First days in Toronto

I landed in Toronto a couple of days ago and have finally begun to settle in a little bit. I don’t enjoy my space as much as I had hoped, but it’s not bad.

I’ve already had two classes with Sifu Wu and although I wasn’t expecting it, due to the material we covered, I do find that it is helpful material. I’ll continue to trust Sifu on those matters for now. Sifu knows best!

And now the curious case of the Scadding Court Tai Chi drop in. I went in on Thursday, and the instructor, a younger Canadian man, was leading the class — full of older Chinese people. Observing the class this did not make sense to me, as I recognized at least one of the older Chinese was a tai chi teacher in the park from 10-15 years ago. Why was he joining this class, did not make much sense to me. The lead instructor’s form was not good or bad, well, it just seemed average for the class. In some ways the students in the class were better than him. But not in any meaningful way. But what really surprised me was his attitude. I’ve been thinking about it for days.

Encounter 1
I went into the Gym on Friday morning to see him doing standing meditation near the benches. I approached him and asked about the Tai Chi drop in. He was immediately evasive. I kept asking him about the drop in because I was confused at the information he was giving me as it was obviously inaccurate based on what I had from the community center director and also from personal experience going to Scadding Court for many years prior. He then excused himself to go to the washroom. When he got back he simply pretended I wasn’t there. I got the hint and went off to practice by myself on the other side of the gym.

Encounter 2
After his class I attempted to ask him again if he taught Tai Chi and if they did push hands but he just ignored me and left.

Encounter 3
The next day (Saturday) I showed up and just did my thing, standing meditation, in the corner. He approached me and asked if I wanted to join his group. I said I wasn’t sure, because I was doing other styles of Tai Chi (in all honesty I didn’t want to pick up on yet another style/group, I wanted to practice what Sifu showed me). But he didn’t let me explain anything, he just cut me off and said he only wanted to know if I was going to join his group. I said no and he went back.

Encounter 4
About 3 minutes after the previous, he came back an asked me to leave since I wasn’t going to join his group. I was shocked but it still didn’t “sink in” to me. So I explained to him I was aware this was a Tai Chi drop in, that the director had explained to me about the different groups and tensions between them etc. He just interrupted me and told me that since I wasn’t going to join his group I had to leave. At that point I kind of lost it (kind of) and told him that I had done Yang style for 20 years and that I wasn’t going to join his group because he was rude to me. He didn’t seem to care or to understand and just said I had to leave. So I told him in no uncertain terms I was very well aware of what was going on, i.e. that it was a drop in, there were multiple groups sharing the Gym, and so forth. I told him I was nice to him in the beginning and I couldn’t understand why he was being so rude. But he just said he was going to call security and that was it.

So we went up to talk to the front desk lady. At that point he demanded to speak to her alone so I said sure, and waited. Obviously he was not giving a fair and balanced account of what happened. But during this time my friend Henry who had been coming to the Tai Chi drop in for 20+ years happened by and we struck up a conversation at the front desk. I don’t know if this helped when the desk lady saw it but the long and short of it is that the lead instructor went back down to the Gym and I was given an official membership card for the center and told to come back on Monday (it was the end of class by then).

Encounter 5
During this time I went back down to collect my things. This may have made it look like he ‘won’ and that I was told to leave. In any case I went back down to the Gym and tried to apologize to him. I just wanted to diffuse the situation but maybe because he thought he ‘won’ he just continued to ignore my apology and walk away. Needless to say, me apologizing for his bad behavior is backwards, but it is a friendly gesture to allow him to save face. I did it for him and I was really and honestly surprised that he did not accept this opportunity. But no, he did not accept, he just totally ignored me and walked away while I was talking to him. How this man came to lead the seniors at Scadding court is far beyond my ken.

I wonder if he will be surprised to see me there on Monday! I really don’t know what will happen on Monday morning but I sure as heck am going to blog about it. See you then 🙂

Day 1: Jogging for Life

Day 1.

In many ways this is so true. I’ve let my practice down severely after a series of accidents and ill health. The big one was a motorcycle accident I had a few years ago after which I stopped practicing altogether. But today I feel better. I feel out of practice, but I also feel like I have turned a corner in my life. Finally — in many ways, not just physically and mentally but with my job, I finally can set aside all the worries of my daily life and concentrate on kunfu.

Why Kungfu and not Weiqi, or some other art or hobby? I’ll bring that up later (or not at all). But the focus on martial arts has multiple benefits for be besides fulfilling a lifelong ambition.

For now, here’s day 1. There will be more to come soon; I have three days worth of footage lined up for editing.


I’ve been living in Taiwan for 10 years and I’ve been back only briefly to visit relatives.

Recently I’ve planned a trip to Toronto solely to train in martial arts. Why? Because I haven’t found a better teacher anywhere in Asia. That might sound like hubris or blindness but it isn’t. I’m older now, and the fact is that the relationships I have formed in the past have a certain weight which lends them a trust and reliance which is not easily formed elsewhere. If it helps, consider the limitation mine and not that of those who live here.

As the day approaches when I spend my time in Toronto I have taken up photography as a hobby. As a result I have been looking at other people’s photos online, and as a result have joined some photo groups on Flickr related to Toronto. As I look at these images, memories stir. Biting cold waiting for a streetcar — but not too unmanageable. How life was like back then. Trying to find good work. Training in the park. University life, college life, and life outside of it. It is impossible to say how things would have turned out if I hadn’t gone to Taiwan. I am not sorry I left. It was for the best. Perhaps now that I have finally made my way in life I am allowed to feel homesick. Perhaps that is a benefit. I’m sure it is.

So here I sit, it’s 2 am in Asia right now, and all I can think of is what happens one hundred days from now.

I wish I could tell my teachers how much this trip means to me. It is the cumulation of my whole life. I’m not being melodramatic. It’s not hyperbole. It really is. The emotions behind it run deep, perhaps deeper than even I am aware. But in the end there is no point in talking about it too much. The best and in fact only way to deal with it is to channel it into physical exercise and photography. A while ago, I would have said wei-qi as well. But there are many sacrifices I have had to acknowledge, even though some of them have not yet been made.

If you want something badly enough in life you can have it. The question is what you are willing to give up to get it. Sometimes it is not as bad as you think and you can have your cake and eat it too. But the journey can be painful and tiresome. The way I got to where I am is a lot like that. In the process I had to disregard everything I held dear. And now, here I am, right now, here today, and I have the power to say that it is a new day, a new beginning. This is my secret power which makes me more than any superhero. I have the power to change, not just myself, but all of the people I used to know, and all the places I used to visit. In fact the whole world. So, tomorrow is another day.

Stretch Machine Calculations

When I bought my splits machine, I had no way to easily calculate the angle of the machine. So I dialed in a visual 90° angle and started looking for convenient ways to measure the machine’s leg length. I measured a leg length of 28 to the screws at the end of the leg, and then measured the “base” of the triangle between the opposite leg’s screws. I discovered a measurement of 39.5, which gave 89.717°. Measuring from the absolute ends of the machine legs show a leg length of 29 and a base (spread distance) of 41, for a result of 89.996°. This was very accurate and since it was round numbers I was happy with the results.

I would then use an on-line triangle calculator to determine the angle of my splits for the session by measuring the distance between the legs.

Months later it occurred to me that I could just measure the distance between the legs and use that to index a previously calculated figure. So I re-measured 180cm from end to end at 180°, and then 125cm end to end for 90°. The implication being that the factor is about 1.6° per cm as you go from 125cm to 180cm. To test this I dialed in a visual 135° using the tiles on the floor and measured 164cm. This is an extra 39cm, and I expected only an additional 27cm. So the figure gets more accurate as you get closer to 180°. What would be better, likely then, is to do a table of expected results based on the leg length and not rely on a formula.

However while doing the table I kept coming back to highly accurate visual results indicating that a leg length of 29 (88cm) was very accurate between 90° to 180°. It became simply too convenient to use this number. Yet, when measuring at 180° we got 180cm, so perhaps using a leg length of 90cm would be a bit more accurate.

As it turned out, a leg length of 90cm provided greater than a very careful visual tuning of the angle. At 135° and 90°, observed error was attributable to human error. For example, I tried to make the machine 135° and measured a 165cm spread from pad-end to pad-end. This would give us 132.9°. But when I went to visually check the degree I found it to be slightly inside 135°. Meaning, closer to 132.9°. Thus the leg length of 90° was adopted and used to key spread lengths to spit angles.

Table 1: Spread Length to Angle

Spread Length Expected Angle
180cm 180°
175cm 153°
170cm 142°
165cm 133°
160cm 125°
155cm 119°
150cm 113°
145cm 107°
140cm 102°
135cm 97°
130cm 92°
125cm 88°

Table 2: Required Spread Length for Angle

Angle Spread Length
180cm 180cm
170° 179cm
160° 177cm
150° 174cm
140° 169cm
130° 163cm
120° 156cm
110° 147cm
100° 138cm
90° 127cm

More later.

Adidas Duramo 7 Review

I have now walked over one million steps in a pair of Adidas Duramo 7 running shoes, and I’d like to share my thoughts about the shoes as a walker and martial artist.

Approximately six weeks ago I bought a pair of Adidas Duramo 7 running shoes. I bought the shoes because I like Adidas in general, but also because the shopkeep said they were designed wider than other Adidas shoes. When I was trying them on in the store I put them through their paces and tried on most of the designs they had. I had tried the Duramo 7’s first or second and they didn’t fit so well, but better than the others for me. So I tried them on again but this time they felt very comfortable. Only later did I understand why, which I will explain in a moment.

For the first 100k steps or so I had problems with the right foot. I would get blisters on both feet but after about 20,000 steps a day I would start getting pains in my right foot. My ankles also started to go out at about 20,000 to 30,000 steps a day. We thought it might be something like bursitis or other repetitive stress or biomechanical issue so I started dosing on collagen and chondritin, that kind of thing with sports drinks and pills. It seemed to fix the issue, but what nailed it is I began to realize that the shoe on the right was tied tighter than the one on the left and that is what was causing the problem. So I loosened the laces a bit on the right and surprise, the foot pain went away after just 400 or 500 or so steps (!!) which was amazing. My foot felt very comfortable and relaxed as the pain went away and I did over 30k steps that day (average was about 18k at the time). That was when I started to understand that these shoes were comfortable or not based on lacing. They are very advanced shoes which require perfect lacing but I did not realize how perfect for another 150k or 200k steps.

In the second week I upped my daily steps to around 22k. I was constantly getting blisters when I went over 15k or 20k over a period of days. I also had heat shocks from certain kinds of socks, I did not get blisters from these but I learned not to wear them with the Adidas shoes. It was a no-name or small-name sock anyways, no need to mention it, no good sock is made from that weave or material, it was a low quality sock but if you get heat shocks, up your socks.

But, I did get blisters in the second and third week, as I kept upping my daily steps until I started to hit 30k a day on average. At one point I had five blisters on my feet and it became difficult to walk. I also began to notice a certain intangible tightness on both feet, which was related to the foot pain I felt before. On a lark I loosened the laces on both shoes slightly once again until they almost felt too loose. I had to tighten the laces on one shoe slightly, but then ended up losening them again. The change was very noticeable, as I had somehow found the perfect lace-up for these shoes and at that point, maybe around the 400k step mark, I stopped getting any kind of foot pain and I stopped getting blisters even when I hit 40k steps a day. I also noticed that these shoes then allowed me the freedom to engage my toes which also helped a great deal with blisters and proper foot structure. I finally understood what was meant by gripping the ground with the toes, I can say as a result of these shoes.

Since then, for the last 600k+ steps I have not had any foot pain or blisters. I wish I had understood these shoes better, because they are really amazing walking shoes. One of the things I really liked about these shoes is that I noticed my normal problem of feet turning out was corrected by these shoes. I don’t do that anymore, which may also be a mental thing, but I do in fact believe the shoes somehow helped. Based on the wear the shoes have been showing I believe these shoes will be good for at least another 2 million steps, 3 to 4 million in total, but I may edit this review or post a new one at that time.

As a martial artist I can say these shoes provide nowhere near the ground connection of the SM-II class of shoe (i.e. Adi-kick, Adiluxe, Tornadoes, etc) but they are also nowhere near as bad as the boost series or any kind of pumps which basically destroys your connection to the ground. Another contender for this kind of poor ground shoe is a Sketchers GoWalk, which basically feels like you’re walking on an air bubble. You do get used to that kind of shoe after a while but it’s the wrong kind of getting used to which goes against martial arts training and will introduce subtle problems if you use them as a training shoe. Thankfully, I do not believe the Duramo 7 shoe has this problem. By no means is it a grounded shoe, but what I am saying is that it is not a serious problem once you get used to it.

That being said the next shoe I review will have a better ground on it and I will be making a direct comparison with the Duramo 7’s in that regard to compare what it’s like in each shoe from the standpoint of training. I’ll provide a link to any updated review at that time. Until then, if you are looking for a reasonable shoe to do a decent 2 million steps in, the Adidas Duramo 7 is great for you — assuming you are willing to spend more time than usual lacing the shoe. It’s like a handmade ferarri or lambroghini engine. It requires tuning, and I believe it is worth it. Other shoes don’t have the padding this one does or the lacing flexibility and it will show in the form of blisters and foot problems if you do high step counts each day.

Status: Recommended

Pros: Excellent padding, Reasonable ground connection, Good durability, No blisters, abrasions, or other repetitive stress injuries.

Cons: Requires perfect lacing or foot issues may occur over 10k+ steps.

Garmin Group “Canada Top Runners” Changes Leaderboard Metrics

This week for the first time, I will fail to win, place or show in the Garmin Groups “Canada Top Runners” and “Downtown Toronto Running”. I have previously reached first place since joining those groups. They have both spontaneously changed to “distance run” which disqualifies me as I have a Vivofit 2 and not a Forerunner or Fenix or whatever their running watch is.

Interestingly enough, prior to my arrival both groups were step tracking groups dominated by the same person (no need to name names). This person was consistently second by a margin of 10% to 20% while I was a member. In any case, the person is now first again and I am at the bottom of their group, so I quit their groups. I can no longer participate on a fair and even playing field, my (entry level) watch only reports step tracking.

I continue to dominate the “Let’s Move Canada”, “Garmin UX Taiwan”, “Vivosmart China” and other groups I am a member of. I am currently first in the 150k Step Challenge this week as well.

Soon I will back down from step diary challenges and devote more time to the splits diary and wuji diary. After I accomplish those goals my long term plans are to ease into a more traditional routine, keeping the same hours but replacing walking and so forth with mainly jibengong, forms and single posture repetitions should come very naturally. I will touch more on this process in a future post on the topic of cross training different systems.

I’m a little disappointed in the way Canada Top Runners and DTR groups have handled my presence, but in the end I was not planning on being long term competitive. Just establishing a baseline amount of training time.

A Long Road Tests a Horse’s Strength (路遙知馬力)

As a long road tests the strength of a horse, so time reveals a person’s true heart. (Zhiching Chen, Epoch Times)

“A long road tests the strength of a horse” is a proverb commonly used by Chinese people.

It is the first part of the saying “路遙知馬力, 日久見人心” (“lù yáo zhī mǎ lì, rì jiǔ jiàn rén xīn”), which literally means “as a long road tests the strength of a horse, so time reveals a person’s heart.”

Chinese proverbs, like Chinese idioms, have layer upon layer of wisdom. They are sayings that are full of advice for people to follow in their daily lives. Often, they originate within families, and sometimes from street vendors and other common folk from all walks of life.

The use of this phrase can be traced to the first act of the opera “Repaying One’s Kindness (also translated as repaying an obligation)” written during the Yuan Dynasty (A.D. 1279–1368). Xu, the hero of the tale, says to Li, a woman who helps him in a difficult situation and even gives him a gold hairpin before he sets off: “Sister, thank you for helping me. I wish for you a long and prosperous life. In the future, I will repay your kindness when you need help, just as it is said that a long road will test the strength of a horse, thus time will prove the nature of a person’s heart.”

The phrase can also be found in the twentieth chapter of the novel “The Investiture of the Gods (also known as the “Legend of Deification”)” from the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368–1644).

Minister Fei Zhong said to King Zhou: “I secretly dispatched one of my trusted subordinates to enquire about Fang Zhichang. It turns out that he is indeed royalty, just as the saying goes: as a long road tests the strength of a horse, so time reveals a person’s heart.”

Nowadays, the proverb is used to describe a person’s true character or capability that is revealed after a long period of testing.

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