Friday, February 25, 2011


My schedule has been busier than usual. It seems like I am always in the car driving with my daughter…school, work, basketball practice, choir and play practice. On a night when I teach karate, I have one hour after I leave work to pick up my daughter and get ready for class. This pattern is affecting my dietary habits. Sometimes it is much easier and faster to pick up a hamburger or a pizza on the way home from work.

I want to break this habit.

My sister encouraged me to write down everything I eat on a daily basis. I found the website Calorie Count which is a free online food log. It takes a few minutes each day to log your food intake and activity level. Each food is given a grade from A – F. There is a report card at the end of the day which totals your grade for the day. The site offers a tool to analyze the recommended daily nutritional requirements. You can easily see which items are too high, good or too low.

It has only been a week and I am surprised at the difference it has made in my daily diet. There have been a few nice surprises and some shocking revelations. One thing is for certain, the food log has changed the way I think about food. When I make choices, I wonder what grade the item will have. Some of choices I made, which I thought were healthy, were actually a grade of “C” or lower.

At the end of the day, it is not easy to be “good” on all the daily nutritional requirements. The most surprising results from my first week are “too high” sodium and “too low” calcium.

Logging the food makes me aware of accountability. I am responsible for making quality, healthy choices.

The same can be said about martial arts practice. I have a supportive dojo community, excellent instructors and helpful training partners. But at the end of the day…

I am accountable for my practice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ACL Surgery - Hamstring or Knee Tendon Graft?

Interesting article from the Los Angeles Times:

The hamstring may have it, a study finds. In research presented at a recent meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in San Diego, 180 people ranging from 13 to 52 years old who had ACL reconstruction surgery were followed for 15 years. Half of the patients had a knee tendon graft, and the others had a hamstring tendon graft. Symptoms such as knee mobility, pain and swelling were measured at two, five, seven, 10 and 15 years from the beginning of the study.

Those who had the knee tendon graft had much worse results than those who had the hamstring graft after 15 years. Overall the hamstring group reported less knee pain and discomfort but higher levels of activity than the knee tendon group.

Among those in the hamstring tendon group, 77% could do at least strenuous activities,compared with 62% in the knee group. When it came to assessing pain while kneeling, 26% of the hamstring group and 42% of those in the knee group said they had aches. The knee group also reported worse results for osteoarthritis and loss of motion.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two More Blocks

We headed to Philly this weekend for a scavenger hunt at the Reading Terminal Market. We had two hours to answer 17 questions, eat at 6 different vendors and return to the starting point. There were 13 groups and we finished a respectable 3rd place. At each vendor, we had to take a photograph of the group eating something from the stand (chai, soft pretzel, egg sandwich, fudge, corn bread and an orange).

After the hunt, I took my daughter to see the Liberty Bell. My sister and her husband waited outside for us. We walked through Old City and eventually arrived at Penn's Landing. It was cold and the wind was gusting up to 35 mph. Our next stop was South Street. At this point, we had been walking for 4 hours. It was time to head back and it was at least 35 blocks to our scheduled restaurant. My sister Kim would open her map and tell us it was only two more blocks.

Five blocks later she would repeat...two more blocks.

My daughter would ask "How much farther?'" every few minutes.

It reminded me of this....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Me, My Daughter and Tai Chi

It has been a few weeks since I attended tai chi class. The Northeast had its fair share of winter weather...especially on a Tuesday. My plan was to go the gym and drop my daughter off in the child care room for an hour.

My daughter has been surrounded by karate since she was born. I have pictures of her when she was an infant sitting in her bouncy chair in the dojo. I think she was even holding foam nunchaku. We brought her along to tournaments. When she was a baby, I remember Tom being called for his weapon division holding her instead of his bo. He was quickly reminded "There are no live weapons." :)

My daughter has probably worn every size gi from 000-2. She starts taking classes then stops a few weeks later. I made the decision a long time ago that I would not force her to learn karate. I have seen many karate kids walk through the dojo door. Some stay for a while and earn a black belt. Others stay for a few years until school, sports or jobs pull them away. I know kids who were forced to come to class and hated every minute of it. Some return after a long absence and continue as adult students.

I am not going to lie...I want my daughter to take karate. I believe one day she will start the journey...when she is ready.

Instead of going to the child care room as planned, my daughter asked if she could take a tai chi class. My instructor granted permission. During the next hour, she practiced the Yang long form with the rest of the class. At one point she whispered in my ear..."tai chi is so relaxing...all the stress of the school day just melts away".

She wants to go to tai chi class next week.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Adapting to Environment and Limitations

I work for a seasonal distribution company. The building is in an industrial complex off a major highway. The space is divided between offices, a showroom and a warehouse. My office is in the back of the room (no window) and I cannot see the door from my desk. The building is alarmed and a low chime rings when a door, window or dock entrance is opened. The complex is busy with regular traffic (trucking companies, salespeople, package delivery services and the USPS).

Unexpectedly on Monday, I was alone in 25,000 sq ft of space. My co-workers were sick or away at trade shows. To make matters worse, I could not hear well. My left ear is driving me crazy and is completely blocked. All I hear is constant ringing. I went to the doctor and he prescribed ear drops. I have a follow up appointment next week. I could not hear the door chime.

There was at least one salesman who dropped by on a cold call. A customer picked up a large order of baskets, a lost truck driver came in for directions and a person stopped by to see if we were hiring. The UPS man made his scheduled delivery and pickup.

What did I do differently on this particular Monday?

I moved out of my office and sat in a seasonal employee desk which was facing the entrance. The desk was in an open space next to a window. I made sure the warehouse dock doors were secure and the only open entrance was the front door. When visitors came, I did not mention I was in the building alone. There is a company truck parked out front so it appears like there are several people in the building. I kept my cell phone and car keys in my pocket.

I made minor adjustments to my work day that only took a few seconds.

This post has been sitting in my draft folder for a few days. I read the post this morning and I wondered how this post would be perceived. Do the minor adjustments make me seem fearful? Paranoid? Prepared? Aware? My answer: Aware. On that day, I had a limitation...hearing. I was aware of the limitation and adjusted accordingly.

Thank you and welcome to the new readers and followers of this blog! I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading.

On a side note: I am still struggling with my ear. On Thursday, it opened for a few hours and it was wonderful! I never had a blocked ear before and did not realize how sick it makes you feel. There are a lot of Internet suggestions on how to unblock an ear including ear candling. In this 15-45 minute procedure, a hollow candle is burned in your ear to create negative pressure. thanks!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

About Knives

Journeyman from Japanese Jiu Jitsu is posting a Knife Survival Series.

From his article:

To understand how I've come to arrive at my conclusions, and where my opinions and strategies come from, I'll share the following:

I've been lucky enough to have cross-trained with a true master of Kali, and with several other high level knife fighters. I've learned a great deal from them, and some of my content on knife survival has definitely been influenced by this training.

While this has proved invaluable, the bulk of my material is as a result of real world application or observation, mostly from my work experience. I am also part of a larger group which analyses any use of force by law enforcement agencies. I am privy to the nature of violence towards police and the public and measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the response to it. As such, I am involved in the ongoing process of developing training methods and methodologies to respond to the realities of policing in major urban centers. The remainder of my opinions stem from ongoing research - from books, blogs, training, experimentation, interviews and seminars.

Check out his entire series at Japanese Jiu Jitsu: A Journey

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Solo Karate Training

A few weeks before Christmas, I saw an old friend. We we both in line waiting to fill our gas tanks. The line was long because the grocery store was running a promotion and it was the last day to redeem gas points. I earned $.80 off per gallon! He was parked a few pumps away so I did not recognize him at first.

There were several people in front of me. I parked my car and walked over to talk to my friend. It was a Saturday night and I had just dropped my daughter off at the school dance. My friend lives a few towns away so I was surprised to see him. He told me he was headed to the dojo to workout. I asked if he was going to workout by himself. His response...

"It is one of the best ways to workout"

I have been thinking about our brief conversation and my own practice. As a kyu rank student, I learned in a group setting. The classes were large and the students were of all belt ranks. When I was training for shodan, there were four of us working together. My one friend and I would work bunkai in the living room. We would move furniture to clear out an open space. Once I began teaching, class time was for the students. I would go to seminars and Honbu workouts to focus on my material. In our dojo, a group of black belts meet each week to work on material (contact drills, two-person forms, weapons, kata...etc.)

But how often do I walk through the dojo door and train alone...

Truth...not often.

My goal for the month of February is to spend more time in the dojo practicing karate alone.

What is your experience? Do you train alone, with a group or a combination of the two?