The Most Dangerous Risk

![The Most Dangerous Risk](/content/images/2017/02/the-most-dangerous-risk.jpg)

> The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.

#### So, what are you doing?

Barefoot Running, a beginner’s perspective

Barefoot or minimal shoe running seems to be all the rage these days with nearly every shoe company making something for this new market. Some may view it as a fad, but all you have to do is step back and look at it from a historical viewpoint to see that it’s anything but a fad. We aren’t born with space age fancy air-gel-soles on our feet with super arch support and a padded heel. Why would we, now, suddenly in the last 50 to 100 years, need such inventions just to get by doing what we’ve been doing for a million years?


The biggest difference seems to be in the type of running technique we employ, fore (or mid) foot striking vs. heel striking.

It seems clear to me that we weren’t meant to heel run, just look at the body position and dynamics of it. If you’re striking with your heel you’re also straight legged, this transfers all of that road shock through each joint until it dissipates. Ultra padded soles *have* to be worn to protect our joints from this impact, and all it really does is soften it. Seems if your body needs something as new as a padded sole you’re doing something wrong. Or at the very least something your body wasn’t meant to do. Just stand up, and with no shoes on, very slightly hop on your heels. Hurts doesn’t it?

On the other hand look at what happens when you run on the balls of your feet. Your foot strike almost requires a bent knee using the ankle as a fulcrum. Which along with the strength in your calf produces a second class lever with a great, built in, shock absorber. Now, do the same standing exercise only now hop on the balls of your feet. Notice the difference?

Look at phrases you typically hear in other sports: “Stay on your toes”, “You were caught on your heels” and “Drive forward”. How do you drive forward on your heels?

I ran track all through my jr. and high school years, as a sprinter. Something that struck me right away with barefoot running was how much it reminds me of sprinting. From the shoes to the stride. Sprinter’s shoes have almost zero heel to toe angle, no arch & ankle support, and are almost the definition of minimal. Now, I didn’t do any real distance running in those shoes, but they were far from the normal running shoe.

As for the stride, when sprinting you’re taught to jut your foot straight out in front of you and then pull the foot back angling the ball of your foot down slightly, as if you’re a dog digging a hole or a cat pawing at a mouse. The foot strike happens under your hips and then pushes you forward by completing the stride. You’re also suppose to lean forward slightly which I think opens your hips up to more fully extend that foot backward (opening your stride). Shifting your weight forward also creates almost a falling affect on your body, this helps with efficiency and speed.

During my last barefoot training interval (5 minutes walking, 5 minutes running) I really started noticing that sprinter stride coming out. Before I knew it I was on a 8:30 pace, where my normal pace is around the 10:00 mark. I slowed down a bit since this is just interval training to ease myself into running barefoot. But, it did show me that once you get things set you really can move like this, and comfortably too.

If you’re new to this style of running you have a lot of old/bad habits learned over time, and your muscles aren’t used to running like this, so you have to go slow. My first time out I pushed myself too hard and ended up sidelined for days waiting for my calves to recover. Don’t do this! Ease into it, your legs and feet will thank you.

All in all I’m enjoying getting into what I consider a more true running form. As a long time knee pain sufferer I’m also hoping it helps me reduce pain and injury. I can’t wait to see what happens when my body is fully in tune with running barefoot!

Taking a leave of absence

I’ve been studying Aikido since October of 2007. After putting in a tremendous amount of time and effort training I was able to get to Shodan (black belt) by August of 2010.

That’s no small feat. It took work and sacrifice, maybe too much…

Since just before my Shodan test I’d been wanting to slow down and ease back on my training. I could see the signs of burnout and was trying to avoid it. Well, I tried to pull back but found it difficult in the world of a dojo and it’s many activities and seminars. I was still going in twice a week and later even picked up another martial art called Kenjutsu. It was a slightly more relaxed pace, but still fairly demanding.

Before Aikido I used to ride my mountain bike or road bike, go on hikes, or go for an occasional run, etc., etc…. After Aikido I did none of those things. I really had no intention of stopping them, but that’s what happens when you get caught up in something like Aikido, it can consume you. The last time I went to Chicago for anything OTHER than Aikido was, I think, 2006. The same goes for Ann Arbor (the latest IKEA trip doesn’t count) and Lansing.

Now, nearly 5 years later, I’ve found myself totally burned out and needing to take a stand to reclaim the things I lost. That’s seriously how it feels… it sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But, once you get wrapped up into a dojo and it’s organization it can be brutally hard to pull away.

That’s what I did today, I put myself “on leave” for the next few months in order to reflect and evaluate my commitment to Aikido and the sacrifices it requires of me. It wasn’t easy to do, but the status quo was not working for me. But then, reclaiming lost joys isn’t the only reason why I’m doing this… Life is getting crazy busy and I just simply can’t fit it all in, not without going crazy.

As Yudansha our training changes, maybe for the better… maybe not. It’s my task to determine if it works for me and my life.

“Why are we here?” “Why do we train?” “Why do we get on the mat?” – Those are questions I’ve been asked to meditate on and that is what I shall do.

Budo Lifestyle

![Budo Lifestyle](/content/images/2017/02/budo-lifestyle.jpg)

[Budo](/blog/2011/04/what-is-budo/): the martial way, the warrior’s way.

* Budo is not being afraid of action.
* Budo is looking into the face of fear.
* Budo is protecting yourself and others.
* Budo is honor.
* Budo evolves.
* Budo… is a lifestyle.

My path didn’t lead me into the military or law enforcement. I didn’t become some high-speed Navy SEAL or an elite SWAT operator. That’s not to say I couldn’t, just that at the time those choices would’ve been made, I was focused on other things and other careers.

However, my path did lead me into martial arts. Even though as a kid I spent equal time playing commando as I did “learning” karate off a VHS tape, it was the latter I chose to focus on and study. Now nearly 20 years since my first official martial arts class I’m still happy with my selection.

Although, there are days (I’m now twice the age) where I wish I would’ve selected the military or law enforcement as my path. Sometimes I think that my life would feel more rewarding or fulfilling if I had… but, that choice has long since passed and there’s no going back. So, I focus on what I’ve accomplished thus far and move forward on *my* budo path.

I’ve studied and practiced kung fu, chi kung, tai chi, aikido, and kenjutsu. That encompasses broad swords, straight swords, 6 ft. & 4 ft. staffs, spears, Japanese swords and knives. Also, hand strikes (various types), kicks, knees, elbow strikes, head butting, grabs, locks, chokes, sweeps and throws. And now I’m moving into guns, starting with pistols.

I’d say that’s a decent start on my budo path, what have you done to live the *Budo Lifestyle*?

What is Budo?

What follows is my essay answering the question “What is Budo?” that was part of my Shodan test in Aikido (1st degree black belt). The question felt a bit vague to me, but what am I going to do? Press my Sensei and the testing committee on what they’re really looking for? I think not. Anyway I hope you like it.

## What is Budo?

Brian Timmer
August 18, 2010

“Budo” roughly translates to “martial way”. Where “Bu” means war or martial, and “do” means way or path. Typically “do” is used to indicate a “way of life” or method of living ones life. This is just the classical definition of the word and everyone has their own little spin on it.

So, what does it mean to me? Well, first off what does it mean to be martial in your day to day life? I believe every day we run into conflicts and issues, no matter how small, that must be faced and dealt with. If you turn away from them you may never get to where youʼre heading as they may push over you and break your spirit. Sometimes issues can be evaded and “tabled” for the moment, but then other issues may need to be handled directly and decisively. The key is not backing down from them, even “tabled” items will need to be faced eventually.

This “Budo” mindset can be utilized on the mat as well as off it. In some respects it can be seen and felt more purely on the mat, at least to a beginner. For me this is how I feel Budo in my life. Thatʼs not to say I donʼt feel it off the mat, just that itʼs more prevalent and obvious there. During training Iʼm constantly forced to confront the aches and pains of getting older, existing injuries from past life experiences, normal difficulties of training in Aikido, and the stress and strain of being a “senior student”. Each thing on itʼs own may seem simple to overcome, but coupled together they can wield a great opposing force on you and your will. I will not claim that I donʼt suffer from burnout or exhaustion from my schedule (on and off the mat) but that I have to find a way through those things to keep moving forward.

I know that Iʼm my own worst enemy, so these struggles are almost purely within myself. Stress is as much a part of my life as breathing these days. I need to attempt to reduce that stress or at least cope with it. Budo to me is getting up every morning and facing the dayʼs problems, with family, with work, with Aikido, and ultimately, with myself.

Not everything with Budo has to be a struggle though. You can look at it as a life of pushing past your boundaries, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I suppose that could be seen as a “struggle” but I like to think of it as constant pushing to better yourself. To always expect more from yourself, and maybe “more” is a bad word there, maybe itʼs to expect the “best” from yourself. Itʼs a tough life to live, constantly expecting better of oneself. Never satisfied with where you are at any given moment. But, nowhere does someone say a “martial way of life” was going to be easy. Do the words “martial” or “war” conjure up images of “easy” in your mind? Itʼs battle, and in this day and age most people only have one thing they can practically “battle” in their lives and thatʼs themselves.

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheep Dogs by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

[On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheep Dogs by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman](

From: [On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace](

Since starting []( I’ve become a lot more involved in the military, law enforcement, and tactical community, through that exposure I’ve come to have a better understanding of their terms and philosophies. One such term that caught my curiosity was “sheepdog”. It’s a label applied to themselves as those who are the protectors of the defenseless “sheep” (the general public).

For some time now I’ve raised an eyebrow toward the concept of “sheepdogs” and “sheep” as I always felt it was an exclusionary term only for the fraternity of military and law enforcement people. Since I’m neither, I felt slighted by the term, as if I need the “sheepdog” to protect my “defenseless self”, even when I don’t feel that way at all and many times felt that I was a “sheepdog” myself. A little later I’ll make a lame attempt at showing how I see this in me.

Anyway, that was my perception of “sheepdogs” and “sheep” until I read the book excerpt linked above.

> If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf.

> But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

That passage struck me a bit. Having been in martial arts for roughly 18 years, earning black belt levels in two arts, taking first steps to a CCW I feel I have some capacity for violence but I also care for my fellow citizens. I am not a sheep, and I’m definitely not a wolf, maybe in this view I am a “sheepdog” after all.

Reading further I came across this next excerpt, one that truly hit home:

> Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed, right along with the young ones.

> Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

That sounds a bit like me. Just reading that increases my heart rate. Often times when out at a cafe or restaurant, with a chuckle from my wife, I’ll want to sit in the seat facing the door, just in case. I don’t want it, but I’m ready and willing for when it happens. A warrior is someone who wants to do something about it and will not back down from adversity. I think that sometimes those who do not possess this sheepdog-ness think the sheepdogs are silly or paranoid or reckless.

And that brings me to the example from my past.

Many years ago, back when I was in my early twenties, I was hanging out with a couple friends at a local bar. Now, this isn’t just a small corner bar, it’s a large multi-floor building that has lots of bars, clubs and restaurants all available by open staircases and elevators. On Friday and Saturday nights it was quite the hoppin’ place, probably still is, with lots of people having a good time. But then, sometimes you’d get guys who were a little too drunk and a scuffle would erupt. That’s what happened this particular night.

My buddies and I were standing around talking when suddenly some woman ran out of the elevator yelling “He’s beating my boyfriend! He’s beating my boyfriend! Someone help! Oh my God he’s beating him!” and, as my friends stepped away I instead ran into the elevator without even thinking. When I got in there I found two guys grappling with each other and fighting. Not even realizing they both had a good few inches on me and plenty more muscle I stepped between them and pushed them apart. The guy to my right I pushed up against the wall with a hard thud as the other ran out. I immediately turned to the one I had pinned, pointed at his face, and yelled “Calm down!” It was funny because he quickly raised his hands up and said “Ok ok ok” with this really weird look on his face.

I don’t remember how it all ended but I think I sort of shook my head, as if in disgust, and stormed out of the elevator as the bouncers where rushing in. My buddies were beside themselves, “Why did you do that? You don’t know those guys. You could have been beat up or something!” and I kept saying back to them “Where were you? I figured you were behind me. You didn’t just stand here did you?”

In my eyes, that’s a sheepdog moment. It may not be banding together to overcome terrorists who have control of your plane, or protecting others in a coffee shop when an armed robber crashes into the place. But hey, I don’t live on the set of “24”. But, it’s running into danger rather than running away from it. And, to me, that’s a sheepdog, a warrior, and something I think we can all strive to become.