This year was neither a great year, nor an easy year for me. I think that’s how it was for all of us. And yet I felt that this year was very important. I learned a lot about myself this year and made new experiences.
On the one hand, I realized that I still have to find the balance between work and leisure. When I work too much, I feel easily burned out. If my vacation is too long, my daily routine breaks down and I fall into a depressive state. Next year it is clear to me that I will take more targeted and regular vacations and not save them until the end of the year.
I have also learned that I do not have to mourn old relationships. The past is the past and I must finally leave it behind me. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things and let go to be able to move on. But if you are open enough, it is easy to build new relationships. The world is big.
I’m not going to talk about Corona or the state of the world right now. I have neither the desire nor the strength at the moment. Therefore, please forgive me that I write here so egocentrically. But I wish you all good health and a happy new year 2022.
My room is connected to a balcony. And I must say that I do not take very good care of it. Basicly I do nothing. Well besides setting up a drinking place for Sparrows, Pidgeons and Crows.
Because of that the plants that are growing on my balcony are wild weeds of all kinds. Only yesterday I noticed this yellow Flower on the balcony. And I must say that I am quite impressed. This flower growths and blumes in this cold december weather with sparsly any sunlight.
In my last blogpost I told the story how I weighed in on June 27th(correction: it was the 23th not 27th!) with my personal record weight of 130 kg and my realisation that I had become already morbidly obese with a BMI of over 40. I also wrote about the health deterioration I feld last year and how budo training isn’t enjoyable for me anymore because of the stress it puts my sick body through.
So today, one month after that post I am happy to write that I now weigh only 119.6 kg and my BMI is now 39.5. So since last month I was able to lose 10 kg of weight, and going down from obesity class 3 to 2 after taking dieting seriously. Right now I have a go on a 16:8 Intermittent Fasting protocol with reduced calories but with foods high in proteins, fiber and micronutrients. I also move a lot more throughout the day. At Least 6000 Steps everyday, more on the weekends.
Generally I am happy with my diet. The hardest part is getting used again to tracking my calories every day. But for everything else I don’t feel deprived. I eat foods I like to eat and cut out a lot of soda and snacks. While still eating some delicious treats on the weekends. (See Kaiserschmarrn for reference in the title picture)
Going up the stairs got easier for me. And also I start again having more fun training budo. My movements are getting smoother and my keikogi is fitting me better.
At the age of 18 I already went on a weightloss journey in which I lost 40 kg. So I know the process and realise now starts the hard part: keep going and stay motivated. I am aware that from the 10 kg I lost not all was fat tissue. I simply shed also a lot of water weight. Weight Loss is often not linear. There are water fluctuations that can last a week and plateaus that can demotivate you. And then of course is all the delicious food that is waiting for you everyday seductively trying to get you to cheat and to overeat on them.
But I think right now I am in a good headspace to go after my goal. I know what I want and I know I can achieve it.
Today I will write quite a personal blogpost about my situation.
Last year I felt a heavy drop in my stamina and my physical health. When walking some hundred steps I was out of breath and had to take regular breaks. If I did something exhausting I feeled how I become weaker and wanted to lay down. Going up the stairs regulary was basicly torture for me. I life on the fourth floor. We don’t have an elevator and after each floor I had to take a 3 minute break because my eyes started to went black. And you know what? I thought It was just because I was lazy sitting at home doing nothing while self isolating because of Corona. Of course sitting at home didn’t help. But it wasn’t the reason for this.
I was born with a heart condition. A few months ago I went to a checkup for my ICD and the doctor saw clearly that I suffered from atrial fibrillation and arrhythmia for pretty much the last year. Some periods were worse, some better. But clearly this was the true reason for my lack of stamina in everyday life. My heart got a “restart” after a cardioversion, an electric shock basicly the switch it off and on again of cardiology. Now I am pretty much “fine” again and go to the fourth floor to my apartment without losing consciousness. But still out of breath and sweaty at the end.
This combined with the now restarting activity of my dojo brought me to a realization that I should have had much much earlier: I am morbidly obese and if I don’t change that I will die early.
Last Sunday the 27th of June I weighed in at my new Record of 130 kg. At a height of 174 cm this means my BMI Score is 42,9. That means I am in Obesity Class 3 also known as morbidly obese. I am fucking morbidly obese! And worse, I have a heart disease. I associated the term morbidly obese with people who weighed 500 to 600 pounds and had trouble taking baths and showers on TLC. But no, I am already there medically speaking.
I feel ashamed that I didn’t realize this sooner. Or rather that I repressed that realisation. But I can’t ignore it any longer. My health clearly deteriorates because of my Weight. I am atleast 55 kg Overweight… this is like running around with a petite woman or two children strapped on my body the whole time. This is clearly too much of a strain for my heart. As I get older(I will be 32 soon) this will only get worse if I don’t change something quickly.
The worse about it? Right now I can’t find the old enjoyment in budo training any longer I had in the past. My body hurts. Just doing basic movements need a lot of energy for me. While doing the techniques correctly I spend so much energy in getting my massive body to move in the first place and then to stop this mass in the right position. I am slow and heavy on my feet so that my Kohai easily could beat me if they were serious. I look like shit. My obi won’t sit right. And honestly after realizing what a bad example I am I feel ashamed. I am a senpai in my dojo. I even teach some classes. I can’t do some of our Techniques properly because it’s too hard on my body. And why is it too hard on my body? Because I couldn’t keep my fucking piehole shut for the last years. What a great example for everybody….
If you are new to Budo you simply think Swords are cool. Soon you will hear different names like Kendo, Iaido, Kenjutsu, Battodo, Shinkendo and other stuff. It can quickly become quite confusing for a Beginner. So here is a little glossary to help you.
Kendo and Iaido
Kendo literally means the way of the sword. It is a term used for the modern Japanese Fencing where you wear a protective armor called Bogu and a Bamboo Sword, called a Shinai. Most people train it mostly as an incredibly challenging Sport. But there are also a few old School Teachers instilling some Aspects of their Classical Fencing/Kenjutsu Training. Today’s Kendo stems mostly from the Itto Ryu Schools, especially Hokushin Itto Ryu.
Iaido means something akin of the way to react correctly and is used for Dojo that practice sword Drawing associated to mostly the Schools of Muso Shinden Ryu, Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and Tamiya Ryu. Modern Iaido is organized like Kendo in the Forms of Federations. These Federations will rank their practitioners with help of the Seitei Kata. These modern standard Forms encompass Elements of the different Iaijutsu Styles but give the examiners a Tool for grading the Students. As in a modern Federation at least in the higher Grades you do not get tested by your own Teacher, but by People of the Federation, that may come from a different Style of Iaijutsu. So, a Student of Iaido today will firstly learn the Seitei Kata and will also keep practicing these Techniques for grading before he will learn the original Techniques of his Style of Iaijutsu. Iaido today is practiced with Iaito and Shinken. Beginners often will use a blunt Sword simulator made from an aluminum alloy. While more experienced Practitioners can use real Blades.
Jutsu vs. Do, a heuristic
You will have noticed that I have already used the terms of Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu without explaining them. Let us make it simple: Kenjutsu just means Sword technique. And Iaijutsu just means Sword drawing.
The old Japanese Martial arts also known as Koryu Bujutsu used these names to describe parts of their Curriculum. For example, the School I am a Member of Katori Shinto Ryu teaches Kenjutsu, Iaijutsu, Staff Techniques, Glaive Techniques and a lot more. So, if somebody uses the Terms Kenjutsu or Iaijutsu it is a good heuristic to think about older Styles of Fencing and Sword Drawing, that are not part of modern Kendo or Iaido Federations.
There is not THE Kenjutsu or THE Iaijutsu. There are still hundreds of different Schools of Koryu Bujutsu that teach you how to handle a Sword each in a slightly different way in a different context. And Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu are just smaller parts of a bigger Picture that is the School/the Style. Old School Martial Art Styles are more individualistic and smaller in scope of members. With more individualistic I mean that most of the time you will be ranked by your Teacher directly or the Teacher of your Teacher. Not by a panel of Strangers that will give you a Rank from a Federation.
Last but not least
Then there is Battodo and Battojutsu. The terms are associated with Toyama Ryu and Nakamura Ryu. Batto means literally Sword Drawing. These Schools stem mostly from the Sword Teachings of the Toyama Military Academy. In times of Japanese Militarization there were many conscripts that did not have experience with Swords or Martial Arts. The aim of These Style of Martial Arts was to teach soldiers/ future offiziers how to correctly Cut with a Katana as part of their modern military Training. While Battodo also teaches Kata of Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu it is mostly famous for its huge emphasis of Test cutting, called Tameshigiri.
The last Term I mentioned is Shinkendo. Shinkendo, meaning something akin from “Serious/real Kendo” is a Martial Art founded by Obata Toshishiro. His Sword art is heavily influenced by Battodo and mostly popular in the United States where Obata became famous as an Actor.
This year was a hard year. The Corona Pandemic influenced all our lives. I spend a lot time this year at home, like the time where I suffered most from my Depressive State in the past. And this year was in a way very depressing in multiple ways.
Corona showed us the best and the worst in our fellow human beings.
We saw corrupt and incompetent Governments, who acted too late and/or were in denial about the truth. We saw people trying to profit from fear and disinformation. We saw people who felt invincible be it out of religious conviction, mental illness, or simple lacking intelligence. We saw people, sometimes in our own circles, following crazy Conspiracy Theories. And we saw simple egoistical people and Hypocrites.
But we also saw the work of our Nurses, Health Care Workers, Physicians and the essential Workers in Retail we need to get our daily consumer Goods and all the other Heroes in these times that are needed to keep our societies up and running even in a lockdown. Constantly overworked, constantly in danger, and constantly short before the breaking point…. Thank you.
Now we all know with what kind of people we are living together and if we can trust them with our back in Times of need. This year was a wake-up call of sorts, sometimes quite a shocking one for me.
At the end of this year, I am extremely lucky. As a Software Developer I had the privilege this year to work mostly from Home. And while I still have people I worry about far and wide and who I pray for; I feel extremely lucky that no one in my Family or of my close Friends infected themselves with Covid-19.
For the future I am wishing everybody who is reading this happy Holidays and a good time between the Years and that they please stay healthy. I hope the next year will be a better one and that we are able to pull ourselves together in the future.
The last few years I was not as productive as I wanted to be. I don’t know if this was because of my depressive mental state or because of my lazy laid-back nature. But it was something that always bothered me. Because it was like I was not living up to my full potential. So, I decided to change that now and to take some steps in the right direction.
I started first with taking a Skill Share Class about simple Productivity from this Youtuber called Ali Abdaal, who is also a young Physician in Great Britain. Skill Share by the way is an online subscription Service where you can take a wide array of different kind of classes by different teachers. Let it be Computer Programming, Logo Design, Gardening, Cooking or how to be more productive. It is quite a cool Community I would recommend.
This article laid out that people who have to wait to be motivated to do something don’t get anything done basically, because their level of productivity is based around their mood. Abdaal formulated it in a way that made quite an impression on me:
Waiting for motivation to do something is like getting ruled by our inner three-year-old. And we must decide if we want to be controlled by our emotions and moods or if we act like grownups and do stuff that brings us closer to our goals. Even if we do not feel like doing that right now.
And something just went click in my Head. Fucking yeah! Screw Motivation! I want to get stuff done. It was so simple and yet I needed so long for it to make click. It is quite funny. Because basically this famous viral Video summarizes it perfectly:
But how do you get more productive? How to you implement more productivity into your day to day life?
Well firstly to be more productive you need a goal to reach. You must start thinking in Projects. David Allen, Author of the Book “Getting Things Done” I have also read in the last weeks defines a Project as a Task that needs more than one Step to reach your Goal. So first you need to sit on your butt and think about the stuff you want to achieve in the first place. What are the Projects in your life you need or want to tackle?
In time of Lockdowns because of the Corona Pandemic one of my Projects would be “To stay active”. For this Project I have developed following action/to do List of Tasks:
Go on a walk every day
Do Suburi every day
Train with your long-range Weapons every Weekend in the Morning in the park
You get the Gist of it. Other Projects of mine right now would be quite mundane stuff like “Keeping my Room Clean and Tidy”, “Practicing Japanese”, “Practicing Chess”, “Practicing Code Kata” and some other stuff.
Thanks to helpful Apps like Todoist, Notion and the normal Google Calendar I can stay on top of my Game and have my Plan for the day on any device of my choosing.
And I am feeling great! Finally, I feel like I am getting Things done. Of course, it is not always easy. As my lazy Couch Potato Side is screaming at me to chill the fuck out. But then I think to myself: Fuck of little Baby Boar, you will get your due later when we are finished with the stuff we must do today! And I cannot start to describe how great of a feeling it is to get into Bed with the Knowledge you got closer to your goals just a little more.
And so, I must agree with dear Shia LaBeouf: “JUST DO IT!”
I was 10 years old when i got my first Personal Computer. With twelve i had an internet connection. And soon i discovered chat-rooms and forums about a bunch of different Topics.
At the same time around i started to train in martial arts. And soon i would seek out forums exactly about this topic. Where i would go head to head with a lot of people who trained far longer than i was alive at that time. But if you are young and been hit by puberty, of course you know more than some smuck old dude. And so i went there to write down all of my huge knowledge and theories about martial arts, self defence and how stuff should work for the whole world to see. (on another note: yeah not much has changed today xD )
My head was regulary washed left and right in rigorous online Discussions there. You practically could say i grew up fighting with strangers on the internet! And there was only one aim. DESTROY YOUR OPPONENT IN AN ULTIMATE PWNAGE MOVE FATALITY!!!!
I learned a lot through online discussions. They helped me discover great sources in form of literature and or second hand anecdotes of far more expierenced people. And soon i would become one of the old dogs of the german internet Budo Community. A proper Internet Weekend Warrior and expert. Or how one of my Senpai told my: a fucking huge budo nerd.
There in these kind of Internet Communitys i would also get to know people who didn’t took the truth all to serious. People who claimed to be the last Grandmasters of ancient Martial Arts they had secretly learned from their japanese Teacher. The teachers name and his in most cases family art were huge secrets in the past, thats why nobody heard of them until the western Master decided to open up his school for the public. But when these kind of people where asked for sources and explanation they started to get annoyed and offended. They started to ramble and told new stories with so much details that soon would be proven to be nonsense.
I talk of course of Gaijin Ryu. Gaijin is the japanese Word for Westerner/Barbarian/Alien. Or in essence non-japanese. And a Gaijin Ryu is a term used for schools that try to emulate japanese Martial arts without any proper expierence by the “Master” of such Art. Most of the time these Masters are mentally ill and have just a basic training in some form of Karate or other Gendai Budo. But what they share is that they have a Story they tell themselves and their poor and ignorant students.
There was a time where i lived for humiliating and defeating these Scam Artists with Passion. How could they dare to tell such lies? How could they sleep in the Night? How could they disrespect my beloved Martial Arts so much?
I was disgusted by them. And i wanted to destroy them, forcing them to their knees apologizing in the dirt before me! I would spend hours with doing research. Analysing their different Statements. Stalking their trail on Social Networks and other creepy shit.
Until i noticed that these kinds of activities made myself vile and disgusting. How could i develope so much hate for a fellow human being? Well i have to confess: I was not satified with myself. I would leash out against them ( and as old habits die hard sometimes i still do today) and let out all my frustrations against them. It feeled so good to be on the “right” side of the argument.
And then i noticed sometimes i hurt people. Not everybody deserved all the dirt i would throw at them. And i burned bridges with other people because of my behaviour that could have been a fruitfull exchange somtime in the future. Just because i had to satisfy my own ego.
Today this behaviour Trait that sometimes still shows it’s ugly head is something i am quite ashamed of. That doesn’t mean that Scammers, Liers and other kind of Fakes shouldn’t be critized, they should! But … don’t use it as excuse to let out your own negative urges.
When you stare at the darkness, the darkness stares back into you.
I want to be honest with y’all. I’ve cried in the Dojo multiple times in my years of Training. Nothing big, i thing most of my mates didn’t even noticed it when it happened. But… sometimes the training of Budo can be so difficult that you have to cry. No not because you had an accident. Not because you got hit. It’s when when you realize that you suck more than you thought you would. Sometimes Training can be so frustrating that you want to throw your Training dogu away and leave everything behind you. And still, the next Training you still show up at the dojo to suck a little bit less.
Budo Keiko is really hard. Even with a good teacher it is still hard. Your Body doesn’t move like you want it to move. And when you copy your Teacher and could swear that you did everything the way he did, you most of the time did it still wrong.
Sometimes it feel like you make progress at the speed of a tortoise. Or sometimes you feel like you are getting worse.
And this is the part that makes budo Training so valuable. Budo no Keiko is a form of Shugyo[修行]. It’s a journey of discipline to master onesself and to overcome ones own ego.
Showing up, and doing it again even if you feel frustration and dispair in overcoming hardships. And the if you feel like you actually made progress, it is quite sweet of a feeling. But this you only can expierence by standing up and showing up again.
Sometimes we cry, sometimes we smile. But we will always stand up again.
Many (normal) people are thinking that a Black Belt means you are a Master. This is not true. Originally the Black Belt meant that you have the basics down and you can start the real Training now.
You receive your black belt when you reached the rank of first Dan, Shodan. This means roughly translated first step or beginner rank in japanese. Before that you would have gone through the kyu levels. Which can be translated as “classes”. Atleast in most western Dojo. In Japan many Dojo only bother to test Kids for Kyu levels, to keep them motivated. That’s also the original reason for the multiple belts in different colors.
This System, the dan-i System, got popularized by Kano Jigoro the founder of Judo. He himself adapted this type of System from the board games of Go and Shogi. There this System was used to determine how much of a handicap the better Player would have to overcome against a lower ranked player to keep it exiting and a challenge for both.
Kano didn’t implement this System because of shits and giggles of course. He had a quite solid reason. In most martial Arts dojo before the dawn of Judo the teacher would have known every single Student of his personally. He would know their skill level, strengths and weaknesses. There was no need for Rankings as the dojo and Ryuha were so small in Students that everybody very well knew everybody else quite well or atleast has heard of them when they were from another Branch.
But that changed dramaticly with the dawn of Judo. Judo with a lot of backing from political power behind it was implemented in most Schools and Universitys to install the values of Bushido into the japanese people from young age. Dojo, Study Groups, School and University Clubs popped up fast everywhere in Japan. Kano got so many new Students in such a short time with different expierence Levels that a new System was needed to evaluate them and to ensure a safe training enviroment.
He needed to discriminate between people who had the basics down and could already Fall safely after being thrown, these were the first Dan Rankers. And the people who could not and had to master simple basic techniques, the kyu grades. This was easily marked through a white Belt for Beginners and a Black Belt for people who could train safely without a lot of supervision. And over time this ranking System became more sophisticated. As similar as in the original Board Games your Dan Rank would mirror your fighting strength you would have proven in Randori practice and official shiai(matches). When a Shodan would throw enough people regulary that were ranked second Dan he soon would be promoted for example.
When you would open a Dojo in Japan, only holding the Rank of Shodan you wouldn’t attract many Students. More likely people would just laugh at you. Of course not in your face, i mean come on it is Japan. But behind your Back. In Japan roughly with a Sandan you would be considered as a kind of “Junior” Teacher. Most people would only dare to open their own Dojo with atleast the Rank of 5th Dan. And to be considered a real Master(Shihan or Hanshi) of your Martial Art you would need atleast a Rank beginning with 6th Dan and the approval of your organisation.
So… how did we end up in the West with this wrong understanding of the meaning of the Black Belt?
The american Soldiers after WW2 came back from Japan with some Training in Karate, Judo or any other Martial Art. As they were Training regulary they got promoted quite quickly and got their Black Belt.
Then, after coming back they would open their own Dojo with themselves as Masters. Far away from their original Teachers they with only the first or second Dan would have to be the Master. And with this the picture of the Blackbelt as sign of mastery was forged in the western mind and propagated by Movies and other form of popular media.
When you started your Training at this time in the West, Black Belts were rare. And those people with one in the Dojo would obviously teach. But in Japan this situation is quite different. There where even the modern Gendai Budo have a far longer History it is quite normal for people to see many Blackbelts, 3rd, 4th and even 5th and 6th Dans Training in their Dojo. The Senpai in those Dojo are not your typical Brown Belt, no they are probably 4th Dan. And the Black Belt for itself is nothing special.
Also while in the West most modern and “proper” Organisations will only give you a Black Belt after around 10 years of Training when you have shown enough maturity.
In Japan it is quite common to get the Shodan/first grade Black Belt already after 2 to 4 Years of regular Training. As it isn’t seen as a rank of Mastery, there is no big need to prove your maturity. Even kids can get a Shodan in Japan. And no, they don’t train in a McDojo.
So what is the truth behind the picture of the Blackbelt as the Rank of Mastery? Well this is just my opinion of course. But in my view it was simply because at the Beginning there were no real Masters of these Arts in the West. Of course with the Exception of Teachers who were send from Japan to the west especially with the reason to teach.
But these were rare. The first western Pioneers basicly were just a bunch of Amateurs who get the basics down, atleast when we view it in the big picture. This should not degrade their important work of course. And many followed the path further and developed into real Masters over time. But some others were not, and those were the ones who would put the black belt by itself as the sign of mastery and promote this misconception to blow up their own ego.