Little Black Gi

In the closet hangs a little black dress. A dress meant for a Friday night out on to town with friends or the dress for special occasions. Some women realize they need to lose a pound or two so the dress will look perfect. Women will proceed with diet and or exercise to prepare for the night and the dress.

In the early spring of 2003, I received my brown belt. The rule in the class was that white belts and green belts could only where white gi’s (Japanese for karate uniform). Brown belts and higher could wear a black gi or a variation such as black top and white pants or vice versa.

That next weekend after I got my brown belt I made my way to the nearest shop to purchase my black gi top. It was a size two medium weight gi. I had always wanted to wear the black gi. This is due to the fact I have always wanted to be a ninja.

Once I purchased my gi top and took it to my cousin’s house. She is very talented with a sewing machine. She measured my arms and the sleeves on the gi. She sewed the patches on. The gi top was prepared for me to wear to my next class. I ended up wearing that gi top a handful of times to class.

In the fall of 2003, I began my junior year in college. I was working on my associate’s degree in information technology. Unfortunately, I had to take classes on the same evenings as karate. For two semesters I never made it to class. The black gi top hung in the closet waiting to be worn.

In the spring of 2004, I was running around with a friend of mine. We were at a friend’s house and where we both fell to the ground. She landed on top of me, her weight combined with my weight all on one leg. X-rays showed a small fracture but it could have been scar tissue. It would be several weeks before I would walk unassisted much less practice karate. In July of 2004, I moved away from home. I was living on my own, supporting myself by working and finishing up my degree. My black gi top would continue to hang in the closet.  It wouldn’t be until several years later I would get back into a karate class.

I didn’t stop practicing karate. It was a big part of my life. I would practice katas and do warm up exercises. I occasionally held private lessons. I kept up with current events pertaining to martial arts in my local area. It wasn’t until a few years after I was married my wife expressed interest taking a class. I gave some recommendations. I had considered going back to a class. Though I only wanted to do my style of karate – Shorin Ryu. However, the closest instructor I was aware of lived 45 minutes away. My wife discovered that the karate class she was attending had a Shorin Ryu class on the nights her class was not in session. I made my way and met the instructors. I told them who I was and my rank. They welcomed me to the class. In fact, a few of my previous classmates were already practicing at that dojo.

I thought to myself “WAHOO! IT IS TIME TO BREAK OUT THE BLACK GI!” I rushed home and realized, the gi was not in my closet. Oh, that’s right; it is still in my closet of my old bedroom. I made haste to my mother’s house and went to the closet. There it was hanging there by the white gi top.

I get home and into my bedroom. I put one arm through the sleeve. I put the other arm through the other sleeve. I took the left side of the gi over to the right side. Wait…why isn’t this closing the way it should? Why is there a 3-inch gap between the two sides?

I had gained weight. I could no longer fit in my size 2 gi top. It’s Ok just a minor setback. When I began karate years ago I lost all kinds of weight. The same thing will happen again and in a few months – the black gi top will fit again. I’ll just grab a white size 3 gi top and wear it. Maybe I thought; then again maybe not. I put on a size 3 and even that top wouldn’t fit. I had to wear a size 4 top. The gi top barely touched the floor. My best friend ripped the sleeves off so I wouldn’t have to roll them up. At least I could close it up. I even had to swap out brown belts. I practiced at this dojo for a year. My weight never budged.

I vowed I would lose the weight and wear my black gi top again. I had tried diets but they didn’t work too well. I did karate, so that was my exercise. I realize now when looking back I was eating a lot of junk food. I would eat several times a day. Plus on top of that, I was trying out the 40 grams of protein drinks – Monster Milk I bought at General Nutrition Centers (GNC). The chocolate flavor was pretty decent however those drinks had 400 calories. Plus I was at work going the snack bar to grab chips and candy bars after downing the protein drinks.

In early 2013 my friend came to me and said he was considering taking a ju-jitsu class. He was having some issues shedding a few pounds. He told me about a buddy of his who had been slightly overweight and began taking ju-jitsu class. That guy said he had initially lost 75lbs after a year of practicing. I heard this story and I decided I would try out ju-jitsu myself. I am glad I did. I had lots of fun. I will admit this class was intense compared to karate. It was cardio and strength training all in a 2-hour class one night a week. During the class, I wore a heavy weight gi top that was literally 10lbs. I thought to myself this is the class where I will slim back down.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2014 my wife heard about this Tim Ferris guy. He had a book called the 4 Hour Work Week. He also had the book 4 Hour Body. We had read about this slow carb diet where you eat mostly all protein and after 30 days you lose 20lbs. This sounded like a win-win for me. He had tips on how to bring your sugar levels under control. To which we tried these techniques. I found myself not craving sweets such as candy bars and cakes. He wrote about this concept of cheat days where you binge one all sweet foods for an entire day then the rest of the week you eat clean. I also incorporated a few suggested exercises that burn the most calories such as doing air squats for 90 seconds.

My wife saw results immediately. Me, however, I lost 2lbs. Then I lost a few more pounds. One day I felt I had I lost enough. So I decided to reach into the closet and pull out the little black gi top. I put it on…it still wouldn’t close around me. Back in the closet, it went.

The year 2015 was the worst year for my health. I was sick and so was my family. I stayed sick. I was at my heaviest. I am 3 feet tall. I am supposed to be 70 to 80lbs. Instead, I was at 120lbs. I was wearing pants that had a size 38-inch waist. I was miserable. Dieting was helping and neither was exercising. On top of that, my wife had no problem losing the weight. Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely proud of her. She did great and looks real good. I mean real fine looking too!

It was in August of 2015 after many issues and a series of events I was taken to a sleep clinic for testing. I write more about this in my blog post-Fighting Sleep. Now that it is a year later since my sleep study. I feel better than ever. I have lost 22lbs. I started practicing karate – Shotokan. I was going to class all the way up until the flood that took out the entire town the dojo was in.

However a few weeks ago I was going out to see some friends and I decided to reach into my closet to get a shirt I had only worn a few times in the past. As I reached for it, I saw my black gi top. A thought occurred, maybe I have lost enough weight and it might fit. I shrugged the notion because every time I had tried it on and it wouldn’t fit, I was depressed for days.

Then on this Labor Day weekend – I had to reach into the closet for a shirt. There it was…hanging in the closet. I slammed the door shut and walked away. I was having a good day. I didn’t want to depress myself. However, curiosity got the best of me.  An hour went by. I stormed into the room and threw open the closet door and pulled out the black gi top. I put my arms through the sleeves. There was no gap. I had lost enough weight to fit back into my gi top! I showed my wife, she was happy. I looked at her and announced that we should go out and celebrate. We jumped in the car and made our way to go get $0.50 Frosty from Wendys.

It was my wife who said the black gi was my equivalent to a woman’s black dress.

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Fighting Sleep

I have mentioned that Martial arts is 98% mental and that 2% is physical. The most important physical action you will do no matter what – is breathe. It is critical that you learn to breathe when practicing any type of martial arts. My classes have always started with breathing exercises and clearing our mind of distractions from the day – meditation. The last thing we do in class is more breathing exercises and reflecting on everything that we practiced – again meditation. In class I have learned that when the punch hits the intended target you exhale at the moment of impact. Executing a center block you inhale during the wrap and exhale at the snap. Breathing becomes very important when sparring an opponent or facing an attacker.

Breathing during a sparring match has been one of the hardest things for me to learn. As you may recall in one of my previous post Way of the Gun I fought an instructor while having major difficulty breathing. No I do not have to wear a set of headphones listening to a person telling me to “Breathe in and now, breathe out.” I am even inhaling and exhaling while writing this post. I am constantly inhaling and exhaling on my own approximately 23 hours a day 7 days a week. Well – OK maybe there have been a few times throughout the night I stop breathing.

I have a question for you. How do you know you are constantly breathing? Are you 100% certain you are constantly breathing during your sleep? Did you know: according to the National Sleep Foundation more than 18 million people suffer from sleep apnea?

When I was younger I had suspicion that I might have occasional bouts of sleep apnea. There were nights I woke up gasping for air. I found what I thought were a few easy fixes to prevent apnea. Years later I found that these fixes were insufficient and needed further assistance. I had mentioned to the doctor I thought I might have apnea. He looked at me and said “nope, you do not have the typical body type of someone who gets apnea.” I left it at that and dozed back off to sleep.

SleepApneaAhhh…sleep. At the ripe old age of 33 I thought I was just getting older and needed to go to bed earlier. No more late nights staying up watching movies till 3:00AM on the weekends. I was tired by 9:00PM on SATURDAY! Eventually I needed to take a nap after getting home from work. Then one day I realized I was getting awfully tired while sitting at my desk. I remember thinking to myself “Well it is 2:00PM and I had a bunch of carbs. No wonder why I am tired.” Then a few days later I was exhausted after putting in an hour of work. When I felt sleepy at work I’d stand at my desk and do work. That went great for about 5 minutes and then I’d lean up against my desk and fall asleep. I was going to bed earlier and earlier. In the mornings I’d hit the snooze button several times so I could sleep in as late as I could. I was sleeping in the car to work and to home. I was not driving. I was scrolling through Facebook while sleeping. I’d be in the middle of conversations and doze off in mid-sentence. I’d be in the shower and nod off to sleep. Each time I fell asleep, I went into R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) and began snoring – loud. Soon all of these instances became a daily occurrence.

I didn’t realize what was happening to me at first. I also didn’t realize it was negatively affecting my mood and my health. I was overweight and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t lose the weight. The last diet I tried was Tim Ferris’s from his book the 4 Hour Body. After a few weeks I began to see results. My clothes were beginning to be loose on me, then one morning they were tight. About midway through 2014 I began using the bathroom more frequently at night time. I was waking up and heading to the restroom as many as 4 times a night. Apparently my kidneys were working overtime to pull water off of my lungs. I was gaining an excessive amount of water weight.

I was beginning to get aggravated with people closest to me. I didn’t want to go to work. I loathed every minute I was there. Now I get it that most people don’t like to work. I had at one time actually enjoyed going to work and doing my job. Instead I was irritable and constantly sleepy. I would sit in meetings with top level executives fighting every second to stay awake. There were a few times I had contemplated taking the pen in my hand to stab myself in the leg so I could get a burst of adrenaline so I could survive the rest of the meeting. I was consuming 3 to 5 cups of coffee at work. That is not counting the 2 or 3 cups I had at home before and after work.

On most occasions I had this overwhelming feeling hit me. I knew moments later I would enter into R.E.M. I would be in the middle of writing and all of the sudden I am dreaming about an exotic land or hanging out with a friend and eating food. In the middle of the dream I would realize that I am a sleep and I am at work. I must wake up!

Finally I broke down and I went to the doctor. I looked at him and said “if you don’t do something about the fact I am sleeping all of the time, I am going out and getting an 8 Ball of cocaine!” Before I left the office I had an appointment with a sleep clinic and a pulmonologist.

I go to the sleep clinic and I answer their brief survey. I scored high on the charts for sleep apnea. I was told to watch a video. I remember in the video the guy is going about his work day having issues staying awake. He is diagnosed with apnea and begins to receive treatment. Towards the end of the video the guy is living a more active lifestyle and is playing Frisbee.

In the middle of the night during my sleep study at the clinic I hadn’t been asleep 2 hours before the respiratory therapist come rushing into the room. They woke me up and said “We need to begin treatment now!”

At the consultation with the doctor a month later I was informed that I was a severe case. He said I was a textbook case because of my scoliosis. He explained that the curvature of the spine reshaped the lungs. With the lungs being reshaped people are more susceptible to pulmonary issues. The doctor went on to explain the results of my sleep study. He reiterated that I would be a severe case. Apparently that was an understatement. Let’s just say the results weren’t “IF” I died in my sleep but “WHEN” I die in my sleep.

No one likes the idea sleeping with a machine to help you breathe. After that comment from the doctor I have had no problem putting that mask on before hopping into bed. I am not as irritated by people, I am actually enjoying the job I do for a living. The best part is that I am losing weight, my energy levels are up and I can enjoy a good workout. I am getting a full night of sleep and I am not waking up four or more times a night to go use the bathroom.

I bring this up because it is important to be in good health when practicing martial arts. It is important to get plenty of rest. It is imperative that we care for our lungs (as well as the rest of our body). I explained that in the beginning of class and at the end of class we take time to meditate and work on deep breathing. We work on clearing our mind of distractions. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms then you can’t go into class and clear your mind. You can’t take in deep breathes. You can’t function properly.

Feel free to comment below. I would like to hear about your experiences. Are you experiencing any of the symptoms? Does sleep apnea affect your performance in martial arts or other physically demanding activity?


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