101 in 1001 bump

Okay, so for those of you who haven’t been avidly following my blog for the past five years, about two and a half years ago I started a project called 101 in 1001. The idea was to set 101 goals to be done in 1001 days, which is roughly 2.75 years. That journey is coming to a close. If my calculations were correct, I have exactly two months to finish my remaining eighteen goals. That’s roughly two goals per week. It’s possible, I won’t deny, but looking at it now I’m thinking I really should have done of those months if not years ago. As from the original post, I will donate $5 to charity for every goal undone, so we’re currently looking at $90. On the list, anything in bold still needs doing by the deadline. Let’s see what’s left.

1. Sponsor a child.
2. Offer to buy a homeless person a meal
without being asked.

3. Do 10 chin-ups.
4.
Read a non-fiction book.
5. Get a job.
6. Meditate every
day for a week.
7. Draw a
picture.

8. Go for 40 hours without eating.
9. Watch all the Lord of the Rings films in
a row.

10. Write a letter to someone I’ve never met
in person.
11. Go to an art gallery.
12. Go to a museum (wax or
otherwise).
13. Not talk to anyone for a whole day.
14.
Have a real sword fight.
15. Hug a stranger.
16.
Get into uni.
17. Visit a Buddhist temple.
18. Go on
an Edmund Rice Camps for Kids WA camp.
19. Give $300 or more
to India.
20. Go rock climbing.
21. Take a massage
course.
22. Pass four of the Zelda games.
23.
Campaign/protest/rally against something.
24. Dress-up for some
reason.
25. Attend a yoga or tai chi class.
26. Sit
in the city and write stories about interesting people.
27. Rip an apple in half with my bare hands
28.
Have a drum lesson.
29. Climb in through a window rather than
use the door.
30. Play laser tag.
31. "Release an arrow from its bow"
32. Eat a whole
apple, even the core

33. Watch at least three episodes of
"24".
34. Go to the movies by myself.
35. Learn first
aid.
36. Watch a documentary.
37. Get drunk.
38.
Do the Wii Fitness test 100 times.
39. Buy a work of art.
40.
Become an official member of Amnesty International.
41. Go to
a real party.
42. Go to the zoo. Pay homage to the penguins.
43.
Get my P’s.
44. Have my tarot read.
45. Take someone out
to lunch.
46. Make something out of a cookbook.
47.
Hold a hand stand for 5 seconds.
48. Try aikido.
49.
Visit Katie’s house.
50. Pass Final Fantasy X.
51. Pass
every song on Guitar Hero III, all difficulties.
52. Read (or at
least skim read) all of the Childcraft books.
53. Watch at
least three new animes.
54. Learn braille.

55.
Hug a male.
56. Re-learn all the Hiragana characters.
57.
Learn Morse Code.
58. Play a game of poker.
59. Get "Age: 20"
100 times in the Wii Fitness Test.
60. Catch a train to
somewhere I’ve never been.
61. Ride a pony.
62.
Taste Dr. Pepper.
63. Solve a rubics cube.
64. Complete a jigsaw
puzzle.
65. Watch the third season of Heroes.
66. Read all the Animorphs books.
67. Try archery.
68. Run up a downwards escalator.
69.
Give someone a bouquet.
70. Try a dessert I’ve never heard of
before.
71. Learn three new piano songs.
72. Go to a shooting
range.

73. Wear contact lenses.
74. Learn 100 new words.
75. Get
a pet dog or rabbit.
76. Punch someone in the face.
77.
Learn calligraphy.
78. Give a
waiter/waitress a tip.

79.
Learn to cook

80. Sit an IQ test.
81. Go ice
skating.
82. Buy a boxing bag.
83. Officially start learning
another language.

84. Go overseas.
85. Ride a bike to
the city (or somewhere equally painful).
86. Cosplay for an
anime convention.
87. Walk somewhere that takes more than an hour
(on foot) to reach.
88. Buy a CD from a busker.
89. Do a
front flip or barrel roll.
90. Sit down in a park to read a
book or write a story.
91. Donate blood.
92. Enter a
competition.
93. Write on every single page of my 2007 diary.
94.
Get a zippo lighter.
95. Attempt to drink an egg.
96.
Read a magazine from cover to cover.
97. Ride a roller
coaster.
98. Buy a doll from Oxfam.
99. Take
swimming lessons.
100. Finish reading the rest of the Rurouni
Kenshin manga.
101. Go to Scitech.

I’ve also retained the liberty of changing my list whenever I find a new and interesting (or just more realistic goal) replacement. A list of changes is below, where my fickle-mindedness is clearly evident. Some were subtle changes in words, others just all out "What was I thinking?", and others still were repetitions of old dreams revived.

EDIT: 68 has been changed from
"Get a boxing bag" to "Run up a downwards escalator".
EDIT: 25 has
been changed from "Go to a real party" to "Attend a yoga or tai chi
class".
EDIT: 101 has been changed from "Do the splits" to "Go to
Scitech".
EDIT: 73 has been changed from "Get contact lenses" to
"Wear contact lenses".
EDIT: 41 has been changed from "Throw a
shuriken" to "Go to a real party".
EDIT: 98 has been changed from
"Pay back all my financial debts" to "Buy a doll from Oxfam".
EDIT:
66 has been changed from "Voluntarily go to some kind of performance
(eg. circus, concert, play etc.)" to "Go to a play".
EDIT: 51 has
been changed from "Pass every song on Guitar Hero III, all difficulties"
to "Pass every song on Guitar Hero III, Hard Mode".
EDIT: 40 has
been changed from "Get a state alchemist’s pocketwatch (from Fullmetal
Alchemist)." to "Become an official member of Amnesty International."
EDIT:
80 has been changed from "Write a play" to "Create a postal stamp".
EDIT:
35 has been changed from "Read all of Sunshine’s blog" to "Learn first
aid".
EDIT: 31 has been changed from "Celebrate the International Day
of the Ninja" to "Celebrate Day of the Ninja".
EDIT: 80 has been changed from "Create a postal
stamp" to "Sit an IQ test".

EDIT: 21 has been changed from
"Obtain all the Animorph books" to "Take a massage course".
EDIT: 99
has been changed from "Touch a celebrity" to "Take swimming lessons".
EDIT: 82 has been changed from
"Sleep outside (preferably under a bridge)" to "Join a gym".
EDIT: 71
has been changed from "Learn to juggle bowling pins/knives/flaming
torches" to "Release an arrow from its bow".
EDIT: 79 has been changed from "Go to a shooting
range"
to "Learn to cook".
EDIT: 85 has been changed from
"Use only chopsticks for every meal for three days" to "Ride a bike to
the city (or somewhere equally painful)".
EDIT: 14 has been changed
from "Have a real sword fight with bokken or shinnai" to "Have a real
sword fight".
EDIT: 83 has been changed from "Wear a cape/cloak for
an hour or more" to "Officially start learning a new language".
EDIT:
71 has been changed from "Release an arrow from its bow" to "Learn
three new piano songs".
EDIT: 52
has been changed from "Eat a whole apple, even the core" to

"Read (or at least skim read) all of
the Childcraft books".

EDIT: 54 has been changed
from "Help an old lady carry her shopping/cross the street" to "Ride a
wheelchair".
EDIT: 65 has been changed from "Make a shirt" to "Watch
the third season of Heroes".
EDIT: 38 has been changed from "Spend a
whole day in the library, from the hour it opens to the hour it closes"
to "Do the Wii Fitness test for a month straight".
EDIT: 38 has been
changed from "Do the Wii Fitness test for a month straight" to "Do the
Wii Fitness test 100 times".
EDIT: 61 has been changed from "Ride a
horse" to "Ride a pony".
EDIT: 48 has been
changed from "Join aikido" to "Try aikido".
EDIT: 27 has been changed
from "Start weight training" to "Rip an apple in half
with my bare hands".
EDIT: 32 has been changed from "Look at
all the new deviations on my deviantART account" to ""Eat a whole apple, even the core".

EDIT: 54 has been changed from "Ride a wheelchair" to "Play a game
of Dungeons and Dragons".
EDIT: 31 has been changed from "Celebrate Day of
the Ninja" to "Release an arrow from its bow".
EDIT: 82 has been changed from "Join a gym" to "Buy a boxing bag".
EDIT: 72 has been changed from "Learn
the language Al Bhed" to "Go to a shooting range".
EDIT: 54 has been changed from "Play Dungeons and Dragons" to "Learn braille".
EDIT: 66 has been changed from "Go to a
play" to "Read all of the Animorphs books".

So that’s it so far! I’ll do my best to make this last stretch count. Let’s see if I can get it under 10.

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Playing drunk. Again.

Okayokayokay I know. I didn’t want to make my next post MA (that’s martial arts, not mature audiences) related, but I don’t really have anywhere else to share the joy and knowledge I get from studying the different styles. I recently bought an A4 notebook as a Mugai Ryu journal, and while I’m happy to write about new understandings I come across in my journey as a warrior, I don’t want to sully it with details about other styles. So, for now, this is my favourite medium.

Apparently Rebel has Kung Fu classes on Tuesmorns! How exciting is that! Unbelievably, is the answer. Oh, gosh, don’t get me started on how ridiculously excited I get about these things. While we were left to warm up, I started doing just a little capoeira to stretch my legs, and after confessing to not learning how to do the jinga, Kaneda gave me a quick lesson. It was so much fun. Did I mention it was fun? Oh, gosh, it’s just.. Yay! So we got into a good rhythm and then turned to face each other, advancing it to exchanging kicks. It was really really fun to, ahem, play around. I’ll definitely, definitely revisit it soon.

But the main lesson, and the more exciting part (if it’s even possible), was a session on drunken kung fu, because Kaneda was feeling a little groggy. It’s such a unique style, unorthodox if you will, based on deception, confusion and sometimes sheer terror. When someone’s falling on you and throwing punches and kicks at your face you don’t have time to do anything but move back and deflect their shots. Kaneda chased George (and myself) across the hall in seconds before we were cornered and he ploughed down on top of us. It’s all about playing with balance and moving your centre, your dan tien. As I came to understand it, it was like your belly became a large keg of beer- it sloshed and moved as you moved, but it was also reinforced with iron rims, an incredibly strong barrel from which power could come from rolling and twisting.

Drunken boxing is largely about controlled falling. Tipping forwards, backwards, left and right, but knowing exactly where your limit is, and either holding it, following it through, or recovering it. Although appearing uncontrolled, it’s actually perfectly controlled with so much unpredictability it creates unique openings. It’s also about taking hits as well as giving them. Kaneda (a hard puncher) hit a 60-year-old drunken boxer as hard as he could in the chest, but the man just took it and fell back in Kaneda’s face as if to say, "Huh? Did you tap me on the shoulder for some reason?", classic drunken style. It was very deflating for Kaneda but very impressive for the drunken boxer. At the end of class he was showing us some exercises, like tipping back as far as you can as if downing a drink, and holding it. Then rolling (or climbing) up and down from what I can only poorly describe as a spread kneeling position. Intense exercises which are hard on the lower back, but with training will be very very awesome. It’s a great style which I’d absolutely love to learn and get better at, but as I realised today, we did only the tip of the ice berg. It’s hard to imagine we were only doing basics, but I deeply wish to learn more about the secrets, philosophies and advanced techniques of the art. I’ll get there, and keep practicing meanwhile.

The exercises (just for my benefit) were jab low high punch, moving hands (down, down, left, right. To generate power, throw your body into it and twist from the centre so that your arm extends with your centre line. Use the forearms, not the fists), catching a punch while simultaneously kicking the attacker (really lean into it, and then fall onto them keeping your centre of gravity loose and low. Knee, twist with the shoulders, then kick!), and grab defence (raise the arm, punch through the opening, then twist the person. Works with cross or straight grab). Hit with the flat of the second finger and remember to roll the gourd (at waist height).

‘kay! Borderlands now!

Drunken Snake?

Because I only just decided to actually buy a notebook myself for Mugai (rather than waiting for one to fall into my lap), this is just a brief update on the martial scene.

Last Thursday was my second Hand-to-Hand class, focussing very much on different styles from around the world based on Kaneda’s vast experiences. I got the very humbling lesson from Selena that I’m not necessarily the best or most experienced fighter in the room as she began to show me the numerous flaws in my technique. It made me realise some of my weaknesses, and I managed to overcome most of them throughout the night. More practice is needed, and more purpose in my actions. I had lots of fun learning drunken boxing take-downs (I’ve been practicing the drunken boxing fist all day, and I have no idea why!), a little Muay Thai, some street fighting and some snake-style Kung Fu too! The various animal forms of Kung Fu are absolutely beautiful. My favourite (artistically) is a toss-up between dragon and Japanese crane. I’m thinking I’m going to have to spend some years learning them, because they’re just gorgeous, and so unusually effective in their very unique styles.

Anyway, things to remember regarding Mugai…
-Kamai is a state of harmony with one’s true centre.
-When doing a rolling yokomenuchi, keep the arm unbendable, cut lower against girls, and be aware of your environment before you launch into it.
-Try blowing out a candle with the energy generated from the open palm technique.
-When maintaining chudan with one hand, keep the arm unbendable.
-Give nothing away.
-When maintaining true guard, keep the kisaki exactly where it needs to be. Think forward.
-Do for the sake of doing. The effects of your actions are secondary.
-Mushin: no-mind. No thought between action, so reactions are pure expressions without hesitation or hindrance. According to Wikipedia, "Some masters believe that mushin is the state where a person finally
understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to
move."

And that’s it for now! Next entry I aspire to NOT BE about martial arts.

Ki

Just a brief update since that last entry. It’s interesting how so many of my recent posts have been on the topic of the martial way.

George is a 16-year-old kid who’s part of Rebel Empire to gain work experience, and he’s pretty quick with the uptake. He also has ten years experience Taekwondo, and holds the rank of second dan. That’s pretty darn impressive. He also expressed to Kaneda the confidence that he could win in a fight between the two of them. Kaneda gently showed him the error of his ways by taking up his sword and, without striking him, unleashing his fierce battle aura. George no longer believes he could take Kaneda in a fight. I however became curious. Such confidence must surely belie worthy skill, or great arrogance. I wanted to see which, so after the mats were cleared of people and with Cameron as witness and referee, we did some sparring.

I’ll keep it short and say this much. I’m not actually as slow and out of practice as I thought I was from my last entry. Although George’s experience clearly shows, it was a reasonably close battle and we each landed many good hits. I’d say he would have won though, at least if it was purely Taekwondo. I found it all coming back to me, and though I wasn’t quite as fast as I used to be, it was reassuring that I couldn’t "lose it" so easily.

Something else that was deeply reassuring to me was another chi demonstration by Kaneda. I asked him, at the end of one of the Mugai classes, if there was a way to conceal your energy- to "hide your powerlevel" if you will. I just thought that because Kaneda could sense anything around him, would anyone ever be able to play hide and seek with him? Or wait in the darkness for him to return home? The answer he gave me is surprisingly deep. It’s not about burying your energy within yourself, it’s about getting rid of it. Dispelling it into the ground, out and away from you so that you yourself become a void. When there’s nothing left in you, when you become empty, what’s underneath has room to surface: cowardice, anger, fear. It’s an awful state to be in, like those moments in the Star Wars universe where a character enters a situation where they are, in deep and profound ways, tempted by the dark side. They are overcome with passion which may be used for very dark ends. Some have described it as summoning spirits and demons to power the body. It’s hardcore stuff, not to be taken lightly. But the point of this story is that he showed me how he can give and take energy. He once again did the exercise where¬† he put my hand between two of his (so that they weren’t touching) and generated a current. It was warm and most definitely tingly- one of the sensations of feeling chi moving in the body. But it worked in reverse as well- he could feel my chi running up all the way to his arms, and it was tingly and made him giggle as he shook himself off. It’s flattering for me to say of myself that I think of it as a zap of positive energy that just makes a person happy and they can’t explain why. But he described it as "good energy", which I take to mean pure and positive, with potential to be and do so much. I may be taking it a bit far by explaining it so, but this is what I felt he meant.

In my past, a similar thing has happened. I met a karateka in my first year of uni who had been training for a very long time. He was used to full contact fighting, and had conditioned his body and mind for combat. We were sharing our experiences in the humanities commonroom, expressing our love for the martial arts together. He taught me a very important lesson- that in any fight, there is a very deep connection between you and the other person. You can intimately understand almost everything about them just from a few seconds of connecting in such a way. Every subtle movement, every act of aggression or passivity, changes in stance and intent can all paint a picture of who that person is. He showed me a wing chun exercise for sensitivity where I placed the back of my hand against his and we moved them between us in a circle. As soon as we made contact he jerked his hand back. He said there was a shock (which I hadn’t felt) and it was really weird. There was a startling amount of energy in me. When we did the exercise we harmonised almost instantly, with almost no resistance in the movement (for our right hand, anyway).

Bert also mentioned being able to feel energy coming from me. He feels there’s "something there" wherever I am.

This leads me to believe I have potential to be so strong, to do so much. I just don’t yet know how to tap into it. To my frustration, I still have trouble sensing energy with my eyes closed or from behind me. I begin to grasp it when my mind becomes really quiet, but it takes so long and so much effort to do (or rather to not do, to let go). I deeply wish to believe I can be a great warrior. I just need to find out how. Practice and experience will help teach me.

Just for my own notes, until I get a proper notebook, lessons from Mugai on Sunday include:
-Balancing a sharp knife on the shoulder to practice fluidity and steadiness of movement.
-Thief defence: drawing, moving from behind, locking. Remember to lead them- offer, then pull back.
-Keep practicing sensitivity drills.
-Aggressive/defensive yokomenuchi. Watch your footwork- don’t cross-step.
-8 directional step with proper breathing, fluidity, and a constant push/pull action. Keep your eyes up, three feet in front of you.
-Seiza at the end of class is a time to remember your connection to nature and to everything.

Humility

Something Kaneda said to me last week kinda sticks out at me. Like a barb, really. It’s caught on my shirt, under my skin even, and it’s not going away. He said that sometimes what you look like in your mind is not what you’re doing with your body. You can be convinced you’re perfect, but anyone looking at you can tell you that your form is poor in this, that and the other way. Like Maslow’s ideal self vs the actual self- the incongruity between what you aspire to and what you are can be quite frustrating. Well, I have a pretty big announcement to make.

I’m not all I talk myself up to be.

Throughout the past, oh I don’t know, four or five years of my life (or perhaps even longer, maybe since I was 11 or 12-years-old), I have perpetuated the narrative that I am a natural and talented martial artist. I have convinced myself I have a certain knack for seeing "the right move at the right time".¬† This may be true, this may not be. But what definitely isn’t true is the story I tell which describes me as invincible. Untouchable, unbeatable, indominable. A pillar of calm and strength on the battlefield, swift as the wind and fluid as water. No. This is my mind’s self. This is not my actual self.

I discovered yesterday that I’m actually getting unfit. It’s so hard to believe, but I can’t jog for more than a minute. I don’t have lightning speed like I believe I used to. I already know I’m not particularly strong, but without my speed and stamina, I’m just… listless. Energy equals mass times velocity squared. Without mass, I was relying on velocity. Without velocity, I’m just dead weight. This realisation spurred me, in frustration, to train. When I got home from Anigames, I went outside into the dark and cold, warmed up, and started shadow boxing. My jabs and punches are still quick, but perhaps they lack the power that comes from application. My legs on the other hand, are slow. I can see where they should be moving, and how fast, but they don’t. My mind tells them to kick, but they drag themselves through the air a split second behind what I intend. They take too long to wind up, and still don’t have enough power and balance in them to hit hard and still recover. In short, I’ve fallen out of practice. I came to the conclusion (as I have many times) that I need a regular sparring partner to help reveal to me my weaknesses and strengths, but one who was on equal terms with (or perhaps slightly better than) me. I asked Bethwyn to spar with me, and asked her permission for me to apply myself and absolutely dominate her, just to see if I could. She agreed, so long as I had the control to pull my punches. I asked her to really intend to hit me as hard as she could, and when I took her hits, they were half-hearted. My judgement upset her further until she started trying to really hurt me. I spurred her anger- a terrible crime in itself- and when I found some of her attacks I could not anticipate, I began to counter. It was easy- she had almost no experience, so I don’t know why I wanted to fight someone less skilled than I was. What gratification could I possibly gain from defeating those who were weaker than me? But I did it anyway. I kicked at her openings, made jabs, punches and elbows stopping just short of hitting her. She began to anticipate herself, to improve. She dodged a jab to the face which I had intended to hit. So I varied it, turning the next action into a jab punch. After she dodged the jab, she came in to counter but my punch hit her (with my second finger rather than my third knuckle- poor technique) in the lip and she started bleeding. I felt awful, so furious at myself for my lack of control. Ironically, the angrier I got the less control I had. She was all right (proud, actually, for being able to take it) after she got over the shock of being punched in the face for a first time. I however was not so forgiving.

Long story short, I got very upset for a while. The anger faded, and with my energy gone all that was left was depression. I sought to understood what happened and why- how I could let myself hit my girlfriend in the face and why I was feeling so frustrated. I came to the realisation that I was frustrated at my inadequacy- at the incongruence between my ideal and actual selves. I desperately wanted to prove myself wrong, seeking challenge and ways of fuelling my ego, and when I could not, it drove me crazy. I was fighting for such wrong reasons. Once I realised this, I also realised the real reason why I study the martial arts. Not to defend myself or others, not to defeat my opponents, not to strengthen my body, discipline my mind or grow my spirit. These things are secondary. What’s really important is learning. To learn about myself, life, my relationships, the people around me, my enemies, all things. Martial training, at whatever level, is about learning, growing, developing, improving as a human being in all ways. And I must never lose sight of this again. Competition, if friendly, can teach us more about ourselves and each other. Competition, if vicious, can make us lose sight of why we’re competing. I strive now to be humble- to accept the humiliation of my error and to stop this folly of perpetuating unreal stories about myself. I am who I am, at this point in time, but I will not let that stop me from growing. I will continue my training to improving on the weaknesses I have newly discovered, and even if I am forever no good at fighting, I will be comfortable in the knowledge I have dedicated myself to learning.

Sorry for the long entry. Just something I needed to write.