February 16, 2011

What Is Love? Baby don't hurt me...

Tonight I wanted to blog about something more meaningful than just the things I’ve done. My faith is very important to me, and love is arguably the foundation of the Christian faith. I’m not a theologian, nor do I (or will I) have all the answers regarding my faith. But I do believe God is love and showers an indescribable love onto His children.

But let's bring it down to us humans and talk about love. This word is used everyday, and probably tossed around carelessly like my cell phone. (That thing is on its third year, which makes it roughly 72 years-old in cell phone years). “I love this show!” or “I love Toffifee!” are examples of expressions we throw out non-chalantly.

Valentine’s Day was this past Monday. How many people said, “I love you” on this day? This phrase is expressed on anything from Tiffany wedding bands to cheesy coffee mugs. But what do we actually mean when we say these words? I believe love can be defined in different ways. The kind of love you express for PVR is probably not the same kind of love you have for a good friend, or for a significant other. (Sidenote: I don’t like the term “significant other” because a) It’s vague, and b) I think it sounds too starchy-collared. Unfortunately I don’t think “That extraordinarily cool person who isn’t me,” would work to replace the term).

I’ve been to Greece, and I still don’t understand a single word of Greek. However, being someone who can speak 2 languages and understand parts of a third, I completely understand the concept of “message lost through translation.” Some words just can’t be translated- maybe it takes an entire phrase to describe it in one language, and one word in another. Language is complex and interesting; it brings people together and pushes them apart... But I’m off topic and running on a tangent. And now let’s talk about Trigonometry… Cosine, Sine... I kid.

So there are 3 Greek words for 3 different types of love. I’m summing up/paraphrasing ideas from here:

1) Eros: This is the feeling of love. Let me paint a picture: You’re on a date, the air is tingling with unspoken attraction, there’s an infestation of butterflies in your stomach and you float through a warm, fuzzy cloud of intoxication. This love includes the passion you feel for someone- the romance: a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. This kind of love feels good, but it’s not long-term because it’s based on feelings and depends on your situation. You feel good around this person, so you assume you love him/her at this time. But if tougher times come, or you begin to find certain habits more annoying than cute, you lose interest. You assume you no longer love them. This kind of love is fickle because it’s based on feelings, and we all know how those can change.

2) Philia: This is brotherly love, or the love between close friends. How would I paint this picture? You and one of your besties are spending an evening together. You laugh together, poke fun at each other, and sincerely enjoy the bond you share and the quality time you have with one another. It’s friendly, but not sensual. It’s comfortable, but not inflamed in passion (I realize friendships can be intense, therefore I chose to distinguish the difference between passions by adding that visual adjective). We may love others like a brother or sister, and truly care for them, but this love is still dependent on circumstances. Sadly, friendships break up just like couples do.

3) Agape: This is the way I believe God loves us. This is selfless love. This love is not confined to a situation or circumstance. It has no borders and is not a feeling. Feelings come and go, but this love isn't based on how we feel in the moment. This love is awesome and humbling, because it’s a choice. How can this kind of love be demonstrated? By the way we treat others. If we love someone with this selfless Agape love, we will ultimately seek out his/her well-being and try our hardest to act in ways that are in his/her best interests. E.g. I love her, and I know it hurts her when I do this so I will try my hardest to be considerate of this, and not do it. Learn more about God's Agape love here.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”- 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 (NIV translation)

I think we could all do with more Agape love. The kind of love where we look out for strangers or offer help for nothing in return; where we show a sincere concern for the well-being of others. The kind of love that encourages, and comforts. The kind of love that forgives and doesn’t choose to hold a grudge, but gives second, third and fourth chances.

This kind of love is something we choose to give- it’s grace-based. It’s not about what I can get out of the relationship, but what I can give or provide. This love is not without challenges, and we won’t always feel like loving this way, or want to be selfless. But like other things, I believe love is a discipline and it takes work, along with a progressive reorientation of our attitudes. As verse 6 from the above scripture passage states, this love perseveres through good times and bad. It doesn't give up easily, and is not fleeting- this love is long-lasting. The best part might be that this love is a choice, and we have the ultimate say in how we choose to live our lives and treat others.

I think it’s important to point out that of these 3 types of love, it’s possible to experience more than one at the same time. However, I think the first 2 would only be heightened by the strong presence of the third kind of love, the selfless kind. I.e. Your romantic feelings for someone would be enhanced by the assurance that your partner has a deep, considerate love for you.

There’s a great book out there which I haven’t read: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman which talks about the various ways we express love: Quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, and physical touch.

I mean to read it, but maybe you’ll beat me to it. 5 million people have, so there's something special about it at least...

I would however like to leave you with this thought: How might you treat your family, friends or even strangers in your life differently if you chose to love them agape-style?

Until next time, don’t forget to show yourself some love and take care of yourself!

February 8, 2011

Self-Defence: When Striking Back is Okay... and Fun

It’s about time I wrote a post about something recent in my life, and attending an 8 hour women’s Self Defence Seminar at a Taekwondo school is enough of an adventure to grace my blog. But before I delve into the details, I’m going to address a common question I’ve been asked: Why did you decide to take a self defence class?

One word: Skills. I thought it would be a good place to learn some physical strategies to protect myself or remove myself from dangerous situations. Before taking the class, I basically had no self-defence skills. My repertoire included: Keys between the knuckles, and running away. Not a very impressive martial arts resume for someone who works downtown. I don’t really need to re-annoint the COW (City of Winnipeg) as being unsafe, but now that I’m receiving overtime at my job at Investors Group, I’m also walking around and bussing at night. Realistically speaking, I’m more at risk for attacks being a small, weak female. So I hoped to gain some practical skills out of this. I figured after 8 hours, I would be able to defend myself against Chuck Norris.

So instead of wearing my Sunday best and going to church this past Superbowl Sunday, I pulled on some sweats and a t-shirt and drove out to Ryan’s Taekwondo on Pembina. For those of you who know me, you know I don’t really adhere to a strict exercise regime, so I was a little apprehensive about the day and the physical exertion it would entail. There were 7 of us signed-up, plus 2 leaders who were thoroughly trained in mixed martial arts, and/or Taekwondo. Inside the school I was slipping on my pair of  “runners” (Read: Street shoes) with 2 other participants when our instructor walked in. Although I had spoken to him on the phone, I took this moment to formally introduce myself and said, “I’m Chui.” He looked at me and simply replied, “I figured.” Based on this, it was safe to assume I would be the only Asian in the seminar, and I was. But I actually really respected our instructors, along with the knowledge and skills they demonstrated.

We began by explaining why we chose to take the course, and our leader lead us through some self-defence theory. This included topics such as: Intuition – Recognizing risk based on context, and characteristics that should set off red flags in our minds. 

For instance, some red flags include:
Forced Learning – When someone forces an association to build report with you. I.e. A stranger who uses the pronoun, “We.”
Lone Sharking – When someone offers to do something for you, so you feel indebted.
Typcasting – When someone puts you in a mould and thus encourages you to prove him wrong, or to elicit a response/reaction from you.

There are many other red flags to be aware of. It’s also important to note that many good Samaritans may demonstrate red-flag behaviours as well. The key variables to consider are context and situation. Are there other people around? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? If someone’s just offering help out of consideration and you refuse, most Samaritans would recognize your unease and leave you alone. Regardless, it’s better to offend someone, than to put yourself in a dangerous situation.

We read a true story (about an attack) together, and identified various red flags that were exhibited. This sounds very "of-the-textbook," but our leader made sure to stress how each situation is unique and by no means is there a tried-and-true formula for identifying potential predators.

After lunch we got into the fun stuff. They made us run lines and other various warm-up exercises to increase our heart-rates. Then our leaders pulled on boxing gloves and we practiced blocking/defending ourselves while they hit us. (This sounds more violent than it actually was). 

This won’t shock most of you, but  my favorite part of the seminar was learning how to strike. At different times during the day, I was labeled as “crazy” and “a diehard.” (Maybe because I was simply engaged with my learning experience and challenging myself, gosh). Anyways, striking included:
- Punching handheld pads
- Kicking with our shins (the hardest bone in our leg, that can take the brunt of a hit)
- Knee stomps
- The groin kick

All of these were practiced on our two leaders, aiming at the pads they held. (I thought the groin kick might’ve been a little too close for comfort for them, but they were experienced enough to prevent injury).

We learned how to get out of grab holds, which included distraction techniques and we also learned how to use resistance to work in our favour. Then we learned how to fall (or roll) to dissipate energy and reduce impact. During this we practiced falling while our leader “threw” us onto a mattress. I would describe it more as an assisted whip. He would hold both of our hands and whip us towards the mat and we would fall/roll onto it. Each time he asked if we wanted more speed, and each time I asked for more, being the reckless diehard I am (I did run a red light the other day). For our last throw, they encouraged us to try to recover from our roll and immediately take off running, or attempt to use the force from the throw to put more distance between ourselves and our attacker. Running after rolling was a little discombobulating, but possible!

Next we practiced getting out of chokeholds, which didn’t work so well for me, as I had issues turning either of my leaders over my shoulder. It’s not about size however, but about effective transfer of momentum. We practiced this forwards, and backwards – where you hold your attacker's thigh and lean backwards, so you land on him and he's basically forced to release you, for at least enough time to get away.

Finally we ended the seminar with some floor work, which got awkward because we were practicing a full mount on strangers...

While we were packing up, our leader (a master of Taekwondo, I remind you) told me I had a good kick. Maybe it’s natural – perhaps some Kung Fu in my genes. But being athletically disadvantaged, I was very pleased to hear this!

As I finish typing up this post, I’m still feeling the post-seminar pain. Specifically, the right side of my body is considerably sore, as we focused on right-sided strikes. My neck is also a little sore- I feel it when I speak. I also suffered some bruising on my knee and knuckle- shiners that I might admire too much. (I’ve pointed them out to everyone- "hey small-child-on-the-street, guess how I got this!") I feel a little beat up, which may or may not be ironic. The next few days after my seminar, I also had the pleasure of trying out a few of my newly acquired skills on my guy friends. Practice makes perfect right?

In reality, I hope I never have to use these skills. However, my resume is now a little more filled-out and I’ve learned a lot about getting out of certain situations. I would definitely recommend a self-defence seminar, or others like it, as it was indeed practical and very hands-on. But for now, stay safe my readers! And trust your intuition...

Exhibit A: Regular Knuckle
Exhibit B: Bruised Knuckle!