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Letter

 

18 Jan 2006

Good Morning

Leslie,

I didn't get a chance to chat with you last evening as everyone had already made their way to the cars when I came back down from the restroom. I must admit, I'm a little worried about you. If there's something troubling you then we can talk about it. I'm a good listener, or so I've been told. I have a responsibility to my students then stems from genuine caring as well as age old appreciation for the traditional teacher/student relationship in martial arts in general, and the one taught to me by Teachers Chen and Zhang specifically.

I know I've made light of our "school" in the past, but that fun is all banter. Beneath the laughs I take what we have very seriously. In my mind we are continuing what I started way back when - literally "a band of brothers" (it's not meant to be gender biased - just that it did start with all guys way back when) who share a love of training and more so, companionship. This companionship is so strong at times that it tends to overshadow what inherently is the Confucian hierarchical structure that governs almost all things Chinese. We all have our elder martial brothers and sisters, and we all have (if not, we may) younger brothers and sisters. We are all expected to help those younger, and we are all expected to be gracious of help we receive from our elders.

I know you know all of this...

I suspect that you also know that John was trying to help you, which is what I expect of him... and if you haven't already, please make peace with your older brother.

And I wouldn't be telling you all of this if I wasn't a concerned teacher, and more so a concerned friend.

I suspect that whatever went on yesterday has blown over, and I hope whatever was frustrating you has subsided. You've made huge strides in your training and you hit a roadblock let's see what we can do to break through them.

By the way, your changdao work looks terrific. You and everyone else is still in the "thinking" stage, but it's clear that once you're beyond that phase your techniques are well understood. I know everyone's anxious to learn the second half. I just want to make sure that, in matched practice, I can't "kill" any of you due to weak defenses.

Have a good day,

Jonas

p.s. Is our blog site still up. I wouldn't mind disseminating more info through it.

 

 

Wed, 18 Jan 2006

Re: Good Morning

And a good afternoon to you, Jonas.

I was about to respond to your previous email when I received this. You take me by surprise...

First of all, thank you for your concern-- for saying you're concerned, for actually taking time to ask about me.

I think John and I are okay. I didn't formally apologise to him, but we were talking and we hugged good night, and he took home a pear for himself and a Granny Smith for Cindy. I know he understands about how overloaded my brain can get when the spacial dyslexia and accompanying frustration kick in-- as they do so often lately. And last night was particularly difficult. Most of the time it doesn't bother me when the "No Girls Allowed" sign goes up on the door. It doesn't happen often, thank goodness, else I'd bind my breasts, stick a gym sock in my pants, glue on a moustache, drench myself with eau d'Testosterone--

Frustration. Spacial dyslexia. It runs in the family. The men have regular dyslexia and have trouble reading and writing. The women have this peculiar form that allows them to do amazing things like read words upside down and backwards in a mirror or envision a complex picture in any of a number of orientations, like a CAD program, but there's a price for this useless party trick: though I can read just fine, what I can't always do is process and replicate what physical moves I've seen as regards right, left, up, down, forwards, backwards. Colors reverse. It's very weird. Looking in a mirror or watching another person move is a very strange experience sometimes. It gets worse when I'm under stress or frightened. So, lately, I've been having problems. Lately, I've been stressed. And frightened.

I'm all alone out here in Rhode Island. Outside of my old taiji teacher (who lives just a mile and a half from me), there aren't any taiji players around who know squat about real taiji. And all my taiji friends are very far away, and I don't get to see them or talk with them outside of class. They have their own lives, and those lives are separate from mine. There was no one for me to go see Kung Fu Hustle in the theatre with-- dammit! And nobody wants to come over for CNY and eat stir fry and watch kung fu movies in Mandarin with subtitles.

Now that I'm learning more than the forms, I want to know how to use what I'm learning. I want to know the applications, I want to be able to use the apps. And I get scared that I'll never be able to learn those things because I don't have anyone to practice with, except on Tuesday nights-- it's hard not having anyone to talk with about taiji; it's lonely not having a practice partner...

Saturday was very frustrating for me because of the dyslexia. You knew that.

It's not that I'm in a hurry to learn, it's just that the "once a week" approach doesn't do it for me. Confucius said, "What a joy it is to learn and to practice consistently." He was right. Taiji. Mandarin. Whatever. There is joy in learning...

You know, science has shown that it takes a thousand repetitions of a physical move to put it into muscle memory, never mind refine it. It takes a long time to do a taiji form one thousand times. After six years of practicing 24 Form, I have finally achieved some understanding of it. My time wasn't wasted. Now, slowly, I'm learning this new form, and I'm using what I learned before, and I'm learning more...

I don't know why I love taiji. I don't know why I love weapons. I just do. Somehow, it seems as if these things are in my bones and in my blood and in my sinews and in my brain, and always have been there waiting for me to remember them.

Today I practiced changdao. I love it. I understand it. Same as the Okinawan kobujutsu: practical and plain, efficient. I understand the weapons and the moves and I want to know the deepest levels of the Art, the deepest levels of myself. Every time I practice, I learn more--

Remember that ruler I gave you? When I was making it, it started out as just a bunch of irregular scratches on wood. It didn't look like much. In fact, I thought that, as a measuring device, it might turn out to be pretty useless, with all the markings so uneven. But I worked the wood. I took the needle files to the scratches and, slowly, bit by bit, I carved the markings deeper... And a strange thing began to happen: as I worked, with each pass of the file, the markings not only got deeper, but they seemed to get truer, more even. Oh, yeah, the ruler isn't machine perfect, but making that ruler provided me one heck of a metaphor for taiji. That's why I decided to give the ruler to you. I don't suppose I told you that, though. No, that would've been too scary...

I asked David Shaver to order a second changdao for me. I'm going to stop in at the dojo and get another hickory bo from Dennis. There's so much to learn from the changdao and the bo-- especially if you can work with a competent partner. I'm going to find a partner. Somewhere. I've always loved sparring with the bo. I'm good at it. I'm going to be good at the changdao, too, and I will glory in thwacking away in matched practice. You know, Dennis wouldn't give me a ranking in kobudo, but he trusted my control and my competence enough that he had no qualms about matching me with the greenest beginner or the most seasoned black belt-- of course he trusted the black belts had enough control not to cream me, either, I know that; even so, it was a complement to me. I look forward to matching changdao with you when I have the whole form--

That reminds me: You asked why I told David Shaver I didn't think there was going to be a charge for Saturday. I had to think about that myself, but I finally figured it out. I did have it in my head that, for the "Tuesday people" at least, there wouldn't be a charge. And the reason was that, well, it was a part of our crazy class project. A quid pro quo between friends: you would teach us the form and we'd be at your beck and call to play war games. And we'd contribute crossbows and costumes and lances and whatnot to match your contribution. But you needed a place to teach us in because the weather had gotten bad and we couldn't practice outdoors in Scott's orchard for free-- which is what we were going to do, if you remember-- so, I figured you made a deal with David to let you use his dojo to teach us, and you opened up the class to paying customers, too, so he wouldn't be out of pocket. That's how it came together in my head, anyway... my head is a very peculiar place.

By the way, I sent Stephen Selby our ATARN dues the other day. Told him to chalk the membership up to the School of Indiscriminate Grappling. And, yes, the school's blog is still out there, ready for use at http://shanbengdilie.blogspot.com.

Jonas... thank you. XO. I really do feel I owe Joe forever for bringing me to you.

--"Ten Feet"

P.S. I hope that when you do schedule the sessions to teach the rest of the changdao form, you decide to do it in half day sessions limited to 8 students each. I am pretty darn sure that a half day is plenty and that the students won't have any trouble remembering the form when they aren't always being interrupted. I know I'd've been okay if I'd gotten just a few more end-to-end runs.

 

 

Thu, 19 Jan 2006

Re: Good Morning

Leslie,

I'm glad you're with us, and I'm glad you're okay. I can certainly understand "not getting enough of a good thing fast enough." I was, and still am, though less so, impatient. I took me along time to discover the miao dao, and even longer to find someone who would teach me. This form will be special for everyone willing to embrace it.

Practice, and make small gains daily. Take every opportunity to match swords with your classmates. They'll certainly take you up on it.

Dues for Atarn??? How much??? I didn't know this was required...

The Tuesday grapplers will finish the changdao ahead of everyone. It'll help everyone else later...

Look out for blogs...

Jonas

 

 

Fri, 20 Jan 2006

Confucian principles...

Jonas--

I've been thinking about your "letters" to me.... wondering...

I've been a "high stickler" for "right conduct" all my life. The moral and ethical code I live by is based on Western philosophy, of course, since I knew no other while growing up. Honor and integrity and nobless oblige are major facets of my character. The poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling pretty much states my stance.

[I put a copy of it in here http://newmoon2000.tripod.com/oneway/dojo-kun.html]

By nature, I am given to self analysis: whatever goes down in my life, however it turns out, good or bad, I always perform a "post mortem" and take the time to figure out what I did right, what I did wrong, and how I could do better... I've often been chided for being too analytical; I've often been chided for being too hard-- on myself as well as others.

I didn't know it then, but I've been following Confucian principles all my life:

  • One must seek moderation and concensus
  • One should follow well established procedures
  • Leaders/teachers must constantly reflect on their own conduct, take advice and seek improvement
  • One has an obligation to educate

Thinking about your "letters," I've got a notion that you performed a "post mortem" on Tuesday night's class, same as I did. Mene, mene, teckel, upharsin... I have been weighed and found wanting. How about you?

No, I was not happy with my conduct, be it ever so understandable in light of the pressure I've been under. I hate that I'm not perfect, not always in control of every situation. I hate that I make mistakes--- especially in dealing with people. I really, really hate that. I wish I could have stepped back, found my balance, and--

Didn't happen. I behaved badly. Some days are like that. But I try. I honestly do try.

Jonas, I own you an apology for disrupting your class, for making you feel uncomfortable-- for making you lose your temper a bit. I owe you the apology for that. I'm sorry. I will try my best not to let it happen again....

But, please remember, I'm only human. I often fail to achieve perfection.

Among the things-- qualities I expect of myself are unfailing kindness and compassion for others. We behave rightly not to show our superiority, but to show honor and respect to others. I can't always be as kind and compassionate to myself as I am to others. I hope you don't have the same problem.

--Leslie

 

 


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