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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Mother’s Day in Jakarta…

A friend of mine in Jakarta, Indonesia is celebrating Mother’s Day today, December 22, 2012. Considering that it occurs in the month of May in America, we now have at least two times a year to acknowledge their importance. In reality, we should pay homage to them every day. One can never overemphasize the role they play in our lives.

The first time we experience bliss is in our Mother’s embrace.

They are our first link to God (SWT).

And should always in our hearts…

Nasi Goreng

A little more than a year ago, I was in Jakarta, Indonesia for a brief vacation.  I came across a dish that I used to make in Brooklyn for my brother and my niece when we were all quite young. Me being the oldest of the group, I considered myself a bit industrious in the kitchen. My trip to Jakarta triggered the memory of a meal I had long since forgotten.

We didn’t have much food in those days and there were times that I would have to watch the two of them. I would have to make do with whatever was leftover in the refrigerator.  I did not know that what I was making at the time was a variation of an Indonesian dish or for that matter a variation of something that could be picked up at your local Chinese restaurant. I am of the opinion that this dish is quite popular throughout parts of Asia and maybe even South America.

I would take some leftover rice, chopped onions, two eggs, some green peas or peas and carrots and fry it all in a little butter. I would also take a couple of pieces of leftover chicken, slice and dice it up and add that to the mixture. This turned into a meal “fit for both pauper and prince”.

Recently, I concocted a “modified” version of my “nasi goreng”(fried rice). I went to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant, greeted the owner, “Gong Hai Fa Cai” (Happy New Year!). (I like to “show a little love” to those who make my food…) I ordered a simple shrimp fried rice dish for takeout. When I got home, I scrambled two eggs, added some green peas and a generous serving of hot sauce to spice it up. A friend had brought me some frozen dumplings from Trader Joe’s that I wanted to try. I nuked those and added them as a side dish. Voila! A meal fit for a king!

I tell you this story because I truly realize that there is more that we have in common than that which should keep us apart. We all eat variations of the same foods! There is a passage in the Quran,  “We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.” (49:13) I believe that.

We all know the difference between good and evil. Embrace what is good and condemn that which is evil. Try to be less selfish and more selfless. Exercise compassion in your personal lives. These things mean more to me, as I get older. We grow physically closer to each other with advances in transportation and communication. Strive to know your neighbor. He is closer to you than you imagine.  And remember, diversity is our strength!