Reflections on my China 2013 Trip, Part III

So it’s been a while (again). There’s just a lot going on right now. I’m right about to finish my university training, just took my black belt exams, nearly completed my paper on proper warm-up… Still, all of this will be dealt with in later (significantly delayed) posts. Today, it’s all about completing my [Reflections series]. So, without further ado, get ready for

(III / III) Energy Efficiency

The Chinese government seems to be determined to educate its people when it comes to environmental protection and energy saving. Now that’s a good thing, if you ask me. However, just like in all things (especially when they’re linked to communism), there’s that nagging discrepancy between theory and practice…

Of course, I do realize that the major issue in China is probably the heavy industry. Still, covering that topic here would be beating a dead horse. Instead, I will look at the whole issue from another point of view. My analysis will focus on the small and medium enterprises, mainly shops and service providers.

Now we went to China at the end of June and returned home in the beginning of August. Needless to say, in most parts of the country, especially in the south, it’s pretty hot. Actually, I like hot and humid weather, as it makes me feel more active and makes my joints feel better. However, in some cities, such as Beijing, the air pollution is awful and the heat doesn’t exactly help make things better. Back to topic, though, just as in most southern countries I’ve been to, China is a land of serious air conditioning. You see, everyone seems to have air-con turned on to the max. I’m not exaggerating here, either: [Treehugger] states that

„The number of U.S. homes equipped with air conditioning rose from 64 to 100 million between 1993 and 2009, whereas 50 million air-conditioning units were sold in China in 2010 alone…“ — [Treehugger]

„…if global consumption for cooling grows as projected to 10 trillion kilowatt-hours per year — equal to half of the world’s entire electricity supply today — the climate forecast will be grim indeed.“ — [Treehugger]

That’s huge. Of course, I understand that it’s easy for me to condemn aircon, coming from a cold country and everything. Still, even when you insist on keeping that aircon running, there’s a couple of things you might want to reconsider… such as leaving the door open, for example. I’m not talking about automatic doors that stay open longer than they’re supposed to – I’m talking about the fact that a whole lot of (if not most) small shops don’t sport a door to begin with. Instead, they just have something like a plastic curtain hanging in the doorway, to keep the mosquitoes away. Obviously, with every air-con in the building blazing at full power, all that cool air flows out into the streets. That’s a nice thing for the pedestrians, really – the area in front of those shops is usually at a quite convenient temperature, so you can actually cool down quite frequently while strolling through the city… Of course, things go south once you enter a shop and experience an immediate drop in temperature of 25°C and more. Not exactly what the doctor prescribed…

If you’ve been to a southern country, you’ve probably experienced the very same thing, so this probably isn’t a typical Chinese issue. I just found it odd that so much fuzz is made about the minutiae, things like buying energy saving light bulbs. After Fukoshima, the Japanese showed how little, obvious steps can go a long way in saving tons of energy. The [Stanford News] cite Toshiya Okamura, an executive with [Tokyo Gas Company] on that issue:

„To minimize air conditioning, they raised thermostats in homes, offices and stores to 83 degrees Fahrenheit, as the government asked.“ — Toshiya Okamura

Now 83°F roughly equals 28°C. That might be a little warmer than you’d like your office to be, but then, it’s absolutely acceptable. Moreover, think of this: while Japan has an estimated 128 million inhabitants, it’s around 1.4 billion in China – that’s almost the eleven-fold. Imagine what significantly smaller reduction in air-conditioning, say, down to 25 degree, could do in terms of coutry-wide energy consumption. The difference for the individual would be minor, to say the least. Except of course in terms of energy costs, which would go down drastically…

Heck, I don’t want to take away anyone’s comfort. Not that I have the right to do that, either. So, why not keep cooling down those shops to a chilling 12°C but install (and occasionally, close) a proper door, to keep that cold inside and make for a little insulation? That’s a bit of an investment in the beginning (not really, as all those shops have door anyways – the owners just don’t care to close them. Maybe that would be an annoyance for potential customers?), but it’d more than pay off in the medium and long term.

Now where’s the context to martial arts or training in general? Well, here we go… Consider all those issues you need to address. Come on, I know there are some – or have you stopped training already? I know there’s quite a lot of them on my side. I’m totally convinced that there’s always room to improve. Still, sometimes, we get lost and look at things from the wrong side, dealing with the minutiae before we tackle the core of the problem. Sometimes, we try to do the „big bang“ thing and fail, which results in a quit, before we even try the easy things. Of course, every journey starts with a small step, as Bilbo Baggins has taught us, and all those small steps go a long way in the end – at least it’s longer than the distance we can jump before we fall and break our leg.

Sounds confused? Let me try an example. Always been better at examples,… finding clear and eloquent words for your thoughts ain’t easy after being hit in the head for 20 years…

So, to look at an example, let’s assume for a moment that you’re struggling with pull-ups. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t need that complicated bodybuilding split where you train each elbow flexor with 16 sets of dedicated curling. Might as well be that you’re just too fat to get your chubby chin over that bar. Now that’s actually good news! Dropping weight ain’t so hard, once you start taking one small step after the other, beginning with the simplest and most obvious. Why not stop wasting your body with gallons of soda everyday and switch to a zero-calories beverage (such as tea or… water – what a radical idea) instead? Without any real effort from your side, this’ll do wonders – at least in the beginning. Of course, at a certain point, that is, once you don’t drink any soda, you can’t further improve by not drinking soda. That’s obvious. Time for the next step.

Chances are you don’t need that blood-analysis and respiratory metabolism analysis to set up the optimal diet… chances are, there’s a smaller, more obvious, less complicated step you can take. What about that caramel latte you have every lunch break? Sure, it might be delicious, but is it really worth it? By just ditching that, there’s so much to win. You don’t have to do a single thing – quite the contrary, by not doing something (literally, consuming that caramel latte), you actually act and take another step towards losing body weight and getting up that pull-up bar (think [Wu-Wei] and all). Don’t just think about physique changes here, though. Consider the [latte factor]. Having a latte a day, five days a week (as you’re consuming them in your lunch break I’m going to assume a standard working week here), 45 weeks a year (no latte in you holiday – if there is, things get even more interesting) makes 225 calorie-and-sugar-laden-hot-beverages over the course of a year. At roughly 4€ per latte (for simplicities sake), that’s 900€ you invest in not being able to perform a pull-up. Instead, you could take that little, obvious step (come on, you caramel latte lovers out there, you know it’s not good for you!), lose fat and save enough money along the way to buy a complete set of new clothes to fit that slimmer waistline of yours at the end of the year.

Don’t fret, this blog ain’t turning into a weight-loss page. Still, bodyweight control and the ability to maneuver the own body (as in pull-ups) are heavily linked to the martial arts, so the example wasn’t that bad, I guess. The thing is, thevery same approach can be implemented for a variety of training-related issues.

  • Do you really need to study all russian texts on neuro-physiology and then perform a complicated depth-jump routine that hurts your knees? Isn’t there a simpler, more obvious way to get stronger and faster? Like working up to a double bodyweight squat by working at the basics?
  • Do you really need to spend two month worth of salary to attend that super BJJ workshop hosted by some Gracie at the other end of the world when you can’t tell the difference between an armbar and a heelhook?

Don’t get me wrong here – sometimes, depth-jumps and super-expensive workshops might be just what you need. Fact is, though, you’re probably not at that point. If you were, it wouldn’t seem like such a big step.

 Take away message: This might go hand in hand with [the last post], but still, it’s worth the time to state again. Don’t over-analyse. If a step looks big, initmidating and complicated, don’t take it  – yet. Nobody’s impressed by what you were planning to do (but quit doing). You’ll impress by actually get stuff done. Hence, pick a small step, a simple, obvious one. One that you can actually implement. Then go implement it. Don’t rush, take your time to do things properly, even if it’s just little things. After that, look for another small step. Let time work for you. It’s ok to make plans, by as Gray Cook stated it in [this post]:

„The way you work your plan is to not be obsessive-compulsive about every minor detail, and micro-manage the process.
It’s simply saying, ‘My goal is to be here by a certain time.’“ — Gray Cook

That’s just the thing. Make a plan and take one small step after the other. One day, wake up and admire how far those small steps have taken you in the long run. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

This concludes my my [Reflections series]. Hope there was something for you. I know this post has the potential to piss off a couple of people, but that’s OK. I never said this was a politically correct site. Of course, you’re free to leave your comments below, whether you loved this post, hated it or consider it irrelevant babbling. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on the matter.

So long,

take care

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