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Survival, hypocrisy, childhood lessons and dead badgers.


I try not to watch too much TV but there are a few programs that just will garner my undivided attention. On the flip side of this there are programs I dislike fairly passionately but have become quite popular and also I find myself compelled to watch. Reality shows, which to be honest are anything but, are simply compelling. I’ve always loved to people watch wherever I go. Sat in a street side cafe, watching people go by. One of my favourite places for this was the cafe in The Lovre. Typical. Go to the most well known art gallery in the world and I spend the time people watching.
Anyway, I digress.
The show I’m fascinated by at the moment is The Island with Bear Grylls. Anything with Bear in it gets my vote. He’ll do anything, eat anything and go anywhere. His wife must panic every time he nips out for a pint of milk. I always have this scenario that plays out in my head of Bear Grylls and Ray Mears going camping together. Bear is off running down mountains, looking for the worst things to eat he can, deliberately doing dangerous stuff just for kicks. Ray is just chilling out, making a shelter out of a tree and brewing tea with some lovely herbal leaves he’s foraged, shaking his head and trying to get Bear to sit still for 5 minutes.

I digress.

This show prompted a debate that I’ve had before. The guys on the island caught and killed a crocodile for food. They’d had nothing but coconut for days and did what any good hunter gatherer would do. Now some of the guys were seemingly a bit emotional about killing this not so defenceless animal. My wife said that people she knows and works with have categorically said that there is no way they could kill an animal for food.
This might be an unpopular opinion but if you are not prepared to kill something for food, you shouldn’t be eating meat. That pre packed chicken on the shelf in Sainsburys was alive and it was killed for you to cook and eat. It’s hypocritical to eat meat and not be prepared to kill it for yourself.
As a culture we are being removed from the unpleasant things in life. Unless you live on the streets or you live in a country that does not support you, survival is not a big deal. We all have plenty to eat, our water is clean and safe to drink. We have warmth and shelter.
If you strip that all away you should still be able to survive. Are you going to just eat nuts and berries, or are you going to hunt, trap and kill an animal too?
My wife put it quite simply. Imagine your 4 year old child is cold and hungry, properly hungry to the point of crying about it and growing weak. You’ve given them everything you could even so you will go hungry. Are you going to try and explain to them how you don’t want to kill something to get something to eat?

This brings me to my last little mental conundrum that I had the other night. While taking the dog for a walk, we happened across a dead badger in the woods. Not the nicest of things to come across but it was quite fresh and not all injured. The dog wanted it but I was less worried about him than I was my son.
This is a point where I could say that it was just sleeping and it will be okay but why? Why sugar coat the truth of life to a 4 year old. I have done so before when the dog has caught a bird and I’ve told him it flew away after I got it off the dog.
He went through quite a few ideas on how it would be okay before he understood that it was actually dead. He didn’t cry about it and he didn’t act like he didn’t understand. The funny thing was he started trying to work out what had happened to it. We suggested it got hit by a car and died on its way back to its home. Probably true. He was picking apart possibilities. Detective in the making, I don’t know but it was a good honest lesson.
This is the same thing as eating meat. My son is in no doubt about where meat comes from and if he decides he doesn’t want to eat it for that reason then good on him. I do question my own belief in this area too and always tell myself that if I had to, I could kill and gut and animal for food. I’m not saying that I want to but I could if it meant my family didn’t starve.

I think that this is a great analogy of how life is now anyway. Our basic needs for survival are all covered so physical evolution is taking more of a back seat. Mental evolution and survival are our key factor these days. There are those of us who are the creators, the ones who go after what they want and try hard. Those who don’t give up and will meet things head on, doing things because they are a challenge and because they are hard and necessary for the survival of what you perceive to be the fittest mentally.
Then there are those who don’t try for anything and just give up. They expect everything on a plate to be handed to then. That’s the scavengers and the bottom feeders and they are not at the top of the food chain (mentally speaking.)

So, which do you want to be?


Keiko, koi ponds and bad wiring.


The last couple of weekends have been a big amount of hard physical work in very different ways.

Last weekend I went over for a training session in Cambridge with Jackson Sensei and Gowland sensei in the morning and had a quite different session. It’s a little session that Matt has put together incorporating all 3 of the joined clubs in the area.

The format was really simple. Warm up, three lots of suburi, one round of kirikaiesh then jiegeiko for the rest of the session and a full rotation. Turn out was good, around 14 of us so it took a while to do a full rotation. Eric was doing jigeiko, ichi-gomi-geiko and then ippon shobu. I started and finished with him so I did it twice. Then just to finish off, we did one more round of kirikaiesh.

Now I’d hit that point during my last lot of ichi-gomi-geiko where my body was beginning to flag somewhat. Not really surprising seeing as I’d done a full round of 15 bouts of gigeiko. So when Eric called at the end to do one last round of kirikaiesh, I was really not all there but threw everything I had left into it. As I’ve mentioned before, bad motodachi can really make kirikaiesh crap to do, but up against someone of Eric’s level it’s a pleasure. My first cut was spot on and my saiu-men cuts were quick and on target. As I made my distance back for the next 10 cuts, I felt myself scrape the bottom of my energy reserves and I began to slow down. The first 5 cuts were really slow, but I dragged a bit more out with louder and stronger kiai speeding up towards the end. Making distance, I did my last men cut and skipped down the side of his men. Damn.

We finish and Eric tells us not to take our men off yet, only he is taking his off. ‘What now’, we all think.
Jackson sensei, takes up a place on one side of the dojo and we all have to line up on the other, and do ippon shobu. Nice.

All in all it was a really good training session. Doing that much jigeko really allows you to settle down and concentrate, get into the zone so to speak.

This weekend just gone was a little different. I’ve been building a koi pond in the garden and it’s the first bit of serious garden landscaping I’ve done. Along with digging the thing, 6ft square and 2m deep, I’ve lined it, filled it and put decking all round. This has also been complicated by the completely dodgy wiring going to my garage.
To cut a long story short, in trying to fit the pond pump I found some pretty serious wiring issues going to my garage meaning that I had to lay a complete new bit of armoured cable and install a new RCD unit.

Saturday I worked solidly from 9am to 6pm and finally got it all ready for the fish, kindly donated by my father in law.

I felt a little connection there after the long hours of work going into the pond when I went outside after dark, turned on the outside lights and relax. Mokouso.

As with any activity, I’m beginning to understand the nature of mushin a little more. While working on the majority of my projects, be they work or home, I end up mot really thinking about doing it because I have enough experience that I no longer have to actively engage my mind to the task. When I do this is as Yagyu Munrnori describes as a stop in your mind. You are doing a task or learning something and when you have to think about it, you stop for an instant or even longer.
As you get better at things these things no longer occur and you simply do the things you have been trained to do without thought.
I have lots to think about round the pond now.