Tag: Kung Fu

Spinning Inside Crescent Kick

Of all the outrageous, glittery, wild, fantastic things I’ve dreamed of doing in my life (non of them involving bungee cords) I never for a micro-second imagined that one of those things would be a spinning inside crescent kick.

It is a thing of wonder to me that I can do this.  That before I turned forty one years old I couldn’t do it, but now I can.  I couldn’t do a plie to save my life when I was eight and engaged in the obligatory girlhood stint in ballet.  My ballet teacher made it (gently) plain that ballet was not, perhaps, the ideal activity for me.  I don’t remember being hurt by this.  I remember knowing it to be the truth.  I had no flight.  I had no grace and my limbs were stubbornly stocky and though I wasn’t in the least bit fat I was what could be described as being of “sturdy” build.

As a young person without aching joints or fat or any previously broken bones I never experienced what it felt like to achieve something with my body; to reach high for some impossible physical feat and actually grab it.  I did know what it felt like to feel my body working well, doing as I told it to do; running or walking and getting that sly burning stretching feeling in my muscles as they work against an increasing demand for speed and strength.  But I never asked my body to do something my mind thought was impossible or wonderful.

Like the spinning inside crescent kick.

I haven’t tried doing this kick since dropping the regular Kung Fu classes in the spring.  I was barely able to hit the practice pads at that time.  I haven’t practiced it since then because I’m scared of this kick.  I’m scared of falling on my ass.  Not because I’m afraid of making a fool of myself.  Screw that.  I have no fear of looking foolish.  I’m scared because it was an unlikely non-violent fall on my ass that broke my hip in the first place and from which event I suspect I am still suffering post traumatic stress disorder.

There are two things I know for sure (down from the ten I previously knew for sure) and it’s this:  I must NEVER give birth again and I must NEVER break my hip again.

So I’m scared to do things that take me off balance.  This spinning kick requires momentum and turning while extending your leg out to catch a target.  I’ve seen people fall doing this kick many times.  You can feel your balance shift while you’re doing it.  Last night in Kung Fu I had to do this kick I haven’t practiced.  I don’t know how it’s possible but I hit the pad nearly each time I did the kick and even better than that is that I was able to complete the 360 degree turn at least fifty percent of the time.  I could hardly do that at all in the spring.

Bodies have memory.  That’s a well known fact.  I think they have extraordinary memory.  I know this for unpleasant reasons but this is one of those times when my body remembering something has been a gift and an exhilaration.

There is another thing that’s changed and that I’m at a loss to explain- I am now able to do a power yell in class.  I had to do it in forms.  Though some students (they know who they are!) don’t do it anyway.  I did it.  It took me two years of Kung Fu to be able to do that.  I did it in forms class because I had to.  Then last night a saucy young punk in class told me to give him a power yell for an exercise we were doing and at first I said no because I’m used to saying no.  But then I did it.  And then I did it again.  We changed partners and I was doing an exercise with a friend and he told me to do the power yell again and I did it.  Almost no one else was doing them.  I threatened my friend that I would make him do them in his turn and he told me he is too scared to do power yells.

I was floored.  This is a student whose strength and power I admire.  This is a guy who I would not want to get in a physical fight with.  How could such a person be scared to make a power yell?  Yet I obviously understand the fear of the power yell.  I told him it took me two years to get to that point.  He said maybe he’d get there too when he’d been doing it two years.

It made me realize how far I’ve come.  I’m still just a purple belt and it will take a long time to get a black belt from my Sifu but I’m giving myself a black belt right now for not quitting every damn time I pull a muscle or a ligament, for coming in spite of panic attacks and all my anxieties being triggered at once, for taking my deepest fear and dread (physical abuse) and taking its power away and making it mine.  MY power.  For finally being able to yell a terrible yell even when the rest of the class are all silent as spiders.

For being able to do a spinning inside crescent kick.

My next goal is to do it well.

Sunday Chatter

In four days I’m going to get on an airplane and have a solo adventure.  If we get to keep our house, this may be the last time I go on a vacation until two or three years into my novel writing career when some royalty checks make their way to me.  (Like how I am visualizing the life I want rather than cowering under the weight of a parade of “if”s?)  So, no pressure to self, but I sure as hell better enjoy myself.  I have a plan: I’m going to eat only Mexican, Middle-eastern, and Chinese food while I’m down there.  Maybe some Greek thrown in.  I don’t eat Chinese food in Oregon.  There is no Greek food here in McMinnville nor is there a Middle-eastern restaurant in sight.  I know Portland is said to have some great Chinese and Mexican restaurants but the Mexican ones have been (at best) just decent.  I had a good burrito there with a friend but not what I’m used to.  NOT what I crave.  To offset the horrible commitment to caloric hell I will eat yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast every day and WALK WALK WALK.

I did not lose weight.  I mean, I lost 7 lbs and then I’m pretty sure I gained it back.  I’m not even willing to check.  My stress management has been crap this summer.  I was exercising a lot but then my back went out and I ate a lot of fattening food.  Dammit.  When I come back we will be in a two and a half week count down to the beginning of the school year and my plan is to kick off with a brand fresh effort at cleaning up my health all over again.  Max has decided to quit taking Kung Fu and so for now we have a little extra available money and I’m going to rejoin the regular Kung Fu classes while still taking forms.  If push comes to shove (and when doesn’t it in my life?) I will drop the classes again and stick with forms for the long term.  But for as long as I can I’m going to do both.  That’s three and a half hour’s worth of Kung Fu classes a week and I get PUSHED in those classes more than I can ever push myself at home so that will be an incredible boost of exercise.  Then I’ll have to practice.  I am NOT going to worry about practicing the material from the regular classes as much as the forms.

I just hope I won’t hurt myself much.  That constantly sends me backwards.  I know I will get where I want and need to get but I also know it isn’t going to happen even remotely as fast as I’d like it too.  I think it’s important for me to remember that I’ve kept off the top 15 pounds of my heaviest ever weight for over a year.  That’s definitely something.

Meanwhile… my ten year old has been letting loose with the teenage attitude lately and it’s been beyond annoying and tiring what with having to constantly reaffirm his boundaries.  Nine was such a sweeter year for him.  He’s so contrary and combative I really want to duct tape his mouth shut most of the day.  The only problem with that is that then I’d miss the really funny things he says in between making me want to head butt him.  It’s also a little weird that just when he’s becoming so horrid with the button pushing he also starts being more routinely helpful.  We don’t ask much of him.  This isn’t because I don’t believe children should be lazy asses.  It’s because trying to get a kid like him to help out is nearly always twice as much work for me as when I just do it myself.  He has to be closely supervised.  Usually.  Suddenly though he’s volunteering to feed the dog.  I mean he’s randomly piping up with “Has Chick been fed yet?” I say no and he goes and does it.  I say yes and he expresses disappointment.  I don’t get it.  I asked him if he’d get me more coffee yesterday morning and he did.  I ask him to go get something from the freezer outside and he does it.  So I’m wondering if this is a self defense mechanism in him- an instinctual counterpoint to the attitude so that just when I want to lock him in his room he does something completely helpful without the least bit of argument making me happy.  I don’t know.  I do know that this year has been one of the most challenging of them all as a parent.

I also can’t wait for the school year to begin again.  I have only one month to wait.  Once again I will have to say that it isn’t my goal to get rid of my child but he is so much healthier with all the structure of the school year.  Something I can’t give him in the summer.  I WORK quite a few hours of the day and don’t have time to go adventuring or managing his activities.  He loathes summer camp so we didn’t make him go this year.  His attitude is usually much better when his activities are directed all day long.

Time to go get another cup of coffee and find something to watch while sewing.  I don’t listen to music while sewing, as most people who know me know.  I like to watch familiar movies and programs.  I need the visual relief, something to rest my eyes on that isn’t my project.  Not sure what I’ll watch but I must figure it out before the heat paralyzes all of my grey cells.


Shaolin Wushu Training: Listening to Carl Orff

I believe the only way to listen to Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna is REALLY LOUD.

Obviously I’ve been very busy being crazy writer lady locked in her wild eyrie shouting down the sky and raving in rage over pitches and other fun things.  And that certainly does take up an enormous amount of my energy.  However, less loudly, I have continued to work on my forms.  I can’t afford any more private lessons for them and this, now, becomes a huge incentive to become a more successful writer.  I want to be able to take private lessons all the time.  I’ve been doing my forms in 1/2 hour segments aiming for every other day (I found that every day was too much) but I’m managing to do them more like every two days.  Every single time I practice them I feel more powerful.  No one would ever know it looking at me.  Not yet.  Not now.  But I still have the optimism to believe that if I keep on doing them and keep on working on the things that are holding me back, someday I’m going to look like a person who trains hard at Kung Fu.  If I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t make myself do them at all.  I have to believe it because that’s part of what propels me forward.

My household is not a calm oasis.  It is not a place for quiet lone contemplation.  Not inside.  Not outside.  Not without aid.  I can’t do forms with my mom or Philip or Max talking to me or making noises around me so I’ve taken to listening to music on my headphones.  This works beautifully.  For some people meditation is a question of quiet, no noises, no thoughts in your head.  If you have normal brain wiring you will not understand what it’s like inside my head.  I am incapable of clearing my head of its own noise unless there is something to replace it.  I have come to laugh at those who insist that all I need to do is practice clearing my head and eventually I’ll be successful at it.  Not so.  If that were true I wouldn’t need psyche meds.  If that were true – it doesn’t matter because I know it isn’t true and I have spent many hours of my life working at meditating the usual way.  My parents were Buddhist hippies after all.  What is true is that with white noise is the only road to meditation for me though white noise thought to be soothing such as a babbling brook is distracting rather than soothing to me.  White noise in the form of music that engages my head without giving it the space to form thoughts- that gives me the calm in my mind to really meditate, to be in my body, to concentrate on breathing, and to truly relax.

Watching familiar movies has the same effect on my brain.  It calms, it distracts the part of my brain that NEVER STOPS NEVER SLEEPS NEVER STOPS NEVER STOPS NEVER STOPS.  This is why I love watching television via DVDs.  Watching movies or shows while doing forms would not provide the right frame of mind, however.

My favorite to listen to right now is Carl Orff’s “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana while doing them.  The last time I did forms I practiced doing them fast, fast and powerful.  I chose this song because it’s like a battle ax flying through the air victoriously dripping the blood of your enemy.  (It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, it works for every side).  It made me work harder.  It made me tighten my muscles when I punched and my pace wanted to increase without my even thinking about it.

Tonight I listened first to a version of “Ave Maria” sung by The Vienna Boys Choir.  Then I wanted to feel more power.  I put Carl Orff on and was going fast and really feeling it, but then, then I decided for the last five minutes I needed to practice at tai chi speed.

Imagine that you have a hundred thousand men with brutal looking iron and steel weapons clanking behind you, restless to charge, you can feel the heat of their breath behind you and you feel fire in your veins to charge, to RUN, to raise your own broadsword high and yell like a fiend- and with this fierce energy all around you and in you- you move in slow motion.  You go slower than a Superbowl replay.  You go slow enough to feel your muscles burning and shaking because you’re forcing them to hold hold hold in place and you’re sweating but even your sweat is slow.

It seems like it couldn’t work, like you’d explode or be crushed by the energy charging from behind and charging towards you and charging in your own bones.  It seems like if you don’t move fast you can’t possible harness a speck of power and you’ll be nothing but entrails on a mace.  Instead you have to feel all your power in your center.  You are storing it, using it to maintain stances that will be much more effective if you can hold them still for a long time or move gracefully from one to another.  Listening to a piece of music like Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna puts all this power in your mindset, it makes you feel like a great warrior but then when you make yourself move painfully slowly to it you take all that energy and it goes into your solar plexis rather than outwards.  It goes inward and makes you feel like steel.

Until you feel like putty because your muscles scream with the pain of having to hold such strong poses.

I love doing forms.  I think it’s changing how I feel about my own body.  Even in its current state.  It’s changing what I believe my body is capable of.

I know many people already know what forms are but in case you don’t have a clear idea of what they are I am going to include a youtube link I want you to watch.  I want you to watch it because I think you’ll get something out of this.  I’m going to post my favorite one which is of Kung Fu school doing a demo at Venice Beach California.  Not all of what they’re doing in the video is forms.  The kicking is not.  But a good part of it IS forms.  Then I’ll put a second link below it that’s only forms.  Please watch them because I think you’ll appreciate what I’m writing about more if you do.  I want to share forms with you all.  Please note that I am going to purchase the mp3 of this Chinese rap song because it’s fantastic!

LA Shaolin Kung Fu Demo

And then this one which is just the cutest Asian chick you don’t want to mess with doing forms:

Shaolin Taizu Chang Quan

One more.  Please, watch.  These are Shaolin monks and this looks more like battle training which is what forms is:

Shaolin Wushu Training and Demonstration

Love the music in that one and also- those are some kids that will NEVER be bullied. Time for me to wind down for bed.  Whatever way you choose to meditate and strengthen yourself, to work towards becoming a stronger better version of yourself, it doesn’t matter.  Everyone needs to find their own way.  My sister Tara goes on meditation retreats when she can and has been doing yoga for years.  My friend Ann also does yoga.  Many of my friends go to the gym or run.  Whatever way you choose, I just hope it makes you feel as empowered as forms makes me feel.


Lost Shots and Hammer Punch

(There are two things I never want to live without: coffee and cameras.  These are two things I’ve made my fictional characters live without.  They say you have to make your characters suffer.  I think I could almost get away with not having them get shot at and tortured after forcing them to drink only herb and root teas and depriving them of the pleasures of I-phones.)

I can’t believe how important cameras have become to me.  I say that and immediately remember hours spent lugging my barbie dolls around Lithia park to find great spots to set them up for photo shoots with my barely more than a paper box Vivitar camera.  I think I won the camera in a drawing or something.  It was cheap and crappy and I loved it.  Then I upgraded at some point to a slightly sturdier version (maybe a Pentax or something?) and took photo shoots of myself and my friends dressing up.  I still have, and get pleasure from, all these early photographic efforts.  Then in high school my dad gave me his Canon camera, the one he lugged with him to Thailand and India when he was 18 years old.  The kind you need a light meter to use well.  I never did use it very well.  I took a photography class with that one and did lots of dark room time.

(I just deleted a huge chunk of distressingly boring text all about the agonizing two days I’ve spent trying to decide which point and shoot to buy to replace my beloved SD850.  If you want all those details, please tell me, I’ll write up a separate post just for you and we can discuss it!)

Learning to use a new camera is like starting a new love affair.

I just bought the S95 camera and immediately spent 24 hours freaking out because I thought I might have made a terrible mistake.  (I haven’t).  I am amazed, even after years of informative personal experience that ought to have crushed such amazement, at the level of obsessiveness my mind can reach over the smallest things in life like the question of exactly what I need from my cameras, the perfect number of cameras to have (two), and how I can (without cessation) read the technical specs of almost every single camera on the market just to make sure I have the best option.

I’m all worn out from the mental efforts.  I didn’t even start my shift last night until 6pm.  All because I couldn’t think about anything else until I was sure I didn’t need to return the S95 (I don’t).  My child never got out of his clothes.  I think it’s safe to say that the writing was on the wall back when I dressed brunette Darci up in her negligee and posed her against the fancy dry concrete fountain with sad Ken and conducted a very serious photo shoot without caring about the baldly staring passersby.  I remember feeling brilliant when I moved the shoot to the little waterfall near the stairs that lead up to the Shakespearean theatre.  There were swans.  There was the verdant spread of cool green.  There was the pounding summer sun reaching into the shadows.  My bicycle must have been tossed to the side nearby.  Unless I walked with my plastic entourage through the streets of softened asphalt to do my shoot.

I took some great photographs yesterday and something malfunctioned in the transfer from the camera to the computer.  I erased them from the camera immediately, because although I’m a slob in my housekeeping, I’m tidy in my digital life.  I can’t get those pictures back.  I can try to recreate them.  Lost pictures are like lost words, it’s best to let them go and do something fresh and new.  You can never completely recreate that great poem you thought of while waiting in line at Winco witnessing the circus life there.  You can never go back and shouldn’t spend much time mourning.

My obsessive nature is almost as uncomfortable for me as it is for my family.  Yesterday was pissy.  My head wouldn’t let go of the digital bone it was shaking around and by the end I was ready to tear heads off of bodies, throw things through windows, and other dramatic expressions of a head too full and a life spinning away from my control.

Single parenting for a week exacerbates any extant rage or frustrations.  Once again, may I salute all you phenomenal single parents out there?  I am a spectacular parenting wimp.

What saved me from bursting into flames yesterday was taking another private Kung Fu forms lesson.  When I sell my novel and it’s made into a movie and the royalties start paying off I will spend my wild riches on private lessons every week.  I know three full forms now: Wushu basic stance, 8 chain punch, and The Hammer.  I just started learning Yet Yi which requires me to do a power yell.  Yell hell.  I’m not comfortable yelling out loud.  Once you start yelling like that, what’s to say I’ll ever be able to stop?*

I hope my knees don’t fall off my legs before I finish learning Yet Yi.

(I just deleted self deprecatory comment because it has no place in my forms journey.)

On my way to the Kung Fu school I was over-full of stress.  My head was in a severe mess.  Then for one hour I didn’t think about my life for a single second.  I didn’t think about what I can’t do, what I can’t be, what I don’t know, or what I’m afraid to know.  For one hour my Sifu said “do this” and I did what he told me to do.  I did a power yell.  I did the fancy-ass jump/slide thing that seems an improbable move for a fat 41 year old to do- I did it.  For one hour I tried to remember to breath.  For one hour I imagined how The Hammer form could be used in real combat.  Everything else slipped away.

That’s meditation.  I find it very hard to achieve that here at home.  Which is why if I can ever afford it that will be my big extravagance.  It’s worth it.  That’s the kind of meditation you can’t achieve with writing or photography or medication or therapy or cake.  I have some serious ground to cover to reach some personal goals I won’t let go of in spite of how impossible they are appearing at the moment.  I don’t truly believe in impossibilities.  I have some serious personal problems to overcome.  I’m getting at it in my own way, my own time.  So I keep asking myself to be patient and every day try again.  Try again.  And practice forms.  Dig holes in the garden.  Talk fierce walks.  Ride my bicycle.  No efforts we make for our own well being and the well being of others is ever wasted.

When I came home from the forms lesson I was much more relaxed.  Walked right into chaos and the need to clean the kitchen and cook some food and feed my kid and start my entire work shift and put the camera question to rest.  Life doesn’t change because you meditate.  Life doesn’t stop being challenging or getting in your face and up in your rage.

But let me tell you something, if you can do 8 chain punch for an hour, you can handle anything.


*Just saw a Simpson episode in which Homer starts yelling and can’t stop, so obviously this fear is completely rational.

Friday Night Wushu Forms

Doing forms is quiet at first.  You move through your counts carefully, ticking off each part as you do it, counting them down, moving yourself through them.  It’s casual at first.  Like you could do this in a field full of butterflies and California poppies spreading open sleepily and your muscles are relaxed and maybe a little arrogant, as though you’ve just asked them to do nothing more strenuous than a breezy morning stretch.

Then it deepens and grows weighty.  Your muscles aren’t laughing anymore because while they were making fun of your light demands they are caught off guard by how deeply you’re sinking into each move, your knees bending more, your back getting straighter, and to keep doing the moves your head must now focus on what it’s asking your muscles to do.  They must coordinate, something they do all day every day but now it’s different.  It’s different because you’re asking your body to become equine in strength.

It isn’t enough to coordinate your mind to your muscles and bring your focus into your core, you have to breathe.  Something you do every single day all day long without cessation and you might think you’re pretty good at it.  But you’re not.  So you have to focus on your breathing being even and deep and in a rhythm with your movements which are beginning to make you sweat and you will find you need more oxygen than you thought.

Then you become a body of water held together tenuously by your skin and the water is rushing and fighting to break the tension that holds it in.  Maybe it’s because you start to feel your own blood pumping through your body, like a roar in your ears, and you push it and push it and push it some more.  You have to keep it as directed as possible while pushing it.  It feels like you have become a mad river heading for your origin.  The burning you feel as your muscles try to follow the water is like light.  Everything is connected.  Everything is fluid.

That’s when you stop fighting.  You become bones, blood, oxygen, and muscle moving together in a shared language.  It’s power choreographed to look like water.

Kung Fu Forms Class, and bad spinach salad

Last night I attended my first Kung Fu forms class.  I was, predictably, very anxious before class.  I was feeling it in my stomach.  (I have actually had an uneasy stomach quite a lot lately when eating, which is bizarre and probably means I’m dying) We had our family night out before my class which means we went to Golden Valley Pub for dinner.  I wasn’t really hungry but knew I needed some fuel before class so I got a spinach salad.  I’ve been thinking about ordering that salad again for months.  (I always order the nachos or once in a very blue moon I’ll get a veggie burger for a wild change of pace.  I don’t like to be disappointed when going out to eat.  Once I find something good on a menu at a restaurant I’ll pretty much never try anything new there again.)  The last time I got the spinach salad was a total flukish moment of complete madness and it turned out to be really good so I’ve been thinking about doing it again for months.

Most likely, at this point in my dawdling tale, you are either nodding your head vigorously saying things like “Exactly! Why mess with something sure?” or “You are the most reasonable person I’ve ever listened to, go on!”  OR you’re feeling really impatient and annoyed at the ridiculousness of anyone taking months to try to work up the guts to order something different, especially when they already know it’s good because they’ve tried it once before.

I ordered the spinach salad and an American Pale Ale.  I love spinach.  I love Pale Ale.  However, this time the spinach salad was a serious disappointment.  It was oily without the lemon that’s supposed to be in the vinaigrette (and which I very much enjoyed last time) and the spinach was a little tough and their grilled onions were crunchy (I don’t like food that’s half cooked, either give it to me raw or make sure that when you grill it is isn’t limp AND toothsome).  Total fail.  Plus my stomach was not feeling well what with all the anxiety about the class.  I couldn’t finish the salad.

Sometimes I want to get into the kitchens of restaurants and show them how to do their business.  I am not professionally trained but I have often thought that professional training leaves much to be desired.  Give me home cooks any day of the week and I’ll have just as good a chance of getting great food as I do from eating out.  Maybe I only say that  because most of my friends are great cooks.

(I just avoided saying something scathing about cooks who make things like “Snickers salad”)

Wait, that just reminds me that I wanted to ask how it is that so many people have “extra” candy bars just lying around their houses that they feel they need to find ways of using in their cooking.  Candy bars only enter my house once a  year and they make a swift exit.  If you find you constantly have random bags of candy bars lying around exasperating you, I think you should STOP BUYING THEM instead of finding as many ways as possible to pollute otherwise decent wholesome home baked desserts with chopped up Mars bars or whatever kind of candy you “accidentally” put in your shopping carts.  When I saw that someone made a “salad” using candy bars, that was just the outside of ENOUGH.

You have probably guessed by now that I will not order the spinach salad ever again.  I forgot to mention that the kid was in a turmoil over the fact that we didn’t get a real booth last night.  We make reservations and always ask for a booth.  This is because we all hate open seating.  We got one of their half-booths last night and the kid went into a tailspin of discontent.  (I don’t like the half booth either but as I’m a veteran mentally ill person I have learned to cope- mostly- better).

After dinner Philip and Max went to Philip’s office (he wasn’t quite done working) and I walked to Kung Fu.  Walking a little before class was great because it released a little bit of my relentless tension.  I stretched before class (a really good thing to do since I am constantly injuring myself doing anything physical) and class began.

Forms class is basically doing the horse stance for an hour.  If you have ever done the horse stance* for 60 seconds you will appreciate what an hour of it would feel like.  Kung Fu forms are amazing!  I have watched some of the blackbelts in our school doing them and it’s such a beautiful and graceful set of movements meant to replicate different battle actions.  If you’re having trouble imagining what it might look like then think of Tai Chi.  It’s not unlike it in a general way though my Kung Fu teacher would certainly jump in here and cut my head off for not being very specific and rattling off the huge differences between them which are not known to me.  Forms is exactly what I need right now.  You are in a class with other people doing forms but it’s solitary, you don’t work in teams, you don’t get in each other’s faces or touch each other.  It’s solitary and inward.  It is about intensely focused actions that you practice over and over and over.

I am self conscious about being the only fat person in Kung Fu.  I do feel I look ridiculous.  I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do.  I did NOT let this thought permeate my head while I was doing it, it kept coming to me and I kept pushing it aside so that I could breath through the movements.  What occurred to me was that if I continue to revise my eating habits during the week and keep working on reigning in the beer habit, and if I were to practice forms a few minutes every day in addition to riding my bicycle to run errands, I might actually make some progress and become less fat.  However, there is also high risk of ankle and knee injury so we’ll see how that goes.  It felt great to be back on my Kung Fu path.  I don’t know how long I’ll need a break from taking the regular classes and I don’t want to worry about it.  I really do want to get my black belt and the longer I stay away from the regular classes the longer it will take me.

What’s important right now is to reduce the number of things I’m pushing myself over.  I have until I die to earn my black belt.  I have until I die to publish a book.  I have until I die to grow things and be a good parent.  Since the parenting is something I have to work on all the time without breaks, I must give myself breaks in other areas of my life.  Because I have to write every day or have my head explode, I choose to push myself with the novel writing.  So Kung Fu must be the place where I let myself not push quite so hard.  This feels right, and it feels good.

I am so sore today, but in a happy way.

Now I’m going to shower and ride my bicycle to the Saturday market for some produce.  Hopefully we will all go picking nettles later today.  Maybe I can get my mom to take me back to Grand Island.  The nettles will all go to seed soon, if they aren’t already.

Go do something nice for yourself.

*Horse Stance and you can read more about Kung Fu forms here.

Relief is in the Details (and in SNL)

This gutted abandoned shell of a house is how I feel about myself, my country, and my countrymen right now.

While that’s a pretty dismal thing to say and feel, I can see for myself that even in the decrepitude of this emptied house there is value.  Someone was using it for a shelter.  They hung themselves some thick plastic tarps to the ceiling to enclose a small space, like a tent.  Insects have also found shelter in it too.  It is strangely beautiful standing in a field of spring dandelions and English daisies with the trees reaching down to it.

I don’t like myself very much when I’m around people for too long or too often.  I start behaving the way they do which points to how easily I am provoked into pettiness, anger, bitchiness, snarkiness (of the hurtful kind), and bickering.  This is something that has been brought out in everyone on social media since the days leading up to the Royal Wedding.  Damn me if I’ve ever heard so many people who don’t live in England speak so bitterly about the Royal family, about the wedding (which polarized people between hating or loving it where most people who claimed to not care at all were the most bitter about it and then there was myself who started off genuinely not being intersted-but certainly not annoyed by it- who ended up enjoying the coverage and the event quite a lot) and just when everyone is done bitching and moaning and expressing their hatred for Royalty more strongly than I could have thought Amercians, so completely UNAFFECTED by Royal rule, could possibly have felt… Osama is assassinated.

That set off a similar polarization.  There are those who are happy, jubilant, celebrating the killing of Osama as a rightful just event that rights the wrong of 9/11.  Though in the news the people most affected personally by 9/11 also say that NOTHING can really right it.  So let’s go ahead and kill people to feel better, even though it will never be enough?  Nice.  I find this sentiment disturbing.  I find it hateful and willfully vengeful.  And then there are those who are not rejoicing in Osama’s death, who are sad that any of this violence has to happen and who want to see everyone rise to a higher place, a more sober understanding of what it means to kill a person, whether or not that person did evil things.  No one I have heard who is sad by all the blood lust is a fan of Osama, though it seems that many people who are firm believers in an eye for an eye think that not being happy about Osama being killed must be in support of him, a completely irrational supposition.

I have shut myself off from Facebook (and Twitter, though that hardly matters because no one talks to me on Twitter anyway) because I don’t want to be further disappointed in people I generally like and I don’t want to keep myself in a situation that provokes my own weakness and hatefulness.  This is not what I believe in.  This is not the kind of behavior or sentiment I aspire to.  I am finding myself looking at friends in new light, as people I can’t understand and don’t want to.  Following the massive reposting of a quote supposedly from Martin Luther King, Jr., one I posted myself, there are a bunch of people saying it isn’t a correct quote.  It turns out that most of it was except for the first sentence, which nevertheless reflects the same sentiments that are in the rest of King’s speech.  What all the correcting and the snarkiness feels like is an attempt to make the non-violence crowd look stupid and ridiculous.  I found myself commenting on it and the more I did the angrier I got.  People are mean and petty and I get caught up in it all and then I wanted to fight.  To FIGHT, people.  Exactly what I am against!!

I don’t believe in FIGHTING like that, where people are just trying to discredit and take others down over ridiculous details.  I had to hit myself and shut things down.  If I go on like this I’ll have zero friends.  If I’m to be the person I want to be then first I have to let go of the petty motivations of others to make me feel bad or make me wrong (or both) and secondly I need to refrain from turning around and doing the same to them.  My best way of dealing with this is always to go inward.  To disconnect from people.  My own blog is still safe.  It has experienced a funny arc over time of readers and commenters and right now I’m relieved that it is quiet here and no one really reads it from facebook unless I post my posts there.  This does not annoy me as it might have done a year ago.  It is a place I still feel mostly safe to speak my mind and not be kicked around.  Back when I had a lot of readers and commenters I couldn’t say the word “homeschooling” without someone picking up the cudgels and taking a swing at me.

Lest anyone think I sat around whining and crying all day yesterday in my depression and disappointment in myself and everyone else, I would like to say that I did a number of things yesterday to restore my sense of hope, of peace, and of self-respect:

  • I made really good food.  I made lentil salad and crustless spanakopita.  I let the cooking be a meditation while I thought on King’s (and the anonymous person paired up with him in that quote) words about loving your enemy* and I found a measure of calm in this quotidian activity, as I always do.
  • I rode my bicycle downtown.   That’s not a lot of exercise but it felt good to get the fresh air and feel my muscles working.  When I returned home I did 25 crunches with the help of Max (he sits on my legs so I can do real ones without hurting my back- it feels great!) and truth be told, I did 25 instead of 20 because of Max’s cheering me on.
  • I didn’t eat anything I regretted.  I ate just enough to feel full and everything that went in my mouth was wholesome and modest, yet nothing about my food was stark (I had butter on my toast but I never use a lot, I had some feta cheese but a modest amount, etc).  Every day I don’t give in and eat the giant cookies or whatever else I eat because it seems like a good idea to spite myself even though I don’t like sugary crap is a good day.
  • I didn’t drink alcohol.  Usually when I don’t drink beer I have something just as fattening to replace it like ginger beer or tonic and lime.  I did have tonic and lime but only one glass of it.  That’s okay with me.  It’s even okay to have two, but if I’m going to have 4 I lose so much of my progress and self respect.
  • I went to bed early.  Okay, I crawled into bed because I couldn’t bear to expose myself to anything online and I didn’t want to hang with my family or do anything but hide and read.  I was in bed by 9pm and fell asleep by 10.  I guess I really am depressed since I then slept until 7:30am.  Almost ten hours of sleep.  I could have stayed in bed longer.  I usually only sleep 6 hours.  It’s okay.

Unlike on Sunday I didn’t cry or feel sorry for myself a single second.  I usually only let that go on for a few hours, tops.  I’m still in a complete crisis and am still deplorably depressed.  I think it’s not going to dissipate quickly this time.  The world feels so sickened and depleted and I feel it in my bones.  I suppose I’m also finally breaking down myself because I held myself up pretty well, for the most part, through the last two intensely stressful months of parenting challenges that broke my heart and scared the shit out of me.  Things are so much better with Max right now that I can finally afford to fall apart a little.  Except I can’t, really, can’t ever really afford it.

I told a friend I’d do something with her but I realize now that I don’t want to see any people today.  (Sorry, friend!) and as seeing her was going to involve also seeing at least 6 other people, no.  No.  Taking care of myself and my mental state is much too important to go and fill it with other people’s stuff.  Especially since at least two of the individuals I would be exposing myself to are paranoid anti-government weapon freaks.  No.  I need to be inward.  I need the quiet of my tower.

From here I can see the tulips giving their last hurrah.  I can see the Elephant Heart plum tree leafed out, my comfrey settled into its new bed, the volunteer California poppy I’ve nursed along growing more robust, and the columbines my mother planted are flowering and presenting an alternative opinion to all the ones us more restless riled up people have to share.

Let me tell you all, I’m really missing all the wedding coverage right now.  Aside from all the haters it was a fun and frivolous distraction.  When so many people complained of there being more important news to report on it made me think of the Great Depression.  That was a badass depressing destitute time and during that time the talkies took off to a new dimension of popularity.  People would spend money they couldn’t afford to see the pictures because their lives were so depressing and hard already.  Life all around them was mean and hungry but you could pay a few pennies and for a little while you could watch people living glamorous lives full of maribou and cocktails and witty repartee.  People NEED frivolous distraction from poverty and war.  While so many people starved the movie stars that “made it” became insanely rich and I’m sure there were plenty of people who resented them their power and influence over fashion, entertainment, morals, and soon spreading to political influence as well.  Hence the Hays Code and later the great McCarthy inquisition in which many movie stars were blacklisted for being suspected of being communist (mostly they were just liberal).  These attempts to diminish their power and influence are proof that it was feared.

Maybe you don’t need relief from the constant influx of grim truthiness but I do.  I need to laugh, I need to see the rich entertain me with their wealth because I haven’t got any of my own.  Noblesse oblige!  Show me your jewels and do something wonderful that I can either rejoice in or criticize for fun (though I’ll try not to be too mean).  Ostentation can be quite obnoxious but seeing a little glamor in the world lifts me up.  I want to know that some people still have fun getting dressed up.  Sure as hell isn’t me.  Which isn’t the fault of money, just my own lack of self discipline and dark depression that cements my overindulgence- if I got my body back I could have a shitload of fun getting dressed up without spending a penny- I still have so many of my fun clothes that aren’t tiny, just smaller than me…)

I’m so sick of war and poverty and politicians and lies and killing and stealing and ignorance and oppression.  I want flowers, music, light, more skits like the SNL “British Film” skit (that’s my favorite@!!)

Okay, I have to pause a minute… I’m really happy I’m alone in the house right now or I’d have to explain to my  mom why I’m laughing up here by myself.  That is already the best thing I’ve seen today.  Seriously the best television I’ve seen in weeks.  (I saw it weeks ago)  Watching it 56 times does not diminish its greatness a speck.  (Note to self: have this clip ready to watch any time you feel ungenerous thoughts about anything and it will restore your good humor making it possible not to hate people again… put it somewhere safe and accessible!)

My Canon 850SD camera is dead.  I miss it.  It’s times like these I like to have that camera with me so I can find all kinds of tiny worlds to admire through the macro.  My DSLR is great for some things but I can’t afford a macro lens for it and so I can’t get up in the faces of ladybugs or get super personal with my lilac buds.  I can’t afford to replace it yet but we’ll send it in and see if we can get some credit towards a refurbished one through the Canon program.  Today would be a marvelous one for going on a walk and catching specs of dust in the sun or slinky little creatures who don’t think I can see them.  It’s okay, I won’t let that add to my depression.

I think I’ll see if there’s a lilac bunch ready to pick and bring inside.

If any of you are feeling much like I am right now I hope you’ll join me in doing small things to alleviate the tension and the bleak state of the world like making yourself some really good food in your own kitchen (play loud music if you can!), make something pretty, take a walk, do some little action that will make you feel proud of yourself because normally you can’t convince yourself to do it (the crunches, I say every day that I’m going to do them every day and almost every day I go to sleep wondering how I managed to slither out of the simple act of self appreciation?), and if you’re surrounded by corrosive personalities or sentiments, remove yourself to some place quiet and positive.  Fill the space with peace and thoughts of charity, warmth, love, forgiveness, and heal a little.  Or a lot.  The more depressed you get the harder these small acts become so even if you can only manage to do one – do just one.  The more you do the better you’ll feel.  I know I’m already feeling better for having gotten these thoughts out, both the bad and the good.

I still love all my friends, even when I can’t be around them temporarily (generally this is because of my own problems and not anything my friends have done) or when they disappoint me.  Most of my friends, I know, still love me even when I exasperate or anger them (or bring them down, which I’ve been guilty of much too often, I’m shamed to say).  We can disagree and remain steadfast in appreciation so long as we take a break when things are too heated or unhappy.  All of us go there sometimes, to that bitter space where everyone displeases us or we become petty and small to each other.  I am no exception and though I can’t change anyone else I can step back and address myself, as I’m doing today.  I can bitch-slap myself and demand I knock it off and then do something to make up with myself like 25 crunches.  Nothing says I care about myself more than dreaded (but awesome!) crunches!

I am also returning to Kung Fu this week but not to the regular classes.  I’m going to take forms classes for a while.  This will put on hold my belt advancement but it means I’ll be going to do something for my body every week that stretches my limits, that helps me get stronger, and that keeps me in touch with myself on that level.  For anyone who doesn’t know, forms class is learning a set of actions that string together fluidly, they are challenging and require much strength and and concentration.  It’s slow, mostly.  There is no grappling with other people, it’s a solitary exercise.  This is why I’m choosing it.  I want to get back into Kung Fu but I don’t know how long it will be before I can allow people to get up in my face and touch my body.  I have the words “Oh God!  You’re so huge!  God, you’re really huge!” in my head.  It was spoken by a person who cannot control such comments and I totally forgive him but every time I think about doing exercises with other people I have this terrible feeling that everyone is thinking what this man actually said out loud repeatedly a long time ago when we were doing joint locking exercises.  It’s true, of course, I AM huge.  But I need to keep myself from being in situations where others may inadvertently derail my progress by making me feel disgusting.  It was another student at the school who said I ought to do something about my obesity.  So, you see, I can’t let anyone touch me right now.  Forms is really quite beautiful.  I have watched the forms class and wished I was doing it.  It’s quiet, it’s slow, everyone goes at their own pace.  It’s a little like Tai Chi but more fierce.  I’m excited.  It’s more expensive and there’s only one class a week instead of two, but I think this will be really good for me for a while.  I need to go with my gut in all things at the moment and put myself in gentle situations and be careful where I put my spirit and careful how I am exposed to others.

Coffee’s gone.

Take Care until next time.

*You will all know that he was taking Jesus at his word, for a non-religious person like myself it loses no importance or meaning no matter who said it first-I simply substitute “my conscience” for “Jesus” and it works quite well.  I read his whole sermon today and I have to say that if Martin Luther King, Jr. was the pastor at a local church, I’d totally join.

The Power of Solitude

My dad doesn’t like to spend a lot of time alone.  He doesn’t enjoy solitude.  He loves companionship, sports, parties, and having fun with people he enjoys.  I think he’s not unusual in this way.  I have a friend right now who admits to not being good at self entertaining and who prefers to be in the company of others as much as possible.

I need the company of others as most humans do, but it costs as much as it pays.

I need solitude.  In an ideal world I would spend at least fifty percent of my time completely alone.  I have lived extremes.  The year I lived alone in an apartment in the upper tenderloin of San Francisco was so lonely I actually cried a lot over it and ended up talking to the cockroaches.  My main friends were three really dysfunctional men, two of whom slept with the same woman periodically and one of whom was a pot dealer and so spaced out he had to be tied to earth with a string.  We bowled a lot and drank plum wine and Anchor Steam beer which I now despise.

Now I am married, have a ten year old, and live with my mother.  I am almost never alone.  Since my kid has been mostly sick for a month and a half and has been home a lot, I have had so little time to myself I am shredding.  This summer I had to pull back from things, social media, friends, family, everything.  It helped me recenter myself.  I am now in need of recentering again but I don’t need to disconnect from social media to do it.

I need more alone time in real life.  Real life.  What a strange thing to say.  As though any part of life isn’t real.  We exist everywhere we exist and so all our actions and interactions are real, whether or not they are conducted online.

I have come to this place, again, where I’m not hearing myself first every day.  There is so much noise around me from other people it’s difficult to pick out my own voice.  There are so many people who have serious expectations of me: my son, my son’s teacher and everyone he tangles with at school, his psychologist, his Kung Fu teacher who is also mine and who expects things of me both on Max’s behalf and on my own, work, my mom, my pets who are riled up by all the change, my husband, and my works of fiction.

And then there’s me.  There’s what I expect of myself.  It’s become so tangled up with what other people expect of me that I hardly know what I’m actually asking of myself anymore.  The only thing I was asking of myself that no one else was asking of me was to get cracking on the third draft of my novel.  I am stymied.  Paralyzed.  People keep telling me I need space.  “Take a break” they say.  “Walk away for a while and let it breath” they suggest.  I fought it because I feel the fire of ambition and I’ve never been so close to achieving the thing I’ve been driving at for most of my life.

This week slammed into me with an explosion of noise, emotional torture, and crisis.

It was important for what it revealed.  A meeting with Max’s teacher, principal, special ed instructor, and a random other teacher who had a complaint about him culminated in the very clear message that everyone in an official capacity now agrees with my assessment that my son is not only different but is facing enormous challenges in his future.  It has been suggested that Max needs an IEP, a tool that can be very helpful for kids with disabilities but which officially marks them as people with legal disabilities.  I know it’s silly to know my son has serious challenges and then freak out when everyone agrees with me that this is something that needs to be addressed legally and more seriously.

I did freak out.  I cried in that meeting and I don’t care how natural it was of me to do so, I couldn’t let go of my shame for that for three days.

There is so much, so much crowding my head for explanation that it’s too much.

What it comes down to in the end, the real message for me this week is that if I don’t minimize the chaos around me and the expectations being made of me I will go down that rabbit hole of doom otherwise known as a nervous breakdown.

It all comes down to this:  I will do anything to have more time alone.  I will do anything to listen to silence.  I will do anything for the comfort and peace of solitude.

I walked the dog yesterday.  It wasn’t as peaceful as hoped because there was too much stimulus everywhere: people walking their dogs that Chick is forcefully interested in, cats that Chick is forcefully interested in, and no white noise of music to blot the world out for reasons too dull to explain.  Even so, getting away from human voices and the surroundings that feel trapping set a little part of me free.

Today I took the dog out again.  This time I had my white noise.  The air was soft and comfortable.  Chick didn’t pull on the leash, attempt to chase other dogs or cats, she fell into immediate rhythm with my pace and I stopped to stretch my calf muscles four times (still experiencing strained calf muscles) and the distance from other people, the needs of others, and the expectations that dog me was blissful.

I am taking a hiatus from Kung Fu.  It isn’t important to explain why now, but I felt lighter and coming up from the deep was my own connection with my body.  Everything needs to slow down.  I am still the same size but since taking Kung Fu my body has changed and so much progress has been made- but too fast.

I need everything to slow down to my natural pace.  I’ve made too much progress too fast, asked too much too soon, both in writing and of my muscle and bone.

Today I took the fresh air deep into my lungs as I walked and paused to stretch and I let myself feel the freedom of only answering to myself.  I may be a task master but I am always compassionate when I let myself out of my cage, when I let go of what others expect of me.  I felt my stride lengthen and my muscles warm with movement.  I took in the color of the crocuses and daffodils unfolding shyly in the gardens I passed, not on mass display yet, just white, yellow, and purple peeking out of borders and underneath trees.  I saw how the sun fell on cars and lawns and old men trimming hedges.  It felt benevolent, calm, quiet.

I crave solitude.  I crave an empty house.  Empty rooms.  Places where no voices rush through skin.  Places where the color is louder than thought.  I crave silence of mind and absence of humans.  It’s how I recharge.  Sitting in complete solitude for hours on end.  This is why I have spent so many hours fantasizing about becoming a nun or a monk.  Or taking vows of silence.   Impossible for a person so verbal, I know.  It’s my constant fantasy, to have no actual voice that isn’t paper and ink.

To be alone and hear the air moving is delicious.

To be alone and lost in the details outside of oneself is meditation.

I am taking a break from the book to recharge.  It’s ironic that the first book is now haunting me and pulling me forward.  I will not press, I will not push.  I am taking a break from my ambition and my passion, to listen.

I think this is all part of my necessary pattern.  To listen to it, to acknowledge it, to accept it is absolute.

I am aware that sometimes my distance, my choices, my absence, and my silence can be hurtful to others.  I don’t rejoice in anything I do causing pain to others but I know that if I don’t give myself what I need then it causes even greater pain to others.

Walking is powerful to me.  Solitary walking is prayer.

I will walk my dog more often to give her what she’s been missing and desperately needs.

But I will walk myself without her too.

I will walk myself until I can run because it’s the only way I can find solitude.

All the answers may be known if you are willing to be completely alone with yourself.

Burkas for Burly Assassins

I wouldn’t love burkas if I was forced to wear one all the time, however, I have to admit to having a bit of a fetish for hats and scarves that conceal and shadow.

Max wanted to be a ninja for Halloween and I figured it would be a cinch to buy a cheap ninja costume somewhere here in town.  I was wholly mistaken.  The only crappy ninja costume was at Walmart and was in XL men’s sizing.  I didn’t want to sew because I have finally gotten back into the flow of the novel.  Besides that, I have 9 years of experience that inform me that Max will wear a costume for exactly 7 minutes before the pieces all start coming off.  He loves the idea of dressing up but ultimately doesn’t enjoy the strangeness of garments he’s not used to wearing and that feel weird.

The pokemon costume lasted a record low of 67 seconds after which he refused to wear it for trick or treating.  It “hurt” his head he told me.

So then I figured I would go ahead and make one from a pattern.  Every boy wants to be a ninja, right?  Patterns must abound!  I confidently browsed the catalogs of all four major U.S. pattern companies to discover exactly two ninja costumes.  One was for some cartoon ninja character and was, therefore, stupid as hell and ugly, and the other was in adult sizes only.

So I did what I always do which is buy an unrelated pattern for a template and make it into what I need it to be.  I used a thing of Philip’s (forget what they’re called because I have thread instead of brains now) to make a pattern from which I might then alter the face covering head warming thingy into a ninja mask.  I did some impressive online research to help me stylize the whole costume.

Now that I’m done I have to say I’m impressed with how it all turned out.  Max is wearing sweatpants (the only pants he’ll wear) and a long sleeved black cotton top as an undershirt.  Over that is the tunic, the obi, and the gaitors.

If I ever have a waist again I’m going to make this outfit for myself to wear all the time.

I tried hard to get good action shots.  Max gave me two and one of them super-sucked.  He’s a purple belt in Kung Fu now and can execute some truly great jump kicks.

The great thing about doing anything all the time is that you get better at it all the time.  This is why old jerks have so much more mastery over their craft than fresh jerks do.  Whatever you’re doing all the time is what you will master.  That bears some serious thinking about.

I’m also thinking a lot about intentionality.  I started a post on this thought earlier today and realized that if I posted it as I was thinking it I would lose all my friends.  I kind of need them.  Becoming a master at the things we spend the most time doing is directly related to the idea of intentionally doing the things we actually want to be doing and not doing things that fall into our laps or crash into our lives randomly.  Letting life happen to you is not really living it.  Letting your life unfold apathetically may work for some people, but I say that with complete insincerity because I have never seen the apathetic approach to life yield good results.

I’ve spent the best part of my life making intentional decisions about how I live my life, going after things I truly want only after having spent time evaluating how much I want it, how good for me it will actually be, and then saying what it is and drawing up a plan.  Plans go awry all the time, paths twist, intentions evolve and so I may not always end up where I thought I would nor achieve the things I intended to but my life is not littered with accidental detours or regrets.

I lost my way completely not long ago but that’s because I lost complete faith in myself.  It’s difficult to move forward if you can’t feel your own feet.

Kung Fu has helped me find what I already had in myself and then lost for a few years: the ability to focus on what I want, to see it, to name it, and to move forward even when I can barely walk because I refuse to stand down or give up.  There is so much in life we can’t control or change but our own actions, our own decisions make a huge difference in how our lives weather the chaos and navigate the dark swells.

Personal responsibility, choice, action, and intention.

Ninja isn’t just a Halloween costume.

Kung Fu isn’t just about throwing wheel kicks.

But if you can look this good doing any of it?

Comets will bow to you.

My Staff is not Bigger Than Yours (by much)

In Kung Fu tonight I struggled through a staff exercise, (not to be confused with struggling through a staph infection), and many negative thoughts went through my head such as “I can’t do this!” and “%$#)@&&!$%$%$#!!!!”.  I asked my Sifu if I could sit that exercise out because I wasn’t ready and he said No.  No.  He has this way of saying “no” with a smile full of very sharp steel.  It’s the kindest but hardest “no” on earth.  I did it.  I did not entirely enjoy it.  But I did it.

You know how in films the martial arts instructors are always deeply wise and can also paralyze a ten foot tarantula just by thinking stinging thoughts?  You watch it and you know that the master is going to do and say profound things and maybe you’re going to get a little annoyed at such VERY DEEP wisdom.

My Sifu is EXACTLY like that.  Except not annoying.  What makes him fantastic and what makes me trust him is that he is always showing us the chinks in his armor that make him human like the rest of us.  He lets us know just enough about his struggles with his ex-wife (well, we don’t get to hear what those are, just that he has them) so that when he makes us do the brutal slow wall kicks* until our legs feel as though they are catching on fire we don’t hate him.

What I’ve learned is that when he says I can do something, he’s always right.

I’ve been taking Kung Fu for a year now and I’m still having to remind myself to trust him because he never lies to me.  I have some trust issues.

This guy tells me I can knock down a 300 pound 6’5″ tall man and then, as though I was made of iron, I do it!  I just do it.  Like that.  As though this were always true my whole life.  I wish he’d tell me I can become a successful published novelist.  Knocking down 300 pound really tall men is pretty great too, though.

So when he tells me I have to participate in this exercise that I suck at and am scared of, I just do it.  Not well, but I do it.  Most of the students are really supportive so that when I say “I only know the offensive lines” they don’t ridicule or revolt or hit me with their giant staffs (not to be confused with penises**).

I don’t love the staff.

But I’ll tell you what I do love: double sticks!  We’ve been learning to fight with double sticks and I LOVE it!  When I have two sticks in my hands and I’m doing the sinwalis with a partner and the sticks are smoking (literally) with friction and the smell of the hot rattan hits the air and the rhythm is fast- being in my own skin at these moments is amazing.  Would you like to see what I’m learning to do?

(That’s my Sifu and his son Dakota. )

It’s a little long but I think you should watch it just for the broadswords comment.  Because obviously many of us are trained in fighting with broadswords… when you watch two black-belts doing these exercises together it’s gorgeous.  No other way of describing it.  It is an example of the fluidity and elegance that I love so much about Kung Fu.  To do it yourself though is even better, even more incredible and makes you believe in the power of the body to take flight.

My feelings about the staff are less warm.  I find it cumbersome and confusing.  So I’ve booked myself a private lesson with my Sifu to practice it.  I can’t promise myself that I will learn to love the staff exercises but I’m deciding right now that I can do it, that I can become proficient in it so that the next time someone assaults me with a spear I’ll know just what to do and I’ll be able to acquit myself with some degree of honor and not die.

Sifu says I can do impossible things and I mostly believe him.  Because so far he’s never been wrong.

*This is an excruciating exercise that could kill a lesser person than me.  I’ve taken the hospital stress test for the heart where you have to sign a waiver that says you realize the stress test might kill you and I think this kicking exercise is about ten times more strenuous but with no waiver.

**One of the best Kung Fu class moments was when a few of the guys were discussing the size of their staffs and I got to tell them how wildly inappropriate their conversation sounded.  Apparently guys do discuss size.