Originally written on Oct. 2000
Updated: Thursday April 22, 2004
A Short Autobiography by Sebastian Molnar
Here is where I will try to bore you with trivial details about my life.
I was born and raised in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) where I spent most of my life. My current interests are diverse, but can be placed into one of three categories (not necessarily in any particular order): 1) athleticism, 2) music, and 3) science.
I don't watch sports. I may take part in sport-like activities now and then, but that's about it. In elementary school, I played various sports, such as baseball, hockey (though I suck at skating, so I was better at road hockey), volleyball, badminton, basketball (I sucked at basketball too), and so on. As fun as those sports may have been, none surpassed my interest in the martial arts. I recall watching Bruce Lee movies and many other kung fu movies in my childhood -- that's probably what peaked my interest at first. It probably helped that I had friends who thought kung fu was cool.
Over the past 15 years or so, I have studied a number of different martial arts. I am not an expert in any of them -- far from it.
I officially started martial arts training in Judo soon after my mom had mentioned that one of my friends (who I will forever be thankful) was taking classes at the local community recreation center (I was about 12 or 13 at the time). After a few years, I temporarily left Judo and joined the Hong Luck Kung Fu club in chinatown (Toronto). I learned quite a bit during the two years I was there. I learned the various punches and kicks that are commonly found in other martial arts, as well as some techniques and forms characteristic to the Hong Luck style. During my Judo and kung fu training, I also had a keen interest in collecting any and all martial art books I could find. Over the years, I obtained books from many different styles -- Karate, kung fu, Judo, Aikido, and various martial art weapons books – and ended up with a rather large collection.
I ended up leaving the kung fu club (due to real life getting in the way). I also figured I had learned enough that I could train on my own, at least for a while, to perfect what I knew; then I could come back again later and learn more. However, instead of going for kung fu again, I decided I wanted to go back to my Judo training ... but alas! … my Judo sensei had stopped teaching at the recreation center and I had no way of finding him again. Fortunately, I discovered that there was an Aikido class (Tendokai Aikido) being taught instead. Being somewhat familiar with Aikido through my book learning, I signed up. The techniques seemed really cool (joint locks and takedowns) -- very graceful, yet powerful and deadly. We also used the bokken (japanese wooden sword) and the Jo (four foot wooden staff). Overall, I found Aikido fairly difficult to learn. Unfortunately, I only stayed for about three months. Real life was getting in the way of my training again...I had to focus on school. After that, I had completely stopped taking martial art classes, but continued to practice off and on by myself (and occasionally with some friends) for several years.
When I got into York University in 1995, my interests in taking martial art classes had resurfaced. To my pleasant surprise, the York U recreation facility offered nearly a dozen different martial arts classes. In the first term of my first year at York, I just went crazy and signed up for five different classes: Shotokan Karate, Yoshinkan Aikido, Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido, Judo, and Wing Chun Kung fu. For a first year undergrad, taking five different martial arts PLUS doing a full course load took a lot of time and energy. I did manage to schedule everything in ... on the other hand, I probably should've spent more time actually studying for my science courses! It was a lot, I knew that. So by second term, I toned it down a bit. I stuck with Judo and Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido, both of which I continued for a few years afterwards...and, I made progress in them!
The Aikido class I took wasn't affiliated with the University, and there had been 'booking issues' and 'room issues'. Eventually, the club decided to move off of campus. Fortunately, they moved to the nearby YMCA, so I was able to continue lessons with them. But, later on, they had to move again -- this time, however, I couldn't follow them. I did stay with my judo training...for a while. I had noticed that there was a Kendo club that trained in the squash courts near our Judo class. After a year or so of watching them practice, my curiosity had to be satisfied. Unfortunately, this was to the demise of my Judo training, as there was a time conflict with Kendo. I ended up joining the York U Kendo Club and stayed with them for two years, until I had to leave York for UBC. Kendo is quite rough. I constantly got huge blisters on my hands from holding the shinai. And, wearing the helmet and body armour didn't help much with absorbing blows (especially if you got wacked, albeit unintentionally, at unprotected areas such as the upper arms). I did partake in one competition. I lost my match, but that was ok. I'm not particularly competitive by nature, and I never had any real interest in doing martial arts for competition. It was an interesting sport, but not one that I could see myself continuing with.
There was one martial art that really intrigued me and continues to do so: Wing Chun kung fu. Although, I had only trained in Wing Chun for about three months at York U, I realized it was quite unlike any other martial I had taken. On a practical level, Wing Chun is undisputedly the most efficient. Fortunately, when I moved to Vancouver for my Masters at UBC, there was a martial arts club close to where I lived, and they offered Wing Chun lessons! I joined the club in June of 2002. Actually, the style is Wing Tsun kung fu and it is a bit different from the Wing Chun I took back at York U. It really is such an amazing martial art (or, rather, self defense system) -- the principles are logical and the techniques are simple. However, it is not easy at all. The simple techiniques are surprisingly difficult to do effectively. Becoming good is all in the training -- it takes time and hard work.
My advice to anyone is this: persistence is the key to everything. Persistence is crucial for anything that requires 'learning' -- martial arts, music, science, darts, bicycling ... they're all the same.
Outside of martial arts, I am an avid salsa dancer. I’ve been doing salsa for a few years now. In April of 2003, I had joined a dance team, Salsa Obsessions. We have done performances at various events around Vancouver. I've become so obsessed with salsa, that I've started teaching it. I built another geocities website (www.geocities.com/salsa_seb) to house my salsa interests, and includes my salsa class info.
My other great passion is the flamenco guitar. I had many piano lessons when I was a kid, but I gave it up when I was about 14. In December of my first year at York U, I started to learn the guitar. Both of my parents play the guitar, so I learned some of the basic notes and chords from them. Ultimately, I had to learn flamenco on my own from books and from listening to other flamenco musicians play. Actually, I discovered several months after I started learning flamenco, that two uncles of mine were (and are) very good flamenco and classical musicians (and they even make their own guitars). Below are some pictures of me taken at my family cottage during Thanksgiving, 2000.
This is me trying out my uncle's guitar.
This is me with my own guitar, strumming away.
Now to my interests in science. I am currently finishing my Masters in genetics at the University of British Columbia. Before that, I did my undergraduate degree in biology at York University in Toronto. The reason I got into science was simply this: I wanted to know things. Currently, I am studying the mechanism of DNA uptake in bacteria. For more details on my present and past research, click here.
As far as I can remember, I have always been interested in science (or at least in "knowing things"). Trips to the family cottage brought me closer to nature. Having plants in the house and in the garden allowed me to realize I have a "green thumb" (which is probably why I'm so fond of plants -- animals are fine too, but plants don't scream when you cut them open). As a kid, I was always fascinated with dinosaurs (obviously, it was a great introduction into the evolution and diversity of life). I enjoyed high school biology, although at the time I didn't know I would later specialize in biology at university (I did know I would go into the sciences). When I first entered university, everything changed (almost) -- university biology was extrordinarily difficult (I nearly failed first year Biology and Chemistry -- the two most important courses we had to take!). All of a sudden, I despised biology (but not to the point that I would switch majors). A lack of studying was certainly responsible (in part) for bad grades ... although, in my view, ridicuously difficult multiple choice questions, where you literally had to know everything in the lectures, surely didn't help much either. But why did I not study like I used to? I guess I lost interest. But, persistence paid off. It wasn't until about half-way through second year that my interest resurfaced again.
I began reading books (in particular, the Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins -- that was a great read for a somewhat lost and confused biology undergraduate). Everything seemed rational again. I re-discovered my interest in biology through studying evolution. I first learned of Darwin and evolution by natural selection in OAC biology in high school, but it wasn't until I started reading many books about evolution in my second undergraduate year and onward, that I really appreciated the eloquence and logic behind the theory. When I came to UBC, I became the website manager for the Evolution Discussion group (EDG), and for the Genetics Graduate Program (GGP). Last year, a number of my colleagues joined together to form the
Origin Reading Group (ORG), where every week we got together for drinking beer and the discussion of a chapter from Darwin's book, The Origin of Species. We completed the book last summer and have moved on to read Dobzhansky's, Genetics and the Origin of Species. After that, the next book will be The Major Transitions in Evolution by John Maynard Smith and Szathmary. However, I have been so busy with my thesis and other things, I haven't attended the ORG meetings for the last two books.
There was one course that I had wanted to take at York University from day one: "Origins of Life". I took it in my second last year. It was an excellent course, as it presented many theories and ideas dealing with evolution and the origins of life. For me, it opened up paths to new areas that I had no idea existed. "Origins" is definitely one topic that needs to be addressed, whether it be the origins of a new species, or the ultimate origin(s) of life in the universe. I have segregated "origins" and "evolution" into different sections on my site. In reality, however, there is there is overlap, or rather, a continuum from one to the other. When a species 'originates', it will evolve in some capacity over time. When life itself first arose, evolution was inevitable.
Although evolution has abundant supporting evidence, I will admit there are many things we do not know -- but that is what research is for.
I must give a quick note about my web page. I first started this web site in the summer of 1998. This was soon after my interest in biology had resurfaced. Around that same time, I surfed the web (quite a lot!) for a variety of topics; especially for biology and evolution. Actually, I've never owned a computer with an internet connection -- I still don't. It wasn't until first year university that I started using the net -- I was quite impressed with some of the web pages out there. Initially, I had built this site to simply contain a number of links that I found interesting and potentially useful. Since then, it has grown to include essays and lab reports that I have done over the years, as well as some modified lecture notes taken from various courses. I think the internet is a great medium for learning. I do not, however, believe that the internet should replace the classroom -- humans are social animals and they need to interact with others 'in person'.
Anway, that's all for now. Enjoy the rest of my website!