Kendo, Ramadan and Sports Performance

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An area of training that has intrigued me for quite some time is whether someone can fast and still maintain a level of physical conditioning such that one can perform satisfactorily in Kendo.

I recently had the chance to test this thesis using myself as, pardon the term, “guinea pig!”

This was my first tournament since I suffered a stroke, several years ago. I also had the misfortune of almost passing out from heat exhaustion in kendo class one hot summer day. Now I always try to be well hydrated while participating in practice.

The temperature can reach as high as over 100 degrees Fahrenheit where we practice. There is very little cross ventilation in our space and the windows may be only partially opened due to possible neighbor complains about noise levels. This coupled with the Kendo armor and our bodies are probably exposed to temperatures 10 to 20 degrees above that!

My sensei (Noboru Kataoka) came up to me a few weeks earlier and asked if I would be interested in participating in the 2015 AEUSKF Tournament? I replied yes without any hesitation. While one part of me was a bit apprehensive. The other part was eager to take on the challenge. In the past, I have been active in Kendo events throughout Japan, in the Dominican Republic, in Jakarta, Indonesia and in Shenzhen, China. I believe that in Kendo, you must be able to apply yourself under any and all situations.

Some may view it as simply practicing a sport. I tend to take it a little more seriously. I perceive it as training the mind. “The path to Hei-jou-shin (calm, peaceful mind) takes you down the road of fear (odore), through the valley of doubt (utagai), across the mountain of surprise (odoroki), beyond the sea of confusion (osage)!” This was a motivational phase I created many years ago that puts all things in perspective for me. It is about enduring in spite of the obstacles, which may confront you.

Making this even more of a challenge, I had to consider that I would also be observing Ramadan. This is the month on the Muslim calendar generally highlighted by abstaining from sexual activity, food and any liquid during daylight hours! The first two are relatively easy for most people. It is the lack of water, which incidentally, makes up about 65% of the human body, which is the most difficult to endure!

Prior studies on Ramadan and sports performance have centered on individuals in the 34-year and younger age brackets, and one study focusing on fighter pilots in the 27-49 year bracket. Most concluded thatperformance during brief (e.g., squat jump, countermovement jump, maximal voluntary contraction, etc.) or very short-duration (e.g., 5-m sprint, 10-m sprint, 20-m sprint, etc.) maximal exercises is maintained during the month of Ramadan. However, single or repetitive short-term maximal efforts and long-duration exercises are generally affected by Ramadan even if some studies did not show any significant change.” I could find no studies deriving the possible effects on those 60 and above; hence I am the guinea pig!

Fortunately, I would be playing in the Senior Division at the Kendo tournament; I believe I was the only one who had prior experience with a stroke!

While I was later eliminated in my second match, my biggest concern did not occur. I did not get exhausted or feel tired or pass out. This to me was a personal achievement under the circumstances and will propel me to work even harder in the future.

This experience actually enabled me to analyze a very important element of Kendo. It is about how you engage your opponent or adversary. Your breathing should be controlled. Your mind should be in a constant state of readiness. You have to be ready to strike at will. After you strike, you must follow through into zanshin*

The beautiful thing about this is now I better understand what I now want to accomplish. It is embedded in my brain and will now become a part of me. This is part of the grace and beauty of Kendo, one of my favorite pastimes.

I belong to a good Kendo group (the New York City Kendo Club). I have one of the best Sensei’s and in my 34 years of training I know what has to be done to improve. I guess I am still on that path; it is truly a most exciting journey!

* Zanshin – is a term used in the Japanese martial arts. It refers to a state of awareness – of relaxed alertness. A literal translation of zanshin is “remaining mind”

Sources of Inspiration

“Body Water.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 07 July 2015.

http://www.esciencecentral.org/ebooks. Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Health and Athletic Performance (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Salmon, Geoff. Kendo, Inherited Wisdom and Personal Reflections. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Aug. 2013. Web.

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Stargazing One Night in Saint Lucia: a New Experience…

I was recently on a business trip to St. Lucia, one of the islands in the southern Caribbean. As on most of the other islands, the people are friendly, the cuisine is quite good, depending on one’s palette and the weather was much more desirable to that of which I am much more accustomed to at this time in New York (it was 20 degrees F. when I left, compared to about 70 degrees F. in St. Lucia when I arrived).

Anyways, this was a business trip! Who said it had anything to do with enjoyment of the warmer weather? One night, after meeting with a client for dinner, as I was waiting for a local taxi to take me back to my hotel, I looked up into the blackened sky and beheld to a truly wonderful spectacle.

The most beautiful site I saw in St. Lucia was the night sky. The dark sky has so many fascinating attributes that one must be fortunate to view them in his or her lifetime. It has become quite a struggle to find those dark places nowadays. It was so dark outside with only the Moon and stars to light the way. I could have spent hours just looking at the wonderful tapestry God had painted. The sounds of the rainforest, crickets and frogs in the background gave me a sense of comfort that I was alone to view this celestial picture. I watched this ever-changing scene. I witnessed constellations that I could not name but remember studying in junior high school long ago. It is not often that I feel at “one with the universe” but this was certainly one of those special moments.

My cab arrived about 15 minutes later allowing me adequate time to thoroughly enjoy this view…

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I Yearn to be Complete…

Do you know the meaning of completion? It is something I have sought all my life. The thought intrigues me. I recently came across some revelations that enhanced my understanding of the subject. I hope you enjoy what I have cited and that it encourages you to seek further:

Everything that comes into life has two sides, a masculine and feminine quality, even love. The masculine side of love is “I love you.” Longing is the feminine side of love: “I am waiting for you. I am longing for you.” Longing is the cup waiting to be filled.

The soul is feminine before God, waiting in a state of surrender for the Beloved to come… The lover waits for her Beloved. And when He comes to us, in those moments of meeting and merging that are so intimate that one can hardly speak of them, the lover is feminine, pierced, penetrated by the tremendous bliss of His love.

– Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

It may be deduced that the basis is man’s yearning for his Lord, who is his origin, and that is why God made him love woman – for as God, the Most High, loves him who is in His image, He makes lovable to man the woman whom He extracted for him from him and who appeared in his image. When man loves woman, he desires to conjoin and unite with her, and when the act is consummated pleasure overtakes all parts of the body, and it is as if he were annihilated in her. Thus, as God is jealous for his servant, He orders him to perform a full ablution in order that he be cleansed of “other”, and return to observing Him in the one in whom he has been annihilated, i.e. in woman. God has cleansed man by complete ablution because he has to witness God in woman, and that is the grandest and the most complete contemplation, because it is a witnessing of God as actor and acted-upon simultaneously.

– Ibn Arabi on Women

The right of your mother is that you know that she carried you where none carries anyone, she gave to you that fruit of her heart that which no one gives to anyone, and she protected you with all her organs.  She did not care if she went hungry as long as you ate, if she was thirsty as long as you drank, if she was naked as long as you were clothed, if she was in the sun as long as you were in the shade.  She gave up sleep for your sake; she protected you from the heat and cold, in order that you might belong to her.  You will not be able to show her gratitude, unless through God’s help and giving success.

– ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn

She is waiting to be recognized.

Do you mean she wants to be recognized as a woman?

I mean that she is waiting to be recognized as all women … Don’t you yet realize that all women are in the same position? Until the woman is recognized by man she can never be completely free. Man has forgotten too much. Yet if he recognized the woman, he would free himself. He would become complete. The woman, the earth, has been waiting so patiently…

– The Last Barrier by Reshad Feild

Bagpipe Haiku

Several years ago, I was perusing EBay when I came across an old photograph of a Palestinian Bedouin playing a bagpipe. The original photo was taken in 1898. I subsequently purchased a copy of it. It seemed like to art me. Beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder!

Bagpipes have always fascinated me. Although I am not Irish, you will most surely find me at the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. I recall the funeral of the late King Hussein of Jordan. The honor guard also played the pipes. The eerie sound of the bagpipe soothes my soul.

The Sound of Bagpipes,
Chasing away the demons,
Comforting my Soul…

Life is Beautiful!

This is the thought that gets me through each day. Life is not stagnant. It is about change. I try to embrace that change every day, whether it is good or bad. What matters most is that we live and enjoy our brief time on this earth.

Life truly is beautiful!!!

No matter how we try to describe it, Life is Beautiful!
We are constantly challenged.
Sometimes we stumble, sometimes we succeed.
We experience happiness and sorrow.
We experience pleasure and pain.
Regardless of our achievements, God (SWT) accepts our return.
Al-Hamidullah!