Semi-Charmed Life


Life Update

Last Thursday I began to feel the onset of a cold coming and on Friday it hit. This time what started as a slight sore throat never developed and instead what I felt was complete weakness in my body and a dizzying headache. Pretty much just about the worst time to get since too since I am less than one week away from my competition.

I stayed in and slept early on Friday and Saturday to try and recover. Luckily the weakness and headaches seem to have pretty much disappeared but now I'm on to the next phase, which is a full blown runny nose with choking nasal congestion. I shouldn't have chosen today to be a little more adventurous and just stuck with Nyquil instead of getting Alka Seltzer Plus at the pharmacy. Completely not effective!

I'm not exactly sure how I got sick but one possibility could be overtraining. I really have not been giving my body much time to rest. Training is an addiction for me and I guess like all drug addictions, this one is going to end up with my body wasting away.

In other news, I'm thinking of moving in with a buddy of mine. The first two years after I came home from college, I hated living at home and was desperate to move out. I couldn't at the time though because I was just doing contract work and had no job stability. About two years ago I landed at JPM, but was still just under contract. A year ago, I was finally brought aboard full time. Now I'm at the point where moving out can become reality.

I checked out the apartment last night and it looked fantastic. Very spacious with brand new floors and even our own private access to the backyard. The room though, was wanting in terms of space and lacked closet storage. Storage is not a huge concern, but it would be nice.

The rent I'd be paying is very fair in my opinion. The problem I have is that rent is pretty much a major portion of the free cash I have to spend a month after accounting for my fixed expenses and savings. Re-tooling my budget to accommodate rent is tough. The main things I'd have to re-adjust are my savings and the amount I give back home to parents.

I'm trying to make sure that the amount I save would still be a responsible amount of money to save up. I've lived most of my life with zero penchant for saving. It was only in the last year and a half that some sense came to me and I realized that saving is something I have to do. I've been steadily disciplined since then and I'm trying my best to maintain a healthy saving habit.

The other big cost I have is the amount I give to parents to help out with various bills. Household expenses add up to a lot and my parents make shit right now. Seeing my mom scrap by from one unsteady job to the next is hard, especially because she's no longer as young and strong anymore. My dad also deals with physically intensive labor which a man of his age should probably no longer be doing.

For the paltry amount they make from their jobs, it breaks my heart to see them work so hard.

As a son I'm obligated to help. It's just the right thing to do. Moving out on my own though is something has to be done eventually. It's such a fine line between balancing my own well being and the well being of my family.

If I don't re-tool my budget, I will be able to live on my own but I basically have zero money to go out. No dinner with friends. No happy hour. No parties.

The obvious solution would be to make more money. In time.

Or win the damn lottery.

But seriously, I have to really think on this. I'm going to give my friend an answer this week.

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Live as a man, die as a man, become a man

This is some deep shit!

Personally I really do not know much about Enson Inoue's career because he's mainly a guy that I consider "before my time." I only started following mixed martial arts about 3 years ago. But Enson Inoue is a name that is at least familiar to most fans. The quote on my mouthguard was inspired by him:


In the last part of the Mat Culture Japan tour, Enson talks about the meaning of all his tatoos - on his hands, the soles of his feet, and elsewhere.

Enson talks about his thoughts on being a true man, facing death, the importance of family, and his MMA record.

Check out the video in the link. I think some of his philosophies are pretty interesting. The interview is about 10 minutes long.
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Pushing Yourself

I came across a very interesting NYT article about a journalist who was doing a piece on "memory athletes", when he found himself being fascinated by the idea of memorization and subsequently went on to break an American record.

The unlikely story of how I ended up in the finals of the U.S.A. Memory Championship, stock-still and sweating profusely, began a year earlier in the same auditorium, on the 19th floor of the Con Edison building near Union Square in Manhattan. I was there to write a short article about what I imagined would be the Super Bowl of savants.

The scene I stumbled upon, however, was something less than a clash of titans: a bunch of guys (and a few women), varying widely in age and personal grooming habits, poring over pages of random numbers and long lists of words. They referred to themselves as mental athletes, or M.A.’s for short. The best among them could memorize the first and last names of dozens of strangers in just a few minutes, thousands of random digits in under an hour and — to impress those with a more humanistic bent — any poem you handed them.

What fascinated me most was how these hardcore memorizers dedicate themselves so intensely to the art of memorization and how they push themselves beyond their limits. The writer quickly reached a plateau in his memorizing and consulted with his mentor, who explained to him why people plateau and how to push past it.

When people first learn to use a keyboard, they improve very quickly from sloppy single-finger pecking to careful two-handed typing, until eventually the fingers move effortlessly and the whole process becomes unconscious. At this point, most people’s typing skills stop progressing. They reach a plateau. If you think about it, it’s strange. We’ve always been told that practice makes perfect, and yet many people sit behind a keyboard for hours a day. So why don’t they just keeping getting better and better?

In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner tried to answer this question by describing the three stages of acquiring a new skill. During the first phase, known as the cognitive phase, we intellectualize the task and discover new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently. During the second, the associative phase, we concentrate less, making fewer major errors, and become more efficient. Finally we reach what Fitts and Posner called the autonomous phase, when we’re as good as we need to be at the task and we basically run on autopilot. Most of the time that’s a good thing. The less we have to focus on the repetitive tasks of everyday life, the more we can concentrate on the stuff that really matters. You can actually see this phase shift take place in f.M.R.I.’s of subjects as they learn new tasks: the parts of the brain involved in conscious reasoning become less active, and other parts of the brain take over. You could call it the O.K. plateau.

Psychologists used to think that O.K. plateaus marked the upper bounds of innate ability. In his 1869 book “Hereditary Genius,” Sir Francis Galton argued that a person could improve at mental and physical activities until he hit a wall, which “he cannot by any education or exertion overpass.” In other words, the best we can do is simply the best we can do. But Ericsson and his colleagues have found over and over again that with the right kind of effort, that’s rarely the case. They believe that Galton’s wall often has much less to do with our innate limits than with what we consider an acceptable level of performance. They’ve found that top achievers typically follow the same general pattern. They develop strategies for keeping out of the autonomous stage by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented and getting immediate feedback on their performance. Amateur musicians, for example, tend to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces. Similarly, the best ice skaters spend more of their practice time trying jumps that they land less often, while lesser skaters work more on jumps they’ve already mastered. In other words, regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail. That’s what I needed to do if I was going to improve my memory.

Makes a lot of sense.

So if you're not feeling like you are making progress in whatever it is you're trying to do, remember this gem:

To buoy my spirits, Cooke sent me a quotation from the venerable martial artist Bruce Lee: “There are no limits. There are plateaus, and you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.”

Link (worth a read if you have some time)

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10 Days til LI PRIDE

Mixed feelings about training this week. I was able to hit sweeps that I've never been able to hit before and I even got off a von flue choke. But then there are days like today where I was just so sloppy and terrible. Getting submitted by things that I really should have no business getting submitted by. It was just sloppy.

10 more days til my tournament.

This is my second tournament, but this time I'm actually motivated to perform well. I was very lackadaisical about the first one. Like, hey, why not?

This time I'm a little more scared. Scared that I might not make weight or scared that all that time I put into training will mean just another loss at a very expensive tournament.

At least I get a free shirt out of it.

I want that W, but my main goal in competing is to speed up my progress and to improve my overall grappling. I have already changed my approach to training to be more goal specific and to give myself a training objective in each class. I'm trying new things and finding out that certain things well for and certain things not so well.

I'm really hoping I get decent footage from this upcoming competition. Win or lose, I will definitely post it up.

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Weight Cut & Gameplan (or Lack Thereof)

I have not really fleshed out a gameplan yet for my upcoming tournament. The first time I competed I was very casual about the whole thing. I did not cut any weight at all but when I weighed in right before my match I found out I was at the very bottom of the weight class (featherweight 154lbs and under). I would have even qualified for the division I thought I had to cut weight for, which is light featherweight, 141lbs and under.

My weight usually hovers at around 144-145 and the gi weighs 5-6lbs or so. I have to weigh in with the gi, so it's an appreciable amount of weight for me to cut.

I've been steadily decreasing my daily caloric intake these past few weeks. I typically weigh myself right before my 6pm class and I weighed in at 140lbs last night. This morning I went for the 10:45am class and right before I weighed in at 138lbs, so my morning weight is a good amount less than my weight in the afternoon.

I bought a lighter weight competition gi which is about 3lbs, so I should have no problem weighing in at this point. I have to dial up my caloric intake a bit to maintain my weight at about this level for the next two weeks.

I was training frequently in December and January but a few things came up this month that cut my days a little short. Today was my 11th day training this month. Ideally I'd like to average at least 20 days of training per month. As far as the training itself, some days have been good and some days have been a little less so.

What I really need to do is to start going into each class with a specific goal instead of just milling about on the mats aimlessly. Sometimes it feels like I just go on autopilot when I train. I'm getting better because of the sheer amount of days I train, but the improvement is so slow and minor. Some days it even feels like I'm regressing.

Over the next two weeks I will try to actively outline a gameplan on my blog.

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