Friday, February 18, 2011

On Getting Offended

We all get offended now and then.  It's really unpleasant for the person getting offended and frequently uncomfortable for the offender.  The good news is that much of the responsibility of getting offended, and especially how you deal with it, is in your own hands.  If you find yourself being offended, here are some things you can do about it.

I apologize in advance for all of the generalizations.

The knowing offender.  There are two categories of knowing offenders.  The first is one who is an ***hole.  This person wants to offend you and has found a way.  It is quite likely that you are just as offended by the fact that they are trying to offend you as by what they actually said.  I would suggest giving this person a really sarcastic look, shake your head, and laugh.  That makes it pretty clear that all people present know that whatever they said was stupid and inappropriate.  If that is not enough, end the situation by removing yourself from it.

The other type of knowing offender is someone who feels they need to tell you something important even if they know it will offend you.  This is usually something for your own good, so even if it hurts you, it is a good idea to recognize that this person is probably a better friend than you thought.  It's a good idea to admit to yourself that this person is really trying to help you rather than hurt you and accept it as such.  It is the same idea as someone telling your that there is food in your teeth.  You may not like it.  You may be embarrassed.  However, you are now saved from talking to the cute checker at the grocery store with lunch on display.  Thank you, offensive friend.  I appreciate your bold ways.

The unknowing offender.  There are two kinds of unknowing offenders.  The first is one who is offending you and should really know better.  This is the person who is cracking paraplegic jokes in front of the guy in the wheelchair.  Chances are, he's not trying to be rude.  It's just really difficult to see what's going on around you with a severe case of cranial rectosis.  Take a deep breath and calmly mention to the person, "So you see the wheelchair, right?"  If that isn't enough, and given the situation it may not be, just say, "You're cracking paraplegic jokes in front of the guy in the wheelchair and you should probably stop."  This is normally enough.  If not, just don't encourage it and move on with your life.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  When you feel yourself getting worked up, you are already losing your power of reasoning.  This makes it much more difficult for the other person to explain to you that they meant no offense, and much more difficult for you to believe them.  It is important in that case to remember that you cannot fight your emotion any more than you can fight fire with fire.  You must calm yourself down.  Calming your emotion will help you be more receptive to whether a person really is even trying to offend you or what else they could have meant by what they said or did.  Once you begin to understand what is actually happening in the situation, it will be easier to diffuse it.

The other unknowing offender has just said something that relates to another thing they could not possibly know about.  This is the person who says, "Hey, nice haircut!" and doesn't know that you've been upset all morning because the stylist did the opposite of what you wanted and you hate it.  Getting upset with that person will not help.  Thank them for their kind gesture and move on.  They probably genuinely meant it.  People have different tastes and you can't just assume that they feel the same way about it that you do so they should know that it's terrible.  If you must, just sigh it off and let them know that you wish it was a nice haircut, because you just spent all morning being upset because the stylist did the opposite of what you wanted and you hate it.

The misinterpreted offender.  It is extremely important that you understand that this person did not actually offend you.  There are two situations in which this might occur.  The first is that you actually misheard what the person said.  They said one thing, you heard another.  It's as simple as that and you must admit that to yourself and to that person.

Awesome Tip #2:  While you're calming yourself down, try to think very clearly and rationally about one important question... "Why would this person say this to me?"  Can't believe it?  Don't.  Unless this person hates you or is otherwise trying to hurt you, chances are they actually did not say whatever it was or at least did not mean it that way.  Why would your best friend tell you you're too ugly to go out wearing that?  Well, they didn't.  Try to go back and think about the actual words that they said and try to take them at face value, without reading into them.

The second situation is that you heard what the person said, but misread what was meant.  For example, if you co-worker says to you, "You look tired," and you think they mean that you look bad this morning, you're wrong.  Most likely, they're just commenting that you look like you're having a rough day and should take a break.  Or it could be that you show the tell-tale signs of a night out and they are looking for a way in to that conversation to hear all about what happened.  In other cases, the person is probably also tired and wants to commiserate.  None of these are offensive things.  These are friendly things.  If you keep that in mind, you're less likely to be hurt by what they say.

Final thought on the matter... If you find that you are a relatively sensitive person and the person who is offending you is insensitive, take a moment to understand insensitive people.  An insensitive person doesn't not care about how you feel, they just don't understand why you feel that way.  Sometimes they don't understand even THAT you feel that way.  It is unwise to assume that an insensitive people should "just know" anything, ever.  It won't happen.  Sensitive people tend to use words and tones to express feelings and emotions.  They speak a language that is meant to be interpreted and read into.  Deciphering meaning in this language is truly an art.  Insensitive people tend to calculate specific words in a specific order and deliver those words to express a specific thought, idea, or observation.  This language is meant to be taken exactly how it was delivered.  Speaking this language is truly an art.

That said, the person is likely to just repeat for you very clearly the exact words they previously said.  If you tell an insensitive person, "You said this, but you meant that," they will disagree with you.  They will be upset if you don't remember the words that they carefully chose to deliver to you.  Reading into their tone or relating what they said to what that means to you (which they will not have known as mentioned before about assumptions) is effectively the same to an insensitive person as not listening at all.  It is like saying, "I don't care what you're really saying.  I'm inventing my own meaning and getting offended by it and blaming you."  This is highly offensive to an insensitive person!  They honestly probably feel bad about offending you, but you can't see it through their frustration.  If it continues, and they are smart enough to not try to dig themselves out of the hole, they will likely assume that you are unreasonable and abandon the situation.

The best thing to do is to first calm down and second realize that the person did not mean to offend you.  They're probably still unsure even why you're offended because they didn't say anything they could possibly imagine as being a bad thing.  Insensitive people tend to make casual, objective observations and comments that they have no emotional attachment to or feeling about one way or the other.  Their is no "good" or "bad" label on most things, so they will be completely unaware if you have one.  Most insensitive people that I know are just as surprised when they find out that people naturally have this view as an sensitive person is to find out that people live without having that view.  Just imagine the amazement between two people, one who has slept in a hammock all his life and never seen a stationary bed, and one who has always had a bed and never seen a hammock.  Each has it's advantages but they are such different ways to get the same job done.

Best of luck!  Reducing the incidences in which you are offended can greatly reduce the stress in your life and improve your general happiness, especially if you are one to be offended often.  Also, if you are either a sensitive or insensitive person looking across that line, maybe this has provided a little insight on what is happening in a situation in which one person is unknowingly offending the other.  Talking about it with the wrong approach obviously only makes it worse.

Her Room Online Lingerie Store Review

Her Room is an online store for women's lingerie.  Their catch line is "Lingerie We Buy For Ourselves".  They carry lingerie, swimwear, sleepwear, active wear, hosiery, etc.  There is also an attached His Room for that man in your life.

Anyway, the people at Her Room have seemingly thought of it all.

Return Policy.  The first thing I checked was their return policy.  They are good about returns and also do "phone exchanges" in which they send you the new stuff right away and just refund you for the old stuff when they get it back from you.  Also, because their return policy is good, you can order a few sizes if you're unsure and just return the stuff that didn't fit.

Product Reviews and Ratings.  Their products are available for review by customers, so you can see what people are saying about what you're looking to buy and also sort products by star ratings.

Bounce Tests.  This is truly unique and really stands out to me.  The took 40 or so of their most popular sports bras and took a video of a woman wearing it and mimicking a jogging motion.  This is a great way to compare effectiveness in sports bras.

So many sizes!  Her Room carries 28A-56K.  I'm quite sure your size is in there.

See It Under...  There is an option to see the bra on a manikin with various shirt/blouse styles laid over in to see what parts of the bra might show under a V neck, boat neck, button up, etc.

Fit Guide.  There is a fit guide, which are suggestions on sizing based on customer feedback.  For example, if the band runs loose, they might advise you to try a tighter band size and larger cup size to get the proper fit.  This helps you buy and helps them minimize returns and unsatisfied customers.  There is also a customer service representative available for online chat to help you make fitting decisions in a hurry.  Furthermore, there are product specific measurements listed.  For example, if something claims to be "low rise", they will tell you what it really is in inches.

Pictures.  All products come with a variety of pictures from different angles so you know what the back and front will look like on a real person.

Shipping.  Orders $70 and up ship free.

PayPal.  I'm a huge PayPal fan and they accept it.

All in all, I would recommend looking through their online store and see if anything appeals to you for your next lingerie buying experience.

Get the *Point* Out of Freya Active Bras and Product Review

This is going to start off with a product review and then finish with how to soften the pointiness of this particular bra.

Freya Active Bra 4002 Product Review

First, Freya is a wonderful brand that makes lingerie for women, keeping women in mind.  What I mean by that is that they aim to make supportive, attractive lines for women of a broad range of sizes.  It is one of the few brands that actually carries my size, as I am naturally petite and almost all bra bands are too loose to provide me the support I desire.  I wear a 28F/30E in Freya sizes at the moment since I've lost some more weight.

Second, Freya's Active line is well thought-out.  It appears they looked into what a really big and busty woman would need to wear while running and jumping and then made it also in my size.  In fact, they carry these sports bras in 28D-G and 30-38D-H.  4002 is an underwire sports bra that looks like a 1940s full figure bra.  They are made with a dry-wicking fabric that surprisingly does not chafe.  There are three hooks in the back up to E cups and F cups have four.  I can personally attest to the minimal bounce this bra affords me during highly strenuous and high impact exercises.  While it is not "the perfect" bra, I would still give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars simply because it gets the job done.

  • quick dry material that doesn't chafe
  • comes in a wide variety of sizes
  • keeps bouncing to an absolute minimum
  • comes in a variety of colors (black, white, nude, plus a sister style in red and charcoal)
  • underwire design provides separation and stability
  • encapsulation protects from upward bounce
  • fully adjustable (four hook settings on the band/a lot of room for adjustment on the shoulder straps)
  • durable
  • there is a seam that runs horizontally across the cups that can be seen through clothing
  • cups are slightly pointy, very pointy out of the package
  • straps would be better if crossed or crossable
  • pricey at about $60 a bra
I would not recommend an underwire bra for sparring or grappling or any other sport in which someone might strike or dig into the wire area.  It just hurts.  Freya carries a softcup version but I have not tried it.  I wear Under Armour high impact (cross back) sports bras for martial arts.

So What Does One Do About the Pointiness?

I gave this some thought and then tried a few things.  I suggest washing your bra with warm water to start with.  That seems to help the material soften up faster.  You may machine wash it in a lingerie or bra bag (not with towels or other fabrics that are heavy on the lint) or you may leave it to soak in a bucket of warm water.  Hang it to dry.  When it is *almost* dry, put it on and wear it around the house on a snug setting.  This should help it mold to you a little faster as it dries with your body heat to your personal shape.

After doing this once or twice, the pointiness should reduce to an acceptable level.

Want to Buy One?
If you are interested in buying one of these bras, I would suggest properly sizing yourself and ordering from a place that has a good return/exchange policy.  The bands run pretty true to size.  If you're not sure how to size yourself, click here.

I have made purchases from both Her Room (US) and Menary's (UK) and had good experiences.  If you already know your size you may have luck with Breakout Bras.  They tend to carry very few sizes but have better prices on the ones they have.  Her Room also has an attached His Room for that man in your life.

Click here for a my Her Room review.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to Not Get Deodorant Marks on Your Shirt

If you are getting deodorant on your shirt, you are likely not using proper technique when you put your shirt on.  Ask yourself if you are using your armpits to help get your shirt on.  You are probably doing this without even realizing it.  Try this instead:

1. Fold the bottom of your shirt out over itself before you put it on.  The inside of your shirt will now be facing outward in the area that usually picks up deodorant marks.  If you get them now, they will be in a place where no one sees them.

2. Put your arms through the arm holes of your shirt up to your upper arms, but not all the way to your armpits.

3. Put your head through while keeping your elbows up.  The easy way to do this is to use your two thumbs to pull the neck hole open before your pull it over your head.

4. Now, use one hand to grab the shirt under the opposite armpit and hold it away from your skin.  Slide that hand across the folded hem of the shirt toward it's own side, and then match it symmetrically with your other hand.

5. You should now have your head and arms through the shirt and be holding the bottom (folded edge) away from your armpits.  Now you can pull it down with your hands, not sliding it across your armpits.

6. Unfold the bottom of the shirt so that it is on normally.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  If you somehow mess this up or simply forgot to do it, you can get rid of the deodorant marks by rubbing the cloth against itself over the deodorant mark.  If that does not work, wipe it with a damp paper towel or cloth.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

~Why I Go Out With Her... Yet Another Saturday Night~

This is just a moment to appreciate my dancing buddy. 

A little back story...when I met my dancing buddy, she was a shy, passive, soft-spoken classmate of mine in Jr. High.  She's really tiny anyway, so it's all the more funny to hear the things that come out of her mouth now that she is no longer that passive, pushover little girl.  Apparently, she's grown a pair over the years and knows how to use it.

We went out last Saturday.  She ended up dancing with this "Chatty Cathy" guy who wouldn't shut up the whole time he was dancing with her.  She seemed okay with it, since most of it was flattery, but then it got annoying when he started reaching out and touching my hair.  I mean, really, you're only here as long as my friend looks like she's having a good time.  Don't push it, right?  So, knowing how irritating that kind of thing is, after about the third time she looks at me, and then stops and turns around and says, "If you're interested in continuing to dance with me, you should stop that, right now.  She doesn't like it and I don't like it and you can be replaced."  Replaced?!  Awesome!  So he behaved and stuck around for quite awhile.  Win, win.  Nice job, dancing buddy.  Fourteen years ago, I never would have guessed. :D

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Guys! Afraid of Dancing and Night Clubs...?

How to Go to Night Clubs

First, you're not alone.  I say this because I'm writing this article in response to a personal request, although that was certainly not anywhere near the first time I've been asked about it.  I'm guessing you probably have a wife or girlfriend that wants you to go out with her or some nice friends, male or female, that have invited you to hit the clubs.  However, you're afraid of dance clubs probably mostly because you don't know how to dance.  Many people will advocate taking dance classes to deal with this (and that's nice and all...), but I think there is a cheaper and easier way.  Anyway, let's get started by just addressing some common questions and concerns that I've been asked by many.

"I don't know how to dance and it looks goofy if I try."  No one is expecting you to be a professional or even be any good.  No one worth talking to or caring about is going to care about this at all.  Even good dancers are not usually worried about it.  I'm a good dancer, and when I see guys out at night clubs goofing about with each other or their female friends or girlfriends, it's endearing.  I love see other people having fun.  Here's a secret, you're more attractive when you're smiling and having a good time.  The girls I know will take a guy who is fun and unskilled over a guy who is skilled and boring or stuck up any day of the week.  That's why "guy who can make me laugh" and "guy who is fun/doesn't take himself too seriously" is usually in the top three to five on pretty much any girl's list of what she wants in a guy.

"I feel like people will be looking at me."  You have to be trying to get attention for people to notice you at a night club.  It's packed with people, many of whom are pretty intoxicated, so few people can see you at all.  What you don't think about is that many of the people there, including a lot of the girls, are too self-conscious about their own dancing to think about what you're doing, especially if they don't know you.  If a girl is looking at you, she might be checking you out.  If she looks at you and smiles, don't get scared.  She's probably trying to get your attention.

"So how does one actually dance? Do I need to know steps?"  Well, there's the easy part.  No, you do not need steps.  DJs at nightclubs go out of their way to make it easy for you to find the beat.  You can start by just listening for it.  Shift your weight from one foot to the other in rhythm with this basic beat.  You can actually just avoid steps altogether if you want to.  It's easier and leaves less room for error (like stepping on someone's foot).  In fact, a lot of people get more goofy by overdoing the stepping thing.  For now, just don't worry about it.  Once you start to get into this rhythm, let your body just go with it.  Take a look around.  Try and pick up what other people are doing.  I guarantee that you will eventually meet eyes with someone who is looking at you to pick up on your moves.  You may be thinking, "Sucker, I don't know what I'm doing..."  Most people don't, though, so you'll fit right in.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  While you're out there trying to figure out the dancing thing, worrying about what people are thinking about you, here's a secret:  There will be a lot of girls looking at you... wishing their boyfriend/husband was (believe it or not) as awesome as you!  That's right, they're dancing by themselves because their man will not join them.  See a cute girl by herself?  That girl wishes her boyfriend was dancing right now, goofy as it may be, instead of looking "cool" by himself at home or at the bar.  Boring.

"Uh oh, so this girl wants to dance with me.  What do I do now?"  First thing?  Relax.  Smile, she must think you're attractive or at least fun.  Dance with her.

"Okay, now she's moving in on me and wants to do that whole dancing *together* thing."  Yeah, let it happen.  When the time is right, you'll know what to ... wait, wrong speech!  Actually, this is the easiest part.  She will either face you or face away from you.  No real difference there.  I must caution you to not get too grabby.  Some girls may tolerate it, others will find it offensive and irritating.  Keep it respectful.  Try to avoid touching the breast and butt area.  She will appreciate that.  If she's facing away from you, you will be best off keeping your hands on her hands or arms.  It's still affectionate but not too presumptuous.

The key is to just move with her.  Try to avoid friction.  Just stay close to her and try to get into her rhythm.  This will probably be a very basic swaying back and forth with the simplest part of the rhythm, since it is most practical when you have a partner.  I get crazy with music and rhythms and dancing, but on the occasion that I dance with a guy, I stick to what makes sense.  Once you get into her rhythm, just get comfortable and forget the rest of the room.  You can talk to her a bit if she's interested.  Introduce yourself and ask her her name.  She probably just wants to dance, so don't worry about having to come up with a conversation.

"What if I have to have some drinks to "get loose"?  Is that okay?"  Yes, but... try not to have more than just that amount.  Unless a girl is really intoxicated, she's not too interested in being approached by someone who is really intoxicated.  You may think you're a charming guy when you're drunk, and your friends might agree, but she may think you're just sloppy and obnoxious.  Have a couple of drink if you must, then take a break.  It will be easier on your wallet and help keep you from making an ass of yourself.

"How do I get a girl to dance with me?"  Well, that only works if 1. you ask and 2. she wants to.  The safest thing is to make eye contact with her before you approach her and try to judge her reaction.  If she wants to to approach, she may make eyes at you or smile or something.  If she doesn't, she will probably look away and try not to see you so as not to give you an invitation.  If you're on the fence about it, flip a coin.  Once you've made a decision, it's best to approach casually.  If a guy is approaching me that I have no interest in, I usually move away a little bit to give him space.  Any guy who approaches respectfully, asks me or my friend to dance, taps us on the shoulder or something, gets a nice response.  Even if that response is no, it's still done nicely.  If the guy is a jerk about it, he gets that in return.  Also, be a jerk to one girl and all her friends will hate you, too.  Be nice, and even if the girls is not to interested or if she has a boyfriend, she might send a cute friend your way.  However, if you try all her friends after she said no, it may look bad on you.

"Am I supposed to dress up? What do I wear?"  Well, that's going to depend on the place you're going and what night of the week it is.  If you're unsure, ask your girlfriend/wife or female friends what you should wear to the place you're planning to go.  Girls are usually pretty happy to give out fashion advice.  If it's your woman you're asking, you're sure to please her.  If it's just your lady friends, they're probably happy to help you look your best.

Other cool tips and clubbing etiquette...

Take "no" for an answer.  Being pushy will not get you anywhere unless you're persistent enough for the bouncer to show you the door.

Don't be *that guy*.  You know, that guy that comes up behind girls by surprise doing something that resembles a dog humping her leg?  He deserves the same rolled-up newspaper to the muzzle.  That same guy is usually the one that puts his hands on people unnecessarily when he walks by.  You don't want his reputation.

You may buy her a drink, but don't think that entitles you to anything.  It was your offer.  If she refuses, it's probably either because she doesn't want one, or she doesn't know if you're the kind of guy that will follow her around because you bought her a drink.  If she accepts, ask her what she wants.  It's a little weird to try to choose for her unless she asks you to.

If she asks you to buy her a drink, don't.  You're probably not the first guy she's gotten to pay for her drinks tonight.

If you dance with a girl, try not to occupy all of her time and attention.  Don't try to cut her off from her friends.  You want to be the highlight of her night, not that guy who ruined "girl's night out".  It's fun for her to have a guy with her for a little while, but having some guy attached to her all night can really cramp her style.  If a few songs go by, excuse yourself.  Offer to get her some water or tell her you're going to step outside and chat with your friend for a few.  Invite her if you'd like.  You can come back later and dance with her again.  She will appreciate this.

Don't stand in the corner.  If you must stand around for awhile, stand by the bar, in line for the bathroom, in the patio/social area, anywhere but the dance floor.  1. Usually, those places are pretty packed and it sucks to have someone just standing there, taking up space.  2. At best, you look boring. 3. At worst, you look like that really creepy guy who stands there, fantasizing about all the young girls, making this face.  You don't want to come off like that, ever.

Be clean.  I'm not kidding, I've had "stinky guy" ruin many a night club experience.  I know, most of you are not this guy, but in case you are, read carefully.  It's not just about the shower, it's how you shower.  Go to your local discount store and buy something that really scrubs.  *Hint* Those little puffy things don't scrub, they just lather.  Scrub all of your skin with it.  Wash your hair.  Make sure your clothes are fresh.  Wear clean socks.  If you're going to wear a cologne, try not to wear too much of it.  You will stop smelling it after about ten minutes because you get used to it, not because it wears off.  Everone you meet will have to smell it at full force.  Anyone who gets too close to you will be stuck with it for the rest of the night.

While we're on the subject of hygiene, brushing your teeth is not enough.  Long term lack of flossing creates a type of bad breath that cannot be cured by any amount of gum or even mouth wash.  This type of bad breath actually comes from old decay between your teeth.  You may be used to it, but no one else wants to breathe it (let alone taste it).  I know that "high tech mouth wash" claims to clean between your teeth in the commercials.  Don't believe them.  Floss works, though.  You can count on floss anytime.

Don't swing dance, unless it is a swing club.  On a crowded dance floor, it seems unusually self-centered to dance in a way that involves big spins and dips and flailing arms and legs, especially since it doesn't even fit the music.  However, invariably, every time I go out there is at least one pair doing this.  Stepping on people's feet and elbowing their faces and drinks won't win you any friends.  It might, though, get you "put outside", as my bouncer friends call it.  Anyway, people who do this don't impress anyone, they just ruin other people's good time.  Don't let it be you.

Learning to go out to clubs and have fun (and be fun to hang out with) can really add a nice aspect to your dating/social life.  People will be more likely to invite you out.  Ability to dance when called for is a good skill to have even if you decide that clubbing is not your preferred night life.  It will come in handy when you meet a girl that likes dancing and hated how her last boyfriend wouldn't go out with her.  It also helps when your friends want to go bar hopping and end up at a club.  It also saves your butt when that one really beautiful girl comes along and wants to dance with you, and you would otherwise have to look at the floor and say, "uh, I don't dance..."

If you have any questions or helpful tips and advice I didn't think about or forgot to add, feel free to comment below.

The Gunslinger Move - Forearm and Shoulder Strength

My dad showed me this move when I was a little girl (yeah, guess what part of California he's from...).  He said that the old gunfighters used to do this every day to keep their forearms strong so that they could more easily hold their guns straight and, therefore, aim better.  Interesting side note:  I saw a documentary about Mirko Cro Cop, and he was doing exactly this in one scene.  So...that was pretty awesome.  Anyway, this is a good exercise for anyone in or entering law enforcement, the military, or just your everyday gun enthusiast.

So for this exercise, you will need a prop.  You can make one with a stick (something big enough make a good handle), a rope, and a weight.  Tie the rope around the middle of the handle nice and tight so that it doesn't slip.  A little duct tape will fix it if you can't get it tight enough.  Tie the other end around the weight.  It doesn't have to be a big weight, just a few pounds.  The rope should be long enough that if you hold the stick straight out in front of you in both hands, the weight will be off the floor.

The exercise goes like this:

1. Standing in good posture (shoulders down, back straight, hips tucked, feet apart), hold the handle out in front of you at about chest height.  The rope should be right in the middle between your hands so that you're not holding more weight on one hand or the other.

2. Start rolling the handle toward yourself so that the rope winds around the handle, getting shorter and shorter until the weight reaches the handle.

3. Unwind the rope by rolling the handle in the opposite direction (away from you) until the rope reaches full extension again and then winds back up in the other direction until the weight is, once again, at the handle.

4. You complete the exercise by rolling the handle back toward yourself until the rope is unwound and the weight is hanging at full extension.

5. Repeat as necessary.  Pay attention to your body position while you do this exercise.  As you get tired, your hands will want to droop and you may start arching your back doing other strange things to compensate.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  If you cannot do this without cheating, you are either using too much weight or doing too many repetitions.  This gets tiring fast, so maybe only do this once or twice the first day if you're not used to it.  It is always better to build strength slowly and consistently to avoid injury and strengthen connective tissue as well as muscle.  People tend to get injured from trying to get stronger too quickly.  Muscle builds pretty fast, especially for men.  Strong connective tissue, however, takes time.  That's part of why gym guys get tears near the joint.  Take your time and do it right.  It will pay off in the end.

My Core Sequence, Part 6: Upper Body Circles

If you haven't already, please read Core Strength and Me and Introduction to Isolating Movement.

This is the final installment of My Core Sequence.  I will eventually post other core and dance related instructional pieces.  Also, keep an eye out for other fitness articles.

Some of these upper body circles can be quite strenuous and difficult to do with good posture and technique.  Focus on that so as to avoid putting undo strain on your back.  Be sure to do all circles in both directions.

Chest Circles

Your head will not move for this one.  You will pass through all the full extension points in the Back and Forth Rib Slide and Up and Down Chest.  Push your ribs out to the side, round your chest to the front, round to the other side, to the back, and repeat.  Do ten and then repeat in the other direction.  There will be no twisting involved, so your chest should be pointed toward the front the whole time, albeit tilted up or down a little.

Ribcage Circles

Your head will move, but your hips will not.  Make a big circle passing through all the full extension points of the Back and Forth Shoulder Slide and the Front to Back Chest.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  It is extra important for these next three movements to be done from good posture.  Lift your torso as if you were trying to be tall.  Especially if you are finding a bad or uncomfortable portion of the movement, really check your technique.  Most commonly, it is the back bend that people are not okay with.  Sometimes it is a strength issue and sometimes it is technique.  Don't let your body sag on the forward part either.

Tilting Ribcage Only Circles

This one is a bit difficult for some.  You will use the diaphragm area articulation point.  Your head will move.  If you do it right, it should look odd because the belly area should not move.  Review the movements of the Back and Forth Rib Tilt and Front to Back Rib Tilt as you will be making these movements into a circle.

Torso Circles

Starting from good posture, and keeping your torso more or less stiff, take your torso in a medium circle making sure that you are leaning evenly in all directions (as you should in any circular movement).  Do ten and repeat in the other direction.

Big Torso Circles

These require a bit of strength, so if you feel satisfied with the regular torso circles, just get used to those for awhile before you move to these ones.  They are essentially the same, only you will make a much wider range of motion.  You should feel a stretch and even let your body curve downward a little in every direction you lean.  Do not twist.  Do not lean further to the front than you do to the back.  Chose whichever direction is most difficult for you and make that your range for every other direction so that you can maintain an even motion.  With time, you will get stronger and more flexible at that angle and can increase your range of motion for the entire circle.


My Core Sequence, Part 5: Upper Body Figure Eights

If you haven't already, please read Core Strength and Me and Introduction to Isolating Movement.

Just like the lower body figure eights, if you haven't yet mastered Upper Body Linear Movements I suggest taking the time to get comfortable with them before you try to get into figure eights.  The linear movements are the basis of figure eights.  As with all upper body movements, your goal is to keep everything from your hips to your feet from moving.  So if you're wearing pants, they should stay relatively still the whole time.

As always, it is really important to focus on posture and technique.  It is much better to do it right than fast.  A tall standing mirror is invaluable for this.


Lateral Torso Figure Eights

These are athletically a bit more difficult due to the trajectory and range of motion.  You should definitely feel a stretch.  Starting from good posture, drop one shoulder as you start to lean to one side.  Once you start to feel a stretch, begin to lift that shoulder until you reach the position you would be in if you were doing the Back and Forth Shoulder Slide.  Your shoulder should have made a big, upward half circle.  Now, start to drop your other shoulder as you slide your torso across your center line diagonally downward as far as you can.  Start to lift your shoulder until you reach the same, fully extended position in this new direction.  Point the original shoulder downward again and repeat the diagonal, downward slide.  The figure eight will resemble an infinity symbol, or an eight laying on it's side.

Reverse Torso Figure Eights

These will more or less be the reverse trajectory of what you just did.  Lean to one side, starting at the shoulder and letting your body bend, as far as you can (without letting your hips move) until you reach full range of flexibility.  Now think about lifting your other shoulder straight up toward the ceiling and then coming to zero position.  Repeat on the other side.  Your figure eight will be a bit lopsided for this one.

Snake Torso

Lean forward starting from the chest until you're as far forward as you can get without losing your balance.  When you reach this position, start lifting your body, starting from the chest until you're in the same position as you would be in if you were doing the Front to Back Chest.  Now, lift your chest until if is facing upward and start leaning your body backward until you're at full range of motion leaning backward.  Very important: Do not let your lower back sag.  By keeping your chest lifted during any movement that involves a back bend, it helps keep your back muscles engaged throughout the movement.  Once you reach full extension without losing balance, round your upper back the same as the Front to Back Chest movement.  Now, moving chest first, lean forward to repeat the motion.  Your hips will need to tilt a little front to back to make this motion work.

Reverse Snake Torso

This will pretty much be what you just did, but in the other direction.  Start by pushing out your abdomen and then your chest until you are leaning forward as far as you can.  Now, push in your belly (muscularly, NOT by "sucking it in") until you're more or less at the Front to Back Chest full extension toward the back.  Lift your chest by arching your back muscularly until your chest is facing a bit upward (think limbo).  Repeat the whole motion by pushing your belly out to the front and slowly rolling it out up through your chest until you come back to your full extension to the front.  Repeat, repeat, repeat...

Twisting Torso Figure Eights

Push in your chest toward the back as in the Front to Back Chest.  Start rounding out your movement to the side until you reach the side extension of the Back and Forth Shoulder Slide.  Continue rounding to the front while you twist that shoulder to the front.  Now, you should have one shoulder facing diagonally to the front and the other facing diagonally to the back.  Slide your body along that line and repeat the rounding motion front the other side, untwisting and then following that motion until you are twisting the other shoulder to the front.  Repeat, repeat.  You will be twisting your torso in the same motion as the Twisting Torso and making a circular path on each side of your body, passing through the full extension points of the Back and Forth Shoulder Slide and almost through the Front to Back Chest (because you will be twisting and crossing your center line, you won't be in exactly the same place).  Your shoulders should, nevertheless, stay pretty parallel to the floor the entire time and your figure either will be just like any other twisting figure eight.

Reverse Twisting Torso Figure Eights

This should be pretty self-explanatory.  You will follow the same path as the previous movement only in reverse.

Twisting Chest Figure Eights

Do not move your head or your hips for this movement.  Push out your upper back as in the Up and Down Chest.  Round your movement to the side until you are in the same pushed-out ribcage position as in the Back and Forth Rib Slide.  Start twisting until your chest on one side is pushed toward the front.  Now, follow that same diagonal line as the previous movements.  Bring your ribcage to the side while untwisting and then twist your other shoulder/side of your chest to the front.  Follow the diagonal line backward to the other side and repeat.

Reverse Twisting Chest Figure Eights

Same path as the previous movement but in reverse.  Start by pushing one side of your chest forward and untwisting toward the back.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  "A thousand times slow for one time fast."  Really, technique is so much more important than speed.  Repetition is the only way to master these movements.  However, mindless repetition will not help you.  Mindful, self-critical repetition is the path to success for My Core Sequence.  Film yourself periodically if you have a camera so you can make comparisons and track your progress.

My Core Sequence, Part 6: Upper Body Circles

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Core Sequence, Part 4: Upper Body Linear Movements

If you haven't already, please read Core Strength and Me and Introduction to Isolating Movement.

All of the upper body movements will be started from good posture.  You may find that widening your stance just a little will help you with stability.  The goal with upper body movements is to keep everything from your hips down as still as possible.  For the sake of balance, it will not be possible to keep completely still, but try.  You will find that the upper body movements pretty much match up with the lower body movements.  If you find that you are either very uncoordinated in the hips, or just nervous about looking goofy, upper body movements may be a good place for you to start.

As always, if you're just starting off, it is wise to do just ten movements on each side, or twenty total, until you are comfortable with the new movements.  Those of you who are new to core work may find yourself unusually sore if you do too much, too fast.  Don't overdo it.  You can add more repetitions next week if you find it is too easy.  The most important thing is proper form so you're not training the wrong movement and not inadvertently causing strain or injury.


Back and Forth Shoulder Slide

Start from good posture.  Keeping your hips still, slide your upper body to one side, keeping your shoulders parallel to the ground, as far as you can.  Repeat in the other direction.  Try to keep from arching or hunching your back.

Back and Forth Rib Slide

The key to this is keeping your head and hips still.  Push your ribcage out to one side as far as you can without moving your head or hips.  Repeat in the other direction.  Your shoulders will naturally make a pendulum motion if you do it correctly.  Resist the urge to stick your hips out in the opposite direction while you do this.  There should be a constant mild tension in your legs throughout the upper body sequence that helps keep this kind of thing from happening.  You will notice your legs by the time you are finished.

Back and Forth Rib Tilt

Now you will go the other way.  This will resemble an upside down pendulum swinging from the diaphragm area.  I have a crease there in my skin, so it is easy for me to judge where that is.  Starting from good posture, let your ribcage tilt to one side as far as it can hang without moving what is located below the diaphragm area.  Your head will obviously move, but do not let your back sag.  This is only a lateral movement.  Now lift back to zero position and repeat on the other side.  Do not let your hips or abdomen compensate for the movement.  It should look like their is a joint located at the said articulation point and everything below that should not move.

Front to Back Chest

Starting from good posture, push your chest forward as far as you can without falling over.  Do not look down.  Keep your chest and head facing forward the entire time.  Maintaining that same position, push your upper back as far backward as possible without falling.  Let your upper back round in order to keep your chest and head facing forward only.  Do not let your lower back get lazy and arch or you may put unnecessary stress on your lumbar spine, possibly causing pain.  Try to keep your hips as still as possible, even though they will have to move forward a certain amount to keep you from tipping over.

Up and Down Chest

Keep your head still for this one.  Start from that good posture.  Push your chest (not your stomach) forward while pulling your shoulders back so that they stay in one place.  This will effectively lift your chest at a wide range of motion.  Now pull your chest in so that your upper back (not lower back) rounds.  Your shoulders should still be in the same place, as should your head.  Keep your hips tucked the whole time, do not let them go anywhere.

Front to Back Rib Tilt

Find that same articulation point at the diaphragm area that you were using for the previous rib tilt that was side to side.  Viewing from the side, this movement should resemble the same upside down pendulum that the other one did.  Start from good posture.  Tilt your ribcage forward.  Return to zero position.  Tilt your ribcage backward.  Repeat.  Do not move anything below your articulation point.  It is very important that two things happen during any of these movements that includes a back bend.  The first is that your lower back stay in posture.  Do not let your lower back sag.  Doing this puts a lot of pressure on the lumbar spine.  The second is that you lift your chest toward the ceiling.  This will help keep you from letting your mid to upper back sag while tilting or leaning backward.

Twisting Torso

I'm including this one in this section because you will need it for the figure eights.  Start from posture.  Do not move from your center line.  Rotate your upper body so that one shoulder comes forward and the other backward as far as your flexibility allows you to go.  Your head should not move.  Go to your fullest range of motion without allowing your hips to follow.  Repeat in the other direction.

Awesome Tip of the Day: There is a tendency to start to arch or hunch your back or stick out your bum if you're not paying attention to it. Keep this in mind throughout your movements. Try not to distort yourself in the wrong direction while you are practicing. Keeping good posture will help you use the correct muscles, reduce the risk of injury, and make you appear more graceful and coordinated.

My Core Sequence, Part 5:  Upper Body Figure Eights

What to do with Long Hair for Martial Arts?

I've seen this question several times now, so I thought I would address it.  After many years of martial arts, both on the ground and standing up, I have found but one hairstyle that actually works for everything.  It is very simple.

1. Make a nice, tight braid from the nape of your neck.  A French braid is fine but not necessary.
2. Tuck it through your sports bra strap in that little groove above your collar bone.
3. Turn your head as far as you can to make sure there is enough slack to not restrict your motion.
4. Tuck the braid tail under your gi collar and go about your business.

"So what if I'm doing a no gi session?"  You should be using a rash guard of some type.  Tuck it through your bra strap and into your rash guard, around the side of your breast.  There are a lot of reasons why a rash guard would help you even if you are wearing a gi and you don't have long hair.

"What keeps my braid from coming out of my gi?"  Your bra strap is the first thing.  It naturally directs your hair around the outside of your breast into a convenient area.

"What if I'm a guy with long hair, so I don't wear a sports bra?"  The same thing should apply.  Tuck it down through a shirt or a rash guard over your shoulder of choice.  The stiffer the gi, the better.  My 14 oz. gis have a nice stiff collar that holds braids in place really well.  I normally don't even notice my hair, which is the whole point.  A medium weight gi doesn't hold as well, so tuck it into something.

"Can I just tuck my braid down my back?"  Be my guest, but you're not going to like rolling over it or laying on it.

"My braids start to fray really fast."  Braid it wet.  It's good for your hair anyway.  If it becomes a problem, you might try placing elastic hair ties in various places down your braid, starting at the base of the braid and having one every couple of inches until you reach the end.

"So what's wrong with buns and ponytails?"  Buns are great if you're just standing up and not doing any contact or anything that would require head protection.  Ponytails tend to get in your face any time you spin or turn your head fast.  They are murder for grappling because laying on your ponytail is painful and prevents you from moving.  You will not be able to do any escapes that require you to scoot up.  This has gotten me stuck in high mount many times.  Don't do this to yourself.

"I have bangs/fringe and layers."  I'm sorry.  I made this mistake, too.  The layers are not so bad if they are long enough to stay in your braid.  The bangs must be either kept short or grown out for maximum efficiency.  I made the mistake of cutting side swept bangs.  Yeah, they look nice if my hair is down.  What is not nice is this bob length hair that doesn't stay in my braid and having it stepped on and ripped out while grappling.  It's not too fun to have it sweat-plastered to my face during forms and drills either.  Ideally, hair that is all one length is the most efficient way.  If you must have a prettier hairstyle, try to keep layering at a functional length.

That brings me to another point.  The bob is a terrible idea for physical activity.  I know the military hasn't figured this out yet, but it just gets in the way.  You can't tie it back, but it's long enough to be in your eyes and your mouth.  The way I see it, there are three functional lengths of hair.  1. The buzz cut/pixie cut.  It stays out of the way for everything.  2. Pony-nub length.  This is when it is just long enough to stay in a ponytail but not long enough to bounce around or get in the way.  3. Bun length.  This is usually mid-back and beyond.  Shorter than this and it does not stay well in a bun without "billions" of hair pins and probably lot of product.  Hopefully, one day they will get over their "above the collar" regulation and allow the tucked braid...but I won't hold my breath.

Awesome Tip of the Day: I do not recommend using any clips or pins for any sport in which there is contact, especially if you will be rolling around on the ground. Your scalp is not terribly thick or very tough, but being that it is located on your head, it bleeds a lot. Want to find out? Try it.

Feel free to use the comments section if you need any further clarification.  Happy training!