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Light Years Ahead

The cult of nerd culture has eclipsed the “mother’s basement” jokes, and the losing-the-head-cheerleader-to-the-quarterback tropes. Someone who got his start building computers in his garage is now one of the richest men in the world, fan conventions are a multi-billion dollar industry, and the MVP at any company is the IT guy. (I’m lookin’ at [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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The cult of nerd culture has eclipsed the “mother’s basement” jokes, and the losing-the-head-cheerleader-to-the-quarterback tropes. Someone who got his start building computers in his garage is now one of the richest men in the world, fan conventions are a multi-billion dollar industry, and the MVP at any company is the IT guy. (I’m lookin’ at you, Mike.) It’s revenge of the nerds, baby, and now they’ve weaponized.

Tom Amoroso is the owner and head instructor at Columbus Saber Academy, and he has over 30 years of formal martial arts weapon training under his belt. By day, he works a straight-laced job with Chase, and by night, he dons the armor of a superhero, and battles villains with a nerd’s favorite weapon.

“My level of geekdom outside of here is pretty high,” he said. “But in here, these guys blow me away.”

For decades, Amoroso has been studying the blade, but before that, he was just a ’70s kid who fell in love with a galaxy far, far away. Despite the fantasy involved, Amoroso is using his skills as a swordsman to pass on his learning to his students, some of whom have become instructors themselves.

“It’s structured as a true sword art. It is cuts, blocks, partner drills, stances, distancing, timing, strategy, all built in. It’s not just hitting each other with lightsabers. But we do get to hit each other with lightsabers, too. Which is fun.”

Now in its third year of existence, CSA has done a little bouncing around before finding its home on the North Side. A large, open studio concept, the room houses racks of painted gear, fluttering banners hanging from the ceiling, and a full floor mat on which the students practice. True to its screen inspiration, the academy also teaches stage combat, which features flourishes and looping movements that would be useless in a real battle. But boy, does it look cool.

As Amoroso explains the basics of fighting styles, he casually swings a saber that has sound effects built in. [Author’s note: I found myself laughing giddily when he did this.]

“It doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are, when you turn that on, it’s so cool.”

It is, indeed.

The benefits of lessons with a saber don’t end at giddy nerdery. Focusing on footwork and movement, Amoroso says that form is incredibly important.

“Fencing is a great sport to improve your legs and your knees. If you do it right, you keep the alignment with your knee, your ankle, your body all together, you’ll prolong the life of your joints, it’s not damaging. You’re moving your entire body. It’s not just your arms, it’s not just your wrists. Where you step, your hips, your shoulders, your body, all moves into that cut.”

Each class starts with a warm up of push ups and planks. Lunges and squats are incorporated into the walking movements during the lesson. But the physical benefits don’t end there. Two pounds might not sound like a lot, but swinging around two pounds for two hours will help you develop core strength, and give you a good upper body workout. Indeed, even the seasoned instructors, when sparring in full gear, emerged from their masks ruddy-faced, sweaty, and breathing heavily.

Beyond finding a novel way to work out, there is a key to the draw and success of CSA. It’s a community hub where people can gather around their favorite subjects the way sports nuts have always been able to discuss the latest bad calls over beers, or while hitting a few balls at the driving range. It might not sound like much, but for people of a certain age, this love is what used to get you shoved in a locker.

“Because we are all geeks, we get folks that are very reserved, very introverted. It’s a good place where they can just be themselves. Yes, we’re playing with lightsabers. Yes, we’re all Star Wars nerds, but we are also martial artists.”

Kids can benefit from the classes as much as kids-at-heart. Amoroso speaks of confidence-building in children, and seeing patience and control bloom in previously wild kids as they learn the routines, strikes, and blocks of the dance of swordplay. The practice is egalitarian by nature, welcoming students from all backgrounds, and of all ability levels.

“There’s no strength advantage. Male, female, age range [doesn’t matter]. It’s about understanding your opponent, it’s about understanding yourself. It’s a game of patience, it’s a game of thinking.”

Though welcoming to beginners, it takes practice to bring form to your skill set, and be able to emulate the twirling fury of the onscreen fights of light we all grew up with. As a wise little green man once said,

“Patience you must have, my young padawan.”

Columbus Saber Academy offers unlimited classes for adults and children for a very reasonable flat fee per month. They will be hosting the Midwest regional full contact tournament on September 29th. For more, visit columbussaberacademy.com.

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Health & Fitness

The Great Outdoors (Are Always Open): An easy scavenger hunt to ease you into nature

Linda Lee Baird

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Quarantine. Isolation. Social distancing. The words defining our historic (and historically difficult) moment are all about solitude—and we’re bound to be using them for some time to come. But getting through these long days doesn’t mean we need to be inside. In fact, even under the “stay at home” orders currently in effect, getting out in the fresh air is still very much allowed. Spring goes on springing, and the time away from schools and the office gives us the opportunity to soak it in, observe, and enjoy the changes. 

For those who have been disconnected from nature for a few years, or never connected in the first place, here’s a beginner’s guide to the plants and animals you may see around our Metro Parks, woods, and rivers this spring. We went with common species—because it feels good to be able to check things off your list—but think of this as a starting point for paying a little more attention to the natural world around you. 

And if you are one of the many people who is suddenly leading a homeschool, you can use this as an educational scavenger hunt. My “class” will be taking this list up to Highbanks on the first warm April afternoon. 

Birds

Robin

My mom used to point out the “first robin of spring” as March turned to April every year—a sign that the season was changing and more birds would soon be joining their song in the trees.

Hawk

Look up! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… actually a bird. Our flat lands and wide skies are an ideal combination to catch a hawk carefully circling in  the sky.  (Because this is an easy scavenger hunt, any bird of prey can check this box. We won’t tell). 

Warblers

The Ohio Division of Wildlife calls warblers, “one of the avian highlights of spring.” While there are several species that visit our state, the blue-winged, golden winged, and yellow all have bright yellow coloring that perhaps makes them easier to spot in the trees. ODW recommends Greenlawn Cemetery as a local spot to see them.

Animals

Deer

They’re everywhere in Ohio, but there’s still something magical about spotting one in the wild and looking into its tranquil eyes.

Butterflies

Yes, there are many different types of butterflies that live in Central Ohio and yes, they are most active later in the year, but the common painted lady starts fluttering around as early as April. If you find a butterfly of any species this early in the season, we’ll give you full credit. 

Frogs

Head down to the water and open your ears for that familiar croak. You’re likely to spot them chillin’ on the bank or the nearest lily pad, but it’s really fun if you get to watch them swim. 

Baby… anything

It’s spring, the season many species welcome their babies into the world. And if there’s anything cuter than an animal, it’s a baby animal. Ducklings, bunnies, birds nests; anywhere you can spot an animal family will let you tick this box. 

Plants

Fiddlehead ferns

One of the first signs that the earth is returning from winter is the emergence of fiddlehead ferns. Their distinctive spiral sticking up from the ground portends more plants to follow. (They are also supposed to be delicious when cooked, but since this is a scavenger hunt occurring in a public park, please leave them for the next visitor). 

Lilac

You’ll probably smell them before you see them. There’s a reason lilac is dried and used in aeromatics year round, but—lucky us—we’re quickly approaching the season to experience the real thing. Those small, purple buds that smell like absolute bliss? That’s lilac. 

Maple tree

Sure, it’s at its peak in the fall when the leaves turn gold and red, but can you identify a maple before it’s leaves are in full bloom and it’s not producing any syrup? Now’s your chance to find out. 

Fungus

Mushrooms count, but the best fungus in my opinion grows on old tree stumps and boasts beautiful stripes.

Feature photo by Rebecca Tien.

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Health & Fitness

COVID-19 Coverage: Expert tips for staying healthy during your stay-at home

Mitch Hooper

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It's been nine days since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has placed the state under a shelter-in-place order. However long this will last is unknown, but Dr. Anup Kanodia has a suggestion: use this time for your own self-health.

Dr. Kanodia, an Akron-native, is the owner and head MD at KanodiaMD in Westerville. He did a fellowship of alternative, integrative medicine at Harvard University and went on to earn his Master's in Public Health. His practice focuses on integrating functional medicine with conventional medicine. In addition to owning his own private practice, he works part-time with addiction clinics and part-time with urgent care.

"What we're finding, in my practice, is that a lot of people want to know how do they help themselves in this time. What can they do beyond social distancing and hand washing?" Dr. Kanodia said.

To find ways to cope and grow through this situation, 614Now talked with Dr. Kanodia via Zoom. Here are some of his tips to finding happiness and peace during these stressful times.

1.) Get into a routine

Working, sleeping, living, and eating in the same place can make the days feel like they blur together. Dr. Kanodia says a daily routine can be exactly what you need to help create a separation of your work and personal life as they collide together at home.

"[It starts] with having a regular sleep schedule," Dr. Kanodia explained. "And then getting out of the house first thing in the morning; meaning go for a walk, or go get something. But if you're stuck inside the house all day long, that's going to ruin your mental health."

For folks working at home, he also suggests making your work space separate from your bedroom. Don't work in bed, he says, and try to work in a different room than your bedroom if possible.

2.) Sleep is crucial right now

Sleep is the time our body repairs itself making it a vital part of a healthy immune system. But with schedules out-of-order, the long hours inside can make falling asleep difficult. Things like exercise throughout your day can help at nighttime, and Dr. Kanodia suggests writing before bed if you are struggling to fall asleep as well as limiting blue light exposure.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself waking up much earlier than usual, he says to simply go about your day, but it's important not to take naps as they can throw off your sleep cycle.

3.) And so is staying physically active; better yet if you can safely get outdoors

He says that functional medicine is finding that there are even more benefits to the immune system and overall health of the body through doing outdoor activities and being in the sunlight.

"Walking out in nature is even more beneficial if you could. Sunlight, outdoor light, or daylight helps us make Vitamin D, helps us shutdown sleeping hormones, and helps with depression."

However, there is a limit to exercise. He warns that if you feel tired roughly two hours after a work-out, you might've overworked yourself. Be cautious as being overworked can lead to a lowered immune system.

4.) Continue social distancing, but use technology to stay connected and close with loved ones

Dr. Kanodia suggests folks use applications like FaceTime and Zoom to stay in-touch with their families and friends. KanodiaMD also offers video chats—both in groups or solo—for anyone with questions or struggling in this time.

He also suggests alternative ways to do this such as video games and online games. Additionally, forums and chats are great ways to stay connected, he says.

5.) Keep a positive outlook with healthy outlets

It's difficult to do so in times like these, but Dr. Kanodia says a positive outlook is vital right now. And having a positive attitude doesn't mean you are immune to the fears, rather, it's coming to terms with them, he says.

"We have to accept our fear, [being] overwhelmed, and anxiousness. [...] Stress and mindset are unmet expectations. If I have expectations of how long this will last, if I will get COVID-19, that I don't like working from home; any of these expectations make us more stressed. If I go with the flow, what's the best I can do with this one minute? And keep going down that path."

For this, he suggests finding hobbies that brought you joy when you were younger. For some it's adult coloring, for others it's sports.

"Figure out in the past what kept you calm. Whatever it is that is your stress reliever, now is a good time to do it."

For more information on Dr. Kanodia, or to download his free COVID-19, Cold, and Flu Top 3 Recommendations, visit kanodiamd.com.

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Health & Fitness

5 unique ways to improve wellness without a treadmill

Jeni Ruisch

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big percentage of the resolutions we make every year involve getting in shape and/or improving our overall wellness. But running on a treadmill is only slightly more attractive an activity than, say, waiting in line at the DMV. And unless you can sit still for more than two minutes, meditation is out of the question. If you want to really challenge yourself to step outside your normal bubble, face your fears while finding balance. You’ll conquer your phobias AND the scale.

Float

True REST Float Spa
truerest.com

You can achieve a state of buoyancy akin to floating on a cloud. The key is a pod filled with hyper-salinated water, heated to the temperature of your skin. Reduced Environmental Stimulus Therapy can help your mind find peace.

Flip

Life Energy Yoga
leyyoga.com

Did you ever dream of becoming an acrobat? This exercise consists of poses done with a partner. You can make human pyramids, or even learn to stand on each other’s shoulders, or contort yourselves into knots of fun.

Climb

Infinity Aerial
infinityaerial.com

Raise your skills to the roof with aerial silks, the skill made popular by Cirque Du Soleil and performing artist P!nk. A long swath of fabric pours down from ceiling supports, and the performer uses friction and strength to support themselves in poses among the waterfall of silk.

Dive

Columbus Scuba
columbusscuba.com

The depths of the ocean hold more mysteries than the surface of the moon. Brave men and women strap Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus to their backs every day the world over, and dive into the unknown.

Fly

The Buckeye Bounce Club
thebounceclub.com

If you thank your lucky stars for gravity, and the hard ground under your feet, maybe it’s time to shake yourself free of the terra for a few ticks. The Buckeye Bounce Club is a gym where the workouts are done on wall-to-wall trampolines, or rather, ceiling-to-ceiling, as the walls themselves are bounceable, just like the floors.

Originally appeared in (614) Magazine December 2017

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