Update

It seems to have worn off, mainly, leaving me feeling a little drained of energy, and more recently quite sick. Ungh…

I should definitely take a break. It’s been one long-ass day, friend.

“Mania: an excessively intense enthusiasm, interest or desire.”

It seems that every now and then I like to write a blog entry about how stressed I am having spent the last 7056 hours working on some assignment or another.

Well, not today, no sir! I’m not so much stressed as manic. I’m in this strange state flooded by autonomic hormones where everything I come up with seems hilarious and I’m talking not only to myself, but to the textbooks I am drawing information from. I cannot seem to calm down at all. It’s not unpleasant, just curious. I wonder how long this state will last. At any rate, I’m going to Taekwondo in ~40 minutes (which I may or may not continue- I’ve found new reason to train in the form of a new sparring partner who pushes me to keep on my toes) so I should burn off most of the adrenaline then.

Well, pip pip friends! It’s back to emancipatory practice to encourage every man and woman’s right to self-determinism via the strengths perspective. Tally ho!

PS: I don’t even remember how self-determinism fits in to the assignment. My memory seems to span only a few seconds, but my concentration can last up to a minute or two.

Dawn

I think I’m beginning to understand now…

I’m not right because everyone is right. Foucault writes about truth as being created as a product of social interaction (that is to say, every person makes their own ‘version’ of the truth by interacting with other people), and so there are many truths that exist simultaneously, or conversely, no such thing as truth at all. So no Liz, I don’t believe that if x punched y in the face, that would be the truth. I believe x might have considered it a wave of his hand and y considered it an attempt on her life. Each member of the jury, depending on their personal histories and current social contexts, will have different interpretations of what is "true".

So I am right, but only to me or anyone who thinks exactly along the same lines as I do (which I believe is impossible).
I concede, also, that you are right too, and you always will be.

This postmodernism stuff really does your head in.

Death Makes Life Possible

When you are a grandparent, you will no longer be a baby, a
teenager, or a young adult. So when it comes time to go to heaven,
which of these people is going to show up?

The person you are today isn’t the same person you were when you
were 10 years old. Certainly your body has changed completely from that
of the 10-year-old. None of the molecules in your cells is the same,
and neither is your mind. You certainly don’t think like a child.

In essence, the 10-year-old you once were is dead. From a
10-year-old’s perspective, the 2-year-old you once were is also dead.
The reason that life seems so continuous is that you have memories and
desires that tie you to the past, but these too are ever shifting.

Just as your body comes and goes, so does the mind with its fleeting
thoughts and emotions. When you are aware of being yourself without
being attached to any particular age, you’ve found the mysterious
observer within who doesn’t come and go.

Only witnessing awareness qualifies as that observer–it remains the
same while everything else changes. It would be futile to hold on to
who you are at this moment in terms of body and mind.

You are dying at every moment so that you can keep creating yourself.

You are not in the world; the world is in you. This, the main tenet
of the one reality, also means that you are not in your body; your body
is in you. You are not in your mind; your mind is in you. There is no
place in the brain where a person can be found.

So when we say that the soul leaves a person’s body at the moment of
death, it would be more correct to say that the body leaves the soul.
The body is already coming and going; now it leaves without coming back.

Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).

Scorn

I have been repulsed by Taekwondo for the first time since… well, ever, I think. Perhaps repulsed is too harsh a word. Maybe "put off" or "disinclined to return" will suffice. All the same it’s a shocking first for me.

Last night I attended the competition class. It’s where the members of the club who want to enter competitions and tournament gear up and practice whooping each other. It’s much more intensive because it doesn’t concern itself with basics (out of the 17 attending, 15 of them were black belts so all the exercises were on the top end of the scale) and focuses entirely on scoring (and preventing being scored on) in a tournament. Aside from being physically draining (my knees gave way after forty minutes- I’m just not used to the intensity of the exercises), I found for the first time that I was not amongst the best when I walked into a room of martial artists. In fact, I was the worst (save for the 14-year-olds and unders). By quite a margin, too. You know how I was talking about the millimeters which divide a hit from a miss? In TKD competitions, opportunities are marked by milliseconds. Your opponent tenses, s/he’s either feinting or about to attack. You read into the smallest signs your opponents sends and you use those microexpressions to find an opportunity where you might just be able to get one in before your opponent recovers. All the battles are decided on those milliseconds.

While about 35% of the class were good people (Patrick, for example, was patient with me as I tried to keep up, and Jason was trying to teach Victor to take advantage of openings), the remaining 65% (as far as I could see) were completely up themselves. Even the trainers, Master Ross and Master Graeme (though I’ll never,
ever call him that) were arrogant. They made fun of those who were not
on the state team, basically. Those who had less skill, the weaklings
of the group. Graeme told Jessica not to smile or else he’d kick her
teeth out. Ross told everyone to go easy on me because I was crazy.
Instructors who breed that kind of malice within their own ranks
disgust and hurt me. Furthermore, Oh Do Kwan is the most successful Taekwondo club in Western Australia, and most of the champions train at the Maddington branch. So essentially, we had most of the state champions training in the room, and they were all out to beat everyone else. I’m probably generalising, but they were impatient, arrogant and focused solely on dominating worthy opponents (i.e. each other).

And who wants to be that kind of person? Not me. So while I amongst the best in a normal Taekwondo class, when it comes to competition, the bar is raised well and truly above my head. And to meet it, I’ll need to train for months or years to develop reflexes slightly faster than the ones I have now so I might attack that split second earlier and get away with it. But to do so, I’ll need to devote myself to beating or matching the champions of Western Australia. And it’s just not worth it. I don’t want to spend the next few years of my life striving to become like them so I might be the tiniest bit faster at kicking.

No, my friends, it’s time I leave Taekwondo. I’ll finish this month’s membership and continues tournament training to see if my initial impression is wrong (which, as psychology taught me, it usually isn’t). After that I’ll settle into Curtin’s Karate club for a while and see how it suits me. I’m strongly put off dominating others, but Sensei Ho is a great man and I have much to learn from him. However, I do not believe Karate is all there is for me. It has weaknesses that I want to cover. But rather than learning a bunch of martial arts to cover the others’ weaknesses, I’d rather learn one good one. As far as I can tell, there are only three which are nigh on flawless if practiced well. Firstly there is Cobra Martial Arts Club in Cannington. The instructor there learned Muay Thai, Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing and combined the best of each to make a great self-defence course. It sounds good, although I am wary of any club which has a picture of a smiling family wearing uniforms on the front of the building. Secondly, there is Jeet Kune Do (although I don’t know enough about it to pursue it at the moment). Bruce Lee would have covered all the angles, I’m sure, and of course if anyone could ever fight like him, they’d be unbeatable. Thirdly there is ninjukai taijutsu, the ninja’s art of hand-to-hand combat. Lethal and very intense, a practitioner of ninjukai might never come up against an opponent of equal skill within his or her lifetime. But I’m not sure I want to become Musashi just yet.

So that’s an update on the martial arts side of my life. Which, admittedly, is huge. I realised last night that pretty much everything I love (besides Bethwyn) is based on some form of fighting. I can’t imagine that’s going to end well for me…

Musings

I have come to another nother realisation about martial arts.

With my current skill I would be able to defend myself from a large chunk of the populace. Why then do I continue to train?
1. To maintain my skill and to improve on it minutely over time. Why do I continue to try and improve?
2. Health, discipline, fun etc. Personal development. Oh, and…
3. The possibility of meeting someone with greater skill than me who threatens what I love.

Meeting such a person outside the club is unlikely, but not impossible. My scuffle with Mew taught me never to challenge a ninja to mortal combat.

When it comes to elitism, it is the minute difference in skill that tip the battle. Yes, it helps to be better with a sword than the other guy if you’re in a duel, but microseconds ultimately decide whether you can deliver the blow or not. Millimeters (or less) decide whether you get hit. And it is those millimeters you must be extra wary of- all you need to do is maintain the distance and you remain unscathed. But then, someone with the slightest trace of greater skill might be able to cover those millimeters and strike you. And that is what really wins the battle.

So, while I am only scarcely behind the others in my club, it is that tiny, tiny distance that means I will almost certainly never win a fight against them. And of course, anyone of much greater skill than me (the actors in Bruce Lee’s movies were all talented martial artists, but let’s face it, they would have gotten whooped whether it was scripted or not) would just floor me.

That’s why Nameless studied the Broken Sword’s scroll.
That’s why Shishio Makoto never took his eyes off Kenshin.
That’s why Ocelot couldn’t land a shot on the Big Boss.
That tiny millimeter which would have tipped the scale of the battle.

I still have so much to learn. But I am learning.