Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Birthday post 2012

Today is my birthday. Won't you help me to celebrate?

I'm 55. 60 is within sight. I'm halfway to 110.

The oldest daughter is doing well. She's been working for the same company for nearly two years. Some months ago, the division of the company she works for was sold to another company. There have been some changes, and her position was eliminated. They kept her on though, and let her look for another position within the new company and she found one. It turns out to be a promotion to boot!

The youngest daughter is a senior at the university. She had a summer job with a Michigan based insurance company. They liked her so well that they kept her on part time once she went back to school and have told her that they plan on making her an offer for a full time job once she graduates in April.

The Mrs keeps me on my toes. She was inconsolable when we had to put out dog Annie down after having her be a part of the family for 16 1/2 years. We got a puppy we named Isabella (Bella) soon after and she helps to make our days brighter.

We are going on 29 years of marriage this month.

We still have the place up north, just off of Lake Huron. In fact, we were just up there for the weekend. The kids asked me what I wanted for my birthday and the answer was a family weekend at the cottage.

It was rainy that weekend, so we mostly stayed inside. We watched movies, played board games and ate. It doesn't get much better.

For Father's Day, I wanted both daughters to come up to the cottage with the boyfriends. The older one has a boat, which he brought with him. It was the weekend of the Port Huron to Mackinac Sailboat Race. We were out on the water surrounded by hundreds of sailboats of every size and description.

Also for Father's Day, my family got me a new Kindle Fire, to replace my aging Kindle 2. I love it.

I have recounted before how I used to train pretty diligently in Yoshinkai Aikido under Kushida Sensei as a young man. When it came time to raise a family and build a career, I hung up my dogi for a while always knowing that I would come back to martial arts training in some form. Martial arts practice is a lot like gravity in that once it gets hold of you, you may think you can escape it for some time but eventually it pulls you back in.

When my late mother was in an assisted living home, then later a nursing home, I got to see and spend time wtih a lot of human trainwrecks up close. The criteria I would apply to determining how I would go forward with excercise in general and martial arts training in particular began to crystalize.

I would want to practice something that I could physically carry into my dotterage. It had to be intellectually engaging. I wanted to do something I could practice effectively as a solo practice and have no need of special equipment or location; that is, self contained and portable.

About 12 years ago, I began some of the fundamental exercises of Yiquan. The standing practice really resonated with me and I have continued it in one form or another to this day.

Five years ago, I began studying Wu style Taijiquan. Beginning 3 years ago I began to focus on the small frame square form from the Wu style.

This was all a very Yin practice though. To burn some calories, keep up some cardiovascular capacity and muscle tone I felt I needed to supplement this. Along side those practices I also used a treadmill (which I wore out and replaced with an ellipical machine) and weight machine (which I eventually set aside in favor of body weight exercises; the weights made my joints sore).

From my youth in the 70s's from reading the books of Robert W. Smith, one of the martial arts that I have been fascinated by was Xingyiquan. A year ago (on my birthday) I started learning the Five Elements forms from some videos to add some Yang flavor to my practice.

I've always felt that when we adopt a practice, we should allow it to shape us. I wanted to see how Xingyiquan would shape me, so I dropped the elliptical machine and the body weight exercises to see what would happen.

Aside from my "soft" practices, the only other regulary physical exercise I get other than Xingyiquan is the stuff I do around the house (and the Mrs has no shortage of Egyptian Pyramid slave labor projects she'd like to see me complete) and of course, walking the dog.

I've always had quick results when I've done physical exercise. My usual development would be a big blocky chest, biceps, thighs and calves. I've never been successful in building size or definition in my forearms.

The regular Xingyiquan practice has changed that. My chest is flatter, like a boxer and well defined. I still have strong biceps but the muscle seems longer than big. My forearms are getting meaty (for me) and are not only picking up definition, but the insides of my forearms are getting defined as well. Like my biceps, my thighs and calves have a longer quality to them. My lower back, the area that would be covered by a weight lifting belt if I wore one, DOES feel like I'm wearing one of those support belts. Finally, I am becoming aware of a lot of little muscles in my shoulders and back.

We went to a wedding last month. A couple of weeks before the wedding, the Mrs suggested that I try on the new suit I bought last spring. The jacket was too tight. The jackets of all my old suits were too tight. I had to buy a new one.

At 55 I feel like I am in as good shape as I was in my 20s when I was going to over a dozen aikido classes a week. I am nearly as strong as I've ever been and I can't think of a time when my stamina has been better. I had already lost most of the weight I was going to lose from my peak three years ago by the time I started learning the Five Elements, but my weight is generally a few pounds lighter than a year ago. Altogether, over the last 3 years, I've lost between 35 and 40 lbs.

My mind is clear and I feel great. Life is good.


Zacky Chan said...

Happy birthday and let the good times keep rolling with quality budo! Dude, how did you get 12 aikido classes a week??? Maybe you should write a post on that kind of experience.

Rick Matz said...

Thank you.

Kushida Sensei taught a morning class and two evening classes on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. I worked midnights, so would go to the morning class, sleep, then go to the evening classes.

A satellite dojo where I trained had a beginner's class and then an ongoing class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I attended both of those as well.

walt said...

Well, you know the aphorism: Chi follows Yi (energy comes with intention). Your past year shows that this is so. Or ... your past life shows that this is so.

Anyway, Happy Birthday! Look around you: to feel as you do at 55 is EXTRA-ordinary, so as you often write, "Enjoy!"

I remember a TV movie with MIckey Rooney playing an old guy. One of his lines in it came to mind as I read your post: "I've seen good times and bad times and these are the good times."

Rick Matz said...

Thanks, Walt. These times are indeed good.

Felicia said...

Happy Birthday, Rick! Your dog is beautiful and your family seems as it is as well. Thanks for the inspritation :-)

Rick Matz said...

Thank you. I'm a pretty lucky guy.

Compass Strategist said...

Happy B-day. Have a beer on me. =)

Rick Matz said...

Thank you, I'll have several!

Rick Matz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RunBikeThrow said...

Happy Birthday, Rick-san, and congratulations on staying active and fit! I am also in the best shape of my life in my sixth decade. It is a good place to be.

You talked about how your martial arts have shaped you physically. Aikido has done that for me too, but I notice its non-physical effects more. I get upset at fewer things, listen more, and smile more. I think that, as much as the physical benefits, has improved my quality of life. Has your recent training also benefited you there?

Rick Matz said...

Thank you I think that we must let our training shape us not only physically, but mentally as well.

When I'm training regularly, I am a better person in every way.

Yamabushi said...

Happy Birthday Rick! It sounds like you have found a great path for life-long training for yourself.

Paul said...

Happy birthday chap, I lost count of my birthdays when I was at 55 (o dear that reveals the fact that I'm probably the oldest around here, never mind, I got a lovely wife and is not seeking a (another?) girl friend...:):)

Love to see there are still many serious practitioners around....

Rick Matz said...

Thank you, Venerable Paul and Yamabushi.

I believe that I'm on a path that I can follow for a long, long time. I'm not sure where it leads, but the journey is at least as important as the destination.

The Strongest Karate said...

A day late, sure, but happy freakin birthday Rick!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday as well, Rick (and anniversary too it seems).

It's good to learn more of your personal story....


Rick Matz said...

Thank you, Fencer.