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Cob's Formulaic Challenge: Back to Basics


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So, here's the deal.
I analyzed what made me so successful in my first challenge and why I didn't feel successful in my second (despite completing my goals, give or take a few push ups).  What I came up with was the structure and purpose of the challenge changed dramatically.  While the first was designed for slow, stable growth and development, the second was designed to push myself to the absolute limit of what I can do in six weeks.  Thinking of fitness and diet... it's a loooong term game.  So, on that note, I'm revamping my challenges to always include one of the follow:
1. A Circuit workout, relying on bodyweight exercises, which will increase in intensity once the initial goals have been met.
2. A dietary goal focused on self-control and limitation.  This won't be leading me to a paleo diet (though it may happen incidentally over the course of time here) as the last challenge did. Rather, it will be leading me towards a more simple and efficient approach to the diet of my choosing.
3. A Martial Arts goal. Since my current (and probably eternal) art is Kendo, these goals will focus on swordsmanship... learning the proper and true ways of cutting (which we did at our year-end celebration, Kendouka v Tatame... we won handily :tongue:) as well as the applications in Kendo, which does not use the truest way of cutting but, a modified, sport version, designed to protect the self and the opponent, and prove spirit and intent.
4. A life goal which will force me to set time aside, the long term goal being effective planning and scheduling. This can range from meditation to practicing guitar during a certain time of day, to the morning mile, to anything that forces me to do something at the same time daily.
5. A bonus goal was a blessing for me last time around, having that extra goal really pushed me. I think five is just a more psychologically-satisfying number. Since it's a bonus goal, it won't always appear but, if I have something specific to focus on, I will include it.
So, there you have it... Cob's Official Challenge Formula.  By maintaining routine but changing content, I hope to turn my body into a fine-tuned, well regulated machine.  And, on that note, here is my new six week challenge!

The Circuit:
This one is called "Total Body Destruction." It's designed to utilize the Iron Gym. Mostly, I think this is designed to strengthen the core by keeping it tight throughout the workout. For the life of me, I can't find the video link feature on this new forum format so, I'm just gonna give you the scoop. And an old fashioned, non-embedded video link.



The base circuit is 10 reps of the following:


Oblique Rotations (10 per side)

Alternating Dip/Leg Raises (10 per side)

"Jump-Ups" (Pull up negatives?)

Russian Dance (10 per leg... probably going to be replaced by squats)

Switch Grip Pushups

Leg Lifts



Glute Raises (10 per leg)

Calf Raises



For simplicity's sake, I'm going to say my goal will be 30 of each exercise, per circuit, in no more than two sets per exercise with ten seconds between sets (which should honestly not be required by the time I'm there).  This is a pass-fail goal. If I workout three times per week (MWF or TTHS, depending on my schedule for the week), it is considered a pass for the week. At the end of the challenge, a pass will be issued if I can complete three circuits with the preceding stipulations.

Successful completion of this goal will result in +2 STR, +1 STA



The Diet:


This one is, unfortunately, a step back. I have lost my regulated eating schedule which is crucial in dieting. So, this goal is going to be for me to digest three squares a day, with two snacks in between (veggies only), not to exceed 2000 calories per day.  The primary focus is on this strict regulation of amounts digested as opposed to what is being digested (since I always try to eat healthy as is).  


Secondarily, I will be trying to eat about 80% fish and poultry, 20% red meat. But, this challenge will be deemed successful if I simply meet the first goal. The meat thing is experimental as to whether more poultry will facilitate weight loss (which is not a goal but, my diet is closer to the opposite ratio of 80% red meat).


There are seven days in a week, which means 21 meals, 14000 calories.  In six weeks, there are 42 days. Now, I's no math jenyis but, that adds up to 126 meals and 84000 calories in total. The goal will be graded per week and the overall challenge grade will be the average of those scores, minus a third of a letter grade (from A+ to A to A- etc) for every thousand calories or meal I am over. If I am under in calories, there is no penalty (since I will most likely be under by an insignificant amount). If I am under in meals, a third of a grade will be deducted for every meal I missed.


Successful completion of this goal will result in +2 CON and +1 CHA





Ahh this is a tough one! There is SOOOO much I want to address all the time with Kendo! I think the goal here is going to be Zanshin.  Zanshin is, essentially, foresight.  To quote Shiina-Sensei *roughly translated* "A slipknot is Zanshin." You see, a slipknot is tied with the predetermination that the knot is going to be untied, unlike an anchor knot, for example.  Anyway, as it applies to Kendo, this means keeping my shinai at the level of the strike, after striking; striking with control so that, if I miss, my shinai is still in the position it would be in if the strike had landed, so that I can recover quicker and launch a follow-up attack, or parry a counter attack, or one of a hundred other things; reading my opponent's intention, and learning to "talk with the shinai" (a complicated concept).


Now, this goal is a little more fluid and hard to evaluate measurably but, I have a way to do so. Number one, track points scored during Jigeiko in each class. Normally they aren't tracked but, I will do so for these purposes. If I have greater Zanshin, I should see a higher number of points against my opponents overall but, more importantly, I should see a decrease in the number of points scored against me overall.  Beyond this, I get PLENTY of feedback from the sempai and Sensei so, I will have a very good idea of how my Kendo has improved (with good Zanshin, my overall game should go through the roof)


Successful completion of this goal will result in +2 DEX and +2 WIS




A Life Goal


As mentioned several times, things got rather hectic for me in the last challenge so, this one is going to be about getting the focus back.  Two things go into this. First of all, Meditation has left my regular routine and I need to re-acquire it. 9 pm every night is therefore, meditation time. I may switch this to 6 am but, we'll play that one by ear. as long as there is an hour aside every day for meditation, at a consistent time.


The second part of this return to focus is going to be a less specific but more significant idea. I need to spend 10 hours a day being active and productive in some way.  This will include things pertaining to this challenge so, meals, workout, meditation, and Kendo will all count towards this.  Further, The board game a buddy and I have been desiging (pictures of which were recently posted to facebook) will count as time not wasted, as will anything pertaining to teaching and recruiting students (shameless plug: https://takelessons.com/profile/jacob_k ... check it out, share it, then tell them to contact me through any medai besides takelessons :P) and my part-time office job. Things which will not count as active and productive include kickbacks, any guitar playing outside of practice time (IE just jamming/messing around).


Successful Completion of this goal will result in +1 WIS and +1 CHA


Bonus Guitarz


For those who don't know, I do a metronome excursion every month, updating my speed on Mondays for my youtube (www.youtube.com/lessonsbycob).  This month is Jeff Loomis' Miles of Machines, just the opening lick, which is about 1/3 of the song, in application. Anyway, i think it's at 180 but, don't remember the tempo for sure off hand.  But, couple this with my previous month's lick and I think it will be fair to say that nailing this at tempo by Jan 28 will result in +3 CHA and completing past then but, before the challenge ends will give me +3 CHA and +1 STA (musicians will understandthe stamina thing).



SO there you have! Cob's official third challenge.  This is gonna be a good one

Level 3 Martial Monk, True Neutral

STR: 6.5 | DEX: 6 | STA: 7 | CON: 9 | WIS: 8 | CHA: 6

My First Challenge

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Hey, bring it with that specificity and measurability. My sensei's been attempting to put something like Zanshin in my training, doing footwork and landing in such a way that I can counter and take advantage of timing and things like that. It's really tricky. Good luck, man.

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Hey, bring it with that specificity and measurability. My sensei's been attempting to put something like Zanshin in my training, doing footwork and landing in such a way that I can counter and take advantage of timing and things like that. It's really tricky. Good luck, man.


It's tricky but, the truth is that Zanshin and Mushin are the most critical aspects of Martial Combat. That's how you win fights!

Level 3 Martial Monk, True Neutral

STR: 6.5 | DEX: 6 | STA: 7 | CON: 9 | WIS: 8 | CHA: 6

My First Challenge

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So here's my first official Update:


Myfitnesspal has told me that my caloric intake should be 1510/day (maximum). After lunch, I will have 1345 remaining for the day.  Using this will help me I think, to keep my caloric intake regulated and on limit.  That's 165 calories between two meals.  Veggies FTW


Anyway, I've been awake for three hours (late start) but also productive for all three hours.  So far, I've edited and uploaded my article for cassetteculture for review. Then I recorded the video and wrote the accompanying article for takelessons.com and my youtube video for the day.  Then I cleaned and cooked myself some chicken & pepper blend.  Meditation is scheduled for 9 pm nightly and workout is going to be on TTHS because I have Kendo Wednesdays and Sundays. I want to have time between them to recover just a little bit.


Anyway, that's it for me. It doesn't seem like that much but, it sort of is.  I'm hoping to incorporate some walking on the off days of working out, plus i've gotta make my business cards and new flyers today. And study for an hour.  So, there it is.  Cob's first day, well under way.

Level 3 Martial Monk, True Neutral

STR: 6.5 | DEX: 6 | STA: 7 | CON: 9 | WIS: 8 | CHA: 6

My First Challenge

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Dude, what are you talking about? You sound friggin' busy. You've got all this stuff you're doing on the side while also doing martial arts, and it sounds like your day is still not done. Looking good from here. Keep it moving!


Seconded! That's some hardcore productivity, keep it up!


STR: 14 | DEX: 7 | STA: 8 | CON: 7.5 | WIS: 10 | CHA: 3Current Challenge | Bildungsroman's Epic Life | Fitocracy | My blog

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Okay, so here's the scizzy (is that a slang term anywhere on earth? I don't care!)


So, i've been making chicken and some form of veggies a staple in my meals.  And, using this fitness app allows me to stay under 2000/day AND even under 1510/day pretty damn effectively, while leaving me room to splurge a little.  Here's the meal breakdown:




Breakfast - Oatmeal Bar [100 Cal]


Lunch - Chicken Breast + 1 cup 3 pepper onion blend + 1 cup broccoli [165 cal]


Dinner - didn't mark what it was but it came out to 390 Calories


Snacks - Cucumber for 8

Ramen for 240

Posicle for 45

Cheese Samich for 130  (I should really be more dedicated to writing down the foods as well as the calories but... it's kind of a hassle with this app, and I eat pretty healthy as is) 


Monday Total: 978/1510 Calories





Granola Bar for 100


Workout - 10 of each exercise is INCREDIBLY easy for two circuits and still easily doable for the third. The road to 30 each though,.... I can see how that would take EVERYTHING out of me. it's gonna be exciting


Lunch: repeat chicken veggie combo - 165 cal again


Dinner: Sloppy Joe Biscuits with Max 7% fat beef, and 1 cup of mixed veggies + 1 cup green beans for 230 calories



I don't remember for 380 calories

Super elite Belgian dark chocolate and a pbj for 445


Tuesday total: 1220/1510




100 cal on granola


lunch is going to be a bitchin salad but, not sure of the calorie count yet.  110 for the chicken breast but, I usually eat half of it with the salad one day and the other half with the rest of the salad the next so, that'd be 55 + all the veggies


no plans for dinner yet but, considering yesterdays, it's gonna be low cal.



Sooo, even though it got less organized as I went on (welcome to ADD), That's the breakdown of my last two days or so.  As for meditation, it didn't happen until 10 last night (scheduled for 9) because I got in the zone on guitar.  Unfortunately, I wasn't in the zone today xD but now that I'm at my part time job, I don't have to think about that!


As for My other goals... Kendo tonight for the first time since New Years (I actually skipped sunday class to give my hand some time to recover... it still isn't completely healed but then, it's not damaged in any limiting way so... I don't know what to make of it). To improve my Zanshin... well, I sort of just have to do it.  The things that I'll focus on are: Following through with every strike - once you've commited, commit; aggressing so that my opponent is responding to my technique - as opposed to me responding to his; and not turning to face the opponent until i've more than cleared him.


The last one - in kendo, you cannot strike an opponent who doesn't face you. That's why the lack of peripheral when in armor is not such a big deal. This means that after you strike, you can step as far forward as you need to communicate the idea that you think the opponent is dead. This is zanshin in a sense... in the sense that you are showing no fear, that the future doesn't involve combat because you've won the battle (thinking life or death, not sport).  But then, rotating and facing the opponent with guard is zanshin for the sport.  Anyway, the point to this is that I rotate immediately after clearing the opponent. I should take the opportunity, knowing I won't be struck, to get my distance before rotating.  Kendo starts at a distance and closes in, unlike western fencing which happens at a set distance. Anyway, i'm gonna stop here before I ramble on too much about it. Three points of focus for zanshin tonight.


guitars... It might happen but, this is a TOUGH lick and sweeping is my weakness as is.  Here are two videos. The first is my official miles of machines metronome vid. the other is the exercise I'm using to develop sweeps. And it is equally difficult for me right now.


How do you embed? it didn't work for me.



Level 3 Martial Monk, True Neutral

STR: 6.5 | DEX: 6 | STA: 7 | CON: 9 | WIS: 8 | CHA: 6

My First Challenge

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But the vids are really cool! Cannot play myself, but growing up with guitar-mad father and brother I can appreciate. :)


Is that the MFP app you're using? I've found tracking with MFP to be SO useful; even though I'm pretty clued up about food it has been a real eye-opener in some cases.

Always kick higher

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But the vids are really cool! Cannot play myself, but growing up with guitar-mad father and brother I can appreciate. :)


Is that the MFP app you're using? I've found tracking with MFP to be SO useful; even though I'm pretty clued up about food it has been a real eye-opener in some cases.

Yes maam, it IS MFP! It's sort of inconvenient in ways but, I add quick calories and that works fine. As I've said, I eat healthy most of the time and when I don't, I remember what it was!





So I missed my circuit on Thursday, but because I was (still am!) deadly sore from Kendo. We had Shinoda Sensei in town from Australia. Not coincidentally, he also had his dojo floor built by Shiina Sensei, the largest kendo dojo Floor in the world, BTW. Kenshikan Dojo in Melbourne.  And we went to dinner after blah blah. I didn't track the calories because of the style of eating... tons of difference sushis and such and everybody just takes one piece of each... it would have been hell!


As for diet, since I'm there now, I have been making a habit of having 350 calories max for lunches and 40 cal more for snack. Wednesday I had an the baller salad for 350 (including dressing and cheese and chicken) and snacked on some dried fruit mix (not trail mix) for the extra 40.  I also ahve homemade ooey gooey yummy omnoms banana bread, a special present from my ex.  she told me that a 3 oz slice would be 100 calories so, that's been my desert every night since wednesday, and will be until it's gonna (and yes, trying to weigh out a slice of bread on a loaf that isnt sliced IS a pain in the butt... thank you for asking :P) and of course breakfast was oatmeal raisin granola bar for 90. Sushi for dinner and one Asahi beer for 100 calories... like I said, I may have over shot it but, if I did, not by much! And it was a vigorously healthy meal AND great recovery food for the muscles.


Yesterday, I only had Dominos for dinner and nothing else so, that was a fail (apparently yesterday was a failday).  Get this..  1000 calories for 4 slices.  I am SO over junk food anymore! For what little nutrition there is... its just blehh! actually, since I've been tracking calories, I feel that way about everything! Any sandwich is going to be at least 100 calories for the bread and probably another 100 for the food inside.  It was 165 for a full chicken breast and two cups of veggies (which included 3 kinds of peppers, onion, AND green beans!).  Absolute ridonkulosity.  But, its a good case for paleo haha! I could totally accidentally stick to it (save banana bread) just because of the calories I'd save!


Today, I'm going to eat the other half of that salad for lunch, 350 calories more.  I had a chocochip granola bar for 100 calories. Not that healthy but, just like to have food inthe stomach in the morning... I'll start getting into full on meals after some personal/family drama settles down. Though, granola bars have been great actually.  Don't have a plan for dinner but, I'm averaging 1200 calories (+- 15 cal) per day, with snacks and meals. Out of 1510, that's pretty good but, it almost feels a little low. Even though MFP told me that's the max I should have... I dunno, until it really becomes a problem, I'm just gonna stick to it. 


I did weigh on monday, to put my starting weight down which was 170 and some change.  I weighed unofficially this morning at 167.4 but, Monday will be the official weigh-in day.  Anyway, I expect my official weight to be around 168 but, with the intensity of my physical activity lately (first time being sore from Kendo without actual physical damage), I wouldn't be surprised if it was less or more.


Zanshin.... I definitely made a conscious effort to commit to the strikes and perform each in a way that shows that commitment (you're supposed to hold the position of the strike as you follow through, until you return to Chudan and prepare for the next bout).  I saw a significant difference in my performance by doing so, in fact.  It resulted in a lot more parries and just cutting off my opponent when I rotated sooner than later.  My hand was well-protected for a change! Now that I have my guard and my posture proper, the only time my hand got struck was when I parried ineffectively against Kote.  Part of it is slow technique. I'm still not used to the restraint of the bogu, and still using different muscles. Reflexes with the sword are actually quite a bit slower than reflexes empty hand. But, on top of that, there is much less room for error. When blocking a punch, I can use my entire forearm and stop anywhere on their forearm to deflect it effectively.  With a shinai, you have an inch or so width on the striking area, as well as deflecting so, even a couple of milimeters can make a HUGE difference. An inch is only 2.5 cm after all. 


Second part of Zanshin, aggressing.  I have been trying to be more aggressive in Kendo as is but, doing so with the purpose of forcing my opponent around is proving tricky. I understand why the 8th dan sensei do so with such subtlety (you should see this stuff, i'm tellin ya!)  but, for my purposes, it was slight improvement.  Of course, over the next six weeks, it will still be just slight improvement in the scheme of things. I plan to test in October and the sempai tell me I will probably attain a high kyu rank by then.  I'm going to make it a goal to reach 1kyu.  Maybe shodan but, they tend to require a kyu rank for your first exam. I think 1kyu is a good goal and, if I don't make it, at least I strived for it!


Third part of Zanshin, clearing my opponent fully, the dojo has a small width and with 4-5 matches going at once, space is quite limited.  My rule was not to rotate until my shinai was almost to the wall. Additionally, I started using the zokeem for zanshin outside of the strike.  Zokeem is essentially, making wet. You do it at the beginning with wet rags to clean the floor of dust and splinters but, also to make the floor wet so it's less slick (the wood is designed to make you fall, if I haven't mentioned).  But, during combat, even with good posture and proper technique, you don't always have a good grip on the floor. of course, there's the whole "You don't need to take such big steps" argument but, whatever.  I used the zokeem much more frequently than normal so that I could, in fact, strike and grip and everything. Even though martial arts - including kendo and kyudo - tend to think of zanshin in terms of posture after striking, it is actually relaxed alertness, calm awareness. Shiina sensei described it, as I may have mentioned before, using the slipknot.  This is relaxed awareness. Preparing for the future without stressing blah blah blah (IE tying bogu in a way that is solid but convenient to remove after a hard day of practice). If you think about it, that makes sense with the common application of posture after striking... Being ready for your opponent to respond, even if you felt successful. This is also why you don't want to turn around right away. Anyway, I made significant conscious effort towards zanshin and it showed in my Kendo.  So I deem that awesome.


Meditation, I have decided to just make it 10 oclock since at 9, I'm still wide-eyed, energetic, and eager to do be productive. As for the 10 hours/day of productivity... 10 hours is a LOT but, I have been filling 2 hours (hopefully more soon!) a day with guitar, an hour with Japanese, another 1-2 with guitar-related activities (videos, articles, columns, etc), an hour with reading on subjects relevant to my life - guitar, kendo, fitness, NF. 30 minutes for workout.  And some time being socially productive - building relationships, interacting, networking for more students, etc. And my part-time office job takes 3-5 hours on the days I have it. So, even though I'm not tracking those hours too closely, I am making sure to get the critical activities in my life in for as much time as I can handle without fatiguing so downtime, however much it is, is acceptable to me now.  Oh yeah, meditation takes 30-60 minutes as well. I guess that would mean I'm averaging around 6-8 hours a day of solid productivity. I'm happy with that.


As for guitar, I'm 5 bpm faster on Miles of Machines as of today.. Hoping to get up to 80 by monday but, tomorrow is dedicated to recording and reduxing old recordings with new knowledge of recording technique and general improvements in my playing.


So, that's the update.  Hope you had a blast reading it! I'm definitely busting my balls as much as possible. I'm gonna check on you guys tomorrow or Sunday but, my lunch break ended while typing this so, I have to get back to work!

Level 3 Martial Monk, True Neutral

STR: 6.5 | DEX: 6 | STA: 7 | CON: 9 | WIS: 8 | CHA: 6

My First Challenge

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Well, as long as it's not impacting performance, I suppose it's not bad, but are you really sure that you should be trying to get by on only 1200 calories per day? I'm not terribly familiar with the exact numbers regarding BMR, but at that point you're basically asking for starvation, aren't you?

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Well, as long as it's not impacting performance, I suppose it's not bad, but are you really sure that you should be trying to get by on only 1200 calories per day?



Seconded. Everybody's different, but I suspect if you give yourself a few more good calories, you'll be less tempted to fall off the wagon, and probably perform better in workouts as well.


That said: Nice challenge, man. I really love your Kendo goal.

Level 2 MonkSTR: 4 | DEX: 4 | STA: 2 | CON: 6 | WIS: 3 | CHA: 3

Battle Log | Challenge Thread

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