Tag Archives: Reduce Stress

Pennell’s Karate Welcomes Gary Christensen

Left: Gary Christensen Right: Jason Pennell

It is with great excitement that I introduce you to one of my mentors, Gary Christensen.  Gary and I have trained together since I was a child and I’m happy to invite Gary to my blog where he will be sharing his personal experiences.  Gary has a tremendous amount of knowledge and I am humbled by his offer to share with us.

Thanks, Gary!

Top 5 Okinawan Weapons – Part I: The “Bo-om” Stick

Picture it – ancient Okinawa. It’s a beautiful summer’s morning and you’re just minding your own business; quietly tending to your rice patty. Suddenly, you hear screams in the distance. “What the hell?!”, they seem to be coming from your family farmhouse! You race back to find that some local prefect (aka “dumb-ass”) decided it was a good idea to get drunk on cheap saki, ride his horse over to your crib and start harassing your beautiful wife. Fortunately for you, you’ve been training in the ways of Karate-do basically since birth. Oh ya, and that “walking stick” leaning up against the wall? Well that just happens to be the world’s most dangerous piece of pine, when placed in the hands of a skilled kobudo expert…. and that just happens to be you. What happens next resembles something I saw in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie last week. A few good, strategically placed strikes and lets just say someone’s wife is very, very appreciative. *wink!

Seriously though, the Okinawan’s were great at two things.. fighting with their bare hands, and fighting with …. well, ….not-bare hands? Otherwise know as kobudo, or weapons. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the coolest Okinawan kobudo weapons to ever grace the hands of a Karate expert. Believe me, if you ever run into a guy wielding any of these little beauties, make like tree and leave. You’ll thank me for the advise.

So, whats first on our Top 5 List? Naturally, The Bo. Call’em Sticks… Big, long boom-sticks! Who knew ultra-straight pieces of wood could be so deadly. And heck, why not? I mean, if an assailant is charging you via trusty steed, what better way to un-politely dismount your nemesis than to spear him with a big long Bo. It has been argued throughout the ages, the validity of the Bo as the supreme weapon of choice for Okinawan, peasant warriors. Think of the Bo like kobudo’s version of soccer. It’s a skill that everyone can develop, no matter how poor you are. All you need is a fresh supply of trees and zing, you can make yourself a Bo. Sure, it sounds a bit Neanderthal-ish, after-all, you’re essentially beating a man with a tree branch, but at the end of the day you’ve got to use the tools available to you, right? The Bo is pretty popular among today’s Karate-ka. It’s the first weapon that pops into your head when you think Karate. As far as functionality, we asked one of the world’s greatest wielders’ of Bo, in which situation would the Bo come in most handy.

Scenario One – It’s the year 1753. You’re minding your own business, making your way from your neighbourhood to your neighbouring village. The sun-dial on your wrist reads somewhere around 7:30 in the evening, and it’s getting dark. Just like the old Okinawan nursery rhyme says, “If you walk the path of the cherry blossom as the sun falls behind the mountain, assholes will appear.”  BOOM, 3 ninjas make a smoke-cloud entrance, (I hate it when they do that) and they didn’t come to practice the Japanese tea ceremony.

Scenario Two – Everybody loves a good cup of saki! Personally, I prefer mine warmed up – but hey, to each there own. Anyways, you’re a retired prefect, living in Tokyo in the twilight of the Japanese feudal period. Some might argue that you had a few too many wobbly-pops, but it’s not like they had breathalyzers back then – and besides, who’s counting? You decide to drain the dragon in a back ally way, when what appears to be a small, carnival midget looking samurai suddenly appears out of no where, set on ending your life. I don’t know why – maybe his little dragon is not as ferocious as yours? …hubba-hubba!

So, what’s the verdict? … oh please, read on!

Bo Master (names have been changed to protect the innocent): “Well clearly Scenario One would call for a Bo. I can handle one ninja blindfolded, even two – assuming they are from Southern Japan. But when three descend, I like to pack a little extra protection. Given the Bo’s long reach, it’s bound to help keep you out of range of those pesky ninja swords. I generally use them to cut the veggies before dinner, but I guess in the hands of a skillful ninja a sword could be a threat? Anyways, no matter – I’d quickly dispatch the fist 2 assailants and make sure the third suffered for his insolence.

Me: Okay, cool. But what about scenario 2? I hear samurai are pretty nasty.

Bo Master: I eat midget carnival samurai for breakfast.

Me: …gross.

Well that settles it folks. Clearly my keen interviewing skills allowed me to really cut to the heart of the issue. Look out George Stroumboulopoulos, here I come! By now you must be wondering what other weapons make our covenant list of 5. Stay tuned next week, when we post part II, lovingly titled, “Sticks of Death“. 🙂

Until then… drop lower in your stance…

Why you’ll lose every time you fight

I remember one night a few years ago, when I was walking home late on a Saturday. It was typical Saturday night in Toronto: lots of young people bar hopping. Loud motorcycles racing up and down King Street and no shortage of drunk club goers, stumbling from one venue to the next. I remember this evening so vividly because a fight broke out right beside me, as I was waiting to cross the street. I remember it being a particularly vicious fight. One fighter greatly outclassed the other, both in weight and physical fitness. I have no idea what they were fighting about. They seemed to square off all of a sudden, with no real catalyst – although I'm sure there was one. Maybe it was a fight over a girl – that's usually enough to send two drunk men flying into each other. The fight took a bit of an ugly turn when the weaker guy was knocked unconscious when a blow to the chin hit its mark. Laying on his back, his head was hanging over the curb and resting literally on the street-side. The other fighter mounted the unconscious man and delivered a few more (totally unnecessary) blows to the head, before jumping off his victim and making a hasty exit into the night.

You will lose every fight, before you even begin…

My karate training has taught me NEVER to fight – unless I felt like my life was in imminent danger. And it's not because Karate-ka are so 'deadly' that we have to avoid ever using our skill. Hell, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are great fighters and could easily give me a run for my money. Besides, all it takes is one lucky hit, right? I remember hearing a story about a guy who threw a random punch in a bar, slipped on a plastic beer cup, stumbled, hit his head on the corner of the bar – and died. These freak accidents probably happen all the time. But no, it's also not for any of these reasons I refuse to fight, although any of them are more than enough reason to not fight. Instead, it's because you'll never really win any fight you get into. You might be thinking, 'but what about the fight I described earlier – the stronger guy won.' Sure, he won the fight in the sense that he physically beat the other man – but he will forever have to live with the guilt of having potentially seriously injured another human being – and for what? Some off handed comment about a woman or something just as trivial?

With fighting, both people lose…

When you fight someone, you're body is running on a lot of adrenaline. Adrenaline makes you do all kinds of crazy things – it activates your 'fight or flight' mechanism. When you choose to fight – things get ugly in an almost uncontrollable fashion. Sometimes, fighters are so jacked up on adrenaline, the can't remember the details of the fight, once they come down from their high. They'll say things like, 'it all happened so fast' or 'it seems to blurry [the events that just occurred]” But eventually, you will remember. And what you will begin to feel is regret. Rewind back to the King St. fight – the guy who took off? Well, if he's any kind of real man, he has probably spent a great deal of time wondering what happened to his victim. Did he kill someone? Did he paralyze the guy? These kind of thoughts and feelings stay with you for a very long time. Sure he'll joke with his friends about how he bludgened some dude on the street. But at the end of the day, there is what we say to people and then there is what we're reallly feeling. I guarentee that there has been moments when that man was sorry for what he did. And there is nothing he can do about it – what's done is done. The feelings of regret can have long term effects on your life. Depression, anxiety and a loss of self confidence – just to name a few.

Remember – fighting comes at a price…

You're bound to regret any fight that you get into. So avoid at all costs. The only time you should fight is when you truly feel like your life is in jeopardy. If you find yourself in one of these situations – then fight with everything you've got. Hold nothing back. Assuming you're life is in danger, then you truly have nothing to gain by hesitating. It is during these times of un-measurable stress that one can only hope that their training will kick in and give them the chance they need to survive an otherwise unsurvivable situation. There are no promises however. You can never really know what kind of effect adrenaline will have on you, until you're in the situation. So train hard and hope that you never have to really defend yourself.