Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Sorry reader folk, I've been a bit swamped last/this week.  Court for visitation alteration, thanksgiving, couple of side projects boiling over...stay tooned, I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dovahkiin Fitness: Changing Your Body

Ever wanted to Fight like Dovahkiin?  Well now you can, with the Video Game Combat Guide: Sword and Shield!

Sometimes, when we want to change ourselves, the simplest thing to start with is the physical.  Now, notice, I didn't say the easiest, I said the simplest.  Dovahkiin is whoever you want him or her to be.  A big burly melee fighter?  Go for it.  Stealthy, wiry ninja assassin?  Absolutely.  Lithe, strong, swift hunter?  Sure thing.  Maybe a skinny mage, small on brawn but big on brain?  Sure!  But creating a body type in Skyrim is as easy as playing with a few sliders on a computer screen.  Notice I said the simplest thing to start with is the body, not the easiest.

At its heart, fitness is simple.  Eat X amount of calories, carbs, fats, proteins, and vitamins, do X amount of/type of exercise on a regular basis, and get what you're looking for.  It is that simple but it is never that easy.  Food is one of the base interactions we have with the world, changing our eating habits is HARD, even if we know what we need to do.  By the same token, we are creatures of habit in our daily goings-on, too.  Exercise can be difficult to fit in, especially if we don't particularly enjoy it.  I will not lie or sugarcoat it, significant results can sometimes hurt.  Not in the bad, I-think-I-hurt-my-knee kind of way, but in the man-I-don't-like-getting-sweaty-and-my-lungs-and-legs-are-burning kind of way, or the oh-my-god-I'm-so-sore-it-hurts-when-I-lift-my-arms kind of way.

The fact is, both of these things involve habits.  Habits are hard to break once you've made them, and sometimes it's hard to start them, too.  It can be severely intimidating to try to jump right into a new lifestyle regime, so let's take a look at a couple first steps.

Seriously.  This is important. This is the most important thing of all, honestly.  Working out, losing weight, changing your diet, gaining muscle, ALL these things are SO MUCH HARDER without sleep.  Focus hard on getting at least eight hours a day.  Set a bedtime for yourself, and a wake up time.  Get your sleep cycle in order, and you will already feel much better than you did.

Keeping a Food Journal
If you've ever tried to change your weight before in life, you've probably heard of this one.  Food journals are meant to track and tally your average eating habits.  Here's the problem with food journals: they often just end up making you feel worse about your eating habits.  There's a benefit in knowing something, but just knowing it doesn't make you feel any better.  So here's my take on things.  Keep the journal, and don't total your days up.  For a month, write down what you eat, and write down four things: calories, carbs, protein, and fats.  Do not total numbers up, just write it down every day.

At the end of this month, I want you to, instead, go through and pick out just a few things that you eat on a regular basis, but know you shouldn't.  You've probably got a guilty pleasure or two that you know, so now is the first test of willpower.  Try to keep these pleasures limited to a once-a-week thing.  Remove the obvious guilty pleasures at a rate of one-pleasure-a-week, but don't go overboard on yourself if you slip up sometimes.  Remember, the whole point of the journal is to just develop a habit related to food that ISN'T negative. The journal itself is your tool.

Once you've gone through a few weeks of eliminating the guilty pleasures, I want you to start totaling up your days.  Go back and total up all those days in your journal, and take a look at the numbers from then till now.  Congratulations, you've already made progress.  You leveled up.  Now it's a game of numbers.  Pick a diet plan(I recommend the Fighter Diet for losing weight and toning, or the Big Guy Diet for gaining some good muscle), and slowly try to make your numbers match your goal numbers(according to the diet plan).  Start picking out the less obvious guilty pleasures and subbing in the good food recommendations.

Don't scold yourself from slidebacks, and don't worry about weighing yourself(at least at first).  Your food journal, and the numbers in it, are the only things you're worried about, at least at first.  Results will come in time, what you need to do is build a habit of controlling your own eating habits, and not letting them control you.

Start Workouts Slowly
Okay, let's assume you are at level zero for fitness.  Heck, forget that, you're at level negative one, and your in experience debt to boot(City of Heroes reference!).  What do?

Start.  Slow.  Do NOT jump into even the level 1 section of any of my workouts yet.  It's intimidating to start a huge new fitness plan from scratch, outta nowhere.  You'll burn yourself out, and give up, and that helps no one.  What I want you to do, is find a twenty minute block of time, at the same time each day, when you go for a walk.  I'm not talking power walk, or jog, I mean just take twenty minutes, and go walk.  Start doing it every other day.  After two weeks of this, start walking every day, and resting one day out of the week.  Twenty minutes, ever day.  That's it.  Once you are walking six days out of seven every week for a month, ramp it up to half an hour.  If you feel comfortable with that, then move on to the level one of the character workout of your choosing.  But that first month of twenty minutes of walking every day is crucial.

As with the diet, don't kill yourself for setbacks, they'll happen.  If you don't get a workout in every day, it's not the end of the world.  But twenty minutes, ever day.  That is your time, and in it you go walking.  The end.  Accept no compromises or substitutes, that is YOUR thing.  The end.

So that's it.  There's your starting point.  Get your sleep.  Then get your food.  Then get your walk.  Do all three at the same time if you feel ambitious, but don't overdo it.  You have the rest of your life to become who you want to be, taking it slow at first isn't going to be any worse than whatever you've been doing up until now.  It's worth it, I promise.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me, I'll help as best as I can, and keep it in confidence.

That's it for today.  Tomorrow we start learning new skills!  Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, or like the blog page on Facebook, or hit me up on G+

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

The Elder Scrolls, Skyrim, Dovahkiin, Oblivion, Morrowind, and all  property therein are © Bethesda Softworks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Character Breakdown: Dovahkiin

Ever wanted to Fight like Dovahkiin?  Well now you can, with the Video Game Combat Guide: Sword and Shield!

Name: Dovahkiin
Game(s): The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Malleable

In their tongue, he is Dovahkiin...DRAGONBORN!

I know I wasn't the only one who got goosebumps the first time I saw the trailer for Elder Scrolls V.    As a fan of the series since Morrowind, I was stoked when I heard about/purchased and played Oblivion, but it was nothing to match my enthusiasm for Skyrim.  The game is gorgeous, the world is incredible, the music is beautiful, it's amazing.  Enough gushing.

This week will NOT be about turning you into a badass viking nord dude.  Sorry, I promise, we WILL have badass viking nord dudes soon.  This week is going to be more of a "how to change your life and yourself" blog.  The Elder Scrolls series is amazing and unique in that you can basically create whoever you want, be whoever you want, and do whatever you want in the game(Dunmer assassin mage FTW).

The fitness section this week will be about starting a fitness and diet regimen from scratch.  Various methods for beginning, how to handle overwhelming odds or bad fitness attempts in your history, etc.  Also how to identify your body type, what workout programs might fit best for you, and how to decide where you're at as far as fitness goes.

The skill section for this week will be more about personal growth.  How to improve your life overall by educating yourself on new things, learning new abilities, and making that boring ol' day job seem at least halfway bearable.  There will be a focus on tracking yourself, setting and attaining goals(this is a common thread you're going to run into here), noting progress, and motivating yourself to make forward change.

The philosophy section this week will take a good look at altering your own perceptions and outlooks, as well as deciding who you want to be, and how to work for that.  Main focuses will include how to overcome yourself, forgive yourself, understand yourself, analyze yourself, and convince yourself whether or not it's time for a change.

So that's the fare for the week!  Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, or like the blog page on Facebook, or hit me up on G+, to get regular updates(and occasional cool stuff!).  I will see you all tomorrow!

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

The Elder Scrolls, Skyrim, Dovahkiin, Oblivion, Morrowind, and all  property therein are © Bethesda Softworks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Link Roundup!

Some dubsteppy/rappy Legend of Zelda goodness for you!
My favorite Legend of Zelda dubstep remix ever.

First, I feel obligated to tell you that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword comes out in a day and a half.  I know I'll be picking it up! ^_^  Second, I would like to tell you that this particular weak has been close to my heart.  For a large majority of my formative years, Link was my prominent role model in how I should act and react in life.  I strayed from this a bit in recent years, but I felt in part that this week was a more mature me returning to my roots. Thank you, everyone who reads this, for the chance to do that.

Let's take a look at what we covered!

Character Breakdown: Link
We talked briefly about Link, his defining characteristics and skills, and laid out our plan for the week!

The Link Workout
We talked about how to build the body of an epic swordsman!
Bonus links:
The Skills of Link
We looked at swordplay, weapons adaptation, and rapid acquisition of new physical skills!
Bonus links:
The Courage of Link
We talked about what it means to be truly courageous, and how to find your own courage in difficult situations.

That's about it for today!  Next week is going to be a special character breakdown!  We're going to be doing Dovahkiin, from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  "Wait a second, Dan," you say, "That makes no sense, Dovahkiin isn't a specific written character!  You can be anything you want in an Elder Scrolls game.  How are we going to do that?"  To which I simply reply, "Come and see next week!"

Don't forget to tell your friends, hit up the Facebook page, and check me out on Twitter.  I'll be back Monday morning with our Dovahkiin breakdown!

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Link, The Legend of Zelda, and all property therein are © Nintendo.
Dovahkiin, Skyrim, and The Elder Scrolls series are © Bethesda Softworks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Courage of Link

Link's main defining characteristic, and the one true constant that remains throughout the Legend of Zelda series is his courage.  He is the chosen bearer of the triforce of courage, which chose him because of his ability to face insurmountable odds in the defense of others at great risk to himself.  Link's bravery demonstrates itself in the tireless manner in which he defends those who cannot defend themselves.

But what is courage?  I'm sure you've heard it in movies and books before, and it still rings true...Courage is not just the ability to face something scary to other people.  Courage is admitting that YOU are afraid of something, and still facing that fear anyway, accepting that fear does not control you.

I used to think that I was fearless.  I genuinely believed that nothing in the world scared me.  I was also a testosterone-fueld adolescent wannabe badass at the time, so that might have had something to do with it.  But this wasn't true, and it's not true for anyone, really.  Everyone has something that they are fundamentally afraid of.  You don't truly master your fear until you admit it, accept it, and move on from that.

Personally, I'm afraid of a few things.  I'm afraid of harm coming to my son, my fiancee, or any of my loved ones.  But particularly my son.  I know that my other loved ones are relatively grown, relatively responsible individuals who can defend themselves relatively well if need be.  My son is only three.  He is adorable.  I cannot describe to you the type of love a parent can feel for their child, it is truly something you can only experience yourself, but trust me, I have never felt a stronger, or deeper emotion in my life.  My son is wonderful, and beautiful, and relatively helpless in life right now.  He can't defend himself, or know when he's walking into a bad situation, or even understand bad situations that he's in.

That's what makes the fear so basal.  I am, in effect, the person charged most with keeping him safe.  If something happens to him, it's probably because I screwed up.  I am absolutely terrified of something happening to him, to cause me to lose him in some way, either through physical harm or legal dispute with his mother(my ex).  But I have to see this fear, and accept it, lest is influence my decisions.  I still need to let him play outside, and explore his limits, and boundaries, and trust my own judgement in what I do or do not allow him, because to keep him shut off or limited merely because of my own fear would be to harm him.

This brings me to my next point.  Trusting your own judgement.  I mentioned before that you need to love yourself before you can love anyone else.  You also need to trust yourself, before you can overcome your own fears.  This can be surprisingly hard.  A lot of people are inherently afraid of trusting themselves.

Let's look at Link for a moment.  Link walks into dungeons, not knowing what's going to happen there.  He does it to save his friends, his family, his princess, his kingdom, and his world.  But all these things riding on him mean nothing if he can't trust himself.  He is, more often than not, the only person he can rely on in these dungeons.  He's alone in some lost temple, ancient volcano, or deep forest, with himself, the items on his back, and maybe a somewhat annoying faerie on his shoulder.

Look at your life for a moment.  Think about the challenges you must overcome, the difficulties you need to face.  These are your dungeons.  It may not seem as adventurous as taking down a Dodongo King, or discerning the real Ganon from the Phantom Ganons, but I promise you, your dungeons are every bit as real and dangerous.  You need to trust yourself, and face your fear of these dungeons.  Remember my post a while back about challenges.  You are your own biggest fan, and biggest critic.  Until you trust yourself, you cannot rely on yourself.  Until you can rely on yourself, other people cannot rely on you.

If you want to be the hero of your own world, you can do it!  Face your fears!  Everyone has fears, they are nothing to be ashamed of!  Admit you are afraid, and then know that you are in face strong enough, and brave enough, to face down those things that you are afraid of.  You can slay that dragon of a boss that's holding you down at work, you can climb that mountain of inequity that is facing you at school, you can defend yourself against the jeers and insults of your peers by knowing that you are the hero of your own story.  You can believe in yourself, you can face your monsters and demons, and you can rise above like the Eternal Hero, Link.

Dan "DaRastmastah" Wallace

Link, The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule, Ganon, and all property therein are © Nintendo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Skills of Link

Link is a very skilled warrior, as well as a proficient puzzle-solver and explorer.  He uses his surroundings to his advantage whenever possible, as well as making use of a dizzying array of weapons, tools, armor, devices, spells, and other constructs to win the day.  In recent games, Link is also something of an amateur musician, using various musical instruments to solve puzzles, cast spells, interact with other characters, and open doors.  We're going to take a look at some of these, starting with his swordsmanship.

Link most commonly wields a single-handed, double-edged broadsword, and a small kite shield.  If you are genuinely interested in learning these skills, you might want to first check in with a local renaissance fair and see where the battle re-enactors learned.  Typically, you'll find some sort of stage combat school, which can actually teach you a fair bit about swordplay.  Failing this, you can take a look to see if you can find any local classical fencing teachers.  Here is a directory I found of some schools in the US.  My cousin and myself were interested in learning to fight like Link a while ago, but unfortunately, we couldn't find any local schools or clubs.  We were, however, lucky enough to find The Cateraan Society, a traditional Scottish weapons school that does long distance apprentice programs with a curriculum constructed from traditional Scottish fencing novels.  I think their program is fantastic, and I'm currently learning the sword and targe method(the targe is a smallish circular shield). 

Beyond swordsmanship, Link is also an equestrian and an archer.  If you're still in school, see if your school has any sort of horseback riding or archery clubs.  If you're not in school, or they don't, see if there's any local stables that offer horseback riding lessons.  For archery, you can search online to see if there's any local ranges or clubs.  You can also go down to your local sporting goods store(find one that actually sells bows and whatnot), and ask if they know of anyone.

That's about it for Link's primary skills, but there's a LOT more that goes into every game.  If I tried to run through every tool and weapon that link acquires, it would take a long, long time.  Instead, we shall focus on ways to learn and adapt new skills readily.

For weapons, I must again recommend the aforementioned Cateraan Society.  They have a program called "The MacGregor Method" which is basically built around the idea of learning base principles that can be carried over into any sort of weapon, to adapt and use them on the fly with ease.  In fact, at base level, weapons can be categorized into three basic categories: blunt trauma, sharp trauma, and trapping/deflection.  Note: this is not the actual categorization or description of the MacGregor Method.  If you want to learn that, go join the Cateraans.  This is just me speaking off of twenty years of martial arts experience.

Blunt weapons work on the idea of leverage, that is, you hold onto the lighter end of an object, and swing the heavier end around to hit someone.  This applies high levels of force to vulnerable targets, typically small bones like the hands and feet, or vital areas like the head, knees, or groin.  Good examples of blunt weapons are hammers, sticks, closed umbrellas, beer mugs, or briefcases.

Sharp weapons work on the idea of either stabbing, or lacerating a target.  For stabbing, you apply direct force, for lacerating, you must drag the sharp edge along the surface you desire to cut.  Too many people forget this and think swords just cut instantly when you hit someone.  You have to draw the weapon across the target.  Good examples of sharp weapons are swords, knives, broken glass, cardboard, jagged plastic, or broken pipe(hey look, a blunt weapon with sharp characteristics!).

Trapping/deflection weapons work by either entangling or redirecting a target, typically inflicting some sort of blunt trauma in the process.  They can be either flexible, and wrapped around the target, or rigid, to strike the target.  They include ropes, wire, shields, boards, briefcases, opened umbrellas, and backpacks.

Remember, these are just a few objects that can fit in each category.  As you go through life, look at objects and think, "If I was in a life or death situation, how could I use that to defend myself?"  It sounds morbid, but it's an interesting creative exercise and it can actually come in handy.  Pick thinks up, feel their heft, give them a few swings.  Get to know how to estimate an object's heft or unwieldiness quickly, you'll get a feel for it.

Which brings me to my method for learning...anything else.  Play!  People learn things most quickly by playing with them.  If you want to learn how to throw a boomerang, go to a toy store, get a boomerang, go out in a field, and play with it for a few hours.  Play a lot, even with things you don't think have any real application.  Building proprioception(your body's ability to calculate it's location in space in relation to itself) and hand-eye coordination will help you learn any physical activity quicker, and forcing yourself to regularly learn new actions keeps your mind nimble and sharp.  I'm talkin yo-yos, juggling, legos, skipping rope, competitive cup stacking, balancing things on your nose/head/elbow, anything.  Just keep trying new things with new objects!  That way when life throws a dungeon at you, you're ready to react to what you find in there quickly.

That's about it for today.  Don't forget to like the Facebook, follow the Tweets, and tell your friends!  Tomorrow we'll be taking a look at the philosophy of a hero, and what it means to be truly courageous. 

Until then, continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Link, The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule, and all  property therein are © Nintendo.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Link Workout

So a bit later in the day than usual, but here it is! The Link workout!  For anyone new to the format, I'll be giving you a cardio workout, then a strength workout, then a schedule to stick with.  As far as diet goes, I'd recommend The Fighter Diet, although since we're doing a lot of cardio, you might want to get a bit more in the complex carbohydrates department!  Exercises that are new to the blog will have accompanying videos at the bottom of the post!  If you're unsure of an exercise and it's not in the links at the bottom, check the older character workouts for instructions!

Our Link workout is going to bear some similarities to Ezio's because, well, they're rather similar.  Link has more of a proclivity for distance running, however, whereas Ezio is more about short bursts.  Similarly, Link tends to fight more and climb less, so we focus a bit more on fight conditioning here.

Equipment Needed:
Sledgehammer(start with a low weight, maybe 5-8 lbs, work yourself up)
Chinup Bar(featured in most of my workouts, always an excellent investment)
Weighted Backpack(any sturdy backpack with rocks/books will do)

Level 1(beginner):
Walk at a brisk pace for at least thirty-forty minutes.  Pick a pace that will be strenuous for you, without completely killing you, then just do that for half an hour or more.  Vary your inclines/terrain for added challenge.
Level 2(moderate):
This is more of a general progression.  Interval running/walking.  Walk for two minutes, run for one minute.  Repeate this for at least half an hour or forty minutes.  When this gets easy, decrease walking time and increase running time until you're running for the full half hour.
Level 3(advanced):
Run at an even pace for at least forty minutes.  Finish with as many ten second sprints as you can manage without giving yourself a heart attack.
Level 4(knight):
Run at an even pace for at least an hour.  Finish with as many hill sprints as you can manage without giving yourself a heart attack.

3x10=three sets of ten repetitions.  Perform all exercises listed in order for one set, rest two minutes, then go again.
Level 1(beginner):
3x10 Chair assisted pullups(palms facing away)
3x10 Pike Shoulder Press
3x10 Kneeling pushups
3x10 Bodyweight squats
3x15 Bicycle Crunches(15 each side)
3x10 Oblique Side Crunches(10 each side)
3x5 Sledgehammer Levers(do five of each type for each set, choke up on your hammer of choice as necessary)

Level 2(moderate):
3x10 Pullups(palms facing away)
3x15 Pike Shoulder Press
3x15 Pushups
3x10 Bodyweight squats
3x25 Bicycle Crunches(25 each side)
3x15 Oblique Side Crunches(15 each side)
3x10 Sledgehammer Levers(do five of each type for each set, choke up on your hammer of choice as necessary)

Level 3(advanced):

5x10 Pullups(palms facing away)
5x15 Pike Shoulder Press
5x15 Pushups
5x10 Bodyweight squats
5x25 Bicycle Crunches(25 each side)
5x15 Oblique Side Crunches(15 each side)
5x10 Sledgehammer Levers(do five of each type for each set, choke up on your hammer of choice as necessary)

Level 4(knight):

5x10 Pullups(palms facing away)(with 10lb backpack)
5x15 Handstand Pushups
5x15 Pushups(with 10 lb backpack)
5x10 Bodyweight squats(with 10 lb backpack)
5x50 Bicycle Crunches(50 each side)
5x25 Oblique Side Crunches(25 each side)
5x10 Sledgehammer Levers(do five of each type for each set, choke up on your hammer of choice as necessary)

Day 1: Light cardio, followed by strength workout.
Day 2: Cardio.
Day 3: Light cardio, followed by strength workout.
Day 4: Cardio.
Day 5: Light cardio, followed by strength workout.
Day 6: Cardio.
Day 7: Rest.
Light cardio means either do the cardio workout one level down from your normal difficulty level, or do your normal difficulty level with less intensity.

On your sledgehammer levers, as you progress in workouts try to slide your hand closer and closer to the end of the handle.  When you can do all your reps with your hands on the end of the handle, it's time to move up in sledgehammer weight.  As always, listen to your body, if it says ow, STOP!!

Any questions can be posted to the comments section, on the Facebook page, or on my Twitter.

Tomorrow, we take a look at the skills of Link!  What skills and talents does a knight of Hyrule need?

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Link, The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule, and all  property therein are © Nintendo.

Exercise index:
Sledgehammer Levers:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Character Breakdown: Link

Name: Link
Game(s): The Legend of Zelda Series, the Super Smash Brothers series, assorted game cameos.

  • Courageous
  • Athletic
  • Tenacious
  • Resourceful
  • Swordsman
  • Archer
  • Equestrian
  • Honorable
Sorry for the brief break there, folks, Skyrim could just not be denied!  We will be getting in that post on personal acceptance and growth sometime soon, but for now, we're due for another character profile!  So, with Skyward Sword releasing this week, we take a look at Link, from the Legend of Zelda series!

Link is really our first, honest-to-goodness hero.  Ezio's and Udyr both kind of fit the anti-hero archetype a bit better, and while Chun Li and DK are definitely good guys, they are rather personally motivated by either revenge or competitiveness.  Link is really the first character we've got that really lays it all on the line for other people, sacrificing his own well-being for people he barely knows.  He is, in the video game world, the penultimate "knight in shining armor," and is one of the oldest characters in the video gaming world.

So what is there to say about Link?  As the bearer of the triforce of courage, his bravery against insurmountable odds and gigantic foes is really what defines him.  He is tenacious, resourceful, and honorable.  Link is defined less by his individual skills, but rather, by the deeds he has done.  He is an excellent swordsman, of course, but he's not known for his fantastic swordplay.  He is instead known for the difficult situations he encounters, and the way he resolves problems.

Link is a lean, fast, fighter-type character, and we're going to look at a workout focused on battling the day away in unfamiliar places, and having the stamina, endurance, and strength to win out.  It's never really appreciated that video game characters spend the whole day running, IN ADDITION to all the other feats they accomplish.  We're going to shine a spotlight on this for our workout.

We're going to go a bit more deeply into swordplay than we have before for our skills section, as well as taking a look at using your surroundings and tools you have available to their utmost capabilities.  Link's toolbox is deep and varied, and he's got new toys to play with every game.  We're going to take a look at how you can quickly learn new skills and abilities.

Finally, for our philosophy bit we're going to take a look at what it means to be truly courageous, and how to be a compassionate, chivalrous hero in the modern-day world.

That's what's on tap for this week, folks.  I'll see you tomorrow for The Link Workout!  Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Link, The Legend of Zelda and all  property therein are © Nintendo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today's Post Postponed on Account of an Acute Case of Skyrim

Hey guys, sorry, Skyrim has eaten my life, and between that and my actual job I've run out of time to write a post for today.  We will revisit self forgiveness and growth another time(maybe this weekend, although I doubt it because of the Tough Mudder I'm running).  On Monday, though, we will begin out next character profile.  Link, from the Legend of Zelda series, in honor of the release of Skyward Sword!

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Srsly though, Skyrim.  O_O

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Saga of Me Part 1: The Rise and Fall of a Nerd

I hope you won't think this too narcissistic, but today's post is going to be the first in a series of occasional posts about me.  Not that I like to talk about myself, but because I have gone through an interesting and, at times, difficult life, and I think for some people going through rough times, hearing the story of how someone else went through things can help.

We'll start at the beginning, I suppose.  My name is Dan Wallace.  I'm the firstborn of three kids, and I'm currently twenty-four years old.  I have a younger sister, and a younger brother, both of whom I love very much, and I am lucky to have.  I've got two parents, the usual complement of grandparents(most of whom have passed on, now), and generally your average family unit.

From a young age, I enjoyed video games.  My parents raised me on their Atari, and I loved the crap outta space invaders in particular.  Soon I graduated to the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda years of the Nintendo and Super Nintendo, and yeah, I was one of those kids who wasn't allowed to play Mortal Kombat because it was too violent(so I played it at friends' houses instead.  HA!  Take that, establishment!).

I'm not going to go into too much detail of my young life, except for a couple key points.  My parents home schooled me for kindergarten and first grade, which put me massively ahead of the rest of my peers in terms of reading and writing, and massively behind in terms of social conventions.  I don't resent it now, but at the time it was rather difficult and yeah, I was your trademark tortured nerd/teacher's pet.  In sixth grade I was pulled out again, home schooled again, and eventually entered college early, starting with two courses a semester at the local county college when I was fifteen.

Throughout this time I was about as socially awkward as could be.  I dressed up like an anime character(not cosplaying, I would actually try to accessorize myself like I imagined an anime character would), dreamed of having a girlfriend, and discovered the world of internet porn.  I finally found my first real girlfriend(and my first kiss), and started to mature a wee bit.  We dated for about six months.  After her, I dated another girl shortly who cheated on me early in our relationship, and I fell into my emo phase.  Bad poetry, teen angst, adolescent rage, the whole thing.

Around this time, we were in the middle of a massive renovation of our old house that we lived in.  I literally lived without walls, finished floors, or even a bathroom sink for a couple of years.  I was in kind of a shitty spot in life.  I felt like I couldn't connect with most people my age, my siblings were too young for me to connect with them on a peer level, and I felt like I couldn't trust girls again either.  I got down on myself really, really hard, and even contemplated killing myself once or twice.  Most of my friends were online, and that was the only real world that I interacted with for a while.

If any of this sounds like you right now I want to take a second and recognize you.  People may feel you're not really feeling real emotions because you're a teenager, or that your angst/bad poetry/adolescent rage are all an inconsequential phase.  They're right, in that it's a phase, but they're wrong in thinking it's inconsequential.  Your feelings are real, and you have a right to feel them.  You do have to realize that you're in a highly emotional place in your life right now, being a teenager, and that sucks a lot.  But you have to come up with ways to keep calm, and carry on(ha!). 

You may feel like you're in a hole right now, but I can promise you, you will get out.  It will get better.  Don't put too much stock in the negatives of your life right now, they will pass in just a short while.  For now, you need to apologize to yourself, first off, because you've probably thought bad things about yourself before.  Then you need to forgive yourself for it, because everyone makes mistakes.  Seriously.  You're no worse than anyone else in this world, and you are just as worth of love as anyone else.  Love yourself, first.  This sounds difficult, and it is, and it may sound silly, but it's not.  You need to love yourself before you can love anyone else, and before anyone else can truly love you.  Let your hurt go as best you can, and just tell yourself that you are okay, and you love you.

Not joking, give it a shot.  Go somewhere no one can here you, and say, "I'm sorry.  I love me."  Stand in front of a mirror and say, "I love you."  Realize that everyone is human, and everyone make mistakes, but you have no reason to hurt, or fear, or ridicule yourself.  You are an awesome person, I guarantee it, and you should accept yourself as you are, even if you don't like who you are.  When you're lost, you need to accept and recognize where you're at before you can figure out where you're going.  The hardest part of personal growth is acceptance of where you're currently at, and recognizing you have a long way to go before you get where you want to be.

So this was where I was at.  I was sixteen and angry.  Angry at the world, I suppose, but  mostly angry at myself(though I didn't really realize it at the time).  Slowly I started to crawl out of my hole, and things started to get better, but the anger stuck with me.  I think, however, that should be a story for another day.  I think I've talked about myself enough already for today, hahaha.

Tomorrow won't be about me(srsly), but it will be about the idea of personal acceptance and growth, and how this can relate to video games and video game characters.  Monday will be our next character breakdown, and I will announce the character in question tomorrow!  Make sure you like the blog on Facebook(there's a little button to your right on the sidebar right now), and follow me on Twitter to get regular updates on the blog!  Also, I've got a Google+, so if +1ing is your thing, add me to a circle on there!

See you tomorrow!  Until then, continue to be an awesome person! =)

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Udyr Roundup

 "That is our path." - Udyr

Well, that's about it for our friend Udyr!  I hope you enjoyed our time with the BAMF animal spirit as much as I have.  Here's a quick roundup of his posts, and subsequent links related to those posts.  Tomorrow and friday I'll have some other, non-character-specific posts for you, and on Friday I'll be announcing our next character profile for Monday =)

The Life and Times of Udyr
Character Breakdown

The Udyr Workout
The Skills of Udyr Part 1: Martial Arts
The Skills of Udyr Part 2: Survivalism
The Philosophy of Udyr
Riot Games
League of Legends
Signup for League of Legends Free <--My shameless referral link ^_^

That's it for now.  Also, I just stuck a poll up on the right side of the blog, go vote! =)  I'll see you tomorrow!

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Udyr, League of Legends and all  property therein are © Copyright Riot Games.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Philosophy of Udyr

"Our rage is beyond your control!" - Udyr

Okay, let's be straight.  Udyr is not exactly a people person.  We learn from his lore entry that he grew up helping on his parents' farm, and that he felt the animals were more kindred spirits to him than the people of the town.  He would often spend his young nights sleeping under the stars with the animals, instead of home in his bed.  Finally, at sixteen years old, he set off to live alone in the forest, isolated from all other people.  Here he gave into his own animal instincts and rage, hunting, scaring off, or striking down any poachers or travelers who entered his territory.

Had it not been for the monk journeying through his territory and besting him in combat, Udyr might have never left his forest and joined the league.  It's said in his lore that Udyr's will was not untempered, merely un-domesticated.  His mind is not weak, merely freed of the shackles of societal conventions.  Udyr actively rejects the ways of society, and actively regards those who do not with both disgust and anger.

But why?

While we were examining Donkey Kong, we examined the benefits of leading a simple life.  But, though Udyr's life is quite spartan in its simplicity, he does not have the same laid-back, easygoing personality of Donkey Kong.  Udyr's lifestyle is that of isolation, and a rejection of his own kind.  I'm sure this is not actually an alien feeling for some of you readers.

Society can be a disgusting and difficult thing to deal with sometimes.  It has its benefits, yes, and I personally think the benefits outweigh the detriments.  But to some, the kill-or-be-killed, eat-or-be-eaten simplicity of nature can be very appealing.  Without the social constraints of morality, or cultural taboos, life becomes very easy to sort out.  Udyr's rage is understandable when you realize that he is on the outside looking in, seeing all the negatives humanity's societies have to offer.  Lies and deceit, wastefulness and consumption, double-sided morality and hypocrisy are all elements that plague society, and if this is all one focuses on, I can understand the indignant rage.

I, for one, am not endorsing isolationism.  I am of the opinion that you have a lot more to gain by accepting society for its benefits AND flaws, and reaping the benefits of such a life as best you can while avoiding the lows that you occasionally stumble upon.  However, it is possible to isolate yourself if you so choose.  We visited the skills necessary to survive independently, and with some practice, one can go to an isolated area and practice these well enough to live off of them.  Even without that extreme level of hermitage, it is still an increasingly popular notion to go "off the grid."

This blog is about me helping you become the person that you want to be, even if it's not the person I would choose to be in your position.  I hope that this short foray into personal isolationism has helped you to shape your own personal philosophies a bit.  If you have any more questions or ideas on this subject, please feel free to add to the discussion in the comment section below, leave a post on the So You Want to Be a Video Game Character facebook page, or hit me up on Twitter!

Tomorrow we wrap up Udyr, and take a look ahead to our next character!

Until then, continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Udyr, League of Legends and all  property therein are © Copyright Riot Games. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Skills of Udyr, Part 2: Survivalism

"If PETA asks, this fur is fake." - Udyr

Alrighty!  So, we've done a bit of investigation into Udyr, which I hope may have kindled your interest in the ancient arts of kung fu!  Today, we shall look at another aspect of Udyr: wilderness survival!  Udyr is a wild man, and a living aspect of nature, but he's not exactly the hippie, treehugger type.  We're going to talk about surviving in the great outdoors using limited tools and resources.  Regarding tools and resources, I can't stress how valuable it can be to have a good solid knife, and some waterproof matches on your person at all times.  I actually have a knife that's got a small magnesium firestarter built into the handle, which you can purchase here!  I use the knife on a near daily basis, and I have started several fires with the magnesium rod in the handle, so I can attest to its capabilities!  If you, by some chance, do not have a knife on you, you can also substitute a thin, sharp rock, although this is going to make things a bit harder for you.

So, the first thing you need to worry about in the wild is shelter from the elements.  You can die of starvation in a couple weeks, lack of water in a couple days, and exposure in a couple minutes.  Having a warm or cool place to rest your head is vital, and we're going to look at a couple basic shelters for different environments.

First off, you want to be out of the weather.  In a non-snow environment, you want to pick some flat-ish ground, that is relatively elevated and, if possible, sheltered from the wind on 2-3 sides.  Flat, because you want it easy to build and rest on.  Elevated, because you don't want to have water draining in during a rainstorm, and sheltered, because even on a warm day wind can still take away vital heat from your body.  Regardless of what climate you're in, you're going to want a roof.  It keeps out precipitation, traps heat and, in hot climates, blocks the sun.  One of the quickest, easiest shelters to build is a lean-to.  This site has an excellent tutorial with pictures that surpasses anything I could fit into a paragraph or two here.  Try to keep the open end of the lean-to facing away from wherever the majority of the winds are coming, and realize this is a smaller, temporary shelter for immediate survival in a crisis situation.

If you're looking for a more permanent shelter, a traditional wigwam, or some other domed variant, is usually a good bet and can be constructed through a good bit of hard work.  This site has a great step-by-step instruction on building a wigwam.  Remember, if you're not a hardcore traditionalist, you can save a lot of time by using nylon cordage and a tarp to help speed things up and make them a bit more durable.  I, personally, am a bit of a hardcore traditionalist so I would probably stick pretty closely to the instructions in the link above.

Of course, we need to worry about warming ourselves and cooking our food, and what better method than fire?  The key to a good fire is good tinder and kindling, whether you're starting it with matches, magnesium, or flint.  The drier and finer the tinder, the better.  Cattail fuzz, very dry, fuzzy frayed grasses, dried inner bark from birch trees, and, in a pinch, dry clothing all make good tinder.  Dry pine and conifer twigs make excellent kindling, and pine needles make good fodder after the tinder has caught.  For more on first construction, check out this link.  For information on starting a fire with flint and steel(which can be very difficult), check out this link. If you have a magnesium firestarter, it can be used in the same way as flint and steel, although it it generally a bit easier.

Okay, we've got shelter, we've got fire, now we need water and food.  Water is un-drinkable straight from the streams and rivers in most places, but after boiled, it is USUALLY safe.  Try to get water from a swift-moving source, such as a lively stream or river, and remember you can filter out sediment by running the water through a sock.  It'll taste like crap, but it'll keep you alive.

For food, we have two options, foraging, and hunting.  Foraging is usually easier, but it requires a solid grasp of local edible plants and fruits.  You can find this out by looking up foraging books at local libraries.  There's also an excellent site called First Ways that's all about foraging for food in an urban setting.  Make sure you know what it is you're collecting before you eat it.  Being hungry sucks, but being poisoned sucks more.

Meat, on the other hand, is a harder-to-obtain but much more calorie-rich food source in nature.  For active hunting, one of the easiest things to make is a throwing stick, AKA, caveman boomerang.  Find a curved stick around the length of your forearm, and carve it down a bit so it's nice and smooth, with points on both ends(you can do this with your knife or a good rock).  Now you need to go hunting for small game.  Squirrels, rabbits, gophers, groundhogs, and birds are all excellent target for your stick.  The trick is getting in throwing range.  Remember, hitting them with the points is nice, but just winging it and bludgeoning works perfectly fine too.  Don't get frustrated if you fail a lot at first; being angry clouds your judgement, which is NOT what you need in a survival situation.  Another simple hunting weapon is the caveman throwing star, which is two sharpened sticks with notches in the middle carved to fit together like an "X," and lashed together in the middle.  You use this in the same manner as the throwing stick, and the extra bit of effort in construction gives you four points instead of two!

Arguably the best way to get food, however, is trapping.  Traps work for you while you're working on other stuff, saving you time and effort that can be better spent elsewhere. A figure four trap is an excellent trap for getting small land game.  Bait it with some berries or nuts, and set up as many as you can in different areas to increase your chances.  A native american cage trap is a great way to catch fish from a pond or lake, you can bait this with the leftovers of anything else you've caught, or just leave it there and hope a fish decides to swim in(sheltering it from the sun with a branch or two is a great way to encourage fish to swim in if you don't have bait).

Whatever the method, if you get some meat, make sure you cook it all the way to kill off any parasites it might be harboring.

Whew, that was fun, and made me want to go camping!  Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the mind of udyr, and the idea of isolation and hermitage!

Until then, continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Udyr, League of Legends and all  property therein are © Copyright Riot Games.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Skills of Udyr Part 1: Martial Arts

"Weapons are for the weak!"-Udyr
Udyr is a martial artist, a survivalist, an isolationist, and an embodiment of animalistic fury.  We're going to take a look at his martial arts skills in this post, and then some more of his assorted skills tomorrow.  We'll do a brief overview first, and then delve into the individual elements of his different stances.

Fighting Like an Animal 
Imitating animal movements to inspire fighting styles is an old, old tradition dating back to the original shaolin monks that developed kung fu hundreds of years ago.  Modeling an entire form off of one animal is a characteristic more common of southern kung fu styles, while the northern styles frequently featured animal-inspired stances and movements interspersed in their different forms.  The idea was that you observe some of the more efficient animals in nature and mythology, and adapt their physical manners and hunting techniques into elements of a martial art style.  
For example, the leopard/panther style focuses on smooth movements and subtle deception in movement to attack their opponent, while the tiger style focuses more upon direct attack and overpowering the opponent.

Tiger Stance
In-game, Udyr's first stance, the tiger stance, features a rapid multi-shot strike, with a bleeding damage-over-time effect.  In real life, tiger stance is the only stance of Udyr's that actually exists.  Tiger stance in shaolin kung fu features an open-hand guard, with the fingers splayed and bent into "claws."   The claws are used to attack soft, vulnerable areas like the eyes and the groin to deal brutal, lasting damage and quickly overpower the opponent.

To build our "tiger stance" in real life, we need to focus on two things: hand speed, and hand accuracy.  It's easiest to do this with a friend.  Find a wall, and face it, while your friend stands fifteen feet or so behind you with a bucket of tennis balls.  Have them give you some sort of verbal cue, like "go!" and throw a ball somewhere close to you.  You need to turn around and catch the ball with ONE hand, left or right.  Whether you catch it or not, turn back around as soon as the ball has passed, and begin again.  This is to keep you from getting too settled into a rhythm(and you stand by a wall so no one has to chase down the balls until your bucket is empty).  A good alternative to this if you don't have a friend handy is to just find a ball and play catch with yourself using a reaction ball.

Turtle Stance
In-game, turtle stance grants Udyr a temporary damage absorbing shield, and allows his strikes to sap some of his opponent's hit points and mana, though he cannot deal critical hits in this stance.  There is no real-life turtle stance in kung fu(or any other martial art I know of), but we can still emulate this style.  While some internal kung fu practitioners would say that it's possible to absorb your opponent's strength with certain strikes, I prefer to stay on the side of science and say that just plain hitting them will drain their strength well enough, and good old cardio will help keep yours up.  We can, however, look into damage reduction and absorption, of a sort =)
Iron palm/fist/shirt training has had enough of a fuss made of it that I don't think I need to summarize it here, but suffice it to say it's the idea of making parts of your body durable.  Turtle stance uses open hand strikes in game, so we'll look at iron palm.  
Iron palm training is relatively simple.  Fill a flat-ish cloth bag with beans.  Lay it on a flat, sturdy surface.  Now place your elbow on the table in such a way that if you let your hand fall, it will strike the bag.  Now this bit is key: keeping your arm, and hand, completely loose(with the exception of the tension it takes to keep your hand open), allow gravity to do it's thing, and drop your hand onto the bag.  DON'T APPLY ANY DOWNWARD FORCE!  Now turn your hand over, and strike the bag with the back of your hand.  After you've been doing this for a few weeks, switch the beans out for sand.  Once you've done sand for a few weeks, do lead shot/lead fishing weights.

A word of caution:  Some people claim iron palm training can cause arthritis.  I, personally, do not lay any credence to this, but I am young and inexperienced in some things, so take that as you will.  The main thing to remember is be careful, and listen to your body.  If you experience too much pain(there will be a little swelling and pain at first, regardless), then stop.  Seriously.  Being a BAMF does not require indestructible hands, and bodily harm can be forever.

Bear Stance
In-game, bear stance gives Udyr a short speed boost, and allows his strikes to stun an opponent.  Bear stance doesn't exist in real life, but stunning, disorienting, and debilitating your opponent definitely does.  As does running.

For the running bit, I'll leave you to The Udyr Workout.  The cardio workout there should give you more than enough of a leg workout to give you good sprinting power.  As for stunning an opponent, we have to talk about two things.  Firstly, when you hit hard things, use soft parts of your body, and when you hit soft things, use hard parts.  For example: if you're going to hit somebody in the head, use an open-hand palm strike if you can.  Less damage to you, and the act of smooshing their flesh against the hardness of their skull crushes blood vessels, and severely disorients people(try just throwing an empty hand strike at someone's face without hitting them - it STILL disorients).  On the other hand, if you throw a solid punch at the squishy spot just below the bottom-center of your ribcage, known as the solar plexus, you can instantly knock the wind out of them.  Punching them in the kidneys(on their side, towards the back, below the ribs again), you can cause severe pain and disorientation.  If you shin kick them in either the inside or outside of the thigh(top of the thigh won't do much), you can cause pain and disable that leg.

Bear stance is really about rushing down your opponent - closing the distance and using powerful, intentional strikes to disable them quickly.

Phoenix Stance
In-game, phoenix stance gives Udyr an area-of-effect aura that expands outwards, damaging anyone around him when he activates it, as well as doing magic fire damage in a cone in front of him.  I'm going to tell you right now, unfortunately, we won't be making fire with our fists.  If it's possible, I personally don't know how to do it, and I've been doing martial arts for twenty years of my life, so I like to think I've got a bit of a leg up.  Instead, we're going to talk about the mindset of fighting multiple opponents, and some techniques for surviving.

First of all, fighting more than one person at a time sucks.  Just like in-game, doing a 1v2 or 1v3 is probably going to end poorly for you, unless you're super fed(you have a significant equipment advantage over the other opponents, for you non-LoL players).  You want to avoid it if possible, maybe by using your Bear Stance running skills.

So, you can't avoid it, what are some good things to do?
  • Keep your opponents in a line in front of you, so you're only facing one at a time.  Do everything you can to keep from facing two at once.
  • Inflict heavy damage as quickly as possible.  The sooner you can take someone out of the fight, the fewer opponents you have to face.
  • Fight furiously.  Act crazy.  Go in with the mindset that you may not win the fight against all of them, but you sure as hell will win the fight against one of them, and the rest of them will be too scared to keep fighting.
  • Run.  As soon as you've made an opening, get the hell out.  This is a good rule of thumb for any fighting situation, because fighting sucks, but especially so for multiple opponents.
The idea of fighting multiple opponents really combines principles from all the "stances" we've looked at.  Fight quickly, inflicting grievous harm, make sure you can take a hit and not hurt yourself when hitting someone else, and disorient/disable opponents whenever possible, running away when you're able.

So that's it for our first skills of Udyr Part 1!  Part two is tomorrow, and looks at wilderness survival!  Make sure you like the blog on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter for updates!

Until tomorrow, continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Udyr, League of Legends and all  property therein are © Copyright Riot Games.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Udyr Workout

"We do not know pity, even for you!" -Udyr

Okay, so Udyr is a martial artist, like Chun Li, but he's a bit more of an upper body powerhouse than she is, and his techniques are basically all hand-oriented.  So, we're going to build solid upper body and core strength, with good speed and explosiveness, and we're gonna turn our legs into a rock-solid base to build our techniques upon.
Udyr also has solid cardio, able to move quickly in bear stance, and keep a sustained fight going while in turtle stance, so we're going to be doing a cardio plan that's kind of a cross between Chun Li and Ezio Auditore.

For diet, I would definitely recommend going with the Fighter Diet outlined last week.  Udyr is big, but that comes mostly from his frame, he's not an incredibly bulky fighter like Donkey Kong.  That said, you can up the weight and intensity of the workout and switch over to the Big Guy Diet, if you do want to pack some solid muscle on.

So, without further ado, onto the workout!

Equipment Needed:
Heavy Rocks/Logs
Hand Dumbells
Backpack for Books/Rocks
A Hill
(if possible)
A Local Park or Forest

Level 1(beginner):
20 minutes brisk walking, preferably through a forest or park with elevation changes and small obstacles.
10 minutes jogging/walking, alternating with one minute of walking, and one minute of jogging.  Do this up and down a hill if you can.
Level 2(moderate):
20 minutes of walking/jogging, start at one minute of each, and gradually decrease the walking ratio while increasing the jogging. Again, much better if you can do it in a forest/park with varied terrain and obstacles.
10 minutes straight of jogging up and down a hill.  Find a steeper incline or longer hill to increase your challenge.
Level 3(advanced):
20 minutes of jogging over varied terrain.
10 minutes of hill sprints.  You're going for time, now, so try to squeeze as many hill sprints as you can into that time.
Level 4(beast spirit):
30 minutes of jogging over varied terrain.
15 minutes of hill sprints.  Same as before, with an extra 5 minutes tacked on.

Level 1(beginner):
3x5 Pullups(palms facing away from you), chair-assisted if necessary.
3x10 Bodyweight squats
3x5 Chinups(palms facing towards you), chair-assisted if necessary.
3x10 Pushups
3x10 Unweighted good mornings
3x10 Pike shoulder press
3x10 Cross punch crunches(no dumbells)
3x10 Oblique crunches 

Level 2(intermediate):
3x10 Pullups(palms facing away from you)
3x10 Front squats holding a heavy rock, log, or book-filled backpack.  No exact weight, just start low and increase as you feel comfortable.  Remember to keep your back straight and your weight on your heels.
3x10 Chinups(palms facing towards you)
3x10 Pushups(with 10 lb backpack)
3x10 Good mornings(with 5lb rock, log, or backpack)
3x10 Pike shoulder press(with 10lb backpack)
3x10 Cross punch crunches(with 5lb dumbells)
3x15 Oblique crunches

Level 3(advanced):
3x10 Pullups(with 10 lb backpack)
3x10 Front squats holding heavy rock, log, or book-filled backpack.  Same rules as before.
3x10 Chinups(with 10 lb backpack)
3x10 Pushups(with 20 lb backpack)
3x10 Good mornings(with 10 lb rock, log, or backpack)
3x10 Handstand pushups(do these against a solid wall)
3x10 Cross punch crunches(with 10 lb dumbells)
3x20 Oblique crunches

Level 4(beast spirit):
3x10 Pullups(with 20 lb backpack)
3x10 Front squats holding heavy rock, log, or book-filled backpack.  Same rules as before.
3x10 Chinups(with 20 lb backpack)
3x10 Pushups(with 30 lb backpack)

3x10 Good mornings(with 15 lb rock, log, or backpack)
3x10 Handstand pushups(do these against a solid wall)
3x10 Cross punch crunches(with 15 lb dumbells)
3x30 Oblique crunches

Day 1: Strength workout
Day 2: Cardio
Day 3: Strength Workout
Day 4: Cardio
Day 5: Strength Workout
Day 6: Cardio
Day 7: Rest

-Remember, it's more important to get the number of sets in, rather than the number of reps and cut the sets.  I'd much rather you do three sets of five than one or two sets of ten.
-This is a pretty brutal schedule.  If you find yourself fatigued, don't be afraid to take an extra day of rest, or try doing all your leg exercises on one day, and all your upper body exercises another.
-Eat good food, drink lots of water, and sleep!  Sleep is SO important!  If you really want to get into the Udyr attitude, try sleeping outside on a warm night!
-Listen to your body.  You are responsible for you.  If you push yourself too hard and injure yourself, I'm not responsible, you have only yourself to watch out for you.  As I said, this is a good workout, if your body says "Ow!" LISTEN TO IT.

That's it for today!  Remember to like the blog on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter, so you stay updated on the blog's progress!(I post some cool stuff sometimes, too).  Tomorrow we'll take a look at some of the skills of Udyr. Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Udyr, League of Legends and all  property therein are © Copyright Riot Games.

Exercise Index:
(for all exercises not found in other workouts already posted)
Pike Shoulder Press
Good Mornings
Front Squats
Oblique Crunches
Cross Punch Crunches

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Character Breakdown: Udyr

Name: Udyr, "The Animal Spirit"
Game(s): League of Legends
  • Athleticism
  • Martial Arts
  • Shamanic Beliefs
  • Strong Affinity with Nature
  • Lack of Regard for Other Humans
  • Survivalist

So in order to pick my first character profile from League of Legends I ran a poll on the general forums for the game.  Pantheon, the Artisan of War, actually won the poll by one vote, but I opted for Udyr, who came in second place, because I'm going to be profiling another popular spartan-esque character very soon **caughkratoscaugh** and I figured too many of the same type of character is silly.  Plus, I think we can have a lot of fun with Udyr!

So let's start with the base in-game skills of Udyr.  He operates under different "stances" in combat, each one a different martial art endowing him with skills related to the animal he's manifesting.  Tiger gives him great attack speed, and a bleeding "damage over time" effect.  Turtle gives him a defensive shield, and allows him to regenerate mana and health on striking his opponents.  Bear gives him a speed boost and allows his strikes to stun.  Phoenix gives him a fiery aura that damages opponents, and every third strike sends out a wave of flame.  Obviously, the flame effects are going to be a bit difficult, but we will be examining the art that best represents this fighting style in the real world, that is, shaolin kung fu!

As far as fitness goes, Udyr's a relatively big dude, though not bulky like Donkey Kong.  We'll be referring to the "Fighter Diet" for our nutritional needs in this respect, with a bit of a different workout regimen than our last martial artist, Chun Li.  We'll be taking a few cues from traditional shaolin training, as well as some modern training methods to build that tough, grizzled wilderness warrior body, able to crush foes without a single weapon besides your hands.

Udyr doesn't really care much for people.  In his lore, it's mentioned he leaves home at sixteen and lives in the wilds by himself, becoming a guardian of the forest in which he lives. We're going to take a look at survival skills in the wild, and what you need to "live off the land," without much in the way of equipment outside of your mind and your hands.

For the philosophy of Udyr, we're going to take a look at the tradition and history of shamanic beliefs, a very old type of religion that has also found manifestations in modern-day, new-age culture, and how these things differ.  We're also going to discuss isolationism, the methods and motivations for such a lifestyle, and how to attain it yourself.

So that's the general plan for the next few days.  Make sure to like the blog on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter, so you can keep updated on the progress!  And as always, tell your friends!

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Udyr, League of Legends and all  property therein are © Copyright Riot Games.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Interlude: Challenge Accepted!

Booyah!  We're pretty much done with Chun Li, staring down the barrel of our next character examination, but I'd like to take a day to talk about more general making-yourself-a-more-awesome-person stuff.

Video games present us with challenges every day.  Climb this wall, beat this guy in a fight, solve this puzzle, find this key, survive this haunted house...lots and lots of different, individual obstacles making up one big challenge course, of sorts.  Maybe you need to get to a sniper nest on top of that building, take it out, and control that region.  Or maybe you need to balance an artifact on top of a spire in some lost temple, then focus the sunlight on it to open a door.  One final goal(regional control, getting to a new area), made up of lots of smaller challenges(get on top of a building, take out the snipers, regain control of the area, finding an artifact, balancing it on a spire, getting the sunlight there, opening the door).

This is actually a lot like life.  Unfortunately, life is harder to break down than a video game.  In a game, your challenges exist in a vacuum, and you're typically dealing with one big goal at a time.  Of course, we've talked about the concept of simplifying before, in our Donkey Kong examination, but sometimes there's only so much simplifying you can do in your life.

Life is difficult because it seems like a whole lot of BIG problems staring you in the face, usually interdependent, and usually time-sensitive.  You need to get that better job to pay for the house but in order to do that you've got to get the used car and in order to afford the used car you need to get a better job and in order to get that better job you need a decent wardrobe and HOLY CRAP your crappy job is taking up too much of your time to worry about any of that stuff!

So don't.

Set small, small challenges for yourself.  And don't be upset if you fail them.  PLEASE don't be upset if you fail them.  This is something I struggle with IMMENSELY as I set challenges for myself all the time, and beat myself up if I don't succeed in them.  I know from firsthand experience that this keeps you from learning from your failure, which is the most important part, and it also hurts your confidence when it comes to accepting new challenges, which is extremely counter productive.

So what's a small challenge?  Let's take our previous example.  You want to improve your overall quality of life.  This actually starts, more often than not, with your own self image.  If you want other people to think more of you, you need to think more of yourself.  So in that situation, I'd say your first goal?  Get some decent personal hygiene products, and buy yourself a new shirt.  That's it.  Not a whole wardrobe.  Just get yourself some good toothpaste, body wash, and shampoo, use them daily, and buy yourself a new shirt.  Don't even go crazy on the stuff, just get a decent whitening toothpaste(no need for crazy bleaching products), a nice moisturizing body wash, maybe a good anti-dandruff or moisturizing shampoo, and a shirt.  The shirt you might even be able to find at salvation army or something if you're on a budget, there's nothing wrong with it.

Give yourself a week or two to obtain these things, and then a month to get in the habit of using/wearing them.  Congratulations!  You set a challenge for yourself, and obtained it!  Maybe your next challenge is getting another shirt or two, or maybe a nice pair of slacks.  Keep on like this until you've got your new wardrobe.  If you stumble at some points, DON'T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!  Challenges are there to give you a chance to grow and improve yourself, which is at the very core of what we're trying to do here.  Sometimes you fail challenges.  This, too, is an opportunity to grow!  Learn from your mistakes, and then let them go.

I can't promise you it will always be easy, but you need to try to break your life down into manageable chunks, and then attack them one at a time.  Trying to conquer the whole problem at once is just setting yourself up for failure, and it goes completely against our gamer instincts.  Trust your instincts, and realize that you've already slain dragons, stood against evil, saved the world, and won the day.  You have the skills you need already, they're there, inside of you.  Just bring them out, and don't be afraid to use them. 

This month my big challenge is participating in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writer's Month.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the space of a month, from november 1st to november 30th.  Honestly, I'm nervous about my chances.  I've started a lot of stories and novels but honestly?  I've never finished one.  And now I'm putting this out here in a public place, as well as entering into it with a friend of mine who's already done it once.  It's nerve wracking and overwhelming in some ways, but I'm going to give it everything I've got =)  I'll let you guys know, if I succeed, and I might even post it online for people to see.

So that's it for today!  Tomorrow we enter into our next character profile!  It will be a character from League of Legends!  Who will it be?  I don't know!  I'm letting the League of Legends forums vote on which character we do!  At the moment our front runners are Pantheon, the Artisan of War, Udyr, the Animal Spirit, and Master Yi, the Wuju Bladesman!  Tune in tomorrow to find out which of these champions we're going to take a look at!

Until then, continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Mind of Chun Li

Sorry about the missed post on Friday, guys, time kind of got away with me, and even barring the crazy weather we got in the northeast this past weekend, my weekend was crazy, so I couldn't really make it up.  Went to an awesome halloween party, though(me and a bunch of friends went as the street fighter crew.  I was Akuma), went to a wedding, had a slumber party in a frozen house with no electricity, it was generally an awesome time =D

So anyway, today we're going to take a look at the mind of Chun Li!  Chun Li is a talented investigator and agent for Interpol.  We're going to take a look at observation, police work, and criminal investigation, as well as various methods to keep your mind sharp and detail-oriented!  And we're going to do it through one of my favorite methods, games!

First off, let's talk about what a criminal investigator does.  At their most base essence, they look at the aftermath of a crime, and try to determine who the perpetrators of the crime are, by collecting evidence, reconstructing the crime, and communicating with witnesses.  We're not necessarily talking CSI: Miami stuff here, either, usually investigators have MUCH less definitive evidence to go off of than you see on TV.  That stuff is expensive, slow, and not always concrete anyway.  Detectives and forensic scientists frequently have to operate on a combination of keen observational skills, good people reading, and tested instincts.

You can work on your observation skills and attention to detail by grabbing a friend or two and playing investigator!  Pick a room in your house to serve as your "crime scene."  Everyone walks through this crime scene, observing it for a few minutes, and then leaves.  Then, you send in a person(or small group) to act as the "criminals."  The criminals move or remove a pre-set number of items in the room(ten is a good number).  They then leave the room, and you sent in the "investigator(s)."  The investigator(s) try to figure out what has been moved or removed, within a set time limit.  If they can get all ten in the time limit, they win, otherwise, the criminals win!  Play this with a bigger room, more objects moved/removed, and a shorter time limit to increase the difficulty!

Of course, this is only one small part of investigation.  Let's look at another, the ability to read people.  Experts say that over 90% of our communication is through body language, with less than 10% being verbal.  There are volumes of books out there written on reading body language, and I would be woefully underqualified to give you a full primer on the entirety here in one blog post, so I direct you to your favorite bookstore of choice to find them, but I can offer some tips on learning/practicing. 

The best thing you can honestly do to practice body language(outside of being observant of your own day-to-day interactions with people), is to be a bit of a creeper.  Go somewhere and people watch.  Shopping malls are great places for large groups of people.  Find a bench, sit down and pretend to read a book or something, and just watch the people interacting around you.  Some things to look out for are detecting confrontations between people, romantic interactions, or sales interactions.  All of these are very personal things that can reveal a lot about people.  Watch how people react to the dominant person in a group of friends, or the difference between a successful sale and unsuccessful one in a jewelry kiosk.  There's TONS that you can learn about people just by removing yourself from the situation and simply observing for a while.

You can also work on your personal recognition skills this way.  Pick a person out of the crowd, glance at them, then look away.  Try to reconstruct this person in your mind - their clothing, facial features, hair color, any peculiarities in their walking gait, anything that can be observed as a unique trait of this individual.  Try to do this as quickly as possible.  Now look back at that person again and see how close you got.  Try this with a friend, and test each other!

Final game for the day!  It's called Mafia, and it's a popular party game with multiple variations.  It's best played with a group of ten or more people, and a deck of cards.  From your deck, pull out two aces, two kings, and a queen.  Now add simple number cards to equal the number of people at the party, minus one.  Pick a person to be the narrator, who keeps the whole game going(that's why they don't need a card).  Now shuffle the cards you picked out, and hand them out to everyone, keeping them a secret.  The people who got aces are mafia members, the people who got kings are police officers, and the person who got the queen is a medic.  Everyone who got ordinary number cards are just villagers.

Here's how play goes from there:

  1. The narrator tells everyone to go to sleep, putting their heads down.  She then tells the mafia to wake up, and pick who they want to kill.  The mafia silently decide upon the person they want to kill, pointing at them.  The narrator then tells the mafia to go back to sleep.
  2. The narrator then tells the police to wake up.  The police wake up, and silently decide on and point to one person they'd like to investigate.  The narrator then tells the police whether or not that person is a mafia member(silent thumbs up), or innocent(silent thumbs down).  The police then go to sleep.
  3. Lastly, the narrator tells the medic to wake up.  The medic can choose to save one person, including themselves, but they DON'T know who the mafia decided to kill, and they can ONLY save themselves every other turn(so they can save themselves on the first turn, but not the second).
  4. Now, everyone wakes up.  The narrator makes up a short story about the death of the person who the mafia killed.  Or, if the medic save them, the near-death and recovery of the person.  Then everyone makes accusations about who in the group is a mafia member.  One person is decided upon to go to trial(based upon vote from the townspeople).  One townsperson is picked by the narrator to serve as prosecutor, and then the person accused is allowed to offer their defense.  Finally, the townspeople all vote, through thumbs-up or thumbs-down, whether or not to execute the person in question.
  5. The person is either executed or not, based upon the vote, and then everyone goes back to sleep, and you repeat steps 1-4.  This goes on until either all the mafia are dead(townspeople win). or the mafia outnumber the townspeople(or there's only one mafia and one townsperson left alive), in which case the mafia win.  Remember, anyone who is dead, through mafia kill or townsperson execution, is NOT ALLOWED to speak once they're dead.  Can't have them giving away the secrets. =)

Of course, all of this is all well and good, but nothing can substitute for real experience.  If you're genuinely interested in the forensic sciences, see if your local community college has any courses on that or general law enforcement courses.  If you're too young for this to be an option, see if any of your local police forces have a youth program.  Many offer high-school age kids to participate in some sort of junior officer program where you can ride along with patrolmen and assist with their day-to-day tasks.  Check it out!

That's about it for Chun Li.  Tomorrow I might do a wrap-up post or just a general post of some sort.  Wednesday we'll be starting on a new character profile, but that one's a secret for now!  You'll just have to come back tomorrow to find out who it will be! ;)

Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Chun Li, Gen, Street Fighter and all  property therein are © Copyright Capcom.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Skills of Chun Li

Alrighty!  Put out some advertisements with Project Wonderful yesterday, and according to my stats tracker on my blog dashboard, we have a heck of a lot more viewers!  Hi guys and gals!  Welcome!  Today we're going to be looking at the skills of Chun Li, namely her acrobatics and her martial arts!  This is going to take us once more back into the realm of gymnastics and parkour(man, we love that stuff around here), as well as through a brief overview of the arts of Kenpo and Tai Chi.

In fact, let's take a look at the martial arts first!

Martial Arts - Kenpo and Tai Chi
"I come to you with only karate, empty hands. I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor; should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong; then here are my weapons, karate, my empty hands."
—Ed Parker - March, 1957
Kenpo is actually a relatively new style of martial art, invented by Ed Parker.  Its roots actually go back to Hawaii, initially, and before that, Japan.  It borrows elements from karate, kung fu, jiu-jutsu, judo, and boxing.  Ed evolved the art greatly as he developed it, with it first being mainly Japanese, and known as "kenpo karate," then, after he started to master the chinese arts, he began calling it, "Chinese Kenpo."  Finally, he dropped most Asian language references and traditions, and began calling it American Kenpo.  In the game canon, Chun Li's master is the master assassin "Gen," who taught her a hybridization of many chinese martial arts styles, although she has also learned from Ryu and several others, making her art effectively in the same spirit at the real kenpo.

Kenpo is focused on being a total self defense art.  It features strikes, grappling, throws, locks, take-downs, and submissions.  While not as focused on ground-fighting as, say, jiu-jutsu or judo, it is still a formidable mixed martial art.  It features a traditional turned-fist punch and powerful kicks as its main methods of inflicting striking damage.  Soft control of opponents is mostly focused on arm, finger, and leg locks, as well as some take-downs, with less emphasis on throws or chokes as other grappling styles.

Chun Li is also said to know tai chi, an internal meditation art focused on controlling the body's internal and external balance.  What is less known, however, is that tai chi can also be a practical self defense art.  Some of its methods are a bit antiquated, being very old and traditional in context, however they can still be extremely effective.  A lot of this depends upon the teacher you have.  When I dabbled in tai chi, I was lucky enough to have an instructor that actually went to china repeatedly to study, who also had a key mind for practical application of the forms.

If you can take both arts, I would recommend you do so, provided you can find a good teacher for each.  If you have to choose between the two, I would say go with kenpo, merely for its more reliable application in modern-day self defense.  This isn't to say that tai chi is not as good a martial art, rather, it takes a bit more experience and intuition to apply it in a practical, real-world scenario.

Gymnastics and Parkour

So, last time we looked at gymnastics, with Donkey Kong's skills, we looked at the forward roll(often incorrectly called the somersault).  This week, we're going to look at a basic progression towards Chun Li's acrobatic side aerials and front flips, the cartwheel.

Let me start by saying that practicing any gymnastics where you invert your body over your head is dangerous, ESPECIALLY without gymnastics mats.  At the very least, practice in a grassy field, but if possible, find yourself a gymnastics facility that has a public "drop-in" night.

The cartwheel is relatively simple to do, the hard part is getting your mind into the correct place for it.  For purposes of instruction, I'm going to start with a right-handed cartwheel.  If you're left handed, just reverse the sides on these:
  1. Start with a small lunge, right foot forward, hands locked in the air above you.
  2. In a smooth motion, lower your right hand to the ground, followed by your left hand, with your fingertips pointed to your right side(perpendicular to the direction you're cartwheeling in)
  3. While lowering your hands, kick up over your head with your left foot, and push off and follow with your right foot.
  4. Your left foot should be hitting the ground as your right hand begins to come up in the air.  As your right foot hits the ground after your left, "pull" your left hand off the ground and force your body to stand up straight.
  5. Congratulations!  Cartwheel!
I apologize if those directions were difficult to follow.  He's a nice video for how it should look when you do it.

One of Chun Li's other moves is the wall jump!  This is actually relatively easy in principle, and just takes practice.  To perform a wall jump(also a lead-in to wall runs), you run and jump towards a wall at a decent clip(not full speed or strength to start out).  You want to be facing the wall as you do.  When you jump, lead with your dominant foot forward.  DON'T kick off right away, try to bend your knees and absorb the impact as one, then the other foot hits the wall.  IMMEDIATELY turn and look behind you, and push off with the less dominant foot, and then your dominant foot.  Don't push straight off, try to push "up" and off, giving your body upward momentum as you push off the wall do you don't just ricochet back at the floor.

Tada!  Wall jump.  Just practice it, you'll get more vertical and distance with practice.  Try to find a place where two walls are relatively close together, and practice jumping from one wall and slapping the other one as high as you can, to practice increasing your height.

Well, that's it for today.  Welcome to all the new readers.  Please like the facebook page and follow me on twitter for updates!  Tomorrow we look at the mind of Chun Li, and how to be an analytical, clear thinker and investigator.  Until then, continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Chun Li, Gen, Street Fighter and all  property therein are © Copyright Capcom.