Friday, September 12, 2014

Plugged IN??? - Mobile Free: A Life Experience

August 8th, 2014 -- My phone shattered on tile flooring. I've been mobile free, until TODAY (Friday, September 12th, 2014). Was it hard? Actually.... No!

It's funny, remember the days when we used to say "I'm going unplugged!" with such pride... as if you were demonstrating strength of character, discipline, and restraint? Now that everything has gone wireless, mobile, and instantaneous... being plugged-in is the new unplugged!

Here are some lessons learned from a Mobile Free Life Experience.

Plugged IN??? - Mobile Free: A Life Experience
The choice to go mobile free was an easy one. My phone broke and I had only a month plus change before I was up to renew my contract with the option to buy a new phone. With that in mind, I wanted to spend extra time with my family and didn't want to get bogged down by all this instantly-gratifying-notifiable-alerts on my phone -- go mobile free? Sure! And, considering that being connected to Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google+, several email accounts and news alerts... it was just too much.

So what have I learned? Well, the first thing I noticed was a drastic decrease in my use of social media. I mean DRASTIC. I had to make the extra effort to jump on my laptop to interact with folks on Twitter & Facebook. Moreover, I found myself doing a lot less browsing on all media platforms, be it social or not. I also noticed a lot of international use on Google+... apparently people use it (and use it a LOT)!

I found more time.

I made time to read books (somewhere, my wife is applauding).

In that vein, I was able to get time to draft some of the books I've been planning on writing. I even found time to slate titles that I didn't yet conceive of.

I learned to take things slow and really be in the moment. This allowed me precious mental clarity in paying more attention to my family. My baby boy always considered me the fun one; after a month of increased attending to him, he really shines to play-time-with-daddy.

I discovered more opportunities to cook -- even mastered some French sauces.

I was able to reminisce a lot more. So often life moves too fast, we forget what happened even yesterday. Some of the most cherished moments were looking back on the last year as my son expanded the family. Precious times.

I noticed myself doing a lot more listening and a lot less talking.

I thought.

I sat.

I sipped away at coffee, without worry of multi-tasking... savoring the many flavors there are, even in a lightly roasted bean.

I worked out more.

Trained Jiu Jitsu more.

I daydreamed more.

Thought more upon the future... what were my real goals? Where did I really want to go with my "career"... my life?

It's a rare thing to bring life's velocity down a bit... it'll be even harder as the days go by.

Technology is integrating so many attentive aspects of our lives that I think we're losing a certain, simple yet beautiful side of our human experience.


I suppose the biggest lesson I learned was savoring moments. Instead of obsessively checking/responding to alerts on my phone, I spent that same energy realizing the full potential, the scope of beauty, the depth of ever-precious-value, and the rarity of the moment at hand.

This moment only happens once. Life, being made up of many moments... don't let this moment pass you by.

Best And Worst Travel Experiences

I've been fortunate enough to have had quite a few travel experiences in life -- some international, some more local. There have been some which have been awesome. There have also been some which were not as awesome. There were also some which don't appropriately fit into context of this blog... but, I'd be happy to share on other venues.

In any case, I felt it'd be a fun post to share my 5 best and 5 worst travel experiences to date (not including Disney stuff, you know there could be a 47,121 part post for that). So... Here they are!

5 Best Travel Experiences
1. Africa: Ngorogoro Crater
So, yes. I went to Africa. Unfortunately, the trip wasn't as romantic or adventurous as it could've been. I was serving other purposes in the form of personal protection. In any case, this was one of the few times I was able to let my guard down and just enjoy the nature at hand. Truly beautiful.

2. Hawaii: Rock Jump at Waimeia Bay
Awesome fun here. Perhaps one of the epitomes of being a big kid is just climbing a huge geological structure - and - jumping! Over, and over, again.
 Linked to site origin.

3. Canada: Snowboarding Whistler & Blackcomb - Glacier Run
I don't know what it is, but glaciers are really cool. I used to be quite the avid snowboarder... for Southern California, ha ha! Which means I got royally humbled on the Canadian slopes. Nevertheless, it was a true pleasure in time to cruise down a blue-glowing-glacier mountain.

4. Taiwan: Stinky Tofu At ShiLin Night Market
FOOOOD! Okay, so stinky tofu is NOT for everyone. However, for those that brave the true journey of a foodie, you must try it at least once. Stinky Tofu is one of my favorite dishes out there. It's a perfect sit-and-break in the Taiwanese night market life. Fried, crispy goodness served with pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and hoisin sauce. Yum!

5. Michigan: The Big House
There's just something about the culture of college football that speaks to the heart. Being at a Michigan game was one of the most thrilling experiences. Sitting at the 50 yard line and watching my team demolish another team while chowing on fatty American stadium food and (soda) "pop" - just excellent.


5 Worst Travel Experiences
1. Africa: Victim to attempted swindling/bus robbery
Like most places, locals like to rip off tourists... and who can blame them? Easy pickings. Well, one of the legs of my Africa trip included a 10+ hours bus ride. The bus operator tried to swindle me a couple thousand local currency units. I caught on and said no. However, I wasn't so sure how he would respond - ie. get violent. I found out later what could've happened. He successfully robbed a guy who got onto the bus late. The guy found out and actuated local law: "mob to kill for stealing." In pitch black dark, while trying to protect an important person with me... was one of the most terrifying moments.

2. Taiwan: Interviewing for an English Tutor position, in Chinese... then being rejected.
This one is funny. At a time in life, I was interested in teaching English abroad. I decided to bum-rush a place and see if they were interested. Having spoken to them for several minutes in Chinese, I decided to break out the big guns and said in perfect English: "You know, I'm actually from California and attend UCSD."  They didn't know what to do. Sadly, they weren't looking for someone of my "type." Ridiculous, but truly funny.

3. Africa: Punked by "Black Mamba"
Part of the Africa trip was seeing a national snake/serpent reserve/zoo. Apparently, the lines are kinda blurred in Tanzania for this particular consideration. In any case, one of the handlers decided to run after me saying, "Black Mamba!!!"... with a snake that looked exactly like a black mamba - but fortunately wasn't. I basically ran for my life.

4. Africa: Sodas Sodas, everywhere...
Sadly, in many developing parts of the world, water is more expensive than soda. Part of the fantastic culture in the region which includes Tanzania is the culture of "welcome." You, as guest, are more important and more welcome and honored above the residents of the actual home. To demonstrate this sentiment, it is not uncommon to be given an ice cold soda in your appreciation. It is also rude to leave it unfinished. Since I did a lot of traveling in Africa, I did a lot of soda drinking... a lot of it.

5. Bahamas: Super Salty Sun Burn
The beautiful, Caribbean blue waters are such a light shade because of the high concentration of salt in the water. Combine that with really bad sun burns... that equals EXTRA burnage. I was reeling in pain from those burns after snorkeling in warm waters of the Bahamas for a couple weeks after. Sadness.

Entertaining Runner Ups:
1. Hawaii: Tutoring in Pidgin
Certain parts of Hawaii, it's just easier to communicate in local Pidgin. I picked it up. And, I couldn't actually get rid of it for a week or so after I rejoined the "mainland." What was hilarious was I was working on tutoring grammar and college entry essays in Pidgin.

2. Taiwan: KenTing Resort
KenTing is the southern most part of Taiwan and is host to resorts, night-markets, youth attractions, and a paradise-like-tropical climate. Staying at one of the resorts was great because I actually got to enjoy the resort itself. My usual travel experience results in staying at someplace... and never enjoying the actual amenities. Definitely a fun experience.

3. Dubai: Footstep Cleaners
Dubai. So, in the airport, there were employees there hired to wipe-clean your footsteps as you walked. Literally, as you walked. So if you sped up, they sped up. If you slowed down, they'd slow down. If you stopped, they would stop. And, they would always keep a 10-pace-distance between you and them. It was, interesting... to say the least. Kinda like this...

4. Mexico: Helping Out An Orphanage
A heart warming experience, I went down to Ensenada a number of years ago to scout out an orphanage for missions-work. It was a good, hard day's work in the boonies with kids that really appreciated your treating them like human beings. Sad to say, much of the world has very little regard for the widowed, orphaned, and "disabled."

5. Hawaii: Brazilian BBQ, You want THIS one cachaca, wooden mounted
Who doesn't like a good story about alcohol? Well, I went to a Brazilian BBQ place in Hawaii one day and realized, I've never tried any Brazilian drinks. I asked the owner what I should try and he gave me one of these: a caipriniha. Now, remember, I was once a bartender and wanted to know what the "real deal" was... so I asked him what was in the drink and he told me it was: Cachaça. I told my server I wanted a shot of it. Before the server got the shot to my table, the owner comes running out: "No! No no no no no!" Everyone was all shocked. He said, "You want cachaça?" -- I said, "Yes." He said, "Okay... you don't want this one." He shooed his server away. He comes back with this bottle, permanently mounted in a wooden box frame (as if the frame was built around the bottle) - and he goes, "You want THIS one." He pours me a shot and pours himself a shot. Klink! And he goes, "THAT, my friend, is cachaça."

Welps, that's it for now! I hope you've enjoyed this special edition of Life Experiences on my travel experiences to date.

Until Next Time!
-Ben

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Top 5 Reasons To Train Jiu-Jitsu

I've trained in various forms, systems, "styles", and cultures of martial arts since I was eight years of age. Why? Because I was bullied a lot. End of long sad story there, LOL! :) No seriously, it makes my wife upset when she hears me talking about it. The GOOD NEWS, however, is that by being beat up a bunch when I was all small and young, combined with me learning martial arts taught me how to stand up to bullies... and, even better, how to embarass them without lifting a finger to violence - defeating them with their own insecurities.

In effect, martial arts taught me the value of being able to discern the volatility of situations such that I can choose the wisest course.

But, I digress!

This Martial Arts Musings post is about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and my Top 5 Reasons of why you should train in it! If you interesting in other musing posts, Click HERE!

So, without further ado...!!!!!

My Top 5 Reasons To Train Jiu-Jitsu

1) Honesty. Honest to yourself, to your training partners, to the people who depend on your "skills" to defend their safety, if not lives... honesty. What do I mean by this? Well, in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), it is a rare thing to be able to hide behind one's rank and/or experience. However, in many other systems of martial arts, such is most definitely the case. Many high level ranks from a variety of systems aren't compelled, pressured, obligated, or even worthy of considering a full-force-sparring-match with a lower ranked practitioner. You are protected by forms, drills, and formality. In BJJ, if you're a purple belt, brown belt, or black belt... it isn't because you spent a summer in some advanced, accelerated program. It isn't just because you're the most senior student in some secret style and learned the final forms. It is because you've spent literally thousands of hours on the mat, rolling, training, grinding, and getting grinded... toughing it out when it hurt too much, holding out when your eyes were popping out, and getting up in the morning to train more when you could barely move. It wasn't because you put in the dollars; it's because you put in the hard, honest work to become better. In fact, not only did you work hard, you proved it on the mat... over and over and over again... with hundreds of taps from the dozens and dozens of techniques you've perfected over the many years. Be honest. Reason number one.

2) It is one hell of a workout. Many of you know me as the kettlebell guy. Fair statement! And, many of you know that kettlebell workouts can be one of the most grueling experiences - pushing heart rate response and other exertional factors to the safest of extremes. I can tell you for a fact, the drills, movements, and core strength required for BJJ is incredible. Moreover, the sparring can ramp up your exertional response just as well as anything else -- in fact, if you've never tried it, just ask your local BJJ academy for a look-see and roll with a brand new blue belt for 5 minutes. I guarantee you, those will be the longest 5 minutes of your life and you would have felt like you've wrestled a bear for 5 hours, much less 5 minutes afterwards.

3) Sparring-Application Congruency. In BJJ, the sparring is the combat application. What is more, you can effectively train with a partner at basically 90+% of intended strength nearly all the time without hurting yourself or your training partner. This is something that you really can't do in most other martial arts - certainly not boxing, muay thai, or other striking forms. Do that for too many sessions and you won't have many partners left... in fact, you probably wouldn't have much left to yourself if you sparred at even 75% of those striking systems. This is where BJJ (and other grappling systems) really take off; the applicability is practiced in full form nearly every training session. You can't really do that with many other of the arts without causing hurt or harm.

4) It's effective! There's nothing like watching a jiu-jitsu practitioner run a clinic on a less skilled opponent... it almost looks like a demo, even if the match is done in full force. BJJ takes advantage of natural body handles, mechanics, and anatomy in a way where your strongest elements attack the weakest facets of your opponent. Additionally, we've seen BJJ work in various scenarios. Surely, it doesn't apply in a mass effect, however, there were some fairly interesting "team" style ultimate fighting tournaments. What one quickly noticed was that the team which really knew how to get up from the ground game were able to help their teammates out to gang up on others who were taken down. This leads to reason #5.

5) BJJ Develops Mental Toughness For The Worst Scenarios. BJJ gets you used to becoming comfortable, skilled, and tactical (both physically and mentally) in the worst and most uncomfortable positions. Having people on top of you, controlling your body... even your ability to breathe. Such training is a toughness one can rely upon in moments of truth. We hear it all the time; people fall back on their level of training -- rarely in combat do people "rise to the occasion." BJJ teaches you how to keep composed during the worst situations and to solve your way out of it.


So there it is! My Top 5 Reasons To Train Jiu-Jitsu. Did I miss any tops for you? Please share!