Fitness Poles of Introspection

I don’t know about you, but I love summer evenings.

For a few hours, mother nature seems to be telling us “relax”, everything is going to be all right”, and you can just lean back and forget about oil spillings, volcanoes and earthquakes.

A perfect summer evening is cool, but not too cool. And warm, but not too warm.

It is perfect.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw these two old ladies last evening, who were out walking with these “fitness walking poles”.

Have you heard of those? They’re pretty popular, at least around northern Europe, and it’s basically two ski poles that you walk with.

Except, you don’t wear any skiis. You just walk with them.

It looks like this:

Compared to regular walking, walking with “fitness poles” (also called “Nordic walking”) involves applying force to ground, through the poles, with each stride. This makes you use more of your entire body (with greater intensity) and gives you benefits not present in normal walking. At least that’s the idea.

So, naturally they’ve become popular.

Walking with sticks is hip.

(At least if you’re female 40+).

So anyway, these two ladies were walking next to each other with their poles, enjoying the lovely summer evening , when I happened to drive by. And your “average Joe” might not have cared about these ladies, but I did.

Because they were not using these poles to enhance their training.

They were using them to cheat.

And that’s something I can’t stand.

Like 90% of everyone who walks with these silly poles, instead of actively pushing down, working the arms, core and back, they were actually leaning on their poles while walking, like they couldn’t decide whether to rest or walk, so they sort of compromised.

Believe me, it looks horrible.

These ladies were clearly not exercising with the goal of exercising. They were exercising with the goal of telling others that they had been exercising. When in fact, they had probably exercise less than somebody not using “fitness poles”.

So, I couldn’t help but noticing this, as I drove by.

This is strange behaviour for me. And it should be for you too.


Because walking with “fitness poles” is not simply a faster way of walking, just like a car is not merely a faster horse.

An email is not a faster fax.

To use a tried and true cliché; “it’s a whole new ballgame”.

And you guessed it Karate is not simply a new kind of calisthenics.

Even though many people seem to think it is.

Let’s talk about “shin-gi-tai” for just a second. As you probably know, “shin-gi-tai” is Japanese, and refers to “mind-technique-body”. These are, not unlike the Christian concept of Trinity or the Hindu concept of Trimurti, three fundamental concepts that intertwine, and bind together Karate into a unity.

But, here’s the crux of the matter:

  • Almost everybody who trains Karate trains “tai” (for the body)
  • Many who train Karate trains “gi” (technique)
  • But very few ever train “shin” (the spirit/mind)

And I’m guilty too.

To give you a recent example, I was in the gym yesterday, doing some bench press. And, after having worked out for maybe 30 minutes, my mind started wandering. All of a sudden, I found myself having done five bench presses without thinking about it!

Sorry guys, this is not me.

I was like, “Hey, where did they go!?”

I hadn’t thought about my technique. Neither had I trained with any real spirit. I was just busy thinking about other stuff, while my body was getting its “daily dose of resistance”.

So, for a few seconds I became disappointed with myself, having let myself down.

I had to do those five reps again.

Of course.

So, luckily, I actually found out that I was cheating. Unlike those two ladies I saw yesterday evening, with their “fitness poles” and all, who’ll never see what they’re actually wasting their time at.

Now, imagine training like this for many years.

You’d never progress.

And surprisingly, people like this exist. We see this all the time! Who hasn’t seen the Karate student who has been training for ten years or more, but still does the same mistakes they did when they took their yellow belt? Same stances, same power, same (lack of) focus?

It’s both sad and interesting.

It’s something of a phenomenon.

And then we have the complete opposites. Those who grab their shodan after three years, speeding past everyone else, passing with flying colors.

To sum it up, we could say that it’s all about introspection.

Or maybe the Japanese expression issho kenmei is better.

You might have great technique, a super strong body, and the latest equipment, but your Karate is still nothing without the focus, commitment and willpower to back it up.

I just thought we all could use a reminder.

Or else we might just grab some poles and start walking, right?

At least they’re more effective than your fists in self-defense.


  • Diego Romero
    very true. however, i'll be evil and point out the irony in you slagging off the ladies when you were in a car :D
    • My hypocrisy knows no boundaries.

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