Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 20 Highlights of 2013

Pretty much in chronological order...

1) Received the Diamond Jubilee medal for my participation at the 2012 Olympics at BC Sport Hall Of Fame.

2) Won a third consecutive XD National title with Grace Gao.

3) Peter Gade exhibition at ClearOne Browngate!

4) Won the UBC x ClearOne badminton tournament with my girlfriend, Carmen.

(Photo Credit: Carmen Fong)

5) Won the XD title in Peru with Grace Gao.

6) Somewhere in May, I abandoned my attempts at medical school, but started volunteering at Richmond Physiotherapy. I also took the FMS Combo course, which was a serious game changer in my career aspirations.

7) Participated in the BWF World Mixed Team Championships (AKA Sudirman Cup) in Malaysia for Canada.

(Photo Credit: Jessy Sung)

8) Played my first tournament with Alex Bruce at the Canadian International in Ottawa and made the finals.

9) Beat China in the round of 16 at Canada Open in Mixed; witnessed the Thai MD brawl live.

(Photo Credit: Joseph Yeung)
(Photo Credit: Joseph Yeung)

10) Coached a camp in Prince George and did an exhibition as well.

(Photo Credit: James Tran)

11) Got certified in CPR-C with AED from St. John Ambulance. This marks the first step toward writing the NSCA CSCS examination.

12) Went to Anime Revolution to see Jessica Nigri.

13) Moved out of a house I lived in for a good 10 to 12 years. Fortunately, I was able to find a room and rent from my coach, Darryl, and his wife, Michele. Ironically, my brother is also renting a room, so we still technically live together.

14) Wrote my CSCS exam.

15) Won a spree of tournaments, including the Quebec and Ontario Elite Series tournaments with Alex, the 2013 Pan Am Championships in Santo Domingo with Alex, and the 2013 USA International with guest partner Michelle Li. (Fun Fact: Won an international tournament with each of the 2012 Canadian Olympians this year!).

16) Graduated with a degree in Kinesiology from UBC. This marks the end of my first degree after 10 years. I also passed my CSCS exam, which gives me: B.Kin, CSCS after my name.

17) I wrote something else here, but I couldn't find a good picture, so I'm going to post about a $70 action figure instead. I wanted to buy it for a long time, so eventually I did (Play Arts Kai - Ibuki - Street Fighter IV).

18) Started training at Fortius Sport and Health, under Molly O’Brien. Re-enrolled for January!

(Notice the hex bar in the back of my car)

19) Went to Las Vegas for the first time with Carmen. Walked the strip and watched Penn and Teller!

20) Getting ready for 2014! It’s gonna be epic! As for New Year’s Resolutions? I think I may opt to make 10 changes, BUT… one per month (+2 months for extra slack). I heard somewhere (can’t confirm the source, so believe at your own risk) that accomplishing a single task may prove 80% effective, while 2 simultaneous tasks will drop success to 30%. Add a 3rd task will drop it to less than 1% success rate, so multi-task-resolution at your own risk!

(Photo Credit: Carmen Fong)


Sunday, December 1, 2013

10 Things I Learned This Semester:

1) Interculturalism:

(Source: besolidary.blogspot.com)

I took this course as a replacement for Food Chemistry, but I think it was a good choice, besides not having a midterm or a final exam. It really gave me a new tool that I have often ignored: how to look at things with an intercultural lens. What is “interculturalism” (compared to… “multiculturalism”)? Well, for starters, interculturalism is much more interactive. Here’s an analogy I have used for myself to make sense of things. Consider food: multiculturalism is like having a wide variety of ingredients from different ethnic backgrounds. Interculturalism would be putting them together to create something new. The 3 points we usually stick to include: 1) connecting across cultures; 2) promoting mutual learning; and 3) creating something new. Personally, I’ve always been culturally insensitive because I would do what is efficient or effective, but taking that extra time to respect someone’s traditions, customs, or beliefs really is something I should try, instead of steamrolling people with my ideas and concepts, even though it may be in fact more efficient or effective. And wow… it’s definitely not easy. The assimilation approach seems the most effective, but by connecting with people through their cultural beliefs is really something else. It’s not easy… but I’m trying. After all, I do believe in humanism.

2) Resistance Training makes a difference:

(Shameless plug: Fortius Sport & Health)
I started a more structured program back at the very end of July and documented all my training until now. I gave myself specific training blocks, and tried modelling things from what I was learning, as I was studying for the NSCA CSCS exam. I began with doing my best to increase my base strength, then translating it to a power phase, which took me right into Pan Am Championships. The idea was to build up as high of a strength base as you can, then transfer the gains to power training (i.e. training at high speed). Just for those who don’t know, “Power lifting” still refers to strength training, more or less, with the 3 basic lifts being the squat, deadlift, and the bench press. Lifting large amount of weight will be pretty slow, so strength will definitely increase. Training for power would mean doing Olympic lifting (i.e. cleans, jerks, snatches), although I really only did hang and power cleans, as my shoulder mobility is not at the level it needs to be for overhead lifts yet.

The results of about 3 months of weight training were enormous, and I plan to keep it in my programming, although I will always be modifying based on the information that comes my way. I’m still learning about it myself, and I hope to be a good strength coach one day. However, I’ve been fortunate to learn from a lot of people, including Mike Dahl, the CSC Manitoba Exercise Physiologist who is working with our National Team. Additionally, a big thanks goes to Dan Adams, who is running the UBC Thunderbird Strength and Conditioning Club. I actually would have never learned all this stuff (including how to deadlift haha) if I never met him in my lab last year. He has also recommended Molly O’Brien, a strength coach at Fortius Sport & Health, who I am currently working with! After just the first session, I’m hooked and I will do my best to maximize my time with her.

For those players who want to start weight training, but aren’t too sure where to start, just contact me and I will do my best to give you some ideas (including referrals, if you’re really serious). It’s a very individual thing, so I can’t give a “cookie cutter” approach to everyone. There is a lot of information on the internet, but it can be overwhelming. I don’t recommend you trying to learn off the internet, unless this is part of your field of study. Even I know that I need proper coaching, so I will get a second opinion on my technique whenever I can. Lastly, look for a “Strength Coach” or “Strength and Conditioning Specialist”. Nothing against ‘personal trainers’, but I think ‘strength coach’ is much more athlete specific. And it sounds cooler lol.

3) Nutrition is more messed up than I thought it was.

(Source: tsh.to)
Maybe ‘messed up’ is not the word I’m looking for… nutrition is just very controversial. I personally think it’s more due to the insane amount of individual differences that occur. Going through some schooling in Nutrition has been educational, but learning from the web also expands on that knowledge, at many times, challenging the school of thought taught in most institutions. A huge example is that we learned that coconut oil is a long-chain fatty acid in school, where most sources site it as a medium-chain fatty acid. You might not think that this is a big deal, but medium-chain fatty acids are supposed to be okay for you (health-wise) as they get processed as an energy source without having to turn into chylomicrons, which end up contributing to cholesterol levels. Long-chain ones are processed differently. As this is kind of getting too complicated for me to speak about without consulting further sources, the definition of long vs medium chain is based on the number of Carbon molecules in the fatty acid. Coconut oil has 12, but some define medium chain as 12 or less, while some define long chain as 12 or more. So it is actually based on whether 12-Carbon fatty acids are considered long or medium chain, and it cascades into either coconut oil being good or bad for you. This is only one of the examples I’ve been through. Additionally, the DRIs are actually based largely on expert opinion, which isn’t very high on the “evidence pyramid”… so what should we do?

I think nutrition is a valuable tool for considering that you can be right as much as you can be wrong. There is nothing wrong with acting on your body of knowledge, but you should understand that some things may or may not be correct, and if you’re flexible to adapt, I think you will come closer and closer to the truth. For example, I can argue low fat or low carb diets, but it depends on many factors. If we simplify, it is easy to overlook things. Nutrition is definitely not simple, and because of that, I cannot dwell in it as much as I’d like to. Perhaps I may specialize in something like, sports nutrition in the future, but I cannot apply that to normal people, people with disease, or people trying to lose weight. It’s much like exercising to build big muscles, building strength, or just for endurance/cardio work. The sets, reps, intensity, volume, and rest intervals will all change. However, I think it’s even more complicated with nutrition… because you can have similar effects with different protocols (i.e. weight loss via low carb vs. low fat vs. high fat vs. high protein vs. fasting… etc etc etc). Restricting certain foods also changes certain things and it becomes a huge flaming ball of complicatedness that I will stop talking about right now. Yikes… much respect to dieticians!

4) The best thing that contributes to recovery is… sleep

(Source: athlete2-0.com)
Coming back for the week in between Pan Am Champs and USA International was a good thing. Not only that I had to make up a midterm, I had the chance to go to the Canadian Sport Institute (Pacific)’s Athlete Advance. It was a free event for athletes, hosted at Fortius Sport & Health, which included many guest speakers. Basically it was an all-day conference with different speakers and you could choose which speakers you want to attend. The keynote speaker was John Underwood, who does the Human Performance Project in the USA. His work is mainly in recovery, and I had the fortune of asking a few questions at the end. As I don’t want to make this excruciatingly long (which I often do), the BEST thing an athlete can do for recovery is adequate and quality sleep. It’s still the typical 8 hours, but I’m sure there are individual differences. However, he brought up a few interesting points to sleep quality, such as the effect of ‘blue light’ and maximizing REM sleep.

“Blue light” is generally emitted from our electronic devices and the effect is compounded when we use those devices in the dark (i.e. phone before bed). I’m guilty of using my phone before I go to sleep, and there have been times it seemed to have made me sleep later than I wanted to. If you don’t have this problem, then just skip to the next paragraph. He recommended the apps ‘F. Lux’ (Apple/PC), or ‘Twilight’ (Android). These apps will emit a ‘pink light’ instead, effectively reducing that blue light glow which is supposedly something that can keep you awake. I have used ‘Twilight’ and it seems to be quite effective. As it’s a free app, it wouldn't hurt to try it out.

Improving REM sleep can vary depending on many factors. However, some suggestions were to sleep before midnight, which should make sense for most people. I personally sleep around 10pm and wake up around 6am, but maybe I’m getting old :P However, I did think about it and generally, nothing productive comes out of anything done that late at night anyway :P Regardless, I think you are supposed to get the greatest bout of REM sleep if you sleep early enough, which supposedly boosts recovery, helps memory, etc… (I really need to do some more research here). As sleep greatly affects recovery, sometimes you can sabotage your next training session without enough sleep. This idea is taken more from the ‘central governor’ theory that the Central Nervous System runs everything, and heavy training leads to neural fatigue, which is a delay in processing of the CNS. Proper sleep helps to improve recovery from neural fatigue, and improper sleep habits will sabotage recovery, hence training with neural fatigue. The idea here is that when you aren’t recovered fully and training, the gains from training may be so low that it’s better not to train at all, because you would be sabotaging future training sessions.

I think it’s an interesting concept, but perhaps it may be a bit too extreme and I have yet to come across enough evidence that supports these theories. The concept it pretty solid, as I do notice neural fatigue, which can occur if you do heavy lifts, but what about post-activation potentiation? PAP means recruiting more motor units with a heavy strength exercise so that they can be used in training/performance later on. I suppose there will be incredible individual differences based on genetics, training age, etc, but I don’t want to discount those who may train more often than I would. However, I do believe having undulating microcycles, so a heavy day should be followed by a light or rest day, then to a medium day, then maybe back up again. Especially with older athletes, I find we can keep up with the young guys, but it’s the recovery that gets us in the end. Over the course of a week, we may need more rest, so being efficient in training is definitely a must. I will mull over these ideas for a little bit, and I think we need to return here at a later date. Feedback is definitely welcome!

5) Eminem really is “Rap God”…

Of course this can be debated indefinitely, but I thoroughly enjoyed his MMLP2 album which I purchased on the first day it came out at Target in the USA, as the Deluxe Edition was a bit cheaper than it was here in Canada. I’ve always been a fan, and ironically my very first CD was the MMLP1. Yes, my dad listened to it, but I can say he didn’t quite understand it. I mean, there was quite some intricate word play and stories and skits that were carried over a few albums that you would have missed if you didn’t listen to the others. For example, “Bad Guy” on MMLP2 is actually a sequel song to “Stan” on MMLP1. There were a few references back to the old album on the new one, so I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Unfortunately, “Rap God” doesn’t seem to be 6077 words long, as there are some claims on the internet. I didn’t realize it until I read someone else post about it, and after I copied and pasted the lyrics into Word, I found out it was only about 1500 words. If you calculate the fastest part in the song where he raps 97 words in 15 seconds, just multiply it by 4 (i.e. 388 words/minute) and multiply it again by 6 (i.e. 2328 words/ 6 minutes), and you would realize that 6077 words in 6 minutes would be a slew of gibberish… maybe they meant 6077 characters?

Regardless, my favourite tracks are “The Monster” (second thoughts after radio is butchering it like crazy), “Legacy”, “Bad Guy” (because it connects to “Stan”), “Rap God”, “Beautiful Pain” (Deluxe Edition), and “Headlights”, which is a track where he apologizes to his mother, after all these years. If you have listened to all his albums of the past, it really is a special track.

6) Anecdotal evidence can still give an edge if you are an outlier.

I don’t really like the name of this title, because it’s basically saying… if you’re lucky, you can win. It doesn't really explain anything, but hopefully you might read on for clarification. I used to always look toward evidence, and I still do, but over time, I've heard different thoughts about things and I have changed my mind… slightly. Consider foam rolling… there isn't actually very much scientific evidence to prove whether it works or not, but anecdotally, it is advertised and used everywhere. Even I have tried it and I still use it when I can. There are results. Taping is another example, where the research isn't finding evidence for it, but perhaps it may be in the scope of the research question. I've seen a study published which says it is not effective. Of course it’s not effective… the test was on healthy people! I would like to think it’s more for some kind of pain relief, so if you’re otherwise healthy, it’s like popping a pain killer and seeing whether it works or not (as an analogy, because pain killers DO work regardless). How it works is another question, but anecdotally, I would support kinesio tape for minor injuries to get back into the game. However, I would not support it as a long-term treatment, because I would believe in a better rehabilitation program to fix the problem. But if you’re in the middle of a tournament, rehab isn’t really going to help, so I would much advocate having some kinesio tape in your bag for such emergencies. Support  a local brand: Skinetex.

(Source: galter.northwestern.edu)
Regardless, if you were an athlete, and something gave you a 0.5% performance increase, would you do it? Yes, probably, you would want to do anything to give you the edge on your opponents. Sometimes, research is done where there is no “significant effect”, but would you be willing to try it anyway? Even placebo can be performance enhancing at times, and I would much rather have it help than not. The caution here though is that there is always a cost:benefit ratio to these things. The costs typically include time and money, both which are very valuable to an athlete, with the benefits usually being quite minuscule. What I would recommend is that athletes can try things that won’t significantly hurt them. Don’t waste significant amounts of money on things (more expensive doesn't mean anything sometimes), and make sure you consult an expert especially if you will be consuming it (i.e. new drug, supplement, etc.). Do some research and see if there are other athletes or teams that may find the product useful, and consider where they stand in terms of whether they endorse it because of sponsorship, money, etc. Personally, I would consult the literature and see if the research is justified (i.e. testing athletes vs. normal people), and see if the effect of what you intend to use the product for is used in the research (i.e. my example of testing kinesio tape on healthy people is… well, not very fair. Neither is using it on healthy people to assess performance. The best experiment would be to test on injured people and test whether it would help them compared to if they had no tape, or another conventional treatment e.g. pain killers. Then measure performance). Lastly, if this boggles your mind and it’s taking too much time (time is precious!), then at least have a trusted expert you can refer to for a second opinion.

Personally, I use protein, creatine, and caffeine (sparingly), and I do work with rollers and tennis & lacrosse balls for myofascial and trigger point release. I am trying out some of the Kelly Starrett’s mobilityWOD stuff from his book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”, but I’m still not fully convinced about everything (e.g. voodoo floss). We’ll give it some more time and I will update again in the future.

7) Flying from Seattle is a good idea

There are some conditions to this “idea”:
i)                    You have to live close enough to the border
ii)                   You have to have a car
iii)                 You have to have time to drive (round trip)
iv)                 You have to have patience for border crossing by land

I probably saved $800 from the difference in plane tickets, flying from Seattle to Santo Domingo, and again to Orlando, instead of flying through from Vancouver. This price difference doesn't include several things, but we’ll calculate it so you can see the difference. Vancouver to Santo Domingo would have cost about $1200 for airfare, plus $100 for a hotel room for the night because there weren’t any flights until the next morning. That would make it about $1300 and missing another day of class. Flying through Seattle would cost only $800, and I would have a chance to drive back late at night (which I did). It cost $50 for gas (roundtrip) and $75 for airport parking. We can add another $25 for meals within the 5 hours of driving, so that would still only be $950, saving me $350. Technically, I saved more time by driving because I didn’t have to wait overnight (hence, didn’t skip class).

Orlando was similar, although I was told that flights were cheaper after I had checked. However, to be fair, we should look at the price of equivalent flights. I flew United specifically because I get Star Alliance points, so flying from Vancouver on American Airlines wouldn’t really be an equivalent. I would have to fly Air Canada, and we all know they are expensive. Air Canada was charging $800 to Orlando, over 2 days, while I could get there from Seattle on a red-eye, with a connection in Houston for $400. Parking was $50 this time, as I had a membership with the Aeroparking, and gas was about $50 again. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to shop in Orlando, but I had some time on Remembrance/Veteran’s Day driving back, so I was able to get my New Balance MX20v3’s! They’re like Nike Free’s except way cheaper… Regardless, I saved another $300, for a total of roughly $750 from both trips, considering I was able to fly back home for a week to write a midterm. So, if you are considering flying from the US instead, it’s probably not such a bad idea!

8) I’ve played with 8 different partners… and I didn’t do too bad.

(with Michelle Li)
Since August, the beginning of my previous mesocycle, I have played in 7 tournaments, although one didn’t really count (why, because I won singles :P). This included the KHAS tournament (BC Circuit), Quebec Elite Series (National), Chinese Cup (non-sanctioned BC tournament), Pan Am Champs – Team (Internationa), Pan Am Champs – Individual (International), USA International, and the recent British Columbia Elite Series (National). So, I ended up playing MD with a different partner for each tournament I entered, and XD with 3 different partners, for a total of 8 different partners!

(with Phyllis Chan)
So, my MD partners include: Rahim Karmali (QC ES), Jacky Ruan (Chinese Cup), Derrick Ng (PAC-Team), Hendry Winarto (USA IC), and Philippe Charron (BC ES) with a total of 3 second place finishes, 1 semi-final finish, and technically a first place finish in the team event. However, XD was even better, with Phyllis Chan (Chinese Cup), Michelle Li (USA IC), and Alex Bruce (QC ES, PAC-Team/Individual, & BC ES)… being undefeated… O__O Thank you, ladies! And yes, it’s been a very fortunate semester for me, and I would like to thank everyone I played with, but special thanks goes to Alex Bruce, because she is my official partner! What can I say… it’s complicated ;)

(with Hendry Winarto)
However, let’s take some lessons from this experience:
  • If you play with a partner, and your partner misses the shot… you MUST get the shot. Regardless whether it was their shot or yours, if they don’t get it and you don’t either, you lose. You can discuss whose shot it was after the rally.
  • I find that weaker player often tries to adapt to the stronger player’s game. It would make much more sense for the stronger player to try to adapt to the weaker player’s game. Always let people do what they are comfortable with, and when in doubt, refer to the first point :P
  • Always lead by example. If you play 100% and play with confidence, your partner will follow. Don’t wait for someone to take charge, just do it.

(with Jacky Ruan)
 9) Physical Literacy and Badminton Players

(with Alex Bruce: We're totally physically literate!)
I did a casual survey with 58 badminton players at the Pan American Championships, as I had to do a project about ‘Physical Literacy’ for one of my courses. Physical Literacy (PL) is basically developing fundamental movement skills in children, such as throwing, kicking, jumping, running, and other movement skills that we would want our kids to develop. Early sport specialization in some sports has been criticized for not developing certain motor skills, so kids may be deficient in other abilities. This may put them at risk for injury later on, as their development is highly skewed toward a single sport. For example, badminton players will never do any kicking. Learning to kick properly may be important because you have to balance on one foot to kick, and sometimes you use a rotational force to generate power (think roundhouse kick vs. front kick). Having that ability to kick might mean being able to handle those rotational forces at the knee better, thus maybe preventing an injury from occurring just because your knees are simple strong enough to handle those forces… hypothetically. Anyway, I will just present my findings, as I’ve typed it out for my project anyway.

In a casual survey done at an international badminton tournament with 58 badminton players from 11 countries, we found that most athletes had participated in an average of 6.5 different sports. With an average of about 8 years of International tournament experience, these athletes have done multiple physical activities to get to their highest level of competition in their respective countries. At least 6 Olympians and 15 Pan American Games medalists were surveyed, with many other players currently in pursuit of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

-          Limitations in the survey were language barriers and the need for translation. When asked the number of sports or miscellaneous physical activities participated, including dance and martial arts, the cap was at 10 sports (i.e. 10+) and some may not have included ‘badminton’ as a sport because “other” sports were specified. Additionally, the specification whether a sport or physical activity counted was whether the athlete had a solid understanding of the game, including rules. However, inter-rater variability was low, as a single interviewer did all surveys.

-          The main conclusion from the survey is that there is likely evidence that correlates those in high performance sport (badminton, to be specific) with the participation of multiple sports and physical activities in their childhood, indicating a high level of physical literacy. Additionally, of all the athletes surveyed, we did not find any athlete that only specialized in badminton.

-          Raw data:
-          Countries (number of players): Canada (14), Brazil (9), Peru (10), Jamaica (2), USA (8), Mexico (3), Dominican Republic (2), Guatemala (5), Trinidad & Tobago (3), Cuba (1), South Korea (1)
-          Males = 34; Females 24
-          Range of International Experience: 2-20 years
-          Range of Multiple Physical Activities: 2-10+
-          Mean Years of International Experience = 8.19
-          Mean Years of Multiple Physical Activities = 6.59 (where 10+ = 10)
-          Miscellaneous: Players volunteered their information and the information was gathered by the same person. Players were also told that their information would only be used for a “school project”. Each survey took about 2-3 minutes to complete.

-          Original Survey Questions:
-          Observational Data: Country represented; Gender (based on tournament entry & events entered)
-          1) How do you identify yourself ethnically/culturally/etc.?
-          2) How many years of international badminton competition experience do you have (including junior years)?
-          3) How many different sports or physical activities (including dance, martial arts, etc.) have you done previously?
-          4) Which physical activity or sport would you be doing if not for badminton?
-          Top 3 Answers: Tennis (14); Soccer (10); Volleyball (9)
-          5) (Interculturalism Question) What is your favourite country traveled to for badminton and why (not related to badminton tournament experience)?
-          27 different countries were mentioned
-          Top reasons: Culture, Lifestyle, & Atmosphere

(Source: phecanada.ca)
10) I want to keep playing… I want a shot at Rio.

Well, the Rio 2016 Olympics would be the final goal. The obvious progression would be to win a gold medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and if the qualifying period is going well, then I would continue on until the 2016 Olympics. I don’t want to kill myself and go broke trying to qualify, because I want to qualify on my own terms. If I really am the best in my event, I should be able to qualify without having to break my bank account, compared to those who might be able to afford traveling constantly for the year. I don’t want to enforce the stereotype; it’s not worth it if that’s the case. I don’t want to “pay my way” to qualify for the Olympics, unless it is going toward my training. Here is a recap of what it takes to qualify for badminton.

The soonest I can start preparing is January. However, I may opt to take a couple more courses and continue volunteering as a Kinesiologist. It will keep me busy, and keep me on track. I want to go into rehabilitation sciences, so I might as well continue to learn a bit… in the end, I would love to be an expert in rehabilitation in athletes (primarily), in strength and conditioning (S&C), and in coaching both badminton and S&C. It seems like an awful lot, but I’m hoping these 10 000 hours can overlap. I’m probably close to my 10 000 hours of badminton, so adding necessary coaching cues, strategies, sport psychology, and programming should not be another 10 000 hours. These can transfer into S&C coaching as well, where I learn better technique and different programming strategies for different athletes. Keeping myself and my teammates healthy is key, so rehabilitation and “pre-hab” (preventative rehabilitation) can be worked into programs, which will add to rehabilitation hours. This can double up into corrective and mobility exercises for S&C as well, so I’m “double-dipping” everywhere. At least I have a plan. Nutrition-wise, I will see what becomes of it. As mentioned previously, nutrition is a very broad scope in itself, and sometimes it will come into play. However, I cannot link into my programming as much as the others, but I will keep an open mind. I will also leave an open mind for psychology (i.e. decision making, motivation, etc).

With all that said, I’m hoping that everything I do from above can lead to improvements in my game, directly and indirectly. This time around, I don’t really have a solid coach, and I don’t really have a solid program… yet. Some athletes might not like this, but I kind of welcome it, because I will be responsible for my progress, and I cannot blame anyone else if things don’t work out. However, I really need to plan things out and securing funding will be a very necessary step. Kevin Jagger, the “Long TrackLong Shot” of speedskating, has the concept of ‘funding as fuel’, meaning that no matter how far you go, it is based on how much money you have. Once that supply runs out, your progress pretty much stops, so funding is like the fuel that gets you where you need to go. I am not as fortunate as some other players, as my brother is also making an attempt for Rio 2016. Our family helps where they can, but funds are usually divided in half (if any), and we pretty much need to make our own funding, in addition to paying our own living expenses. Very likely I will have to find ways to fundraise and acquire sponsorship, but I will look at different options in raising money as either a team with my partner, or even with my brother, as a family kinda thing. I’m hoping with my new found abilities and networks, I might have a chance to have enough “fuel” until 2016.

Everything is still just an idea in my head at the moment, so be sure to stay up to date for details. If I’m going to choose this path, I’m going to go all in!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts

Okay, before we start out, I'm hoping to blog a bit more to get my thoughts down 'on paper'. It's good to practice writing, and it's also nice to reflect upon how I used to think. Everything I say, I more or less believe to be true, unless I say so. However, the information I present may not actually be true, may be true only at this given moment, and is always subject to change. I can be wrong as much as I can be right, but my goal is just to stimulate minds to create something new or to improve on something that already exists. I will try to use media where I can, but it's not guaranteed. And no, I don't want to be a writer. I only intend to write for an hour, so the blog may stop abruptly for no reason :)

(Source sodahead.com)

The topic at hand is “book smarts vs. street smarts”, and which one is better. Before we go anywhere, I'd like to tell you where I personally come from and hence, my bias. I'm actually leaning toward school. I like school, but I have done good and bad in school. Back in elementary and high school, I was always a decent student. I followed the rules and stuck to the programs, and I came out quite normal ordinary. However, I have also had a taste of sport, which I can argue fits into ‘street smarts’, as there are many experiences I have gained in sport that I would not be able to learn in school. So…darn it… maybe I’m BOTH.

Being nerdy is such a terrible stereotype, and due to popular shows such as “The Big Bang Theory”, I think it continues that trend. I don’t really consider myself a nerd, but there are some things that can easily swing me into that category: I very rarely read fiction; I read research papers; I enjoy science; I am still in school after 10 years (*not proud, but… kind of proud :P); I enjoy video games, comics, anime; I will go on debates with Mormon’s on the street; I overcoach all my students… and the list goes on. I like detail, I like learning… it’s exhilarating to learn something new that you can apply to your practice (although it’s another thing to learn something you’ve done wasn’t true). Regardless, yes… maybe I’m a nerd.

However, I do a lot of things outside school. Even things I read may not be related to school at all. School doesn’t teach you everything; school CAN’T teach you everything. But, you can learn from anywhere, and there is no better (and usually crueller) way to learn by experience. Experience makes a big difference, and I would highly credit my badminton ability in Canada based on experience alone. Hard work, proper technique, high intensity training, and strength & conditioning help as well, but that is more accessible to all players, should they be looking for it. There are many things I have learned through experience that I would have never dreamed of, so there should be much credit to experience as well.

Street smarts? Well, I don’t really like that term so much. I think it’s more based on attention, and our attention is limited. Consider the person texting on her phone while walking on the street. Where does the attention go? Even listening to music with headphones will reduce your attention because your mind is half listening to music. Even if you have a really good idea and start brainstorming, that would probably stop you in your tracks. According to Daniel Kahneman (author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow”), that engagement of System II (um… making that effort to think) may stop you from walking, or at least slow you down. Next time you’re walking somewhere, try calculating 28 x 56 in your head.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, because you will make a mistake. Hopefully it doesn’t do too much damage, but there is always that possibility of being wrong. I personally feel I am wrong more than I am right, regardless how you see me as an athlete or a person. I have made poor choices, sometimes because of a lack of foresight; sometimes because of misunderstandings; sometimes because of bad luck. I refer to luck as simply the turn of the events happening, and reflecting on them in hindsight. For example, if roll a die and guess the right number, I would say that I’m lucky, because I would be correct 1/6th of the time. Basically, with luck, I don’t expect things to be repeated for similar results. Regardless, the experience itself can be a learning one, and it hits you in the face much more if you are wrong. It’s also possible to be wrong due to luck, so a proper reflection can help you determine whether you want to make the same choice again later on. It’s funny how a bad experience can turn us away for a very long time.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, “Toby, what are you rambling about in your blog today?!” Well, I’m hoping to address the stereotype of “book smart vs. street smart” in that I personally believe that you should be BOTH. And here’s why:
  • Experience is key, but if you don’t have a good foundation of knowledge, then you have no way to move around from your experience. Experience is based on perspectives and one person’s perspective can be different from another’s, even if it is on the same thing. By seeking outside input or evidence (e.g. research), one can grasp a better perspective on how things really are. However, this can still be skewed or incorrect. For example, a certain diet may work for you (eg. Paleo, Atkins, IF, etc.), but someone else may have found a benefit from eating the EWCFG (Canada Food Guide). Before you go criticizing each other, it may be best to consult other perspectives first, but that’s still not guaranteed to help all the time. Sometimes it is what it is: “If it’s right for you, AWESOME! But don’t expect it to be the same for everyone else.”
  • School is tough, because there are many things that are not taught in school. For example, how to study. I’ve actually studied how to study, as nerdy as it sounds, but I’ve basically tried many different methods, including Method of Loci, which involves some crazy memorization tricks (I actually used it and could memorize a deck of cards, although that won’t make me very much money unfortunately). However, when I ask other people how they study, sometimes they give me ideas, sometimes they give me ideas that I probably won’t even bother to try. I do not like studying in groups, but I know people who thrive in that environment. I found that I learn more asking questions and getting answers to them, but that may not be the same for everyone. Although this is not always true, I found that there are many times where it’s best to learn the perspective of your TA’s and professors, and regurgitate their thoughts back to them (despite what they tell me in wanting my perspective). I have learned from Daniel Kahneman’s book (haha, another shameless plug) about the “Halo Effect”, where answering your first essay question well may influence the marker to give you the benefit of the doubt later on. Not for everything, but it’s worth a shot if you need it.
  • Experience is riddled with “Survivorship Bias. Basically, it is trying to learn from successful people. However, it wouldn’t make sense because if everyone started learning the things that successful people do, then that would average out the level of success, and in the end, we would be where we started, although at a higher relative standard. If that didn’t make sense, I will use my example of training in Calgary for badminton. I was able to play the Alberta Series tournaments and attain prize money which helped fund the way for a lot of my training and traveling. However, if other players wanted to do the same and made the competition harder, there would be less to go around for all of us. Perhaps I was only able to make it as far as I could because I was the only one in the system. Another way to put it is that if we fully funded a couple of players/teams in Badminton Canada, instead of the entire National Team, the results may be better. I could publish a book on how to make the Olympics for Badminton in Canada, but it’s just a personal story; just a simple anecdote; just a simple experiment with sample size n=1. If 2 people tried to copy it, it wouldn’t be sustainable for both of them. I suppose there was a lot of luck involved. Another example is about making money off the stock market. Sure, there are winners, but there are a lot more losers: where are there stories? In an episode of “Hustling America”, a UK television show starring Alexis Conran, he mentioned Las Vegas, in which the city in all its glory was built from the many people who lost their money. But before we end, we can make a counterpoint for experience, where learning from someone else’s bad experience may be a worthwhile thing to do.
  • Another problem with school is that it can be so broad. In elementary school, I had to learn French, Religion, and Music. I also did PE (which I thoroughly enjoyed). In Grade 4 I learned about classical music, latin-root words, and Greek mythology. Do you know why the “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader” TV show is so difficult? It’s because they just memorize facts… mundane, useless facts with such a broad range than doesn’t really relate to anything else. That’s where it gets difficult. Regardless, school needs to cater to a large population, so it has to be broad. As we get older, we get more specific: for example, in undergrad we can choose our faculty, and then we can choose to specialize even further in graduate studies. I like to think of it as a pyramid, where you are building your base first, and slowly narrowing that focus as you go higher. As you can see, a solid foundation will help you climbing up. If you are purely experience based, you would have a narrow base and you would be stacking it up on itself, kind of like stacking pop cans on each other. Some people may be successful, but for most, they can collapse and they would have to start again. Consider an entrepreneur with no degree. However, with that said, if you keep your base too broad, you won’t ever get very high.

(Source: sodahead.com)

Well, that actually marks about an hour, so I will proofread things a bit and I guess we’ll call it a day. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog and I will do my best to continue blogging a bit more in the future. Comments are always welcome, except for spam (I get a lot of that actually), and I welcome other thoughts on the matter. Maybe I can learn something :)

Until next time!

Monday, October 7, 2013


Sorry for the long hiatus. I've actually tried to blog every now and then, but I would give up because I couldn't get things up to a certain standard. Now that I finally have the time to continue, I found that the previous blog was too old and I would have to redo the whole thing, as I am doing now.

Things change, inevitably or not. I'm now out of my grandmother's house where I have been for probably a good 10 years, and my brother and dad had to move out as well. It was a bit sudden, but it was done. Looking back... it still sucks, but there's nothing to do but to accept things and move on. Fortunately, my coach had a room available for my brother and I, so we are both renting rooms from him. Much thanks to him and his wife for helping us out!

Time to say goodbye...
I have pretty much immersed myself in school and training for the past month, with an additional Strength & Conditioning exam I was studying for along with my 3 classes at UBC. I have 2 Nutrition courses and an interculturalism Kinesiology course, so they have been keeping me quite busy in addition to training badminton and strength training. I have taken a new interest in strength and conditioning, and I would like to say it's my newer obsession at the moment. With that said, I have given up all my Men's Singles aspirations, but I don't think that was ever going to get anywhere anyway :P Regardless, it's been pretty busy for the past while, as I didn't even have time to update this blog!

Visiting the UBC Badminton Club on Clubs Days @ UBC

Despite how things are going, I'm definitely ramping up things for the Pan Am Championships to come up in a few weeks, and I had the chance to play a couple of tournaments so far, including a local Provincial circuit tournament and a National circuit tournament in Quebec. The body is still feeling pretty solid, but with some new found knowledge in Strength & Conditioning, I have a long way to go to increase mobility in certain joints, but it will definitely be for the best. I'd like to keep this post short while I slowly get things back together, and I hope to update again soon! Thanks for visiting my blog and I appreciate all the continued support!

McDonald's coupons... what can I say? I'm cheap.
Men's Singles at the KHAS BC circuit tournament
I get fed birds at ClearOne, so now I'm feeding the ClearOne bird...
Nearby intersection of where I stayed in Montreal for the Quebec Elite Series
Practicing Interculturalism in Montreal
Impressive badminton collection at a store in Montreal
CMCC Orientation with Dr. Stuart Love speaking on management of sport injuries

Until next time!

Monday, July 29, 2013

June & July 2013

It's been a while since I blogged, but I will try to highlight what has happened since the end of May, as I have competed in the the Ottawa International, US Open, and Canada Open, in addition to finishing my summer courses at UBC and recently finishing my NCCP modules. It's been pretty hectic somewhat, but it's been quite a productive 2 months, and I've also just finished coaching a badminton camp in Prince George, a smaller town in the northern part of the province for a week. Things have been productive, albeit tiring, but no matter what happens, life continues, and I suppose it is a conscious decision whether we want to participate or not. We always have a choice to be defeated or to carry on.

Sitting with Coach Darryl Yung at the Canada Open
(Source: jyeung via BadmintonCentral.com)

Ottawa International came as a relief, as I had to write both of my summer courses' finals early to play in the tournament. I also took a red eye flight to get there, so that took a toll on my energy levels as well. However, it was nice to get to meet and eventually play against Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork of England, formerly a top English mixed pair, with Nathan getting an Olympic silver medal in 2004 and winning the 2006 World Championships.

2013 Ottawa International at Carelton University
(Source: Me)
The tournament itself ran pretty smooth and I was able to stay at the Carleton University dorms. It was my first tournament playing with Alex Bruce and although there were some kinks to work through, I think we did pretty well overall and made it to the final before losing to Nathan and Jenny. It really made a difference playing a stronger team, as there were things we may have gotten away with against weaker teams. Defensively, we were a little weak as well. Overall, it was a good start to the partnership and a solid result.

(Source: Badminton Canada)
US Open was more of a vacation somewhat, as I did not find a mixed partner because Alex was competing at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Russia for the Canadian team. My girlfriend Carmen also came down, and one of my students, Jiwoo, also came down as well to watch the competition. Unfortunately, I didn't last too long in the tournament as I lost to a Chinese pair in the qualifying draw for MD, and to Arvind Bhat of India in the MS, all in the same day. Though it was disappointing to lose so quickly in the tournament, I felt my performance wasn't actually too bad. Nothing like drowning out your sorrows with T.G.I.Fridays happy hour, with half priced appetizers.

Carmen getting started on the appetizers!
(Source: Me)
The rest of the week was some light training, watching Despicable Me 2, visiting Newport Beach, and lots of eating and shopping with Carmen. Also, we went for dinner as it was Christin Tsai AND Kevin Li's birthdays, on free slurpee day ("7-11" i.e. July 11) so it was a pretty good week, at least to mentally relax a bit from badminton. As the tournament came to a close and we returned to Vancouver, we had to increase our preparations for the Canada Open.

(Source: Me)
Starting Sunday night before the Canada Open began, we had a massive group training with a lot of other Canadian players at ClearOneBadminton Center. It was really nice to have everyone training in a group together, and though it was pretty much a once a year thing, it almost felt like we were part of a national training program. The next couple days I practiced at the Richmond Oval with Alex and we were as ready as we could be to play, as we would be playing against a Chinese team who had reached the final of the US Open, just a few days earlier.

Nice to see Kim Dong Moon back in Canada for a visit,
even though he was working with different athletes!

When it came time for the match, I wasn't nervous, or at least I don't remember it to be that way. As the match progressed, I wanted to win, but not as badly as I wanted to before. I know it was a new partnership, so perhaps I didn't have such high expectations for us to earn results. I suppose my expectations grew as the length of my former partnership grew as well, and because of that, there was always that will to win, or at least that expectation that I should be doing better. However, I could finally escape that feeling and I simply... played. To my surprise, we did fairly well and even managed to escape a match point and took the 2nd set against China. Despite trailing quite a bit in the 3rd, we came back again and barely scraped by at the end, but we won. I really couldn't believe it... but maybe there was some luck involved. Regardless, we came out on top, and I will definitely cherish the win.

(Source: jyeung via BadmintonCentral.com)

(Source: jyeung via BadmintonCentral.com)
Unfortunately, the draw wasn't very favourable, and we had to play against Hong Kong, the team that WON the US Open in the quarterfinals. We came out fairly strong (although I found us quite lucky that first set) and almost managed to take the first set. Unfortunately, luck and everything else seemed to run out in the 2nd, and that's where we ended our run. Hong Kong ended up taking the title, although they had a pretty good match against Thailand in the semi-final. The tournament went pretty well overall, except that I had to do a drug test after my match against China, and the other 'incident' that happened in the final. Stuff happens, bystander effect, outcome biases, etc... I'm really tired of hearing about what happened, as I was there to see it unfold in person. As it really seemed like a major personal issue between the two players, I think I will leave it at that. It's not my business to learn or gossip or guess what they were fighting about. I'm just glad it is over and I hope things will move on peacefully. However, I really don't like it when people compare the incident to hockey or boxing, because it wasn't. It was a real fight: short and unglamourous. There are no rules. So unless hockey players attack each other with sticks or skates, or if boxing allows kicking people on the ground, then maybe it's similar. Otherwise, let's not make substitutions to un-similar things.

(Source: jyeung via BadmintonCentral.com)
After the tournament, I had another day to train with Alex and tried to work out some things for the next time. The session went pretty well, so it will be nice to see how things go the next time we play together. The Tuesday after the Canada Open, I was flown to Prince George, a small town in northern British Columbia, to coach a camp for the week. It was a pretty cool experience overall, although it was quite tiring, coaching 8 hours a day on Wednesday to Saturday, and another 6 hours on Sunday before flying home. I went up with Phyllis Chan, but Christin Tsai and Derrick Ng joined us for Thursday night and Friday, where we did an exhibition. We each played 3 matches, but it was pretty good fun and I think we did pretty well. Perhaps someone who recorded it might post up the final rally for the night, which involves multiple dives from Christin and Derrick, trying to save a match point! Special thanks goes to Lisa Davidson and her family (Kevin, Jarin, and Jon) for hosting us at their beautiful lakeside house, and even taking us out on their boat and giving us a chance to water ski, although only Phyllis made the attempt. It was a good learning experience for myself as well, and it was nice to see so many people watch us play the exhibition and come out for the camp!

(Source: Me)
Now, it’s time to prepare for a month of off-season training, as I will be planning out a running and strength training schedule. I’m also doing a CPR/AED course at St. John Ambulance later this week, and will be studying for a couple of National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) exams. As I will not be attending the World Championships this year, I hope you will follow Michelle Li (WS) and Derrick Ng/Adrian Liu (MD), as they will be the only ones representing Canada!

Thanks for visiting! Until next time!