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General Sport & Adventure

If You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try and Try Again

I grew up in a country where the highest point was less than 550 feet. As a child I was barely interested in walking to the nearest bus stop. While I have always been athletic, the concept of hiking through snow-capped mountains was an activity that only existed in inspirational posters and blockbuster movies.

Humble Beginnings

My first hike in the wilderness came about through naivety and youthful optimism. I was 25 years old travelling through South America. My fellow backpackers were experienced hikers, but deceived by my sporty physique they allowed me to tag along a 3-day hike in Torres del Paine. A 19-year old English girl who grew up in Malawi was my tent mate. She wasn’t nearly as clueless but she was a little less than hiking fit. Together, we made a magnificent ‘dumb and dumber’ pair. We got lost but with an ignorant confidence we powered through and completed the walk with only damage to our pride. Despite the hardship I found the hiking enjoyable and took it up as a hobby.

Fast-forward 11 years. I have climbed Mount Kinabalu (Malaysia) and Roraima (Venezuela). I have ventured into Everest base camp, Machu Picchu, Mount Cook National Park and ambled through the Tien-shan ranges in Kazakhstan. While I wasn’t prepared to become a technical climber, I yearned for greater heights and to push my capacity to its limit. One day, a colleague mentioned ‘Aconcagua’, one of the highest trek-able mountains in the world that was accessible to mere mortals like me. I knew immediately that the 22,840 feet summit of the Aconcagua would become the greatest climbing goal of my life.

First Aconcagua Attempt

I devised a training plan based on suggestions of seasoned climbers. Twice a month, I would ascend 3,300 feet carrying a progressively heavy backpack, starting at 26 lbs. In my last practise run, I was lugging a 45 lbs. pack in an 8-hour hike. I ran 9.5 miles and cycled 65 miles a week; on top of that I was continuing my full time job and my thrice-weekly kickboxing regime. By the time I arrive in Mendoza the meeting point the expedition, I was exhausted.

My first team was small; there were only 4 of us including the guide. The walk to Plaza Argentina base camp was thankfully uneventful. However, the other 2 climbers acclimatized faster then I did. In the few days I spent in base camp, my oxygen saturation level increased insignificantly. I struggled getting up to the first high camp. The guide realised I was the weakest link and sent me packing.

It was devastating. It wasn’t simply the notion of failure coupled with the months of manic training that crippled me with sadness. I felt that my guide was pushing for a speedy ascend and did not allow due opportunity for me to better acclimate before making such a harsh decision. My turnaround point was barely past 16,400 feet, a thousand feet shy of my personal best.

Second Aconcagua Attempt

2 years later, I returned for my second summit endeavour. This time round, scarred by the previous hectic training plan, I did little more than an occasional run and ride. On the plus side, my odds were better with a larger group of 13 climbers and 4 guides so the team could be split up in accordance to our abilities.

The walk to Plaza Argentina was again pleasantly uneventful. I tread cautiously, staying calm yet the threat of altitude sickness concerned me daily. Nonetheless I was sufficiently happy to break my personal record and focused on having a good time in the mountain.

Summit day was a treacherous 15-hour hike. Bad weather had demanded we leave the park a day earlier hence we had to cover the same distance with less time. That morning, we were yanked out of bed in the dark and spent the better part of the morning putting on the layers of clothing before peeling ourselves away from the tent. My memory of the first moments of the climb was hazy due to sleep deprivation, but I did remember people shouting from one end of our single file to the other. By the time we reach 19,600 feet, 3-4 people had given up and returned to camp. In my delirious mode I gritted my teeth and egged myself on.

In the chaos of fierce winds I could hear nothing by my own shortness of breathe. When we arrived at a bottom of an enormous slope, I felt myself shaking with cold and my extremities devoid of feeling. It was around -4°F with wind chill. In spite of 5-6 layers of merino and fleeces, a down jacket plus a raincoat, heat was seeping out too quickly. I asked a guide how high we were. He yelled through the wind, “6,100 metres!” (20,013 feet). All well, that’s good enough for me, I thought. I gave him a hand gesture that could only mean “That’s all folks”. He then gave me instructions to the nearest safety point where I would wait for help.

Even though my second effort was still unfruitful I was pleased with having reached a personal record height. Furthermore I made friends in perilous circumstances. The best takeaway for me was the opportunity to experience the life of a high altitude climber. I do not envisage ever attempting Mount Everest or the likes, but through vivid imagination I can understand what it must be like for people clawing their way up to the impossible. The vista of endless white peaks was a beauty that is forever imprinted in my soul because I had earned it. The knowledge that I was stretch close to the limits of my physical and mental capacity became the ultimate reward for my life as a mountaineer. With these thoughts in mind, I dream on as I make plans for a third summit bid of Aconcagua.

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Uncategorized

Love Your Inner Child

This article was first published on Medium

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Leo Tolstoy writes in Anna Karenina, a literary piece still considered by many as the greatest book ever written.

The principle of this wisdom indicates that in order for a family to be happy, there needs to be success in all aspects of family life — physical and emotional attraction remaining constant between the mum and dad, sound household finances, good parenting, unity in values and amiable relationship with the extended family. Failing one or more leads to unhappiness. The same principle applies indirectly to the environment in which a child is nurtured. Any form of enduring unhappiness within the domestic setting generally leads to an unhappy child.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

I grew up in a uniquely unhappy family and after a lifetime of dodging bullets I have preserved into middle age with some serious scarring but overall in sound health. Writing became a form of catharsis for me and during the years I researched on the subject of childhood maltreatment for the purpose of penning a novel, I stumbled upon a study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. The study lists 10 specific types of trauma that can result in a child under the age of 18 feeling stressed or traumatised, potentially leading to chronic problems later in life:

Abuse — (1) Physical, (2) Emotional, (3) Sexual

Neglect — (4) Physical, (5) Emotional

Household Dysfunction — (6) Mental Illness, (7) Mother treated violently, (8) Substance Abuse, (9) Divorce/ Separation, (10) Incarcerated family member

Why is ACE relevant?

In this case study with 17,000 American participants, nearly 2/3 of adults reported at least one form of ACE, and almost 40% experienced 2 or more adverse experience as a child. Poor childhood tends to lead to negative impact on our health and quality of life, it is believed that those who endured 6 or more ACEs has a reduced life expectancy of 20 year. Overall, the CDC also reports an estimate $124 billion in cost associated with the mistreatment of children.

ACE is not a Blame Game

The study done by CDC was made with the intention of recognising and resolving an epidemic. Yet I feel that even with such compelling statistical study, every time the subject of childhood trauma is raised, there is often an immediate backlash of denial. Common remarks include:

· But that was such a long time ago

· Oh, just grow up!

· At least you had a home

· You need to stop blaming your parents for your problems

This unrelenting dismissal is perplexing to me, as though no one wants to believe that the purpose of conceding a dreadful past was not to point blame but to heal and work towards a better future.

What to do if you believe you have ACE?

It has been over 20 years since the study by CDC was completed and published. Yet there hadn’t been any known efforts of remedy or proposed solutions. It is possible that parents resent the notion that they could have been responsible for the detriments of their now adult children. Many adults who grew up with ACEs may also believe that as long as the adverse experiences were ‘forgotten’, they have since moved on and those bad memories have no relevance in their current life. Even more likely, the adults who endured a less-than-perfect childhood proceed to become less-than-perfect parents and everyone is none the wiser. Without a unified acknowledgement and consolidated effort to resolve the issue, society had somehow managed to sweep a chronic endemic under the carpet.

A quiz had been developed to help individuals understand the bearing ACE had in their early life. The quiz is developed to provide guidance so that a person may gain insight to their adult decisions and behaviours and seek help if necessary.

Acing the ACEs test

“Time does not heal the wounds that occur in those earliest years; time conceals them. They are not lost; they are embodied.” — Vincent J Felitti, researcher on the ACE study.

The ACE quiz is test that I wish I hadn’t Aced. As I look into my past with melancholy, the tremendous effort I had taken to seek treatment and heal myself is finally paying off and I look towards my future with relief and hope. While I am still unable to share the specifics of my dreadful journey, I continue in my little endeavours to publicize the merits of the ACE study to those children whose sufferings were never acknowledged. It is never too late to love your inner child.

Categories
Boxing MMA UFC WMMA Women Boxing

BATTLE OF THE UNDEFEATED: 3 Reasons to Watch Claressa “T-Rex” Shields Take on Tori “Sho-Nuff” Nelson Tonight

BATTLE OF THE UNDEFEATED: 3 Reasons to Watch Claressa “T-Rex” Shields Take on Tori “Sho-Nuff” Nelson Tonight

First published on allsportseverything.com as a guest blogger

Women have been traditionally discouraged from professional sports for a variety of reasons – from the severe pay discrimination, the constant mockery of a female athlete’s physique and the endless taunts of ‘you are never going to be as good as a man in the same sport’. Women in combat sport have been fighting back hard for years. The year 2012 became a landmark year for boxing and mixed martial arts. Olympic female boxing was inaugurated when Claressa Shields claimed her first gold medal and in that same year Ronda Rousey became the first UFC female titleholder. From thereon, women fighters continue punching hard at this impossible opponent called misogyny.

Last year proved to be another fruitful year for female combatants. Shields became the first women to headline a USA premium pay TV boxing event on March 10th when she won her first professional title. She proceeded that same year to win a world title by the WBC in the middle weight division. In April 2017, Amanda Serrano became the first women to win world titles in five weight divisions. Her stupendous achievement was matched by Naoko Fujioka in December 2017 when the 42-year-old Japanese fighter won the WBO light flyweight title. That same year, UFC saw two new female divisions – featherweight and flyweight. The year finished off with a bang when Cris Cyborg, the dominant featherweight won via unanimous decision in the title fight with Holly Holm, former title holder of world championships in boxing and mixed martial arts.

This year kicks off with a clash between two prominent figures in women’s boxing. Claressa Shields meets Tori Nelson, the undefeated 41-year-old veteran for her first defense of the WBC and IBF female super middleweight titles. If you remain undecided about becoming a fan of women in combat sport, here are three reasons to consider tuning into the fight.

1.        Young vs Old

With better health care and improvements in medical science, athletes are constantly re-defining a respectable retirement age. A 19-year age gap between two opponents in a championship fight is still rare. Shields made a dig at Nelson’s age in a recent interview, “Tori Nelson is an older woman. … She reminds me of my grandma a little bit. … I’ll give her to the seventh [round] to be respectful.” A comment like that would surely incite women athletes in their twilight years to tune in and watch Nelson teach her ‘grandchild’ a lesson. Regardless, a match between a 12-time world championship old timer versus the hot new gun will certainly be an interesting contrast in style, speed and resilience.

2.         Cracking the Zero

Both fighters are currently undefeated. Nelson, like most athletes, is probably aiming to retire with no loss to her record. Shields, on the other hand, is clearly in the early days of blazing through what is likely to be a world class boxing career, and a loss so early will no doubt be demoralizing.  There is the off chance the match will finish in a draw. However, given the aggressive style of Shields, it is likely the match will run full length.

3.         The New Face of Women’s Boxing

Shields is considered to possess the inexplicable star quality, both inside and outside the ring. Aside from her impressive performance in combat sport, she is also a source of national pride for being the first (and so far only) American boxer to win an Olympic medal twice in a row. This is a time when MMA is seducing many boxers with its sizable purses, including the recent migration of Amanda Serrano who’s MMA debut is scheduled for March 2018. Shields remains staunchly loyal to the sport and for now she still presents herself in the world of boxing with infinite enthusiasm, vigor and drive.

Hosted at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, tonight’s main event will air on the SHObox series of fights aired by Showtime at 10PM/ET.

All Sports Everything guest contributor Cyan is a former amateur boxer and the author of the novel ‘Girl Fighter’. You may find more information about her at www.girlfighterbook.com/about.

image via fightnewsasia.com

Categories
Book Reviews Martial Arts MMA UFC

Review of the book “Beast – Blood, struggle and dreams at the heart of MMA” by Doug Merlino

Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial ArtsBeast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts by Doug Merlino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

By default, if a writer can describe the sport of MMA in an objective manner and is capable of bringing into light all aspects of MMA, the good, the bad, the misunderstood without the interjection of personal judgements, the book will be a 5 star for me.

This book for me rates a 3.5 star.

Doug Merlino, an established sports journalist presents this book and its several stories in a simple and effective style. He begins by introducing the sport from a layman’s perspective – how cage fighting normally appears like a barbaric activity to an outsider. He then brings in the opposing view of how each fighter are presented as warriors that embodies civilised virtues such as courage, hard work and honour. The book goes on to explore many facets of the sport including the physical and emotional backstories of various athletes, a brief history of the sport, wages and challenges of being a professional fighter onward to how the career can terminate for some of them. Overall I felt that he presented an all rounded view of MMA.

I deducted one star for one very large aspect of MMA he had failed to include in his book – Women’s MMA (WMMA). Aside from a brief mention of Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, all other women in his book played the clichéd role of girlfriend, wives and mums. HELL NO! WMMA has been around several years prior to the publishing of his book (2015). Why would he not think that WMMA is a vital part of MMA? Does he believe a woman cannot be a BEAST? This is a huge sore point for me.

The other half a point was deducted because the book zig-zags between the lives of 3 athletes and made it rather confusing for me at the start.

Towards the end, Merlino mentions how through the months of his research, he acquired a number of wisdom from the veterans of the sport. I was particularly impressed when he describes how martial arts training helps align the mind, body and spirit, teaches a fighter to manage their emotions and defend themselves from threats. This is a level of wisdom not normally available to many athletes even after years of training. And this is why I round the book up to 4 stars.

View all my reviews

Categories
MMA UFC WMMA

UFC 219 Cyborg vs Holm #AndStill

The last event of the year UFC 219 was all about Cyborg and Holm – the two current giants of Women’s MMA. The endless debates and predictions of will she or won’t she. Finally, judgement day had arrived and both of these female fighters were keen to finish 2017 with a bang. The Americans clearly desired an upset by Holm, though none would admit that their choice was perhaps influenced by national pride. Anyone who had seen Cyborg fight, without the influence of any coloured tinted glass would certainly find it difficult to bet against her.

Main Card Female Fight I: Calvillo vs Esparza

Cynthia Calvillo and former Strawweight champion Carla Esparza gave an excellent performance to whet the appetite for women MMA fans. Calvillo came in aggressive and dominated Esparza for the better part of the first round. The dominance was reversed in favour of Esparza in the second and third round with several take downs attempts and a good range of attack strategies. The fight went into decision and Carla Esparza won by unanimous decision. Some reacted negatively to the decision, calling it a bad call by the judge. For me, a solid women’s fight is always a win for WMMA.

 

Main Event Cris Cyborg vs Holly Holm

And so the fight is finally here, after years of discussion and months of hype, I was practically salivating with excitement. The consensus I felt from social media, at least in the English speaking world, everyone wanted Holm to win but believe Cyborg was the stronger athlete.

While I was disappointed the fight had to go to decision, the fight was nail biting for me. Both women were simply excellent fighters. Holly Holm, confronted with a formidable opponent not only took Cyborg to the 5th round, she was the first person in over 9 years to push a fight with Cyborg to a decision.

Cyborg was calm, composed and showed no signs of fatigue in the entire match. As a strong and confident fighter, the overall favourite, she never let her guard down and never showed any signs of frustrations or annoyance for not being able to take Holm down with a knock out.

In the end, the fight created an enormous amount of excitement, chatter and debate for women MMA in the last weekend of a year that had been fruitful for women in combat sport. I am happy Cyborg won, not simply because she is an incredibly skilled athlete, but because she had risen above all critiques and mockery of her and defeated one hellavu fighter with such composure.

Categories
Book Reviews Boxing

Review of book “The Murder of Sonny Liston”

The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and HeavyweightsThe Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights by Shaun Assael
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sonny Liston is a fascinating character. He was born and raised in very difficult circumstances – abused, neglected and was almost invisible to the world – an irony for a child who grew up so large. He somehow managed to become one of the best fighter not simply for his generation but also regarded often as top boxer of all times. As a man he was full of flaws, but not without virtue. Yet most people only saw him as a junkie, womaniser and an illiterate angry black criminal. And so his death was duly ignored and dismissed by the public. His talent for boxing was just astonishing I often wondered what great heights he might have attained if things hadn’t been this rough for him at the start.

Shaun Assael painted a complete picture of his life through the eyes of everyone – those who used him, despised him, those who loved him and believed him, and those who simply understood him and put up with his terrible habits. The book was written in a true journalistic observational style, with little interceding personal opinions. He covered all grounds and explored as much as he could, exhausting every avenue of the mystery surrounding Liston’s death. Every concerns, no matter how sensitive or unsavoury was discussed. Tragically, there was little that can be done today with such an enormous time lapse.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was an easy read for a non-fiction with such a large cast of colourful characters, each playing a complicated role in that complex world where law enforcement and criminals were divided by a blurred line. It also shed some light on the beginnings of Las Vegas, with a few unexpected personalities such as Frank Sinatra – rather informative.

View all my reviews

Categories
Boxing Martial Arts Mental Health MMA

Death and Martial Arts

 

MMA Legend Randy Couture on Instagram

Death is concept that is never far from the mind of a martial artist. In the case of Robert Follis, it may have been a thought that sat for too long in his consciousness since he lost one of his brothers via suicide.

It is no news that many successful combat sport athletes came a difficult background. Death within the family, or the stark absence of loved ones that is a akin to a metaphoric version of death feeds into a deep dark void of anguish that is often inextinguishable. It is a common misconception that athletes sought violence as a remedy to relieve their need to punch out at the world. In fact, there is a kind of peace in devoting body and mind to an heightened focus that can only be achieved when in intense combat.

Unfortunately, the biggest battle of all lies not within the competitive arena, but within the confines of one’s skull. The most difficult every fighter faces is usually himself. It is sadly through suicide when that war is finally lost.

The sudden death of Robert Follis, a young, healthy and successful MMA coach, well regarded within his community sent shock waves within industry. One of his most well know student Miesha Tate became a UFC Women’s Bantamweight title holder under his guidance – that is a testament to his outstanding work as a trainer. The Follis’ family have asked for privacy, and the entire MMA community, trainers, fighters, writers and viewers alike held their tongues dutifully. None had dared to discuss the D word and the S word.

Tragically, Robert Follis is not the first to stun the pugilistic world with such an abrupt departure. But one can hope the community can learn to be watchful of each other, to be open and accepting to those who are brave enough to discuss their inner demons, perhapshe will be the last.

Categories
Boxing Women Boxing

Taylor vs McCaskill- andstill

Gone are the days where female prize fights are the warm-up rounds. Thanks to the likes of Claressa Shields for boxing and Ronda Rousey for MMA, women are starting to lead the way in headline acts for professional bouts.

Ward vs Giner

On the evening of Wed 13th Dec 2017 in London, Katie Taylor meets Jessica McCaskill for the first defence of the WBA lightweight title. They met shortly after the European super-featherweight title between Martin J Ward v Juli Giner, where Martin became the new title holder after his left hook brought Giner to a halt at the 6th round. A clean finish that fired up the crowd in keener anticipation for their main event.

Taylor vs McCaskill

It is no secret that McCaskill chased Taylor unrelentingly for months before the fight was arranged. Considering the mighty legendary status that Taylor holds on the opposite of the Atlantic, McCaskill appears to hold little or no apprehension when the fight was set up in London, an almost home ground for Taylor.

McCaskill’s relentless chasing went all the way into the ring. In the first few rounds, Taylor stayed calm, compose while McCaskill pushes forward with a fierce determination. It was as though she had no intention to run all 10 rounds and is willing to risk her stamina for an early termination.

The main difference between the two fighters, for me anyway, is that Taylor is still playing a sport whereas McCaskill has no interest in scoring, all her strikes are intend for a knock out. At some point it appears to me, Katie Taylor realised just how intense McCaskill’s attacks were. By that stage the cheers of the crowd, instead of fueling her confidence seem to make her more stressed.

It was a spectacular fight for me, neither girls fray at any point, both maintaining a strong will. Taylor seems to gain more control at the end, grasping McCaskill’s technique when both became fatigued. The crowd roars toward the last minute. Everyone held their breathe till the end.

Unanimous decision for Katie Taylor. And still.

No worries Jessica McCaskil you’ll sure gain yourself a few new fans. One of them is me 👍😃

 

 

 

 

Categories
MMA UFC WMMA

Counting down to UFC 219

UFC 219

There are countless reasons why I am bursting with anticipation for UFC 219. It will occur mid-afternoon of 31st Dec 2017 here in Australia – last day of the year and potentially one of the most exciting day of the year for me.

Cyborg vs Holm

I’m not going to deny it – I’m personally more drawn to Cyborg. I am CYan, she is CYborg…Alright, that’s not the reason why. When I see her fight, I find her to be an incredibly focused woman, as though she was one of those few people who knew exactly what they wanted to do the moment they drew their first breath in this world. She shows no signs of fear, no apprehension, no interest in anything else except to destroy that unfortunate person sharing the cage with her.

Neither can I deny the accomplishments of Holly Holm, she had held titles in professional Boxing, Kickboxing and MMA. That’s akin to a ‘triple threat’ of contemporary prize fighting. Not to mention she defeated Ronda Rousey when so many other great women fighters failed.

I have pondered over this subject night and day, in the end, I believe I will be truly happy whoever wins, whether by submission or knock out, AS LONG AS IT IS NOT BY DECISION!

Image from UFC: Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm

Calvillo vs Esparza

Additionally I am also keen to watch yet another come back attempt by Carla Esparza. Since her loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk more than 2 1/2 years ago, her participation in the sport was sparse for almost 2 years, and her performance have been lacklustre. That is no surprise nonetheless. Losing a title can be devastating. It took her Ronda Rousey over a year before she attempted another UFC fight. Since Esparza’s loss in March 2015, she had not secure neither submission nor knock out wins. Her opponent, the still undefeated Cynthia Calvillo, on the other had had secured 3 out of 4 fights via submissions and TKO just this year.

 

#UFC #UFC219 #Criscyborg #cyborgnation #cyborgvsholm #hollyholm #holm #Carlaesparza #Esparza #Jedrzejcyk #CynthiaCalvillo #Calvillo #UFCStrawweight #UFCFeatherweight

Categories
Neuroscience

One small step for a disease, one large milestone for the brain

Huntington’s disease is devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects one in 10,000 people. It is a hereditary condition that has no known cure. If one parent has it, the children will each have a 50-50 percent chance of developing the disease. Symptoms often appear between the ages 30-50. Patients usually require full time care at the end of their lives, living the last days in a vegetative state.

The challenge for any brain disorder is the lack of quick and easy tests or cheap and definitive imaging technology to help with diagnosis. At the early stages, symptoms are not particularly specific, including mood swings, problem with memory and unsteady walk. Many will simply associate these behaviours as a natural part of aging. Without easy to access, conclusive diagnostic tools people generally only seek medical attention when the symptoms are undeniable or severe, which sometimes is a catch-22 for a patience with cognitive defects.

A recent breakthrough by a team in the University College of London (UCL) means a cure maybe in sight for this dreadful disease. For more information on the cure, please refer to the article on BBC:

 

BBC: Huntington’s breakthrough may stop disease

While the research team are cautious not to brand it as the complete remedy, it is a significant milestone, possibly the biggest breakthrough in neuroscience for 50 years. Aside from the research scientists, credits must be given to the patients who participated in the experiment.

There is hope, not simply for the patients and family of Huntington’s disease, but also for other neurodegenerative conditions. With a cure in sight, more funding may be diverted into this research, which could branch off to developing, cures for similar brain disorders. There are those who describe Huntington’s as a tragic combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But here’s hoping that a cure for one will spin off to become a cure for many.

 

#huntingtons #braindisorder #neuroscience #brainscience #parkinsons #alzheimers #parkinson #alzheimer #brain