Tag Archive for karate

You’ve Gotta Keep Moving

They say Sunday’s supposed to be a day of rest, but that’s not been true for me for a long time. It’s the only day of the week I have no work obligations at either of my jobs, so it’s become a day I get my longer workouts done.

My family is gone in the morning, so that’s when I hit the dojo for practice. I always work kata or other elements of my style (Shuri-ryu), practice some kobudo, and sometimes work in some calisthenics or makiwara work. I do more teaching than practicing these days, so it’s become an important time to get my own practice in and work on corrections and advice from my instructors. In general, though, I’m aiming to get a good sweat.

Later in the evening, when there’s nothing going on at the school I work for, my eldest son and I to sneak into their weight room for squats and related leg exercises. My middle son and I have karate together, so this has the added bonus of spending time with his brother.

Legs: "This all you got?" Knees: "ARE YOU CRAZY!?" #legday #squats #bodybuilding #fitness #gym

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I’ve been lifting consistently for about five years, and now that he’s old enough, my son’s caught the bug. I have an Olympic bench and barbell set in my office, and we use that at home for separate workouts. We can do leg curls and extensions on my bench, but nothing beats squats, and I don’t have space at home for a power rack or squat stands.

I’ve thought about hitting the school gym on my own for some time now, but for safety’s sake I waited until I had a partner available. My son’s still a bit small to spot me, but now he’s there to call for help if I have an accident and go down.

Funny thing is, most people still tell me, “You’re too old for that stuff.”

I don’t claim to be a paragon of health, but I’ve seen results. I move better than most people my age. I can lift more than most guys half my age. My heart’s strong, and my doctor doesn’t ride me about my weight. My gut doctor remarked on how much muscle I’m carrying, and even my friends have noticed a difference.

My goal isn’t to get down to 5% body fat and compete in fitness competitions, nor do I intend to step into a cage and fight. I just want to stay healthy. Some of the martial arts instructors I train with are in their 60s and 70s, and when I get to be their age, I want to be active and moving like they are. They may have slowed down a bit, but they’re in far better shape than most of their peers. When people say “move it or lose it,” those are the men and women I picture. They stayed active and it’s paid off for them.

Meanwhile, the naysayers are all trying fad diets or cleanses. They don’t look for the shortcuts because they’re lazy, they just buy into the “you’re too old for that” bullshit and are looking for another solution.

 

A big part of cutting fat is exercise. It’s not just common sense, it’s proven science:

The other part of it is diet. My own diet can still use a few tweaks, and it doesn’t help that I’ve got a bum thyroid. However, fad diets and cleanses are unsustainable. What’s more is some of them prompt the body to tear down muscle, because muscle is expensive to maintain (calorically speaking). So while those weird shakes might result in temporary weight loss, they can also leave people in worse physical shape.

Most of us think about fat and muscle when we’re talking about fitness, but as we age we should also be thinking about bone health. I’ve seen several older folks with shattered wrists and hips after simple falls. Even moderate activity helps keep bones strong. It’s called Wolff’s Law, and the most obvious example of it I’ve witnessed is in the protruding knuckles of a karate practitioner who has spent a lot of time punching things.

You feel the difference when they punch you, too.

“Too old for this stuff?” Not by a long shot.

Find whatever makes you move and do it! Run. Hit a gym. Join a softball or soccer team. Play racquetball or tennis. Take yoga or spin classes. Ride a bike. Do you. The martial arts just happen to work for me, and it inspires me to dabble in other things like yoga and running so I can be better at karate and judo. There’s bound to be an art that fits your interests, and a good martial arts instructor can often double as a personal trainer.

You’re not too old. My oldest student is 69 years young and trains alongside his grandson. And yes, you have time.

Get to work.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Booze and a Book: Karate & Rye

The Booze: Templeton Rye (4 year)

I dig bourbon, but I’ve started to flirt with ryes and rye blends and Templeton makes some good stuff. It’s sweet, with notes of caramel and just a bit of a burn when it goes down neat. I’ve tried the six year as well, and my only regret is not trying them side by side.

This is also the first time I brought out one of the Glencairn whiskey glasses I got for Christmas. They claim the shape of the glass concentrates the aroma, and they weren’t wrong. Would I use them every time? Probably not, but I’ll definitely run a few more drinks through them to get a better sense of their nose.

The Book: Dynamic Karate by Masatoshi Nakayama

One of my students was a Shotokan practitioner twenty years or so back, and he loaned me this book. I have a shorter, sort of companion book by the same author, Best Karate Volume 1: Comprehensive. Both books deal with basics and fundamentals, and another student asked why I’d need to read it if I already knew most of what’s in them. The rest, he felt, would probably be specific to Shotokan or at least be handled differently in our style.

I told him that’s not exactly true. Sure, the basic techniques—the punches, kicks, blocks, and stances—are effectively identical, but fundamentals are always important and I’ve already picked up a few differences in language and a few nuances that might help explain techniques to students having trouble picking things up.

In short, even if it doesn’t enhance my own training or karate knowledge, it will at least help my instruction, and that alone makes it a worthwhile read.

I tell my students, “The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.” Practice is important, but studying is also important, especially for advanced students. It applies to more than just the martial arts, too. Writers, for example, should be studying their craft and learning from others. I have friends in their 30s and 40s going back to school and taking new career paths.

It’s never too late.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

I’m Done Being a Tech Guy

At least, I’m done identifying as one.

When people ask me what I do, my response is automatic: “I’m the tech director for a school district.” This typically demands explanation, and I tell them, “I run the network and fix the computers.”

Without fail, this leads them to say, “You know, I’m having this problem with my computer…” Then they want to know how to fix their problem. I just don’t have the time, the energy, or the desire to deal with it, even if they wanted to pay me (which they don’t, especially after I tell them my rates). The conversation then ends in disappointment and frustration on both sides.

Instead, I’m going to go with one of two responses, depending upon the situation or the person: “I’m a karate instructor” or “I’m a writer.”

For starters, both are more interesting conversation topics and I can chat about them with a little more passion. Nobody wants to hear about my squashing a bug in our network configuration, but people are more attentive to the martial arts or what I write. On very rare occasions someone will turn their nose up at the mention of horror, but it still trumps their irritation if I assure them it will take a lot longer than five minutes to fix all the problems with their five-year-old Windows laptop that junior loaded with viruses.

I’m also hoping it will be better for my sanity and self image. In karate, I’m not as athletic as some of the teen-aged and twenty-something students at the dojo, and my skills aren’t as polished as those of the black belts with more experience, but it’s been good for me and I know I’ve had a positive influence on a lot of our students. In writing, it will be a good reminder that I need to hit the keyboard that night.

Finally, both conversations have a better shot at putting money in my pocket, especially over time. If I tell them I write, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll actually buy something (at the very least I can point them to a freebie). If I tell them I’m a martial arts instructor, then maybe, just maybe, they want to do something to improve their own fitness or learn self defense, or they have kids or know someone with kids they can send my way.

If they press and ask me what actually pays the bills (this usually happens at the dojo), then I can say I work for a school district. What do I do? “I teach the students to use Google Apps” (true) or “I help the teachers integrate technology into their classrooms” (also true). They can assume fixing the computers is someone else’s problem.

So goodbye, Mike the Tech Guy, long live Mike the Writer slash Martial Artist.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

You’ll Believe a Fat Man Can Fly

I tell people I like karate because there is a lot less high kicking and jumping than in an art like taekwondo.

Then I made black belt, and last week I learned this kata:

We run this one slightly different, but there’s still a 360° jump and a jump kick into a 180° turn with a four-point landing. Swell.

I’m not giving up, though. I’ve said “I can’t” in karate before, and before long, I could. This is why I’m still doing leg day this morning, even though my publisher is on his way down for a meeting. This is why I’m thinking about investing in a solid stand for box jumps. This is why I’m looking at tweaking my stretching routine.

I may not be as graceful with kicks and jumps as some of my instructors and fellow black belts, but I will be able to do this.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

White Belt Wisdom

Inspiration comes from the strangest places.

Three of us were promoted to black belt together, and last night it was my turn to demonstrate at the dojo’s graduation night. I chose to demonstrate an empty hand kata and a sai kata, then break a few boards. I could probably run these kata in my sleep at this point (I certainly had enough dreams about them as I was first learning them), and I’ve done this break before, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal.

Yet I’m not a fan of demos and tournaments. I can do readings, panels and presentations at conventions all day, but put me in a gi in front of everyone—especially families and strangers—and I get this funky self-consciousness thing going on. I also have this added false pressure that says, “You’re a black belt now, don’t screw this up.” The demo reflects on me, my instructors, and my school. As such, I had a case of the shaky nerves as we got closer to showtime.

Shortly before I was set to take the mat, we had the white belts all lined up and ready to walk out for their demonstration and promotion. This seven- or eight-year-old boy looks out at the crowd and asks, “We don’t have to go out there by ourselves, do we?”

We assure him that no, they will all be out there demonstrating their punches and kicks together, and he breathes this huge sigh of relief. I tell him I have to go out there all by myself, though. Kid says:

Yeah, but you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have! It should be easy for you.

Kid was dead on.

So I went out there and rocked the shit out of that demo.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

2013 Reboot

It’s been a long year already. Most of my plans have been derailed, but now it’s time for a fresh start.

Here’s the deal:

Late last year, my karate instructors told me they wanted to put me up for black belt in March. Two other candidates and I put together our attack team and we started training on Sundays. This also meant attending more classes, practicing and studying more often at home, and following the New Year the three of us started additional weekly training separate from our team.

Writing karate papers today

My writing and studying through the first quarter of the year looked like this

Training soon trumped everything, including writing. If I were a full-time writer, it wouldn’t have been an issue. However, I still have obligations to a day gig and I have a family, so something had to give. For the time being, unfortunately, that meant the writing.

I didn’t want to mention it here because I didn’t want to jinx it. See, my dojo doesn’t play games when it comes to black belts. It’s earned, no question. I felt confident I would pass the test, but there’s always a very real possibility of failure. I had to write three essays, take a 120-question written test, attempt the various physical requirements several times, and the test itself took about eight hours and covered just about everything I’d learned from white belt up to that point. I certainly didn’t want to be the guy talking up my upcoming test in public, only to turn around and have to admit I failed it.

Fortunately, I passed.

Our Kamiza

Our brown belts left on the altar following the kamiza ceremony

All three of us passed, in fact, and I scored better than I expected to. Two of us attended a seminar for our style, Shuri-ryu, the weekend following the test, and then this past weekend we had our formal promotion ceremony to receive our black belts and make things official.

It’s a huge load of pressure off, and it’s nice to finally have real free time again. My karate training will continue, but now I’ll be able to dial things back down to a sane level again. I’ll have my Sundays freed up and I’ll have more time for writing in general. I’ll be able to fiddle around with the camera again, and I can revisit my writing plans for the year once more.

Back on Track

Back on track, in more ways than one

I’ve resumed my normal fitness routine, too. I got back on the weight bench last week, and this morning I went out for my first run of the season. It was short and not near what I hoped, but I’m glad I could get back out there. I’m hoping to run the Warrior Dash again this year if my schedule allows, and I can’t let this stubborn Winter slow me down any longer.

It’s also catch-up time. I owe a few people a few different things. It’s about time I handle that, too.

So here I am with a fresh start on 2013. And it’s Spring Break, so it’s a good week to kick it all off. Stay tuned here this week for more news and updates, and thank you all for sticking around while I’ve been quiet.

Your patience will pay off!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Progress Report

Yes, I’m alive. I’ve just been too busy to post to the blog.

Most of it is due to the extra time I’ve been putting into my martial arts training lately. I’ve got a big day coming in March and I need to be prepared. To do so has meant extra training with fellow students, extra classes, and both studying and practicing at home. It’s been like this since Fall, so I’m looking forward to more breathing room this Spring.

It goes back to making the time we need: I make some time to write, and that’s more important than making time to blog. There are a few things I’ve been meaning to post for a while, including a follow-up to my Gone Digital post, but there are other, more pressing projects that require my attention.

There’s an announcement coming soon on one of those projects, and I’ve recently turned in the latest draft of a work-for-hire project that’s consumed a chunk of my writing time (I’m waiting to hear from the editors on whether it will be the final draft). The final edits on Lie with the Dead have suffered as a result of the extra karate practice, the unannounced project, and the work-for-hire project, but it will be back on the high priority list this week.

There’s more in the works. I want to re-release an old short story through Kindle, and I have plans for more The Pack short stories as well as the third novel. I’ve got a crime opportunity I’m working on, and plans for separate projects I can’t talk about yet. After said Big Karate Day in March, things should open up dramatically for all of it.

I’ve also learned the Cadence in Decay anthology is officially dead. Relics & Remains is still out there, but I haven’t heard any news about how it’s doing. If you’ve read it, an Amazon review would be appreciated.

So, yes, I still live. And now I must dash off to a few hours of karate classes, as well as the dojo’s annual Chinese New Year party. Afterwards, I plan to camp out at a Starbucks and get some work done.

Tomorrow? Motorcycle show! \m/ I should be home in time for—you guessed it—more karate practice with the team for the Big Karate Day. Yep, it’s been a big commitment.

It’ll be worth it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Karate Rap

This kind of shit is why most people don’t take martial arts seriously.

On one level, whoever wrote the song seems to have at least a basic understanding of what they’re talking about. Sadly, they had no idea how to write a song, and they should be flogged for the parakeet rhyme alone.

Yes, parakeet. But I’d be shocked if most of you can make it that far into the video.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

On Busted Thumbs and Heart Attacks

Most of you have met Lenore.

Brick Road

How're YOU doin', beautiful?

I took her to get her chain tightened—and, as it turned out, replaced—today, just as the Illinois weather decided to make up for the early warm weather it gave us by dropping back into the 40s and 50s. Ah, well. That’s what leather and sweatshirts are  for.

Then I learned it’s damn near impossible to manipulate turn signals with a busted thumb. Last night while sparring in karate class, I somehow managed to block my opponent’s knee using only my thumb. My thumb lost, and now the first knuckle doesn’t want to bend and it’s swollen like a sausage on a too-hot grill. My scream of agony every time I manipulated the switch probably did a better job of catching surrounding motorists’ attention than my turn signal did. I thought about switching to hand signals, but these days I’m pretty sure there’s only one hand signal that most drivers recognize, and that one won’t do me any good.

Then I stared death in the face.

I left Lenore in the tender care of the mechanics at Grayboy in the Heights and asked them where I could get breakfast. A big dude runs the service desk, and he pointed out the window to a shabby gray structure two doors down from their main building.

“Go there,” he said. “If you like meat, they’ll give you plenty. You won’t even be able to finish it.”

Challenge accepted.

Understand, I’m standing in a spot two blocks from downtown Peoria Heights with its high-end eateries like French Toast and Noir, and its array of trendy little boutique shops. The Silver Dollar, on the other hand, is a dark little bar in the other direction. On the plus side, chances were it would be more affordable.

I walked in and a friendly woman behind the bar handed me a type-written menu. A quick scan turned up Mikey’s Special: a toasted biscuit topped with a sausage patty, three eggs over easy, and cheese, all smothered in sausage gravy.

It looks like this:

The Mikey Special. Holy shit.

Holy shit.

If my doctor were sitting with me, he’d have punched me square in the face and tripled my cholesterol meds for the next six months. That plate is bigger than my iPad. I took out  a fork and cut into this thing, and it bled bright, golden egg yolk. I could already feel my heart cringing against my spine and begging me not to eat it. My brain reminded me I’m running the Warrior Dash in three weeks, and this wouldn’t help the cause.

My belly said “Pump it in!”

As evil as this thing looks, it tasted even better. The sausage patty was thick like a quality hamburger, and juicy without being greasy. Few places get gravy right, but the Silver Dollar nailed it: thick and peppery without being gummy. And yes, I finished the whole thing. When I returned for Lenore, the service guy was astonished. He advised me to not fall asleep while riding this afternoon.

Now my blood runs like sludge in my veins.

It’s a good thing I have at least two workouts coming today. I’m going to need them.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

If Cost A < Cost B, Then VIOLENCE!

Today I learned I can mathematically justify karate.

This weekend, the Wife locked the back door into the garage. Note: we have no key to this lock.

Last night the Rugrats left the van’s gate open, then closed the garage door on it. This morning, the garage door opened two inches, the rails on the door hit the van’s gate, the opener felt the resistance and quit. We had a 2″ gap to attempt to squeeze a van and a motorcycle through.

The windows on the side of the garage are locked. We have no other way in.

Locksmith? Nobody local, going to cost bucks. Furthermore, the Wife has no sick or vacation time. The hours waiting mean lost wages.

The cost of a door? Not too bad. We almost had to replace it once already.

Cost of Locksmith + Cost of Lost Wages < Cost of New Door

Therefore?

Karate!

I delivered a front thrust kick just right of the door handle. Bang, crack, crash. Wood flies, door opens.

And thus violence is mathematically justified.

Update: The photo requested in comments.

The busted door jamb.

Oops.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Feedback Loop

When studying our own work, it’s difficult to be objective. Most of the time we’re either too easy on ourselves or too hard on ourselves. While the latter may be more preferable in some cases, it can still be counter-productive.

This is when it’s time to seek an outside opinion.

In riding a motorcycle, I simply have someone follow me. It may be my wife following in a car, or I may take a short trip  with a more experienced rider. When I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s riding class, our instructors watched us ride around the course and told us what we were doing right and what we could improve.

In karate, my instructors watch us in class and offer pointers. Even when they say nothing and move on to the next person, it tells us we’re doing just fine (for the moment). It’s also not uncommon for us to ask our fellow students to watch for something specific as we perform a kata.

Then we have writing, where feedback gets a lot messier.

Road Warrior

Yet we keep at it anyway.

First and foremost, we have to understand who we are seeking feedback from. Your mom, for example, is probably not going to give you an objective opinion. If that writers circle at the local coffee shop is full of romance writers and you ask for a critique on your splatterpunk opus, you’re not going to get an objective opinion.

Second, fans and reviewers are great, but don’t take their feedback individually. Know up front that no matter what you write, your work is not going to please everyone. You won’t even please all of your fans all the time! Don’t let a glowing, five-star review inflate your ego (too much), and don’t let a mean-spirited, one-star review shatter your hopes and dreams. Look instead for trends. There’s a big difference between one reader saying your protagonist is an unlikeable prick and half your reviewers saying they just didn’t care about your characters.

Third, not every editor is truly an editor. Examine their track record. Take a good look at what they’re asking you to change or what questions they’re asking about your work. Pay special attention if you’re getting the same feedback from several editors or agents during the submission process. I’m not just talking about laziness or inability, either. Some editors simply want to rewrite your manuscript the way they would have written it. This is your work and they should be helping you develop your voice, not molding you into their clone.

Fourth, stay out of the comments section on news and review websites. Seriously. It will save your sanity. Forums can be iffy, too, with their frequent circle jerk and sympathy threads. There’s a fine line between participating in a community and drinking their Kool-Aid.

Finally, it’s okay to pay an editor or book doctor. Not every rejection letter is going to come with comments and suggestions, so you may need to find an objective third party to help you out. Just be sure to get references first, and don’t be afraid to talk to their other clients. Just as anyone can claim to be an editor, any hack will be happy to cash your check in exchange for reading your manuscript.

Practice is critical, but nobody thrives in a vacuum. Seek feedback, but learn to separate the good from the bad.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Practice (with Purpose) Makes Perfect

Practice is important, but just going through the motions is a waste of time.

When I jump on the motorcycle, I can twist the throttle and go if that’s all I choose to do. In the “it’s just like riding a bike” sense, it’s that easy. Motorcycles want to go in a straight line.

Moto Photo 1

Hey, this is EASY!

Then come those pesky turns to mess it all up.

A rider needs to look through the turns. In regular riding, his knees should hug the gas tank. He should know when to roll on and off the throttle, how much brake to apply, how far to lean, and when to up- or downshift. It sounds like a lot, but in time it becomes natural, and when a turn doesn’t go quite as planned, it’s time to break it down and figure out what can be done better next time (especially if the rider just slammed into a tree on the corner).

This doesn’t take obstacles into account, either. Ride behind motorcycles long enough, and eventually you’ll catch a rider doing some lazy swerves back and forth in his lane, or performing sudden changes in his riding line. It may be simple boredom, it may be he’s trying to warm up or clean his tires, or it may very well be the rider getting a feel for his bike. Riders can run over rabbits and squirrels, but if a child or large animal runs into the street, the rider needs to have his avoidance technique down pat.

Practice, practice, practice, and study the result.

Karate works the same way. It’s not unusual to see someone just walk through a kata and throw some weak-ass punches. They may know “step into a front stance, throw a right front kick, shift 90° left, middle block,” but it doesn’t mean it’s going to look good.

AOKFFD - Kokutsu Dachi

Years of proper practice shows.

To improve our karate, we will examine our hand positions before and after techniques, or the angle or depth of our stances. We will perform our kata in front of a mirror or video camera. We ask ourselves if that last kick would have been effective, or what exercises might improve our speed, flexibility, and/or power. It’s not just about getting the technique out there, it’s about getting the technique correct.

And yes, this applies to writing.

Dashing off a draft, calling a work done and uploading it to Amazon isn’t doing the writer, the work, or the reader any favors.

Percolatin'

A little tunage doesn't hurt the process

Writers study the craft by reading and rewriting their own work as well as reading the work of others. Word choice, narrative tricks, plot, and characterization are just a few of the tools a writer wants to master. All that grammar and sentence structure our English teachers forced down our throats? Yeah, kind of important, too. Know the rules, then know when to break them.

We have to examine our work with an objective eye. This is where reading a work aloud comes into play, or why some writers will set a draft aside for a few days or a few weeks before coming back to it. Any writer who believes their work is perfect isn’t looking hard enough.

So yes, by all means, keep punching those keys.

But punch them with purpose.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.