Humble Blogging Milestone

In this last week of February, I reached a small but welcome marker along the path of blogging. I now have over 100 followers! The good news is less about being in the triple digit club and more about progress in general.

Blogging takes time and dedication. It’s not so easy to publish quality posts on a regular basis. But consistent determination can pay off with growth. Time and effort invested in writing and interacting with other bloggers helps build up the blogging community. And Im thankful to be a part of that.

I appreciate being able to share my thoughts in the blogosphere and getting to respond to comments from others. I enjoy the opportunities to practice writing. And it’s cool to discover people with things in common by reading others’ blogs.

Thank you to my readers, visitors, and followers, for allowing me to take a few minutes of your valuable time and attention.

I hope what I write benefits you in some way. Maybe you get entertainment or encouragement from it. Or maybe you learn from my mistakes what not to do! Sometimes it’s just nice to find someone else who is going through the same thing as you, reminding you that you’re not the only one.

Now that I think about it, let me also thank WordPress and the Happiness Engineers; they’re great! Every time I have a question, they respond very fast and laser into what I need, fixing anything without a fuss. They truly keep bloggers happy!


Karate Testing Perseverance

Yesterday I passed the first part of my karate belt test. It was very hard at times; my body was getting tired and weak. The extra cardio and strength exercises pushed my body to its limit, causing me to dig deep, push myself, and keep going.

After a lot of workouts, at one point we were doing 100 leg scissors; it was tough! And while doing this, for the first time, my Sensei stepped on my abs and walked across me! And then we kept going.

At the end of 100 scissors, you just want to collapse your head and legs to the floor. But no! You gotta hold it…hold it…still and steady…feel the burn, the shaky muscles…and down!

Thankfully, they allowed us to catch our breath a few times. We even got a quick water break. I needed it; my mouth had become so dry from heavy breathing.

Once the boot-camp like fitness section ended, things got a little easier yet still challenging.

We had to practice all sorts of basic karate kicks, punches, blocks, and stances but in difficult combos. We were weakened and the basic practice was tiring, but I was able to keep up well enough for the rest of the test.

In fact, by this point, I was super warmed up, sweating a ton, but I felt pumped, almost like I got a second wind. I was ready for some more karate action, but we’d really had enough for one night.

Turns out there’s a Japanese name for this type of intense extra training: Shugyo. Basically, it’s found in all warrior types of training. Even military training is similar.

It’s not something you do on a regular basis. You train extra hard just beyond your limits once in a while. It’s good!

Even though it can be grueling, I’m super glad we did it. Facing such a challenge and then succeeding is so rewarding!

You train and work hard, investing much time and sweat, and then it pays off! You feel great and accomplished. Your confidence is boosted.

And since it’s holistic, challenging your mind and spirit as much as your body, you get a whole greater feeling of fulfillment from it.

I get one day of rest before the second part of the test where I’ll have to show my skills. I must perform all the fancy karate moves I’m supposed to know well by now. Kind of like Daniel-san showing Mr. Miyagi “wax on, wax off” and “sand the floor.”

I believe I will pass, Lord willing. And the thought of attaining my blue belt is exciting!

After passing the test, in a few weeks there is a Belt Ceremony. You get to do special karate stuff like breaking boards and practicing with weapons. Usually we spar (fight) also.

Well, I gotta rest and recover.

Going For The Blue Belt

Today begins my karate belt test. It’s a two-day affair. First, the physical test. Second, the skills test. I’m excited and ready. For me, this test is a big deal. Because of the blue belt.

It started a few years ago when my wife and I put our kids in karate at our local YMCA. Once our oldest could join the adult class, my wife started to take karate there herself. I wasn’t sure about it.

But one day after a belt test, she came home with a blue belt in her hand. When my eyes saw that cool blue color, something in me sparked. Wow, a blue belt?! I want one! If my wife can do it, so can I!

You see, I’ve practiced a few different martial arts throughout my life: Judo, American Style Karate, and Hwa Rang Do. And in each, the belt ranking was similar. Basically, yellow and orange belts (warm colors) are the first you attain.

I never practiced enough years to get past either yellow or orange belt. The cool colors, like green, blue, and purple, were the upper echelon to me. They always seemed out of reach.

So when my wife came home with that blue belt in her hand, I saw my chance to get one for myself after all these years. So I jumped into Kyokushin karate!

And now, after a long break from karate and rejoining, I am on the cusp of testing from my orange belt to my very first blue belt!

I’ve been training extra for 5 weeks to be able to pass the physical part of the test. Lots of practice exercises and calisthenics. It’s been good!

I think I can now survive the challenging physical test, day one. They push you past your limits to see if you push yourself or break down and give up. They’re trying to train you to never give up, whether in a fight or in everyday life. When tough situations come, will you quit when it gets hard, uncomfortable, or even painful?

The second day, testing for skills, knowledge, and technique, is challenging in a different way. It’s two days after the physical test, so your body may not be fully recovered physically. But you must perform the moves properly under scrutiny and time pressure. It’s more mental than physical.

If I pass both days, Lord willing, I will soon finally have my first blue belt! No it’s not black. It’s not even brown. But it’s a cooler, darker color than I’ve ever achieved in any martial art! So it’s a big deal to me.

My sons will also be testing and I’m hoping the best for them. My wife, now a purple belt, won’t be testing this time.

Once you get to purple, ranking up slows down. Mastery gets more important and challenging. You not only learn new and more difficult skills, but you must show greater improvement in the foundational techniques.

For the curious, here is a list of the belt ranking system in our Kyokushin karate school, starting at the beginning:

  1. White
  2. White/Yellow
  3. Yellow
  4. Orange
  5. Blue
  6. Purple
  7. Green
  8. Green w/stripe
  9. Brown
  10. Brown w/stripe

These ten levels come before Black belt. Only at the black belt do you become a martial artist. Then there are several levels of mastering black belt.

Having a fitness goal has been great for me. My day job causes me to be sedentary, which is bad for my health. So I fight against that.

Taking karate with my family has been fun and bonding. This weekend, I practiced skills with my sons at home. We worked together towards a common goal. My oldest is also currently an orange belt going for blue with me.

He has shown great improvement! Most importantly, I’ve been proud to see him push himself. His will and spirit to do the hard work to grow has been key.

I know all too well in life how tough times can break your spirit. Your will to persevere through trials gets weak.

So I’m reminded that there’s a drive inside that kicks into gear to push you forward up the hill or through the valley depths. It can be very hard for that drive to be sparked into action. Somehow you’ve got to spark it. Meet challenges head on with determination instead of reluctance.

Bring it on!” That’s the rally cry.

Never give up!

A Video Gaming Saga

I just finished reading Console Wars by Blake Harris. It was Sega versus Nintendo all over again. I lived in that war in the 90’s. But now I’ve kind of relived it with more detail than ever.

I am a combatant, not a casualty, of the console wars. I was, and still am to this day, on the Nintendo side.

This long book, however, is written from Sega’s perspective as the underdog in the video gaming world, the David trying to take out the Goliath Nintendo.

All the players in the industry throughout the book are given their fair share of credit, or blame, for their success and contribution to the rise of video games after the fall of Atari in the 80’s.

So Console Wars is a balanced telling of the tales of fortune and misfortune for the leaders and game changers from Nintendo, Sega, and Sony, among others.

It’s the story also of the real people behind Mario and Sonic. And if you’re someone who appreciates the art and technology of video games, you will likely enjoy this book.

My only gripes about the book are that there are a lot of corporate politics involved behind the scenes of the video games I grew up with. While interesting, the reading sometimes gets bogged down in the myriad of these kinds of details.

Also, the timeline of events throughout the book was a bit hard to follow here and there as the storytelling didn’t seem to follow a perfectly linear progression.

Minor gripes aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Console Wars and pretty much couldn’t put it down until “Game Over.”

On top of that, I honestly want more! I want to read a sequel that continues the saga of the video game industry up to today because there are new players and consoles, and there are more video game philosophies to play out!

Console Wars ended about the time the Nintendo 64 was on the horizon and the Sega Saturn faltered under the Sony PlayStation.

So missing is all that happens next: the hits of N64 and PS2, the entry of Microsoft and Xbox, the cultural phenomenon of the Wii, the success of Nintendo hand-helds, and the rise of smartphone and tablet gaming to name a few!

I was right in the middle of the rise of Nintendo in the 8-bit days and stayed with them through the Gamecube era.

It started for me when my friend got an NES (one that included R.O.B.) for his birthday. I was amazed; this Nintendo video game thing was so cool! It could play mario bros, the same one I played on an arcade cabinet in a convenience store as a kid! Later, another friend of mine got a NES. Again, I was pretty enthralled.

Years later, I had a Super NES, and my best friend had a Genesis. It was the early nineties. Grunge was in. My friend and I had friendly arguments about who was better and why: Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo? I recall the Sega commercials of the day (the “Sega!” scream) and a lot of the marketing that fueled video game rivalry.

It’s as if the video game industry players were playing a real live video game competition before the world. Each side had signature moves. Each era, 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32/64-bit, was one round in a 3-round fighting game! Mostly it was a 2-player duel between Sega and Nintendo, until Sony jumped in the fight.

As I grew older, got a job working in the corporate world, and started a family, I had less time and energy to play video games. Especially ones like Zelda and Final Fantasy that had hours of grinding or exploring.

After GameCube and GameBoy Advance SP, I totally missed the Wii revolution. Instead, in 2008, the iPod touch was my new techno toy as it started to become the newest hand-held game gizmo. I could more easily play casual games in it. And the cost of games was in a whole other ballpark compared to the Nintendo console games I once looked forward to. This led to a focus on tablet gaming in my household. The tablet’s simplicity was accessible to my young kids at the time.

But then in 2018, I got back in the game! My wife bought me a used Wii U for Father’s Day so I could play the newest breathtaking console Zelda game, Breath of the Wild. It is awesome! Next thing you know, my kids got into the 2DS.

My family finds that if you stay a generation behind in the video gaming world, you can save a ton of money buying used or refurbished consoles and games! It kind of brings things full-circle for me, because my first ever game console was an Atari 2600 purchased used in a garage sale. The cartridges I bought for it were 25 cents each!

The video gaming saga continues. The Wii U may have been a commercial failure for Nintendo, but then they return with their new hit Nintendo Switch.

Sony and Microsoft continue the tech-spec race for most realistic gaming graphics ever. Online and PC gaming or game streaming is alive and well. Who knows what the next level will be?

For me, Console Wars was nice nostalgia. I enjoyed learning how the video game industry influenced a sub-culture of gaming, which I was a part of in my youth. I had a Nintendo Power subscription from like 1988 until at least the late nineties!

If you like video games, I recommend the book. It’s a bit of good retro-edutainment. Pause your game, put down the controller, and pick up Console Wars.

Random Thoughts On Routine

Daily life tends to have routine. I’ve been thinking more about the pros and cons of routine lately because mine has been thrown off. And I’ve been trying to roll with it.

Like most people, I normally go to my workplace during the week and then do stuff around the house on weekends. I try to exercise daily, and currently I watch Parks and Rec with my wife at night.

But for the past week, my routine has been tossed up in the air with pieces of it scattered about.

Last Tuesday, my wife started having severe low back muscle spasms that quickly became debilitating. We needed to go to the hospital ER one night to get help.

Our sleep schedule was disrupted. Our planned dinner date for Valentine’s Day got canceled. I’ve been taking a lot of time off work to care for my wife at home. We’ve been visiting doctor’s offices and pharmacies. And her mom came to stay in our house to help us and the kids.

So, yeah, lots of different and difficult things going on. Definitely not our normal routines.

You do the same things at the same time everyday. Routine. Sometimes you end one thing and start another. But mostly you do the same kinds of things over and over again.

To me, routine is often synonymous with boring. Hum-drum, same old thing, mediocre pacing. It’s like living life on repeat. So I seem to notice the negative side of routine more than the positive side.

But since I refocused on physical fitness last month, adding a good exercise regimen to my weekly routine, I found more positive. I am not good at being self-disciplined. So getting a good routine going has been great because of momentum or inertia.

Making myself do hard things, like pushing beyond pain and discomfort to whip my body into shape, is…the opposite of easy. But once I get that first step kick-started and build some momentum into a routine, then it’s much easier to keep going despite mild resistance.

So I am appreciating routine more lately. Especially since mine has been off. Life can get monotonous at times and make you feel stuck in a rut. But life can also throw you a big curve ball and have you wishing to return to “things as usual.”

They say life is an adventure. Just when boredom sets in, a shake up to your routine makes things exciting. Well that’s one way to look at it.

I think sometimes boring isn’t so bad. You know, don’t rock the boat. Keep the peace. Boring may mean quiet or calm. Smooth sailing and all that.

I am reminded that I’m not as much in control of life in general, or even my own life, as I’d like to think. But I’m learning to go with it, make the most of hard stuff, do my best, be thankful for all the good that remains despite the midst of some bad. I’m even remembering that the “bad” can be good in ways. Maybe not comfortable, but good for you. Like eating your vegetables.

That said, I’m eager for getting back to normal. I need my regular exercise routine. Also, I need my wife back to normal! The daily grind would be kinda nice right now.

Maybe we need random to balance routine. Sometimes I think we need our routine thrown off as much as we need to stick to the routine. Kinda makes sense.

Which do you prefer: random or routine?