Christmas roast

I wish you all a merry christmas! Yesterday I celebrated with my family. As presents I got some really nice books. Three of the books I received were japanese cookbooks. So get ready for some japanese cuisine in the future!

But today I cooked a beef roast with gravy for the first christmas day.
I made a rich sauce with mirepoix, tomatoe paste, redwine, beef stock and a lot of time. What did you have for christmas?

Christmas cookies

Only a short time ago, after a break of 20 years, I started to bake some christmas cookies again. Two weeks ago my team from work and I baked together in an online call as a team event. It was great fun, especially because we tradet recipes.

But baking is quite diffult for me I think. You can’t taste the food while you bake it and can’t adjust while baking. So everything must be correctly measured, mixed and rested before you put the dough in the oven. Also last time I didn’t know how to apply my citrus sugar glaze correctly.



This time I let the cookies cool down, and after that I would dip them in the glaze. Sure I don’t think this new batch of cookies today were perfect. But it is a great improvement in comparrison to the batch from two weeks ago. I mean some of the cookies last time I even transformed some in burned caramell cookies by accident xD

Ragout alla Bolognese

Ragout alla Bolognese

Today my nephew was visiting us here in Berlin to stay the night because of an job related issue. So like every good uncle would do, I cooked Ragu alla Bolognese for him (and grandma) from scratch.

Ragu alla Bolognese or also known simply as Bolognese-sauce is a dish with many misconceptions in the normal population. I myself as a kid thought it was simply a tomatoe sauce with minced meat in it. But in truth it is a meat sauce with alot of vegetables(see pic 2) in it which gets cooked with the help of wine, some milk or cream and broth/stock. Tomatoe products are a more modern addition to the recipe which is older than tomatoes in Europe.

Veggies



Another famous Bolognese point is: You don’t eat the Ragu with Spaghetti. Of course it is not impossible to enjoy it with Spaghetti as most parts of the world besides Italy do. But from an italian point of view this is a sin. As the delicious sauce can’t stay on the thin pasta most of the time. Tagliatelle, Penne, Rigatoni are a much better fit for a heavy Ragu

To be honest of course the Ragu I cooked today also isn’t a traditional one, as I might some changes to try them out. First some of the minced meat I used are leftovers from the stuffing from the roulades from the other day. Then I used a dry white wine and chicken stock for the sauce, where traditionally you would use red wine and beef broth.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Beef roulade

Beef roulade with potatoes

Today I cooked beef roulades for my grandma and myself. This roulades but had a twist I got from a cooking video I watched. Traditionally you would but bacon, onion and pickles inside the roulade. But in this recipe you sweat the onions put a little bit of milk and bread crumps in them and then mix it up with minced meat and pickles. And with this stuffing you fill the inside of the roulade.


This has multiple benefits. First the meat stays moist from the inside. As the beef for roulades is normally a pretty lean cut that normally easily can try out. Second, the stuffing holds everything together and less stuff is in danger to burst out while cooking.

Beef roulade cut open

Normally my grandma doesn’t like the normal filling of roulades and she would always make one empty one for herself. But she said that this stuffing was simply delicious and all the ingredients didn’t bother her. I think this is the way I will make roulades in the future from now on.

Weightloss and Iaijutsu

The set Omote no Iai in Katori Shinto ryu is a set of “crouching” techniques for drawing the sword. This kind of Iaijutsu for me is the hardest part of Shinto ryu, physically as also mentally. Especially for the longest time doing these techniques correctly wasn’t possible for me. With my heavy weight the burden on my heart and knees was for a long time too much so that for one or two years I only could practice them standing up.

Me training Iaijutsu

Now after losing something around 20 Kg it is finally possible for me to start practicing them correctly again. Of course it is still hard for me to do them so I alternate between the crouching and standing version. But for now it is a start again. My goal for now is to be able to jump again from this crouching position

Winterflower

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.

A flower/weed bluming in winter


I think it is a little bit inspirational… 🌱❄

About being a little less fat

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.

Myself after my first 40 kg weight loss journey (excuse my vanity)

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.

About being fat

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….

Anyway, it’s time to change that now.

Kenjutsu

Kendoka having a Match, photo taken by Harald Hofer CC BY-SA 2.0 AT

Kenjutsu[剣術] is a term that translates simply to sword technique. Many may also have heard the term Kendō[剣道]. Kendō, translates to: The way of the sword and is as a term today used primarily for modern Japanese fencing. Kenjutsu, on the other hand, is used for the sword techniques of the schools of Kobudō[古武道]. While these schools share some amount of fundamentals, the techniques and strategies taught in them are sometimes very different. Therefore, kenjutsu should be understood primarily as an umbrella term rather than a stand-alone martial art. There is no such thing as “the” Kenjutsu, but only Kenjutsu of different schools.

A Kenjutsu demonstration

This pluralism goes so far that there are traditionally other school-specific terms for the sword techniques of the individual school. In the Katori Shintō-ryū[香取神道流] taught at Kobukai Berlin, the traditional term is actually Tachijutsu[太刀術]. In the Tatsumi-ryū[立身流] it is Tōjutsu[刀術]. The attentive reader may have noticed that both terms, Tachijutsu and Tōjutsu use the character Tō[刀]. Today’s more common Kenjutsu, however, uses the character Ken[剣]. Japanese characters can be read in different ways therefore 刀 can also be read as Katana and 剣 can also be read as Tsurugi. So there are two completely different characters for the term sword.

a katana

This is because the characters originally meant two different types of Japanese swords. Tsurugi are the swords used in Japan well before the time of the samurai and were probably imported from China. They are double-edged and straight. In contrast, the katana, the famous samurai sword, is a curved sword with only one edge that is also classified by many as a saber. A convincing explanation why people nowadays speak of “tsurugi technique” when they train with a katana might be found in the mythological and religious significance of the sword in Japan. At the time when the origin myths of Japan were written down the katana did not exist yet, warriors used tsurugi as swords in them. So did the kami[神], the deities and spirits of Japan. And it is said that fencing is an art taught by the kami. And by using the term kenjutsu, they tried to emphasize this mythological, religious context. Which plays an important role in the Japanese self-image. As one of the three Imperial Regalia is also the Sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi, the grass cutter.

Susanoo no Mikoto fighting the serpent Yamata no Orochi with the sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi
A replica of Kusanagi no Tsurugi

In the Katori Shintō-ryū, kenjutsu is practiced in various contexts. The Omote no Tachi[表之太刀] set, for example, is said to deal primarily with fencing in armor, and Gogyō no Tachi[五行之太刀] in comparison deals more with fencing in everyday clothing. The signature move of the Shintō-ryū is the maki uchi. For the maki-uchi, the blade is not raised above the head, but is placed on the left forearm and struck from that position. The rationale for this is that the ornamental fittings of the kabuto, the helmet worn with the armor, hindered the samurai to attack with a powerful sword strike reached out from behind the head. A Bokutō[木刀], a wooden sword about 1m long, is used as a practice simulator. In the Shintō-ryū, a tsuba[鍔], the guard of the blade, is not added to the Bokutō, as hand protection as the student should not get used to rely upon or get accustomed to it. The full curriculum of the Katori Shintō-ryū includes basic drills, as well as advanced and “secret” techniques for fighting with the longsword. In addition, as an advanced student, techniques for using both the short and long sword simultaneously are practiced, as well as advanced techniques with the short sword.

The differences between Kendo, Iaido and different Japanese Sword arts

Introduction

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

Kendoka having a Match, photo taken by Harald Hofer CC BY-SA 2.0 AT

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.

Haruna Matsuo sensei (1925–2002) demonstrating Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu kata Ukenagashi

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.