Welcome Back, Kata!

I have had some great pleasure over the last 8 years or so reconnecting with some old friends via Facebook. I don’t consider myself to be a social media addict but Facebook has reconnected me with friends from the Navy, high school, or relatives who live far away that I have not seen in many years. Some of them, I may possibly have lost contact with forever had it not been for the Internet and social media or, at the very least, it would have been much hard to track down these connections or for them to find me.

About 3 months ago, I was searching for a friend from high school named Jeff. First, I should provide some history. Jeff graduated about 6 years ahead of me. He then went on to be the instructor for my high school’s karate club. A mutual friend brought me to a karate club meeting after school one day during my 9th grade year. Since I was a first time visitor, Jeff gave me some individual attention. My first lesson was to never address Jeff as “sensei” (teacher). The reason why was that Jeff, while very learned in karate, was not a black belt in karate. Sensei was reserved for black belts. Jeff then taught me chudan oi zuki (middle lunge punch). He taught me how to hold my fist (thumb tucked inward) and to punch from the hip. He explained this way: “If I punch you with my arm, it won’t hurt much. If Lou Ferrigno punches you with his arm, it will hurt like crazy BUT not as much as if he had put his hip into the punch.” Clearly, Jeff understood the use of humor as a teaching tool which clicked very well with me. After practice, since several of us did not have access to a car, Jeff drove us all home. This was very generous given that several of the students lived on the other side of town. Over time, I would find that the generosity of Jeff’s time knew few boundaries.

Over the course of my sophomore and junior years in high school, I continued in karate club whenever it did not conflict with my first obligation which was drama club. Jeff was kind enough not to give me grief over giving theater priority over karate as he understood my passion for it. He simply welcomed me into every karate class I could attend. When I got my driver’s license, I would even visit Jeff at his home as he had become as much of a friend as an instructor. Many visits would result in us practicing a kata (formal exercise). Jeff even wrote out the steps of several different kata on a legal pad one day to help me retain the steps better. Again, his generosity knew few boundaries.

As my senior year if high school was approaching, Jeff moved from our town of Savannah, GA to the Atlanta area. Soon after, he was married and he had a son. He called me at Christmas time that year to catch up and tell me about his son and wife. The following spring, I went with some friends to Six Flags Over Georgia. Later that day, we met up with Jeff at his apartment. It would be the last time I saw him before I left to join the Navy.

Two years later, I was out of the Navy and living in the Atlanta area with my parents. Jeff was one of the first people I looked up. As it turned out, Jeff lived with his wife and son in an apartment that was less than 5 minutes from my parents house. I could not believe the blessing. Jeff and I bonded all over again. His wife was always nothing short of hospitable.

Of the next year and a half that followed, I was also married with 3 step children (my first wife had three kids from a previous marriage). Eventually, I moved to western New York (to my ex wife’s home town) for a fresh start. Jeff and I lost contact after that.

Fast forward to around September 2016, I searched for Jeff on Facebook. I had searched previously to no avail. I happened to recall his son’s name and searched for him instead. PAYDIRT! I sent a message to his son to confirm I had found the right person. Within the next several days. Jeff sent me a friend request on Facebook. I would find out that his son had not yet read the message I sent. Jeff coincidentally found me through a mutual friend. His presence could not have come at a better time. I had been laid off from my job. Plus, between August and December 2016, my wife and I faced the death of 10 friends, family members, or other loved ones. This would sadly, include a close high school friend and the aforementioned ex-wife. IN short, I was a wreck and reconnecting with Jeff was like hitting the play button on a song that had been paused for 30 years. Not a single note was missed.

One day, Jeff presented me with a challenge. The challenge was to do a kata every day. In spite of my obesity (or perhaps because of it), I was intrigued by the idea. He then added that we were to do the same kata 5 times per day every day for 6 days. After a day of rest on the 7th day, the cycle would start again. I figured if Jeff was willing to do it in spite of some severe orthopedic issues. I had no excuse not to participate.

The kata is 20 steps and takes about 40 seconds on the average. The first several days, I nearly fell trying to remember the steps and perform them correctly. As always, Jeff never judged. He always provided support and encouragement. He reminded me to do the steps as well as I can. Master Gichin Funakoshi, who basically created the form of karate that Jeff studies (Shotokan), has a very simple adage: “Each to their own ability”. The goal is simply to be better at karate today than you were yesterday.

I cannot begin to tell you the benefit that this challenge and connection has provided for Jeff and me alike. Every morning, we bond from 1000 miles away. We even drafted a long range plan and have used Facebook to share the challenge for others across the globe. Several people close to Jeff or me have joined the challenge.  I post daily on Facebook with my progress. Jeff provides input and support on my posts. He knows the technique. I help to communicate our challenge with the world. We are connected and in tune with one another. Like Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Simmons and Stanley, Maurice and Verdine, peanut butter and jelly, or RC cola and a moon pie; Jeff and Shane go well together. I’ll keep you all posted over time with the progress. If you’d like to join the challenge, feel free to add a comment. I can provide some basic information to get you started. OSU!

Advertisements

I’m On My Weigh Vol. III: Gearing Up for Adventure

I have written previously about my struggles with obesity. I have also written the numerous times I have fallen off the proverbial horse, re-mounted the proverbial horse, and wanted desperately to sell the proverbial horse to the nearest proverbial taxidermist. For this writing, as I promised, I would like to share an investment that I made in my weight loss.
I should start with a brief back-story. Some years back, I had made an online friend named John. John lived in Illinois. John and I corresponded very closely for several years via phone and Internet. John and I never met face to face. In spite of this, we shared many laughs together. We also endured many trials together. John comforted me when my parents were involved in a severe automobile accident. I did my best to help John face his impending divorce. John was also a man who had issues with his weight. John’s weight struggles took their toll on his health. The toll ultimately became too great. On April 1, 2000; John collapsed and died in his living room in the presence of one of his teenage daughters. It has been 12 years since John died. I will never forget the laughs we had. I will also never forget the stories he shared regarding the physical and emotional consequences of his obesity. They have especially struck a chord with me as my weight climbed over the past year to the 300 lb. mark.
About 7 years ago, I acquired another friend named John. There were some differences from my deceased friend of the same name. This friend named John lives locally, within walking distance. John is a few years younger and in better health. We have somewhat different personalities. Those differences allow us to complement one another very well. John has expressed tremendous concerns about my weight and overall health in the past year. Actually, at times he has railed me rather harshly. John has, at times, talked to me in the same way Mickey Goldmill lashed out at Rocky Balboa. Still, I know that John, like Mickey, is always in my corner.
In the past couple of months, I had spoken to my wife about making a significant financial investment in my fitness goals. I wanted to buy a bicycle. I didn’t just want some off-the-rack department store bicycle. I wanted a bicycle that could endure my extra weight, provide a comfortable ride, and be easily modified (when needed) as my fitness progressed. My lovely queen agreed that this was a sound idea and was very encouraging. I, once again, reached out to my friend John. This was a no-brainer to me. John not only has a very nice bike of his own. He also teaches a spin class. Divine providence is really a wonderful thing when you realize it for what it is.
John took me to a local bike shop where he got his own set of wheels. They sized me up on a bike. I fell in love with that thing the minute I got on it. I felt like I was a kid again that could ride his bike everywhere. I looked like a hippo who probably needed training wheels. Still, nothing was going to steal my bliss in that moment. I got a quote on the bike. John also guided me on some accessories I would need such as lights, a lock, a helmet and appropriate riding apparel. I spent the next few weeks obsessing about getting this bike. My older son asked if I was getting a bike so I could ride to the mailbox and back. To the untrained ear, that would sound like an insulting crack. I took it as a phrase of encouragement from someone who is definitely his father’s son.
The day finally came and I went in and got my new bike. Allow me this one unsolicited testimonial. The Bike Zone (http://bikezonebikes.com/) did GREAT by me. They gave me 25% off on the bike and 15% off on the accessories. They even mounted the accessories as they were setting up my bike. They had me out the door with my bike in less than 15 minutes. If you are in the Rochester, NY area and want a good solid deal on a bike, head out to The Bike Zone on Route 104 near Greece Ridge Center.
John and I woke up early the next morning and went riding together. I was decked out in my riding gear which included a strong helmet, a bright t-shirt, and a bright fluorescent vest (think DOT orange). The last thing John or I want any other person on the road to say with a straight face is “I never saw him coming.” By the way, I named my bike the X-1 in deference to one P. W. Herman. My buddy John took me on a conservative ride. He guided me about shifting gears and hand signals. John was doing this because he knew I had not ridden a bicycle in this manner in roughly 30 years. It should be noted that one item missing from my new bike was a rack for a water bottle. Fortunately, John has a rather nice pannier on the back of his bike he he stored my water bottle so we could hydrate at brief points during the ride. We rode 6.8 miles that day. A few days later we rode again. My only goal was to go farther than the previous ride. We rode 8.8 miles that day. Just yesterday, I acquired my own water bottle rack and installed it on my bike. John and I were having troubles the entire week connecting for a ride together. I decided that since I had a way to store my water, I would ride solo. I promised John I would wear the proper gear and stick to our route. Once again, I rode just a bit farther than I had previously. I rode 10.4 miles in exactly 90 minutes.
In closing, I don’t think it is any big secret at this point that I am very grateful for John’s mentorship. I am looking forward to many more rides (both solo and with John). Lastly, if you are curious if the investment had made a difference in my fitness goals, I have lost 7 lbs. in less than one month.

I’m On My Weigh Vol II: The Journey Continues

For a large portion of my adult life (no pun intended), I have struggled with obesity. Actually, let me be honest. It really involved little struggle on my part arriving to such a morbidly obese state. The struggle has been in maintaining the discipline to get the weight off. I had wondered for years WHY this was such a great struggle. I had overcome other obstacles in my life that required a tremendous amount of tenacity and a daunting level of discipline. (Note: While I am ashamed that I have not previously proclaimed. Consider this an announcement of the arrival of ongoing alliterations. we shall now continue with the essay already in progress.) I began pursuing my first college degree in 1998 at the age of 32 with 4 mouths to feed. That was quite a challenge for someone who was a lazy student and had been out of high school for 14 years at that point. As another example, I have been smoke free for 5 years. I go most days now and never miss having a cigarette. Having said that, those first 60 days were HARD! To be honest, I remain smoke free because I know I will be back at day one again if I slip.
So the question remains, having overcome the aforementioned obstacles, why is it such a struggle to get my weight down to a heavy level and keep it off? To best answer that question. Smoking was something I was did well. I had gotten especially good at smoking during that last year before quitting as it was also the same year my mother passed away. I would even go outside in sub-zero New York temperature because I refused to allow anyone to smoke inside my house. It was sometimes merely a dramatic prop and at other times a tool (pronounced \ˈkrəch\) for stress relief.
As it turns out, eating is also something I do well. American men have even been known to engage in eating competitions. I have never done sure but I am sure I’d have some post Olympic endorsement deals if I ever ventured into such “sport”. The point is, while I AM a fussy eater to some point, what I do eat I tend to do in unhealthy amounts. This is where part of the problem lies. As much as I enjoyed smoking and found great solace in the habit, I knew I was never at risk for dying prematurely if I quit (it’s NOT quitting that tends to have that terminal side effect). Food is a different story. I enjoy eating and find solace in it as well. However, while overeating can lead to a premature passing, NOT eating can also leading to inopportune exit. So the trick is finding a healthy level eating. I believe it was Kesuke Miyagi that balance makes one’s whole life better. I am paraphrasing a bit but I haven’t seen the movie in a while.
Part of achieving this balance is in making different food choices. Now, I should be clear on this issue. This doesn’t mean that I will join the society of herbivores. I have quite a few friends and loved ones that are either vegetarians or vegans. I love them dearly and respect their choices. I have even been known to occasionally borrow a recipe. Still, a full time membership is just not in the cards for Shane. It’s just a stone cold fact that if my doctor tells me that I must abstain from fried chicken and cheesecake forever or die, I will immediately update my will. I can go for long stretches without having certain foods. I don’t need fried chicken and cheesecake daily. Other food choices HAVE been eliminated.This is because they have shown themselves to be trigger foods. If I have one, I must consume them until they are all gone.  Back last November, I announced my divorce from chocolate malted milk balls. I am sure the Whoppers company was shocked by the sudden and devastating news. I just felt that I could no longer go on with such a presence in my life. It was a tearful departure. My torrid relationship with Pringles potato chips has been on hiatus for some time now. We have not been together in some time. I hear that Pringles is doing okay since our time apart. I still get the occasional anonymous note and hang-up phone call saying “Take Me Back!” I am not certain who is responsible for such anonymous communications. I suspect it may be a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger. We have also not spent time together in months now. Yes, I admit it. I am a food polygamist.
Please understand that I am writing this not only as a means of sharing my catharsis with you all. I also do it for some accountability with my weight control. In a future essay, I will share how I have made some recent investments and set up a chain of accountability.