The Things We Do For Charity…

Over the last few weeks I have done some Facebook reposts about the OMAC Juvenile Arthritis Charity Tournament.  One of our students at Master Kim’s Oriental Martial Arts College is a kid named Ayden Soares.  As you can imagine, Arthritis is a very painful disease, especially for children.  When our school decided to get together to raise money, there were plenty of incentives we could give to our students… but the one that seemed to get the most attention was the promise that for every thousand dollars raised, one of the instructors would shave his (or her) head.

Mark headshotI had spoken to Ayden’s mother a few weeks ago, and after promising to attend but also to make a (what I consider) very nice donation, I told her that I consider my hair one of my few redeeming physical features, and that she could put me around #25 on that list. 

Holy cow if we didn’t raise in excess of $25,000… FAR in excess of it!

Fortunately for me, time was working in my favour; the volunteers from First Choice Hair Cutters told us that from their viewpoint, it would be impractical to shave the heads of twenty-five people.  At 5-7 minutes per person, we would have been there for over two hours.

Somebody (I don’t know who) decided that we would shave five heads – Master Harrison, who represents the entire organization, and four instructors, to represent each branch of the school.

Master Harrison went first, and I suppose like all of us was more than a little reticent, but he is a man of his word, and it was for a good cause.

As this was going on, I looked at Master Godoy (my branch’s Master) who was a bit uneasy.  I could tell that he was not looking forward to this.  Aside from myself, the other instructors from our school are Mr. Peter, who was not at the event, and Mr. Bernard, who is mostly bald.  When Instructor Dorian was done, I stepped forward.

I should mention that even in the army, where we kept our hair very short, I never actually went down to shaved.  But as I said, it was for a good cause, and I like to think myself a good sport.  I sat in the chair, and when she asked me if I wanted to hedge my bet and use the ‘1’ shaver, I said no… let’s go all the way.

Instructor Mark went next, and then to our shock one of our female Black Belts stepped forward.  As she is under age I will not name her, but she had incredible long hair.  She asked for the back of her head to be shaved – I cannot explain it better, but I assure you that the end result looked perfectly normal and stylish (see the picture – she is one of the girls standing in front of me).

OMAC Group Shaved

The tournament was a great success, not only for the charity but also for our students who raised their confidence and won some trophies.  Everyone had fun.  As we say, together we’ll Kick Arthritis.

OMAC Instructor Garvis & AydenAyden is a very brave boy.  It is hard to live your life in pain.  One of my sons has Arthritis, and I know how hard it is.  Ayden is not giving up, and we are all cheering for him.  When it was all over, he came up to me and asked if he could take a picture with me.  I was proud to do so.

By the way, I know that Mr. Al Poulis, the very capable webmaster for OMAC, was the official photographer for the tournament, and took some great pictures throughout… including, I am told, of the hair part.  Stay tuned, when he sends them to me I will post the pictures of it actually happening!

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Pan Am… Do something for nothing, and get so much!

Volunteers_Logo_V14If you follow me on Facebook you will already know that I was selected as a volunteer for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games.  My decision to volunteer dates back to the 2013 Taekwondo Canada Open; at the end of the event the administrator thanked me for my hard work, and hoped that I would continue to volunteer, especially since Toronto was hosting the Pan Am games.  I promised I would be there.

For the Canada Open (that year, as well as the upcoming games) I answered an open letter from Taekwondo Canada, and they wrote me back thanking me, and telling me where to be.  It was silly, in hindsight, to think that volunteering for a worldwide multi-discipline event on a par with the Olympic Games would be as simple… and when I e-mailed them back in July, they gave me the website where volunteers had to apply.  I spent fifteen minutes filling out the application, and was told to be patient, I would hear back from them soon.

When I did hear back, I was told I had to do a ‘video interview.’  After putting it off for several weeks, I finally sat down and did it in November.  It was the second week of January when I got the e-mail offering me the position of Field of Play Crew, Taekwondo.

Of course I was thrilled… I was going to be up close and personal with some of the best competitors in the world in a sport that is near and dear to me.  I couldn’t be more excited; I figured great… now all I have to do is wait for July to come around.

I got an e-mail inviting me to join the (Official) Toronto 2015 Volunteers page on Facebook, which I did… and I was amazed by what I discovered.

Have you ever watched a major sporting event like the Pan Am Games, or the Olympic Games, and wondered how they can go off without a hitch?  You should meet some of the people on this Facebook page… and I can tell you, I am really looking forward to meeting many of them in person.

TO2015_BRD_Pachi_Tickets4C_KeylineI volunteered because I love my sport, and because the event is being held in my home city.  There are volunteers coming who are not athletes, but have volunteered in other cities for other events – some of them are discussing how housing of out-of-town volunteers in Toronto will differ from what they experienced in Vancouver (Winter Olymiad), Glasgow (Commonwealth Games), London, and Sochi.  To be sure, there are people volunteering for sports that they love (like me)… but there are plenty of others with positions such as Media Relations, Transportation Services, Food Services, Housing… and scores more.  What would make someone give up two weeks of their lives, often traveling from thousands of miles away (there is a special Facebook group for out of town volunteers, with over 200 members so far) to volunteer for games that, according to pundits on talk radio, nobody will remember in a year or two?

I suspect that the number of answers to that question will be too great to enumerate here, but I suspect for a lot of them it will have to do with dedication… and from what I am reading, a healthy measure of fun and appreciation.

Sure, there are going to be students who need volunteer credits for school.  there will be young people who are just starting out and need something to put on their resume.  But there are also people like me – professionals who will be taking time off of work (unpaid, of course).  There are stay at home moms, and there are retirees, and there are 20,000 different stories that you would come across if you spoke to the 20,000 volunteers.  It is truly amazing.

This is not my first international sporting event.  In 2002 Montreal hosted the Junior Maccabiah Games; I was working for IGS Security at the time, and we were responsible for security for the entire event.  It was a great experience.  Back then I spoke to a lot of the volunteers, and they told me how much fun they had.  I suppose I was sceptical at the time, but that was the way I was.

Over the next few months I am going to meet and get to know a bunch of great people through this event, and I am truly looking forward to it.  I hope that at the end of it I will come away with some new friends and a lot of great memories.  Either way, it will be a great experience!

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!

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! 🙂

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

Keep it Clean… it will last longer!

Last night at Taekwondo two women (a student and a parent) asked me the same question: ‘Is that a new dobok?’ The dobok is of course the uniform we wear, and until you are a Senior Instructor in our system it is white with our logo on the back. Additionally I have two flag patches on mine – the left arm bears the Israeli flag, the right arm the Canadian flag.

Mitch Fighting PositionI have two ‘active’ doboks… and when I say active, I mean currently in use. I have two others – the one that was issued to me as a White Belt beginner, and the one I bought to replace that one – but they never get worn. It is Interesting to note (because of the questions) that the last time I bought a new one I was preparing to test for my First Dan Black Belt… in 2010.

Although there was a time when this was not true, I currently wear both doboks evenly. I usually teach almost every night, and I really do sweat a lot (you try doing any physical activity for three hours at my weight). Because of this, I tend to do laundry every second night, and make sure that my doboks are both cleaned. Of course, this does expose me to the risk should my washing machine (or drier) catches fire that I lose them both… but that is a reasonably low risk that I am willing to take.

Once the doboks are clean I hang them up properly on a wooden clothes hanger, and they go into the closet. In the morning before I go to work I pick one out (at random on Laundry Day +1) and hang it in my car where it stays until it is time for Taekwondo.

…and then when I put it on, I go to work, and I sweat. I do jumping jacks, I jog, I do sit-ups and push-ups. I lead the stretching (or I follow along), I punch, kick, spar, and do my poomsaes (patterns). Some evenings I do weapons, and if you don’t think those are strenuous, try this: have someone pull a handgun on you, don’t get shot, disarm and incapacitate them. Then do it 100 more times, and then teach a group of Black Belts how to do it. Trust me, it’s a lot of work J

At the end of the evening I am sweatier and my dobok is dirtier than anyone else in the club. It is not so because I try harder and am more active than they are, that is just not true. Yes, I am usually there longer than anyone except the Master… but the reason my dobok is dirtier is because I am fatter than everyone else, and because of that when I am active I sweat more. I literally have to peel my dobok off some days. Despite the fact that when I get home it is going into the wash, I do not throw it in a ball in my bag; I hang it back up on the hanger and then when I get to my car I hang it as I would a tuxedo.

I do not consider the dobok to be sacred or especially irreplaceable; I consider my belt to be so, which is why it never goes into checked luggage, and never gets washed. The belt was awarded to me by my GrandMaster in a very sacred ceremony. My dobok? I paid for it and it was handed to me.

However the dobok does not have to be sacred for us to treat it with respect. The respect shows that I care for it properly. It also means that five years after I bought it, my dobok is still in nearly pristine shape. It does not get thrown on the floor, it does not get eaten in. I do not wear it to and from the dojang. I treat it the same way I treat my good suits (although I do NOT dry-clean it, and never have). But if you treat it right, it will last a very long time.

Now, with that being said, I am really looking forward to needing a new dobok soon… I have worn the largest size possible since I started, and hopefully with my weight loss progress that will soon no longer be the case!

It is a Loooong Journey…

Crane Pose The scale this morning was kind to me… down 1.7lbs over yesterday.  However looking at my 30 day graph I am only down 8lbs this month… respectable, but not where I want it to be (10lbs per month).

Last week I was sitting with the Educator at the Weight Management Clinic and she looked through my food diary, and nitpicked a few of my choices.  She was right of course… there are certain things I just shouldn’t be eating.  However when she asked me why I ate those foods I had a good answer for her.

Had she asked me three months ago it would have been the depression of unemployment and living in the same house with my estranged wife.  Now that I am working, living on my own (in a great place I might add!) and no longer as down about life as I was, the answer has nothing to do with moods and depressions.  I have not been an emotional eater, I simply know that if I deprive myself of so many of the foods that I love (and which I know are bad for my weight loss progress) I will do very well for a while… and then I will crash and gain back a lot of that weight because I will start back with my old habits of ‘Oh food how I have missed thee so!’

When you have as much weight to lose as I do it is a marathon (and a super-marathon at that), and not a sprint.  A good sprinter can run a mile in under 4 minutes.  Then why is it that a good marathoner cannot finish the 26.2 miles in under 1h44 minutes?  The answer is simple… you have to pace yourself, otherwise you will cramp up and not finish the race.

 Gilad & DadI have a long race ahead of me… there is no doubt in my mind.  But if I don’t pace myself I know (as I have in the past) I shall fail.  I don’t remember where I first heard the expression ‘failure is not an option’ but this is how I feel about my weight loss this time.  I am 42 years old, and at my weight (and with my family history) I should be thanking G-d that I do not have diabetes, and a host of other weight-related ailments.  I have gotten this far while being relatively healthy, but I know that if I don’t lose all of the extra weight I am carrying around I will not make it to 50 with the same luck.

And so yes, from time to time I will have the evil ice cream… and this week-end I was invited to my favourite Brazilian Steakhouse in Niagara Falls and did NOT weight my portions nor register them in MyFitnessPal… I ate and enjoyed, and knew that the scale Sunday morning would be less than kind.  If you don’t indulge in moderation, you will eventually engorge in its absence.

On a side note, I had a friend in from out of town for the week-end.  She is a professional photographer from Halifax, and took some great pictures of my and my younger son.  I look at them and smile – I am still grossly overweight… but even I can see a difference from three months ago.

The journey continues…

IMG_0216 Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight – I don’t mean ten or twenty pounds, but a significant amount of weight – will know that there is a certain point when you start to feel the weight loss, not only because you see the numbers on the scale, but in other facets of life.  I was not at my heaviest ever when this photograph was taken, but in terms of when I decided (again) to start getting serious about losing it, this is more or less what I looked like.

Today I am not quite twenty pounds lighter than I was in this picture, but it is close.  It is also important to understand that after this photograph was taken I gained another (nearly) fifteen pounds.  So from the time I started to get serious (in terms of the past year I was at my heaviest the week of May 29th) I am slightly more than 25lbs down.  Not bad, but it really is just a drop in the bucket.

A drop it might be, but it is significant nonetheless.  Let me outline some of the ways I am noticing the weight loss:

  1. I am able to teach Taekwondo… when you take a class, it is easy to fall behind, slack off, take a break or whatever.  When you are in front of the class, and you want your students to give 100%, then you have to give that 100% too.  You cannot bend over winded and hope nobody notices.  Of course, you can also tell the class to do something… and watch over them as they do it.  I am still guilty of that… but a lot less than I was when I started back in July…
  2. Among the things I do at Taekwondo that I had not been able to do for a long time are: push-ups (if you think that is silly, imagine doing push-ups with an extra 120lbs on your back… that is what it is like when you are obese), sit-ups (aside from them just being hard, your stomach actually gets in the way), jumping jacks, and even strenuous stretching.
  3. I am wearing pants that are a size smaller than I was wearing in May; in fact, I wore the same suit from the picture last week, and what had been pretty tight is now LOOSE.  Thankfully there are good belts 🙂
  4. Speaking of belts, I have two of them that I bought from a booth in Pike’s Place Market in Seattle; I love the belts, but I am now wearing them on the last hole.  Rather than punching more holes, I am going to take them with me to Seattle next month and ask the guy to shorten them from the other side.
  5. Back to Taekwondo, I wear the largest size dubok (Taekwondo uniform) that is commercially available – I have since I started.  at my worst the slits up my sides were more than two inches apart… they are now much closer to half an inch.  Additionally my belt (which I do not think has stretched) has a lot more hanging when I tie it properly… that is huge for me, since both my name and my Grandmaster’s name are on each end of the belt, and they are now legible without people having to assume the first letter or two.
  6. When I walk I can go much longer before breaking a sweat, and it is just easier to walk.
  7. Getting up from a sitting position – and especially getting out of the driver’s seat of my car – are much easier than they were.

Of course, here’s the thing… all of these gradual improvements do not change the fact that I am still 100lbs overweight.  I am what the doctors refer to as Class 3 Obese.  My BMI is 42.6, and I have a ton of weight to lost still.  Well okay not quite a ton, but slightly over 100lbs.

There are two ways that I can look at myself right now… and depending on the day (heck, depending on the minute) I see myself both ways:  I have 100lbs left to lose before my BMI falls out of the Obesity category… that is a very long way to go.  However in three months I have dropped my BMI from 46.1 to where it is now, and I am making positive strides every week.

image

Oh by the way, that is something else I have realized: If I weigh myself every week I will always be down.  It doesn’t work that way if I weigh myself every day.  As you can see from the graph it occasionally goes up – this morning I was 1.5lbs heavier than I was yesterday morning.  However I am still 2lbs down from what I weighed a week ago… 9.8lbs lighter than I was a month ago, and 21.5lbs down from where I was three months ago.  Is that going to discourage me from weighing myself every morning?  Hell no.  I am not the sensitive type that will get discouraged from a day-over-day increase, rather it will remind me to stay the course, and maybe eat one less piece of whatever that day.  I have learned not to take the day-to-day comparisons to heart.

I feel better than I did six months ago, that is for sure.  I don’t know how much better I feel about myself, but that will come with time.  Believe me, the weight issues are not the hardest part on my psyche.

I promised my Master and I promised myself that if by June of next year I am able to lose 75lbs then I will test for my 3rd Dan Black Belt.  I am on track for that goal… I am four months into it (1/3 the way to June) and I am 1/3rd of the way to that goal.  I did have some setbacks in that time, and frankly I expect to have more setbacks going forward.  However if I can test at the weight that he and I decided on I will still be far from my ultimate goal… but I will be satisfied with my progress.

Until then?  Well, I guess I have to take it one day at a time.

Respect the Belt… Respect the Art.

Kyokushinkai

Kyokushinkai (Photo credit: kamorphus)

I mentioned in conversation a couple of days ago that I was going to be starting to learn Kyokushin Karate in Japan and that I was very excited.  One of the people involved in the discussion mentioned that the first few months of any martial art is going to be less interesting, but if I stuck with it I would probably start to enjoy it.  I told him that I was not new to martial arts, only to Karate, and that I was a Second Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo.  He then went off on a tangent telling me how Taekwondo is not a serious martial art, and it’s only about kicking, and how real martial artists (like the ones in the UFC) study Muay Thai, BJJ, and other serious arts.

Now here’s the thing… he was very clear that he is not a martial artist, but he is a big fan, and he continued insulting Taekwondo as being inferior and useless as compared to other martial arts.  He talked about the Monk Tournament, UFC, and seemed to know a lot of the plusses and minuses of many different martial arts.

The problem was he had never learned about respect, one of the key tenets of every martial art.  He did not realize and would not listen when told by me and by others that he was being offensive, insulting, and disrespectful.  He kept trying to prove that his book knowledge made him an authority.  I told him that I would gladly invite him to my dojang in Mississauga to learn Taekwondo, and see if he might learn a new respect for it.  One way or another, until he earned a Black Belt I was not willing to listen to him insult me, my Master, my GrandMaster, and my art.

Here’s the thing.  I know that different martial arts have their strengths and their weaknesses, and frankly I am quite cognizant of these.  However if someone is going to tell me how much they dislike my primary martial art, they had better have a Black Belt of their own, otherwise they cannot have any credibility.  The Black Belt can be in any art, from Karate to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to whatever, but to come at me with pure theory and telling me that my art isn’t very good is a very strong insult from someone with absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

The person continued talking about ‘pure martial artists’… people who strictly learn a single art.  In my experience, there is no one perfect martial art, and any practitioner who is serious will have a base in one art but a lot of knowledge of others – for example, my Taekwondo school (Oriental Martial Arts College) does teach Taekwondo, but we also integrate a lot of Hapkido into the curriculum from the very early belts.  The Hapkido complements Taekwondo and closes some of the potential shortcomings.  As my Master once told me, there is no pure martial art because all martial arts borrow from each other and evolve.  The fans of UFC may prefer watching certain forms, but even the UFC fighters use different styles… hence the name Mixed Martial Arts.

I  had visited the Kyokushin dojo once before to watch a class before returning to join.  I had not told the Sensei anything about my previous martial arts experience… I wanted to (out of respect for both him and for GrandMaster Kim), and had even arranged to bring a friend to translate for me.  It fell through, so I had to do my best… I told him I wanted to learn from him, he told me what the rates were, and that was essentially the end of the conversation.  clip12.288115402_stdWhen I returned Monday evening he told me to change at the back of the room.  As I pulled my workout kit out (I don’t have a gi yet, but it is on order) the Sensei saw my Black Belt pop out.  He immediately had his entire class turn and bow to me.  They may practice a different art from me, but a Black Belt is a Black Belt.

When my gi does come in, for the first time in several years, I will be wearing a White Belt.  I will not ask the Sensei for any special considerations for me based on my pre-existing Black Belt – I am a Black Belt already, and that does not change by donning a white one for a new art.  Even in Taekwondo one of our words of wisdom that we repeat after class is Cho Shim… Beginner’s Mind.  I am looking forward to starting from the beginning again though… it is really exciting!  More on that later.

Wish me luck… it’s the morning after, and my body is aching just like I hoped.  I kept up just fine, but am really looking forward to sparring… Sensei won’t let me spar until I have the protective equipment.  Look forward to a bunch of articles about my new martial art in the next few weeks!

Violence is SELDOM the Answer, and Road Rage is ALWAYS Stupid.

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: Although this article is being published on a subsequent day, the incidents described herein occurred on June 25th, 2013. This article/essay is written from the perspective of it still being that day.**

I was attacked today by two idiots. After they cut me off in their pickup truck they followed me into the parking lot of a retail store and proceeded to attack me physically – the first with words and then hands, the second with a baseball bat.

By law if I am in a position which I feel will escalate to physical violence I am obligated to inform the other party or parties that I am a martial artist – every Black Belt is given the same type of instructions when he or she earns or is training for his or her belt. I did exactly that, but that neither impressed nor deterred these individuals. After all, it is possible for someone to lie about this to try to save themselves from an attack.

As you likely know I am a very large person… both height (6’2” or so) and unfortunately girth (much larger than I care to acknowledge publicly). So while my height and breadth may have discouraged a smart attacker, it is easy to assume that a fat man will be slow and untrained and an easy mark, so while it must seem silly to those who know me that anyone would attack me, it is easy to understand why someone who thinks I am just a fat man might be lulled into doing so. Besides, when they decided to attack me all I was to them was a white Ford rental car that honked at them.

The first thing the verbal attacker said to me was ‘What the $%^&* is your problem?’ to which I replied honestly – my immediate problem was that he was very much in my face, but my immediate past problem was that he had cut me off, and were it not for quick braking we would have been in an accident. He asked me a question, I answered him… quite honestly, and in a way that was neither loud nor overly confrontational.

It is easy to think after reading the three preceding paragraphs that one or all of these is the reason that I refer to them in the first paragraph as idiots. That is not the case. I call them idiots because road rage is stupid; machismo is ridiculous, and needing to prove (physically) to a stranger, your friend, or yourself that you are more of a man because the stranger honked his horn is absolutely moronic. To follow someone’s car into a parking lot and confront them with violence because of an F Sharp blast that lasted less than a second is… well… idiotic… more so in a state where a lot of people carry loaded handguns, but it would be just as dumb in Reykjavik.

I love visiting the United States, and am always amused when my wife and I are driving and she says ‘don’t honk… the other guy might have a gun.’ My wife is American and has probably heard horror stories from the ganglands of Detroit and Compton, but the vast majority of people who are honked at either do not react, react with words (seldom heard behind the two layers of car windows that separate them from their intended target, or in some cases will even reply with a digital aviary salute (colloquially referred to sometimes as ‘flipping someone the bird.’ However I have driven tens of thousands of miles in the US, and have probably sounded my horn several hundred times throughout those miles, and yet it took until today for anyone to actually get out of their car (pickup truck) and confront me with a weapon (as much as a baseball bat may not be a handgun, it is still a weapon).

For the record this incident did not occur in Los Angeles or Detroit or Harlem or Washington or Miami or Atlanta. I was in Renton, Washington – a stone’s throw from Seattle – which is considered by most to be a reasonably safe city in the Pacific North West. It happened in the parking lot of a store where I have been often enough that I do not need my GPS to get there. I guess that goes to show that it can happen anywhere.

My question then is why did it happen? Why would anyone (they appeared to be in their late teens to early twenties, but might have been anywhere from 17-25) feel the need to, or even want to attack someone physically? Unfortunately there are several reasons, and I have in the past been guilty of many of them. It is hard to imagine that once upon a time I was the type to start fights, and I will bet there are a lot of people who are glad I didn’t get myself into a lot more trouble (or killed) over.

Violence is stupid, period. There is no everyday situation where violence is preferable to non-violence, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. I am not saying that there is no need to fight – sometimes you do not have a choice. I am reasonably confident that I did everything right today – I tried to defuse the situation, I tried to talk the other guy down, but they were itching for a fight and there was no talking them out of it. My Master agreed, the police agreed, and I will sleep just fine tonight.

Instigating a fight for no reason is a bad idea, if for no other reason than you never know if the other guy is stronger, faster, smarter, or better trained than you are. Gone are (or should be) the days when the mettle of a man is based on physical superiority; those competitions are best saved for the field of sport, including the martial arts.

In most martial arts one of the most important lessons we learn is that we train to fight so that we will not have to fight. It is a difficult lesson to understand, but it is true. More often than not the way we carry ourselves – and martial artists, soldiers just walk differently than most people – is enough to dissuade people from attacking us.  However that is probably one of the reasons why we are required by law to inform a potential attacker that we are trained… just in case the walking thing isn’t enough.  We do not want to fight, but if we are left with no choice then we will do so… and well.

After the incident I immediately called my Master, who questioned me, counseled me, and advised me to return to the scene of the attack.  He asked me about the details of the incident – not only the progression, but the moves that I used.  This was likely so that when questioned by the police I would remember the steps, and if there was a conflicting story my training would ensure that what I said would be consistent with their injuries and the damage to their truck.  Going over it within minutes helped me keep the details clear in my mind, and was certainly a good idea. 

I did return to the scene, but the assailants were gone by then.  When I got to the police station to report the attack (and to make sure I was not a wanted felon) they did indeed ask me for the blow-by-blow details.  They told me that no attack had been reported and there was no mention of my license plate in relation to any incident.  Frankly I would not be surprised if the assailants were telling people that they were attacked from behind by a gang of people… it has to be difficult to admit that you and your armed friend picked a fight with a fat white Jewish Canadian guy and got your clocks cleaned.

Now here’s the part that people have to understand as they pat me on the back and say things like ‘Wow, they messed with the wrong guy!’  I was terrified.  The other guys had a choice and didn’t know what they were getting themselves into, and they paid the price.  I did not have a choice, but I also didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  I am trained to fight, but the best rule to always remember is simple: There is always someone else out there who is stronger, faster, smarter, or better trained than you are.  I had no way of knowing when I got out of my car whether the two assailants were or not.  I knew their sizes and their attitudes but not their training, and frankly while I saw that one of them had a baseball bat I had no idea if either one of them had a gun.  I didn’t know if they had friends in the area who were going to join them.  You never know what you are getting into, and that is one of the best reasons to not fight.

I got out alive and uninjured, and that is the second best result I could have hoped for.  The best?  I wish that I wouldn’t have had to fight, and that the other guys had gotten out uninjured too.  That is why I will keep training, so that next time maybe I will be able to prevent the fight completely.  I will continue to train my students so that they too will be better able to prevent the fight, but also to fight back if there is no choice.  Hopefully they will always have a choice…

Conquering Challenges

Happy Friday folks.  It is May 31st… the last day of the month, for many people it’s a day to submit expenses.  In southern Ontario it is a beautiful sunny day (some people complain about the heat… I never do) and it is not surprising that around the office there is a lot of chatter about plans for the week-end… cottages, parties, dinners-out, and so on.  I haven’t asked her, but if she is anything like I was I have a friend who is thinking of none of those things.

I met Ms. Anita Kanwar and her family a little over four years ago.  She had just joined our Taekwondo school (OMAC Canada) with her daughter and son.  I remember helping her out with some of her early patterns – I was only a few belts ahead of her, but that is how it works in Taekwondo – and how eager she was, and how willing she was to learn how to do things the right way.  The day she tested for her Black Belt (in December, 2010 – six months after I did) I was so proud that I was literally gushing.

Last week Ms. Anita was qualified (pre-tested) by Grandmaster Kim, and has been cleared to test for her Second Degree Black Belt this month.  Next Saturday, June 8th, will be her big day.  I call it that because there are very few experiences to rival a Black Belt testing… and very few things that can cause such singular focus.

It is difficult to put an exact date on when someone starts training for a Black Belt test.  Some say it is the day you first join Martial Arts, but I do not agree with that at all.  Others say that it is your first class after you achieve Black Belt Excellence, and while that is closer, I am still not convinced… most of us were so focused in the weeks and months leading up to that test that we take a bit of a break – we may or may not continue to train, but it is in no way at the level of the weeks leading up to the test.

In my experience I made the decision to test for my Second Degree Black Belt in January – five months before the testing.  For those of you who read my blog at that time, and for those of you who were in my life, you will know that my focus over those months was so intense that it was impossible to miss.  The closer that day came the more intense the focus was.  In the two weeks leading up to the test I may have gone to work and all, but I ate, drank, slept, rested, and was Taekwondo focused.  My blogs were about Taekwondo because my thoughts were.

If I know my friend, student, peer Ms. Anita, she is as focused on next Saturday’s test as she is on anything else.  It will never be far from the front of her mind.  I spoke with her last night and can see it in her eyes… she is ready physically, but the mental preparation is something that doesn’t come, it just continues to build.  Right now she is precisely eight days from being ready… of course in her mind she is ready, but we learn and teach patience in Taekwondo, so she has eight more days to prepare and she will use every one of them… to prepare mentally, and of course to continue to prepare physically.

I am so proud of Ms. Anita for how far she has come.  She continues to amaze me at every class.  I look forward to congratulating her after the test – we do that with a handshake, a punch to the shoulder, and some congratulatory words – and then starting to train for our Third Degree Black Belt.

Ms. Anita will not be thinking of anything in the last paragraph this week… True students of Taekwondo do not try to see beyond a Black Belt testing; Ms. Anita right now is focused only on her patterns, her knife-defense sparring, and those bricks.  For her, there is nothing beyond those… until she breaks them, which she will.  However until that happens I know that she is focused on her goal.  Good luck to you Ms. Anita!

Mitch Garvis

2nd Degree Black Belt (Kukkiwon)

The One Inch Punch

As many of you know I have been forced to take a break from Taekwondo since my auto accident in December.  That does not mean that when asked I cannot suit up to help the judging at the Colour Belt Grading Tests.  I did that this Wednesday, and afterwards some of us were hanging out chatting.  I decided to try something I had never done before… although I have thought about it for years.  I wanted to try the “One Inch Punch” as made famous by the Dragon Bruce Lee (see article).

Of course my left shoulder is still wrecked, but my right side is mostly fine.  I gave it a shot, and although it hurt a bit it worked!  Master David Kim held a very knotty board for me while Instructor Peter Wolchak filmed it for us.  The board was much harder than most boards we use, but I figured I would try anyways.  Here it is!

Thanks to Master David Kim for holding and Instructor Peter Wolchak for filming!

Visiting With The Dragon

BLeeGr25 (800x600)Most of you know by now that I am a martial artist.  I have written enough about Tae Kwon Do over the years that even if you only visit my blog occasionally you are likely to have come across something about TKD.  For all of these years that I have been going to Seattle I never realized that Bruce Lee’s grave was there.  When I found that out a few months ago I vowed to make it a point of visiting it on my next trip… and I did. 

Saturday was a cloudy but dry day, and I met a friend for breakfast.  I told him about my plans for the afternoon, and he was happy to join me.  While not a martial artist himself, he has a great deal of respect for the arts, and like many people of our generation is a fan of Bruce Lee’s movies.  So together we looked it up on the map and figured out where we were headed, and after picking up my uniform at my hotel we headed out to the Lakeview Cemetery, a few miles north of downtown.

As we pulled into the cemetery we realized that it was too big to just look aimlessly, so we asked a couple of people if they knew where it was.  ‘Over that way… just look for the crowd of people – you won’t be the only ones today!’  So we followed the directions, and sure enough there was a crowd there.  We got out of the car, I handed Jared my camera and donned my uniform.  I tied my Black Belt with the solemnity that such an occasion deserves, and straightened my uniform before walking over.

There were several people there milling about, taking pictures, and talking about their favorite Bruce Lee movie, move, or whatever.  Some of the visitors were Caucasian, some Asian, and a few African and Middle-Eastern; it depended on the minute, because most of them came, saw, took a picture, and left.  That was not what I had in mind.

I have been to many solemn places throughout my travels, and I can honestly say that this was among those that touched me the most.  I do not know if it is because of my love of martial arts and Bruce Lee’s contributions to them, or the fact that it was his movies that first got me excited about martial arts (as well as my fascination with nunchuks) when I was hardly ten years old.  I do know that I was moved just being there… and the fact that his son Brandon is buried next to him sent shivers down my spine.

BLeeGr04 (800x600)Visitors came and went, but I was not there for a photo op or ‘to say that I had done it.’ Frankly I was not really sure what I was going to do when I got there… I only knew that it was something that I had to do – a pilgrimage if you like.  I suppose a lot of people go to a lot of places ‘not knowing’ and figure it out when they get there.

The first thing I did when I walked over was exactly what I do when I face my GrandMaster in a class; I got onto my knees, put my hands to my head, and bowed down.  In many Oriental cultures bowing is a show of respect, and the lower you bow the more respect you show.  Bruce Lee deserves as much respect as anyone in the martial arts – dead or alive.  I was the only person in a dobok (Tae Kwon Do uniform) – or any other martial arts uniform for that matter – and the people there seemed to understand that I was not only there as a tourist, but to pay my respects.  They made place for me, and as I got to my knees to bow all of the chatter stopped.  Maybe it was simply that I tuned it all out, but I heard the birds chirping, I heard the leaves on the nearby trees moving with the wind – I heard and felt the world at peace.  This is the state that we try to achieve when we meditate before our classes, and how it should be when experiencing a private moment alone while you are surrounded by people.

BLeeGr19 (800x600)When I said I did not know what I was going to do when I got there I am not kidding, but when I was there I had so many things that I wanted to do… I bowed several times, I tied my belt around his headstone hoping that his wisdom and ability might be mystically transferred to me, and in keeping with my roots I left a stone on both his and Brandon’s graves as a reminder that I was there.  While most people leave flowers, the Jewish custom is to leave a stone, because flowers wilt but the stone never does.  I was surprised later, when I was checking the pictures that Jared had taken, that he took a picture of these stones.  I was glad for that, because I likely would not have remembered.  However I think knowing Bruce Lee’s teachings he would appreciate the stone – he taught us about the different components of rocks and water, and how two rocks might collide, but the flowing water can move and shape mountains, so we should be like water.  I looked around for several minutes until I found the most perfect stone that I could find, and I cleaned it off before leaving it for him.

Empty your mind. Become formless and shapeless like water. When water is poured into a cup, it becomes the cup. When water is poured into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Be water, my friend.

As I said there was a nearly constant flow of people, but I was thrilled that for several minutes I was able to be alone with my thoughts.  I sat on the bench that faces the graves, I put my hands in my lap, and I guess I had a conversation with Bruce Lee.  I thanked him for his contributions to the martial arts – while he was not alone, he was among the first oriental instructors who agreed to teach martial arts to guay-loh (non-Chinese).  Without his push many Westerners who have studied and practiced and fallen in love with the beauty of Chinese and Oriental culture over the past fifty years probably would not have had the opportunity to do so.  As I sat there with my Black Belt I meditated on that thought, and wondered what I would have done in a western world bereft of martial arts.  Even if the credit for that were to go to someone else, I was never inspired by David Carradine.  After Bruce Lee there was Sho Kosugi, and later Jackie Chan… but it was Bruce Lee who started it all for us… it was he who introduced the western world to the beauty of Kung Fu.

BLeeGr15 (800x600) BLeeGr14 (800x600)

BLeeGr16I do not know how long I sat there, but the pictures show that many people came and went as I had my conversation (in my mind) with The Dragon.  I asked him for wisdom, and while that may sound silly, in preparing this piece I stumbled across a page of his quotes, and feel that I am wiser for having read them.  They also reminded me that no matter how great we may get, the ultimate goal must always be humility.  We cannot do what we do for grandeur, only for self-awareness and self-improvement.  “I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine.’  ‘You know what I want to think of myself? As a human being.’ ‘The word “star” is an illusion… it’s something that the public calls you.  You should look upon oneself as an actor.’  All of these and a hundred more remind me that the greatest icon in the history of martial arts movies was the humblest of men, aspiring only to live, to share life’s beauty.  He was a teacher, an innovator, and an incredible influence on untold thousands like myself who likely never would have enrolled in a karate class had it not been for him.

Bruce Lee was taken from us far too soon – he died on July 20th, 1973 – two weeks after my first birthday.  He was a few months shy of his 33rd birthday, and yet look at the impression he left on so many of us… on the world, really.  dozens of good and thousands of bad martial arts movies all stemmed from his movies – they were big in the Orient before him, but he introduced the world to Kung Fu – and the martial arts.  His son Brandon Bruce Lee also died at a very young age – he was twenty-eight when an accident on the set of the movie The Crow took him from us.  It is a sad legacy… but he is still survived by Shannon Lee, his daughter.

Everyone knows the name Bruce Lee, and his face adorns posters and t-shirts all over the world, nearly forty years after his death.  Had he not died of a brain edema in 1973 he would be seventy-two years old today; like many of the greats who died too soon during that period (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, etc…) his contributions to culture would be impossible for most people who lived three times as long… we will remember him forever.

Thank you, Sifu! -M

BLeeGr05

Taekwondo: Care to comment?

Black belt, 2nd dan

Black belt, 2nd dan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to preface this post by saying that I don’t get it.  I have been in Taekwondo for four and a half years, and have in that time achieved my 2nd Dan Black Belt… but even before I started I am reasonably sure that I would not have gotten it.

A commentator on Australian TV watched the competition at the recent Olympic Games and said that it didn’t look like a very hard sport, and the competitors just seemed to be dancing around and waving their legs at one another.  This obviously upset a few people… it doesn’t necessarily offend me per se, but it leaves me wondering how someone can have so little respect for a sport, a martial art, and athletes, and to say it in a public forum is just stupid.

I did not hear the original rant, but I can imagine it contained comments about how much protective gear the competitors wear… and it is true, we do.  I own one of those chest protectors, and have sparred with a lot of people who were wearing them.  I know for a fact that getting hit on the protector can hurt like hell… I have unfortunately broken an opponent’s ribs through one.

Now, if someone says on TV that they think a sport – baseball, basketball, soccer, or whatever – is stupid and not really a sport, there isn’t a whole lot of repercussions that can be meted out.  It can be debated of course, but that’s about it.  Martial arts, on the other hand, is based on an activity that we all start doing very early on… so when The Footy Show invited him on to spar with the Australian Taekwondo competitors, he had the opportunity to put his money where is mouth was.  Here is the video of what happened:

In this video we see that the commentator (whose name is not mentioned) has a big mouth, and makes a big show of dancing around (and to any experience martial artist looking stupid)… until Safwan Khalil (who lost his Bronze Medal match in the 58kg division) lands his first naduban kick, which is essentially a spinning roundhouse kick, and one of my favourites.  The commentator goes down in a shock… but does get up for more of a beating.  As he gets up he is swearing and clearly in shock as to how hard the kick (which was clean) really was, and how far it sent him reeling.  When he is back up a double roundhouse kick combination doesn’t actually knock him down… he backs away quickly, and then drops to the ground holding his stomach (through the padding).  He spends a few seconds on the matt before getting up.

The host at this point feels that Mr. Khalil needs a bit of a rest, and brings his fiancé, Carmen Marton, in to take his place.  Ms. Marton also represented Australia in London, and her first spinning jump-back kick knocks the commentator flat on his back.

True to the tenets of Taekwondo that we are all taught, each time they knock the competitor down, they help him to get back up.  Their sportsmanship is apparent throughout, even to this <word removed by censors> who was so disrespectful toward them.

At this point the host put an end to the bout, and asked the commentator if he had anything to say to the athletes.  Unable to stand, he apologizes.  I am sure he now has a much better respect for the ‘sport’ than he did before.

For the record, I have never been faced by anyone (outside of the ring) who knew that I was a Black Belt and still wanted to fight me.  To the credit of most, the Black Belt is a very widely respected symbol, and while it means so much more to those of us who wear (or aspire to) it, to much of the world it is the international ‘don’t mess with me’ symbol.

I want to express my respect for Mr. Khalil and Ms. Marton for their achievements, as well as for the commentator, who did have the nerve to get into the ring… and after being hit a couple of times, still got up again.  He has courage, and I would love to invite him into the sport… I know that any dojang in the world would love to invite him in to help guide him on the path to Black Belt excellence!

(For the record: I consider myself to be a better fighter than a lot of the higher belts that I train with… that does not mean I wouldn’t get my @ss handed to me in a proper sparring match… I have never been much for sparring because my previous fighting styles go against the tenets of TKD… and I would never want to hurt anyone in a sparring match!)