Jerel Says, ‘When hungry, eat-when tired, sleep’; Hidden

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A student once asked his teacher, ‘Master, what is Enlightenment?’

The master replied, ‘When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.’

-Zen saying

When I first started my martial arts training eighteen or so years ago, my then-teacher Zen in the Art of Archeryrecommended I should read a few books on the spiritual, mental, and philosophical aspects of martial arts. Surprisingly, a youth spent watching old, badly-synced kung fu films and practicing my ‘fist of death’ technique on clothing store mannequins tended to glaze over that part. I’ll be honest, a lot of it went right over my head at the time. I was very young and while I had an idea for why I wanted to get into martial arts in the first place, I had zero idea of what other benefits I might be able to gain, and so couldn’t really recognize them when they were right in front of me. Among the many books were two about the Japanese interpretation of Buddhist philosophy known as ZenZen in the Martial Arts and Zen in the Art of Archery. This week, in preparation for my upcoming weekend away to the Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezous, I decided to revisit Zen in the Art of Archery and see if hopefully now, I was better prepared to capture more of its valuable insights.

Zen in the Art of Archery was written by Eugen Herrigel, a German professor of philosophy, in 1948. In it he writes about his experience in Japan during the 1920s as a Eugen Herrigelvisiting professor at University of Tokyo. During his time living in Japan, Herrigel took up the ancient art of Japanese archery, known as kyudo, under the tutelage of Awa Kenzo, a renown kyudo master and teacher/philosopher of Zen. Since one of the major aspects of Zen is that for it to be fully understood one must ‘walk its path’ versus ‘learn its way’, the book doesn’t spend too much time trying to define Zen or dwell on its Awa Kenzoteachings. Rather, it reads like a journal going through the years of lessons and private conversations Herrigel had with Kenzo. It lays out the obstacles, trials, and difficulties when it came to both physical and mental blocks and the demonstrations and words Kenzo had to share to slowly, but masterfully, guide Herrigel through it all. There is a whole wealth of wisdom and insight hidden in plain sight between the sparse eighty pages of this short book. Not to betray the spirit of Zen and become too long-winded, I’ll only share my thoughts on three.

If one really wishes to be a master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the Unconscious.

-Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

This I like because it goes beyond just archery, and can be applied to any practice. A unique aspect of Japanese culture is that everything, from its food to its art, music, and even its most lethal martial disciplines, all of it stems from philosophical and spiritual roots. In this case of course we mean Buddhism, and then further Zen Buddhism. What I love then is the mindfulness characteristic of Japanese life. There is a certain beautiful minimalistic yet ritualistic rhythm to everyday Japanese life. How one enters and exits a room, prepares and enjoys a meal, and yes even how one draws a bow. In it all there is an unconscious awareness that brings with it peace and purpose. There’s a saying in Zen archery that an archer should be able to shoot without a bow or even an arrow. Kyudo ShotEventually, an archer transcends both bow and arrow to the point that his mind and body know what to do without knowing or thinking. We are often times caught up in our own thoughts, so fully aware of ourselves and our actions we can never fully inhabit the moment. Once we are aware of ourselves, we lose sight of the goal. This is a higher level than just an archer being able to hit his target. It is an archer realizing that there is no target, only himself. The best artists, chefs, performers, martial artists, they never dwell on what they are doing as they are doing it. They simply do. And it is safe then to also believe that they continue that mindfulness throughout their day, so that this Zen never actually leaves them. It’s supreme confidence, awareness, and unconscious consciousness. It’s eating when hungry, sleeping when tired, and never questioning or wondering. So in whatever we are passionate about, whatever we pursue, there are two great goals. The first is to achieve this level of Unconscious awareness, where we can do without getting lost in our own thoughts. The second is to pursue ‘artless art’, where we can apply the mindfulness and awareness to our everyday life in all aspects.

The master knows you and each of his pupils much better than we know ourselves. He reads in the souls of his pupils more than they care to admit.

-Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

In the beginning of the book, Herrigel mentions the struggle he had trying to find a teacher willing to teach a Western student. In fact his eventual master, Kenzo, was extremely averse to the idea, having tried to teach a Western student before and had ‘such a dismal experience he regretted it ever since’. The teacher-student relationship is a significant one in both Western and Eastern cultures, although it takes a very different Karate Kid 1shape and structure. A common aspect of teacher-student relationships in the West that we often take for granted is that students are often invited, even encouraged, to ask questions of lessons and teachers. In a more traditional Eastern setting students are expected to follow a teacher’s instructions with very little question. This can be seen in say, more traditional martial arts schools where often the format is the teacher will demonstrate a certain posture, stance, or form once, twice, maybe three times if you’re really lucky, and then the students are expected to watch diligently and then do their best to recreate the motions. There are no questions, no explanations, the teacher shows as much as he sees fit and the students are expected to do a lot of their ‘learning’ on their own. While there are pros and cons to either approach, I just want to focus on the unique benefits of this particular style of instruction. First of all, for this to work we have to assume the highest in the instructor.Karate Kid 2 If we trust in the teacher, then we do not doubt ourselves. There’s no need to pressure or worry, we must simply, in the spirit of Zendo what is asked of us. Sort of like ‘wax on, wax off’. Which takes a lot of pressure off of the student and more impetus on the importance of finding a highly qualified, skilled teacher. I also appreciate it for how much it more readily lends itself to actual results-driven growth. You can’t smooth talk your way through something when you aren’t allowed to talk. Just show. Much like true Zen, mastery is not displayed in rhetoric but in practice. The right teacher will show you what you need to see when you need to see it, and the right student will understand how to grasp the lesson and apply it to practice.

The Zen adept shuns all talk of himself and his progress. Not because he thinks it immodest to talk, but because he regards it as a betrayal of Zen. Even to make up his mind to say anything about Zen itself costs him grave heart-searchings.

-Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

While I take this to heart and understand that to try and speak of Zen and explain it betrays not only the spirit of it but my own understanding of it, I am still so green to the concept that this really only probably set me back a couple months’ progress. Hopefully. The truth is, I love this because there’s something very purpose-driven in trying to Zen Circleunderstand and pursue Zen. And not just in archery, but in my martial arts, my daily mindfulness, relationships, in everything I pursue with any level of passion. And I would love to see more outside of the traditional Eastern arts try to pursue and understand Zen as well. There are two great fundamental observable truths of all the masters of Zen. The first is that there can be no denying that a Zen master carries himself with a certain level of distinct poise. In their mastery of their chosen art, but also in how that mindfulness carries through in every aspect of their life, there is an undeniable appeal to want to pursue what the master has. The second though is that inevitably, when one finds a master to help them along the way, one will find that the master has very little to say on what Zen is or, frustratingly, how to achieve it. It is a path we have to walk on our own, and the further along we go Kyudo Classthe more we realize the futility in trying to capture it for others. That’s sometimes very difficult to grasp in modern times. We like to have things readily available, and when we falter we want support, guidance, we want explanations. But Zen and its masters offer us neither, because the struggle, and the eventual resolution, are all valuable parts that are necessary to the path. They know that to expound would rob the student of valuable experience. There’s a saying that once we know, we longer do. So it is promising to think that to pursue Zen we must do in order to know. It’s a longer and more arduous path, not much suited for modern times, but it is rooted in ancient wisdom and understanding.

I don’t know how much Zen I might get this weekend, but one weekend aside, in my martial arts training, my further archery practice, my cooking, my relationships, in all aspects of life I want to master, I can continue to develop this mindfulness until, with some hope and patience, it becomes like the masters say, ‘an artless art’.

Jerel says, ‘when hungry, eat-when tired, sleep’.

Day 231: The Man and the Dangers of Ladders and Vases; ‘Baby’

So here’s a thing that’s a thing now. I’m kinda tired of talking about my ex. Like, I saw the prompt was ‘baby’ and yeah I immediately thought ‘oh, you know, she used to call me baby‘. That was her nickname for me. She’d always call me that, and for a very long time before we got back together I missed being called that.

But that was it. That’s all that came out. A brief memory, but nothing attached. No nostalgia, no drive, no desire. Like walking through a cloud. It fills you but it dissipates almost as soon as you inhabit it. And with a little puff of breath, it’s all gone.

obama-dropWhen it comes to getting over something or someone, you need that, I think. That moment where you go, ‘I’m exhausted by recalling all this every time’. I think I hit that point a while ago actually, but you know there would be times when it may have been relevant or poignant or maybe even to some extent necessary, to bring it up and talk it out for some reason or other. I know NaNoWriMo really helped me out with that one, fleshing out every part I held onto. And over time my posts have become less and less about her or my past relationship, and on the advice of readers I’ve really stopped even calling her on her or referring to her by her old nickname too. I think it’s a natural progression, a healthy one and a necessary one, for myself, but also for others. Who wants to be around someone who beats a dead horse. You want to know what else they can think about, what other stories they can share, what other worlds they live in.

So I do put it out there, to anyone who might be going through heartbreak or has experienced it, no matter where you are in your timeline, keep looking for that moment on the horizon when you can think to yourself ‘okay, enough of that, I’ve exhausted this, it’s exhausted me, I want to be more than this one thing’. And like passing through a cloud, you can’t hold onto it, you can’t keep its form, let it pass.


Besides, there is a muuuch better use of today’s prompt than rehashing old wounds.

My man, doing it like no one else can, baddest man in all the land, Jaaackie Chaaan!

No he didn’t recently have a baby. And as far as I can tell he’s never called me that either. He has done movies with babies though. One of my favorites is his film Rob-B-Hood where he plays a cat burglar who becomes an unwitting accomplice in the kidnapping, and care, of a wealthy family’s newborn baby. Good movie if you haven’t seen it, definitely try to catch it somewhere. When my local Blockbuster went out of business I made sure to buy up every Jackie Chan film they had in stock.

What I love about Jackie Chan in his films is he’s unlike any other action star out there. He never puts himself in a completely invincible position. He is always the underdog. In fact, some of the best bits of his style of action/comedy are when he’s either hurt or, being in a disadvantageous position, is forced to get creative to work his way back to the top. More than just a hero or a star, that’s the kind of person I want to be. We have too many Rambos and Terminators and solo stars running around out there. These characters that are so perfect that they are unflinching and unbeatable. It takes away the humanness of it all. I like seeing my heroes hurt, because then I get to see them rise. Take for example, Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the famous MI6 agent James Bond. Far more than any of his predecessors, Craig takes multiple beatings. He gets hurt. He gets brutal. He’s in the thick of it. And I appreciate that because only Craig’s Bond could take a brutal beating with heavy duty rope to this groin and near-fatal poisoning and still get the girl. Around hisball-death bright, baby-blue eyes might be scars and bandages but he still disarms with that boyish charm. Which means I’ve seen him work for this. I believe he’s earned it. That puts him above Connery, Brosnan, and definitely Lazenby (who likes Lazenby?) In the same way, I root for Jackie Chan’s eventual success because I’ve seen how much he’s had to overcome to beat the bad guys. He’s deserved the big finishes he gets. In Mr. Nice Guy he runs over the evil gang leader with a hovercraft. In his first Police Story he descends from the top floor of a shopping mall in a hail of electricity and sparks as he slides down a lighting wire. In his first real big hit, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, he claws the evil Eagle Claw master to death. (In the same film he also grabs this Russian mercenary’s balls. To death. He dies from that.)

So one of the best iterations of this underdog mentality is this long-running internet inside joke that the most dangerous fighter in the world is a Jackie Chan holding a baby who doesn’t want any trouble. (He only narrowly beat out a Jackie Chan fighting inside a ladder factory.) He’s also done some great work with priceless vases that he can’t let be destroyed. I think if you’re a fan of his work and have ever seen any of his films, you would appreciate the humor in the idea of how dangerous Jackie Chan would be as an underdog if he had a baby in one hand and was just trying to get away from the fight. And you’d know his favorite weapon of all time is most probably a ladder. It’s that creativity and adaptability that makes Jackie his own unique style of hero. Undeniably human yet limitlessly resourceful. In many ways, this is how I want to be as well. I don’t want to present myself as invincible or untouchable. I don’t want to always come off as pristine and perfect. I like getting down to the nitty gritty and making a mess and you know, making something of the disadvantages I may have to deal with. And so, I leave you with one of the best examples of fight choreography I’ve ever seen. It is by no means his best film or even best fights, but definitely shows off the sheer adaptability Jackie has in a scene and his incredible use of the strangest weapons. Yes, there’s even a ladder.

Day 231

Man: 198 Loneliness: 33

Day 194: The Man and the Practical Eye; ‘Aesthetic’

There was a very strange moment last night, one that was so surreal that I felt I had left Image result for silly cooking gifmy body and was viewing myself in the third person. I was trying to take a photo of my food and I found myself…shuffling the broccoli and cauliflower with my hands because I wanted a ‘more balanced presentation’ of white and green. The lamb was right out of the broiler, glistening and still slightly sizzling, the entire house was perfumed by its intoxicating scent, I was drooling out the corner of my mouth, and instead of digging in, I was stacking them, like playing cards, and rearranging bits of vegetables. It was an…interesting experience, to say the very least.

I don’t usually take photos of food. I don’t usually take photos period, but perhaps least of all food. I can have very many wonderful and incredible meals without having worried about taking a picture of it first. There are of course, a few exceptions.

  1. Image may contain: foodIf I make the food, I record the food. Part of my objection is the idea of people ‘living by proxy’. You can’t find some sort of satisfaction or fulfillment in what you are doing, so you find it in what others do. You verify and legitimize your existence by collecting other people’s works. ‘Look at me as I dine here’, I must be living a good life. However if you make the food, I think you should take some credit for it at least. You worked hard. You triumphed. Or maybe you failed, I don’t know you. Doesn’t matter. It’s worth taking a picture of your efforts. Have some pride. Show off. Get those likes because you actually earned it. You didn’t just order it off a menu. Most of the pictures of food I’ve taken have been things I’ve made. And I’m especially proud of that.
  2. Memorable meals. This can be one of two things. Either the occasion, more so than the meal, was memorable and so therefore the food becomes second billing to the No automatic alt text available.company or the event and is simply included in the pics, or the meal itself was so phenomenally memorable, maybe once in a lifetime, that it is worth preserving the memory (or stealing the technique). For example, my dinner last Friday with my brother and aunt. His last meal before his flight, a rich and meaty rodizio with some incredible cuts of beef, I wanted to take pictures and remember this important moment. Or, the BEST MEAL OF MY LIFE. Last year when my friends and I splurged to the great extent of actually successfully nailing a reservation at Momofuku Ko. Oh my god. Listen. I will dedicate an entire separate post just to that meal. Suffice to say it was INCREDIBLE. I HAD to take photos of the dishes because they were so fascinating, so intriguing, so delicious. And I’m a thieving bastard so I’m totally bootlegging what I had.
  3. This is your craft. There are some incredible food bloggers out there sharing their culinary adventures either in the kitchen or on the road or a combination of both. But they have taken the time and effort to develop this seriously and professionally. Taken courses. Gotten the right equipment. Does everyone and their mother need to know you had waffles with some whipped cream for breakfast on your blurry phone camera? Probably not. But maybe you’ve got this incredible recipe for the crispiest, fluffiest waffles ever and it’s worth sharing or you’ve taken a mecca to the motherland of all waffles, Belgium, and you’ve found that hole in the wall nondescript masterpiece waffle and you have to share what this waffle is all about. Yeah then you’re probably also the kind of person who will have the right equipment and eye and technical skill, and god maybe a filter or two, and more so than that you have the vocabulary to accompany the picture. Personally, I enjoy reading Cooking without LimitsCooking with a Wallflower, The Dining Diaries, and iaccidentlyatethewholething among others. Aside from literary blogs I think food blogs are the ones I love to follow the most so I do have others, but I particularly enjoy the posts on these four. Great pictures, incredible food, but most of all, purpose. Stories. Experiences. Recipes. Passion. Accept no substitutions.

I definitely think social media has taken food pics way too seriously and valued them too highly for the quantity and quality of them now floating around. Every brunch, every cheese plate, every meal is photographed and documented. It’s not just the consumer who has been taken over with this weird obsession. How many videos or pictures on your Image result for flaming cheese pastaFacebook or whatever have you seen of these new ‘gimmick’ restaurants? Any thing and any way for a photo opportunity. I think the most recent one I saw was restaurants that bring a giant hollowed out wheel of Grana Padano cheese and a hot plate with a pan of some pasta with cream sauce. It’s then cooked table-side, then you have to wait and watch as they heat up some alcohol, then pour it into the wheel, then it lights on fire, then you pour the pasta (which has been probably overcooked by now) into the wheel and then you toss and turn and scrape and then finally it’s served but honestly…to what effect? Does the pasta taste better for all that, or does it just look better? How many places are going to light giant wheels of cheese on fire before we realize we’re adding more pomp and circumstance but not really much flavor?

When aesthetic runs away from function, purpose is lost. Have people gotten so bored with food, or so stifled in their creativity, that they are resorting to what will be the next viral YouTube or Instagram hit? Here’s a great example: burgers. When did burgers become some elaborate three story affair? You can’t even hold these things anymore! A good burger is well-seasoned quality meat, cooked well, on a fresh baked bun that keeps its firmness yet absorbs all the patty’s juices. It’s crisp lettuce, melted cheese, onions, mushrooms, and maybe some avocado or bacon if you’re feeling luxurious. But it’s first and foremost a practical food. Handheld, flavor-packed, honest food. What the heck is this then?!

What’s the POINT?!

 

This problem is far beyond just food, though it’s definitely fun to indulge in that particular gripe. It effects also another great passion of mine, martial arts. We don’t live in particularly dangerous times, and you can’t really make a living being a ‘martial artist’ anymore. So the ‘martial’ part of most martial arts has been lost, leaving just the ‘arts’. Someone saw tai chi a long time ago and realized it could be useful for joint and muscle health and flexibility as well as meditation, but maybe they forgot that in Chinese, ‘tai chi’ literally translates to ‘grand ultimate fist’, as in ‘this is the Jet Li   Tai Chi  gif art of kickassery’. Nowadays tell someone you practice tai chi and they’ll ask if it takes you an hour to throw a punch. I’ve met, and practiced with and against, some incredibly talented tai chi practitioners who still remember the practical applications and uses and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. But a lot of what we see now in movies, and unfortunately propagated in many strip mall dollar version martial arts schools, is showy and flashy but not all that useful. This could be potentially deadly if you mislead your students to think they’ve learned any sort of practical self-defense, but then it is also equally damaging to the reputation and prestige of traditional martial arts. I don’t discredit modern jiu-jitsu or any of the newer stuff, but I think it’s unfair to relegate the traditional, the originals, to just pieces of fluff. Here is a video of Uncle Bill, the man I had the privilege and honor of meeting in a private seminar, showing some students the potential in what their ‘soft arts’ can do.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: if it looks pretty but it doesn’t work, it’s no good. And that’s really powerful. A job that woos you with a beer keg in the lounge and a bunch of parties and little perks like that but doesn’t fulfill you professionally or compensate you fairly is not a job worth keeping. A flashy car that gets stuck in two inches of snow isn’t worth driving. A relationship that hurts, a memory that burns, no matter how beautiful it was in the moment, it’s not worth holding onto. I don’t believe it should ever be a matter of ‘form vs function’. Form follows function. First, it has to work. First, it has to do what it’s supposed to do. Then, you make it pretty. Love hurts. Love is messy. Love is hard work. And then it’s cute. Then it’s what you see in the pictures.

Day 194

Man: 163 Loneliness: 31

Day 182: The Man and the Struggle; ‘Float’

Muhammad Ali first said ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ when he was being interviewed for his fight against the then-champion of the world, Sonny Liston. Sonny was a large, muscular, intimidating champion and Ali (then still Cassius Clay) was an arrogant, brash, unrepentant rookie known as the ‘Louisville Lip’. He was fast but he was small and compared to Sonny, almost no one held any hope that he would be able to win. In fact, one reporter before the match was quoted as saying ‘about the only thing Clay can beat Sonny in is reading the dictionary’.

They would meet two times in their career, and Ali said this before their first match. He went on to win in the opening of the seventh after clearly dominating and brutally punishing Sonny in the sixth. Their second match was a phenomenal-sized debacle, embroiled in racial tensions, allegations of fixing and ties to organized crime, and poor interpretations of rules and protocols.

There is a lot to say about a smaller, faster, but still strong fighter being able to take down a much larger opponent. Politically, personally, militarily, metaphorically, we all love an underdog story. We want to see the small guy win but we also want to know why and how it’s possible.

Take for example, the (in comparison) much smaller native Indonesian who for more than three hundred years, had to ward off the much larger and more domineering Dutch colonialists. How could they, not in spite of but because of, their size find a system of defense and attack that would help them equal the odds and effectively protect themselves. The same situation would be true of Filipinos against the Spanish, Vietnamese against the French, etc etc. The system of martial arts developed in Southeast Asia that addressed these size and strength discrepancies and were rooted in very savage, very brutal, and very practical matters of survival, became known as kuntao.

Last night I had the immense, incredible pleasure and honor to attend a private seminar/workshop with one of the last great living masters of this primal way of martial arts, Willem de Thouars (or Uncle Bill as many of his students have come to affectionately know him). He grew up on the tiny island of Java and experienced firsthand the tensions between the Indonesian natives and Dutch. He was a street fighter, merchant marine, but most of all, always a martial artist. Uncle Bill is in his 80s now, and of course we all don’t know how much time we might still have left with him, and this was all part of what will most likely be his last tour of the country teaching and demonstrating. I was fortunate enough to be invited by a friend who happened to be hosting Uncle Bill and holding the workshop in his private studio.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been doing martial arts since I was a child. Close now to almost 20 years. I’ve studied ba gua, tai chi, judo, weapons, but I’ve never experienced anything like the kuntao silat of Willem de Thouars (of which the school, and style, are named after his teachings). It’s fast and it’s fierce and rooted in practicality and lethality. Compared to the now centuries-old polished traditional Chinese martial arts, kuntao has not lost its basic roots. It looks sloppy and almost dirty, but it’s freeing and characterized by this ‘dangerous playfulness’. Over the course of just one night I was learning some pretty cool but definitely crazy things. I was on the floor, rolling to the side, doing leg locks, ankle breaks, practicing with knife and stick with both open hand and armed defenses, I was getting closer to real fighting and yet feeling more at ease and more relaxed, comfortable. He had us act and fight like monkeys, letting instinct and the sheer mechanics of it take over.

It was absolutely amazing and an incredible opportunity. I was mentioning before wanting to be able to share more of my passions in the company of people who would reciprocate? Well I was surrounded by some unbelievably talented and gifted martial artists last night. Some came as far as Arizona just to see Uncle Bill in what may be the very last time. I was able to spar and push with every one of them and each had such a different style, different perspective, and I got to learn so much by being able to put what I had against them. As Uncle Bill would always tell his students ‘if you don’t train physically…it’s not going to work’. Most of all though, I think I learned two incredible things that I could carry over into my everyday life and not just in martial arts.

  1. Sometimes in life, to tackle a problem, redirect it and then get low. I am a tall person. I’m 6′. Kuntao was designed to fight against people like me. The average Filipino is 5’3″ and the average Indonesian is 5’2″. So most of kuntao is designed around when a punch is coming in to first redirect it (as overpowering it with a straight block would be too difficult because of the difference in body type) and then attack the person’s root (by either going for the knee, the ankle, the thigh, or the groin). Being on the receiving end of this can be scary and jarring. One minute you’re punching straight at a person, the next they’re suddenly below you either breaking your ankle or striking your groin. Now imagine if someone my height did that. It’d be just that much more shocking. To lose sight of a 6′ tall man might be enough deterrent against any future attack. But I can see this working in any sort of obstacle. Because of my height I am used to physically going against people. Because of our positions or attitudes or good fortune in life, we might have always enjoyed the ability to face problems head on. We might take a few good hits but we always know we can handle it and bounce back. But sometimes we are in positions where we have nothing left. Where we cannot afford to lose anything else. We can’t keep running into the wall and hope it falls down. But we can dig underneath it and get below its foundation and topple it that way. In one exchange, my partner was around 5’5″. We had practiced together before and I would usually stay my ground and sort of bat him away with sheer physicality. I wanted to embrace this kuntao way, so when he punched I ducked under, rolled, and ended up behind him. I could kick his knees, roll his ankle, or sweep his leg from under him. He had no idea how I ended up there and told me that it was absolutely disconcerting to have lost me that way. When presented with a problem, remember there is more than one way to face it. Be smart. Know how to assess a situation or problem. If you can’t stay on top of it, get below it, change your perspective, attack it from a different angle, go where no one expects you to go.
  2. Struggle can be playful. Uncle Bill’s teaching style is very old-school. He would show us a few techniques, discuss the principle behind it, and then leave us to, as he says ‘struggle with it’. Unlike modern schools and teaching, Uncle Bill believes the best teacher is the self. The second best is a willing and receptive partner. What he really wanted for us was not to struggle in the sense of obstacle and pain. He wanted us to have a problem to solve. Something to wrestle with. ‘Here I have someone coming at me with this particular problem. How do I use the tools I have to fix it.’ Every punch was a new opportunity to play, every attack and counter-attack was meant to be a different puzzle. Because of this, I never felt stressed or upset when something didn’t work. I went right back to it, tried to understand it, and tried again. He doesn’t get too bogged down or concerned with the mechanics or the ‘technique’ but rather wants us to focus on the feel and the moment. Uncle Bill would say ‘techniques get you killed’. Uncle Bill talks of pain and struggle with a smile and a slight giggle. He understands something that many of us don’t because of the good fortune of our lives. Living in the jungle, facing harsh environments and even harsher peoples, Uncle Bill has struggled his entire life to enjoy and be happy. He has come out of it successful and healthy and therefore has come to understand that struggle can be a positive thing. The ‘sting of pain’ can be happy. Here I am, seemingly recovering from a bad breakup, and I once thought I had nothing to do but lick my wounds. Even in reflection before the workshop, I’ve been slowly coming to the realization that there are some incredibly positive and uplifting and encouraging things that have come from my pain.

I am so glad I signed up for this seminar and I’ve learned so much. I feel inspired, encouraged, but yes also if you ever happen to try and run at me with a punch or a stick or a knife, I will whoop. yo. ass. Hahah. Terima kasih, Uncle Bill. Thank you.

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Day 182

Man: 151 Loneliness: 31

 

 

 

 

Day 56: The Man and the Second Technique

I’m sitting in our cabin right now with the A/C blasting because it’s a lot hotter than I anticipated it would be in Pennsylvania. My friends and I arrived earlier this afternoon and just got back from doing some grocery shopping. Tonight it’s Al and Ei’s responsibility to cook dinner so I thought I could use this time to write today’s post. Since I’m on vacation with friends I probably won’t be able to do the prompt as well and posts will probably be much much later than I would like each day. Still I don’t want the habit to die and it’s important that I continue, as my fingers get fidgety if they don’t get their opportunity to type and the thoughts get congested in my head. Hahah.

I’m excited that the cabin has a huge field right outside because it allows me to practice the second half of my retreat weekend, the double broadsword! This is what I would like to discuss today.

Broadsword Fight.gifThe broadsword, or dao in Chinese, is one of the four main principle weapons of martial arts. Its versatility, lethality, ease of production, and ease of use made it one of the most popular weapons in Chinese martial arts for novices and experts and its wide appeal made it known as the ‘General of All Weapons’. The dao has some very unique design features. The first is the curved handle. The dao is held primarily with the thumb and pointer finger and the middle, ring, and pinky are used as ‘brakes’. Unlike the samurai sword which uses the shoulders to deliver slashing motions, the broadsword uses the wrist to generate speed and the fingers to brake for control. Contrary to what you might believe, the broadsword is more like the samurai sword, which slices and slashes, then the machete, which hacks. The broadsword also features a very dynamic blade with a slight curve and varying thicknesses. The straighter, thicker base is used to block and counter parry attacks. The blade thins and curves at the end for a sharper and longer cutting edge. The shape of the blade is often referred to as a ‘willow leaf’.

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Plastic swords meant for sparring practice.

In form the dao is often used in circular motions to block, clear, and strike all in one motion. The flat side of the blade is used to parry and block and the attacks are primarily slashes or thrusts. Its versatility and applicability is also why martial arts schools today still love to teach dao forms. Even though we live in a world where spears, swords, and staffs are not readily available, the broadsword form can be applied to bats, canes, and any stick of similar length.

The form I learned was actually double broadsword. The especially fun and unique aspect of this was we used what are known as shuangdao, which is a sabre in each hand. The broadswords I use are actually half-handled, because their original intent was to wield it as one sword and, when necessary, to be able to separate them and surprise the enemy with a second attack.

But this is not what I wanted to discuss. Not everyone will have the opportunity to pursue a training in ancient Chinese martial arts weapons. But everyone will have experience in relationships, and the connection, though faint, does exist.

See many amateur martial artists love the idea of weapons training because they think they can pursue it in lieu of regular training. They don’t work on themselves as much and instead their unarmed, what we call ‘empty hand’ is weak and they rely solely on weapons training. But what should be immediately apparent is that not everyone will always have a weapon at hand. And so the person who relies on that as a supplement is at a disadvantage.

Steel Sword

Steel swords for demonstration and weight training.

This understanding can then be applied to relationships. For example, I was very keen to supplement what personal shortcomings I may have possessed with the strengths of the person I was dating. I did not work on improving myself or fulfilling certain aspects of my personality that were lacking because I relied solely on the supplemental characteristics of another person. But here I am now, single and with no intention otherwise, and I must now realize that the responsibility of betterment relies solely on myself.

See weapons training is not meant to be a supplement. It is meant to be a way of strengthening that which already exists. Much like we should not look to relationships to improve that which we are lacking. There’s something to be said of complimentary relationships, of course. How the right person can balance who we are and bring completeness in that sense. But we should never content ourselves to rely permanently on others to finish what we are incomplete in. A weapon is only as good as the empty hand technique from which it is based. A relationship is only as strong as the individuals who make it.

I used to view relationships as a natural extension of my self. I would purposefully force the mantle of my shortcomings on the woman I was with. But now I am tasked with improving that which I know is a weakness, and pursuing as far as I can improvement and betterment. Sure I may not finish the journey, as no one is perfect. But I can say I have not relied on anyone else first before finding out what I am capable of.

Day 56

Man: 40 Loneliness: 16

Day 55: The Man and the Most Painful Relaxation p.3; The Stomach and Spleen

In the last part of my Yin Yoga series we will discuss the importance and significance of the Stomach and Spleen meridian lines as well as how to get the most out of effective, mindful, and consistent Yin Yoga exercise.

If you’ve had any chance to try any of the poses, you’ll notice that the majority of the strain and development doesn’t come from the pose itself but from the prolonged practice of holding them. Remember that this is a form of deep stretching and meditation meant to gradually lengthen and open the joints and increase flexibility. Unlike other forms of yoga that rely on extreme poses in shorter bursts of time, this is a much slower practice. The difference is while the extreme poses stress and develop the muscles, Yin Yoga’s slower practice focuses on the tendons, ligaments, and the fascia.

Improvement in these areas requires more consistent practice, and to really see a tremendous amount of change requires a consistent practice over a period of time. As little as 30 days and as much as 100 days can make a world of difference. What I am currently doing, and what I would recommend, is to begin with a commitment of 30 days consecutively. Each sequence is only about ten or so poses, and even at the max of 5 minutes (though benefits can be seen with as little as one) you are still only looking at about an hour’s worth of meditative practice or as little as ten minutes.

One of the poses that has consistently killed me has been saddle. Surprisingly it wasn’t my back that felt the pressure but the stretching in my feet. When I started I could barely sit on my feet and even begin to lean back. At this point I am further back and supporting myself on my hands with straight arms. I am hoping to eventually move to my elbows, and then a full saddle. The importance is to remain consistent, keep practicing, and to never pass judgement on progress.

After the 30 days has passed you will see a vast improvement in flexibility and health. After that, the 100 days challenge does not necessarily need to be consecutive. Set a reasonable goal such as 100 days of practice within 120 or 150 days. Again the most important thing is consistency, mindfulness, and no judgement. Allow yourself to have days when you are not able to practice. And choose based on what your body tells you you need. Remember that certain poses are good for certain organs and meridians. Pick and choose based on energy, emotions, and what you feel you need. The stomach and spleen poses we are about to discuss are consistently on my routine because I have always had a weak stomach since I was a child and the spleen is important for my work and keeping energy levels up.

The stomach (yang) and spleen (yin) meridians are associated with late Summer. The stomach of course receives, stores, and partially digests food particles which it then passes to the small intestines and spleen. On a more metaphysical level the stomach represents how well one can assimilate joy and contentment. It absorbs our thoughts and mental attitudes about life and the Earth and helps to determine where we stand. How well we as a person nurture, nourish, and feel secure about ourselves and our lives dictates how well the stomach can balance and support the flow of chi. When we are balanced we feel centered, grounded, and fulfilled. Imbalances in the stomach meridian can result in lethargy, weakness, and digestive problems.

The spleen, including the pancreas, is about storing blood, forming antibodies, and fighting off harmful bacteria. It is concerned with the absorption, transformation, and transportation of food, water, and energy (chi). When we are deficient in spleen chi we feel sluggish and fatigued both physically and mentally. the spleen is also said to house the thought processes, and if we think too much the spleen may suffer. Over-thinking (like worrying) leads to spleen chi deficiency.

The Poses

Dragon PoseDragon Pose: Similar to the Swan Pose except the front leg is not twisted and resting on the floor but out in front, foot flat on the ground and the knee either in line with the ankle or a bit forward. Back leg is straight and resting on the thigh.

 

 

Saddle PoseSaddle Pose: This pose stretches the feet, ankles, thighs, and arches the lumbar. Start by sitting on the top part of your foot and feel the stretch. If it’s okay, sit fully back and feel the stretch in your thighs. If still comfortable, go ahead and lean fully back and either support yourself on your hands or go fully back to your elbows.

Dragonfly PoseDragonfly Pose: From the top resembles a dragonfly with its long body and two sets of wings represented by the arms and legs. From a seated position spread your legs out to your sides and fall forward. Spread your arms out as much as you can and try to lean forward and lie flat. If needed, prop either your hips up to help the legs or your elbows up to help your arms.

Corpse PoseCorpse Pose: Lie flat on your back, with legs slightly apart, arms at your side, with palms up and fingers spread. Use this time to relax, focus on breath, and take a mental inventory of your body and mind. Reflect on any sensations that came up during yoga. What body parts responded well, what rebelled. What emotions are you stirring up in this long and mindful practice. Make no judgements. Allow everything to be.

That’s it! All the meridian lines discussed in Yin Yoga and a bit of insight in the mental and physical states while practicing. I hope this was informative and interesting and whether you have had prior yoga experience or not, this is a wonderful style of yoga exercise and meditation that is a bit easier on the body but with far reaching benefits.

Day 55

Man: 39 Loneliness: 16

Day 53: The Man and the Most Painful Relaxation P.1; The Kidney and Bladder

As mentioned before one of the main focus of my weekend retreat was to learn a new form of relaxation and meditation known as Yin Yoga.

I’d like to share what I learned and the poses associated as I begin a 30 day reflective yoga practice. I hope you find you can take some benefit from this sharing of knowledge. Regardless of what your belief system is I think a healthy mind and body is important and whether you agree or believe the concept of energy, or chi, the poses are still a great way to increase flexibility, sensitivity, and longevity. We are all on a continual pursuit to better our minds and bodies and I hope you find this to be a new opportunity to walk together towards that goal.

So what is Yin Yoga?

Unlike other forms of yoga, yin yoga emphasizes four things. 1) Holding poses for a longer duration of time 2) A deeper form of relaxation with less stress on the muscles and more focus on flexibility 3) A more meditative nature with slow, purposeful movements to create inner peace and silence and 4) A purposeful objective to stimulate or inhibit certain emotions, mentalities, energies, and/or physical characteristics.

How does Yin Yoga aim to do these things? How does one practice Yin Yoga?

The poses, or asanas, in Yin Yoga are much more relaxed and the movements from each are much slower and more meditative. There is less strain on the muscles as we work on slowly increasing flexibility and reaching and then slowly surpassing mental and physical ‘gates’ or limitations. With less physical exertion you are able to hold the poses longer, which allows for more gradual and consistent growth and improvement and also, as your mind is not so preoccupied with strain and exercise per se, you are able to spend more time in a meditative and reflective state. So the key in Yin Yoga is to understand that you are not supposed to be at 100% of your exertion as you will easily and quickly burn out before the end. Stay at a comfortable but consistent 80% and pay attention to your body and mind. Feel your body gradually begin to open up to the pose and sink even deeper than if you had exerted yourself outright. Pay attention to the calm of the mind and make no judgements as thoughts enter and then leave. Let them go as you focus on silence and peace. Use any necessary props to adjust poses to be more comfortable and to be able to hold them for longer. Props are not signs of weakness or inability. They are tools to help you attain your goals and hopefully one day you will find you will need them less and less, if at all. Again, no judgements.

Another aspect of Yin Yoga is how it can target specific body parts for specific purposes, whether mental or physical. You can pick and choose based on your needs each day on what you will want to improve and as you are in your pose, focus on stimulating that particular body part to induce that specific effect.

Today we will discuss the Kidney (Yin) and Bladder (Yang) Meridians of the body.

The Kidney

The Kidney is considered the ‘Root of Life’ because it houses the force that we are given at birth, chi. In Chinese medicine the kidney system also includes the ‘external kidneys’ (testicles in men and ovaries in women). The ‘external kidneys’ are important for sexual vitality and reproductive health. Kidneys are the seat of power, courage, and willfulness. When the kidney chi is full, we are centered, fearless, rational, and clear headed. We are gentle and understanding, filled with compassion for ourselves and others. But when the kidney chi is lacking, there is fear (possibly explaining why when we are frightened there is a tendency to urinate), paranoia, anxiety, jealousy, suspicion, and a loose morality.

Physical symptoms of a weak kidney chi are dark circles under the eyes, imbalanced hormones, genital and sexual disorders such as poor libido, impotence, and weak limbs.

The Bladder

While the kidney is considered the ‘Root of Life’ as it houses all of our essential energy, the bladder is called the ‘Minister of the Resevoir’ as it serves as the gatekeeper, keeping essential energy from the kidney in and filtering out bad energy to leave the body in the form of waste. Stress and tension play a key part when bladder chi is weak. Signs of problems with the bladder are backaches, headaches, and pain in the lower limbs. This is negative chi being housed and unable to leave, so staying and festering within the body.

The Poses

These poses in Yin Yoga are meant specifically to stimulate the kidney and bladder. Hold each as comfortably as you can, starting with one minute each and gradually over time increasing to around five minutes each.

Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose: Unlike in other forms of yoga, in Yin Yoga the legs are completely relaxed in the Sphinx pose and there is a natural, comfortable arch in the back from being completely held up by the arms alone.

Saddle Pose.jpgSaddle Pose: This pose stretches the feet, ankles, thighs, and arches the lumbar. Start by sitting on the top part of your foot and feel the stretch. If it’s okay, sit fully back and feel the stretch in your thighs. If still comfortable, go ahead and lean fully back and either support yourself on your hands or go fully back to your elbows.

Butterfly Pose.jpgButterfly Pose: A nice, relaxing way to stretch the back. From seated position, bring the feet together and lean forward, careful not to bend the spine but to stray straight and bend from the waist, stretching the back forward. Hands at feet in the beginning but when possible walk them further out, with the goal of being flat on the floor with head between your legs.

 

Dragonfly Pose.jpgDragonfly Pose: From the top resembles a dragonfly with its long body and two sets of wings represented by the arms and legs. From a seated position spread your legs out to your sides and fall forward. Spread your arms out as much as you can and try to lean forward and lie flat. If needed, prop either your hips up to help the legs or your elbows up to help your arms.

Caterpillar Pose.jpgCaterpillar Pose: With both legs out in front of you, fold forward and now allow the back to round. Try to hold the legs to stretch forward or, if it is too much, use a prop to sit on and elevate your hips.

 

Reclining TwistReclining Twist Pose: Start by lying on your back. Roll to your right side and keep your right leg straight in line with you. Take the left leg and raise your thigh perpendicular to your spine and place it over your right leg. Your left arm will extend straight to your left side, twisting the body. Do this on both sides. Modified version as shown where both legs are thighs perpendicular to spine.

Corpse Pose.jpgCorpse Pose: Lie flat on your back, with legs slightly apart, arms at your side, with palms up and fingers spread. Use this time to relax, focus on breath, and take a mental inventory of your body and mind. Reflect on any sensations that came up during yoga. What body parts responded well, what rebelled. What emotions are you stirring up in this long and mindful practice. Make no judgements. Allow everything to be.

 

Well that’s it! Part 1 of sharing my Yin Yoga experiences with everyone. I hope you enjoyed the read and hope you can try it out. If you do I would love to know how you felt and if you noticed any changes or sensations.

Day 53

Man: 37 Loneliness: 16

Day 52: The Man and the Triumphant Return, Post-Retreat

It is a strange feeling to be back. I actually got home late last night and with no real time to transition from the retreat world to the real world, I find myself on the road again already, traveling in eastern PA for the week. I am writing as much for the benefit of the blog and my own personal reflection as I am to record the immense amount of knowledge and wisdom I have gained over the past three days for future reference. I hope also that what I have experienced and learned I can share with others who might also benefit from it.

Eagle Village.jpgThe shift in mentality, physicality, activity, and awareness is almost jarring. For the past three days I’ve been completely unplugged. Not isolated or removed, just unplugged. The location was actually gorgeous. In Southbury, CT the school rented a couple cabins. We still had shelter and light and running water but we consciously chose to leave all our technology in our cars, locked away, to use sparingly if at all. I personally chose to go on a complete withdrawal from it all to ground myself again. There is a purposefulness that is wonderfully fulfilling and totally absorbing when you choose to focus your entire day on only a few certain tasks. Not that there aren’t ways to capture that sensation in our everyday lives, but imagine having a full day devoted to only the things you choose to do. To get up early because you want to feel the sun rising on your face during morning meditation. To fill your lungs with cool air and feel the wet morning dew on the grass as you begin your practice. Sharing a breakfast with people who are fully committed to the same goals and values and motivations as you are. Feeding off of that energy, that vitality. To rush back to the hot sun and be completely oblivious to how the hours melt away as you practice. We would take sporadic little breaks to cool down, drink some water, have some fruit, and we’d be back immediately, wanting to learn more, enjoying and valuing every moment as an opportunity to learn and improve and grow. A full day of personal, physical, and mental growth. We practiced until the sun would set and then, as a group, would find a local restaurant to have dinner together. At the school back home, there is a protocol of Interiorinstructors, assistants, and students. And even within the students, there is of course a ranking of seniority among the higher and lower belts. But on a retreat we wear no uniforms, bear no distinctions, and within respectable reason of course, honor no separation. It is only here that I can have a beer with an instructor or play pool with some of the assistants. It is here, learning something completely different and unique to the retreat experience, that seniors and juniors find themselves on equal footing and able to learn, practice, and spar on equal grounds. At night those of us who have not yet tired of the day’s lessons will find some private secluded areas to continue our practice, share knowledge and advice, and prepare for the next day.

I did not once think of Beautiful or of relationships or loneliness when I felt at all times surrounded by such engaging company. My body was too busy to feel lethargic and sad. My mind was too excited to wander into distracting thoughts. I find the first day back too numbing. It is busy but it is unfulfilling. I think a retreat is always a wonderful idea and it doesn’t necessarily need to be for martial arts. You can retreat within your own home to write, to sing, to draw, to feel, or to not feel. What I have come to realize is that the effectiveness of a retreat is not measured during its own time, but in the time after. Can you capture that feeling of peaceful and serene purpose and carry it with you back in the real world. Can each retreat slowly find its way into your daily heart until you feel it in every waking moment. That is the Zen. So the first goal, above retaining what was learned and practicing it physically, is to retain what was felt mentally and recreate it in every new morning. That is where I start my post-retreat journey.

Retreat.jpg

This week will be dedicated to sharing the lessons I learned from my weekend. During the retreat we focused on two new aspects of the martial arts practice that are not normally taught in the regular curriculum of the school. The first was Yin Meditation, a form of deep relaxation and stretching meditation much like yoga that focuses on benefitting the internal organs, emotions, health, flexibility, and relaxation. We learned and practiced various poses meant to stimulate certain organs and emotions and I will share the poses, how to do them, and how they relate to the very deep and complex world of Chinese philosophy and meditation. I am currently beginning a 100 day challenge of Yin meditation to see how my body and mind change from the regular practice of these poses for specific purposes. I will also share the martial aspect of the retreat, where I am very happy to say I was able to learn a new skill that has always been on my ‘must-learn’ list. I am a huge weapons enthusiast and I love being able to practice as many of the traditional Chinese weapons as I can and over this weekend we learned the double broadsword. Oh yes, that’s right you martial arts fans and nerds out there, we learned how to wield not one but two of the Chinese daos, considered among the family of traditional weapons of kung fu as the ‘General of All Weapons’. I am particularly keen to share my experience and insight into this practice not as it pertains directly, as I do not think I am neither qualified nor equipped to even begin to explain or illustrate the principles, but I am excited to share my insight as to how weapons apply to martial arts philosophy and how that can apply to the nature of relationships as well.

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Oh yes, I’m back, I’m energized, I’m inspired, I have a goal and a reason and a purpose, and I cannot wait to share.

Day 52

Man: 36 Loneliness: 16

Day 48: The Man and the Retreat

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I’m going to have to go on a very brief hiatus over the weekend and will be back on Tuesday.

If I could I would type and write until I wore my fingers down to the knuckle. Writing in this blog daily has done incredible things to help me sort my emotions, move beyond the initial hurt, and remain hopeful for growth and change.

Recently I have not really thought much about the events and people involved that brought me to this point. I have been too busy looking forward and enjoying this new creative drive. It has been amazing to witness the ease with which so many words now pour from my fingers. When I started I was so out of practice that simply trying to find a message was difficult enough!

But this journey is two-fold. I have been working on taking care of my mind and sharpening the sense of my writing, observation, and reflection. It is equally important to take care of my body. To remind myself that a little sweat and a little struggle can do a whole lot of good. To feel the sun on my skin and feel the natural breeze, not the one from the office vents.

It has definitely been difficult to find a way to adapt and negotiate my way around the craziness of my work schedule. Being on the road 90% of the time nowadays I do not have the luxury of familiar surroundings and routines to keep me balanced and in check. When I am finally back home on the weekends I am so consumed with the desire to spend time with family and friends, share stories, catch up, indulge, that I lack the incentive and motivation to do otherwise.

At least Pokemon Go has me walking to hatch those eggs. And I am fortunate that almost every hotel I stay at during my travels has some form of make-do minimalistic ‘fitness center’ that I can spend an hour in each night. But it does not replace where my body craves to spend its energy and effort. An elliptical does not speak to the blood that flows through me. For that, it has been, and will always be, my martial arts.

I have been studying and practicing martial arts for the past 19 years. I spent 12 of them at one school studying ba gua zhang and I’ve spent the past three at the school I am currently in learning a system that teaches a combination of eight traditional styles (kung fu, kung soo, ba gua, yudo, tai chi, aikido, the eight fundamental weapons, and kendo separately).

Jackie Chan.gifLike many Asian kids, I grew up watching Jackie Chan films. He was the one who inspired me to start learning kung fu. My father, who studied in the Philippines, was happy to help me find an authentic school that would teach me true martial arts, vetted by practicality, philosophy, and authenticity. I was ecstatic when we found my first school, then a small group that simply rented a space from a dance studio and taught authentic ba gua zhang, an internal style of kung fu (a la Avatar: The Last Airbender). I studied there for 16 years, progressing from the children’s classes to the adult, only stopping when I had to go to college and could no longer attend regularly.Aang.gif
During my 4 year hiatus I continued to practice what forms I could remember if just to retain the muscle memory and the flexibility and strength. After college I went through a particularly difficult time relationship and identity-wise, and what helped bring me back to center was my martial arts. I sought a new school and a new teacher and found the school where I am currently. My background helped me to rise fast and my hunger after being starved for so long of new material and techniques propelled me forward.

Before I began this new job I was attending practice four nights a week and every Sunday. I would then go with a friend I made at the school into the city and continue with more practitioners in Chinatown.

BodyMind.jpg

This is in fact a picture of the school where I now practice.

Martial arts has provided me with more than just a more dynamic and useful way of keeping in shape. Yes I have had to use it on occasion in the past and yes it has prepared me to be able to protect myself and those around me. But more so than that it has always provided me with a moral and philosophical foundation to living. True martial arts begins in the mind. It begins in the way you think. It has provided me with discipline, sincerity, benevolence, and bravery. Through my studies I began regularly practicing meditation. Developed a more level head. A keener sense of awareness. I admit my old school was a bit too traditionalist and isolationist. My new school is much more open and interested in other styles and schools. Through them I have been able to become a more active member of a community I did not know even existed. A community of truly dedicated and committed martial artists practicing mindful, authentic kung fu. I have been able to meet and practice with some incredibly gifted martial artists. I have developed friendships and relationships that center around one key fundamental interest and it has allowed all of us to improve with our continued interactions.

Both schools have had a regular tradition of taking one long weekend in the summer to take a retreat and focus solely on practice. It has been a yearly occurrence I have made sure never to miss, negotiating work, play, family, friends, and relationships around four days in August.

That is where I will be this weekend until Tuesday. That is what I am currently, in between paragraphs, packing for. Just the essentials. A toothbrush, toothpaste, contact case and solution, soap and shampoo, and clothes for changing out of each day. No cell phone, no laptop, and therefore, no blogging.

This retreat is as much about the physical aspect of martial arts as it is about the mental. We will spend time meditating, practicing, practicing, and then meditating. It is a true retreat from over-stimulation and indulgence. The most authentic and traditional form of practice we can recreate. A temporary but all-encompassing immersion in the art. I don’t know yet what we will be focusing on but I am excited to learn and spend more time with my kung fu brothers and sisters.

I am looking forward to this yearly opportunity once more. I cannot wait for us to hire more people in my department so that I can spend less time on the road and therefore more time at home and at my second home, the school. My body has sorely missed the sensation of struggle and growth. My body and mind are ready, eager, and willing.

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Too bad DailyPost doesn’t give previews of the next days’ prompts though. I hope I don’t miss anything good!

See you all on the other side of the weekend. Until then, take care, and don’t forget about me!

Day 48

Man: 32 Loneliness: 16