there’s an old saying: jack of all trades and master of none. i have in NO WAY mastered anything. heck, i even have problems putting on my underwear in the morning (one leg into each of the holes, duh!). but at last night’s Kenpo Garage, we had a couple of white belts from our kenpo class show up. my sister was one of them and she’s been to a half-dozen classes. my 16-year-old nephew was the other and he’s been to one class.
but there i was teaching them some of the basics. foundational stuff. things like proper stance, practicing techniques slow and correct, and how to dummy when someone is doing a technique on them. ok, i have mastered the art of being a dummy. but that’s about it.
while teaching and watching, it reminded me that i was just like them 19 months ago. anxious, clumsy, and eager to learn. only i was probably a lot more awkward than them. yes, i was that goofy. but like john (one of my KG cohorts) and i told them, “we all start there.”
no one is immune to the bafoon-ery of being a first time practitioner of a martial art. some will grasp it quick and look like a pro their second class. but the vast majority will take months or years before things start to ‘click’. i’d like to get mine down to years, but right now i’m on the decade-and-a-half plan.
martial artist: a person who has achieved a proficiency and skill in any of several arts of combat and self-defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.
nineteen months, 44 techniques (haven’t tested for the latest 16 of those, though), a couple of sets, and now learning my third form. so here i am, nearly 47 and trying to become a martial artist. unfortunately for me, my “art” still has a lot of glue and macaroni. i’m not quite a picasso with my hands or feet yet. but i am getting there.
hours before KG my sister went out to eat lunch with my wife and i right after church. when we got home from the restaurant we stood in the driveway and talked about how our pastor/instructor has said repeatedly that he’s always more concerned with the white and yellow belts because they lack control. that was the topic. i’ve known for quite a while that i had very little control, but i’ve also noticed over the last three or four months that i’m developing it. i know, i’m as stunned as you, but it’s true!
anyway, we’re talking and my wife is standing there listening. as i’m trying to explain what i mean by control to my sister, i did one of the stupidest things i’ve ever done in my life. i demonstrated.
i can hear you now, “no, rick, please tell me you didn’t … ” i could tell you that, but i’d be lying. i did it. here’s how it went. i’m explaining how our instructor can throw a crescent kick to the side of someone’s head and stop it a fraction of an inch from someone’s head and then slowly lower it back down. (i’m always scared and impressed when he does it to me.) then i started saying that as we learn control, we should be able to do the same thing with our punches. we should be developing the body control to be able to show power with our moves and yet be able to avoid injuring the other person. (yes, you upper belts are going to LOVE correcting me on this, but it’s how i understand it as of right now.)
my wife is politely standing and listening to all of this because she really has no interest in anything related to kenpo. since i can’t kick high enough (or with enough control) to stop a fraction from someone’s head i threw a punch. at my wife.
let me just interject that i have never and would never, ever hit my wife. i find violence against women both abhorrent and indefensible. i was in full “teaching” mode and just wasn’t thinking the whole thing through. now back to my story.
i snapped my arm out to full extension and my fist … stopped micro-clicks from her chin. she didn’t flinch because she’s thinking the whole time, “my husband loves me and would never hit me.” and i just wasn’t thinking. honestly. i was teaching and felt i had enough control to do that. and i did! but i’ll never do it again.
in hind sight, it was a very foolish and dangerous thing to do. i am learning control. and while i’ve noticed it in all of our KG sessions where we’re showing full power, but without crushing each other, this was my wife. even now i feel a huge weight of guilt for even putting her in that situation. what if i had been off? there wouldn’t have been enough apologies to save the day or my face.
so in the middle of a lesson, i learned a lesson. maybe when i’m a black belt (if i ever make it there) i might consider myself to have enough control, but then it would be to a student with a mouth guard and who is prepared, not to my wife.
i’m so thankful to God that He kept me from doing something so ridiculously stupid and kept me at just moderately stupid. talking to my beautiful mrs well after the fact she never even gave it a thought. she just assumed i had enough control to demonstrate the concept.
yeah, i’m still a “macaroni type” of martial artist. and fortunately for me i did have the control or my wife would make sure i’d be eating dinner through a straw for the next several months.
— chunky ninja
it’s easy to get into a rut. we often times don’t see it coming. we’re just going as fast as we can and somehow we lose focus on the direction we’re headed. it doesn’t have to be a big distraction either. next thing you know, you’re being thrown and left dazed as to how you got there.
maybe it’s like texting and driving and BAM you hit the curb. or in this case, you’re busy with life, putting out proverbial fire after fire, and you have life slam into you. maybe.
it’s easy for it to happen. but how do you get there? how long will you stay there? how will you get out? lots of good questions and looking at them, i’m not sure i have any good answers.
i have a lot going on in my life. kenpo is one of them and is a pretty big part of it. i was “duped” into class initially and discovered that i liked it. i liked it enough that i’ve stayed with it for the last 18 months and i have NO intention of quitting (for those that thought i might after getting this far into the blog).
i have a wife, five kids, three grandkids, one dog, and a yard full of fleas. i have a couple of fantasy baseball leagues that have captivated me for nearly 15 years. in the midst of all that, i’m being drawn deeper into my faith with a calling to become a church planter.
and as life goes we all face those challenges that come up from time to time. the most recent one for me was an A/C unit that gave up the ghost early last week. as if finances weren’t difficult enough, now that. i’m hugely fortunate to have a very good friend in the industry who has been a blessing to my wife and i. [shout out to JOHN! you da’ man!]
sometimes we face challenges and we’d rather skip right over them than to face them. we all have them. i have my share and then some. for now i only want little challenges. i want to move from jogging on the treadmill to a leisurely walk on it. at least for now.
am i where i want to be physically? no. have i done all i can to drop my weight? no. do i work on my kenpo as much as i could? no. i’ve managed to drop a couple of inches from my waistline from the start, but the scale says i haven’t moved much. so i’m re-shaping. i’m ok with that. and i’m also to a point (right now) where if someone were to try and “fire me up” about getting serious, i’d tell him or her to take a hike.
i may not be where i want to be, but i’m not in any mindset to be pushed or even to push myself more than i have over the last 18 months. it’s hard to change course from what you’ve been doing for 45 years. not impossible, but pretty close. i think it’s the incremental steps that lead to ultimate change and i’ve been taking incremental steps.
while i have some that want to push me harder now, i kinda like where i’m at and i don’t have the desire to push. so i guess i’m in a rut. give me my routine. give me the same amount of challenges. but don’t take me to the place where you can see if i’ll break. i don’t want to be broken. i just want to learn.
i’m rambling. i feel like i’m in a rut. and i’m ok with it. i’m still moving forward. maybe not as fast as others wish, but they’re not me. i am. i don’t want to be sometimes, but the fact is still the same. so give me some challenges. toughen me up. but don’t bother seeing if i can break because i have no desire to find out where that point is. and THAT indicates my weakness.
now, give me some time to shake myself out of this rut and you’ll get an entirely different response. but for now, here i am. tonight will be Kenpo Garage … and i am looking forward to it. it is, after all, part of my routine.
— chunky ninja
lateness. it seems to be a chunky ninja theme … tardiness. honestly, i’m on time for all the things that really get me jazzed. it’s that other stuff … you know, the necessities, the routine, the mundane, the b-o-r-i-n-g that dull me into that insane clock chaser hoping to regain just a few minutes so i’m only fashionably late.
it’s been awhile since my last update and i figured if i didn’t do this now, it might be 2012 before i got another out. and i don’t know about you, but that’s too long. the reality of the statement above is true.
“hello, my name is chunky ninja, and i am a perpetual procrastinator.”
but i have (and always have) very valid excuses. or varied valid excuses. either way, it sums up to: “excuses”.
for the last six weeks or so, we’ve been renovating the house. it’s been one thing after another. every room has been painted except one. my daughter moved back in with us two months ago which started the slow-moving transformation. then we decided to get new carpet. and working around the carpet layer’s schedule (we’re easy like that) caused us even more headache and chaos since rooms were all in disarray and stayed that way until THIS week. the carpet is in! it looks great. now to try and get everything back to where it belongs AND still manage to get more stuff out of the garage. if i’ve not been at work, i’ve been at home in chaos and i don’t do well with clutter. i tend to fall into shutdown mode, or at the very least, lets-not-go-home-right-now mode. and all of this is why i’ve been negligent in updating this site. so now it’s time to recap some stuff so you don’t feel like you wasted 10 minutes of your life reading this drivel.
earlier this month i was able to work out with Mr Bowley of Bowley Kenpo Karate in north texas. they were having a sparring class and i had nothing better to do then to let a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds kick my butt. so i went up. Mr Bowley was very gracious and complementary. he even maintained a straight face when i told him, “but i AM trying” when i was in serious battle against his nine-year-old, junior green belt, daughter. yes, it was sad for the CN, but i’m encouraged by how much joy and confidence i instilled in his younger class.
now that i type that i realized, ALL of his class was younger. even Mr Bowley. i was the old man on the mat. i think Mr Bowley feels a great deal of empathy for my own instructor.
in all seriousness, Mr Bowley has some great students who are blessed with a good instructor. i really was honored to spend some time sparring with them and hope to do it again in the future. we don’t do much sparring in our school and i enjoyed the experience. it gave me a good barometer of where i’m at and how far i still need to go (it’s a long way).
we’ve continued our once a week classes with Mr Jenkins and i only missed one with an upper respiratory infection. i hate colds and i’ve had a couple of doozies this year. this one made me miss one week’s class and three Kenpo Garage sessions.
speaking of the kenpo garage, we have been meeting in a fellow student’s garage and will continue until mine is usable again which i hope will be soon. not because i’m not thankful to john for offering a place where we can work out, but because i hate making others go out of their way for me. i started this and i’ll be keeping it open for anyone to show up and work out … but this way i’m the only one that is under obligation.
we now have carpet (some of the old) for the garage and will be getting some very thick padding to go underneath. fortunately i know a carpet layer from church who also has his own dojo … he’ll know just what i’m looking for and can help me get it installed. so soon. and i can hardly wait.
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we’ve got a new student in class on thursdays. he’s actually new to us, but not new to kenpo. his name is dave and he’s a first degree black belt. i’m kind glad he’s there. i like having both upper belts there to help, but also someone who’s been trained under in different association. it’s interesting seeing how the techniques are taught slightly different from place to place. he’s learning Mr Jenkins version now, but it’s good to see other ways of doing things.
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i’ve done really well this last year keeping a new year’s resolution. it’s the first one i’ve ever actually kept all year. it was small, but i kept it. i’ve got a couple for next year that i think are doable. i’m not going to say what they are right now, but i’m going to try and be as determined about those as i was with the one i’ve now kept for a full year. and if you think about commitments or me in general, say a little prayer for me. much obliged.
until next post (which hopefully won’t be so far off), i’m done with my scatter-shooting of thoughts. thanks for spending your last ten minutes with me.
— chunky ninja
it happens once a year. we get that special holiday that requires us to gorge ourselves for four straight days. some people have discipline. i’m NOT one of those. i want to be. i always say to myself, “THIS IS THE YEAR!” and the following Monday with, “THIS is my new diet.”
i’m talking about … thanksgiving. a time when we come together with those closest to us. our families, friends, and that strange relative that half the attendees point and whisper, “who is that guy over there?” and that strange “uncle bill” will drink himself under the table before the Lions have had a chance to lose.
it’s intended to be a time of reflection and giving of thanks. a time when we can look back at the blessings we’ve received both personally and as a nation. yet it’s been (as long as i can remember) a time to push as much food into our pie-hole as possible. it’s been taught to us all our lives. “EAT, there’s more.” even the most resilient find it difficult to say “no” to turkey, cornbread dressing, candied sweet potatoes, three-bean casseroles, cranberry sauce, dozens of rolls, dollops of butter, a full gravy boat of creamy goodness, and pumpkin pies with a mile of whip topping to cap off the first go-round.
this year i found myself in the same predicament (for the 46th time in my life). after all, i didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by telling them ‘no’ when they asked me if i was ready for thirds. i found myself in desperate need for two or three full heaping helpings of self-control. but those didn’t look as good on my plate, so i overlooked them in lieu of some more fried turkey and grandma’s homemade coconut cream pie.
one of martial arts key components is discipline. i’m wondering if that concept will ever take hold within me. it’s not about others mandating what i can and can’t do. i have a saying i picked up over the years (a quick google search didn’t find it’s origin either), but have tried to instill it into my kids. it’s usually about behavior in public or in school, but maybe i need to apply it to my own habitual struggles:
“doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it’s always right.”
it’s about me doing the right thing because it’s right. doing something because someone is making me do it is not real discipline. it may be an outward force of discipline, but i’m looking for SELF discipline.
i used to laugh at myself and others who had unusual thanksgiving habits. one of strangest i’d ever heard (and witnessed first hand) was from my best friend, mike. he would mound his plate to overflowing. then he’d eat it all as fast as he could so he could repeat the process. by this time he’d be pretty full, but somehow knew he could cram more in there. to do so, he’d grab a couple tablets of alka seltzer to “clear the gas bubbles” for more food. then he’d manage to eat another plateful or two. by the time the second Thanksgiving Day football game would start, he’d be ready for dessert. i recently asked him about this and he said he had long forgotten those days. somewhere he either developed some self-discipline or realized the public embarrassment of packing food in until you were ready to burst.
my own personal philosophy was, “no pain, no gain. eat until your back hurts.” and that’s just what i did. i ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate some more. even after all that i had people coming to me and asking, “you are going back for some more, right? there’s plenty out there.” this morning the scale was scary. let’s just say it’s a setback.
all this to say, i was thankful for the days away from work, but now the real work is ahead of me … losing what i’ve gained and then showing SELF DISCIPLINE for the next holiday.
thanksgiving and christmas are my favorite holidays due to the tremendously good food that’s served. but i’m realizing it’s time for me to grow up instead of out. it’s time for me to realize it’s ok to embrace the quirky character of chunky ninja, but not the shape of chunky ninja.
baptist preacher’s often say there’s a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. what i want to do is take this concept of self-discipline and move it from head knowledge to gut knowledge. it would be like eating healthy because self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. fruits are good, no?
God give me strength.
— chunky ninja
the kenpo garage is still a “no-go” for this week. slowly its returning to its usable [read: tolerably usable] shape, but there is still much to do. unfortunately, none of the stuff that clutters it is my own. my daughter, the marine, has been working 60-80 hour weeks and hasn’t had time to really start going through and finding places to hide her stuff. then there’s the washer and dryer that are in the middle of the KG and not in the middle of craig’s list. but, in time, it will be back to the KG i need in my life. [side note: need a washer and dryer? contact me!]
it’s easy for me to come up with excuses. i’ve done it all my life. food’s too good. working out is too hard. trying to do the right thing with both at the same time takes too much discipline.
but i am determined to learn this art. i often need to give myself a kick in the behind to do what needs to be done. i let little things like a house that you can’t hardly walk in to prevent me from eating right. instead, for the last four or five weeks, i’ve been eating a lot of take out. then i start feeling bad about it and use ice cream to push down those pangs of guilt.
i’m still walking daily. i’m still running the stairs at work (even though i don’t tweet it all the time). and i’m still attending my kenpo classes. it seems, right now, i’m half way in. and looking at it like that, i’m ready to give myself a good swift kick in the pants. unfortunately for me, my kicks still suck and it hardly motivates me.
so what DOES motivate me? cooler weather. i pushed myself hard during the heat of the summer. this past summer wasn’t just hot, it was borderline ridiculous. months with temperatures over 100. weeks with temperatures in the 107+ area. several days where it was 112-114. evening temperatures that would drop into the upper 80’s before skyrocketing back up the next day. there were even a few days where the temperature never dipped below 90 AT NIGHT! the folks up north would be dropping over like snowmen in a microwave.
but over the last three weeks or so, cooler temperatures have returned. i’m LOVING it. we haven’t turned on the heat in the house yet and i’m not sure when i’ll be ready to. even my beautiful mrs has gotten used to the cooler temperatures. what does this have to do with kenpo? well, nothing other than the fact i should be able to focus more on my training without the fear of dropping dead from heat stroke. i just have to do it.
this coming thursday will mark one year of my martial arts training. 45 years of nothing and now one year of kenpo. it’s been a fun ride. i’m enjoying all i’m learning and have a great desire to continue on. eventually, i’d like to start teaching it, but that’s years down the road. so today, on a nice cool day, i’m going to go for a good walk, watch some kenpo videos on youtube, then go through my techniques and forms. time to move into year two with a fresh, rejuvenated approach … work it!
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funny story (to me, anyway) on the way home from picking up my daughter last night after the high school football team. no, she’s not a linebacker. she’s in the color guard. if you had asked me ten years ago which of my kids would have been on the football field on friday nights i would have gotten it wrong. my son, the six-foot, 230 pound, kid-with-the-golden-arm, opted to stay in baseball only and it’s my daughter (the youngest of the bunch) that is out there marching every friday.
anyway … my son and i picked her up from school and she says, “daddy, i think i’m having growing pains.”
without even blinking my son looks back at her and says, “it’s pronounced, GROIN.” he cracks me up.
— chunky ninja
this past week has been a very difficult one for me. my 26 year old son passed away peacefully last thursday night about an hour after i got home from kenpo class. i stumbled upon the picture above and couldn’t help but smile knowing my son reached his black belt at only 4 months old and i may never get there. richie was the world’s littlest ninja.
he was a young man who always seemed to have a smile on his face. his life was filled with hurts, discomfort, and disappointments and yet he always had this ability to see beyond what was immediately in front of him to see the good. but it wasn’t always this way for him.
he had lots of health issues. born with club feet, he had surgery on both legs soon after birth. his left thumb wasn’t growing right and there was more surgery when he was just beyond toddlerhood. he had a twisted spinal cord and there would be more surgery. you would think he got addicted to being put under anaesthesia. he had problems walking and the doctors said it was remnants of the clubbed feet or the spinal cord problems. he’d get winded walking across the room or just playing with the kids and there would be other reasons or excuses given. but he walked funny, had no energy to play like the other kids. he wanted to, but his body didn’t or couldn’t.
his mom knew something wasn’t quite right and had already been doing research online trying to diagnose her son when the doctor’s didn’t seem to have time to really listen to all the symptoms. when he was ten they finally come back with a diagnosis. he had a form of muscular dystrophy. a few tests later they determined it was duchennes muscular dystrophy — one of the most gut wrenching types of MD for patients and families to endure.
duchennes attacks young boys. onset symptoms usually hit around 9-12 years old. a short, health-problem filled life is their prognosis. there is no cure … yet. it robs them of their mobility. usually by their early teens they are unable to walk. arm and hand movements are lost quickly, too. in a few short years they tend to become a prisoner inside a body that just won’t move. their life would be a constant struggle and would end way too early.
richie was diagnosed at ten and within six months required a wheel chair. that’s where a lot of his battles began. his mom would forever be his advocate, his warrior, jumping in and battling whatever she had to so that her son could have an easier life. all that time she was battling the knowledge of her son’s diagnosis in her own heart. God blessed her with more strength than i will ever know.
one of the first big battles came at school. a teacher, either not understanding his type of muscular dystrophy herself or just completely callous, gave him an assignment to write about his disease for a class project. i have to believe it was a lack of knowledge since i find it very difficult to believe that anyone would purposefully impose such a harsh task on such a young child. richie knew he was different. he knew he needed a wheel chair. but he didn’t know the outcome of duchennes. keep in mind he was only ten when he was diagnosed.
at eleven years old he gets this assignment. his mom, always watching out for her son, hadn’t told him the long term prognosis. at the time of his diagnosis, medicines had not progressed as much they have today. lifespans for kids with duchennes was 12-16 years of age. richie had no clue that he could die by the time he turned 12 until he was forced to do this assignment. he came home frightened and told his mom what he had discovered.
it was his mom, his champion, that said, “where does it say that?” he showed her the paperwork he had found when researching it. she looked at it, held back her own emotions, and looked him in the eyes. the beautiful words that came out have been going through my mind all morning long. she said, “well, there’s the problem.” pointing to the author of the article she said, “it was written by this doctor … not by God.
“richie, God didn’t write this, so it isn’t accurate.” a true champion to her son. she is a remarkable woman.
on his 12th birthday he screamed for his mom early in the morning. she bolted to his bed not knowing what to expect. there he lay with a huge smile saying, “hey, i’m 12 and i’m still alive!” can you imagine being a kid with a birthday coming up and dreading it? just a kid and fearing birthdays! he did. but God didn’t write that article and over the next portion of his life he’d come to slowly realize it.
richie’s mom and dad split when he was very young. he didn’t get to see his father very often and mom had to play both roles. he wasn’t an only child either. he had two younger sisters to help him as much as give him grief … like all siblings do, but there was a deep love between them.
i met richie’s mom when he was just 17. i had never dealt with a special needs child and was beyond clueless. but as our relationship progressed she AND richie both “trained” me. even after dorothy and i married i was still learning the ropes. there were a lot of scary and funny times over the last eight years. too many to recount here.
one story i do want to share, however, was his faith in God. there was a time when richie was in his mid teens and was battling a huge amount of depression. who wouldn’t? being a teenager should be the time of your life, but when you’re trapped in a body that could give out at any minute and you don’t know if you have a tomorrow … it can be daunting. he was rapidly losing motor skills and finding his mind worked fine, but his body didn’t. he began to pray for death. one day he heard a song by Mercy Me. it’s a song called I Can Only Imagine. it talks of imagining the day that God calls you home and you get to walk with Him, letting Him show you marvelous things. when all of life’s bad stuff is gone and all that is there is a God who loves you more than you’ll ever realize.
“Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine”
it was listening to that song and hearing the words that God touched richie. he was about 17 when he gave his heart to the Lord. he realized he didn’t need to know all the details of his life or the disease that was slowly consuming him. he only had to know Jesus and His love. the more he knew the Lord, the less he had reason to fear. he became a young man filled with hope.
he longed and hoped for a healing. for years he would tell everyone two things.
- Jesus loves you, and
- He’s going to heal me.
nothing ever caused him to waiver from that … ever. the years went on and he would have more difficulties in his life. multiple times he would battle serious health issues or hospital stays. earlier this year he spent two weeks in the hospital with pneumonia. his mom and i worked our schedules so he wasn’t alone. there was almost always someone at his side for two straight weeks. i worked during the day from his room and his mom would come up and spend the evenings with him.
sometimes we’d be so exhausted, but his mom and i would never quit on him. i didn’t get to know him before 17, but he became like my own son. there was nothing we wouldn’t do for him if it were within our capabilities.
over the last two months richie continued to tell people that he was going to be healed. he knew it was soon. but if you listened closely, the story was modified slightly. it was still God who would heal him. he just wasn’t sure anymore whether it would be here on earth or in heaven. and the Lord gave him a peace that it didn’t matter as long as healing came. you could see in his eyes that he was tired. he hadn’t been sleeping well and he had more and more problems with the simplicity of being able to breathe or eat a meal without it needing to be blended. he was growing weaker and more tired. and yet the smile never left his face.
in july we celebrated his 26th birthday. 14 years beyond that report he had read and feared. three weeks later, he went quietly, painlessly.
his mom said it was as if he was staring through her and moving his lips … praying or talking to someone unseen. she asked him what he was saying and told him she couldn’t hear him. he made eye contact with her and said, “mama” and then closed his eyes. just like that, he was gone. no fear, no panic, no distress.
in those last few moments i believe the Lord was in his room telling him it was time to come home. the time for his healing was NOW. i’m not sure what richie was going to tell his mom, his fighter, his champion.
i’m guessing he was trying to tell her, “mama, i love you.” or maybe it was, “mama, thank you for always being there for me.” or maybe it was, “mama, it’s gonna be ok, i’m healed.” and it’s those things that i cling to for my own comfort.
i loved my son, richie. i may not have been his birth father, whom he loved and prayed for continually, but i was his dad in every sense of the word … as much as i knew how.
richie taught me patience when i’ve always been impatient. richie taught me hope regardless of what the circumstances looked like. he taught me love, as he continually loved his dad in spite of disappointments. he taught me faith, as his never wavered. someone told us this past week that we may talk with God, but richie and some of his duchennes peers TALKED to God. i can only hope that someday i’ll have a faith that is as deep as his.
we may have been his champions here, but he’ll forever be my hero.
— chunky ninja