What it means to be a Blackbelt

Yesterday I had the pleasure of promoting 5 of my students to black belt, this day was special in so many unique ways.

Firstly, it was the first time that I had 5 students test together for black belt and secondly it would have been Bruce Lee’s 70th birthday, if he was still with us.

Now you’re probably wondering, what the heck does Bruce Lee’s birthday have in common with a Taekwondo black belt graduation?

Like many other Martial Artists from back in the day, Bruce was a huge inspiration for us, for me it was when I went to see this movie called “Enter the Dragon” I was so pumped and excited coming out of the theater, that all I could think of was wanting to be just like Bruce, “kicking butt and taking names later.” Hi Ya!

Walking down Barrington Street that night I came across a Martial Arts school, I didn’t care if it was Karate, Kung Fu or whatever, I just wanted to sign up and start kicking.

As fate would have it I walked into a Taekwondo school and the rest is history. At the time like any new student all I wanted was to get a black belt, because if I had a black belt, I would be the man.

A funny thing happened, the more I trained, the more my perception changed too. Instead of being fixated on getting the belt, I became more fixated on becoming the belt, from the instead out.

Last night I shared with my new black belts on what it means to me to be a black belt.

Here are my closing remarks.

“In order to understand what it means to be a black belt, one must first understand the journey to becoming a black belt. It is a journey that can be quite long and difficult at times yet very rewarding. Students’ progress through several colored belts, each one, a rung on the ladder to black belt.

It is by working to achieve each new rank that students learn to set goals and develop the discipline and focus along with the many other attributes that go into making a great black belt.

Developing this mindset is not something that happens overnight. It is a transformation that takes many years of hard work and unwavering dedication.

Taekwondo is not simply a means of self-defense or sport, but also a way of life. It is a state of mind that unfolds over the course of ones journey to becoming a black belt.

Most students beginning this journey are seeking to receive a black belt. It is when they realize that a black belt is not something you earn, but something you become that they will truly understand what it means to be a black belt.

Black belt is a state of mind. The responsibility which comes with being a black belt is a responsibility to the betterment of yourself, your community, society and the world.

Black belt is the start of a new path…It is the beginning of a journey that has no end.

Today, I ask you to pay attention to that path, and not look at this as your pinnacle because in reality, there is no pinnacle.

Today marks the end of one journey and the beginning of a new.

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”

Be a beginner.”

Happy Birthday Mr. Lee, thank you for inspiring us to greatness.

By: Master Tim Bell

I Need More Stuff!

In Canada today, we live in an amazing time, we are surrounded by opulence and wonder, as long as we have the money to spend, we can do and buy pretty well anything we want.  We are living a lifestyle that was all but a fantasy just a couple of generations ago.

The average Canadian family has so many time and energy saving devices, including a wide variety of clothing and food stuffs, to produce the same type of lifestyle back in Roman times would take an army of around 6000 slaves.  We still use others, but they are the slaves and oppressed peoples in foreign lands that we don’t see.

So what are the consequences of living the good life?

We gouge the earth for resources to make the machines and other stuff, and burn the cheap non-renewable carbon energy to feed the machines that are polluting and warming planet.

We talk about carbon footprints, but our personal footprints are much, much larger. The trouble is that very few of us know what our personal footprints are and the consequences of our actions.

Everything happens so far away, the people and pollution that sustains us are invisible to us. The computer I’m using. The TV I’m watching my beloved Packers on and the clothes I’m wearing all came from other parts of the world, also I wonder, where does all this stuff go when I’m finished with it?

We are constantly being wooed by the status quo to “Buy More NOW!”, “Upgrade NOW!”,  “You need this NOW!” that we’ve become a society obsessed with stuff.

I admit it your honor, I’m guilty as charged, I’m a stuffaholic. Looking around I can’t help but notice just how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the years, clothes that I’ve never worn or will wear, DVD’s that I’ve watched once,  an X-Box that is covered in dust bunnies, and not to mention old electronics just hanging around, that are broken or obsolete.

You know you have too much stuff, when you walk into your local Future Shop and walk out because there’s nothing that you don’t have or really need.

Knowing that most of our stuff comes from have not countries, and made by others who live with far less than what we do, is buying more really helping these regions out of despair or are we creating more despair and pain?

I think the latter.

It takes an incredible amount of energy and resources to keep us wallowing in stuff, it’s been estimated that it would take 5 identical planets to sustain our standard of living for all of earths citizens.

Do we really need all this stuff? I know it’s good for the economy, it creates wealth and jobs, but seriously, how long can this gravy train last? It’s a system that is 100% dependent on cheap fuel and cheap labour.

We live on a finite planet of limited resources and limited time.

I think it’s time for an intervention.

By: Master Tim Bell

Zen and the Art of Easy Weight Loss

Lose Weight Fast!… Results Guaranteed!…This is NOT an exercise program!

Weight loss centers seem to be sprouting up everywhere lately, with their celebrity endorsed claims of easy, fast and effective systems that guarantee results or else, it’s a tempting proposition indeed, especially for a status quo that is looking for fast and easy.

Are these claims too good to be true? …Or is the weight loss industry is hiding something from us? Here’s what they won’t tell you.

Industry secret number 1: All weight loss center diet plans or pills make you Fatter than before!

That’s right you heard it… With all weight loss diets — you always gain back the pounds you lose — and usually a few extra pounds as an added FREE bonus. What’s the point in losing 20 pounds to gain back 30?

Why go through the pain of dieting, the starvation, the cravings, and the ultimate struggle with willpower, only to gain it all back? When you consider the permanent damage this does to your health, both mentally and physically.

Industry secret number 2: Every single weight loss diet, “slows down your metabolism”, NO Exceptions! What this means is that your body goes into survival mode, it thinks that you’re starving it so it conserves the fat and cannibalizes the lean muscle instead. You NEED lean muscle to burn fat.

However most people never look at these negative realities, because they are so emotionally tied up with their own weight problem, they never explore it from the other side, so they end up finding out the hard way.

Industry secret number 3: The weight loss industry wants you to “Fail” … Otherwise they would run out of new suckers to fleece. Think about it. If everybody lost the weight for good, the weight loss Industry would die overnight.

Just in North America alone, the weight loss industry is worth over $44 Billion per year, and here’s the kicker, their failure rate is over 98%…

What other industry today would survive and continue to thrive with such an abysmal success rate, and its notorious false claims?

So what is the secret to permanent, healthy weight loss? Well you can’t find it in a bottle or in a low calorie meal plan…It’s a combination of a few things, when implemented together they create healthy results that last.

Here’s the real skinny…

Weight loss secret number 1: You have to increase your metabolism. The most effective way to do this is through exercise, and I don’t mean the Jane Fonda workout or breaking out the Thigh Master, but something that really improves aerobic endurance and builds strong lean muscle. The leaner the muscle the higher your metabolism thus the higher number of calories burned.

Looking at what’s available today, Kettlebell training is by far the ideal tool for both. Research has shown that in an 20 minute workout subjects burned on average 272 calories. That’s a Whooping 6.6 calories per minute, which is the equivalent to running a 6 minute mile pace.

Weight loss secret number 2: Strike a fine balance between caloric intake and proper food choices. It’s pretty simple, don’t consume more calories than you burn, and don’t ingest too many empty calories such as refined white sugar and/or white flour. Eat more protien, such as egg whites, and lean meats, also stick to low glycemic index carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains (breads and pastas) and beans.

That’s the skinny, a little bit of work, some common sense, and the desire to make a healthy and lasting change.

The weight loss industry has 44 Billion reasons why they need to convince you otherwise.

You know the old saying “If it’s too good to be true, well, it most likely is.”

By: Master Tim Bell

Back From the Future

I wonder what the future will hold for us, 20 years from now. Most would agree that today we are living in a time and in a world that is teetering on a crisis of epic proportions.

Our biosphere and its renewable and non-renewable resources are in serious jeopardy. Presently we are just entering the age of World Peak Oil, where world demand is beginning to outweigh its dwindling supply. There hasn’t been a major new oil discovery in some years now, or probably will be in the future. So in order to make do, we’ve resorted to relying on dirty tar sands oil, as we frantically search for another big oil find, by drilling further into the ocean deeps.

Other than Peak Oil here are some the other major issues facing us:

  1. The further depletion of the protective ozone layer, that is causing high levels of UV radiation.
  2. Increasing levels of Carbon Dioxide, from burning carbon based fuels (coal & oil), and the degradation of our forests and wetlands. These are the 2 major causes of runaway Global Warming.
  3. Acid rain that is turning our lakes and oceans into acidic, lifeless grave yards.
  4. Our linear economy that is based on the concept of insatiable consumption and endless growth that in turn is creating resource degradation and tons of toxic waste.
  5. Extremely high obesity and cancer rates.

These are some of the major issues that are facing humanity today, which will surely lead to a much harsher and crueler world down the road, if they are left unchecked and unabated.

Here’s a synopsis of what life could be like in 20 years’ time. It’s not my intention to scare anyone, or be a purveyor of doom and gloom, it’s quite the opposite. I feel that in order to change for the better, you need to face the reality of the situation, with honesty, courage and acceptance. For mankind it’s time to face that reality.

Fast forward 20 years…

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Saturday July 27th, 2030,

It’s been a little over 2 months since it last rained, the temperature outside has been hovering between 40 – 45 degrees Celsius when you factor in the brutal humidity it seems more like 50+. The long range forecast is predicting more of the same for the next 3 weeks or even longer.  The Municipalities water supply is dangerously low and crops are dying in their fields.

Going outside in the day light is starting to become an issue, any exposed skin, regardless of using sunscreen, blisters and burns in less than an hour. Most people heed the warning to stay inside, those who don’t, are paying the piper.

Due to the riseing water levels of the Halifax Harbour, the city has decided to close Lower Water Street in order to extend the new waterfront levy. The work will be facilitated in the night in order for the workers to avoid the scorching heat and the dangerously high UV levels.

The price of gasoline has been hovering, around the $7.00 a liter mark for regular unleaded, that’s if you can find a gas station that hasn’t run out or is rationing their supplies. Gasoline has become the number 1 target of Halifax thieves, it’s now more lucrative than drugs. Many Haligonians are parking their cars and choosing to walk or bicycle, to get around locally.

Many of the big box stores outside the city have closed, due to the lack of cheap, once plentiful product from China, and their poor accessibility other than by car. Many locals resort to supporting the small shops and stores in their communities; frugality and recycling have become the norm.

The big grocers are having trouble keeping their shelves stocked with perishables; this is mostly due to the high costs associated with shipping and production, and the inconsistent availability.  Most consumers resort to local Farmers Markets, or growing their own food. 60% of Haligonians now have Chicken coops and vegetable gardens on their properties.

Unemployment is hovering at around the 50% mark, due to the stagnant economy. People rely on bartering for goods and services in order to survive. Repair and used shops have sprung up on every street corner.

In the news – At least 10 major hurricanes are expected to hit Nova Scotia this year, that’s 2 more than last.  Atmospheric C02 levels have broken the 600 ppm mark much earlier than expected and could reach 650 by Christmas.  Good news – Obesity and cancer levels are starting to drop off, thanks to more citizens walking and bicycling, and the lack of available junk food.

This could very well be our future, if we continue to pursue our present, destructive path, it could be much worse, or it could be slightly better, it’s hard to say, but either way, we can certainly take the necessary steps NOW to come up with the solutions and the means to change the outcome for the better, regardless of the projected forecast. That’s only if we collectively act NOW.

The question is – Are we willing to accept this new reality and endure the short term pain of change, in order to avoid the long term pain of a future with much less?

For our sake, It better be a resounding – YES!

By: Master Tim Bell