Thursday, November 1, 2012

Are Technologies Weakening Our Species?

I’m not anti-technology, or primitivist, or whatever other negative labels might be cast on someone who’s critical of certain trappings of modernity. I’ve got the iPhone, and the MacBook, and I rent a fairly large house in suburbia, and all that. But at the same time, I’m also kind of a long-term thinker and, despite my complicities, I’m concerned about the effects that our technologies are having on both local and global ecologies, and on our species physiologically. The latter notion always comes to mind for me when I’m going through a period where I have to wear glasses instead of contacts, as I have been for the past couple months, due to a keratitis condition. I’m reminded immediately of how awkward the apparatus are, and simultaneously of how impossible it would be for me to function in a world where corrective lenses were not available. In the past, someone with my eyes would probably not live long, nor reproduce. But now, there are many like myself, and every dog has his day. Usually, we can even hide our deficiency, wearing contacts or undergoing radial keratotomy. All the same, it’s there, and I think it’s becoming ever more common, because we have the technology to support it. How long will it be before all human beings are born with the need for technological or surgical visual correction?

The martial arts are another trigger toward these kinds of thoughts for me, or expressions of the potentialities of the human body in general. Movement… we’ve lost a lot, as a species. And I’m at the age when it starts becoming obvious (hence, in part, my enthusiasm for the rest-of-my-lifetime project at hand). Still, I wonder what our ancestors were like, in their physical abilities, before the technologies began weakening us. Some of those ‘superhuman’ characteristics we imagine in comic books and movies, did we once have similar abilities? Is that why we’re entertained by and attracted to those depictions?

I decided to sit down and make a quick video on the subject this evening. Nothing amazing, just a talking head and some thoughts…

On a more active but not unrelated note, my training has been fairly house-bound the past few days, as a result of freezing rain that has made even casual walking outside fairly dangerous. Nothing can keep me away from the birds at dawn though. And while I was out there, I managed to improve on my horse stance hold, increasing my time to 1min 42sec…

I also got in a bit of CLF form practice, despite the slippery conditions (even on the grass)…

However, most of my training moved down into the basement. I decided to go ahead and try seeing how many of each of the four basic kicks I could deliver in a minute, to set an initial mark for others to best in the Kwoon Records. These stand as follows:

Front Kick 74R 67L
Side Kick 64R 59L
Hook Kick 60R 59L
Reverse Hook 39R 43L

The reason the reverse hook count was so low was that they came at the end of my workout for that day, when my legs were already pretty wiped out, and I didn’t even complete the full minute. Earlier that day, I managed to increase my front kick hold to 32 seconds each leg (up from 20 seconds timed during my fitness test in September). I also increased my leg raises to 12 (from 9), and my max decline push-ups to 52 (from 50). My L-hold pull-ups are remaining steady at 10. Here’s the video demonstrating all the kicks per minute (note that I didn’t have a stopwatch, so had to count how many were delivered in the first minute of each sequence afterward)…


  1. You are right. Technologies are weakening our species. We became so dependent on them that we become a slave to them. If you heard about the hurricane Sandy, you are probably aware of the damage it created. Maybe nature feel unappreciated that she became angry at us.
    Your videos on fitness are awesome by the way. You do not let the cold weather stop you from training as hard as you can. I believe everyone should not use weather as an excuse not to exercise. Anybody can workout anywhere,anyhow, and anytime.

  2. Thanks Kang... I prefer being outdoors in general. When it comes to working out, I think it often adds an extra element of challenge. I remember reading about the legendary karateka of the past, guys like Chogun Miyagi, who would go outside in the middle of typhoons, climb on top of their houses, hold large wide boards up against the wind, and practice holding their stances like that. And here I crumble in less than two minutes under favourable conditions, haha! How was Sandy by the time she arrived in Chicago? I saw a lot of images from the east coast. Would have liked to go to Jersey and rescue sharks. I was actually supposed to be at a meeting in Toronto for the 30-31st, but decided to decline the invite. Glad I did. Toronto, like New York, got hit pretty good

  3. I do not know how Sandy hit Chicago but since I am in New York, power was off at my house. Besides a lot of people die because trees fall on them and people can barely get gas. I am happy that I was not dead but I kinda feel bad for people whose basement are flooded and whose houses got destroyed... So many bad things happened.
    By the way, I would not be able to workout in the cold. I would appear to be paralyzed. Haha.

  4. Haha! Sorry, Kang... I was getting you confused with Kong, who is in Chicago (I think). I'm a big fan of New York though. Lived there for a few months one time, when my wife and I eloped. We were staying out on City Island in the Bronx. I bet that place got pretty much destroyed in the hurricane

  5. Thank you for sharing this post Ryan! It's very interesting you mention the thing about the glasses, it would be crazy if that technology was never invented, how hard it would be for many to even function in everyday life. As far as the kicks are concerned, I'm going to have to make a video to demonstrate the form I am looking for. Basically I don't want the foot to touch the ground, I want the knee to be up the whole time for every kick & if you lose balance, then it ends. I would like the test to be conducted in this way as it requires more balance and control. Keep up the good work! It's really great that you have this motivation to train on your own.

  6. Sounds good, Sifu (re the kicks). I think I know what you're looking for now, but a demo would still be cool. Also, regarding all the critique of your recent YouTube videos, don't waste your energy on the haters. Why do they subscribe to your channel anyway? Obviously, they were inspired

    1. I see that you are placing much effort on your training & I very much look forward to you taking over the FMK online training and helping it grow, I don't know how you find the time, but you are living the Martial Way. Most of all Todai's I train directly are caught up on life obligations, few are able to turn it into a complete lifestyle, I am hoping that Sidai Shunyuan will be able to step it up to help take this kwoon to this next level. Without the help of both of you, the growth of this kwoon will be limited, every other Todai's seems to be held down by job and family obligations. I am at the moment getting quite overwhelmed and will need the help of the Todai's that have the time to help keep this kwoon growing. I wish to place my time in helping the Todai's that are already here to grow, rather than placing my energies in recruiting new Todai's. Todai's need to place more effort in recruiting new members if this kwoon is to be taken to the next level. As far as the haters are concerned, I'm sick of wastin my energies on them, I have turned off the comments, I need to place more energies in watching your videos and providing feedback for your development rather than wasting my energies on these haters.

    2. I’m grateful for your assistance, and for having this Kwoon to interact with. The more attention you’re able to give to myself, Shunyuan, and others, the quicker we’ll progress. All the same, I know it takes a bit more work in my case, because the feedback has to be documented. I’ll continue to use the correctional tips you’re offering as best I can to develop. I too look forward to eventually being tasked to coordinate some or all of the online training. I think it will help to have gone through this route myself, so I’ll be able to identify with the other Todai doing so

      As for how I find the time to train as I have been, I think it’s mostly just a matter of priorities and motivations. There was a period when I was the sole bread-winner supporting myself, my wife, her cousin, and our five combined children. Even then, I always found room to pursue whatever learning interests I had. Now, where I am in my life today, I have a lot more creative control. That, and I’m pretty skilled at synergizing my activities, so that my ‘work’ isn’t ever really distinct from my private life, or my spiritual life, or my health, etc. It’s priorities and motivations, but perhaps of a different sort than we normally encounter in our society. You know as well as I do that the rate of student attrition at martial arts schools is extremely high. I think this is because many people aren’t prepared for the non-competitive nature of real martial arts, nor it’s extreme individualism


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