« Archives in May, 2014

Survival, hypocrisy, childhood lessons and dead badgers.

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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?

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Kendo coaching, familiar faces and reaching milestones.

It’s funny that the older I get, the more I seem to recognise people that I’ve not met before. It sounds a bit stupid but I get this all the time now. I meet someone who I have no connection to, have never met before, not been to the same schools or anything but they look familiar. Maybe I’ve just lived in the same place for too long.

This happened again last night when I was teaching our latest batch of newcomers to the dojo. 3 guys who all seem very much up for doing kendo. As seems to happen, one of them does karate and they’re not the only one, we now have a 3rd dan karateka who has been with us for about 4-5 months now and is loving every minute of it.
These 3 new guys all look familiar to me. No idea how or where I might have met them before but I suspect that I haven’t. I could get all metaphysical about it and suggest that it’s just myself coming more in tune with the collective consciousness of the world or that we are old souls who met in a previous life and now that I am doing something I really love doing, I’m meeting those people again.
I’m not sure what it is, but needless to say, these guys were students to my first proper coaching session.

Myself and Chris did our L1 coaching on the 19th April and it feels pretty good to be on the kind of terms as an officially recognised coach for Kendo. Sensei asked me to give them a go over the basics of reghi and then some basic suburi. Now I know this stuff and I do it without thinking now, but suddenly I’m teaching it to 3 new guys. Okay one had been last week, so it was a bit of revision for him, but they were all in the same boat, stood there, looking at me for guidance and how to do EVERYTHING.
It was also interesting that they arrived just before Sensei, so I gave them a little welcome to the dojo, this is a shinai, it’s really a sword, it’s your soul, you treat it as such.
It all made me realise why sensei feels a little frustrated maybe and possibly a little upset when people come into the dojo to see what Kendo is about, stay for a few sessions and then don’t come back. You make a student teacher connection with them straight away. Yet again, I was not expecting this. I’m not trying to take away from Sensei being the dojo leader and him being the main teacher of kendo, but afterwards when we were doing suburi with the whole dojo, he was telling them the same things I’d been telling them just a few minutes ago. So there it is, first coaching session and dropped in with very little teaching experience I just went with what I would know and what Sensei would do. I guess that’s the cycle that it should be. That’s how dojo styles are passed on. As a junior coach you are just an extension of you Sensei.

Sensei always tells us that the dojo is not really his and it’s not a dojo until we all show up and train. We make the dojo and by actually coaching people, it can only help the dojo and build more dynamic to the sessions. Having the official coaching qualification just makes me think that no matter what happens, that Meirinkan will continue with Sensei Marley teaching as long as possible. Us taking over when he no longer can.
I have these vague visions of being in my eighties, slowly wandering round the dojo, helping people improve their kendo. No matter where I go or what happens, Meirinkan is my home dojo and I’ll make a point of going as much as I can for as long as I can.

And just to add to the end of this, the 25th of April marks the beginning of my 40th year on this planet (I’m 39 if that doesn’t make sense). As usual I try not to dwell on the fact that I’m getting older, I simply try to reflect on how far I’ve come. A lot has changed for me in last 10 and 20 years, even in the last 5. I’m married now, with a nearly 5 year old son and I feel like I’ve achieved more in the last 5 years than I did in most of my life before. My wife is a very good motivator.
As I reflect these things I just hope I have another 40 years on this planet and every year that follows will have as much diversity as the previous ones.