Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Mats



In my quite long absence from Aikido I've come to learn a few things about myself. Not the least of which is how much I need the art. How much I need the Mats. That may seem a strange thing to hear, but please let me explain.

There are not many things that I find myself needing in this world. The occasional bout of solitude is one. I'm an introvert by nature and need time by myself to reflect and recharge on occasion. Coffee would be another. My mornings just aren't complete without it and working late nights at the pub can be tedious without coffee.

Aikido and the Mats are another need. And unfortunately that is something I'm just finding out. Unfortunate because it took so long to realize, not because of the admission. The stress of 'life' seems to melt away as soon as you bow onto the mats. There is a sense of belonging while being surrounded by my fellow students.

I've been finding that my temper has started to shorten the longer I've been away from the dojo and my increasing irritability has started to create strains and frustrations in my personal and professional lives. My fitness level has dropped drastically and a constant feeling of lethargy and fatigue seems to encompass my days.

But how to break this chain? Simple. Go back to aikido. I find that I've been making excuses to myself, which would lead one to believe that I am done with my practice. That couldn't be farther from the truth however. I think it may just be nerves. When I had injured my wrist I was getting ready to test. I think I worry that I may be pressured to test before I feel ready and prepared, but that is the general feeling before every test. I worry that my level mates and friends have progressed well above me. That is true though. I've seen the photos and updates that they've tested. That's just my fear of losing my comfort zone speaking. They're all still at the dojo, so it's not like much has changed at all.

So, after writing all this, what am I going to do? Buckle down; man up; breathe deeply; grab my gi, bokken and jo; head out to the dojo. The mats await.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Accountability Needed

Way back in January I mentioned that I was going to try to eat better and make more food at home with only occasionally eating out.
Well.... That hasn't been happening. At all.
Nor has making my return to aikido.
And yoga has ceased to exist since our friendly neighbourhood studio switched ownership.

So all in all I have had no physical activity aside from working (as a bartender it is constant moving, but as an office worker [temporarily] it is plenty of sitting and talking on the phone) or my occasional urges to pick up my bokken and do a hundred or so sword cuts. And though I keep telling myself I'm going to get back into the swing of things, I never seem to follow through. I always seem to have an excuse ready and somehow convince myself that it is much better to sit on the couch and watch TV or play video games.

All that needs to change though. I need to get active again. I need to eat better and go to aikido and do yoga and run. If I don't I'll never beat this constant lethargic feeling. I'll never get to where I was actively. I'll never be able to surpass myself and set new goals. I would just sit here and wallow in self-defeat.

I need to set up some form of accountability system. Maybe a reward and penalty system? But what sorts of rewards and penalties would be sufficient motivation? Decisions, decisions.. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Time of Legends, An Age of War

This is a dark age, a bloody age, an age of daemons
and of sorcery. It is an age of battle and death, and of the
world's ending. Amidst all of the fire, flame and fury
it is a time, too, of mighty heroes, of bold deeds
and great courage.
At the heart of the Old World sprawls the Empire, the
largest and most powerful of the human realms. Known for
its engineers, sorcerers, traders and soldiers, it is
a land of great mountains, mighty rivers, dark forests
and vast cities. And from his throne in Altdorf reigns
the Emperor Karl Franz, sacred descendant of the
founder of these lands, Sigmar, and wielder
of his magical warhammer.
But these are far from civilised times. Across the length
and breadth of the Old World, from the knightly palaces
of Bretonnia to ice-bound Kislev in the far north, come
rumblings of war. In the towering Worlds Edge Mountains,
the orc tribes are gathering for another assault. Bandits and
renegades harry the wild southern lands of
the Border Princes. There are rumours of rat-things, the
skaven, emerging from the sewers and swamps across the
land. And from the northern wildernesses there is the
ever-present threat of Chaos, of daemons and beastmen
corrupted by the foul powers of the Dark Gods.
As the time of battle draws ever near,
the Empire needs heroes
like never before.

One of my favourite hobbies is Warhammer, both Fantasy and 40,000 (40K, as it is affectionately known). There is something exquisitely satisfying about two armies on a table clashing for victory in a battle of supremacy. The only thing to make it an even better experience is if both armies are fully painted and the table has enough terrain to make it an interesting game. Not that there is anything wrong with a plain field of bloodshed, but terrain just adds that much more to the game.

Warhammer is a very social game as well. I've met some great people while playing Warhammer. It's like having a board game night with friends, just much more involved than a typical board game. In fact, if I am trying to explain Warhammer to someone that is the line I use: It's like a game of Risk, but much more involved.
How is it more involved than a game of Risk? Well, for starters, nothing is assembled or painted when you get it. You are literally BUILDING an army and painting it so that you can play. After you have an army built and all the necessary elements (core rule book, dice, tape measure, relevant army book [or codex for 40K], any templates that may be needed, etc...) you can throw together a game and pulverize your opponent!
The following pictures go through the necessary steps to building an army.


As stated above, I do enjoy both Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40K. I command a Wood Elf army for Fantasy and a Space Marine army for 40K. When the new rules were released for 40K, I took the small Chaos Space Marine force in the Dark Vengeance starter set and put together a Chaos Warband. For Fantasy, I took the elements in the Isle of Blood set and am working on a small High Elf party (which is currently my obsession) What follows below are some photos of minis that I've painted up for my various armies. Unfortunately I don't have any of my High Elves painted up, but I have Wood Elves, my Emerald Saints Space Marines and my Pyre Chaos Warband. Hopefully the colours (and models) are enough to differentiate  the factions from one another. Enjoy!!










Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Page Turns

Remember that time when Frodo and Sam were at Mt Doom to throw the One Ring into the fires where it was created? Well, I was there. And what about that time that young Adelrune went seeking out Riander to train him as a knight? I was there too. Or how about when the Jedi were massacred during Order 66 and then roughly 20 years later the son of a traitor shows up and is instrumental in the fall of the Empire that changed the face of a Galaxy Far, Far Away? You got it. I was right there with Luke Skywalker and the Rebels.

I'm not quite sure when I read my first book. I'm not even sure of when I first learned to read. But I am glad that I did.

Books, for me, have been constant friends. Growing up in the country and not having a lot of friends (read as any friends) in school, books were companions and fellow adventurers and true loves. There were new things to learn and new people to meet and new sights to see within those lovely pages filled not with words, but experiences.

There is a quote that I like from The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo quotes Bilbo and though the quote is about the Road, I think it follows very true for books as well. The quote goes like this: 
'He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. "It's dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to."
The relation to a book? Think of stepping out your door as opening a book. Once you open that cover and turn the first page you could end up anywhere.

Maybe embarking on that journey is why I enjoy writing. I wouldn't say I'm terribly good at it (though others might say otherwise), but I do enjoy it. I have a few short stories drifting around on my computer. Perhaps next time I'll post one of them. This is not that time though.

So whether you are a traveller to far and distant lands, heading to your cousins castle in the next county over or just popping into the pub down the street described within the book you are reading, keep those pages turning. You can visit all the places you had ever wanted and all you have to do is pick up a book.

Monday, March 17, 2014

An Elegant Weapon for a more Civilized Age

      

        

Not a lot has happened on the month (or more) since I've posted anything. I've been working much more than I care to (6-7 days a week...) and most of my free time has been spent relaxing and sleeping. I did, however, make my return to aikido and I couldn't be happier. It is definitely a way of life for me (cliche, I know) and if I don't go for a while it starts invading my thoughts.


I had ordered a black martial arts gi to be the base for my Sith costume for the Calgary Expo and it had finally arrived. I am currently in the proces of breaking it in (who wants a new starchy gi top anyway?) and the best way to do that is to sweat in it. A lot. And wash it numerous times. Unfortunately the black gi would not be appropriate or acceptable at aikido so I have been doing a lot of exercising at home while wearing it.


Most of that exercising has been from an e-book by a local fitness enthusiast and her gruelling workouts will have you swearing up a storm and sweating your ass off. Not only that, but you will have weak arms and Jell-O legs afterwards. Another large part of breaking this gi in has been sword work. Luckily I have a limited basic knowledge of sword work because of aikido and have been making a few hundred cuts here at home. Currently my arms are extremely sore, but I plan to keep up with it both as general exercise and for fun.


       


Sword work actually works for another reason. Cosplay. In September I went to the Edmonton Expo as a Jedi. In April I am going down to Calgary as a Sith. The main weapon of choice for both Jedi and Sith is the Lightsaber. As Obi Wan once told Luke: "This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a Blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age." Unfortunately my lightsaber doesn't have enough weight to build up a good sweat while swinging it around, so I have been using my bokken (wooden sword). Bit going through swings and katas with my bokken and then using my lightsaber, I can almost feel like I am a Jedi (or Sith) practicing form and precision.


      


Unfortunately I won't have a new lightsaber for Calgary so I will be using my current one, I just won't turn it on (the blade is blue, which is not a Sith colour..) and it'll just be a belt hanger. At some point in the near future though I will be getting a new Sith appropriate lightsaber and I can't wait!


Interested in the e-book? You can find it HERE

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Expo Experience


Last April, Dani and I had a chance to go down to Calgary for the Calgary Expo. Being the first time for either of us, it was a phenomenal experience! We got a chance to meet the likes of Carrie Fisher, John Rhys Davies and Craig Parker. We sat in on panels provided by comic great Stan Lee, Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey from Game of Thrones, and Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks talking about Stargate SG-1, not to mention the panels provided by Carrie Fisher and John Rhys Davies.
And then there was the cosplay. A great atmosphere with great costumes wandering around the Stampede Grounds. So much fun and entertainment! In fact, Dani decided that she'd try her hand at Cosplay and started working on a costume about a month before we went down. She cut and sewed, snipped and glued, and eventually Garnet from Final Fantasy IX was born.
For a first cosplay I think it is superb!! Not near the professional cosplayers such as Yaya Han or Jessica Nigri, but for a first time at anything near related to cosplaying I think it is hard to top. I, unfortunately, did not cosplay. Just went in the usual comic book related t-shirts I always wear.

Then at home in September we went to the Edmonton Expo. Many of the vendors were the same, but there were some new ones. Genesis Custom Sabers was a nice addition. I had done business with Rob before when I purchased my lightsaber and it was great to see him with a booth showing off his amazing work and craftsmanship and getting a chance to see some of the new creations he's come up with.
The media guests that they brought in for Edmonton were different than those brought in for Calgary and even though we didn't go for any autographs or panels with any celebrities it is nice to know that the Edmonton Expo isn't just a carbon copy of the Calgary Expo.
Two of our favourite cosplayers, Jessica Merizan and Holly Conrad, were brought in by Bioware. Jessica actually works for Bioware and she hosted the panel that was temptingly titled "How to get a job with Bioware" in which no one really listened to the advice given out and all asked the same questions that had already been answered. Both Jessica and Holly were cosplaying from one of Bioware's flagship games, Dragon Age.
Jessica Nigri was there as well with Cherry Sauce Clothing and dressed in her Princess Mononoke cosplay. In fact, the photo shoot of that cosplay are taken in the beautiful Edmonton River Valley!
A new Expo meant a new costume for Dani and a first for me. While Dani scoured for pictures and inspiration for a Final Fantasy X-2 Yuna, I started planning for a Jedi. That meant I had to learn how to sew. Thank you, YouTube! Admittedly, I did take the easy way out because I did have most of what I needed. I just had to sew together some belt pouches, the obi (the wide cloth belt that sits under the regular belt) and the shoulder tabards. Dani, on the other hand, pretty much made everything from scratch. Including the shirt. Two copies of the shirt in fact.


And so, that has been the two previous Expo's we've attended. We have our tickets purchased and hostel room booked for the Calgary Expo coming up in April and have started to plan costumes. I'm think a Sith is in order for me, which could possibly lead to another lightsaber purchase (in fact I have my eyes on one). Dani, on the other hand, hasn't made any concrete plans on her cosplay (that I know of, at least) but I do know that it will be 100 times better than anything I can put together!

Links to the places I mentioned in this post can be found here:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Martial Art of Peace




Last week I briefly mentioned that I practice a martial art by the name of Aikido. This week I was hoping to touch upon some of what aikido is.


Aikido is what would be known as a 'gendai budo' which essentially means 'modern martial way'. Why is it a modern art? Well aikido was developed mainly during the 1920s and 1930s by Morihei Ueshiba (O sensei) and went through a couple of iterations before becoming the aikido that is mainly practiced today. In the early days aikido was a bit more physical, but after WWII aikido became gentler and more philosophical. That isn't saying that aikido lost all physicality. It is a martial art, but how we practice (at least in my dojo) is more principle based. Unfortunately I'm not going to get into the principles of aikido here (a little research if interested is beneficial).


I have always been interested in martial arts and finally decided one fateful day (almost 4 years ago now) that I was going to finally practice an art. But which one to take? I looked up a myriad of martial arts, taking into account location (there was no point in looking for an art that was only based in, say, Quebec and me living in Alberta) and trying to find one that resonated with me and fit my personality. Aikido is the one that fit the bill and so I went to watch a class, then tried a couple of classes and I was hooked. I signed up for classes and haven't looked back!


I have one regular at work that really does seem interested in martial arts, but I think his big interest is in watching UFC fights and wanting to "kick someone's ass" (exact quote) and I find that a tad bit disturbing. To me, that is not what a martial art is for. It isn't the main purpose of a martial art, but I think movies and the popularity of MMA shows and, let's be honest, western culture as a whole has misconstrued the meaning of a martial art.


I apologize if this post seems a bit preachy. That isn't my intent at all, but I hope you found it interesting. I'm going to leave with a link to an article that I wrote for one of my assignments and was posted up on the Abundant Peace website for the benefit of others in my aikido community. You can find the article here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Worth working for

One of the most difficult things to do is remain motivated and consistent in doing something. Especially in things that you don't really want to do. Or for something that you really want, but don't want to do the work for. But everything worth doing is worth working for.

That's where I'm at right now. It's a new year. It's as cold as a night on Hoth outside (it is Canada after all). And while I'm here inside I would love to be making healthier food options to eat. Unfortunately it seems like I just don't want to do the work. To be fair, it's not the cooking that bothers me. I've spent many years in a commercial kitchen. I know my way around some food. For me it is the dreaded clean up that causes the loss of will. And it is so much easier to dig through the cupboard to find a pack of ramen.

My general well being hasn't been what I would like it to be since August really. I had to postpone aikido due to a wrist injury and when that was all good fate conspired against me to create more problems to keep my from the dojo, though I have been continuing on with yoga once a week through my aikido absence. And even though my job as a bartender keeps me on my feet all shift long, I've been feeling that I need more from myself to keep me healthy and fit. It's time for a return to aikido.

But I think I'm going to make an effort to eat better and cook at home. I'm going to see if I can save some money and make some better choices for myself. It just takes some motivation and consistency. And I think I'm going to try.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Distracted Jedi

My lovely girlfriend, Dani, has had a blog for quite some time now and I figured I'd give it a try.

Why give it a try, you might ask? Well, to be honest, for no real reason in particular. I guess I could use it as a way to siphon off some creative energy that I have. Or I may be able to generate awe inspiring ideas from writing about them every now and then. Or I could just use it to randomly write about whatever comes to mind or what interests me. I suppose that would be how I came up with the 'Distracted' bit in the blog title.

And why 'The Distracted Jedi'? Well, if there is anything I'm known for it is my love for Star Wars and superheroes and other dorkish interests. And really, when you boil it down Star Wars is what remains. And as much as I would love to say that Han Solo is the Star Wars character that I most resemble personality wise, in all actuality Obi Wan Kenobi would be my Star Wars alter-ego. And so the 'Distracted Jedi' was born.

But Star Wars won't be all that's found here. Oh no, sir/ma'am. This will be a haven for all things dork related that strikes my fancy. Again, hence the 'Distracted' bit.

But enough about me! Feel free to leave a comment below about yourself. I'm curious about the people reading and what interests you have!

Until then,

May the Force be with you!!