Pokemon Replay

Bug Bite

The Pokemon bug bit me again. Yeah, must have been a Bug-type Pokemon. Of course. Actually, it was Heatran, a Fire-type. I had re-tweaked my Darkness deck for a while. But now I’m building a new battle deck based on Fire. There will be many burned Pokemon. Just sayin’.

New Moves

So the Cosmic Eclipse expansion was released in November; my family and I had some great pulls! It is the last expansion before the new base series for TCG comes out: Sword and Shield. And speaking of, the newest mainline Pokemon video games already hit stores in November too, which really stirred the Pokemon pot!

There are brand new never-before-seen-or-caught Pokemon in the new Galar region! So even if you had caught’em all, well, now you’ve got more work to do. Get crackin’! And since my family had our Christmas early this year, we are!

I have been playing Pokemon Sword, my first ever Pokemon video game. It’s fun! And it’s helping me learn more about the Pokemon and Trainers in the card game, in which I’m enjoying a resurgence.

I’ve had fun learning and trying things with my first major battle deck based on Dark Pokemon. It had good mechanics with my main strategy (Weavile GX Ability). I guess I got tired of it though. But I recently had a jolt of the fun of finding new cards and putting together a new strategy with a new battle deck. So I’ve been eyeing several fiery Pokemon.

I started looking at Fire abilities and was stoked! But things took a twist. As I was building up ideas for a Fire deck, I crossed paths with my Zygarde Fighting Pokemon and a fellow TCG player on Facebook. One thing led to another, and now, for the first time, I have an Expanded battle deck! I had been locked in my mind to play only Standard cards in rotation, but now I have…expanded.

The cool thing about my new deck, which utilizes all my Zygarde Pokemon, is that besides being Expanded, it is for fun! And it’s easier to play against young kids who sometimes have weak decks. It’s really about having fun and trying new things with Pokemon TCG. Meanwhile, I continue to build my new no-holds-barred Fire deck to bring the heat to battle!

Fighting With Fire

So what’s next? For my Fighting deck, I must start practicing it, finding its weaknesses, and tweaking it. I played in the recent League Challenge tournament and did okay. My new Zygarde deck took some beating, but I got a few lucky first wins. It was fun and I learned stuff, so either way!

Also, I’ve ordered some cards for my Fire deck, but I have more to order at a later date. So I’ll play my Fighting deck more while working on the Fire one. And starting in February, the brand new base set of Sword and Shield Pokemon will go on sale, and oh boy! There are all new types of cards, so there will be new strategies to try!

Do you play Pokemon? Or any other card game? Are you strategy challenged like me? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

The Sparring Fundraiser

Fight For Others

This post is a little outside my usual topics, but I felt like sharing it anyways. I just participated in a very special event and am happy with how it turned out. It was a mixed-style martial arts sparring session for a good cause – raising support for a fellow martial artist’s family.

Mixed Sparring

I’ve practiced a few different martial art styles over the years, so I’ve been to different kinds of tournaments or expos. In my current style – Kyokushin Karate – we spar only within our school. So the fundraiser was unique because we met up at a new place with another school and all jumped in the ring.

The other school’s style is Tae Kwon Do. Not only do some of their techniques differ, the way they spar is different too. Kyokushin does full-contact, no protective gear. But at the fundraiser we had to wear some gear. Even something that seems simple, standing sideways more than using a front-facing stance, was kind of challenging.

The session was focused on cardio endurance rather than hard fighting or point scoring. The cool thing was this let us be more loose, have more fun, and try different techniques without the concern of getting our faces kicked in!

Several folks from my school showed up to spar along with a whole lot of students from the other school. I think there were about 30 people all sparring at the same time in a round-robin style set-up.

Each round of sparring was 2 minutes long. Once over, half the group would rotate to the next fighter for another round. We did 10 rounds like this, then had a 5 minute water break. After that, we did two more 10-round sessions. So altogether we sparred for about an hour.

It was hot. I think I sweated all my fluids out. My face matched the red gloves and foot pads I was wearing. And I opened up three blisters on my tender feet. But I had a great time!

It was both fun and challenging to fight so many different martial artists with a different style. Some of the students I had never met before. Everyone was kind and cordial and respectful. I would attend this kind of special sparring session again.

Not Just For Kicks

The cherry on top of this whole event was that it raised funds for a former karate student from the Tae Kwon Do school. She recently passed away and her family is in need of support. So that’s what all the proceeds went to.

But the support was more than monetary. It was also about people showing up and saying, “We’re here for you.” It’s a small way to help, but I’m sure it means a lot.

Something as simple as presence can have a profound impact.

What’s on your mind? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

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 Fight For Fitness

A week ago, I restarted my practice of martial arts – Kyokushin Karate. And of course, being winter and post-holiday season, I’ve gotta fight just to get fit…and be fit to fight.

So I’m still in the “realizing-how-out-of-shape-I-am-phase.” But at least I know what I need to work on: everything. And the older I get, the longer this phase seems. I’m a 40-something karate kid.

As for fighting, I’ve never been big on confrontation. I fear hurting others and being hurt myself. But what I’m really fighting against is being sedentary.

I have a desk job. I sit at a computer many hours every day. My body coagulates into the chair. My abs become slabs of flab. My strongest muscles are the ones in my right index-finger so I can double-click the mouse all day.

Some of that is fun hyperbole, but you get the point. I gotta fight for fitness.

To my rescue comes YouTube. There I find an endless supply of training videos: stretching, calisthenics, karate. I’ve got a lot to work on!

With so much training, and with my renewed fervor for the fight for fitness, I fear over-training, like killing my body before I really get going.

But it occurred to me yesterday that fitness should be a part of daily life. Growing up in school, we’re taught to stay physically active. We play outside. But as adults, we just work a lot. I think if my body feels it’s not able to exercise daily, that shows how out of shape I really am.

Everyday is not going to be a triathlon. But I can and should do some basic exercises daily for cardio and strength training. Not just for being capable of karate kicks, but to keep up with my 5 young sons who, I swear, have virtually unceasing stores of energy.

I need all the help I can get. My own energy isn’t like it was 20 years ago. So I’m trying supplements that target my needs while also eating more protein and being health conscious at meal times. And even if that just means one handful of Cheetos instead of two handfuls, that my friends is progress.

This is where I’m at. Working on getting into better shape to enjoy a happier healthier life. Sounds cliche. But true and vital just the same.

Taking a challenging martial arts class with others in a public space, the YMCA, is the motivation and accountability I need to help me push myself to be fit. I was out of the game for over a year. But I didn’t stay out. I got back in the fight.

What’s your favorite activity or fitness exercise? Sports? Yoga? Under-water basket weaving?