Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 7, Issue 09, Tuesday, February 28, 2012




Fight to get in better shape

By Karim Waheed

Before you protest, understand what I mean by “fighting.” I'm not referring to the war and violence we see on the news. I'm talking about something decidedly different.

Boxing, MMA, martial arts, wrestling, and just roughhousing with some buddies are all examples of two people consensually engaging in interpersonal violence.

Going up against another person in single, consensual combat where personal enmity is not the motivating factor? I can't imagine a greater test of one's strength, speed, skill, and smarts.

Every culture has a fighting tradition, from boxing, wrestling, and pankration (a freeform mix of boxing and wrestling, similar to MMA) of the ancient Hellenic world to the well-known East Asian martial arts (judo, jujitsu, karate, kung fu, tai chi, etc.) to the folk grappling/wrestling traditions that every culture across every continent seems to have.

As far as I know, the only indigenous Bangladeshi martial art form is 'Latthi Khela' (a combative sport using bamboo sticks).

Most traditional Eastern martial arts are linked to various schools of religious thought, but when you get down to it, a martial art remains a codified system of combat -- a fighting system primarily developed to improve self-defence and physical conditioning.

While a few studies suggest that martial arts training increases aggression, a recent review of the literature found that the majority of studies show martial arts to have a favourable effect on aggression across all age groups. Of course, this all presupposes that “aggression” is always a negative trait that results in actual violence. If that aggression is used or redirected productively -- when training or fighting -- it may not even result in destructive or “extracurricular” violence.

In fact, I've yet to see any evidence that martial arts training increases violence outside of the ring. There's some evidence that training in martial arts or other fighting systems reduces violence, however, and it appears to have a generally positive effect on mood.

Overall, there's a strong case to be made that humans derive a lot of benefits from fighting in a structured system against peers, not out of anger, but with mutual respect.

Indeed, it appears to reduce or redirect aggression, relieve stress, build self-confidence, and improve mood (and who couldn't use a little less stress, a little more confidence, and a better mood?). Attending martial arts classes are probably ideal, as they provide the structure and guidance that a beginner needs, and they offer the chance to “fight” people who are there with a similar mindset and purpose. Another option is to roughhouse with a friend, but I'm not sure unstructured, untrained freeform fighting offers the same benefits as a structured fighting system, or if it's even safe. If that's your only option, exercise caution, don't ruin any friendships, or consider a heavy bag instead.

Q. I'm 16 years and 8 months old. My height is 5 ft 8 inches but I only weigh 50 kg. I think I'm underweight. I want to gain weight fast (within 3-4 months). I also want a cool body. How can I do that? What should be my diet? Will exercise hamper my growth? If no, what kind of exercise should I do? -- Zawad

According to height to weight ratio charts, the ideal weight for a 5 ft 8 inches tall male is 69.85 kg. So yes, you're certainly underweight. About you wanting a “cool” body: You're going to need to work out so that you put the weight on in the form of muscle as opposed to the form of fat. But be patient.

Healthy weight gain, just like healthy weight loss, takes time and requires a conscious effort to apply good habits. Have meals with the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and the right kinds of fat (such as unsaturated and monounsaturated fats). Eat foods higher in calories, vitamins, and minerals, as opposed to higher in fat or sugar. You can do all the exercises discussed in this column. Running, push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups and squats are good exercises to start off with.

Send your queries to lifestyleds@yahoo.com


The bigger they are, the faster they rise

We men have always apparently fallen victims to our own ego. Women's last line of defence, for decades, has remained, “Ah men and their egos.” Sure, blame it on the ego because everyone knows men have way too much of it. Which begs the question of whether ego is a bad thing or not. The normal answer is 'ego is a bad thing' but dig a little deeper and you'd be surprised. History is littered with men who talked a big game and rose to the ranks based on their confidence which blossomed from huge egos.

The ego for men is an inherent tendency passed down from ages, embedding itself in our genes. For centuries men have been hunters and awesome people in general. In order to remain at the pinnacle of their success, men needed to command respect in every sphere of life.

Now, respect is hard to come by. Unless, of course, you are ready to explode at the slightest sign of dissent. Thus, there was the need to develop and nurture the ego. The question of the ego is the same question that we ask of men who are to become leaders; is it better to be loved or hated? Niccolo Machiavelli, in his book 'The Prince', addressed this question in great depth. In the end, he did conclude that a combination of all things is necessary but when the circumstances are dire, it is always best to be hated than loved.

A person without an ego would present no threat to anyone. He would not only be trampled down and stamped on by society but he will always be overlooked because a lack of an ego makes you the nice guy who makes way for the world whilst he stands waiting behind the line, all the time.

And the entire world knows that nice guys always finish last. They also know that nice guys obviously don't have egos. An ego is the perfect excuse to impose yourself and it is the key to becoming a good leader.

An article on Harvard Business Review, 'Why Fair Bosses Fail', illustrated the very point that although nice bosses command respect, they are not seen as being powerful and good organisers. To be perceived as a man of power, the element of nicety needs to be partially obscured. Respect and Power do not go hand in hand and to be a success and get the job done, people opt for the latter. But ask yourself this; what's Power without ego? It just is nothing but a façade and facades are easy to see through.

An article on The Economist (Smartly Does It, May 15th, 2008) however suggests that great leaders aren't made of 'hard power' i.e. coercion and force but perhaps they lean more towards 'soft power', which means reliance on persuasion and influence.

History tends to prove this wrong. The greatest of all men have always had a huge ego to go with their legacy. Napoleon, Hitler, Muhammad Ali, Shahrukh Khan or even Kanye West have all made a lasting impact in the pages of history based on their egos. The conclusion to their journey is irrelevant given the influence they had on the course of history.

In the end, a great man is a great leader. And a great leader knows that it's safe to be hated than loved. In order to fuel that kind of hate nothing but a big ego works. This isn't a matter of too much of a good thing but rather a matter of too much being a good thing.

By Osama Rahman


Hobbies: Invigorating life

There once used to be a time when, in elementary school, on the very first day of class, each year, the teacher would ask each and every one of us to give a small introduction of ourselves, which would predictably always include hobbies. For some, over the years, the answer would be the same while for others it would change or would have a few more added.

Reading books used to ace the list most of the times since, being the little imps that we were, we always knew what would please the teacher. Collecting coins and stamps, drawing, sports such as football and cricket, playing chess, dancing and singing used to follow among a few others while some came up with last resort choices such as watching TV, sleeping and eating.

As the years passed and the pressures of studies kept increasing the time for keeping in touch with our hobbies steadily faded away and with the onset of work-life they became little more than memories.

Indeed, a nine-to-five job, which at times unofficially turns into a nine-to-nine job, or attending classes and slaving over assignments till late may suck the very life out of one, leaving little energy for much else. But as the saying goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and engaging in hobbies may be the ideal retreat for invigorating your mood and bringing variety in life.

However, true it may be that hanging out with friends and family can serve the same purpose, engaging in something that you can grow a passion for and something that you relate to brings a feeling of completeness along with lifting the mood.

If you are at a loss over choosing a hobby, first take some time and see what fascinates you and then pick a related hobby. Arefin Ahmed, a 26-year-old working at a reputed private bank, was always fascinated by a few of his acquaintances' amateur photography. He decided to try his hands at it.

He got himself a DSLR and started taking photographs. Although it took him a few weeks to get a grasp of his new interest, now he is quite good at it and whenever he is not working he has his camera with him waiting to capture fascinating moments of nature.

If photography seems to be what you want to take up as a hobby then click away.

Watching Nigella Lawson cooking on television never fails to turn the wheels of our salivary glands. And the way she makes cooking seem like a glamorous activity, considering she unfailingly manages to look that way in her kitchen, leads us to only wish that cooking were that easy! If you have the knack for it, cooking as a hobby can be an easy, fascinating, fun and tasty endeavour as well as a life-saver when you are faced with the prospect of having nobody else to cook for you. While a decade back trying new unconventional recipes meant spending money on big cookbooks and keeping them open on the kitchen counter, nowadays they are just clicks away on the internet, free and unlimited.

Rehnuma Islam, currently in her fourth year of university, has grown a mini garden in the balcony adjacent to her room. She always had a weakness towards flowers and two years back she started collecting potted flowers and plants and ultimately transformed the balcony into her own garden. Gardening requires a lot of attention and nurturing and should only be taken up as a hobby if you are very into it. Gardening has the added advantage of naturally beautifying your abode be it inside or out.

Active hobbies such as dancing and sports are ones that will keep you fit. Dance classes are no longer limited to classical dancing; lessons on various international dance forms are offered all over the city at places like Alliance Française and the Russian Cultural Centre.

Farmin Ahsan, while working at an architecture firm, resumed learning classical dancing which she had stopped midstream during her school years. “Amidst all the workload, going back to dance school and learning the art had indeed been a stress reliever,” says Farmin.

A quite unconventional hobby is solving Jigsaw puzzles. By Jigsaw puzzles I do not mean the 100 piece puzzle set that your younger sibling has. Some people enjoy completing the difficult 1000 or 2000 piece Jigsaw puzzle sets. These are not exactly cups of teas to complete, but once finished they give you a feeling of achievement. Jigsaw Puzzles can keep you busy for days at a stretch.

All of us love wearing pretty clothes, but for that we go to boutiques or to our tailors. Imagine if you could do it yourself and any way you liked. Knitting and embroidery is something that brings out your creative side. “I enjoying doing embroidery, in the process making nice dresses for myself and my daughters and decorative upholstery” says Kaniz Ara Hossain, a home-maker.

For those who are good at painting, they are inevitably absorbed in it at some time or the other. For others who are intrigued by it, learning painting and drawing can be a good pastime. Similarly, pottery is another craft that you may enjoy doing although it may get a little messy. Some may also engage in wood-work, making tiny things out of wood that can be used to decorate the house or gifted to people; however, a lot of practice is required for perfecting this skill. Candle-making is easy and can be learnt from the Internet and it also makes for good decorative pieces.

If life is getting too boring with its everyday mundane activities it is about time to bring variety in it, so go ahead and take your pick.

By Karishma Ameen


The money behind the hobby

Hobbies are defined as activities done during one's leisure for one's pleasure. It's all about whiling away time and having fun doing it. And as the adage goes, everybody needs a hobby.

A hobby keeps you occupied, out of trouble (mostly) and engaged. The pursuit of such an activity does not have to be for monetary gains of course but is usually for aesthetical purposes. However, finances do play a key factor in keeping up with your hobby. Hobbies aren't always easy on the pocket.

A gardener, Ms. Green Thumbs, would testify to that. Gardening may seem like a simple task; lapping the luxury of nature natured by your own hands. However, it is not as cost-effective as seems at first.

Bina Sen, an avid gardener, laments the increasing costs she has to bear when keeping up with her hobby. There's the fee for the gardener, the cost of soil, tools, weeding, fertiliser, etc. On an average, the costs can go up to 3000 taka and above. The garden would not always recoup the costs by generating a stream of revenue because we aren't all farmers or even cultivators.

Same applies for most forms of hobbies, although some may eventually pay dividends. Stamp collection is one such hobby that does have its pay days. However, before coming across that rare stamp that suddenly has a high value attached to it, one needs to go through years of spending on stamps. Then, there's the cost of preservation, of course.

Therefore, considering the monetary commitment involved its best to budget. At the end of the day, hobbies are for fun. So, there needs to be a prioritising involved.

Whatever one spends on a hobby should not put them in a bad position financially. You need to ask yourself if you are at a sound position financially and hence expenditure on this venture should be kept at a minimum.

Secondly, hobbies shouldn't become a reason for compromising your life goals, such as saving for your education or buying a new car (unless cars are your hobbies, of course). Finally, ensure some semblance of a saving instead of blowing it all away on your hobby.

The problem with hobbies remain that they seem inexpensive on the surface. A DVD collector may count the 1000 taka he spends on his DVDs a month, whilst forgetting the accumulated amount, the cost of the DVD player, the TV (if need arises) and of course the electricity bill. For an economist, he would add the interest lost or profit gained by investing the money on another venture, as an opportunity or economic cost.

As any collector would tell you, the cost of the hobby isn't just restricted to the item(s) purchased but also the cost of the upkeep.

Before latching onto a new hobby, stop and make a budget. If feasibility is the conclusion opt for an actually inexpensive hobby such as reading books online (Internet bills?), watching TV (Cable bills?) or even collecting bottle caps (Bottle bills?). But shrug the negativity and think of the memories your collection can preserve like the time you first saw that stamp that has now turned into a jackpot!

By Osama Rahman


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2012 The Daily Star