Unworm your ear

Earworm: A song that sticks in your mind, and will not leave no matter how much you try. (source: Urban Dictionary)

If you’re okay with earworms and they don’t bother you, stop reading and go on with your day.

If you mind earworms, if they bug you (wow much pun amaze lol wow), then keep reading.

I'm getting better and better at this stuff.

I’m getting better and better at this stuff.

I dislike earworms because there is essentially nothing different between an earworm and a thought. And I haven’t been meditating for the last 3 years for nothing. Nagging thoughts that repeatedly resurface and you can’t seem to let go of them – meditation is for you. You learn to observe and not think; perceive and not judge; feel and not reason. This is all good, but how do you meditate, how do you do such a thing, if there is a tune stuck in your mind and whatever you do, you just keep hearing it over and over and over again?

Well, luckily for you, I’ve come up with a technique (two actually). And they both work.

The first one is sleeping: I’ve come to realize that I have earworms when I’m tired. And what should you do when you’re tired? That’s right, rest. So rest. Sleep. That’s number one.

The second one is a variation on classical Zen meditation. In Zen meditation, you observe the feeling you get from your breath. In your “unworming” meditation, you close your eyes and listen to the world around you. To the birds, the trees, the wind, the cars, the people. If it’s silent, you just listen to silence (silence actually has a sound, that was amazing for me to realize, there’s this extremely silent constant beep or screech that you never perceive because it’s so impossibly silent. But I digress.) If you do this, you don’t listen to the song in your mind but to your surroundings, which also has a tactical positive side: you learn to mind the sounds around you. Think of cats – have you ever seen a cat that ignored a sound? I haven’t. They always react to sounds, even when they’re sleeping their ears move around, listening for danger. Try to be more like a cat.

That’s it. Next time your earworm starts bugging you (oh I’m just so funny), do one or both of these things and you’ll be fine in no time.

Crying under the shower

This knowledge is useful, so read this well – it took me more than 3 years in order to find this technique, I hope you will discover it in yourself in much less time.

What’s this about?

Basically, your body and mind, in one word, being, is more often than not under some form of stress, be it physical or psychological. Any kind of stress will result in emotions. You can be stressed by a hammer hitting you on the finger (a physical stress) but the end-result is emotions (in this case, probably anger).

This stress will resurface every now and then, depending on your lifestyle, but it will resurface in form of emotions. Imagine yourself as a pressure valve – you accumulate (emotional) pressure and then, if you don’t have a way of releasing it, and mind you, an effective way, you break apart, release a lot of it in a spur and then you’re empty. And then you start accumulating stress again.

Well, after 3 years of being aware of this fact and convincing myself that playing drums or writing or meditation or boxing would help me get it out, I realized that they might, but none come as close as simply crying under the shower.

plač

le paint art

 

Yup. That’s right. I cry under the shower when I’m feeling stressed out because that’s my natural way of releasing all the shit outside without freaking anybody out. You know, you could cry in the park or in the street or near another person, but I hope you have someone cry-worthy for that then.

(Wow! Cry-worthy! That’s my new favorite word!)

But yeah, cry under the shower because it muffles the sound, no one wonders why you’re all alone (I sincerely hope you can at least shower alone), and the warm water feels nice. The symbolic cleansing accompanied by a real one, you know, the whole package!

I think that girls generally have this part really nicely covered because the societal expectations on them aren’t the same as for boys. That shit about boys not crying is shit. We feel the same pain and respond in the same manner. Crying is, for a lot of men, still a taboo, even when they’re all alone, with no one to make fun of them. It’s just something they try never to do, ignoring the fact that, one day, they will cry, regardless of do they want it or not. It’s the same attitude people used to have towards sexuality (at least in highly orthodox countries). You know, masturbation wasn’t something you were supposed to do. Well, this is the same, after a fashion. People act like they don’t have to do it, then break apart, do it, and then the circle starts again and people act like they don’t have to do it again.

In my view, this is a very limiting mindset which possibly makes you chose situations that won’t result in you crying. I have no proof of this – this is just a stab in the dark – but it does seem true (we should probably have studies comparing lifestyles of people that cry and of those that don’t). But even if you don’t unintentionally chose non-stressful situations because you’re afraid to cry, you still have a big disadvantage: you’re emotionally more unstable than your crying counterparts. You’re maybe two heated sentences away from crying as a baby and maybe it’s not strategically best. Maybe you need to assert control in front of a group of people. Maybe you just need to show that you’re strong. Maybe something else. Maybe it’s okay to cry – but then it should be you who decides, not the pressure valve. You can’t get rid of it (actually you can, lobotomy works great) but you can learn how to use it and control it.

So there, I gave you a great tool in order to manage your emotional self. Use it. Get used to your crying self. Note which muscles contract when you cry, and why your throat hurts when you do. Become acquainted with your crying self. It’s as important as your industrious, hard-working self, and infinitely more important than your persona.

Party hard, cry harder.

 

Unorthodox use of weapons

For the next week or two, I’ll be working on an old concept that I’ve only recently re-discovered: Unorthodox use of weapons.

As we’ve previously discussed in the article There is no difference between armed and unarmed combat, there are certain unspoken rules and conventions that arise during physical confrontations which we are not aware of. For example, a person wanting to attack us will often just attack with his or her body – fists, feet, elbows etc, but not throw sand in our eyes or use a pencil as a stabbing tool. Despite the fact that the attacker might want to do something similar, he/she will often not do anything like that because it’s unconventional and unorthodox. There are some that will do such things and they are fearsome opponents because their creativity lets them do things other people wouldn’t.

That is why I often attack with a practice knife that I grab in the middle of a sparring session. My sparring partner is sparring with me and often doesn’t count on a knife attack happening because, you know, we’re just sparring. This mindset needs to be erased and reshaped into one that expects the unexpected. Even my knife attacks in the middle of sparring are quite conventional because knives are conventional weapons. An unconventional attack might involve throwing a focus pad on my partner in order to distract him, and then attack with something even more unconventional. This way my partner trains his/her response to creative attacks and I train my creativity in the middle of a fight. One friend of mine has told me that on several occasions, it happened to him that his sparring partner threw an unexpected strike at him, from up high, or a rotational/jumping kick, and that he just froze, not out of fear, but out of lack of expectation. This frame of mind needs to be changed.

So, what is unorthodox use of weapons?

It is a practical science as well as a philosophy. As regards philosophy, the main ideas have already been mentioned: through unorthodox use of weapons, you employ your creativity in order to give you more tools than you would have had. Thus a Muay Thai fighter will not only use his eight limbs but bottles, credit cards, keys, chains, teeth, fingers, sand, water, the blinding effect of the sun – to his advantage. Thus a person with a gun will not only shoot from it but use it as a striking and thrusting implement, and, with sufficient knowledge, as an explosive. Through unorthodox use of weapons, you are given many more tools and a mindset that expects attacks of a similar nature. Simply put, you are a better and a more realistic fighter.

As regards the practicality of it, some ideas have already been mentioned, and I will mention others too, but the main point is to invent your own unorthodox uses of weapons. One thing to hold in mind is realism: some unorthodox attacks are simply not effective or effective enough. Know what you gain from each attack. If it is better to simply punch and kick, then by all means, punch and kick.

But learning to use everything close to us as a weapon is a good habit. Form no favorites: learn to use each weapon and then discard it. If you are more inclined to some weapons than others, you already became a specialist, and not a generalist, and a generalist is in this context much better than a specialist.

Practical ideas for training:

(let this be only an inspiration, not a definite guide)

  • when sparring unarmed, attack with a weapon
  • when sparring armed, try to not use the weapon but only your body
  • when sparring in a room, subtly move towards the lights switch and turn the ligths off, and then attack
  • throw stuff at your partner before you attack
  • use other people as shields, or unexpectedly attack your partner together with someone else that wasn’t suposed to participate
  • look at the things in your room and try to figure out a way to weaponize them:
    • a pencil might be used for stabbing
    • a deodorant might be used for spraying into someone’s eyes, or hitting
    • shoestrings could be used to trap arms or legs, or to suffocate someone
    • a flashlight could blind someone in the dark, making a good introduction to a fight
  • yell at your training partner. Voice can in itself be a formidable tool.
Some ideas on the unorthodox use of weapons. How would you weaponize these everyday objects?

Some ideas on the unorthodox use of weapons. How would you weaponize these everyday objects?

Keep this in mind: if it saves your life only once, it was worth all the training.

Martial arts: what to train, which style to choose and how to train in martial arts schools for free

On the path of becoming overhuman, martial arts play a crucial role. Martial arts do not teach people how to fight but how to live. My original reason for starting with martial arts is the same for Parkour – there is an initial choice to be made before everything else: to live or to die. Both are morally completely acceptable, as they make no matter on the grand scale of things. It is this nihilistic notion of unimportance of life that actually freed me. I realized that life is intrinsically unimportant and that I make the choice of living or dying. If I want importance, I have to make it myself. So I decided to live, and the next step was learning how to live. If you decide to live, you must know how one does it. And if you decide to live, you must be aware that there are forces that may end your life and that means that you must prepare yourself to protect your life. These are the reasons for both martial arts and Parkour. These reasons are still relevant for me today as they were several years ago and I feel I have valuable insights and experience to contribute.

So… Let’s have a look at the world of martial arts through questions and answers.

Can I train alone, using video instructions or do I need to go to a martial arts school?

You can train alone, but don’t begin alone. If you’ve never had any martial arts training, it would be smart to find people that can guide you. That way you progress much faster – you do not need to reinvent the wheel.

Which style should I choose?

Any style. It’s never about the style, but about the practitioner. Take up what interests you, something that excites you. For some people it may be Krav Maga or Muay Thai, both very simple, aggressive and external styles. Some people may be more interested in old styles, the various types of Kung Fu and the like. It doesn’t matter which one you pick. What matters is how open you are to other ideas (styles) and how realistic and down-to-earth you are with regards to real combat. Which leads me to…

Should I choose one style and stick with it or experiment with other styles?

This one is a though question. I always advise openness and looking at different perspectives, but I know that I wouldn’t be half as good a fighter I am today if I hadn’t stayed in my school. There are simply some things that take a lot of time and effort to master, and it’s not enough to superficially go through them. In other words, quality instead of quantity. But on the other hand, I’m equally sure that my real-world fighting skill wouldn’t be as good as it is today if I hadn’t sparred and trained with people from other backgrounds.

My advice would be this: stay in your school if you feel that what you’re being taught isn’t shit and if what you’re being taught is something you still haven’t mastered. If your master, trainer, sensei or sifu is better than you and beats you easily, you have much more to learn. But dabble in other styles – train with people with different backgrounds. This is very important.

As a Wing Tzun practitioner, I’ve encountered some difficulty sparring with Muay Thai or regular boxers. Their “normal” fighting distance wasn’t my normal fighting distance. This unawareness might have cost me my health on the street, but through sparring with them, I understood the fundamental differences in our fighting approaches and corrected the errors in my movement. Now I can fight with them without feeling awkward.

How do I know that what I’m being taught isn’t shit? Are modern styles like MMA better than traditional ones?

It’s popular for today’s MMA practitioners to say that Kung Fu and any other traditional style is a bunch of nonsense. The argument is that they have been thoroughly tested in the ring and it has been shown that these styles don’t work. And when there is a video of a fight in which the fighters supposedly use a traditional style and they’re winning, they say that they see western boxing/muay thai/etc.

While I won’t deny that there truly are many bullshit schools, relying on dogmatism and the cult of the master in order to keep up appearances, I believe that there is a fundamental misunderstanding at play here.

First and most important, fighting in the ring is not the same as fighting on the street. It’s common to grapple in the ring and you usually see people trying to land frontal strikes at the person who’s holding them, but avoiding hitting the back of their heads and necks. On the street, you would never do such a thing. If someone grapples you and gives you the back of their neck, you elbow it and hammer fist it. This isn’t allowed in the ring because fighting on the street isn’t a sport. It’s dirty and it’s bloody. You go for their nuts and for their throat and for their eyes.

I’m not saying that combat sports are useless. They are very useful and have a lot of applicability on the street. But let’s not forget that sport is sport, and combat is combat. I’m not talking out of my ass now – I’ve had some training in Muay Thai and boxing and it was very exciting and useful to learn, but it’s not all there is to fighting.

Secondly, many traditional styles have wider concerns than one to one fighting. They try to teach you how to breathe, how to look at people, how to develop you mental resilience. In traditional styles, there are many things to learn except learning how to fight. With this in mind, it should be noted that many techniques are actually only training techniques, designed to make it easier for you to gain a certain goal, not goals in themselves.

Furthermore, teachers often overemphasize certain things in order for people to understand them at all. In my phonetics class, our teacher used to overemphasize certain sounds just so that we could say them correctly. We underemphasized, they overemphasized, and thus we said them just correctly. So don’t try to turn over-explanations into bullshit claims. There are enough of them already.

Try to feel it: if you feel that what you’re being taught is not BS, it probably isn’t. This is where your own objectivity comes to play. Ask questions. Spar with other styles. Keep at something, maybe it will make sense to you after more diligent training. There’s no straight answer here.

What should my primary focus be on?

Many styles have their own ways of training, and each one thinks its way is better than the others. Usually there is a valid explanation why. This question can only be answered by an opinion, so I give mine.

Learn how to straight punch and straight kick. This means hitting air, but even more importantly, it means hitting a bag. After two years of training Wing Tzun, I had a certain technical know-how, but I wasn’t accustomed to the very act of hitting something hard, which is, in turn, the most important part of the fighting process. I firmly believe that beginners’ focus should be on striking heavy bags. That way, you get truly comfortable with the act of hitting something. Naturally, there are some styles that don’t do bag-striking at all. This doesn’t mean that they are bad. They may have a lot to teach you, but if you want quick improvement in your ability and fighting confidence, hit a bag. And of course, I hope I don’t need to mention it, but hit the bag with no gloves or pads. You don’t wear gloves on the street.

Get tough. One part of getting tough is simply getting strong. Do strength exercises, they will do you a lot of good in fighting. The other part is getting resilient, not being psychologically or physically bothered by adversity such as rain, cold or your opponent’s punches. I have several exercises that might comprise a toughness training session, and they are as following:

  • hit yourself with a wooden stick on the forearms and shins
  • do Parkour rolls – this alone increases your toughness and overall “body armor”
  • while sparring, allow yourself to get hit sometimes
  • fall on the ground and bump into walls on purpose – this might seem funny, but it is very useful
  • train in the cold, in the snow, in the wind, in the rain, without having eaten previously and without having slept sufficiently – of course, don’t overdo it. You don’t want to get sick and unhealthy. Balance is key.

One thing to remember is this: if you are getting beaten, don’t lose confidence. Persist despite adversity of any kind.

Become very fast (without sacrificing technique). This means developing your strategic footwork (every martial arts has its own) and, well, becoming physically fast while executing techniques. Footwork and speed. Footwork, speed. Speed, footwork. Got it? Great.

Shouldn’t I just fight on the street? Isn’t it true that you only get better at things if you do them? So if you want to get better at fighting, shouldn’t you just head outside and fight?

No. Fighting is one of the rare things you don’t get truly better at if you just head outside and do it. The odds are against it. There are certainly some good street fighters, but I have yet to meet a good one that never trained fighting. Sure, your self-confidence might rise (even at the expense of being a jerk). But do you get proper technique? Real punching power? Anything. In my opinion, no.

But I don’t have the money to go to a martial arts school.

If you really like a specific school and really don’t have the money, ask the instructor if there is any way for you to repay your debt, if you could clean the gym or help in any other way. Try it, it might just work. I know I’d accept someone that’s really passionate but doesn’t have the money.

But there is also another way for the empty of pocket. Most bigger cities have hundreds of various gyms. The first class is always free (and if it isn’t, it’s probably not worth your time anyway). Go from one gym to another, ask for the first free class, try it out, say thank you and then repeat with another gym and another school. You could do this for an entire year, and still have places you haven’t seen yet. I do this when I’m not training Wing Tzun. I go from one martial arts gym to another one, see what they have to offer, absorb new perspectives, feel their pulse, see how they breathe, and then visit another one.

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or objections, the comment field is below, comment away.

 

The only solution I’ve found for knee pain

As a Parkour practitioner, I’ve experienced knee pain on many occasions. Parkour involves a lot of impact and for some people knee pain never arrives, but I started to feel it after some two years of practice (and it wasn’t a completely bad practice, I did warm up and I did pay attention to good technique).

I’ve experimented with foam rolling, then with wooden stick rolling, with a lot more stretching, with more running, with weight training (actually, with one legged squats, popularly called pistols) and the only thing I’ve found to work and to stop my knee pain, not only prevent it, is static strength training.

I do not know why the horse stance is so good and why it helps so much, but it does. Just two days ago I’ve started feeling my left knee again and yesterday I did just five minutes in the horse stance and voila, the pain had all but disappeared!

So I advise you, if you have knee pain (and I know a lot of people who have have it, it’s common enough within the world of physical activity), do static exercises, namely the horse stance. Do it as long as you can. If you can manage one minute, try two. If you’re okay with 5, do 10. There are people in this world that can hold the horse stance for hours on end. So, it can be done. It is on you to do it.

This is horse stance:

Disclaimer – Cass Heaven pointed out in his/her comment the following:

(…) While you might be right that it can help with a lot of knee pain when you strengthen your quadriceps muscle (front of things) you are wrong that it is the best thing to help all kinds of knee pain.
There are a lot of different structures and depending on what is hurt this exercise can actually cause a problem to get worse.

I agree, it might make the problem worse, depending on what’s wrong with your knee. I advocate self-experimentation but I also advocate being smart, so be smart and find out what the best therapy for you is. I’ve only given my personal account of managing knee pain, and it is based on practicing Parkour and recurring low-intensity knee pain. It might not be the best solution for you, but it also might be, and that’s why I put up the post, to share this idea with all of you. Experiment and be smart people!

Hyperawareness

The mind can go either direction under stress – toward positive or toward negative: On or off. Think of it as a spectrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end. The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.

Hyperawareness is not only related to stressful events, even though its biggest quality lies in the fact that it can be present in high stress events. But hyperawareness is something that can be exercised and practiced in any situation, stressful or not. I describe hyperawareness as a sort of Zen Rampage mode. It’s an oxymoron, but for me it’s just that.

It is not a very pleasant experience. It includes quick change between thinking (deductions, analyses and so forth) and perception, observing the world around you. Even in observing, one does not simply relax and observe, but observes in quite a proactive way – you do not merely wait for an observation, you seek it.

So, if you were to happen to be in a room during a meeting, you would not simply meditatively look at your surroundings, you would try to watch the reactions of many people at once, jumping with your eyes from one to another. You would be aware of movement and direct your gaze towards it. You would shift from multitasking to singletasking: from listening to a person speak and actively interpreting it while looking at their body language (multitasking), to just analyzing it (singletasking), to looking at the reactions of people (singletasking), to seeing someone shift in their chair uncomfortably and interpreting their behavior (multitasking). This exchange is rather rapid in nature, and, for me, quite tiring.

What you get during such hyperawareness sessions is a chaotic mass of new knowledge without any obvious hierarchy of importance. You get that your professor is bored, and you get that the college board is granting money to a magazine, and you get that a professor-assistant has weight loss issues, and you get a million other things that are absolutely chaotic in their organization. That’s what you get. A million pieces of info in a great swarm. That’s also the reason why hyperawareness is so hard to maintain for a long time. It’s much like sprinting – you cannot sprint 5K. In a lot of ways, the brain also works as a muscle – you use it and train it, and it becomes better at what you do. But the thing with the brain is that it CAN actually sprint for hours on end, and it can also get better at its sprinting speed. For example, my hyperawareness can last maybe an hour or so, but the intensity of it, the speed of the deductions I make and the amount of data I perceive are almost triple the amount I got three years ago. I remember myself several years ago because it’s then I started to write a journal, and from reading it today, I know how much I would get from my surroundings. I have multiplied both my hyperawareness intensity (the “hyper” part of awareness) and the length of time I can maintain it without relapsing into normal awareness. Of course, the natural goal of hyperawareness training is to maintain it indefinitely.

However, there are certain caveats that are important and should be shared. It would seem that hyperawareness causes hyperproduction during later, normal awareness stage. I have been told that I speak a lot (like, really a lot) and I have seen that my creativity drive and will to express myself (be it through words or movement) are almost indomitable. I must do something! I must write, sing, walk, run, jump, move in general, talk, explain – in one word: produce.

This is both a good and a bad thing. Good because, obviously, being creative is good. Producing things is go(o)d. Bad because, if you cannot control your will to express yourself, you do not control yourself, and if you do not control yourself, then all of this is in vain, because the whole point of overhumanity exercises is achieving control.

Control
Balance
Stability
Mutability
Fun
Growth

Control, because great powers without control are useless, and quite literally so. Useless = without use. Why develop something neither you or anybody else can use?

Balance, because life is best lived through balance. Eat an imbalanced diet, you get sick. Be overly emotional, you get into situations were you don’t want to be. Laugh too little and you’ll die wondering why you didn’t do it more.

Stability, because only through perseverance, hard work, dedication and a certain stubbornness do you achieve great things. Nothing good in life comes easy. Also, if you are stable, life doesn’t knock you over when it gets windy. The problems come and they go. You stay.

Mutability, because change is the only true constant. Nothing is ever complete or defined. There is no closure. There is no job safety, and there is no personal security. Everything changes. In a world where everything changes, one is obliged to adopt an attitude and a physique that also adapt. Discard your opinions and practice naivete. Discard your blunt force and flow.

Fun, because it’s the ultimate generator of the human condition. We can, of course, give rationally supported arguments why we do some things and not do other things, but at the root of it all is plain old fun. Be it throwing rocks into a pond or practicing a Seven Star Praying Mantis form on top of a remote mountain in China – we all do it because we enjoy it.

Growth, because that’s how you achieve all of the above. You grow. You see better, you fight better, you think better, you write better, you garden better, you program better, you eat better, you live better, you die better. You grow.

There are many other words I could use to describe this journey, and maybe I could have done so with much less. It doesn’t really matter in the end because the point is not to describe the journey, the point is to take it.

 

Can you infer personality traits?

This is something I’ve been having some doubt about, ever since a friend of mine said he considered such a thing to be quite shallow. Can you actually say things like: he’s a narcissist, she’s egotistical, they’re smart and so on? I mean, surely you can do it after getting to know a person, but can you say that someone is a narcissist only by the fact that they like to wear tight and revealing clothing? Can you say that someone is dominant or extroverted or self-confident by the strength of their handshake?

I don’t know. I don’t like not knowing.

What you most certainly can do is make comments on their behavior and behavioral residue. If there is a lot of mud on the shoes, that person has obviously been outside. If one’s clothing is dry and clean, and it’s raining outside, one can safely infer that the person has either been indoors the whole time or has changed attire.

But what about their personality?

We do not like to be negatively categorized, even though we fully embrace positive categorization. No one likes to be called lazy or selfish, but rarely will you find a person refusing to be called trustworthy or steadfast. So if I as an observer decide to call someone vain or untrustworthy, there would be a lot of disproving. If I were to call someone altruistic and creative, my words would be accepted. This still tells us nothing about the veracity of the personality inferring process.

If you call people bad things based on what you see, you should at least be able to call them good things based on what you see. I think this question is a matter of preference and opinion, not of fact. Some people would avoid personality deductions altogether. This is fine, but I feel you lose a lot of information out of fear of being shallow or mistaken.

So my working solution for this problem is yes. Yes, you may judge people’s personality from what you perceive. But, as in other deductions, change your deduction if new data points to another direction and do not suppose more than what the data tells you. If someone is selfish, it does not necessarily mean that the person is also a liar, nor does it mean that being selfish increases the chance of that person being a liar, or anything else, for that matter. If you conclude that someone is selfish, well, then it’s the only thing you conclude.

I do not guess. I observe. And once I’ve observed, I deduce.