Sunday, October 5, 2014

Some Thoughts About Ebola

The government is telling us the ebola threat isn't something to worry about. The more conspiracy minded, believe that the government is purposely spreading disinformation to keep us from panicking. Whatever the reality is, I think we need to be informed in order to best protect ourselves. Part of self reliance is of course to weigh in on various sources on a given subject and through critical thinking decide the best course of action for ourselves. So it is with this in mind, that I write this article.
A great place to begin your study about Ebola would be the book “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston. It is a fast paced fascinating book which reads like an action novel. You'll read about it's origins, it's earliest victims and the aftermath of the first wave of this epidemic. This book will give you a thorough grounding in the early history of Ebola. Some of which contradicts some of the current information being put out by the media.

Here's the wiki on it:

Here's a very informative interview:

The authorities initially informed us, the likelihood of it reaching us was unlikely. Yet, at the time of this writing, there is a confirmed patient in Dallas, Texas and a possible patient in Washington D.C. They are also telling us that if we had an outbreak locally, they could contain it. Though they had to put armed guards to keep the family of the Dallas patient under quarantine after they tried to escape. We are also aware of various cases being caught in various airports around the world. We are being told it isn't airborne and not likely to become so. Yet American health workers in Africa, despite being trained and equipped to handle such emergencies still contracted this disease. We are told Ebola has been so bad in Africa because of the widespread poverty. The poverty has lead to poor sanitary conditions, lack of quality food and poor health care resources. I wonder if this wouldn't be an incentive for the infected, to try to make their way to the U.S. To possibly save their lives from this known killer. Specially with the lack of control we are currently experiencing at our borders. Many real causes for concern are seemingly being ignored. Could this possibly be for our own good?

People have survived. My observation of the numbers seem to have about a 50 percent mortality rate. Factors which improve the odds so far seem to be early treatment and having a good immune system. The people which are surviving are the ones who's immune systems are strong enough to fight off the virus. Still a couple of therapies including IV hydration and oxygen have shown to be beneficial. Also in use, are blood transfusions from survivors into patients with the same blood type. An experimental drug has been used but the authorities still aren't sure if it worked or if the patients would have survived anyway. Lots of stuff seems to be in the works, but nothing readily available yet. It seems to me that a good start in any pandemic preparedness effort would be to make sure your immune system is working optimally. This can be as simple as improving our diet and making sure we are properly hydrated. The authorities are telling us to wash our hands often and this is probably good advice.

While I like to consider myself an apocaloptimist I still believe we should prepare for the possibility of having to self quarantine. Having food, water and medical supplies to carry us for some time is a very good form of insurance should this become a reality. For the time being, I don't believe we'll need to resort to this. I am concerned, however that every time I look at the news, I see something that makes me wonder about the competence of those in charge of protecting us. Below are three examples:

I guess that my whole point is that if like the cliché says we “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” we'll all be a little better off. Lets keep our eyes and ears open. Put that information through the filter of common sense and wisdom and do what we can to protect our selves, our families and our communities. Don't let the panickers make you paranoid and don't let the nay sayers make you complacent.

Until next time, please be sure to check out our facebook page here: and our YouTube channel:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Primer For Preparedness

Because of the interconnectedness of the various systems and their dependence on electricity any disturbance of the power grid can have very large far reaching consequences.  Additionally since the trucking industry is also computerized this could also effect our ability to resupply.  In fact any disruption in the various transportation systems whether it is from a grid down scenario; a natural or manmade disaster or even a truckers strike can also bring life as you know it to a grinding halt.  As the garbage mounts and utilities become unavailable simple things we took for granted quickly become survival necessities.  In a grid down scenario food, water, medicine, fuel, communications and cash will become scarce.  

One of the first things I noticed during the blackouts after Hurricane Andrew hit my hometown of Miami, Fl was the lack of available gasoline.  Gasoline stations are computerized and will not likely be working when the power is down.  A fact I was later reminded of during the blackouts following hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.  Despite the supposed emergency backups all gas stations were supposed to have after Hurricane Andrew, most were still unable to pump gas.  Those that where able quickly ran out.  As the tension mounted during those long waits in those very long lines, gas stations became very dangerous places to be.  Riots and violence become real possibilities as people get desperate.   Those in hurricane country know the wisdom of topping off their tanks prior to the storms.  Even in good times I would advise everyone to never let their tank drift below half a tank.

Food and water shortages are a given.  These are the first things we see fly off the shelves anytime there’s a credible threat of a natural disaster.  Panic shopping can deplete supermarket shelves within hours!  Because of the modern “lean manufacturing and production” practices you will rarely have more than 3 days worth of food in any supermarket at any given time.  The Japanese Kanban or “just in time” business model adopted by most U.S. business have really led to big profit increases during good times but if the resupply lines are ever disrupted we could be 9 meals away from anarchy! 
Power outages related to disasters may also disrupt water treatment facilities and sewer services leading to increased risks of water borne illnesses.  Diarrhea diseases common to waterborne illnesses increase anytime the municipal water supplies are compromised.  We saw this after the massive 2003 New York black out.  During these times orders to boil water are usually given out by local authorities.  When flooding occurs the problems become more wide spread as more water sources become compromised.  In the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake we saw a massive cholera outbreak.  This was the worst they’ve seen in over 100 years.  

Crowding which is common to populations displaced by natural or manmade disaster can further aggravate the situation since close proximity can facilitate the spread of disease particularly respiratory infections the second most common killer of people in developing countries.   Refugee camps are often hotbeds of disease as are jails and hospitals for these reasons.  Rodent populations which also increase in movement and seemingly in size immediately following will also lead to increased spreading of disease. 
Medicine is something that also stops flowing.   Pharmacies are also computerized and vulnerable to power outages.  An acquaintance of mine learned this lesson the hard way when the Veteran’s Administration hospital informed him they couldn’t give him his life saving liver medication.  This happened despite the assurances they gave him prior to the storm.  Even non-life threatening medicinal deficits can cause very dangerous situations imaging someone who is manic depressive, bi polar, or psychotic suddenly coming off their medication!  Now realize anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the population is on some type of psychotropic medication.  If you’re taking life saving medication it would be prudent to have a back up supply, just in case.  

Adding to the problem is the fact most of the methods of communications we take for granted will also go down.  In years past when landline telephones where common in every home, survivors could take comfort in knowing that those telephones operated on a different system and may still work even when the power goes down.  These days most people are doing away with these types of phones preferring to use only their cell phones.  Cell phone reception is very fragile and very vulnerable.  Lack of reliable cell phone usage is a common occurrence in many disasters due to either direct damage or overloading of the cell towers.  In years past I would text my loved ones at midnight on New Years Eve knowing that getting a call out would be impossible.  In 2011 I was unable to get my text out for hours do to the volume of texting that was occurring.  Still texting is worth a try, specially to someone outside the area.  Internet access is also something that can be very vulnerable.  If you have transportation available trying different areas till you can find wifi reception may give you the means through which you can send out an e-mail.  Message boards and blogs are often a great source for news and information. In fact even getting local news can be challenging.  After Andrew the best information was coming from stations which where from outside of our area.

Buying necessities after the fact can be difficult at best.  Many if not most businesses will not be able to operate because they are computerized and unable to function without electricity.  Those that can operate will most likely only be accepting cash.  If you can find someone willing to accept a check during a crisis consider yourself lucky.  Better yet cultivate relationships with those vendors in your area and you may improve your odds.  Getting cash from ATM machines may not happen if there’s no power and or they are damaged.  The banks in all likelihood would be closed.  Even if open it’s doubtful they would be of any use since they too are computerized and unable to operate without electricity.   Having an emergency stash of cash is probably a great idea.

While we could probably discuss many more “side effects” related to grid down scenarios I like mention just one more.  In wide spread disasters we frequently see a sharp increase in opportunistic crime.  A blatant example was the wide spread looting in Louisiana during the after math of Hurricane Katrina or the vicious attack on Reginald Denny the truck driver who was dragged out a beaten nearly to death by rioters during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. 

 During the black outs following Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma my “resort style” condo community was left completely unsecured.  The security gates had been left open and the security guards wouldn’t return till after power had been restored.  I was informed later this was for “safety” reasons.  To make matters worst the majority of the property was empty, as most of my neighbors had evacuated.  Fortunately nothing worst happened but I couldn’t help but think this would have been a burglar’s paradise.  Security is a very real concern any preparedness minded person should consider.  During the chaos of such events the normal emergency response systems are stretched very thin.  Response times will be painfully long if they respond at all.  Remember even in the best of times when seconds count help is only minutes away.

By now you should be getting a very clear picture of what you should be doing to be better prepared to face the many challenges you could be facing.  Now many people already practice some level of preparedness.  Think about it most have some type of insurance whether for their assets or their health.  Many put aside a little money for a rainy day.  Most households may even have a first aid kit.  What I am very surprised at is that it usually stops there.  The average person doesn’t even have the FEMA recommended 3 days of food and water stored in their homes.  Even worst many think a higher level of preparedness may be considered paranoia and may even fear being ridiculed for contemplating such things.  This is a stark contrast from the way people lived as little as 80 years ago.   Of course now the largest populations live in cities and see little need for such things.  Those living in remote areas or areas with extreme weather know the wisdom of being prepared but unfortunately the average urbanite has forgotten this.  

So where is someone looking to become more self-reliant supposed to begin?  I suppose that would depend on the circumstances they anticipate, but would begin by storing some non-perishable food and water.  How much food?  That again would depend on the anticipated situation.  After Hurricane Andrew we spent nearly a month without electricity and under a boil water order.  My minimum storage would be 1 month’s worth for every member of your group.  Still the 3day minimum suggested by FEMA would be a great start.  Gradually building from there wouldn’t be too difficult or even expensive.  Since you would be buying proactively you will have the opportunity to take advantage of sales, discounts and coupons.  A very useful practice for collecting food for storage is a method I learned from my mother.  She would double or even triple up on foods we normally eat every time there was a sale.  Twofers (two for one’s) and bogos (buy one get one frees) are great opportunities to stock up.  Since these where foods we normally ate anyway they would get rotated out as we ate them satisfying the survivors maxim “buy what you eat and eat what you buy. 

Canned foods are a great start.  Beans and rice are great staples for the survivor’s larder.  These items store well for long periods of time even without refrigeration.  They also do wonders for increasing the macro nutrient ratios of your food preparations. Don’t forget to include condiments (pepper, salt, sugar etc.) in your preparedness efforts as they can add flavor varieties as commonly eaten foods become bland to the palate. 
For longer-term storage dehydrated or freeze dried foods can provide food stores, which may last decades if packaged and kept properly.  There are many companies that sell these types of foods.  Many wholesale clubs are now catering to this market.  Many are not only offering canned foods but even survival buckets for long-term storage.  Another great resource for this type of canned foods is the LDS canneries.  They have the additional advantage of being more customizable since often you are allowed to can your own there under the guidance of experienced canners.  Another advantage is that they are often the least expensive option short of doing your own canning at home

Canning and bottling your own food for storage is a great option if you have the skill and time.  There are a great many great books and videos on the subject.  The LDS canneries occasionally give classes on this subject as well.  The materials can easily be found in many grocery stores, super markets and even some hardware stores.  Food dehydrators are also easily found in many of those places and can be purchased quite inexpensively.  Usually ranging in price from as little as $50 up to several hundred dollars.
 Another great way for creating long-term food stores is to package bulk grains, beans and other staples in mylar bags in an oxygen free environment in order to kill any bugs which may already be in those foods.  Creating an oxygen free environment is as simple as adding oxygen absorbers before sealing the bags. You can further protect your stores by placing the bags in food grade buckets with lids.   This will protect your food stores by further maintaining a constant positive environment for your food and also by preventing rodents and similar animals from chewing into the bags.  These buckets can be purchased in hardware stores but a more cost effective way is to go to your local restaurant or baker and ask them for the one’s they will be discarding anyway.  Another method that just uses buckets is described in Ron and Karen Hood’s excellent video titled Urban Master.  They use dry ice to push the oxygen out.  Simply put some dry ice into the bag between a few layers of food and allow it to evaporate through out the day.  Place the lid lightly on top of the bucket to allow the oxygen and carbon dioxide to escape and seal it once the smoke from the carbon dioxide is exhausted.

For those anticipating an apocalyptic scenario having a seed bank of heirloom seeds may be a valuable resource.  These are the open pollinating variety of seeds that produce a plant capable of further producing plantable seeds.  This will ensure the survivor has a means of growing food once his or her stores have run out.  For those anticipating this type of scenario to stored food amounts should allow each member of the group to eat for 18 months to 2 years as this is likely the amount of time for severe depopulation to occur.  The common template for developing food stores to get one through such scenarios would be to have 3 months to a years worth of regular canned goods and other non perishable staples in rotation followed by 18 months to 2 years worth of long term stored foods and an heirloom seed bank.   Of course since a single disaster can possibly destroy your food stores or gangs of desperate starving people can steal your foods it would probably be a smart idea to not keep it all in one place.  Having several food stashes in your home isn’t a bad idea specially if they are hidden.  A thief satisfied with his newfound food may overlook other stashes.  Having multiple locations and even caches outside the home can further protect you from loosing all your stores at once.  I know several urban survivors who keep some supplies including food and water in public storage places for these very same reasons. 
Growing your own food even during the good times is a great skill to have.  You’ll develop very useful skills while eating healthy truly organic food.  People in rural settings have the advantage in terms of space but almost anyone can grow something, even apartment dwellers.  Urbanites with their own yards would do well to look such techniques like square foot gardening and the various methods collectively known as permaculture.  Apartment dwellers with balconies should look into container gardening and vertical gardening.  Even those without balconies may still be able to grow at least some herbs or indoor plants which may be useful.  Of course there’s always guerilla gardening in wastelands.  

Water storage is actually the most important storage need since you’ll only survive days without it.  Additionally many of your food preparations may need water to prepare them. FEMA and the Red Cross recommend you store 1 gallon per day per person.  The easiest way to do this although expensive is to simply buy bottled water.  If you choose this method, a smart strategy is to buy a variety of container sizes.  They range from the large 5 gallon bottles commonly used for water machines to bottles as small as a few ounces.  Having this variety will increase your storage options.  Water storage can be a great challenge since it’s bulky and heavy.  At over 8 pounds a gallon a 5 gallon bottle will weigh in at just over 40 lbs.  A 50 gallon drum will weigh in at over 400 lbs! 

With water at a little over a dollar a gallon at the time of this writing, many of you may wish to go a less expensive route.  Bottling my own water is the method I’ve chosen for this reason.  It is as simple as repurposing some old soda bottles or similar containers; cleaning them, and filling them from the tap.  Do not use the thin plastic milk bottles with the handles on them.  They leech a lot of plastic into the water giving it a terrible plastic taste and tend to leak when stored for long periods. 
The technique I use when preparing bottles for storing water is to thoroughly clean them out with soap and water.  Then fill them up with water and add 1 teaspoon of plain common household bleach per gallon.  Shake it up and then let it sit for an hour or so then drain and refill.  Be sure to let the water run over the threads and the cap when draining.  This second step is very important in order to ensure there isn’t any sugar left in the bottles that may be inviting to bacteria.  I like to rotate my water stores every couple of years.

Since we already mentioned how important water is and that it may be challenging to store in large enough quantities.  Having alternative sources for procuring water is an extremely important consideration.  A tried and true method is to harvest the rain.  Those living in houses can simply have their rain gutters drain into 50 gallon drums.  Be sure to routinely clean off your roof to minimize the volume of leaves, bird poop and other contaminants that may accumulate there.  Apartment dwellers have a bigger challenge.  Those with balconies can try to rig up temporary rain catching systems using aluminum rain gutters but the volume will be much lower.  Those with access to the roof can use buckets and similar containers to catch rain.  I plan on using two inflatable kid pools if I ever to catch water.

Urban wells can also be a great source for water.  Wells are often over looked because most people tend to think of well as the old brick ones you threw a bucket into.  A modern urban well needn’t be much more than a pipe and a pump.  In fact most of them will go unrecognized for what they are since they don’t look much different than the outdoor spigots commonly seen in back yards.
Yet another resource for water in an urban environment is the water in the house or apartment itself.  Many homes will have 40 or more gallons of water in their water heaters and several more gallons in the pipes.  Also lets not forget the 3 to 5 gallons in the toilet tank (not the bowl!)  To access the water from the pipes you first need to close off the water main to prevent your water from becoming contaminated if the municipal water supply may become contaminated.  Next open the highest faucet in the house till you get a small drip.  The open the lowest faucet in the house and let it drain out.  Have several containers ready so as to not waste any water.  If you are planning to use your water heater as a source of water it is extremely important that maintenance it regularly.  An unmaintained water heater will accumulate oxidation and other filth making the water much more difficult to process if you could make it potable at all.  To access the water turn off the breaker, release the steam using the steam release valve usually at the top of the unit and open the spigot to drain.  Be sure you know what you are doing here because a mistake can scald you severely!  Many experts have said the water in your toilet bowl is safe to drink.  I would still disinfect it since it’s so close to the bowl.

Even if you have all your preparations in place do not forget you can give yourselves a couple of extra days before you have to tap your stores by maximizing the efficiency of your refrigerator.  Something I do before a pending hurricane strike is to maximally fill my refrigerator with frozen water bottles prior to turning down the temperature to its coldest setting.  I start by freezing 2 liter bottles and then moving them down from the freezer into the refrigerator once frozen.  Then I will fill the freezer with small 12 to16 ounce water bottles.  By eliminating any dead air spaces you will make your refrigerator much more efficient allowing you to keep your perishables fresh for a couple of days longer than if you hadn’t done this.   Having a thermometer in your refrigerator is a smart idea since this way you will know for sure once the temperature inside has reached room temperature.  This is when spoilage begins.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Surviving The 2013 Riot Season

My hometown Miami, Florida’s long history of riots has many locals wondering when the next one would be.  After all, we consistently saw them in every decade since the '60s.  Some even suggested we were long over due.  Following the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict we have been seeing riots in many American cities to include New York, LA, Memphis, Baltimore and Houston.  Miami, Trayvon Martin’s home town, and the logical epicenter for rioting, is suspiciously quiet.  I suspect we’ll see civil unrest  during the “Justice for Trayvon” protests this Saturday.  The trend so far has been for rogue groups of mayhem seekers to splinter off from the main groups protesting peacefully.  With hundreds of these protests scheduled for this Saturday across the country, I recommend that everybody  be alert and stay sharp!  Having lived through the Mc Duffy Riots of the '80s and the Lozano riots of the '90s I have some insight into this subject and have included some tips below I hope you find useful.

Gathering  Intel 
We can start by listening to the news.  While it’s true the media is not totally trustworthy, it’s a start.  Keep in mind that while lately they’ve been quite sensational, they may be instructed to under report if there truly is civil unrest.  They often do this in order prevent further “copy cat” riots.  A lot of information can be obtained off the traffic reports and news cast from stations outside the area.  Avoid areas reporting congestion as rioters often block streets.  We saw this during the Rodney King riots in LA in the '90s as rioters pulled Reginald Denny out of truck and nearly beat him to death.  Under reporting was a strategy used by the local media in the aftermath of hurricane Andrew.  We saw local broadcasts telling us to stay calm and that things weren’t so bad.  This, while stations from other states were showing the incredible devastation and widespread looting!  Reporter Geraldo Rivera took the cake, when he mentioned on the air that the local National Guard units weren’t issued bullets!  Effectively getting most of them robbed.  Some of the best information we got was from a police scanner where we heard everything that was truly happening.   

Once you’ve heard something worth sharing, it is important to let those in your circle know.  A very efficient way to do this is to make a bang list on your cell phone using the group-text feature enabling you to text-message your contacts as a group rather than individually.  Attempting to call everyone is very time consuming and during high call traffic times it may actually be impossible to get through.  Texts messages do have a greater probability of getting through, but be warned, they don't always make it; as I learned last New Years Eve.  Although I seriously doubt things will get so out of hand, cell phone communications will be cut off keep in mind it IS in the realm of possibility.  Don’t believe this is possible?  Remember cell phones were shut down just minutes after the Boston Marathon bombing.  How could rioting lead to this?  The riots of the previous decades occurred prior to social media and smart phones.  Roving "flash mob" riots can conceivably orchestrate attacks via mobile social media applications, overburdening local police and in turn triggering a shut down of cell phones.  Having meeting places inside and outside your area are important as are having emergency contacts inside and outside your area.  If your area suddenly gets crazy go to your meeting place outside the area.  If you are unable to make a call within your area due to overwhelming phone traffic tying up the cell service, try calling your aunt in another city or state.  Very often the call will get through and if it does now she can relay messages.  HAM radio, cb’s and even the family type 2 way radios have their place, but keep in mind unless everyone in your group has one it’s pointless.  They all have distance limits.  HAM radio being the farthest reaching still is limited if the person on the other end only has a small low powered hand held unit.  They may be able to receive but may not be able to broadcast. 

The biggest threat during civil unrest is physical violence to you or your loved ones.  As with all self defense situations your first line of defense is a commitment to awareness, avoidance and de-escalation.  If you already gathered your intelligence from local and foreign broadcasts as well as communications with others, you should have a sense of where things are getting unstable and avoid them.  Situational awareness is still the key though!  Leave any area where you see questionable crowds gathering specially if there are large numbers of youths in them.  Bad neighborhoods and large gathering areas such as malls and commercial areas should also be avoided.  I clearly remember being bused out of school in the early 80’s during the Mc Duffy riots.  My school at the time, because of it’s location and having a large number of youths readily fit the description of places I suggested you avoid during civil unrest.  Adopting the grey man strategy of blending in is good if moving about, but may be impossible if you are of a completely different demographic than the mob.  Acting like a sympathizer may help you get past the crowd.  If you find yourself there try mimicking their chanting and adopt their general attitude and mannerisms till you get past the crowd.  Once you’re out walk away as calmly as possible to avoid attracting their attention.  Keep in mind even highways and freeways passing through affected areas are vulnerable to blockage, thrown debris and even gun fire.

Self Defense 
Understand that fighting a mob is quite possibly the most dangerous thing you can do but if you must fight then you must bring the biggest most vicious fight you can muster!  Certainly having the right tools would be helpful but only as far as your skills with those tools will take you.  Guns would certainly be at the top of my list. I once witnessed a man back off a crowd by wielding a large machete and an even larger attitude.  A friend of mine who frequently works in security details in Latin America, keeps a couple of happy sticks (33 round magazines) for his Glock, in the glove box of his car for when things get “interesting.”  The large bear spray pepper gas cans may also have their place in riot defense as they can contaminate a pretty large area effectively taking the fight out of many a rioter.  Many people victimized by rioters often get caught in their cars while trying to escape.  In this case it is very important that you stay calm and remember a V8 beats .45acp any day.  A few simple strategies can improve your odds while driving.  First of all, once the alert has been sounded it is especially important to maintain situational awareness.  In a car you do this by scanning ahead and using your mirrors often to check your sides and rear.  Additionally leaving a good amount of space between you and the car in front of you is important in case evasive maneuvers are necessary.  Being able to see the point where the tires of the car in front of you make contact with the road is a good guideline for that distance.  On the highway the 2 second rule is what most experts recommend.  Simply start your mental countdown, once the car in front of you clears an object such as a tree or pole, if your front bumper reaches there in two seconds that’s your bare minimum following distance.  If a crowd tries to block your path push through them.  When doing so make sure your doors are locked and don’t stop.  If you must mow them over keep in mind people hit by cars often crane forward breaking your front windshield.  Wearing protective glasses can help prevent shards of glass from hurting your eyes.  Although this mostly happens when your windshield is shot.

The Aftermath
Should you have to use any of the skills or tools we previously mentioned, keep in mind your goal is to escape from the situation.  Don’t stick around to give a report!  It’s doubtful the police will come since they’ll be tending to more important tasks at that moment.  If you or a loved one is injured do not stay in the area to render aid.  Keep in mind the mob will very likely be in a frenzy and likely show you no mercy.  Specially if you injured or killed one them while escaping.  Instead escape and render first aid as soon as possible or better yet have your passenger render it.  You have been trained in first aid right? Knowing the area is very important so you can get to the nearest SAFE hospital as quickly as possible.  Once safe, the smart thing to do is probably to shelter in place for the duration of the event.  If the civil unrest is wide spread, local stores may close shop until order is restored.  Here is where your emergency food and water stores will be important.  Think of these as the same things you keep on hand for hurricanes or other natural disasters.  Riots of course are disasters just man made ones.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Things to Improve Your Fitness

Here's an article originally written for the Miami Arnis Group martial arts newsletter.  The information is just so important I had to also share it here on Urban Survivalcraft.  Having a good level of fitness is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.  I will allow you to fight harder, work longer, and make you an all around more useful person.  It is too important to ignore.

Hi All,

I know it’s been a long time since the last article I wrote.  Sorry folks, sometimes life gets hectic.  This one has been floating around my head for some time.  In my first article, I gave my thoughts on practical fitness ( in a later article, I spoke of  the role of fitness in the survival/victory/success triangle (  In fact, I spoke so much about fitness some people actually questioned whether this was even a martial arts group and not a fitness group.  Well folks, fitness is that important!  Practical fitness will give us the endurance to train at a high level with adequate frequency.  It will also give us the resiliency not only to survive, but to thrive in the training environment.  Additionally, even if you aren’t involved in martial arts, having good fitness levels translates to a greater work capacity making one more useful in general. 
For the average martial arts enthusiast, who also juggle all the elements of a full life such as family, work and other interests, finding time to get fitness training in may be a challenge.  Which is why rather than trying to prescribe a particular fitness regime, I will share with you ten ways you can fit exercise into your lifestyle .  

1.       Jump rope whenever possible.  An easy way to fit it in, is to use it in your warm up for most workouts including your martial arts skills training.  I jump rope for about 5 minutes as a general warm up.  Rope jumping strengthens the calves and improves proprioception and balance at the ankle joint.  All of which prehab the ankle making it more resistant to injury but also improve your footwork making you “lighter on your feet.”

2.       Work your grip.  By improving your grip strength you are actually improving your upper body strength in general.  Your hands like your face have a greater “representation” in your brain.  The sum total of improved hand strength is that the freed nervous energy can now be better used by the primal movers.  It is as simple as keeping a challenging grip training device in your desk at work and using it a few times a week.

3.       Train the finger extensors.  A simple exercise done by placing a rubber band around your straight fingers and then opening them will reward you with more balanced hand strength.  This not only increases the amount of grip strength you can express due to structural balance but helps prevent imbalance injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.  This is another exercise anyone can easily do while sitting in their desk at work.

4.       Master the pull up and its variations.  Here’s the upper body equivalent of a dead lift.  It works most if not all the upper body musculature including the abs.  Any fighter wishing to improve his power in either striking or grappling will be well served by working the pull up.  Additionally, the pull ups, helps improve the muscular balance of the shoulder which will increase the durability of the shoulder.  Anyone who regularly does heavy pressing, should include a steady diet of pull ups for shoulder health.
5.       If your are already working the pull up, also include hindu push ups.  This variety of push ups are excellent for shoulder and hip mobility.  They are also very suitable for high rep practice which leads to upper body endurance. They will both stretch the abs and work the arm extensors.  This will not only help maintain the balance in the upper body musculature but also help prehab the elbow.  The elbow naturally take a beating when one does pull ups on a bar on a regular basis.  This is an important reason for varying the grips or doing them on rings instead of a bar.

6.       Squats!  If you are not squatting you are missing out on possibly the most important exercise you’ll ever do.  Free squats (unweighted) are great for developing basic leg strength and endurance.  In very high reps they will have you breathing heavy in no time.  They can be quite “cardio.”  The do wonders for hip mobility.  They promote blood flow in normally stagnant area for most desk jockeys.  They massage internal organs and promote lymph flow.  They can be done with weights for improving strength and are a must in any serious practitioners fitness arsenal.

7.       Few people consider that even a visually “fit” person may still be quite sedentary and suffer many of the same ailments a regular sedentary person suffers.  An hour a day of training, will simply not counter hours of being sedentary.  Getting in some physical activity every hour or so is a great way to get in beneficial movement.  This method was recently popularized by Fitness Guro Pavel Tsatsouline who called it “greasing the groove”.  Free squat are an excellent exercise for this method as are push ups for anyone needing more upper body work.  I like burpees  for this and will do 10 an hour while at work. 

8.       Take the stairs whenever possible.  This is another way to get in more daily activity.  Increased daily activity will do wonders for your body composition.  They will also do wonders for heart health since activity promotes veinous return effectively allowing the heart to rest some.  Additionally, the short range knee extension which occurs while taking the stairs strengthens the vmo  (vastus medialis oblique) and common culprit in knee pain.  Next time you’re given the opportunity to avoid an elevator and take the stairs do so! Your heart, body and knees will love you for it.

9.       Develop your neck muscles.  I use a variety of exercises but the easiest and most accessible is the wall bridges.  Simply rest your head on a wall and walk your feet out.  For martial artists or people participating in contact sports, strong necks are a must!  For fighters not only having a stronger neck but also a thicker neck can help avoid being knocked out.  Everyone could benefit from having stronger necks not only for general resiliency but because strong necks contribute to good posture.

10.   Make sure you are stretching.  I like to do static stretching at the end of the day.  It helps me relax and sleep better.  Stretching is super important for health and balance.  In fact, the reasons and benefits of stretching are so many that it’s actually beyond the scope of this article.  Static stretching is not the only the type of stretching you should be doing .  I include dynamic stretching and mobility work during most of my workouts and skills training.  Exercising using full range of motion exercises and some extended range exercises will help develop your dynamic flexibility.  Rotating your joints through their full range of motion as well as including squats and hindu pushups in your exercise regimen will improve your mobility.
There you have it folks… 10 easy ways to improve you general fitness!!!  Making opportunities where there seemingly aren’t any is the trademark of the true warrior and survivor.  This is more than a technique it is a mind set.   A dear friend of mine Coach Laren Umphlett once commented to me all day is a training opportunity.  By training not only with intense physical exercise and skills training but by learning to also relax.  Also exercising the mind with study, creative endeavours, and practicing staying calm in challenging situations.

In the spirit of getting more training opportunities let me tell you about or remind you of our Youtube channels, blogs and Facebook pages under the names Miami Arnis Group and Urban Survivalcraft.

Your Brother in Arms,
Tony Torre