My recent martial arts quest has had an interesting economic side effect. My girlfriend and I have spent hundreds of dollars at a local martial arts store, and it occurred to me that any time you pursue a hobby or persuade others to do so, you're stimulating the economy.

Right now, somewhere in your city there's a manager crunching the numbers and saying, "If we don't make x dollars this month, we'll have to let someone go." The extra $30 one customer spends might end up saving someone's job.

Next time you buy a new set of bicycle tires or a jersey, you might ensure that someone in your neighborhood still has a job. When you and your buddies meet for coffee before a Sunday ride, or grab some beer and pizza at the end of the trek, you've just helped keep a restaurant open.

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So get out there and ride your bike, or follow whatever other passions excite you. Encourage your friend and neighbors to do the same. Thousands of these tiny ripple effects all over America might accumulate into one big mighty wave that can release an economy that has run aground, and get things moving again.

And biking especially has this stimulating, life-giving force. It keeps your energy levels high and your stress levels low. It saves you money on gas and doctor's bills. The light you share with the world is contagious. Just riding out there on the street is an inspiration.

It's exactly what we need right now. Ride on!

A few weeks ago I started learning Enbukan battojutsu, a school of Japanese sword fighting. After biking to Griffith park to practice, and pondering the connection between biking and martial arts (which I've mentioned before), I wanted to share this with you.

Italy biker Lorenzo Viaggi writes:

"The cyclist should practice his skills and regard them with the same discipline and reverence as the Japanese of old mastered their fighting arts. When you conquer a hill or a great mountain pass, when you complete a long journey, your bicycle becomes a tool of honor, and instrument as sacred as a finely-crafted steel sword."

--Lorenzo Viaggi, La Via della Bici (Which could be translated as "The Way of the Bike")

I'm still at the stage where I can barely draw a wooden sword out of the sheath without hurting my wrist. If I had a real sword I'd be all stitched up by now, probably with a few missing fingers. I tell you this only to point out that my Italian translation skills are somewhat better than my swordsmanship, but any mistakes in Lorenzo's quote are mine.