Month: January 2013

The Old Munki challenge

So I have mentioned that I have “raging arthritis” and as an old munki I’m awaiting one more operation on my right shoulder to fix it and clean it out.  However this weekend I was able to do a back squat for the first time in many many years.  I’ve not been able to do them because my shoulders would not previously rotate enough, so I could hold the bar on my back.   I have done deadlifts and struggled with some front squats and I just gave up on the back squat.

I recently bought some of these grip trainers and I have been using them in the gym.  I bet you have guessed where I am going with this.  I realised that I could use these to hold the bar on my back.  So for the first time in about 20 years I did back squats.  This might not be a big deal to most people but to me, it was achieving something. It has given me a really positive outlook as I had overcome a long standing barrier.

So I decided that 2013 is the year that I am going to start to achieve things.  From little acorns and small wins big things grow.  I know it may sound cliche, but you can’t talk about something like this, without sounding like a self help book. My actions may not be big or spectacular to others but I know that each one will mean something to me and that’s what counts really.  So I have set myself the target of one achievement a month and thought my voicing it on here will make it real and obviously stick to my target, as I will be able to look back at the end of the year and review them.  This could be in connection with my training or any aspect of my life, just so long as it has a significant impact on me and my life.

Last year wasn’t a great time for me and for quite a few people around me.  I was determined to make this year a positive and better one and this is the motivation to start that snowball rolling, so it gathers some pace as I achieve more.  I use the hashtag #challengeyourself a lot on my tweets and I believe that this target is a good and positive challenge to have.  Oh yeah and most of all I’m gonna make sure I have fun doing them all!



Meta Learning it is about humans…honest!

So I saw an article about the Tim Ferris book 4 Hour Chef in the newspaper, the book uses cooking is as a way to understand “meta learning”.  A guy called John Biggs (1985) is credited with creating and defining the concept of metalearning. His conception is framed around the idea of ‘being aware of and taking control of one’s own learning.’  So why is this actually interesting?  Well as an old munki I’m learning a lot of new things at the moment. Mainly BJJ and strength and conditioning related. This process is supposed to help you learn how to learn better. For me that sounds awesome!  I don’t know about you but I’ve sat in class and been mentally stunned by what I was supposed to grasp. It has previously taken a while for new stuff to sink into this old brain.

BUT having read a few papers on metalearning, I have realised it was because I was not trying to learn properly.  EUREKA!!  I was previously just trying to either read and re read it into my brain.  Or just practise till it kind of stuck.  So if I am able to apply the suggested processes and remain self aware about how effective it is being, my learning could improve.  This means there is a good chance this will improve not only my BJJ game, but the other sciencey strength and conditioning stuff I’ve been doing.

The process roughly revolves around the below cycle:


Activities such as planning how to approach a given task, monitoring understanding and learning needs and evaluating progress towards completion of the task or modifying the task as additional factors emerge, are the main basis of the process.  Until you are able to ultimately finds what actually works for you.  I know this all sounds a little geeky and I should just get on with the job.  But I have also been listening to the On the Mat Radio podcast about Gianni Grippo (podcast here).  In it he mentions how he needs to structure his learning and this is something he got from the Mendes Brothers.  They focus on specifics and drill and understand a technique across a month.

So it does look like there is a good opportunity here to help my learning and understanding. I’m definitely going to start structuring my learning now, as having thought about this more and more over the last few days.  It does really apply to me.  I have tried just reading and watching stuff, but it does not sink in.  But when I think about it and understand how it works and I’m able to “explain” it to myself or someone else, then I have it. I’ll keep you updated in time to how this has been working.

If you want to have a look at this for yourself here are some resources that I’ll be using and the papers I’ve read:

Developing the Concept of metalearning

Enacting metalearning (This is a study on 10 students)

Exploring the Concept of Metalearning

Metalearning Resources

Don’t mess with the raging arthritis, it can get nasty.

So I went to the Hospital this week to see the Doctor about the surgery on my right shoulder.  I had surgery last year on my left shoulder to repair damage from my youth and I have been waiting for the same operation on the right.  So I was told that I have raging osteoarthritis in my shoulders. AWESOME!

Then when the doctor asked me my age  and come out with the reply “I thought my shoulders were in bad shape” that really made me feel good.  So I can’t deny my age but the news about my shoulders was a bit of a shock.  I knew I could not get my arms into some positions, like an americana but I just thought that due to the capsule issue as my left shoulder has much improved flexibility since the operation.  But apparently not, it is the arthritis that is stopping my arms achieving these positions.

So I took the news a little negatively as the first thing that crossed my mind was “well thats the end on my BJJ training, when its only just started!!”.  I was not happy as I was looking forward to my training. So I wallowed in this for a few hours at work.  Then on the drive home I started to think out of all the people in the world I can’t be the only one that has this problem.  So got home and hit Google to try and see how other people handle it.  I managed to find a couple of blogs from people that have rheumatoid arthritis, which is far worse than what I have. It was inspiring to see how they were handling their condition together with their BJJ, but also the fact that they simply adjusted their game to cater for their limitations.  I also saw the comment on the 10th Planet Forum regarding Training Over 40.

Thats when it struck me, my issues are bad but not bad enough to make me stop doing something I enjoy.  I’ll just have to make some adjustments to my game.  I am also going to go to an osteopath after the initial physiotherapy and strengthening work, to maximise what flexibility I have in both shoulders.  I know unfortunately there are no specific supplements that can repair the damage that has been done, but I can look at stuff to help with inflamation to increase longevity. I’ll keep you updated following the operation about things I do to heal and beat the doctors estimations of my busted body.

So stuff the doctors what to they know. I may have found BJJ late in my life, but I’m not going to stop till I drop.  If Helio can keep going until he was 95 I’m going to try my hardest to match to match him on that. (Probably the only thing I stand a chance on matching the master on)

Just incase you are interest here are the blogs I found that got me thinking:-

BJJ with Arthritis

Old Man Jiu Jitsu

10th Planet – Training Over 40

Resolutions sometimes they end up out of focus

So as 2013 starts and the excess of the festive season has now passed a lot of people start to consider new year resolutions.  As all the research shows despite everyones best intentions these eventually fail.  So instead of setting yourself targets too high, how about changing some little things that are still going to have a big positive impact on your health.

1.  Improved Sleep

On average we should get around 8 hours of good sleep a night.  This helps with your body’s recovery from training and day to day stresses. One way to help with sleep is to reduce the amount of light in the bedroom.  So this means no TV in the bedroom and blackout blinds to stop any ambient getting in through the windows. There is a nice little sleep profiler here from the BBC.

2. Diet

Now this does not mean dieting, it means cleaning up your existing diet.  If you look at what you eat honestly you will know what is junk  and what is really good fuel. So why put junk in your body if you want to get the best out of it?  I’m not advocating a specific fad diet here.  I have made it clear that my preferred way of eating is the paleo method. If you are interested in that here is the quick start guide. But simple changes can be easier, so work on limiting your junk intake may be preferable.

3. Have Fun

Make sure your training stays fun. Dr Ralph Smedley said “people learn most in moments of enjoyment”.  Fun is not so much something you say or do as an atmosphere or state of mind you create for yourself.  Don’t start pushing yourself into too much, which is one I’ve definitely been guilty of before now.  Starting the year with a bang and then physically fizzling out as I can’t manage the pace.  Keep it fun and you will keep going back, you’ll learn more and even take it on board.  Even if you start slow you can build up, which is probably healthier for you any way.

If you do decide to make any changes with the new year I hope they are successful!!

Keep munki-ing