Caution: long entry

Just for my own benefit, I’d like to write for a moment. Here’s as good as any medium.

A few days ago I told someone I have a black belt in Taekwondo. He asked if it was a traditional or pop culture school. To be honest, I believe Oh Do Kwan to be halfway in between. At least, as far as Taekwondo goes, Oh Do Kwan has the best reputation in Australia by quite a landslide, and the centre at Maddington has two near grand masters as instructors, so we’re doing all right.

But a good friend of mine has started learning Kung Fu of the Choy Lay Fut variety. After doing a little reading and hitting youtube (and my book on various martial art forms) I’ve decided that the Chinese martial arts were almost positively more lethal, or at the very least more hardcore. Taekwondo Oh Do Kwan, as I see it, trains its disciples to be light on their feet, to minimise one’s own target while being able to kick one’s opponent efficiently, quickly and with strength. One hopes that the opponent will be downed after sufficient kicks have been landed. Its forms and taeguk are based on ancient (2000 year old?) Korean techniques and are relatively simple and easy to master. I mastered most of my forms after doing them a dozen times or less.

Recalling what experiences I have with Kung Fu and particularly Wushu, I realise now that if I went up against a disciple of either who was my rank- 1st dan or equivalent), I would almost certainly lose. The techniques they learn are vast and complex, intricate and meticulous, with grace and beauty rather than simplicity. They styles are vast and adaptable in ways that Taekwondo cannot hope to counter. Stances are varied, hand techniques extremely important, dodging at close-range rather than keeping out of range, actually blocking, close quarters attacks with the fingers and elbows as well as fists and ridgehands… But the fluidity and adaptability of a master would just absolutely floor me.

While it’s a much more… hardcore art to devote onesself to, I am unsure I have what it takes. Lately I have not practiced Taekwondo for discipline as I once did, but to keep up my ass-kicking skills (which is not a particularly noble reason). I’ve become dependent on the idea that I could not possibly lose a fight, and while I have confidence in my ability to intimidate, it cannot be denied that Taekwondo has flaws which I am struggling to overcome. Sherman or Roy, two practitioners at the club, would probably never lose a fight because, even though they only use TKD techniques, they apply them with such ferocity, speed and composure it’s hard to imagine anyone getting close enough to defeat them. But I am neither Sherman nor Roy. And I think I’ve somewhat plateaued out. My skills are keeping roughly the same with little improvement- it’s merely maintenance hereon with little separating the first dans from the third. Fourth dans and up are more serious, but I lack the patience to devote myself to the art that long. I seek diversity, variation, the new. Maybe not wushu as of yet, but some day perhaps, if my joints will allow it.

So, because I feel Taekwondo is somewhat lacking, I’ll move on to capoiera because it looks enjoyable and has its own beauty.
I’ll learn aikido because Ueshiba sensei, its founder, lasted a half hour in a duel with a master swordsman without ever drawing his sword. At last the swordsman gave up, and Ueshiba, untouched, realised he had founded ‘way of the harmonious spirit’, as aikido roughly translates.
I might try my hand at boxing to strengthen my punches and improve my reflexes.
Maybe kickboxing or possibly Muay Thai (Thai boxing) to learn how to use my elbows and knees properly.
Definitely judo or some equivalent to learn how to grapple so I’m not just taken to the ground and beaten to a pulp.
And once I’ve learned all of the above, I will challenge a Wushu or Kung fu master. And if I lose, I will forget it all and devote myself to the eastern art which bested me.

All in the name of self-defence? I think my ego may be involved. Either way, I seek to be invincible in combat. And it seems like such a miserable goal, spending years of time and effort just to reassure myself I can’t be beaten. Maybe I’ll just stick to aikido and hope I never face a Wushu master.

EDIT: Now that I think about it, I think what might be worrying me is that I might not be the best. I have, for a very long time, considered myself the best fighter I know (with a few exceptions at Taekwondo and a certain Jack Goodrick). My drive to learn more arts to cover the various weaknesses of the others is based on the fear that, someone might come along and beat me because I haven’t been trained to block five strikes to the eyes within the span of two seconds. So I feel I have to go out and learn it myself, or learn how to defend from it, so no matter what’s thrown at me I can still reassure myself with the knowledge I cannot lose. Why is it so hard to let go? Why do I always have to prove myself? Hm…

It’s not like I’m going to get attacked by a grand master anyway. I’d be surprised if I ever got into another fight in my life outside a training hall. So it’s apparently all about my ego…

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Just to remember I did something with the year.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
Gone on an Edmund Rice Camp for Kids.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Kind of, and yes informally.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nnnnno. Unless Peta counts, who worked in the deli at Coles and hugged me every time she wasn’t wearing her bloodied apron.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What countries did you visit?
Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, the last three of which were within a few days.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Courage to not be dominated.

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Remember remember the 5th of November: my weak-ass rite of passage, allowing me to do basically anything. Plus a pretty darn perfect birthday in wonderful company.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Achieving a black belt.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Losing my girlfriend for a day.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yeah, many. Specifically cutting my leg open.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I’m tempted to say my bokken.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Everyones. Well done all!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
That’s just mean.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Presents, donations. Occasionally food.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting my black belt and seeing that self-defence guy at Curtin. My first year anniversary with Bethwyn. Margaret River and sleepovers. My birthday.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
All the ones on the CD Bethi gave me. Specifically Death Cab For Cutie.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
It’s been a long year, but even so, with Bethwyn at my side it’s been wonderful.

ii. thinner or fatter?
A little thinner, I think.

iii. richer or poorer?
Poorer, amazingly. When you start earning money, you start finding uses for it.

18. What do you wish you’d done more?
Sign up for more clubs at uni.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastinating. Kinda like I’m doing now…

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent it cooking with my family (including my aunt and uncle) and then sleeping over at Bethi’s.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
I did. Again and again, almost every day.

22. How many one-night stands?
About three.

just kidding! lolz, gotcha.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
HEROES!!!

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t hate her, but I did meet a certain second in charge at Coles…

25. What was the best book you read?
Ooo… Brisingr I think.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I’m actually pretty okay at sight-reading. Not amazing, but not bad as I used to be.

27. What did you want and get?
My black cons (which are really etiko’s).

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
Very possibly The Forbidden Kingdom.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Turned 18. Drank a glass of Baileys, dinner with friends, all that jazz.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Understanding myself more. Not allowing senseless emotions to rule me.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Pretty lacking to start. Jeans and a tee mostly. While that’s still my favourite set of clothes, for anyone, I’ve started branching just a little. Started styling my hair again and whatnot, you know.

32. What kept you sane?
Bethwyn. Taekwondo. Final Fantasy. Heroes, at the time.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Fancy? Pssht.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Zimbabwe, and the various volunteer organisations I was commited to.

35. Who did you miss?
A lot of my old friends, and always Bethwyn.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Jack.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
While you live in the moment, never forget that the world is large, and you are a part of it.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I’m shaking, I’m baking,
There’s not a kid who isn’t having fun something something,
In the su-un,
With the fun cream…

Nah, seriously, not that in to songs. Pick something nice out for me.

A Play, by the Marshalls

Dad: …and I said, ‘Can you say it any shorter?’ Laughs at own joke.
Eugene: I’ve applied for a job in England.
Dad: John, do you remember when you were a baby you used to say…
Me: Oh my God, I don’t believe that. How self-centred can a person be? I mean, his son just…
Dad continues to tell story.
Eugene: Now I can say I told them.
Me: Ah, but you haven’t told Mum.
Eugene pauses and walks up to Mum.
Eugene: I’m thirsty. Get me a drink.
Mum gets a cup out and opens the fridge.
Eugene: (clearly and loudly) I’ve applied for a job in London.
Mum hands him the drink, chewing absent-mindedly on her muesli, having not heard a single word and walks away to finish breakfast.
Me: Oh my God! That was incredible!
Eugene: See how masterful I am?
John cracks up laughing uncontrollably for several minutes.

Ah, at times like these if my life were documented it would make a hilarious sitcom.

Generativity

So I’ve come to something of a conclusion. I’ve decided on three occupations that I feel would be meaningful in my life: a clinical psychologist, a chiropractor, and a social worker.

Clinical psychology would be good to get in to because I genuinely care about people and want to help, I have a morbid fascination with the mind and its workings, and I’m just darn good at it. On the other hand, the intimacy of client-worker relationships would mean I’d probably get a bit too involved whether I wanted to or not- I’d care too much, I’d probably think about clients outside of sessions, I’d get some sort of depression from the sheer and overwhelming crap that happens in people’s lives, or some combination of the above. I have concluded that, for the present, clinical psychology is not for me.

As a chiropractor I’d be able to help people. It involves knowledge of the human body (which I love) and putting it into practice to provide a unique service few people on the planet can give. It would alleviate pain and physically change lives (hopefully for the better), is relatively intimate in its relationships and its service, and is reasonably well respected and well paid. Besides: everyone loves being friends with a chiropractor. I’ve promised Mrs Mountford (from Year 6 + 7) and Mr Redden (from Year 9) that I’d let them know when I had my qualifications. Plus I’d be learning things that would allow me to take better care of Bethwyn, which is a truly happy thought.

Social work is indeed a challenging occupation. It’s true, it deals with some hard stuff, some confronting problems with society, but I don’t always have to deal with that. If it gets too much, I can always re-assign a case to a fellow worker. My problem, essentially, is that I care too much. And while that’s not usually a bad thing, it’s been draining me terribly. After a year of social work, volunteering and hefty donations I’m almost tired of being compassionate. That said, the amount of good I could do as a social worker is phenomenal- I’d be changing lives and providing basic needs for people, and that’s really important to me. I’d never be out of work so I’d always be administering help. As long as I allow myself enough time to recover from cases (leaving work at work and enjoying home at home, plus the occasional holiday if that was proving too much) and avoid burning out (as I’ve come close to several times this year) I think I could do it.

So for the moment, the plan is this. I will continue my studies in social work, at least for another year so I can experience the field placement in second semester. I’ll do social work for as long as I like, maybe a few months, maybe a few years, maybe forever. Thereafter, if I’m tired of it all, I’ll resume studies to become a chiropractor and continue along that path until retirement. To me at present, that sounds like a wholly fulfilling life full of rewards and making differences. As long as I have Bethwyn, it’s sounds pretty ideal to me. So another semester of study it is (with a healthy blend of ass-kickery i.e. martial arts to boot).

Let’s see how the year rolls, eh? Peace friends.

Generativity vs. stagnation

This past week or so something’s been bothering me. I’ve been in a state of perpetual irritation and restlessness and it drove me somewhat crazy as I searched my subconscious for what was plaguing me. I realised what it was yesterday: generativity. Erikson’s theory of development suggests that middle-aged adults need to generate, to seeks satisfaction through productivity in career, family, and civic interests, or face stagnation. I’m either one step ahead of the block or experiencing something akin to a mid-life struggle.

In short, I feel as if I’m not doing anything meaningful with my time. This sentence is thrown around a lot, and I’ve seen its symptoms in misers, who are rich but miserable, and in many of my friends who are facing the choices regarding what they want to do for the rest of their adult life.

I can’t think at the moment because my parents are fighting, but I just wanted to acknowledge what I’m going through. My plan, at the moment, is to go through all the prospecti and undergraduate guides I have, check out the job list and see if anything strikes me as vocational. Meanwhile, I’ll resume Taekwondo and a variety of other martial arts available in case my calling is to drop everything in this life and move to Japan to live as a warrior. But I’m not planning to set any goals just yet. I’m not going to say, By 7 o’clock tonight I’ll know what I’m doing for the next thirty years. As much as I hate stagnation (that is, sitting around without a goal, without trying to accomplish anything), I will not pretend I have any idea what I want to do for the rest of my life. So, like a good RPG I’m just going to hoard skill and attribution points until I know which skills I want to max out, and which attributes will result in the best damage. I’ll let you know how it goes.

:)

de fac⋅to


http://cache.lexico.com/d/g/speaker.swf/di ˈfæktoʊ, deɪ/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [dee fak-toh, dey] Show IPA Pronunciation

–noun

1.

in fact; in reality: Although
his title was prime minister, he was de facto president of the country.
Although the school was said to be open to all qualified students, it
still practiced de facto segregation.
2.

actually existing, esp. when without lawful authority (distinguished from de jure ).
3.

Australian. a person who lives in an intimate relationship with but is not married to a person of the opposite sex; lover.

Confronted

I nearly got into a fight today.

There was a young Aboriginal man, early twenties, accompanied by two young Aboriginal women at Claisebrook train station. He was only wearing his boxers because his other clothes were wet and he felt only idiots wore wet clothes. The man swore a great deal and complained loudly about the train not having arrived yet (even though I assume they were running on schedule). He was frustrated that he had left his "drink" in the car- $75 worth of bottle, he later said. He kept coming back to how he wanted his drink and seemed to take it out on one of the women he was with, leaning over her and banging his hand on the wall behind her. I was worried he would hit her. She tried to reason with him (in an equally loud voice, but without the aggression) that it wasn’t her fault, but he was too angry to listen. The other woman didn’t speak at all.

During this, Mum called me to ask where I was. I told her I was at Claisebrook and would call her again when I needed to get picked up from Kenwick. When I hung up, the man turned to me and said if I needed to talk on the phone I could. I answered, Nah it’s all right mate. He threatened to smash my fucking glasses and break my big nose. He would fight me. I didn’t answer, just turned back to my book and pretended to read. From the moment he’d announced his presence on the platform, I was prepared to defend myself. He was shorter than me, though muscular, and from his obsession with his drink I speculated he might not be sober. I could defeat him easily. My problem was that if the two women defended him I probably couldn’t pursuade myself to hit them, as they had not given me any reason to consider them threats, other than accompanying him. As I pretended to read, all this flashed through my mind, and though I knew I could fight and I could win without fear of injury to myself, I didn’t want to. Part of it was fear, but I am inclined to think that the greater part of it was compassion. Even after he continued to swear and threaten other passengers and his own companion, I did not want to believe he was inherently evil, that he was incapable of any good action. I could not believe he was soulless. But he wasn’t giving me a lot to work with, and all I could think of to do was to pray that whatever was hurting him healed, and that his companions would not be hurt along the journey.

When we got on the train, the security guards walked right up to them and stood a few feet away, just staring at them. My initial thought was that they were being racist, picking on the man just because he was Indigenous without knowing if he’d done anything. But then I realised that even though they had no right to judge him without prior knowledge (though a man in his underwear is probably enough to warrant attention either way), I felt relieved that they were there. He sat down and stared at the floor, cursing occasionally and explaining his attire. When he got off, there were two more security guards to accompany him down the stairs, the girls he was with staring at their feet and moving quickly. When the doors shut, people started talking. One passenger slandered the man. Two middle-aged women discussed the events quietly. I just sat and left them to their thoughts.

No, it wasn’t much of a fight. And it wasn’t particularly dangerous. But if I had provoked him in the slightest, I’m sure he would have either continued to swear at me (which no one appreciates), or tried to engage me. It was hard to resist the instinct to defend myself, but I left him unprovoked as far as possible. If he had begun hitting the woman, I’m not sure what I would have done. I’d like to say I’d have stopped him, protected her, called security and been a hero. But the reality is much more complex. What if she had to go home to face his wrath alone? What if things only got worse thereafter?

There’s a lot of hurt in the world. And I’d like to do something about a lot of it. But in all honesty, a lot of the time I have no idea what I can do. At any rate, I got home unscathed to fight another day. Taekwondo reopens in a week. Peace.