialize in “Sports Counselling (Mental Strength Training).”

At the end of the day, you have to decide your own path.  I assert that if you be truthful with yourself, take an active role in your recovery, even if that means modifying exercises or sitting out on certain drills, you will be able to ease back into your favoured activity while you heal.  Yes, I have a hard time sitting on the sidelines, and too many times I have said “of course I’ll spar!” when I know I shouldn’t, and set my healing back a week.  So, for me, injuries often mean time off to protect me from myself.  (Honestly, if I was into mountain biking or rock-climbing I’d probably be in a wheelchair or a pine box by now.)

But that doesn’t mean I quit!

I’m currently dealing with a back injury.  But I’m actively dealing with it! When I’m not training Krav Maga, I’m doing my physio-assigned back exercises, I’m reading about self-defence theory, I’m working on basic kicks and punches with my daughters (“To teach is to learn”), I’m running, I’m working with a personal trainer for core strength, I’m focusing energy on changing my diet to improve my physical performance.  And before I know it I’m back into the lower impact basics (“Defence”) classes.  Those go well, so then I’m planning ahead for where my back needs to be in order to ease back into the “Warrior” classes. (and I probably should be auditing the “Novice” coloured belt classes)

Adopt the mindset that this is temporary and you WILL overcome it as you would any physical challenge.  Some people say “I was injured while biking, I’ll never get on a bike again.”  But, in my opinion that leaves behind a part of your life that you enjoyed, it narrows the breadth of your experience and allows you to give into living based on fear.  That’ a slippery slope, and life is too short!

Written by: Corey O

A healthy immune system can stop problems before they start. (pixabay.com)

Unless you have been living in a cave, in a jungle, you will be aware that the world is experiencing something different. Yes, Covid-19, certainly different… yet oddly familiar. You may also be very frustrated by the fact you are having difficulty assessing what is true and not true with regard to this virus. They say “listen to the experts,” but then change their minds because they did not actually know enough initially, at least on policy, to make fully informed decisions. But I am not writing today to debate this, rather I wish to talk about something I do know for sure.

Covid has shown that when it comes to potential death, or the loss of life of loved ones, humans will act to avoid this at all cost. Our fear of the unknown, or more specifically our fear of death, is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it, along with bad or confusing advice, will cause mass panic.

There are things we can prepare for in life, and things we cannot. When it comes to Covid, or any virus for that matter, it’s actually a bit misleading to say we cannot prepare for such things, because we can.

As an individual the best course of action to prevent a premature death is be healthy; stay active and keep an eye on your dietary choices. For the average person this means that your best bet, in general, to avoid a premature death (aside from accidents) is to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and nutritionally, so that your immune system is as strong as it can be to fight off any would-be invaders.

I have written about this topic before, stating that eating well and staying active is the best place to start, but maintaining good nutrition also means ensuring your body is getting everything it needs.

If I walk into a doctor’s office seeking nutrition advice, they may just provide generic information that might not suit me. Yet there is one thing you can do for sure; make sure you eat your greens and take your vitamins (the ones you actually need, not the ones the guy in the store said to buy.)

So, how do you start? Well, the easiest additions are the vitamins and minerals that have consistently been shown, across numerous studies, to be good for you. These would be things like Vitamin C, D, Iron, etc.. And, NO, these will NOT cure Covid, but what nutrients like these will do is help your body to be in better shape to fight off any virus; so you can worry a little less about “premature death due to health issues.”

FACT: For Covid, the largest at risk group are those considered “elderly” (average 65+). See the death rates for these ages groups, also the devastating spread when Covid gets into “old folks homes.” For those who are younger, the number one risk factor is obesity (ie. being unhealthy.)

So, other than avoiding ageing (which, so far, we cannot) your best bet for the current, or next, pandemic, because there WILL be one, is to consider these questions:

Beyond this, optimizing your body through nutrition can be complicated; requiring a variety of tests, trial and error, and money (supplements are expensive.)

Most of us should start with a good, balanced diet plan, but some of us may need a boost for whatever reason (unfortunately, some will find they have bodies that don’t like to play nice, refusing to absorb nutrients correctly.)

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is water soluble (you just pee out the excess), it is a modest immune booster, it is readily available, and it is cheap (this is why i say it’s a great place to start)

Vitamin D, ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3), is often considered a “happy drug” as it can impact mood (the sun feels good!) and is very useful for general health regulation. In a place like Vancouver it is quite common to have lower than ideal levels of Vitamin D (plus high levels of seasonal depression). However, in a place like California you may get enough by just being out doors. One thing to remember is you CAN take too much Vitamin D, so be careful and look into testing your levels first.

Iron deficiency is common for a variety of reasons, especially in women. It can lead to a weakened or anemic body, which in turn will mean a reduced immune system. One of my students said the best way to see if you have low iron is to donate blood, because they test for free and will let you know (a nice perk for helping save lives). Though direct Iron testing is readily available, simple, and important. You might not even need to take supplements, it may be a simple matter of adding more protein to your diet.

The last thing that can really help your immune system prepare to fight attacks is managing your stress levels. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. While some 2.5% of the population hit the genetic lottery, requiring 4-6 hours of sleep a night, most of us “normal” people need a solid 8-10. The amount of research on sleep impacting immunity is so extensive it really is no longer theory but rather fact.

I am not an expert on these things (probably one of the most used words these days after “Covid,” and “stay home”), but I am someone who has investigated these topics myself, through primary sources rather than the mainstream media. BUT I understand how daunting navigation of health and nutrition information can be considering all of the conflicting data.

This is why I presented the most basic, cheapest, and easiest way to start, that is also backed by more studies than I care to read.

So, in preparing for the next pandemic, rather than running in fear and panicking, ask yourself “have I optimized my body so that it has the strongest immune system it can have?” Or are you just sitting around waiting to be told what to do when it is too late?

Be honest…

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Editor: Corey Owens

P.S. There are many other basic supplements that you may want to consider but we thought it would be best to keep it simple for now…

Audio by Jonathan Fader

OK this is the LAST ONE! I promise…for a while. This is the third in a series I like to call “What Pokémon Taught Me.” The first being “What Pokémon Taught Me About Losing“, and the second being “What Pokémon Taught Me About Being OK With Who I Am.

When I was young, I was out of shape and overweight. Eating properly wasn’t a foreign concept in my house growing up, but, based on my knowledge now I can say it really wasn’t put into practice. In the ’90s it was very common and acceptable to eat a lot of prepackaged, sugary snacks, because they were cheap and easy for parents; as, in that decade more than ever, it was common to see households with two working parents.

At one point one, I’m not certain what age, the most frequent meal I ate was macaroni and cheese (YES IT’S DELICIOUS, BUT SO BAD) and several cans of Coca-Cola. Kids can be mean, and, of course, I was always seen as that chubby kid. I was by no means obese, but carried enough extra weight for it to be noticeable. In 8th grade I made a mental shift; I stopped eating so poorly. Though my eating habits weren’t perfect, I still ate crappy school cafeteria burgers, I did manage to stop drinking Coke for several years. BUT, some improvement is better than nothing. I also spent that Summer working out every day. The difference was noticeable, I felt good and I was happy.

This change came from within, not from an example set at home (I often wonder where it came from). Now I am not saying it came from POKEMON, but I am also not saying the opposite. On this one though I think it might have actually come from Pokémon. In September of 1998, when I started grade 6, the series came out on TV in North America. At the end of grade 8 it would have been 2001, which means I was exposed to the Pokémon tv show three years at that point. Which, if memory serves, might have been one of the few shows I watched that actively discussed nutrition in it’s content, albeit casually.

You see, in order to be a good pokémon trainer (the thing I really wanted to be, but knew I couldn’t), you needed strong pokémon. This meant eating well and training hard. The training component is obviously the main component of the show, but as early as the first season Pewter City Gym leader Brock, a friend of the series’ protagonist Ash, regularly discusses the fact that what you feed your pokémon makes them stronger.

While some pokémon do not want to evolve to their next form (see previous post). The ones that do will first need to be strengthened through training and nutrition (unless of course they need an “evolution stone,” which is fine, some people need a little external help sometimes too.) This means that to be the best version of your pokémon-self you can be, you must eat the proper food and train regularly. This message, it seems, got into me, and after enough exposure it clearly clicked in my head.

So, as mentioned, at the MINIMUM I cut out the foods I knew were not great for me. I still did not know how to cook (which makes a HUGE difference), but I was still making progress in a positive direction. Later, when I was getting ready for the Army, many years ago, I started taking meal plans a little more seriously. In addition to continuing my regular training.

Just like a pokémon, you need to be fairly consistent with your diet and exercise in order to grow stronger and healthier. Of course, as with pokémon, your training and “battling” needs to become a lifestyle. Doing something you hate will not be a happy process, which means it is likely to fail. While you may realize, logically and rationally, that you need to change your diet and exercise regime (which should be obvious if what you have been doing isn’t getting you what you want), it also needs to be enjoyable.

This is why even in pokémon you see them eating sweets sometimes, but usually they are eating fruits, vegetables, and “pokémon food” designed specifically for them. Make the new routine enjoyable, and you will be more likely to stick to it.

I think you get the point. If you want to be heathier and happier (in most cases a scientific connection), then you need to make smart dietary and physical choices, to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

So, channel your inner pokémon, whether it’s Pikachu, Magmar, or Articuno, and make the changes you need today.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

This information may be slightly out of date. It was pulled on the date of writing this article.

Since my entire month of travel has been cancelled and I now have a bit more time on my hands, I thought I would discuss the global outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the Coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The blog series I had recently started makes the point that self-defence is not just physical; there are often many other areas of life that require a bit of Critical thinking and self-defense strategy. Living in a pandemic is just such a scenario. I am definitely not a expert on diseases or epidemiology, but I can apply reasoning and critical thinking to know that, while the Coronavirus is definitely cause for concern, the global reaction is very much one of panic in the face of a lack of planning. But don’t just take my word for it, see the stats for yourself in this awesome info graphic (left).

Or, if you want a more in-depth explanation from an actual expert, listen to the Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #1439, with Michael Osterholm, an internationally recognized expert on infectious diseases and epidemiology.

Otherwise, I will attempt to sum up what he said:

  1. Yes, this new Coronavirus is concerning, but this is mainly due to the fact that it is such an easily transmittable viral strain compared to previous ones, like SARS or MERS. This is due to the fact that once you have it you are immediately able to transmit it to others. With previous Coronavirus strains you would not be able to transmit the virus until you already knew you were sick, 4-5 days in. This means that, for the current strain, SARS-CoV-2, you could have it, not know you are sick and transmit it.
  2. Unlike other strains or viral outbreaks children seem to be relatively unaffected by it. While they can contract the virus they are generally less likely to develop COVID-19. In Fact, Osterholm believes that closing schools is unnecessary and will do more harm than good, from both health and economic perspectives.
  3. The early claims about touching the face as the primary means of spreading the virus are not true. This strain is airborne, passed on by breath and breathing. As Osterholm states, trying to stop this strain outright is like trying to stop the wind. Unless you plan on being in a hazmat suit 24hrs a day, you can still contract the virus simply by breathing. His advice was to not panic and LIVE YOUR LIFE!
  4. This strain is essentially a REALLY BAD FLU for most sufferers. This means that, generally, the only people who need to worry are those past retirement age (55-65), those with compromised immune systems, or complicating heart or lung conditions. Essentially, the same people who would need to worry about getting any kind of flu.
  5. You should wash your hands regularly and practice good hygiene… you know, like you normally should…
  6. The best thing you can do, is eat healthy and be healthy. This includes continuing with exercise as normal. The healthier you are the better you can manage COVID-19, or any flu for that matter.
  7. DON’T PANIC! THIS IS NOT THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! THERE IS A LOT OF MISINFORMATION AND BS OUT THERE! CHILL OUT!
  8. I am sure there is more, but it’s a long podcast, so listen to it yourself.

I hope you get the point here; while there is a legitimate concern as the World Health Organization (WHO) has now given it pandemic status, there is a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering out there. So stop panicking and STOP HOARDING TOILET PAPER, it won’t save your life for shit! (Get it? I am punny.)

A more up to date resource for Canada can be found here!

Facemasks and Respirators:

Way back in 2008 I completed my certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). One of the areas of study was knowing how to properly use respirators, for health and construction. WAY BACK THEN, I knew that the generic surgical masks do not protect you from airborne viruses, and yet people and governments still seem to believe they do. This is because they were only meant to stop water or vapor, from a cough or sneeze, from landing anywhere other than the mask; but, because they do not create a tight seal, air and the breath of others can still get through. N95/N99 masks are far better, as they are able to create a better seal and have a more advanced filtering ability. However, the issue with these as that movements can break the seal, meaning that, while they work great for particulates, viruses are very small and may still be able to get through the edges. This is why, if there was an epidemic of an actually deadly nature, you would want a proper respirator with a rubber seal and replaceable filter cartridges. I, myself, have these, just in case, though I generally do not plan on walking around the streets looking like Bane just because of COVID-19. Though I would absolutely do this for a more serious outbreak, because, again, these work. Of course, to be absolutely sure, you should go get your mask “fit tested” to ensure it fits properly on your face.

The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020

For some strange reason people have decided that the most important thing in the world is toilet paper. When I have talked to my friends we all are scratching our heads as to why this, toilet paper, is the item people are hoarding in a pandemic. Not water, you know, the thing we need to live. Not food, also the thing we need to live, but rather a thing we have become accustomed to for comfort.

I thought I would take this time to remind people that before toilet paper people managed just fine. Its called water, a leaf, or washable cloths. Would I enjoy wiping my ass with a re-usable cloth that I need to wash? Not particularly. But, am I going to wake up 2 hours before Costco opens to wait in line for toilet paper? Absolutely Not! Or, assuming running water is still there, you can always get in the shower.

Seriously people, what is wrong with our priorities?!

Coming to Krav Maga Classes:

Given that the best defence for this virus is to stay healthy, if Krav Maga, or any martial art, is your primary means of exercise, then you should still come to class.

The only reason you should not come to class is:

  • You have cold/flu-like symptoms.
  • You are coughing or sneezing regularly.
  • You are feeling “sick” in general.
  • You are injured to the point of not to be able to train (though we still recommend you come and observe in this case).
  • You have traveled out of country recently.
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19 (Self Isolate!)

Aside from the last two, these are basically the same reasons you shouldn’t come to class under normal circumstances.

Coming to Class:

  • Wash your hands as soon as you come
  • Wipe down any equipment you used
  • Feel free to wear face masks in class

So, in summary; stay healthy, WASH YOUR HANDS (like normal), and come to class.

I hope this clears up any confusion and assuages fears that you might have. As for me, at least at this stage in the pandemic, the existence of this virus simply isn’t a good enough reason to not come to class (unless it mutates, then I might reconsider)

So stay calm and carry on. And, for the LOVE OF GOD, please stop panicking!

Are you a good training partner? – Turning Up Written by Evan J Audio by Jonathan Fader

Turning Up, continuing from “Are You A Good Training Partner?”

Turning Up

With Krav Maga classes, as with almost everything in life, turning up is the first key to success. Now, by this I don’t simply mean being physically in the room, yes, getting to class on time is important, but turning up for your classmates and instructors means more than that. (Continuing from “Are You A Good Training Partner?”)

Come to class regularly. This is important. Often concepts and techniques build on one and other, and if you consistently miss classes you will eventually fall behind. You won’t be able to keep up with the more complex techniques or concepts, which means that either your partner or the instructor will end up having to stop and explain things to you; which means less active training time for you and your partner. This also means that you may struggle to perform more complex movements, as you have not adequately practiced the basics to a level where you can build on them.

Pay attention. You need to ensure that you are mentally switched on while training; meaning pay attention to your instructors. Once again, just because you are there, and there regularly, doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to learn anything (lets face it, not many of us can learn through osmosis). Actively listen when things are being explained, and while chatting with the person next to you might seem like fun, it’s rude to your instructor; and if you disrupt class then it’s rude towards your fellow students as well. Furthermore, if you are chatting or daydreaming, you aren’t listening. As noted above, if you don’t listen when drills are being explained you might find that you are wasting valuable time trying to play catch up, or worse, you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up getting kicked or punched by your partner (though this often makes for a quick learning curve).

Actively participate. If you’re in a classroom or lecture hall raise your hand and ask or answer questions, if you’re in a Krav Maga class speak up when you’re asked for input, and then do the drill. Sure, no one likes to be the dummy that’s getting kicked in the groin, but that’s a part of Krav Maga training. You take the fun with the not-so-fun. If you’re not giving every part of the drills the same attention and enthusiasm, on every drill, then you’re not really actively participating in the class. If you don’t understand something, ask; just keep the questions relevant.

Keep the energy up. Now, I know we don’t all have the energy of a 5yr old after their 5th espresso everyday, but you need to turn up to class ready to commit to a full class. If you’re not providing a committed and energetic attack for your partner during drills, then you’re not giving them the opportunity to learn what a realistic attack feels like, and if their technique could successfully defend against it. Even in between drills, whether it’s getting pads or putting on gear, do it with a bit of pep in your step; don’t waste everyone’s limited training time just because you’re feeling like taking it a little easier today. I don’t mean you have to be rushing every time you go to do something, but keep the tempo up, act with a sense of urgency, and don’t let your heart rate drop too much.

Be prepared. “Turning up” can begin before you even get to class. Make sure you have all of your protective gear; groin guard, mouth guard, helmet, and gloves, and bring a water bottle (tip: try to show up hydrated!). Periodically check that your uniform is clean, no one wants to train with the guy who’s shirt smells like B.O., and if you’re anything like me (who sweats) bring a towel. Because, while I don’t expect to come out of class without getting a little of someone else’s sweat on me, it’s a good option to be able to wipe down yourself or the equipment you’re using.

Help out where you can. If you’re working with a newer or less experienced person and they are having trouble, help them out if you can; just be careful not to start teaching. At the end of class help clean up and put away the equipment used. Being a good student and good classmate doesn’t start and stop when you bow in and out; if you are “turning up” for your school, take a little pride and do your part.

These are some of the things that “turning up” means to me. It may mean more or less to you, but if you have never thought about what it means, or wondered if you are, this should serve as a starting point for you to decide what type of student you want to be.

Written by: Evan J

UTKM: Yellow Belt