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frozen penguin
Originally uploaded by mhoulden
There's been plenty of photos of snow in Leeds, but how many are of penguins? This one was seen in the playground at Featherbank School and was looking distinctly chilly.
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Last Sunday was my first time in the ring since my fight in May last year. It was a long time coming after fights in October and March, and another interclub in May this year fell through, so it was good to be back. The show started at 11.30 and my fight was at 3 so it was a very long time to wait. They changed it from 5 rounds to 3 but it was still quite long enough. We both do MMA and grappling (he had 4 MMA fights) so there was a lot of clinching and kicking involved. With the adrenaline involved as well it was absolutely exhausting. There's various things I picked up from it that I need to work on, but that's part of the point. I'd say he probably had the edge over me this time. As far as terminology goes, someone complained when I described an earlier interclub as a fight, but this time the organizer described them as fights so that's good enough for me.

At this one they had a professional photographer so I got loads of photos, which are on Flickr at Some of my favourites behind the cut (on LJ). What surprised me is just how aggressive I look in them. Obviously this is full contact martial arts and I've seen other people pulling similar faces, but it's very different when it's you.
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And of course the "after" ones:
That was right after they'd called time. I was also trying to deal with a temperamental gum shield so I knew I had my trophy the wrong way round but I didn't care. I had just had a fight after all.

Pretty much immediately after this was taken I did the only sensible thing and went to the bar to get a pint.


Jun. 13th, 2010 08:48 pm
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
I'm back, I survived and I'm absolutely shattered. More photos to come later, but that's all for now.
mhoulden: (politics)

Barking Nick

Belt Up

Apr. 22nd, 2010 11:00 pm
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Busy weekend (as the fact that I'm posting this on Thursday shows). On Sunday morning I went to a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seminar. 3.5 hours of wearing pyjamas and trying to strangle people and bend their limbs the wrong way. At the end people were awarded stripes and belts by Victor Estima, our head instructor. I was one of them:

The BJJ grading structure goes white -> blue -> purple -> brown -> black -> red with 4 stripes in between and I got my blue belt. There's no set criteria for getting a belt in BJJ: they look at things like progress, technique and how you get on with people. I was trying hard to do what I could and I think the main stand out bits were taking the time to show a beginner the correct way to tie his belt at the start of the seminar, and later during sparring tapping out (beating) a purple belt via a particularly technical submission called a clock choke. You don't expect belts and at the end a few people got blues and purples but not me. I was thinking "Fair enough. Maybe I need to work on a few things". Then we stood up and someone said "Actually, there is someone else who's worked hard. Marcus, step forwards." Just over 2 years since I started in this game with virtually no experience and the incredibly tedious affliction of Dyspraxia which affects balance, coordination and spacial awareness.

After the seminar there's a belt whipping ceremony where everyone who's been promoted gets whipped on the back:

It stings a bit but it's not too bad. I've done it to other people but now it was my turn. Afterwards my back looked like this (behind the cut):
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Not a bad weekend's work.

On the hitting and kicking side of things my next fight will be a Thai boxing interclub on the 8th of May. I said I was hoping to fight in some form or another in May. Bit short notice (I found out yesterday) but if you train as if you might have a fight in the next week or so anyway it makes it easier when you do.
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Swan and Duck
Originally uploaded by mhoulden
What noise do swans make? Went out for a walk on Saturday to try out the new camera. After about 3 miles it was so cold that the batteries stopped working, but I did manage to get some photos of rather chilly looking waterfowl.

Trying to summon up the energy to write a long blog post about training and plans for the year. Various things including the weather mean I'm not entirely sure what they'll be yet, but I want to put something down now kind of as a marker. I'm also seriously beginning to think about writing that book, not just as a diary of my weight loss over the last 3 years or so but also to include my take on things like nutrition, motivation and weight loss. I'm guessing the next steps would be to draft a sample chapter and find a publisher. I could probably get an idea of who to contact by having a look round the health and sport sections of Waterstones next time I'm in town. Dunno how many people would buy it, but I daresay it would be more interesting than most of the risible "new age" ones there are out there.
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Easier to see on the big version (click through), but I think the girl in the bottom left and the sheer size and number of snowflakes probably sum up the state of Leeds today. On the Twitter #uksnow thing I gave this 9/10. Out the back I cleared the snow off the top of the dustbin and two hours it was covered in an inch of snow.

It looks nice but I'm bored of it now. Too cold, makes cycling too risky, and buses are too unreliable to get to the gym to train.
mhoulden: (Default)

Bradford "Wastefield"
Originally uploaded by mhoulden
The Cheapside "redevelopment" isn't universally popular.... As well as this there were poems on the hoardings asking why the city had been pulled down, and "construction" replaced with "destruction". Cheapside is currently a big hole partly filled with rubble. What was there before wasn't exactly fantastic but at least it was something. It was snowing quite heavily when I took this, hence the white bits in the picture. Just a thought: instead of knocking down the old Odeon cinema, why not put the identikit office building here instead?

Apparently my main xmas present this year is a digital camera (at the moment I'm using a mobile phone camera) but it's still stuck at a parcel depot somewhere in Dewsbury.
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
At 3 pm it wasn't snowing. It was bright and clear but pretty cold. I went downstairs to get a coffee at about 3.20 and it definitely was then. It started getting heavier so I nipped up to my bedroom with the camera to get this photo. Click through and there's one on the other side on Flickr. I didn't want to open the window too far because it was blowing in. By 4 pm it had stopped temporarily, but it was snowing again when I left to go to the gym just after 5.
mhoulden: (award)
Definitely on track with the pre-xmas weight loss. Tonight on the scales I was 85.8 kg or 13 stone 6 lbs, being a total loss of 48 kgs or 7 stone 8 lbs over a bit less than 3 years and the last stone in the last 6 weeks. Just one more kilo to go and that's it. As I'm very close to my final target I thought it was about time for a new photo, as well as comparing it to April 2005 when I first got into martial arts and May 2008 just before the bike accident. From lard bucket through Thai boxing and finally MMA. Less curved, bigger muscles, and a much more intense look in the eyes. You probably wouldn't want to get a punch off those MMA gloves either. I'm going to work on getting down to 84 kg for next week, but 85 will do if I don't get there.

April 2005May 2008Tonight (Dec 2009)
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
Another Creative Commons photo taken when I was out on the bike. I stopped when I saw some swans swimming on the canal and got the camera out. One swam past but there was another one behind it. When it saw me it started posing for the camera (probably expecting some food) so I got a couple more of it.

Also, quick recipe for gingerbread coffee syrup. In lieu of getting to Starbucks to have one of their gingerbread lattes or buying some from a shop I thought I'd try making some. Very easy to do but a little goes a very long way (2 teaspoons is more than enough for a standard cup of coffee).
8 fl oz demerara sugar
8 fl oz cup boiling water
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix sugar and water in a pan over a low heat
Add flavourings
Stir constantly until reduced by about a quarter in volume, for about 5 - 10 mins. Watch it doesn't get overdone and starts turning into toffee. The sugar will be partly melted so it'll still be quite thin
Remove from the pan and leave to cool. It should thicken up as it cools
mhoulden: (Default)
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.


Oct. 11th, 2009 09:50 pm
mhoulden: (Default)

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.


Oct. 4th, 2009 07:58 pm
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
Bit windy over the weekend...
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
I was waiting for a lift to BJJ tonight when I noticed this rainbow over Hall Park in Horsforth. More than anything I was just curious to see if it would come out. Seems OK.
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
I decided to try taking a few snaps during tonight's bike ride. Still need to get the hang of getting the settings right, but I quite liked this one. Student halls along Burley and Kirkstall Road taken from the canal.


Sep. 4th, 2009 09:41 pm
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
About 30 seconds after this photo was taken the cat woke up and ran off. Suggestions for captions welcome.


Sep. 2nd, 2009 10:27 am
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
I discovered that if you have a BT Broadband account you get a free Flickr Pro account as well. I know quite a few people on Livejournal are into photography and I was wondering if anyone had any tips. Because of all the time I spend out on the bike or training I sometimes see things that might make good pictures, such as people sparring and training, or some view in the woods or along the canal. This particular photo was taken from my bedroom window. There was a bit of a rainbow above the second chimney on the left so I decided to see if I could capture it. If I was into such things I might suggest that brightness and colour can appear even in the most unexpected places.

Camerawise what I have at the moment is the one built into my Nokia N82. Unless I decide to go for a standalone digital camera it's good enough and I usually have it with me all the time.
mhoulden: (Default)

Originally uploaded by mhoulden
Now on Flickr at
mhoulden: (Default)
First of the photos from today. I'll have more but I'm a bit too tired to do anything with them.

April 200530th May 2009

Now that's weight loss.


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