Mirko Buchwald is a 5th degree black belt in Goju Ryu, a hard style of Japanese martial arts. He has been practicing for close to 30 years, is a two time British champion and a former world International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF) champion, and also a former kanazawa cup men’s grand champion. Mirko was a member of the British karate team and after moving to the USA became captain of the USA IOGKF karate team. He splits his time teaching internationally and running his own martial arts gym Zanshin Martial Arts Center in San Francisco, California, USA.
How and why did you decide to become vegan?
I became vegan out of respect for animals. I was born into a vegetarian family. My grandfather stopped eating meat following training as a vetinary surgeon, and my mother was therefore raised as a veggie. So, I was raised as a third generation veggie. I have fond memories of helping a neighbor feed local wild foxes near my home. I learnt that people hunted these creatures for fun and was upset by it, so I got involved in direct action against fox hunting. I joined a Hunt Saboteurs group and became active around age 14. Contact with older activists led me to become vegan.
How long have you been vegan?
Over 30 years.
What has benefited you most from being Vegan?
The ability to feel compassion for all species, my great health, and the opportunity to travel the world and use my voice to spread the word of how good it is to be a vegan athlete.
What does Veganism mean to you?
It means seeing the world as it really is, through the veil of the carnistic world we live in. It means compassion for all life. It means standing up for something bigger. It means making a choice everyday to not conform to the violent ideology the permeates every aspect of life. It means love.
What sort of training do you do?
I do a combination of weight training and cardio, and I practice karate, judo, ju jitsui and kickboxing.
How often do you train?
I train 3 times a day, early morning cardio, rest, then weight training followed by an evening martial arts session.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Yes anyone interested can come train directly with me at my martial arts gym Zanshin Martial Arts Center
in San Francisco, California, USA. They can also train with me at many international events.
What sports do you play?
I have never been into playing sports - I just never got into playing with balls. I was very focused on martial arts from an early age. I do enjoy weight training and riding a bicycle on top of martial arts.
Strengths, weaknesses and outside influence
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about vegans and how do you address this?
The biggest misconception I think is people think it’s hard to be vegan. People think that you have to be really strict and that it’s really difficult to eat. As we all know it’s really not hard at all, is it? I address this by explaining the kind of foods I eat and more specifically all the things that I - or they - could use as vegan substitute foods eg non-dairy milks.
What are your strengths as a vegan athlete?
As a vegan athlete, my biggest strength is the knowledge I have inside from a lifetime of healthy eating, which I share with anyone who asks questions about my diet or life style. Also the broken stereotype that I feel I represent.
What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is living in a world of speciesm and carnism and the daily challenge of dealing with all that entails.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive of your lifestyle?
Many of my own students have become vegan from training with me and reading my monthly nutritional articles
on my student website. Many of my peers - once they get to know me and know that I’m vegan, are interested - especially as I am 6’3 and 240 lbs but I think they are still living inside the “meat matrix” as I like to call it. So they are mostly filled with the same misinformation and propaganda they have grown up with.
Are your family and friend supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
My family is nearly all vegan - including my grandparents, mother and siblings. My friends are 50/50 - half enjoy going to vegan restaurants and half don’t care.
What is the most common question people ask you when they find out you are vegan and how do you respond?
I get a combination of the protein question along with “What do you eat?” “How do you keep weight on?” “Isn’t it hard to be vegan?” I answer by explaining what protein is and where it comes from, I list the variety of foods I eat, I explain it’s about quality calories and I explain how easy veganism is once you educate yourself on diet and nutrition.
Who or what motivates you?
I am inspired by my love for all Earthlings, anyone on this planet who either simply makes a choice to eat vegan, or by people who feel the need to break open cages and take direct action. I am also personally inspired my many vegan friends. Alex Pacheco specifically of 600milliondogs.org a great man who has done so much for the Animal Rights movement and who is currently working on a pill that will sterilize the current 600 million stray dogs worldwide.
Food and Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - oatmeal with flax and chia seeds, fruit, water and a protein shake
Lunch - large salad, protein shake, fruit or vita mix smoothie
Dinner - large salad or pasta (whole wheat), protein shake, black beans, brown rice
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - protein bars, with the occasional vegan cookie or popcorn.
What is your favorite source of:
Protein - on top of getting as much as I can from actual whole foods I make a blend of protein powders with almond milk, hemp, soy, pea, potato and the Plant Fusion brand I like.
Calcium - I get it from a balanced whole food diet mainly dark leafy greens
Iron - I eat kale everyday
What food gives you the most energy?
Carbohydrates and foods with a low glycemic index. I also like the Vega sports pre and post work drinks.
Do you take any supplements?
I take 40 to 50 grams or a protein shake 4-5 times a day. I also use Creatine, B12 under the tongue supplement, a multi vitamin, MSN, Glutamine, ZMA and protein bars.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Lift weights with less repetitions and more weight. Understand which exercises are better to build bulk and which are better for definition. For example, close grip bench press will do more for your triceps that a finishing movement like dumbbell kickbacks. Eat more and supplement your diet with more protein daily equal to your body weight (if you weigh 200lbs then consume 200 grams of protein daily) 4 or 5 shakes a day should do it.
Losing weight - Less calories, cut out the sugars and processed foods, cardio daily.
Maintaining weight - Once you figure out the right nutritional and exercise balance and reach a weight you’re comfortable with, be consistent with your diet and training.
Improving metabolism - Learn about your active and resting heart rate and your aerobic threshold, make sure your diet is alkaline, read “Thrive” - a great book on vegan fitness.
Toning up - Diet, cut the sugars and fats, do a combination of cardio and strength training and plenty of abs work.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
As a vegan, everything we do and say is a reflection of each other. I personally try daily whenever the opportunity arises to engage people to make them think and question why I do and say the things I say. I think that every time someone ask a question or even makes a stupid question it’s an opportunity to give them something to think about. It’s learning how best to respond that takes time, but once you are able to, you may someday help them see through the matrix of carnism and help them see that all species deserve a life just like you and I.
How would you suggest people get involved in what you do?
and I can connect you with someone in your area or if you live in the San Francisco Bay area take a look at my websites www.sfgoju.com
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The Book is Coming Soon!
Published: 15 May 2014