Saturday, 16 February 2019

Five Ways to Win- Part 4: Facing the unprepared with preparation

Hi, everyone! In the fourth- and second last part of this five-part series of posts we are going to look at preparation as a key to victory.

We have heard the saying "Fate favours the prepared".

If you are a lawyer that is due to be in court soon you know you will take some time beforehand to prepare.

Musicians rehearse and do sound checks before concerts...

When it comes to martial arts we probably think of the hours of training that get put in by great fighters.

As someone who loves movies and comics preparation for battle immediately reminds me of the king of preparation in the superhero world- this includes both DC and Marvel by the way-


The words "Batman" and "prep-time" often get used together in Facebook comments, posts and memes. Any fan will tell you that Batman has bested even super-powered adversaries with good preparation.

Image result for shadow of the bat 0

Shadow of the Bat #0 said that Batman has learnt about the value of preparation from the Ninjas.

Now here is a great source of awesome stories about preparations that had helped warriors escape death or bring it to their enemies...

In the 16th century Japanese castle guards would tell each other about a Ninja's ability to jump over high walls. The source of these stories most likely lie with the springboard that was hidden near the wall before the Ninja had to take flight.

Another popular Ninja myth is that of the Ninja being able to make false copies of himself or to substitute himself with a wooden stump when he gets attacked.These myths have their roots in the Ninja using straw dummies dressed in their clothes and wooden stumps that were put in place long before a battle or pursuit to throw enemies off their trail and in some cases to lure the enemy into an ambush.

To those who did not know about the preparations beforehand these feats seem like magic.

And this is exactly what preparation does- it makes what you do look like magic.

A large number of really awesome illusions performed by stage magicians are actually the result of a lot of work done beforehand behind the scenes. The spectator is not supposed to see the work that is done beforehand- only the result.

The Ninja knew this principle very well...

Well- this sounds like nothing that students of mainstream styles like Karate, Taekwondo and Jujutsu can apply to our training at the dojo.


South African Karate legend Stan Schmidt (cited to this day as the highest ranking Westerner in the JKA) wrote in his book Spirit of the Empty Hand how his Sensei explained the value of kata in Karate.

The Sensei compared kata to the habit of some great golfer at the time in which the book was written to stroll down the golf course before playing the tournament and, while doing so, to think of how he was going to play each shot at each particular spot on the course.

So- kata was supposed to prepare you for fighting...

I have done some further research into this and found that some Chinese masters even said that you would be able to imagine sensations such as touch and impact during form practice.

Well- I know it is hard to imagine with kata these days.

In most cases the kata, taolu, poomse or whatever they call forms in Silat (Hey! Age! What do you call forms in Silat?) are preset. Each form has a name and the same sequence of movements that get practced over and over again.

Sure- it is a nice way to get the body in the habit of performing the techniques, but what about the chaos of the actual fight and what about those moves of your opponent that give you so much trouble.

Well- some research into Shaolin martial arts showed me that teachers of Shaolin actually recommend that you first fight imaginary opponents before you take on real opponents.

Not kata speed. Not ippon kumite rhythm, but actual combat speed.

Well- this has led to me doing something this like four times a week as part of my training...

I have said it before, but let me assure you- it works.

It is true that we cannot predict the future and you cannot always guess beforehand what your opponent is going to do and when he is going to do that, but a prepared mind has a much better time adjusting to a fight than one that has not been prepared.

This also teaches you to take whatever you worry about and find something to do about it instead of just worrying for an indefinite period of time.

This is it for today.

Train well and have a great week.

Something tells me that next week's post is going to be a lot of fun to write...

Friday, 8 February 2019

Five Ways to Win- Part 3: Uniting the Upper and Lower Ranks

If you work for an employer who has about more than 5 employees you would probably have experienced some aspect of today's topic in one way or another.

You may otherwise have noticed when shopping how the owner of a shop is extra friendly when greeting customers and you get received really well- and then there is that change when he calls one of his employees out of their hiding place and you get handed over to that employee...

Now you hear the one excuse after the other and you get told to come back another day etc...

Well- at least this does not happen in all workplaces.

While the shop's owner wants to see his business grow and make profit the employee often just wants to get his salary at the end of the month with the minimum hardship.

Sun Tzu has obviously seen that the armies of his time had similar conflicts of interests.

Leaving these conflicts unresolved led to a disorganised army, delays in carrying out of instructions and in worst cases- treason.

Sun Tzu describes in other chapters ways in which troops get motivated to give their all to a cause. The one way that first comes to my mind is rewarding the best performer in the group instead of the whole group. This does really well to whip the whole group into a frenzy to succeed and may be all well if all members have the same task to perform, but you probably want to reconsider that if you have different staff working in different departments...

I mean- giving a bonus to the rep that gets the most sales is not going to benefit the receptionist at all now, is it?

As with all things in Chinese philosophy- what happens macrocosmically also happens microcosmically. This means that we can somehow apply the principle of uniting upper and lower ranks to an individual as well.

In the case of an individual fighter the upper and lower ranks refer to the mind and the body.

In order for one to fight effectively a focused mind is not worth anything if it does not have a body with which to fulfill its intent.

It is for this reason why a lot of time goes into conditioning the body in martial arts training. The ultimate objective is to have the body and mind work together as a unit. Any delays in carrying out a decision, responding to an attack or executing an attack can lead to defeat.

Before I conclude this post I want to add that many of us may find that we have trained for years to function effectively as an individual, but at work or at home struggle at being part of a team or a family.

It is one kind of mastery to get your body to do the right thing at the right time when your mind tells it to, but I have a lot of respect for the All Blacks- the world's No.1 Rugby team.

What we see on the field is the result of all members playing their part in the team without fail. From the correct guidance by coaches and good leadership by captains we have each player in the lower ranks not needing to be told what the goal is.

Image result for all black rugby

This brings me to the end of today's post. I have finished it early today so that I can head off to celebrate a late Chinese New Year festival with my friends in Johannesburg!

Have a good weekend and train hard!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Five Ways to Win- Part 2: When to use many or few troops

Hi, everyone!

I have just been reminded that our merry band of martial arts enthusiasts on Google+ will cease to be on Google+. Many of us have already established our blogs and regular posts on Facebook and Twitter.

I trust that Gmail and Youtube will remain unaffected, though.

Nonetheless- this series still has 3 more posts after this one to go before it's through, though.

So- while it is here- let's get on with it...

As you can probably guess with what you have seen in the previous post- I am not going to write about how to use troops in battle. I am no military strategist in any event and have absolutely no military background anyway.

Still- it is clear to anyone who has read Art of War that Sun Tzu was not a fan of overkills.

He advises against pursuing troops that are retreating. He advises travelling regiments to travel lightly and to rather try to use what they find than to pack large amounts of supplies.

So- proportionality is quite a prevailing theme in his philosophy.

In Chinese martial arts, Karate and Judo we also learn the folly of using too much force, leaning in too far forward and of course- doing too little...

Related image

To someone who has never learnt Karate the basic punch (gyakuzuki) shown in the photo above, does not seem suited for a real fight. An uninitiated observer would most likely wonder why the karateka is not using his shoulders to lean in with the blow to give it more power.

Well- Those of you who have been fortunate enough to have attended Karate classes may have seen a demonstration by the Sensei in which he pulls a student into a throw or arm bar after the student complies with his request to throw an over-committed punch.

One would think that one would after such a demonstration decide to never throw in your full weight like that.

Then we get kata with movements like the one shown below:

Actually- this is a very common move in Xingyiquan. The weight either gets thrown forward with a vertical back fist or an uppercut. It can also be done with a straight punch as well...

Being able to know how much of anything to use in any situation is a valuable trait. Chefs can certainly tell you a lot about the importance of knowing the quantities of each ingredient in a recipe.

In striking martial arts this sensitivity to the amount of effort being used is really important in managing distance and blocking. A parrying movement that goes too far away from the body just opens the body up to a follow-up attack that can't be blocked in time.

Backing away too far from an attack makes it impossible to counterattack in time.

In grappling arts we see that using too much force can lead to one getting thrown or pulled off balance. In Taijiquan's push-hands practice moving too little can lead to getting pushed over.

I have once read about a martial arts master who was able to prevent a bird from taking off from his hand just by letting his hand dropped at just the right moment when the pressure from the bird's feet was about to reach its highest point.

All in all- Taoists have known virtues of moderation and proportionality in all things to be in accordance with the Law of Extremes. This law of Taoism holds that anything taken to its extreme eventually creates the same consequences as its direct opposite.

Blinding light makes it impossible to see- just like with darkness.

Extreme heat can kill a person- so will extreme cold.

A wildfire can burn down a village- a large torrent of water will flood it.

I think these are enough examples.

I know that it is quite ease for us to choose to err on the side of the best of two possibilities and then emphasise that choice when we don't really know what to do. This can happen when a restaurant manager has to decide how many hamburger buns to order or an event organiser has to decide how many seats to get ready.

I think, however, that we only ever really learn the exact amounts of any resource to use in any situation by gaining knowledge and experience of a given situation over time- much like you will eventually find the balance in your technique if you keep training long enough.

That about covers what I have to say on the subject. You are, however, welcome to comment on this post here on G+ (while it is still around), Qzone, Twitter or- my personal favourite- Facebook!

That's it for now.
I hope you all have a great weekend and an awesome week ahead! 

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Sun Tzu's Five Ways to Win- Part1: Knowing When To Fight

Life is not simple. Period...

You may think you have the recipe for the perfect life here in this world then life shows you that your recipe does not work in all situations.

One of those recipes is the belief that violence and confrontation is never to be resorted to.

Before Christians get up to stone me I will remind them that there was once a time when their God had ordered the destruction of entire populations.

And... David did not beat Goliath by turning any cheeks either...

That being said- I am sure that you all know that everything under Heaven has its time and place.

Same with fighting.

In today's chapter on Sun Tzu's passage on the 5 ways to know who would win a battle we look at the first way- knowing when to fight and when not to fight.

So- In general terms I am sure you will agree that fighting at all times is a certain path to one's own destruction as never fighting at all will be as well.

So- it is necessary for us to know when to fight and when we should definitely not.

I guess the easiest place to start this discussion is one where most people would expect it to start- everyday life. First thing I want to say about the very nature of fighting is that it is not without consequences. It is always done at a cost and bears with it risk.

Sun Tzu wrote about how the expenses of waging a war weigh down on a nation. Well- even a boxer will tell you that a boxing career cannot last forever either- due to the toll it takes on one's health.

Then we have the fact that one is bound to have enemies in life, but having friends is what is important- and fighting people is not the best way to make friends.

So- it will not end well for us if we always fight. So- when can we and when do we actually have to fight?

Well- there is not much to say about when one has to fight. We have different views of what we hold dear and what we do not and what we are willing to give up and what not. If not fighting means that you have to give up something you hold dear it means that you have to fight.

Your character can actually be judged by what you hold dear, though, so don't think that necessarily means that winning your fight will necessarily be a good thing for you.

With knowing when morality allows us to fight we can go into the detail of the act of fighting itself and look at some factors that determine the timing of going into battle.

1. Alliances:

Sure- you think it is about time you took on that guy that has been giving you grief for a long time now. You find him alone. You kick his ass. Then later you find yourself a lot less popular with even more people out to get you.

I tend to avoid groups and people that do not support my point of  view and that do not share the same values as me. Likewise, I always make sure that I at least have some people on my side in any group situation in which I have to find myself before I speak out.

Thing is- you may not be a people person, but your enemy will most likely be.

If you know that a person has a lot of friends to back him up while you are on your own- just disappear!

Even governments know the importance of alliances with other nations to ensure the safety of their countries. It would do you good to recognise the importance of allies. Even if you don't need their help, you don't want any trouble from them either.

2. Terrain

I know this is a long way from how to beat your opponent on the sparring floor, but bear with me. Your immediate circumstances play a huge part in determining the time and manner of attack.

I love reading the classic works on the subject. You find some time-honoured  pieces of advice in them like "make sure the sun is behind you", "keep the exit directly behind you" and "take the high ground".

Those of you who know History well enough will recall Napoleon's troubles with his invasion of Russia in 1812 which were also experienced by Hitler in 1941! Neither of the two leaders' armies were prepared for the Ruissian Winter and had suffered severe casualties as a result.

You would do well to take factors like witnesses, innocent bystanders, ground surface and other related factors into account before starting a fight. Consider what threats there are to your victory and what you can do to eliminate them before you engage your enemy.

Now- from a more one-on-one point of view:

In the commonly used self defence situation where you are unarmed and threatened by an armed mugger you can realise the grave consequences of attacking too soon. Sure- it is enough to scare many of us into not attacking at all, but putting emotion aside let's look at why some attacks on muggers succeed while others fail.

Having to lunge or take a step towards your opponent is all good and well for ippon kumite practice, but you do not want the mugger to see your attack coming, right? If that weapon is a gun I am sure most anti-gun specialists will tell you that you need to either move past the gun or move the gun's line of fire away from you before you can safely attack. Can you imagine what will happen if you first have to leap towards your attacker to do that?

For those people who were actually looking for an application of this lesson to the mat, the cage or wherever you beat up your dojo mates- here are some considerations for you to ponder:

1. Rather attack where the line of defense is opening up than closing down. This may seem really obvious, but many people don't get it. They do their one-two combination like the Sensei told them to, but none of the blows land. It is because it is not the combination itself that makes the attack work. The attack works because the second strike hits while the guarding hand moves away from the target to block the first strike. Some attacks from your opponent have the inherent tendency to open them up to attack as well. A straight punch always open up the ribs. A high roundhouse kick always opens up the groin. So the face often gets opened up as well because a guarding hand has to attack.

2. Attack as the opponent is inhaling. This is actually a very dirty move, but fortunately very hard to master. Still- it is still one of my favourite times to attack. I have not yet met anyone who is prepared to receive an attack when he/ she is inhaling. It gets worse if the opponent is breathing heavily.

3. If you have to take a step towards your opponent to counterattack you are too far away. So you jumped back far enough to make your opponent miss when he was attacking you? Sure. Now you have to chase him to land your blow. One of two things can happen now. Either he will get away or he will now land his counterattack. So- if you are to far away to hit immediately, rather bide your time and prepare to be close enough next time.

4. If you are within striking distance- the first one to strike will win. This applies to self defence as well. Sure- you can look things through while the opponent is still far away, but when he is in range it is time to strike otherwise he will do it for you!

5. Then- a principle to which I abide without fail and which may include some of what I have already said above: Strike whenever the opponent is preoccupied. He may be preoccupied by his own footwork, by what he is saying to you, by his own attack, by blocking your feint...

When he is preoccupied he can't attack you. You can attack him at that time, however.

  Now I think I have given enough food for thought to make your thoughts feel sluggish and bloated. :D

Join me next week when we talk about using many or few troops. 


Saturday, 19 January 2019

Five Ways to Win- Something from Sun Tzu's Art of War

"So there are five ways of knowing who will win. Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious. Those who discern when to use many or few troops are victorious. Those whose upper and lower ranks have the same desire are victorious. Those who face the unprepared with preparation are victorious. Those whose generals are able and not constrained by their governments are victorious. These are the five ways to know who will win."

- Sun Tzu- Art of War

Who is up for some ancient Chinese wisdom?

I think this generation of martial artists desperately need some just to ensure that the martial arts of today are not all about tournaments, planking, plyometrics, sports science, nutrition, cage fighting and hardcore entrance music. Did I leave anything out?

Well- I guess you know what I am talking about.

I can remember when I read a remark by one of China's famous martial arts teachers in the 1970's in which he said that students have come to call their teachers "coach".

Although I could not recall anyone in any of the karate classes that I have attended who would dare call a Sensei anything other than "Sensei" I could understand where this was coming from. Fighting sports are the foremost medium through which people get introduced to martial arts. On top of that- a large number of students are content to practice their style as just that- a sport.

So- does a sport have a teacher or a coach? I think you can see how this happens now...

Well-  Fortunately there are bloggers like me around who make sure that you get to read some of the teachings of the Old Masters to show you that some of the answers you may be looking for existed centuries before you were even born. :)

Some time ago I have quoted here and there from Musashi Miyamoto's Book of Five Rings. I have decided to have another look at The Art of War.

Where the Book of Five Rings contain guidelines on sword fighting that get applied to everyday life the Art of War contains guidelines on the management of armies that get applied by readers to everyday life.

I have picked the passage at the top of this page for discussion. It contains 5 factors that Sun Tzu says to determine victory.

So... Next week's post shall be about knowing when to fight and when not to fight to get us started!

Until then- Stay well and train hard! :)

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Keeping up with change

Although I am more focused on Chinese martial arts at the moment it is no secret that I have a very special place for Aikido in my heart.

Long before some Youtubers went out showing how its basic techniques DO NOT work in an actual fight I have found that its principle of "blending" could actually find application in my Karate- especially in managing what we call ma ai or the distance between two fighters.

As long as you match the movement of your opponent step by step with your retreat the gap will be open. Miss a step and the gap gets closed and you can get hit.

A similar feeling comes from the "sticking hands" or chi sao exercise of Wing Chun Quan.

Meet your partner's every move as it happens and your defense will remain unbroken. Get out of sync and you get hit.

We know, however, that life outside the dojo also never stands still. Even if you prefer to "go with the flow" you still have to "go" when it is called for.

Success at work and personal life is not so much a matter of finding something good and then fighting to keep it unchanged. By now you ought to have lived long enough in this realm to know that change is inevitable.

Being ready for change and adapting to it in time is a much better strategy.

Now- what do the martial arts teach us about dealing with change? How do martial artists manage to respond in time to changes in a match or a fight?

Well- here are some guidelines:

1. Consider all possible contingencies and plan for them all-

One of the biggest favours I have done for myself is spending all that time fighting imaginary opponents. When the time came for me to spar with actual people I have found that the mental preparation from imagining all the possible attacks that my opponents could use against me helped me to meet the actual attacks with a lot more confidence than before.

If you are the person who says that he/ she only deals with things as and when they happen you have set yourself up to get overwhelmed and surprised a lot in life.

You may enjoy the adrenaline rush of crisis management. Well- I can't afford to.

At work I often take stock of the cases I have and of the other tasks that come up from time to time. In my planning I make provision for those inconvenient surprises of which I have become aware through experience and make sure that I know what to do if they do occur.

2. Don't expect any particular chain of events

A harsh reality in our law is that if you have been driving the same quiet road from your home to the highway without incident for years and have become too comfortable to pay attention to your surroundings and suddenly get involved in a collision because someone decided to hastily exit his driveway on that particular day- unlike all others before- you are still guilty of driving negligently and liable for damages!

Still- we understand that it is natural for our minds to take shortcuts. We see the same thing happening over and over again and get prepared to see the same thing happening yet again.

You know about "motor-setting" as taught by Bruce Lee, right?

Well- in life we assume a lot. We assume that our retirement funds will continue to earn interest. We assume that the company we work for will still be there tomorrow. You assume that the ones closest to you will always be there.

Still- we know the risks, right? A lot of these things we take for granted will have us panicking ourselves out of our minds if they stop being where they are supposed to be or stop doing what they are supposed to do. If it is important to you- keep an eye on it. Things can change at any time.

3. Keep Calm

Seriously- can you what a nervous, jittery Aikido player looks like?


Aikido instructors will all tell you that getting yourself worked up before a sparring session leads to the body stiffening up and not responding to movements in time.

You can even get injured if you don't relax.

For you to be able to respond correctly and on time you need to be able to perceive circumstances clearly and for you to do that your mind has to be quiet. You need to be calm.

I still don't get how some people think that people perform best when they are in constant fear and under the constant impression that all hell has broken loose. The only thing that kind of approach does to me is piss me off.

Also- being calm in the face of things going sideways is not always a sign of indifference. I know a couple of bosses who only feel at ease if they see their workers pale faced with eyes wide and brows sweaty. It may make you feel better, but it is not really helping.

What helps is getting the job done right. If you really want to fix things calm yourself the fuck down first then become a fucking leader and guide everyone towards the best solution instead of just yelling like an impotent jerk.

Well... with all that said I just hope it sinks in that remaining calm in the face of a crisis helps a lot more that doing the whole headless chicken thing.

4. Forget your own preferences

Sure. We all like certain things and dislike others. Still- if a fight demands that it is time to block then it is time to block- even if you actually wanted to start your one-two combination at that specific moment.

Likewise if your financial situation says it is time to cut down on luxuries then it is time to do just that. It sucks, but what sucks more is being flat broke the next month.

Here with me it sometimes means pitching in with office work on a Saturday or two even though I'd rather chill on my weekends.   Still- it feels much better knowing that things got dealt with afterward.

5. Awareness and Mindfulness

These two elements go hand in hand. It may be very obvious that dealing with change requires being aware of it, but the wrong response often comes from being preoccupied with either how you feel about something in the past or worrying about what calamity the future may hold.

It is all good to have done your planning and projecting before you got into the fight, but when you are in the game your mind has to be on the here and now.

Now I am going to predict that there are a lot of changes waiting to happen in your lives. I don't know this because I am a psychic, but because that is how the Universe works.

Have a great week ahead and train hard!

Saturday, 5 January 2019

I'm back! Here's what I took from my first Yoga class...

Hi, everyone!

I hope you all had a really good December and that Christmas and New Year's day was a lot of fun, because now we are smack into 2019 and it is time to get to work! :)

Remember when I said that I was going to try out a Yoga class during the holidays?

Well- let's scroll past Dhalsim here...

(He happens to be the one connection that most of us make between Yoga and martial arts- if you know Street Fighter...)

Image result for dhalsim street fighterImage result for dhalsim street fighter

Let's stop here...

Image result for zen hot yoga bryanstonRelated image

How awesome is she? Meet Casey Chiang! At work I have first met her as an advocate/ barrister and have found that she has quite a sharp mind and a lot of readily accessible knowledge that comes in handy in many cases.

It was only very recently- towards the end of last year- that someone pointed out that my favourite counsel was also a Yoga teacher.

The surprise does not stop there, though.

Over here in South Africa- in the province of Gauteng- she is THE Yoga teacher and owner of the Zen Hot Yoga studio in Bryanston Johannesburg. A couple of instructors have been taught BY HER!

And SHE, believe it or not, invited me to attend one class.

Now that was one highlight of my December holidays...

(Another highlight involved a Chinese masseuse in Cyrildene who actually lives in Cape Town and another is the purchase of that handsome devil below that spent most of the ride home on my car's dashboard, but let's not digress now, shall we?)

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So- to tell you how the class went I have to confess-

My years of martial arts training was of no help at all.

And THAT's where the awakening lies. Sure- we train a lot. We punch, we kick, we grapple, we lift weights and we stretch and do push-ups, but in the end- what did we actually do?


Don't get me wrong- I know that all that training has its place, but when I realised how un-flexible I was and that I was unable to balance myself on my hands in Crow Position- and let me rather not relive my attempt at doing a head stand... There was this much older looking lady in class that actually nailed that pose while I ended up nailing myself... :D

... digressing again... Let's get back on track...

What I realised was- You may think fighting is a challenge. You may think that the Qigong student who only does these insane looking exercises (see the lady in pink above? Sure- she does not look tough, but give that pose a try!) will not be any good in a fight, and maybe you are right. But then again- these people have mastered themselves. Your comfort zone may be the cage, but that does not necessarily mean that you have mastered anything... You may just be good at fighting...

Jesse Enkamp's brother Oliver said in an interview last year that his Ikigai -or raison d'etre if we want to get fancy- is to be the best version of himself.

In my case- I got reminded about all those unpleasant aspects of my training that lay there gathering dust and I just realised what the result was of neglecting them. 

So- I have decided to take some of those Yoga Asana's back with me and to start working on my flexibility, balance, upperbody strength and posture.

And yep- we have a lot of work ahead.

Related imageImage result for shaolin kung fu exercises

Image result for shaolin kung fu exercises

But then again- Kung Fu is work...

Image result for shaolin kung fu flexibility exercises
I saw a posture like this at Yoga class!
Image result for shaolin kung fu exercises Image result for shaolin kung fu flexibility exercises

While Yoga itself my not feature much in martial arts training nowadays Chinese and Indian martial arts (especially Shaolin's Kung Fu) has always had these very hard, damn near impossible, contortion and stretching exercises. Some students of Qigong may recognise them in their own systems.

Last year I have explained how Hinduism, and later on Buddhism, sought spiritual perfection through ignoring the senses and pushing the body beyond its comfort zone. Stretching exercises and contortionist poses played a huge part in this process as this was one way to get one used to pain.

Other ways of course involved walking on hot coals, sitting or lying on a bed of spikes and getting hit.

The thing is, we as fighters want to be able to take on the world. The limitations to doing so lie more in our minds than in our bodies. You may know that. What Yoga teaches us is that through mastery of the body the mind can actually be freed in order for us to accomplish what we have not done before.

That's it from me! :)

Hope we all have an awesome 2019!