My OMAC Profile

omacWCLogoA little over a year ago I was going to take over management of the website for the Oriental Martial Arts College (Master Kim’s OMAC).  Several issues, including my long-term relocation to Japan, aborted that.  However I am thrilled to be back with OMAC now, as a Senior Instructor and not as a webmaster.  This week I was honoured when the webmaster, Mr. Al Poulis, added my profile to the new site, which has now been renamed OMAC World Class Martial Arts.  MY profile can be seen here.

I want to commend Mr. Poulis, who has done a much better job of redesigning the website than I ever could have!

Losing Me…

At the beginning of October I wrote an article called ‘Losing a Part of Me… What I would like to share.‘  I subsequently named the blog which I am correlating all of my weight loss articles ‘Losing a Part of me.’  I have even registered the domain name LosingAPartOf.Me.

I got the idea from a friend (Bill Sparks) who lost a lot of weight a couple of years ago, and I was inspired by him.  He registered the domain name, and blogged through over 100lbs of weight loss.  When I saw him last he looked amazing – much better than any time since I met him when he was in college… back in 1998!

So what is it exactly that I am losing?  Sure, I am losing weight, which is great and I am thrilled about it.  But there is more to it than that.  You see, there are things about me that have been a part of me for a long time… and I realize that I am slowly losing them.

On Saturday I am flying to Seattle for my last MVP Summit (I am no longer a Microsoft MVP, but I am allowed to go to one last Summit).  During the week there will be a lot of food, drinks, and merriment.  Everyone will be trying to buy me a drink, and I will be saying no to almost all of them… I might accept one drink or two throughout the week.  There will be a lot of very good food (both at Microsoft and at the various parties), and I have to train myself to NOT look forward to the food… and to kerb what I do take in.

Since I was first introduced to them as a teenager I have been a glutton for Buffalo Wings.  I remember ‘in my prime’ being able to devour a bucket of fifty all on my own.  I still love them… but I can’t eat them – at least, not more than five.  It’s not that I am unable to – I am reasonably sure that if I sat down with that bucket of 50 I would knock them back old school.  I simply can’t allow myself to do that anymore.

Pizza is the same thing… I can’t, just cannot allow myself to order pizza.  ‘Oh,if I order the Large I will have leftovers for tomorrow.’  BULLCRAP.  If I order the large pizza I will eat the large pizza.  Answer?  Either get the SMALL pizza (and Fortino’s has a great 10″ pizza that I enjoy occasionally) or I do not get the pizza.

Until very recently I have eaten without thought.  I now am very particular to enter every morsel of food into my smartphone app – I track not only calories, but also carbs, protein, and fat.  I am also very careful to at least try to eat six times per day – three meals, three snacks – and to plan my calories and intake accordingly.  It is not easy, but it is something I am forcing myself to do.  I was very proud of myself in June when I received notification from MyFitnessPal that I had logged my food for 100 days in a row.  Unfortunately while I was in South Carolina there was a glitch with my smart phone, and the count started all over again.  Yesterday I received notification once more that I hit the 100 days streak.  G-d willing that will continue.

I am no longer a kid and I am no longer in my twenties… although Lord knows that I was not slim in my 20s – at least, not once I was out of the army.  I cannot continue to eat without thinking of the consequences.  So now as I go through life without large pizzas and buckets of wings and endless Chinese food with plenty of sauce and all of the beer I wanted and myriad other things that gave me comfort and joy I have lost a part of me… but hopefully absent all of those I will eventually be slim and in shape, and the part of me that I will have lost will have been replaced by something else.

Losing it isn’t easy – ask anyone who has tried.  Losing a part of me is not easy and it is a lot more than ‘just eat less.’  I have had to change my attitude, and deal with the emotions and accept that even when I am having a crappy day and everything is bleak I cannot turn to food for comfort.  However as I do drop pant sizes and inches it is starting to feel better… hopefully in the end that will be more than a consolation prize.


A Picture is Worth…

A couple of years ago I attended the Microsoft Convergence Conference in New Orleans.  The HP booth had hired a caricature artist to draw people, and using his Wacom digitizer he drew an absolutely amazing one of me.  His name by the way was Stephen King – no relation to the author.  I used that picture for… well, everything ever since.

Recently my friend Jen Fox came to visit from Halifax.  She was visiting schools in the area, deciding which one she wants to go to.  However she is also a professional photographer, and while she was here I took advantage of that.  She took pictures of me, of my son, and of the two of us together in various environments, including at the Taekwondo dojang.

It should be clear that Gilad is far more photogenic than I am.  He is 4.5 years old, is absolutely gorgeous, and is almost always smiling.  Getting good pictures of him is easy.  Getting them of me, well that`s tough… and I commend Jen for her patience!

Of the several hundred pictures she took of me, some of them actually came out well… no fault of hers, I generally hate what I look like.  For those of you who are wondering, I do not know if this will change as I lose the weight… I have never liked looking at myself.

10714523_10152355745801898_2490539028709203721_oAnd so I decided to take this opportunity to pick one picture as my new on-line image.  I picked one that combines several symbolic elements; Taekwondo has been a very important part of my life for several years, and I hope that it will remain so for many years to come.  However the weapon – nunchaku – has been my favourite weapon since I first picked them up nearly twenty years ago… long before I ever took up Taekwondo The stance I am in is a modified Crane Stance; the crane is symbolic because recently we discovered that the root origin of our family name (Garvis) is the Lithuanian word for Crane.

I gave this picture a lot of thought.  My personal and professional lives are intertwined on my web presence, something that I have been warned is a bad idea.  However I am who I am, and it likely that people who know me professionally also know a bit about my hobbies, and those I know as friends know what I do for a living.  In short, I am the sum of my experiences, and I do not feel that the Taekwondo picture – even one of me brandishing a weapon (that is illegal in Canada and some states) – compromises who I am.  If anything does, it is how fat I am in my picture :)

As I continue to lose weight I will take more pictures and will change this more often.  Assuming Jen will be going to school in Hamilton I hope she will honour me by helping me with these pictures – it would be great to take a picture with the same pose every twenty pounds or so and show them side by side to accentuate the difference.

I welcome your comments… if you like it or if you don’t, please feel free to let me know!

Slinging Chucks

I love Taekwondo.  I took it up seven years ago as an activity I could share with my son, but he never took to it the way I did.  Okay, we still do other things together… and I am now Instructor Garvis to the myriad Taekwondo students at OMAC.

Taekwondo was not my first martial art.  In fact, my first exposure to the martial arts was as a kid when my parents enrolled me in Karate at the YMHA in Montreal, under the tutelage of Sensei Yaki Mendel.  I think I earned my Yellow Belt before quitting (something I was very good at as a kid and right through high school).  In my late teens my girlfriend at the time (Beverley) and I signed up for Shotokan Karate, which we both enjoyed… for about six classes.  That was it.  Soon thereafter my friend Johnny Mo, who claimed to be a Kung Fu sifu, taught me and a couple others a few Kung Fu lessons at a gym, and some of what he taught us actually stuck.

Mitch Chucks 1It was not until the army that I really got involved in Martial Arts.  I took to Krav Maga like a fish to water, and loved every minute of it.  Thank G-d, because over the years I have used what I learned to get out of a couple of less than favourable situations.

Around the same time as I started learning KM, I was in the Central Bus Station in Haifa where I found a store that sold nunchaku.  By my math that would have been around twenty-one years ago.  The first time I was there I bought a pair of foam nunchaku, thinking back on the Bruce Lee and Ninja movies I had seen where I was always fascinated by them.  I started to teach myself how to use them, and I fell in love with them.

My proficiency and understanding of the weapon started there, but it was when I was posted to a shithole of a base near the Gaza Strip when I met someone who instructed me in them… the right way, from the beginning.

I should mention off the bat that I hated the foam nunchaku.  Right from the beginning I loathed them – they bounced off your hand and oh, by the way, in order to keep their shape they are actually soft foam around a hard PVC tube… and those tubes are going to break the first time you hit anything with them.  So the next time I was in Haifa I picked up a pair of wooden nunchaku, and I have not looked back.  They are easier to catch, they don’t break when you use them… how can you go wrong?

You want to know how you can go wrong?  Easy… You have two pieces of reasonably heavy wood attached to each other by a rope or a chain that you are whirling around at extremely high speeds, around your body, arms, back, neck… you change hands with them at an alarmingly fast pace, and the only thing that you can use to control the piece that is not in your hand at any given second is a keen understanding of the momentum involved.  What am I saying in plain English?  Moreso than any other weapon that I know of, it is extremely easy to get hurt while using nunchaku… even for people who are extremely good with them.

Mitch Nunchaku The story I like to tell is of a beautiful day on the beach of Netanya.  I spent six months living with a family in the suburb of Ramat Poleg, and it was a short walk to the beach.  That was where I went to practice, and I would spend hours doing it… walking along the dunes, doing my best to go faster and faster, until I thought I could do it with my eyes closed.  It was on this beach among these dunes that I remember one day waking up… but I had no recollection of going to sleep, or even sitting down.  All I can tell you is that I had a giant Flintstones lump on my head, I had a splitting headache, and my nunchaku were lying a couple of feet away from me.  It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened.

While they are not strictly speaking a Taekwondo weapon, we do nonetheless teach nunchaku at Master Kim’s OMAC.  Some of the kids love it, others… well, less so.  But that is fine, they are optional (as are all weapons classes until 2nd Dan).  Instructor Peter Wolchak does a brilliant job teaching the students – even though he prefers the Bo Staff :)  It should be noted that everyone – including Instructor Peter – uses foam nunchaku for the class.  it is a matter of safety.

Recently I was working on my own choreography – there was nobody around so I was using my proper wood nunchaku.  I don’t know exactly what happened, but I missed a catch, and the wood hit my side and left a proper welt.  It was a good reminder to always respect the weapon – and the minute you think you can do it without paying attention is the minute you get hurt.

Let me rephrase that.  If you practice with nunchaku, especially wooden ones, you will eventually get hurt… possibly badly.  Nunchaku are a very serious weapon – not a toy – and by the way, they are illegal in Canada as well as several U.S. states so don’t think that this is ever going to be the weapon you carry for protection.

I have no plans to put my nunchaku down… ever.  Welts, bumps, bruises, and all, I love the weapon, and if I do say so myself I am pretty good with them (after 22 years I should hope so)!

I have a few different pair, each one for a different purpose.  A keen and knowing observer may notice the pair in these pictures is very different from most common pair – for one thing, they are octagonal – I just like the feel better.  They are connected by string instead of the more common chain – I like the feel better, not to mention they are much quieter.  This pair is also unique in that the two sides are connected by a much shorter rope than usual – 1” rather than the more common 4”.  In truth I bought them by accident a few years ago and couldn’t be bothered to return them, and it is only recently that I have spent a lot of time getting used to the differences between the weapons – while the size, shape, and length of the wood may alter the feel of the nunchaku (octagonal as opposed to round, 12” are my preference) the shortened distance between the sides changes everything about the weapon – how it flies, how it reacts.  It is not better or worse… just different.

I have gone through several pair of nunchaku over the years – a score or more in all likelihood.  While I have ordered for myself a new pair to try out, I think I have found the combination that I am most comfortable with… for now.  Will that change?  We’ll see… but in the meantime 12” (with the 4” rope) octagons are what I favour… and if you want to come watch, I just might choreograph something special for my next Belt Test! :)

Thank you!

After a spectacular end to 2013, I crashed in January, and spent several months in a terrible funk.  There were several telltale signs that you could see if you were paying close attention, but the truth is I did my best to hide it.  One of the parts of my life that suffered the effects though was my blog.  The World According to Mitch went from nearly twenty posts per month to nearly none.  There were days that I felt I was letting everyone down, but that was the least of my problems.

Thanks to several things I have started to come back to life since July.  I am now back at work full-time, I am living on my own, and I am teaching Taekwondo (as well as preparing to test for my next Belt Test).  And yes, I am blogging again.

Throughout the first couple of months of they year the blog coasted by on fairly new-ish content from the last months of 2013, and the numbers were pretty good.  However from March through June there was a steady decline in the number of visitors, and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I just was not up to it mentally.

As I picked myself up off the floor emotionally, I forced myself to start blogging again.  And you came back.  From a low in June of 12,930 hits (the first time since February of 2013 that it dropped below 13,000), October – with two days to go – is already the best month since January… and with those two days left to the month we are on pace for the second best month ever.

I want to thank you, my loyal readers, for sticking with me.  It has been a crappy year but things are getting better… and the world (as well as The World According to Mitch) is not feeling as dark and lonely as it did a few short months ago.  Thank you all for your support!

Gilad’s FIRST Belt Test!

Allow me to kvel a little, if I may.  Kvel is a Yiddush word that is somewhere between bragging and exuding pride.  I’m not exactly sure… I don’t speak Yiddush very well.

In September Theresa and I enrolled our little boy in Taekwondo.  We had discussed a couple of years ago that when he was ready we would enrol him, and it would not be an optional activity.  We did not know at the time that by the time he was ready I would be one of his instructors.

I was worried for the first couple of classes – but then I realized that it was silly.  Sure, he was not paying 100% attention, but then he is a Tiny Tiger, and getting these kids (aged 4-6) to sit still and listen, or even do the fun activities we give them, is not the easiest job in the world.  We liken it to hearding cats.

A couple of weeks into his classes he started learning his first Poomsae (pattern).  I look at it as a simple one, but I am not four years old.  It looks like it is only punching, but if you look close, they have to come to attention properly, bow properly, assume the form properly, and punch with the proper cadence.  For an adult it is simple, for a kid… it’s a challenge.

He learned it pretty well, and was able to perform the Poomsae with me without a problem, and I thought he was ready to test. 

Unfortunately later on the Master asked to see it, and he was not nearly as confident as he had been with me.  To all of the other kids I am Instructor Garvis… but to Gilad I am Daddy.  It’s different.

I was glad when a week or two later Master Godoy assured me that he was ready to test, and we got all excited.  It was a bit of a letdown when I found out on Monday that our school’s regular grading test – the last Wednesday of the month – was cancelled.  Instead the students would be testing during their regular classes.  This was a blessing and a curse – there would be less pressure and less stress, but also less reward.  However we decided that it would be fine.

Toward the end of the class on Tuesday Master Godoy had the other students sit, and invited Gilad to stand in front of them.  He did his Poomsae, he did the kicking and punching that was asked of him, and when it was time he got into his fighting stance, and threw a front-snap kick right through the piece of wood that Master Godoy was holding for him (on the first attempt, and without any pain).  I was doubly proud… I am proud of all of my students, but I think even the other parents will understand if I am even more proud of one special student.

Before the test came to an end Master Godoy asked Gilad to close his eyes and recite the first of our school’s Children’s Five Commandments.  OBEY PARENTS SIR! was Gilad’s very confident answer.  It was over.

Gilad! Usually the Master has the honour of giving the first belt to a new student, but Master Godoy understood the importance of this one to us.  He handed me the belt, and I asked Gilad to take his old White Belt off.  I wrapped the new belt around my waist and said a little blessing, and then I tied it around Gilad’s waist.  He was beaming… and so was I.

There will be more tests to come, more belts, harder poomsaes.  There are five more Tiny Tiger (junior) belts before he earns the ‘Black’ – really a White Belt with Black Stripe.  After that he will test for Yellow… then Orange, Blue, Green, Purple, Brown, Red, Black-White, Black-Red, and then finally his real Black Belt.  Fifteen tests to go, and he will do just as well…

…but tonight as I write that no ne of that matters.  Not for son/student, not for dad/instructor.  Tonight we are both as proud as can be, and Gilad will go to school in the morning with a little more confidence than before.  Good job Gilad!

Gilad & Dad

Who wears the pants…

I would not be surprised if nearly every person out there who has struggled with their weight does not have several sets of clothes – ranging from the stuff that fits when they are at their heaviest to the stuff that fits when they were their lightest.  I am no different.

Earlier this year when Theresa and I separated I moved into the guest room of our house, and I only took the ‘current’ set of clothes.  When in September I moved into my condo I took all of my clothes, and for the first time really I separated the pants into three batches – Size 42, 44, and 46-48.

I was glad that the upper batch no longer fits – they are up in the closet in an area that I hope will gather dust until I am eventually so far beyond that range as to be able to donate them to charity.  Right next to them (separated somewhat) I placed the Size 42 pants.  I had recently worn a pair for a day, and when I bent in a particular way I heard that telltale rip that reminded me that I was NOT there yet.  The Size 44 pants hung in the closet easily accessible.

A couple of weeks ago I was very happy that I was able to wear a pair of blue jeans.  I have not worn jeans regularly for years, and never bought them in the higher sizes.  Getting them on was a tight squeeze, but they made it through a couple of days wear.  I was very pleased, and after laundry day that pair was removed from the Size 42 shelf and hang with the rest of my pants.

Yesterday morning, after I was already dressed and ready to go, I realized that I did not have a hanger for my dobok (Taekwondo uniform).  For the doboks I prefer the good wooden hangers that I purchased, rather than the wire hangers I get from the dry cleaners, or the plastic hangers from wherever.  There was a pair of green pants hanging on such a wooden hanger in the wrong place – they are a Size 42, and should have been up on the shelf.  I removed the pants from the hanger and put them aside… depending on what the scale would say I might try them… just to see.

This morning the scale reading was indeed favourable.  While I was not quite down below the milestone I wrote about last week, it was still down from any reading since.  I looked at the Size 42 Dockers, and decided to give them a go… and they fit :)  To say I was thrilled would be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was nice to see that my efforts have been paying real dividends.

There is a commercial on the radio that says that losing weight is simple – just eat less – but it is not easy.  I think that is crap.  Maybe if you have to lose five or ten pounds it is easy, but when you are trying to go from obese to a healthy weight it is certainly not simple.  To add to all of the complexities of it, wearing pants properly is a complication that most slim people don’t think about.  I’ll give you an example:

While businessmen may have several, normal people who do not dress up every day will likely only have one or maybe two suits.  On Friday I was delivering the keynote address at an event, so I wore a suit.  I bought the suit last summer at a big and tall store in Minnesota, and it fit me perfectly at the time.  Like every other pair of pants I wear, I secure the belt tightly and low around my waist.  Friday was no different.  After my event I came home and as I stood in the bedroom I undid the belt.  With absolutely no prompting from me, the pants dropped to the floor.  Of course I had realized all day that the jacket was fitting looser than it once had, but were it not for the heroic efforts of the leather belt I would have walked around pantsless all day.

These are all good things of course… unless you have to buy a new wardrobe because you don’t have anything that fits anymore.  I am glad that I am not there yet – I still have my last set of Size 42s to go before I am there – but I will be… and several times over the next few months I hope, until I settle in at a weight that I can be happy with – and maintain.

The struggle continues… but for the time being, it is nice to be on the winning side.