09 December 2013

A Modest Fucking Proposal

From a status update I saw on the Facebook the other day: "I wonder what men would be like if the porn industry didn't exist."

I think they'd probably be just as clueless.

Apparently, the media is a bigger influence than I like to admit on the thoughts and actions of people.  This isn't a fairly new phenomenon.  I'm sure all kinds of motherfuckers went out and got mop tops when the Beatles came to America.  In fact, my father stated as much because he was a teenager in 1964 when they came over to the states.

Media has been a tool for people to sway opinions probably since time immemorial.

Satirical Media
Sometimes, the intent is not to sway, but the movement becomes an unintended consequence.  So what's the deal with porn?  Apparently, erotic physical displays have been around for a long goddamn time.  One critique we have now is that with it so readily available it can become addictive.

The second (and I think more important point) that I come across in various critiques comes down to the actual display and acting out of the act of sex itself.  A lot of conversational and academic arguments focus on the portrayal of sex as being unrealistic, told from the male actor's POV and generally show a disdain towards women.

Taking all this in, I then thought about what sex actually is.  To quote Tony Blauer, "The Clarity with which you define something determines its usefulness."

So, to boil it down, sex is a biological function.  The reasons behind it are fairly simple and there are a few:

  1. Making babies
  2. Pleasure
  3. Strengthening a pair bond
Joe Quirk talks about these things at length in It's not you, it's Biology. You can even find a lot of this stuff on the discovery channel.  The point is that both males and females can use sex to strengthen a pair bond to keep the other from straying and help keep the species alive.

I think what makes humans a little different than other primates is the fact that we have vivid imaginations, for one.  Given the levels of creativity we possess and our love of fucking, we can think of some outrageous shit.
For instance, this image comes up when you google "Marquis de Sade."
We can also be extreme dicks at times, too.  On the same status I mentioned at the outset, spirituality was brought into play.  The writer of the status said that even "Spiritual" men fall prey to the same thing other men get duped into as well--namely that men expect certain things of women due to the pornographic depiction.

To that end, what the fuck does "Spiritual" mean?  East or West, spiritual and religious traditions are not the most accepting of women.  To liberate yourself from Samsara in Hinduism, one had to live correctly according to their caste, and ascend to the next caste up until they reached the Brahmin caste--which only men could be--and then would they be free of the wheel of life.
Even now, in our progressive era, I went to a service at a Buddhist temple.  My female friends were not allowed to shake the Monks' hands (I could) since they are women.

The writers of the Epistles to Timothy and Titus had several directives regarding the role of Women in the church. Namely, they should shut the fuck up and not assume teaching roles. Now, not everyone follows this sort of nonsense.  I have never met a woman as a pastor, but I assume they do exist (I hope they exist for the growth of the religion) since there was a woman leading a church on King of the Hill.
To me, it seems that a lot of spiritual traditions aren't so innocent, and that the practitioners are victim to the same media influence as others.  Who would have thought.

So what would men be like without porn? Moreover, can we fix what's fucked?

Men would probably still be the same, since other forms of media have taken to hating women long before porn became in vogue.

And the people who grew up with that stuff, raised other people.

The majority of which probably ended up like their fathers and mothers.

I think we can fix it, to a degree. I engage in all sorts of mass media.  I watched and read a A Clockwork Orange when I was eight.  I don't rape, I also don't kill people.  I watch porn.  I make sure my partner is happy when we have sex.  A lot of my friends are the same way.  We realize that each person we encounter is an individual.

They have thoughts, feelings and what not.  So before you encroach upon those, make sure its OK.  Try talking to them to make sure you're on the same page.

If having sex, put their enjoyment at the same level as yours.  Make sure your partner does the same.  If they don't (or if you don't) reevaluate whatever the fuck it is your doing.

The golden rule is probably as old as any other form of mass media out there. It predates Jesus.  It predates Plato.  Possibly for good reason.

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04 November 2013

If I can't smoke and swear, I'm fucked

"The Shit-Apple doesn't fall far from the Shit-Tree."-Jim Lahey, Trailer Park Supervisor.
We're sailing into a shit typhoon, Randy.
When I taught music at a music store, I met a lot of people.  Mostly teenagers and young adults.  Some didn't give a shit about playing music as much as they did getting rid of their parents and talking to someone they can relate to.  Others really enjoyed playing music, and a few of those really liked heavy metal.  I always enjoyed teaching those students because a lot of them reminded me of myself at that age.

One young man, about 16, was not like me at all, aside from the guitar and interest in heavy metal music. This guy grew up as a devout Catholic, wasn't allowed to listen to heavy metal, had live-in siblings, a father in Iraq, and an overbearing mother.

I was baptized as a Catholic at age seven, I fell from Grace at age eight, listened to everything from Michael Jackson to Burzum at a very young age, and was raised by my father, who had custody of me after he and my mom split when I was two.  My mother only became slightly overbearing after she got off the drugs and started making more frequent appearances in my life.

It wasn't until later I found out that this guy was into murder.
Needless to say, I didn't give a flying fuck that this kid wasn't allowed to listen to heavy metal and over the course of time I taught him the whole Master of Puppets album.  It was an enjoyable time for both of us because I liked teaching music and him because he had someone who wouldn't judge his music choices, since his mother and his school mates often did (he went to a Catholic school).

To top all of the restrictions previously mentioned, this young man was also a homosexual.  And his parents were strict interpreters of the Bible.  He would go on to tell me that his parents hate him because of it, and as a result, he hate himself because of it.

I guess he wound up telling me because I wouldn't think differently of him.

Looking back, it reminds of a quote I heard from Frankie:

"If you don't listen to your body, you'll break your body."
Clearly, the young guitarist was breaking himself if he was having that much hate directed right back towards him.

I really didn't know how to help.  I went through my usual line of thinking:

  1. Leave the Church
  2. Go to a different school
  3. Tough it out til you're 18
I really don't think I could offer much more now, as it were.  On the positive side, he played guitar and they didn't have to hear it all the time, so he could play all the metal he wanted (and he wrote his own too).

I think that we can recall what Rabbi Hillel said to some gentile who was trying to stump him.  Here is my paraphrasing of how I imagine the conversation going:

Gentile: I'll believe you if you can recite this book of yours on one foot.
Rabbi Hillel: Don't be an asshole if you don't want people to be assholes to you.  The rest is commentary. Learn it.

I think a good start to reconcile faith in God and individuality would be to hear that parable often.  I think it would have helped my young student out.

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*Title is a quote from the Trailer Park Boys

19 October 2013

Overcoming commitment issues

I get the majority of my grappling content from three people.  GabeKris, and Rob Kahn.  All are technically different as far as their game goes, but they all taught (and still teach) me a fundamentally important lesson for sports and life.

The point is to commit.  Rob Kahn advocates a 70/30 rule, wherein you roll with people you can beat 70% of the time, and the other 30% you go for other far more challenging rolls. Before I started committing I was literally just rolling around with no purpose trying not to get caught in submissions.

In either situation, one must commit to something.  In the 70% situations, you  are doing a few good things for yourself.  The first thing your doing is overcoming obstacles easily to get to your end point.  Psychologically, you are conditioning yourself to win.  Every time you win, you are getting better at doing your reps--the movements that take you to your end point.

As your opponents get better at defending, you will hopefully get better at overcoming obstacles as they occur more frequently and defensively.

For the jits, I like to give myself the following checklist.  I don't actively think of it in list form during rolling, but it's there. The list is as follows, if I am starting in guard:

  1. Sweep
  2. Pass
  3. Get control in a dominant position
  4. Work the submission
If I start in someone else's guard, the first step is taken out.

Initially, this will not work 100% of the time.  You'll go to pass, and fail or get caught in a submission.  You won't get the sweep, or you won't lock the submission correctly.  That's ok.  One of the things Kris emphasises to me is that he worries about his own shit and not what the other person is doing--when he goes to pass the guard, he gets the limbs out of the way to get the position and gets the pass, while the opponent is doing their thing.

From Gabe I learn to accept and get into positions in a way that leaves me calm and not in a frenzy.  I can't emphasize this enough for a beginner: don't go apeshit if someone gets you in side control or full mount.  Let them move, let them fuck up and capitalize on it.

Among these four steps listed, learn a few different ways to accomplish the goal.  If one pass doesn't work, do the other one.  If it gets defended, go back and forth and land the damn thing (whichever one you end up going for).  In one of his after class speeches (which he swears none of us ever listen to) Rob will always ask who the better person will be--the one who went for 200 arm bars in a year of training, or the person who backed out, didn't engage and didn't go for anything (I listened, Rob).

One of the final pieces that I don't do nearly enough of as specifically as I could comes from Frankie.  Use the rolling to find out your weaknesses, and drill them so they aren't so weak anymore, while using the minimal effective amount of effort.  Use the 70/30 method, you will have a good cycle of training ahead of you.

If you follow the 70/30 rule, you'll get better at not getting caught while being an active player in your own jits game, and you will land the passes, and what not provided you commit to them.  Don't stop the pass at the slightest indiscretion and give up.  You won't have a clean rep of what you want to do.  These steps helped my game out tremendously and will do so for you, most likely.

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11 September 2013

Training the pianist

I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but better now than never, I suppose.  A friend came to me with an exercise related question, and being the guy I am gave great advice that turned out to work in her favor.

I then had the stroke of genius to help all of my musician friends by writing this post.

Valentina Lisitsa plays one of my favorite renditions of Beethoven's Moonlight  Sonata
One of the guiding principles of The Movement is working within our limits to expand them.  This is preferable as opposed to trying to do some shit you may or may not be able to do and risking injury.  Without having met Valentina, let's use what we can figure out as a starting point to help out with training piano players.

First thing is first.  She is a concert pianist.  spends a good portion of her life in the position above--flexed/translated neck, flexed hips, knees and shoulders are the obvious examples.

If you are a piano player, here are some things you might consider as starting points for your training.

If your movement quality is really shitty, you might try push ups done on your knees (also called girl push ups though I am not a fan of the term).  I suggest these to work out the arms first, and focus on extending the wrists, and elbows in the event that you might be too limited to mess around with anything else.

If you're extra fucked up, you might try using the machine to do some partial rows and work up to full rows (starting from full extension and pulling back) and then moving towards the knee pushups.

From there, perhaps full pushups with the body straightened and/or goblet squats to parallel or higher depending on how you sit on the piano bench.  Better, us a bench/box at the gym to figure that out.

Sara Daneshpour playing Tchaikovsky
This is by no means a definitive list on how to train if you are a piano player.  I just made the hypothetical assumption that the player is untrained and started from there.  Depending on your age, activity level and time spent playing, your mileage may vary.  Stay tuned for more.

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23 August 2013

Traditions might fucking kill you

Buy this shirt. Or at the very least, look on it and laugh.  It's a more specific sentiment on traditions.  I don't think they all are useless.  But they should be critiqued.

Here's a good one: the father giving the daughter away at a wedding.  Back when women were property and people worked all the time, the family of the daughter had to get rid of a valuable, working piece of property.  The bride price was paid, the daughter was effectively sold to another family.

Warming up is one directly related to lifting.  In fact, I have talked to no less than five people, in person, who have fucked their shit up doing a warm up set.  Some had it worse than others.  Often unquestioned, yet is it still worth it?

Poor bastard took his warm up too seriously
The latter tradition is one that's testable, thankfully.

I'll keep this brief.  There's all sorts of shit to question.  Depending on your sport, you can question a myriad of things to a great extent.  For lifting, here are some questions you can ask first:

Can I do my goal movement today?
Can I PR in it?
Can I do it more often?
How will I be able to attain the ability to do it more often if I can't?
Can I run myself or should someone else tell me exactly what to do?

The less adaptable you become, the less movement you create.  You know what happens next.

23 July 2013

A few pullup variations so you don't get bored to tears.

Last year when I couldn't deadlift much, I did a fuck load of pull ups. I only did two variations, but the best part was that one expanded my range of motion--I was able to do wide grip pull ups and not fuck my shoulders up.  Many people also have lofty pull up goals. Hopefully these will help.

Around this time, I was doing pull ups 2 to 3 times a week, and as a result my volume and intensity escalated quickly.  Needless to say, I had to ask myself what was next.  Some of the following I have seen from Adam, and others I concocted on my own. 

Towel Pull ups:

It's pretty simple. Take the towels, loop them over the bars and grab the damn things and do some pull ups.  This is a good way to train your grip, and though I am no Adam, I get the feeling everyone can benefit from grip training.

Rolling Thunder/Vertical Bar Pull ups
These are pretty cool.  If you have two vertical bars, you can use 1 for each hand.  These are great because most movements with barbells don't allow for ulnar deviation, and both the vertical bar pull up and the vertical bar deadlift allow that position to be trained.  Another option is to use two rolling thunder handles.  I have one handle and one loading pin, hence the set up.  Another option is two hands one one vertical bar.

Eagle Loops:
That is an eagle loop. They come in pairs from ironmind.  You can also do pull ups with these, and concentrate on individual finger groups, if it suits you.  My favorite thing to test is an eagle loop and a rolling thunder handle.  Find the variation that tests best for you.

Crush Pull Up:

I like to get better at clinching by clinching, so I call this the crush pullup because you have to crush the shit out of the kettlebell to do it.  Instead of taking the intensity out by using a rubber bell, use an iron bell.  I like using dragondoor bells since they have different sizes.  The bigger the bell, the more difficult it is.  Use a lot of chalk.  Also, the closer your finger tips the easier they become.  Plan and test accordingly.

The options are limited by your imagination, and this is not a complete list.  The important thing is to test your variation, and find which is best.  The more often you can do a pullup, the better you will get at them.

27 June 2013

Non Specificity and You

But first, an aside:

People are going nuts about the history changing shit going on in Washington (be it nefarious, or otherwise).  People are going nuts about celebrities and personalities who have little to no stake in how much better you can be. 

I will pose some questions for you to mull over regarding these issues. 

Does the fact this fat bitch called someone a "nigger" really matter in the context is being made out to matter? Does it affect you negatively in any way?

I grew up in a redneck town called Plant City.  We have a lot of strawberries, and a festival dedicated to them, wherein washed up country stars play to a moderate sized venue.  We also have a lot of racists, rednecks, Black people, and Mexicans to go along with the predominantly white population. 

Back to the question at hand.  Yes, it matters if you use racial slurs in a hateful context.  It makes you appear to be a racist asshole.  Is being a racist asshole the best way to develop yourself as an individual? Probably not. 

Does it matter that this woman said it? No.  In my hometown alone I can encounter hundreds of fat, old white women who have comparable cooking skills who call Black people "niggers," Mexicans "spics," and any other horrendous things you can think of.  I have also witnessed my Black cousin be verbally assaulted by other residents of my town.  Why should you give a shit about a famous one? I don't think it's a good use of time.  At least if I encounter the ones in my community who behave the same way, I could at least have some influence on them and help lead them to a better place regarding their ingrained racism.

This just in: DOMA got defeated.  Why is this an issue? Oh wait, because somewhere along the way the religious people who give a shit about marriage let the state take control over it.  We let the state infiltrate something personal--again.  You lose.  Not only do you lose because you relinquished your control of a dated institution, you lose because it was never your own dated institution to begin with, since it predates Jesus, The Bible, Christianity, and Judaism.   You lose because its now a federal matter.  Since I can't have my way and get rid of this nonsense and our funding of it altogether, suck it up and accept the fact that homosexuals can finally come closer to having rights of the rest of us so graciously given to them.  Is someone else's marriage really going to affect you? I mean aside from the fact you can't free load on alcohol.  All I want is one good argument not based on religion as to why only some people can get married and others can't.  At this point in time, nobody has been able to deliver one.

I guess this rant brings me to what I wanted to talk about in the first place.  I wanted to address contra specificity/non specificity. 
If you find yourself falling in the same traps repeatedly--like maybe you support famous racists, or hate the fact that people are getting equal treatment--you might want to act differently than you already do.  It might be stressful, at first.  But the result might be worth it. 

In the testing model, we try to be as specific as we can, first.  Then we move towards contra specificity and non specificity.  I am a big fan of the latter.  From a movement perspective, it has helped me relieve pain I spoke of before, and it has helped me gain flexibility.  The non specific activity being Jiu-Jitsu, of course.  It has also helped me relax more. 

Another way I like to practice non specificity is when Arielle and I go out to eat.  I am not a picky eater, so I have no qualms with telling my server to surprise me with any dish from the menu, with few parameters.  It gives me new ideas to implement at home, lets me know I like things I didn't think about trying before, and it saves time and decision making.   I have not been let down yet, and have loved all the strange things given to me.

This idea can especially apply to relationships of any kind.  Especially those that stress out.  I had a friend who had MS.  It was a stressful task to prepare to even talk to him on the phone, given the gravity of topics we would talk about.  I would literally have to plan time to talk and set it aside so I couldn't do anything else.  Of course, it was a huge pain in the ass for me, but even though the stress built up because of the fact that it wasn't something I would normally do often, the relief of going through with it was worth it, even though it was a distressing activity. 

So, think of people you think you need to talk to.  People you might need to apologize to.  It might stress you out, but the end result will be worth it. 

Lastly, one of my favorite ways to do non specific things is to learn multiple routes to get to and from home and what not.  I found the plus sides to be that I can find cooler gas stations (perhaps cheaper, too), cooler landmarks, eating establishments, and I can avoid the stress of traffic--which is absurd to get stressed over to begin with, even though I do all the time.

Add some contra/non specificity to your life. You might be glad you did.

07 June 2013

Honoring your mentors: The Greater Implications of 'Smashing the Head'

I got into training for stuff because I got tired of being a lazy fuck.  I did not know that I could later apply the principles (and with greater accuracy on down the road) to the rest of my life.  I am pleasantly surprised and delighted that I can (and do).

Rob Kahn: Owner of Gracie Tampa North, and  Royce Gracie black belt
 Recently, I started thinking about something Rob Kahn (above) says often--so often it's the tag line for the Gracie Tampa shirts.  "When in doubt, smash the head," or some variant. The rationale being that the one who controls the head will control the fight. 

I make it a point to take Rob's classes whenever I get the chance, and true to form he focuses on controlling the head whenever possible. 

One of the neat things about Jiu Jitsu is that it involves an opponent.  In powerlifting, your opponent is mainly yourself and an unmoving object. Metaphorically speaking, in powerlifting you will inevitably (and metaphorically) smash your own head if you are not careful.  In Jiu Jitsu, you can either smash or be smashed. 

Like all physical endeavors I now undertake in, I like to apply head smashing to my way of being.  Figuratively speaking, every interaction we engage in with people we are engaging in game theory.  In many of the interactions we engage in we are impressing our will upon another human.  This happens actively, passively, to a greater extent, and to a lesser extent, with all sorts of nefarious and benign intentions in between.

Depending on the situation you are in, learn how to psychologically "smash the head."  Learn to do so in many ways, and learn to defend your head from being smashed so you can come out victorious in your interactions.  This is one of the best grappling lessons I have learned from Rob Kahn to apply off and on the mat.

30 May 2013

Are you a Jedi or a Sith?

I have been seeing an alarming trend, of late.  People come across my blog several ways, not the least of which is a Google search.  Here's a list of things people have searched to end up here:
  1. My fucking back hurts
  2. how to deadlift
  3. Alexis Texas
  4. my back hurts from fucking
  5. deadlifts
  6. i overdid it on deadlifts

Darth Revan
The clear point to most of these searches is that people most likely used a fuck load of effort to achieve whatever it is they were going for--at least for most of the search terms. 

Arielle and I were watching Revenge of the Sith the other day, and she made a point that Jedi always used the minimal effective amount of effort to achieve their task, and that the Sith used great efforts. This was particularly true when Darth Sidious uses his force lighting and Yoda absorbs and redirects it, also in Episode 2, Count Dooku uses his force lightning and Obi-Wan Kenobi effortlessly absorbs it into his lightsaber.   In fact, the effort it takes to wield force lightning becomes so great that it can deform and burn the user (as is the case with Darth Sidious).

I also found out that Frankie uses this as a teaching model as well, and will guide his students to train like the Jedi.

So, how does one train like a Jedi? It is very simple. 

First, test your movements. Here's how:

That's me from two years ago.  The same basic principles still apply.  Substitute any exercise instead of a plate curl, and test.

After you find the movements you want to do, test the variations.  One variation might yield a better test.  Variations include, but are not limited to, stances, implements, and grips.

Third, test your rest periods. After you do a set, and you are resting, do your ROM test and if it is a good test (you moved a lot of checkers, to use the same terminology in the video) practice your movement some more. 

Important things to consider: do not squeeze out one more rep, do not do things to the detriment of your form, and do not move through pain.  Be aware of your speed, your tension, your form and your form you use when you perform your gym movements. If you slow down, your form detoriorates and/or you start to use more tension, calm the fuck down and stop. If you ignore this, you will reach failure, pain and (hopefully not) damage.  Stop well before failure, and if you can help it, stop at loss of speed. The strain is not worth it.  Physiologically, or psychologically.

You will love to fight another day, and things that don't often test well, will test well and your limits will be expanded. 

To be a Sith, ignore this advice at your own discretion.  But remember the cost of being a Sith--betrayal from your apprentices, losing limbs, and dying.  All associated with more effort (and with them, a lot of arrogance). 

03 May 2013

There's always room for activities

When did leading an active lifestyle become so fucking hard? Barring cases of being dead, paralyzed, maimed or cryogenically frozen in carbonite there are no real good reasons not to be active.  I don't mean going to the gymnasium, necessarily.  You can literally do any activity you want. Movement co founder Craig Keaton and his wife go out and play or jump and walls and stuff and seem to have a good time doing so.
In fact--and this is really great if you have children--you can go to a playground and play on the monkey bars, the sliding polls, the jungle gym, etc.  You can even sprint, if you are into that sort of thing.

If you have friends, instead of opting for lifting all the time, you can engage in sporting activities.  Recently, I have begun playing racquetball again which is far more exciting than powerlifting (which I still do) and involves way more movement that I don't get out of lifting, or Jiu-Jitsu--namely all the footwork and the eye-hand coordination along with a better grasp of mathematical angles. 

If you don't have friends, make some. 

If you have kids, consider them your friends until they start rebelling and resenting you.  If they see you regaining lost function and being active, they will most likely follow suit and lead active lifestyles growing up.  They might resent you less, too.  If you sit around with your hands on your balls watching Law and Order repeats, they'll likely grow up the same way.  You are their biggest influence for at least the first 13 years of their life, at which point they start hanging around with other idiots their age and doing dumb shit and getting trouble into school. 

Plus, if you engage in activities the majority of the time compared to gym movements, you might get a lot of good socialization out of it, as will your children. 

If you have a job that requires you to work a lot of hours, and you fall into the category of people who make excuses as to why you aren't active (specifically using your job as that crutch) evaluate your current situation in life, and proceed how you see fit.  The direction allowing for more movement will likely make you happier, physically at the very minimum. 

If you're in school and you throw away your whole active lifestyle the moment it's time for finals, evaluate how you learn/study.  Likely, if you are in college, you spend a lot of time fucking around, when you could be looking for better ways of learning that are specific to you. (I graduated. I fucked around a lot in college, never studied, and still made it out above C level). 

Above all, do some other shit so as to move in new directions.  You'll likely get better at your goals, and you won't "plateau." This can be any kind of movement.  Study something new, do a new sport, write differently, watch new movies, or what have you.  Then you will know the true meaning of "PR everyday."

30 April 2013

My favorite month

A prelude to May:

I love May. Last year, Adam posed a challenge to Pick Shit Off The Floor Edvery Day in May.  It is called PSOTFED.  I intend to do this all 31 days in May.  Anything counts.  Kettlebell swings/snatches, Axle deadlifts, Pendlay Rows, Barbell Snatches, Rack pulls, Pinch Lifts, etc. 

I don't give a shit what you do, as long as it falls in that criteria.  You might have to be creative. Take a video. If you do something cool, or potentially useful or it makes you proud and you want to share, post it as a comment, email it, or post it here.

Make it fun, hit the PRs and notice your body comp improve.  You'll be thankful.

25 April 2013

Eponym: Death Metal and Deadlifting

The other day, I posted my latest post on my facebook page.  (Go like it, if you have not).  Some motherfucker asked what it had to do with death metal and/or deadlifting, then proceeded to call me a motherfucker.  Fair enough.  I rarely post about death metal, though I come from a land where it was once revered like the holy grail of all music, much like powerlifters tend to think three lifts are the holy grail of exercise.  Consequently, those who fall into both camps stagnate.  

Opeth: as innovative as Pink Floyd, Meshuggah and Iron Maiden
It's quite easy to make a comparison of death metal and deadlifting.  Both appeal to a small minority of the general population, both are generally male dominated fields, and the practitioners of both seem to have deeply focused anger issues (though, in actuality this is not the case--many in both camps are genuine people and are very humble). 

With such a fringe appeal, it's difficult to market either practice.  If you have ever been to a powerlifting meet, it's fairly boring, from an excitement perspective and from a movement perspective.  The psyching up and what not can be somewhat laughable, if you aren't used to it, and the same thing goes for a crowd of metalheads getting ready to mosh. If you have been to a death metal concert and have but a passing interest in the genre, you probably won't have a fucking clue as to what's going on, since the majority of bands don't do a lot in the way of theatrics--which is to be expected, since they have normal jobs and lack the budget to go as theatrical as a band like Pink Floyd can do.  Moreover, you probably don't understand a word they are saying, unless you are a fan and have listened before. 

With such an obvious lacking in the formula department, nothing catches on.  It makes it less marketable.  The one thing we notice in all art forms are thematic elements that repeat themselves that are communicated coherently.  My favorite song has all of these, and consequently it is regarded as one of the best songs of all time. 

In powerlifting, as well as metal, there are also ridiculous amounts of division.  If you ask someone what metal is, the answer will be different, and the genre preference will be wide (death core, death metal, metal core, djent, grind core, black metal, symphonic epic metal, etc.).  Compare this to powerlifting.  There are so many federations in existence that it is almost becoming meaningless to set world records because someone is bound to do it sooner or later (though the all time records are a bit tougher to touch).  With these divisions, it makes it even less appealing to the general public than it already is.

Combine all this with a lack of interest from the public (if I knew five years ago how to sell people in the death metal capital on the music I played, I would probably still be in a metal band) unless it is someone that established themselves 20 years ago, it makes it a seemingly godless endeavor.

I don't purport to know the full answers on how to make either of these avenues extremely marketable again, aside from assembling a loyal fan base.  For lifting and metal, I think getting more women involved will probably help immensely.  From what I have seen, colleagues are accepting of women in these two fringe areas than in other areas.  (I'm sure sexism will still exist in both, but based on watching bands like Arch Enemy succeed, and athletes like Kara Bohigian, or Ronda Rousey do their thing, acceptance is more common, than it would be in both, since in all fringe events it seems like overall ability, at the end of the day, is key).

Angela is a far superior vocalist compared to the last guy singing for them.
So, there you have it.  A few of my critiques on the entitled subjects. 

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10 April 2013

Something Personal

Usually, I talk about stuff I do, as opposed to talking about myself.  Since I don't get a lot of comments from the readership, I thought I would post several factoids about myself in an effort to let you all get to know me, and together we might share experiences with each other.  That said, I'll make a list of ten things I find interesting about myself (though you may not).

  1. I am neurotic when it comes to time.  I never like to be late to things that have a formal start time.  Concerts, movies, classes, work, plays, etc.  If I am late to any of these types of events, I feel like I committed a moral failure on my end.  This idiosyncrasy was so great that in 2006 Arielle and I (this was our first go round at dating) were driving to a show I was playing for the band I was in at the time, and we got there two hours early.  The venue was empty with the exception of another musician I knew, so I immediately left Arielle alone to talk to my friend.  It went something like this:
  2. I was fairly poor growing up.  My father and I moved to a quaint redneck town called Plant City when I was four years old, and my grandfather and he converted a brick building into a home for us.  The down side of this was that the only rooms were a bathroom and a living room, so privacy was very minimal.  This made things like watching internet porn, or masturbating very difficult.  It also destroyed my belief in Santa Claus at an early age, since we had no chimney and my dad never dressed up as Santa.  I also could never sleep on Christmas eve, so without having a room I had full view of the distribution of presents.  This same setup allowed me to get exposed to great cinema as a kid, too.  I saw movies like Silence of the Lambs and A Clockwork Orange before I was ten years old.  Some people say it fucked my mind up a little bit, but I see no evidence of that.  
  3. My mother, several uncles and cousins have/had substance abuse problems ranging from alcohol to crack.  Thankfully, my mother managed to quit smoking crack sometime around ten years ago and is living a sober life.  Others of my family are not so lucky, and are still addicted to these drugs.  I am thankful that in all my experimentation, the only thing that took hold of me was cigarette smoking, which I started when I was 12.  As of now, I do not smoke or do any sorts of recreational drug and I rarely take NSAIDs or anything similar. I will occasionally get some cheap bottles of wine from CVS (3 for $10) and enjoy a few of those.
  4. Speaking of substance abuse, the first person who introduced me to anything resembling Westside Barbell methodology or powerlifting at all worked at a gym in Plant City.  He claimed he trained there and maybe he did.  He later stopped showing up to our lifting sessions due to a warrant out for his arrest involving meth.
  5. Plant City was also home to a lot of protestant Christians, and I grew up with a lot of disdain for them.  I took a class on the New Testament in college so I could argue with the Christians in my town.  Later, I would go on to get a degree in religion, focusing on Black Muslims and Malcolm X.  The highlight of this was when I spoke at the American Academy of Religion South Eastern Regional Conference.  My paper was on the Nation of Islam and Gnostic elements within the religion and was a blast to present.  It was the first original thought I had, and I am still proud of it.  To top it off, I had an interesting homeless person encounter.  I was pumping gas on the way back home from Atlanta, and a homeless guy approached me. He asked for food money as I was pumping gas.  He offered a leather jacket in exchange for this food money.  I told him to hold on and he waited.  I went inside to buy some coffee and a bottle of water.  I also bought the homeless guy a burrito, which I warmed up for him.  I went out to hand him his burrito, and he said, "Well, I actually wanted $8.00 so I can get some Boston Market."  I convinced him to take the burrito, and he offered up a leather jacket. As it turns out, he had a bunch of jackets sitting on the ice chests. I declined, and wound up in Tampa, Florida eight hours later.  I unwound myself by watching my favorite live action television show--Married with Children.
  6. The first person I fell in love with and lost my virginity to was a black immigrant woman from Trinidad. Her mother was a doctor, and together they had the best grasp and command of the English language out of anyone I have met to this day.  We met at a concert when we were in chorus in high school.  I put ice down her shirt, and that was the catalyst that started our relationship.
  7. In no particular order, my favorite movies are Apocalypse Now Redux, Terminator 1 & 2, Blade Runner, Malcolm X, and Natural Born Killers. 
  8. My favorite musical artist is Prince.  I was fortunate enough to see a concert of his in April of 2004.  It is one of the best shows I have seen, and even for a 46 year old man, he still danced and sang like he did back in the 80's.  The highlight of the show was when he performed an acoustic set of his older material in the center of the stage.  All by his lonesome--and a rhythm guitar accompanist in the shadows.
  9. My favorite song is "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles.  I think it is the best example of songwriting as a craft, insofar as it defines, develops and resolves a plot relevant to many people.  It does so simply, without any superfluousness and moreover, it has a memorable refrain over a simple chord progression.
  10. I am more physically and mentally active at 27 years old than I was at 17, despite having a shitty job at the moment (which most use as an excuse not to do anything at all).  Had I been lifting or playing Jiu Jitsu since I was, I would probably be really good at both of them.  At the very least, I am getting better daily.

02 April 2013

Your goals

Often times we get bombarded with other people telling us to adhere to their standards.  When I was in high school, I had to get a 1270 SAT score and 75 community service hours to get the state of Florida to pay for 100% of my college education.  I damn sure did not get a 1270 SAT score (1110) and I sure as hell was not interested in serving my community when I was 14-18 years old.

If someone is giving you something for meeting those standards, that's well and good.  For health and exercise, however, you won't be rewarded by an outside party for your efforts--except maybe your significant other, or what have you.  If you compete and meet their standards of "Win" you'll likely be rewarded with a trophy or something. 

Usually, when you see marketing for exercise books and fitness products, the makers will tell you what you need to do to be a "real man," or some other nonsense.  Here is one example:

The ad copy for Convict Conditioning. Do you really need someone to tell you what it takes to be elite, or to be a man? If you were in a bodyweight competition with standards judging for what an elite bodyweight athlete should do, it might make sense. Otherwise, set your own standards.

This book seems to be marketed towards people who have low self esteem.  On the other hand, other products merely give you features and benefits, and will allow you to set your own bench marks.  Here is an example of that:
 There is ad copy for one of Adam's products.  All it promises is better, which is true.  It also does not berate you, the buyer, and it does not tell you what you should do to meet an arbitrary standard. 

Keep in mind, this kind of stuff applies to all sorts of marketing, be it on a porn site, the television, or at the cinema.  Now, they even have sleazy commercials at gas pumps.  Infomercials are probably the worst, since they think we are all the dumbest fucks who have ever walked the earth. 

One of the things I like about the marketing within the movement is that the only thing we all promise is better.  We won't tell you you will be a real man, or an elite athlete.  All that shit is up to you.

The point of all this is simple.  People in your life who set standards for you often under (or over)estimate you.  I'd like to think mostly underestimate you.  The government, your university board of trustees and admission directors, your bosses, CEO's, Tyler Durden, might not think you are a unique snowflake, but you are.  The best thing about this is that your goals are truly your own.  Sure, you might share them, but only you can hit them or miss them.  As such, your dedication to a goal(s) is wholly your own, and will set you apart from everyone else as an individual.  You have goals.  If not, set some. Then own them. Don't let anyone else set standards for you.

28 March 2013

You're probably not too fat to get strong

I guess powerlifting is like a double edged sword.  When I imagine a powerlifter, the first image that comes to mind is an obese guy with a red face who is really fucking strong.  Oftentimes, this image is accompanied by no other practical value--like being able to walk a flight of stairs and not be winded.

We can spin obesity into somewhat of a positive with this kind of thinking.
Thankfully, I know tons of lifters who do not fit that stereotype, and many of them can walk stairs and push prowlers just fine--in fact, some have great physiques and can walk several flights of stairs and keep their breath.

I think the point of what I said was to note that I overlooked an audience of people who just want to look good, and don't really give a shit about competing in a sport that involves probably the narrowest set of movements around.  Furthermore, not everyone likes the smell of ointment, or ammonia.

There is a reason for this gravitation and it is not without merit.  If you take a beanpole of the street, and they get strong, that's a good thing.  They get more lean muscle tissue, they'll get a faster metabolism, men and/or women might want to fuck them more, and they won't get sand kicked in their face like the old comic shows.

Poor guy.

Take a larger person and you get them stronger, they lose fat, and generally feel better about themselves.  Bonus: if they are a big son of a bitch who also happens to be really strong, they have a good physique hidden away.  

That being said, there are more ways to get strong besides the squat, the bench and the deadlift, though I don't see any rational reason why a person wouldn't want a heavy ass deadlift.  

Before I go further on that, let me just say that what follows will be an alternative.  Hopefully, you will find it fun.  But if you are of the mindset that you need to waste your life on a treadmill or an elliptical or anything that has you standing next to a motherfucker worse than you are, with horrible BO or hangover breath, or garlic smelling sweat, this is for you.

I am a fan of Paul Chek's primal patterns of movement--Squat, Lunge, Push, Pull, Bend, and Twist.  It makes shit simple.  PC said that those types of movements are what we start doing as infants.  Squatting to stand up, lunging to get back up after falling after a few steps, pushing their weight up from a crawl to a stand, bending to pick shit up and so on.  

Aside from the bowling pin fetish they seem to have, this is pretty good at demonstrating what PC was talking about.  The good thing about these movements are is that you can make them as complex or as minimal as you have to depending on where you are.  One of my favorite starting points for bigger people is the Turkish Get-Up.  Before the RKC fucked it up and made it less efficient with extra hip bridges and shit, the idea was really simple.  You press a weight, you stand up and get back down with it.  It's a hybrid of several PM patterns, and the good news for big folk is that your body will be the heftiest thing you lift during it. 
Here's a guy doing a TGU with a woman. Pretty rad.  Here's a good starting point for moving.  Getting up and getting back down.  If you can't do it from the floor, a couch or a chair can be a good place to start (though it is my sincere hope that none of you reading are that bad off). Get better at it using minimal effort, then hold some weight.  If you can't use a woman, a kettlebell, dumbbell, light backpack or anything similar will do. The main key point is don't drop the weight on your face, or otherwise hurt yourself.  Always err on the side of caution.

For other movements, you can also squat.  You don't need a barbell.  Use your body weight.  Can't get low?  Get where you can, and you will be able to get low over time.  Key points for that: push your butt back, drop between your legs and keep a douche bag chest for max efficiency.  Fuck with it til it feels good, scale it back as needed.  If you really need to, use a counter top, or a door handle to help. 

If you want more lunging, you can actually do lunges.  You need to throw in some twisting, you can lunge and twists.  Need some minimal pushing movements? Push-ups are good.  Can't do full push ups? Do half push-ups or the ill named "girl push-ups," which will be termed "knee push-ups" from now on.  

Hopefully, you get the idea.  Call it whatever you want--primal moving, animal movements, etc. The limit is your creativity.  And if you are severely uncreative, here is an idea for you:  take a twister game and lay it out. Spin the spinner 10 or 15 times and write out the spots it landed on a white board.  Hit each spot as fast as you can, using the minimal effective amount of effort. Do this a few times.  You might enjoy it.  If you video it and send it to me I'll give you a handshake and some praise.

The take home point is that you can start your path to better by getting strong. It will pay off dividends over paying for a gym membership to walk or "eliptic."  You can do this stuff in your home, or outside if you want.  And if you must do steady state cardio, at least use God's treadmill (the earth).

And a final example of how complex and awesome human movement can be. 

21 March 2013

Training for the other sport

I have written about my foray into BJJ once before.  Recently, I was asked about what I do to train for BJJ. The answer is remarkably simple--I practice the mEA (minimal effective amount) of BJJ.  The mEA is ever increasing, as I follow the gym movement protocol during the practices too.

As a caveat, I will explain a few things: I took Karate to a yellow belt when I was a kid. I don't remember jack shit about the practice, other than a front snap kick, and for some strange reason, I can do the kata that got me the yellow belt.  I have also never pursued an interest in MMA fights. I watched maybe one or two with friends, but didn't pay a lot of attention.  That said, I am not in a position to assimilate the things I see on the big time fights.

I said in the last installment that the seasoned practitioners always advise to relax.  This is good advice, and I am fairly relaxed now during the practice.  I am also more relaxed while lifting as well, which is a good thing for both practices.

At this point, if I am rolling with someone better, I do a few things to make my life easier.  A lot of guys at the school go for arm bars.  And they can all get to an arm bar from about 5 million positions.  If I noticed I fall into a certain trap, I generally tap before the arm bar (or submission) so I can start back over and not waste a lot of effort fighting to escape.  Though, if I do see the opportunity to escape sometimes I will go for it.

Ideally, I will have the chance to roll with varying skill levels (equal to or better than I) so that I can see what the margin of error on my fuck ups are.  Furthermore, if I am able to pick a partner, I try to pick the guys who won't tap me in four seconds if they are able to do so.

Worst case scenario, your shit gets broken.
If I start breathing too hard, I take a break.  It's literally no different than doing any other movement I have spoken about.  If you need to chill out, close your guard and chill out.  It's pretty simple.

As for the actual conditioning, I don't do anything extra.  In fact, I get away with less in the gym than I ever did, since BJJ involves me being in a fuckload of other positions I don't train a lot of in the gym.  Some of them are as follows:

  • Thoracic and Lumbar flexion
  • Plantar flexion
  • Hip and neck flexion
  • Rotation of the hips
  • Lateral leg movement
  • Twisting patterns
  • And more

Currently, in the gym I practice a lot of thoracic extension with the high bar squats, I practice the extension with the deadlifts, and my bench is getting better possibly because of all the strength I am getting in similar positions, and with the added pulling movements (rows and pull ups still test well all the time). 

I haven't had to spend loads of time swinging or snatching kettlebells--I still use them as testable extension movements when deadlifts (regular or axle) don't test well, or if I have no means to deadlift.  Of late, snatching tests better, undoubtedly to counteract some of the positions I am in while rolling around.  I would go on to say that having a familiarity with the Turkish Get Up helped me figure out how to shrimp out of certain situations, and move my hips around to help facilitate escapes.  With that awareness, I can apply it to actual situations, in lieu of training it as a "gym movement," though it is not out of the realm of testing.

So, nothing ground breaking for this sort of thing.  The key is to move yourself in as many ways as you can, using the mEA.  You'll figure it out.  Darryl tipped me off to the fact that the shit you will inevitably choose to do will be contraspecific (or nonspecific) to what you already do, and this is a pretty good example.

Female readership has expressed discontent with so many pictures of the female posterior. So,  here is a picture of a guy with a nice ass.  It might not even the score, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

15 March 2013

I don't give a fuck, do you?

At some point, perhaps around 2007 or 2008 I made a comment to a friend regarding our government.  I said that if a government loved its people it wouldn't allow them to have sugared cereal such as the kind we see on store shelves. 
If you read this now, you probably also know I like to eat pop tarts. So much so I may get a tattoo, like this person.
I no longer feel the way I did circa 2007 or 2008.  I think it was a logical extension of how I always felt I related to the world.  I didn't really listen to anyone.  I "didn't give a fuck," if you will.  To the point, I give less of a fuck, than ever before. I'm of the opinion that a lot of people do give a fuck about the wrong things in life.  Furthermore, nobody should give a fuck whether I eat poptarts, drink sodas above 20 ounces or wear seat belts. 
During the time I gave piano and guitar instruction full time, I was exposed to a lot of children and young adults. Many of them gave a fuck about what their parents thought.  Some of them gave a fuck about what I thought (the smarter of them all questioned what I said and found their own way).
The thing I noticed is that when given the freedom to choose, (and in turn not give a fuck about what their parents thought) the lessons went smoother.  I didn't have to teach them any boring shit that they didn't want to learn or weren't ready to learn. Like chord theory, or music reading.  In turn, the student wound up happier and progressed faster, and learned songs and skills they liked. This made me really fucking happy because the time flew by.
The overall concept I was going for was to show that you didn't have to follow a perceived norm for happiness in your craft.  The ideal paradigm perceived by others (and me to a great extent) upon entering as a beginner guitar player was as follows:
  1. Start playing on an acoustic guitar.
  2. Learn to read music.
  3. Play Beethoven or other assorted classical pieces.
I started similarly. My first guitar was electric, instead of an acoustic though.  I learned theoretical components of music and then went on to write my own shit.

The mold I tried to teach to and am still trying to break out of today was to a form of more unconscious thought to do what I do.  Others would call it going by feel, intuition, learning by ear, or whatever.  This comes back to giving a fuck.  Had I not given a fuck back then, I would have progressed faster, developed my intuition and learned (and gained unconscious awareness of) theoretical concepts quicker.  Alas, I can concentrate only on what is next to develop those skills.

Chuck played with three fingers, though he had all five on his left hand.  He clearly gave no fucks.

Sometimes, these same students would stick with me until they were in college.  Talk about a mind fuck of a social norm.  I gave just enough fucks to buy into that one too, though I didn't listen to my parents and do anything practical.  I am happier with the choice I made simply because I know so many people who did what their parents wished and wound up miserable.  I would hear the same complaints often, and my answer was--and still is--to quit school.  They had the power to quit.  The response would be they would lose financial support, or they need school to get a job, etc.  But, they could have been better by not giving a fuck. 

The question raised is "how do we not give a fuck?"

I posit that the first step towards not giving a fuck is to question everything.  You will become knowledgeable, and a lot of people will argue that knowledge will you make you unhappy--the whole ignorance is bliss idea.  However, the more pathways you open up, the more chance of self discovery you have, and you can find out and unlock shit you didn't know about yourself.  You'll always adapt, whether you like it or not.  Religions are a great example.  We will use Christianity as an example, since most of us are familiar with it, but if you ask the right questions you can find the following to be true with any faith.

The tenets of the magus figure of Christianity (Jesus) were rooted in certain sectarian aspects of Judaism and were regarded as another group of Jews in the diaspora.  Fast forward to today, most Christians worship on Sundays, probably couldn't tell you anything about Levitic laws or the Noachide covenant.

We can see, over time, derivations from the original teachings (which many teachers love to see) but for a 2000 year old religion, we can make the argument that the rate of adaptation is slow, due to the lack of questioning.  Stop giving a fuck about your dogma, you evolve faster.

The second step is to realize that what you do to better or yourself (or destroy yourself) will affect you the most. Sure, if you give yourself a shotgun face lift your close friends and relatives will feel sad.  You'll be the dead one, they still have a chance to better themselves. 

If you find yourself adapting at a faster rate than your peer group, you will be alienated.  It's not your fault if you know how to get better, quicker, and your friends don't.  Someone said you are like the five people you hang out with the most.  Do you want to be another random fuck? Didn't think so.  Disregard what is not useful.

I don't claim to have all the answers to this.  Surely there are more things associated with not giving a fuck, but these are a few that I can think of off the top of my head. If you question these things, you can find other things to question to lead you down your own path to better.  Then you can eat your poptarts in peace.

07 March 2013

7 March 2013

This might be one of the best things I have written to date. I also made some swell PRs today.

05 March 2013

Hypotheses on Concurrent Sports Practices

I don't think it's an accident that a lot of people involved in The Movement take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I know DarrylAdam and perhaps others have taken it up.  I can include myself in this as well.  I think part of this is because our mentor Frankie plays BJJ as well.  I can't speak for everyone specifically, but there are a lot of correlations regarding an interest.  Frankie said it helped his movement quality, and helped him get out of pain. Adam spent years bending metal and shit and his tissue was undoubtedly more rigid than a dead nun's moral dogma.  So it made sense to develop the tissue in other ways.

I like it for the same reasons. I am not overly creative in the gym and find myself moving in the same directions a lot, and not focusing enough on contraspecific activities to other shit I do in my life. I also am a fan of puzzles.

I went in to Gracie Tampa knowing i needed to move more, and was pleasantly surprised that the movement in Jiu Jitsu was very novel, and very cerebral.

Moreover, the philosophies we invoke in The Movement are very prevalent in Jiu Jitsu.  Goals during rolling are as follows:

  1. Stay relaxed
  2. Don't breathe too hard
  3. Use the minimal effective amount of effort (mEA).
  4. Work within your limits
I think these are other main reasons why we are drawn to the sport as well.  It helps us get better at what we are already working towards getting better at.

I have also experienced some great benefits in my short time at playing BJJ--you will recall that I was busy adding 150lbs to my powerlifting total this past January, and couldnt train BJJ much during the previous two months.

Since the meet is over, I am able to play BJJ more, and my movement has taken on a different quality.  My squat form has changed to a high bar Olympic style squat with heavy (for me) with thoracic extension, and a close grip (this is not forced, this is just a matter of what is testing well).  Sumo deadlifts test well more often than conventional deadlifts, especially those done with the axle.

In BJJ, I am training a lot of the things missing from gym movements--flexion of the hips and thoracic spine, circumduction of the arms and legs and feet, and a whole bunch of other shit that is making me generally more flexible.  It has also helped alleviate any negative sensations related to my previous injury.

In short, a lot of people would like to emphasize specialization on one thing only.  I had an ex girlfriend who believed that and was generally downtrodden as a result of it (though she was remarkably talented at other things, they were of no interest).  I also had a parent and several teachers who believed in specialization.  Needless to say, I think it's a crock of shit.  I think one can become exceptional at a lot of things.  Charlie Chaplin and Robert Rodriguez have both made films that they wrote, directed and scored.  In Chaplin's case he even starred in them. Adam has placed well in his BJJ competitions and holds records in grip sport.  Long ago, Bo Jackson excelled at football and baseball.  Strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski has a small, but good fight record as well (5 and 2).  If we believe that we have these limits, we will train like we do, and not recognize what we are capable of.

My hypothesis is that taking up BJJ will help keep me in powerlifting a lot longer and reduce even more the potential to fuck myself up.  Though I am by no means as exceptional as the above, I am working towards it and will work towards it in both sports.  I decided to enter a grappling tournament this year (perhaps July) and see how I fare.
Also Brazilian