Trying to be badass

One of 2016’s best lessons for me is that unexpected things can happen just like that!

Take, for example, one of my goals last year. I really wanted to get into self-defense. When 2016 started, I had an informative chat with a former coworker of mine who has a black belt; he recommended a few schools to check out. I did my research and asked around in online forums. I didn’t get far, unfortunately. I think I sent an e-mail to one of the schools nearby and, when I didn’t get a reply, didn’t feel compelled to follow up.

Then, when I was overseas last December, my dad mentioned he knew someone who knew someone who gave self-defense classes. Did I want to go for a one-on-one session? Hell yeah!

So, one hot and humid afternoon, I found myself in a studio in Makati, facing Roland Isla of Isla Mandirigma Kali. What I liked about it was that it was focused on self-defense… he didn’t just teach me how to strike and kick; he taught me about how to scan the environment for threats and about the mindset I should have (fighting shouldn’t be the first resort; and the aim is to get as far away as quickly as possible, not a fighting showdown.)

We went through several scenarios and basic steps I could do to defend myself. I learned about some simple “routines” that would hopefully incapacitate my attacker enough to give me time to flee. It was tiring, but it was super fun! I felt stronger and (cheesy as it sounds) more empowered that I was in a better position to defend myself.

If I was still in the Philippines I’d definitely be attending his regular classes. However, I knew that I’d eventually forget what I’d learned and that I’d likely panic if placed in an actual situation without regular practice. So I decided that self-defense would be my “thing” for February and started looking around for similar schools in Sydney. I came across 360 Degree Self Defence which was, fortunately, a quick drive from where I live.

I had my first session yesterday and, like my other class, it was also super fun! It was just an hour, but one day later and I’m definitely feeling the effects. We practiced some sample scenarios and I got into some basic moves. There is definitely a lot to learn! I can tell that I need to improve my upper-body strength. I also need to build my muscle memory as I found myself panicking during one of the exercises.

Hopefully I won’t be placed in a situation where I actually have to use these skills, but I’m feeling a bit more confident now that I’m taking steps to learn how to defend myself!

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Dancing with m’self

My “try something new” goal for January was: DANCE!

I’m a creature of habit. I’ve been religiously attending classes at the Sydney Dance Company for several years now. I’ve gravitated towards the same classes: lyrical. Jazz. Contemporary. Ballet. So, this year, I decided to do something new! I found a voucher for unlimited dance classes at a studio in one of my favourite suburbs, so I was in.

I know it doesn’t sound as “revolutionary” — so I’m going to another studio, big deal. But really… I realised that I was too much in my comfort zone at the SDC. I had been going to the same teachers (who I love, don’t get me wrong!) but I wanted to try something new.

So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying a whole heap of classes and it has been super fun! Not only has it jump-started my fitness after the holiday season, there are a few classes which are sooo different compared to what I’m used to which I’ve realised I really like, that I’m thinking of continuing after my voucher runs out:

Contemporary improv
I’ve always been taking classes where we’d be following choreography… but I’ve always wanted to be able to dance to music, just “feeling” the music and moving my body the way I wanted to. This was really good at helping me become more comfortable with myself. (Note: this is not my teacher, this is the founder of the style of contemporary improv we do, talking about it.)

African dance
Pardon the grainy video quality! I nicked this video from the dance teacher’s Youtube and it’s a couple of years old. It’s really tiring, as you can see — a lot of jumping and big movements. I like it because it’s sooo different from what I’ve done before! And I love the drum beats.

Also, I’ve been attempting more difficult classes. I really, really want to get a lot better at dancing this year, and I realised that I had to push myself and challenge myself a lot more. I can tell that I’ve improved from doing my ‘regular’ classes, but I can improve so much faster if I just push myself more. So push myself I will!

I’m also trying to write more this month… it’s already mid-February, whaddayaknow?

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Delayed launch

Soooo my “let’s goooo 2017!!” vibes were a tad delayed.

Soon after I had my decluttering/rest weekend a few weeks ago, I got sick. I used to proudly proclaim that I never get sick. But I’ve gotten ill three times in the last four months, so I don’t think I can really say that anymore…

My doctor said I probably picked up a viral infection, with my immune system being down after the busy-ness of the holiday season. He told me to get plenty of rest, so I took a few days off work, and did nothing last weekend. I got a mad case of cabin fever, feeling antsy at being forced to stay indoors.

Times like these, I have to remind myself that “resting” time is not wasted time. I once complained to someone that I hated times when nothing interesting was going on. He said, “Sometimes, when nothing is happening — that’s a good thing. When you are sleeping, and you get an extra hour of sleep, do you consider that wasted time?”

Still, I can’t deny that I’ve been restless. I’d canceled a few things and I’ve been slowly getting back into my social life. I’ve been easing myself into exercise too, and I can’t wait to fully get back into it. One of the good things, though, about getting sick was that I got rid of my holiday weight! Granted, it wasn’t that much — just a little over a kilo — but staying home and being able to get back into preparing healthy meals gave me a boost.

Did I mention? Getting super fit is also one of my goals this year. Haha. I say that every year. I’m relatively quite fit, but I just want to take it up a notch this year. (Interesting, late last year I had two male friends comment — quite surprised-ly — that I was fitter than them. I guess it’s not obvious? Haha.)

OK, now I’m really ready for you, 2017.

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How to get dressed

I’m stealing the title of this post from one of the first books I read this year, “How to Get Dressed” by Alison Freer. I figured it was a good place to start!

Without turning this post into a book review, here are a few key things that struck me while reading it:

1. Clothes aren’t meant to fit amazingly off the rack.
I mean, obviously there are a few things I’ve always watched out for. I’d make sure I could actually fit into the garment, that it wasn’t too tight or too loose in places and it wasn’t too revealing. But my body type is different from everyone else’s. Expecting a mass-produced garment based on a generic pattern to fit me perfectly right away is unrealistic.

In the past, people always made their own clothes, went to a tailor who took their measurements, or took store-bought clothes and altered it to fit them. I immediately picked up on a few things with my current wardrobe. If the sleeves in this dress were a bit shorter, or if that blouse, was cinched a little bit more, then my clothes would look a ton better on me.

There are two ways of going around doing this: being more selective with the things that I buy, or altering the clothes that I do have. With the former, I’m not looking to buy any new clothes soon, but at least now I have a better understanding of the things to watch out for.

With the second point… I think I may resort to short term fixes like fabric tape, or, leading me to one of my goals this year: learn how to sew.

My grandmother was an amazing seamstress. One of my fondest memories was of her making a dress for my Barbie dolls. I regret to say that I didn’t appreciate it as well as I should have — I thought the dress was old-fashioned and I preferred the tacky, tarty outfits adorning my Barbie. It’s only now that I realise the skill that went into creating such a tiny dress.

I’m not looking to making my own clothes (at least not yet) but at least to make alterations to my current ones!

2. Clothes should be well-cared for.
This has been a trial and error for me. Perhaps the only training I had in garment care was when I went to student housing and I was told: “Here’s a tip. If you wash everything in cold water, nothing runs. And if you fold stuff right away out of the dryer, you don’t have to iron it.” So I spent the first few years washing everything in cold and going around slightly rumpled.

Since then, I’ve learned a few tricks, through trial and error:

  • Washing everything in cold just gives germs a bath.
  • Sometimes clothes still do run.
  • Don’t use the dryer for everything. It shrinks stuff. And wears at the fabrics too.
  • If putting clothes in the balcony, do it inside out, in the shade, otherwise colours fade (hey it rhymes!)
  • Laundering items is not enough.

If I wanted to look more polished and put together, looking rumpled is not enough. So last weekend, I took out some of my clothes and used my garment steamer on them to iron out the wrinkles. They look a lot nicer now!

It’s not just with clothes — I also took out my shoes and bags and cleaned them. Wiped them with a damp cloth to remove dirt, then conditioned my leather goods. Now my shoes and bags look a lot better, and I actually feel excited to use them again!

I guess when I had mostly cheap stuff, I didn’t have to worry too much about caring for my items. But now that I want to focus on getting quality things and using them forever, I have to be more aware of how I take care of my things.

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Customary 2017 post

This is the customary post where I feign surprise at how I can’t believe it’s 2017 already. But yeah, whaddyaknow, it is 2017 already! And already halfway through January, to boot!

Since my flight in early December where I had time to sit and think for 8 hours, I haven’t had as much time for myself. (Flight back was a red-eye, so no time for contemplation then.) The past few weeks were a blur. This is the first weekend where I finally have my place to myself again… I begged off invitations so I could spend Saturday and Sunday recharging. I like recharging.

Last year’s theme was Simplifying. I think I was pretty successful at it! I have much less stuff and more things that I actually love now… but most of all, I’ve had a change in mindset. Beyond physical items, I have less unnecessary time-wasters in my activities and relationships.

Leading on from that, this year’s theme is Lifestyle Design.
(OK, that sounds really anticlimactic.)

Last April, I wrote a post about how minimalism is not the end goal. ‘Tis true — now that I’ve sufficiently decluttered different areas of my life, my question is, what do I do to fill the now-available space? How do I better design my life so that it’s one I’m really happy to be living?

That’s what I want to explore this year. Some high-level resolutions:
1. Continue strengthening the habits I built last year on meditation, reflection, reading, exercise, healthy eating, and sleep.

2. Try something new each month.

3. Get a better sense of my personal style.
I’m focusing on the fashion aspect of style first because this is probably the area of my life that I’ve most ignored, haha! I’ve always just slapped on an outfit quickly… I really want to look more polished and put-together this year, and figure out what my “look” is.

I’ve successfully whittled down my wardrobe to clothes I enjoy wearing, and I’ve purchased a few new items I love. My goal is to use the pieces that I do have and put them together well.

So, here I go!

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