November 21, 2009 · Uncategorized · 6 comments

Right, so, the weight thing then. A few weeks ago my weight start creeping up and 2 weeks ago it hit 91 – 92 kg. Not the way it’s supposed to be going so I decided to arrest it. Certainly not for want of training. Since I started training at Leeds Cage at the end of October I’ve been down the gym almost every night, and 19 times altogether in the last 4 weeks. I’ve made a couple of small changes to what I eat: no extra cheese and no cakes at lunchtime (apart from one small one once a week). In 2 weeks I’ve lost 3 kg or half a stone, and I’m down to 87 – 88 kg which is the same as it was when I had my fight at the end of May. Probably shows how finely balanced my diet is these days that I can do it that easily.

Now I’m on something of a roll I’ve decided to go for the last bit of weight loss. Once I get down to 84 – 86 kg that will be it. When the gym scales say 84 kg I’ll have lost 49 kg: a massive amount and equivalent to 7 st 10 lbs or 36% of my starting weight. 86 kg is the top end of Thai cruiserweight and 84 kg is the top end of MMA middleweight. Fights are usually matched so both fighters are about the same weight and I don’t need to lose any more but I want to. I’ll be having words about fighting next year, hopefully both Thai boxing and MMA. Even at amateur or interclub level it’s still a fair achievement to get into the ring or the cage. My original final target was 80 kg but I hadn’t counted on just how much I’d muscle up. I can easily fit into size 34″ trousers now but they have to be quite loose fitting because all the cycling and grappling I do means I have powerful legs (including 26″ thighs). At one point I was down to tops with a 40″ chest but now I’m having to get 42″ ones.

The last 5 years have been a long and hard journey but it’s one that’s now nearly at an end. It’s been a massive lifestyle change going from eating enough to feed a family of 4 on a daily basis and not getting any exercise at all to having the diet and training schedule of a semipro fighter. The support of family and friends has meant a lot and unfortunately some of them are no longer with us. As long as things go to plan I should finally get to my final target by early December. Next challenge then will be to make sure I stay there.

A quick note about motivational techniques. I’m not religious (although lack of any belief in a deity certainly doesn’t mean I don’t have a personal moral code, and I’m interested in finding out about religion as long it doesn’t proselytise) and I’m not particularly keen on proprietary techniques such as NLP. If they work for other people then that’s fine: they’re just not for me. There’s no right or wrong answers when it comes to personal ideas or beliefs. There are a few things that obviously do for me. The most important is drive and self discipline. I live alone and work from home so it’s up to me to make sure I’m up in time for work. What I think happened in the past is that I didn’t apply the sense of drive to my personal life. Since I started all this in Jan 2007 I tried increasing it just a bit at a time. When I was stuck in hospital last year with a smashed up shoulder that was obviously a pretty major test but I resolved to do whatever was needed to be back where I was. my shoulder was screwed up but the rest of me was OK.

Another source of motivation has been music. I first discovered the Hatebreed album Perseverance in 2002 and along with some of their other albums it’s difficult not to be motivated by them. Finding out that they’re into MMA and having them personally wish me good luck on Twitter for the fight in October that didn’t eventually go ahead was certainly a bonus. I’ve found other hardcore metal bands such as Terror and Chimaira to be good as well, but Hatebreed was the start of it. Almost any of the songs on Perseverance are pretty good but I think the chorus of the title track sums up the last few years quite well:

Against all opposition
Crushing all limitations
Pure strength through solitude
Discipline and determination

November 15, 2009 · Uncategorized · Comments Off on

Looks like this photo has been shortlisted by to go in their next online guide to Leeds:

I thought I’d try taking photos and creative commonsing them just for a bit of fun and see what would happen, and if it does get used this would be my first ever published photo. They’re attribution-non commercial creative commons licenses so they’re not going to make any money, but it’s not for anything serious. Certainly makes you look at things in a different way if you’re trying to find things that would make good photos.

Changing the subject completely, 3 weeks ago I decided I was going to rebound from not fighting by getting into MMA and investigating Leeds Cage. 3 weeks on, 6 sessions there and it’s safe to say I’m definitely getting into it. I’m already doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on Mondays and Thai boxing on Wednesdays and Fridays so this is something to do on the other nights. I’m not planning on training every weekday because full contact martial arts are pretty intense and I need time to recover. That said, I have been training pretty much every night over the last few weeks, first week because it was my first time there, second week because there was no Thai boxing on the Friday, and last week because I had a very boring day on Thursday and needed to get out of the house. When the high point of your day is a bit of banter with Dara O’Briain on Twitter you know you’ve got to do something.

Tuesdays are MMA and Thursdays are submission grappling. Both are an interesting mix of stuff I know quite well from Thai boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and stuff I haven’t done before. Sub grappling is essentially the same as BJJ without the gis and with a few submissions that aren’t allowed there. MMA combines the striking bits of Thai boxing with the grappling of BJJ, and it changes the game a lot if someone can sit on you and hit you, or throw you to the ground when you’re trying to hit them. At sub grappling we’ve been doing a mixture of technique and sparring, and it’s good to know that I’m not a complete beginner there. MMA so far has been mainly padwork and technique: we haven’t done any sparring yet. I’ve done Thai interclubs and I’d like to do an MMA one at some point. There did seem a certain irony in going to my first ever MMA session and finding out the MMA gloves I’ve got were worn out (from bag work).

There’s the training itself and there’s the social side of it as well. It’s very easy to live in a city and find it to be overwhelming and anonymous. Leeds is a pretty big place and it took me a bit of time to find my feet. When the only people you know are at work and don’t actually live anywhere near you it’s easy to get in the trap of living to work and doing nothing other than going to the office, watching TV and sleeping. However, since my first redeployment in 2004 I’ve been working in virtual teams which are nowhere near me and tend to get dissolved when I move from project to project so I’ve had to work out a social network that’s not work based. There’s the online stuff of course: there’s people on my flist that I’ve met through uk.misc and elsewhere that have since become good friends in real life. However I think if you’re going to live somewhere you do need to get out and get to know people locally as well. What I like about my training is the sheer mix of people you get to meet. Leeds is a big uni town so you get a fair few students, but I’ve also got friends who are physiotherapists, research chemists, sales reps and people who do various things for the council. The nature of combat sports means you also get security guards, bouncers and a few police doing them, and probably a few people who you don’t ask too many questions about what they do outside the gym. Of course there are other ways to get into the life of a city that are less painful and physically demanding, but this works for me.

October 28, 2009 · Uncategorized · Comments Off on Protected:

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October 11, 2009 · Uncategorized · Comments Off on Autumn

Originally uploaded by mhoulden

Kirkstall Abbey and some rather autumnal looking fields, taken from the Leeds Liverpool canal towpath. Still training just as hard as ever, even though the fight I was supposed to have next Sunday fell through because I didn’t get matched. I’ll probably be fighting semi-pro Thai rules (5 x 1.5 mins with no pads) at the end of November instead.

September 27, 2009 · Uncategorized · Comments Off on Keeping Busy

Ages since the last really long update. I think I’ve just got out of the habit of sitting down and writing long posts. Conversely I do a lot of status updates on Facebook or even Twitter because it’s easier to write a single sentence or even just a fragment of one. Written English is not like spoken English and I refrain from using chavvy txtspk in the updates, even if there are limits on how long they can be. “Y” is the 25th letter of the alphabet, not an interrogative word. “Day” is a period of 24 hours, not the third person personal pronoun. Of course language changes and it’s possible to be too prescriptive about how it’s used. However, standard (written) English is a completely different dialect to the spoken sort and you don’t spell things in the way that you would like people to read them out. Similarly, txtspk was invented with the specific purpose of getting as much into the 160 character limitation of an SMS. Twitter is limited to 140 characters for sure, but you can always post another tweet or just use shorter words. I go for the principle of being strict about what you send and lenient about what you receive, so if someone else wants to use that type of language I don’t mind as long as I can understand it.

Anyway, life continues as normal. I’m still training 5 times a week, with the usual mixture of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Thai boxing and cycling. With it getting darker in the evenings I’m probably going to switch the midweek evening bike ride for a run. To get any kind of distance on the bike I need a reasonable proportion on of my route to be along the canal, but being unlit and somewhat isolated means I need to think about personal safety. Not everyone who goes along an urban canal towpath in the dark is there for entirely legit reasons, and also in the dark it can be harder to tell where the towpath isn’t. I got back into running last year as a way of keeping fit while bike and arm were out of action and gradually built up to doing a mile in about 9 – 10 minutes and 6 miles in less than an hour.

On the Thai boxing front, I should hear in the next day or so whether or not I’ll be fighting on the 18th of October. This will be in Harrogate and will be my first full contact fight, which means that I could win (or lose) by a knockout. It’s 3 weeks tomorrow so I do need to know so I’ve got enough time to prepare. I’ve been put forward to fight at 86 kg which is the top end of Thai boxing cruiserweight class so I also need to find out what my weight is and how much I’ll need to lose. Someone has nicked the scales from the gym so we’ll need to get them back.

These days I don’t have (or need) the relentless weight loss I had in the past. While I’m technically overweight, judging by the state of me in my profile pic there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. I have a 34″ waist, 42″ chest, 25″ thighs, and a resting blood pressure of 120/60 and resting pulse of 58. Not bad from where I was a few years ago. Friday will be my 31st birthday. Probably safe to say I’ve got a lot more ahead of me than I did 5 years ago.

I also seem to have got a new job at work. I was redeployed in May because of a short term budget shortage, got a project using Oracle and Linux to keep me occupied for a few months which is now coming to an end, and now I’ve got a new one which will involve C# and SQL Server development. This is a separate one from the one I mentioned on Facebook which is for a senior Windows developer working in a different bit of the company. It’s supposed to be based in Wolverhampton and is a higher grade than my current one. On that one I’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ve also been having a go at a bit of photography. Couple of shots here (On LJ) or the full set is on Flickr. I haven’t taken many so far but it’s a start.

August 16, 2009 · Uncategorized · 6 comments

There’s proposals to finally get a new entrance installed at Leeds station just by Granary Wharf. About time. I do have a bit of an interest in this, partly because Leeds is the station I use most of all. Horsforth station is just too far away from where I live to be practical: if I’m catching a bus to a station I may as well go to a big terminus rather than a small halt. Bramley or New Pudsey are actually slightly closer as the crow flies but a pain to get to. Also, the new entrance is just across the road from the big BT building that I sometimes use for meetings and it feels a bit daft having to go out the main entrance, down a flight of stairs and under the rail bridge when I could just walk through one of the upper windows if there was some kind of catwalk from platform 16. There’s a video of the proposed entrance here and it looks like this:

Something I think they’ll need to watch is maintenance of those escalators. There’s a similar kind of walkway at Bradford Interchange station and I don’t think the escalators there have worked since about the late 80s.

The area around the station does need a bit of sorting out and I think Leeds council have tied themselves up in knots a bit because of the one way system and public transport stuff. Boar Lane is often clogged up with taxis who seem to regard it as some kind of mother lode. Go and ply for trade somewhere else, please. It’s also a mess having buses going from Infirmary St, Boar Lane, outside the station and underneath it on Neville St. An idea by the Leeds Civic Trust suggests moving the bus station to the site of the Queen’s Hall car park on Sovereign St and having taxis pick up on the other side of the station outside Wetherspoons. Even if these proposals aren’t accepted I think they should have some kind of traffic order to tell the taxis to clear off if they can’t get into New Station St. There are plenty of other taxi ranks in the centre of town and it’s quite useful to know where they are after a night out to avoid queuing at 2 am.

Another proposal is a pair of stations on the Airedale Line at Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge. I think burkesworks could probably vouch better than I can about the Apperley Bridge one but I have to say I have doubts about the Kirkstall Forge one. The proposed site is currently something of a wasteland. Development has ceased (probably because of the credit crunch) and it’s a very long way to any kind of settlement, even a small house, and until development starts again it will be inaccessible. The first stop on the line is Shipley and I do think they need some stations a bit closer to Leeds, but I think there are better places. Kirkstall itself might be an idea because there are shops and houses there, and a decent park & ride scheme might reduce traffic on Kirkstall Road which can be horrendously busy. There’s been times when it’s taken more than an hour to get from the junction with Kirkstall Lane to Kirkstall fire station (abot 2 miles away). There are plans to widen Kirkstall Rd and put a bus lane in, but what I think they need to do is sort out the junctions. A lot of congestion into Leeds is caused by traffic wanting to get on the A58, and traffic out of Leeds is delayed by the turn off to Armley and the zillions of traffic lights by the Warner Village.

One issue with putting a new station in Kirkstall is where to put it. Headingley station is very close (albeit on a different line) but not very well signposted. There was a station in Kirkstall (roughly here) but it’s too full of narrow roads to be really practical to get to. One idea might be to have it here which is currently an area of wasteland with an access road to the massive Kirkstall substation, although it’s also the kind of area where there could be personal safety issues.

Other stuff to mention: I’m now the proud owner of a black iPod classic. I forgot how long it takes to transfer music and set up the playlist (I usually go for a really long one and have it on random) and I’ve been too busy to sort it out. Currently just completed artists beginning with A. I’ve also been trying to blog about something other than training because I know it can be a bit boring. As far as that goes, all that’s worth mentioning is that I’m still negotiating my next fight, I did a 3 hour BJJ seminar today, I’m down to 87 kg and I’m planning on getting down to 84 kg for my birthday. Now I need a hot bath.

July 16, 2009 · Uncategorized · Comments Off on One Year On

16th of July 2008 was the date of my epic cycling fail, when this happened:


I was cycling over to the gym on a Wednesday when it happened, so yesterday I decided to have another go. This time it was actually slightly less fuss than usual apart from having to avoid a few roadworks but I still felt a bit nervous, especially after someone else got injured close to the same spot on Tuesday (4th paragraph). I was pretty worn out after the gym so I cycled back fairly slowly.

After the accident I was off work for 10 weeks and off Thai boxing for 3 months, but since then I’ve lost another stone, got three stripes for BJJ and finally had my first Thai fight. In some ways it set me back 3 – 6 months, but the delay gave me a chance to work on other bits of strength and fitness. I’m pretty much fully recovered with full range of motion in my shoulder, although there’s a bit of roughness and moving my arm in some directions can be a bit stiff and painful. I think being active has helped with the recovery, and it was almost certainly wearing the right kit (gloves, tough jacket and helmet) and knowing how to take a fall (from various bits of martial arts training) that stopped me turning into a drooling vegetable with only one arm.

June 25, 2009 · Uncategorized · Comments Off on

So, life then. Sometimes there’s just too much going on to think about but it isn’t exciting enough to write about but hey, this is a blog. Anyway, as far as work goes, I was redeployed, then got a short term project to do. Without getting too technical, it involves taking a bunch of Excel spreadsheets and turning them into a proper database. There’s a lot of internal politics involved with the technology we can use. I wanted to use ASP.Net and MS SQL Server because I know it pretty well but in the end we had to use Oracle and Apex. I’ve done Oracle in the past but not Apex (which is essentially a particularly database-heavy content management system).

In one of those cases of serendipity, one of the senior managers involved with this was my line manager on a project I did a few years. In among all the politics it looks like I’ve been deredeployed (if that’s a word) and been offered a new permanent job. I’ll be making a couple of phone calls to sort out the details, but it sounds like it’ll be some kind of technical design role doing the same kind of thing that I’m doing for this project but on a more structured basis. Work’s internal processes are designed for big “strategic” projects but there’s a need for smaller “tactical” systems. As well as the techy stuff I think they might also need a fast track approvals process so it’s actually allowed to go ahead. Our processes might look good in management textbooks but they do have a few areas that could be improved and hopefully the new job will allow me to influence some of them.

Still on with the training as well. Training up for my fight made a big difference to my fitness. I was pretty fit anyway but even more so now. It does mean I’ve got to work even harder to make any progress. My Thai boxing sparring has sharpened up a fair bit but concentrating on that means I’ve got a bit out of practice with the BJJ. I should be getting a DVD of my fight through in the next couple of days (possibly even tomorrow) which will be going Youtube once I get round to ripping it. As far as the weight goes, I’ve decided my final target will be 83-84 kg. As long as it’s 86 kg or less for my next fight (whenever that might be) I’ll be happy. Now I am this fit I want to make sure I stay that way for as long as possible.

May 29, 2009 · Uncategorized · 2 comments

With 2 days to go until my fight I finally got confirmation that I’ve been matched and that it’s going ahead. Over the last few weeks I’ve been working hard to make weight for it through the traditional way of eating carefully and getting plenty of exercise, and I think I’ve had enough pasta and lean chicken to keep me going a very long time. Over the last 3 weeks I’ve lost 3 kg or half a stone, which isn’t bad progress when the dietician told me I haven’t got much more to lose. My session at the gym yesterday was my last before the fight: I’ve been told not to train tomorrow but I might go out for a gentle run instead.

As far as the weight goes, I’m fighting at 88 kg which is what I’ve been trying to get down to for a while. On Wednesday I got there: 88.8 kg at the beginning of the night. The weight class I’m fighting at (cruiserweight) tops out at 88.6 kg so I’ll be at the top end of it but as long as I don’t have that second cup of coffee for breakfast I should have no problems with the weigh in. The weight I’ve been using over the last 2.5 years for these updates is my dehydrated weight at the end of the session, and yesterday this was 86.4 kg. From my peak of 133 kg that’s a total loss of 47 kg. In old money I’ve dropped from 21 stone to 13 stone 7 and lost a massive 7 and a half stone or 105 lbs. I think there’s scope to lose a bit more weight, but I think my original target of 80 kg for milestone 7 might be a bit too much. I’ve always had a stocky build but with 5 years cycling, 4 years Thai boxing and 1 years Brazilian Jiu Jitsu my calf and thigh muscles in particular are getting ridiculously big.

I got into Thai boxing 4 years ago partly out of curiosity and partly because I wanted to try something different to get fit. I had a bike back then but I only rode it once every couple of weeks and most of the time it was just a couple of circuits of the local park. I’d also tried swimming and a weights and exercise bike type gym but I found them pretty boring. I did have some fitness but I knew my health was in a mess and I had to buy the biggest clothes in the shop in the hope that they might fit. 4 years on I’m fighting at competition level and I’m finding clothes labelled “medium” are sometimes a bit too big.

In the scheme of things I know this fight isn’t particularly big: it’s a controlled contact novice fight over 3 rounds of a minute and a half and both fighters will be wearing body, head and shin pads. However from a personal point of view it’s a massive step forward. It’s no longer just training for exercise but working towards competing in a sport where I’m the only person who can win or lose. I’m always careful with the words I use because I don’t like to describe myself as something I’m not, but I think I can now legitimately say I’m a fighter and an amateur Thai boxer. This really came home to me during our warm up on Wednesday when I was thinking “my fitness is pretty good. No problems keeping up with the fighters. Er, hang on, I’m one of them now”. I’ve got ideas on how to keep things moving and it’ll be interesting to see what people say at my next training session after the fight, but that can come later. From where I started to having my first fight has taken a lot of time and hard work. My approach has been to make hay while the sun shines. There may be a time where circumstances prevent me from training as hard as I do now, but I’m going to keep going until that time comes. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to a fight, a pint and a nice pie (Leigh is close to Wigan after all) on Saturday. Of course I’m planning on fighting to win, but I’m just pleased to be fighting at all.