I Remembered

September 28, 2008

So I remembered what I was going to say in the post titled “Green Bamboo Snake.” Actually, I remembered the event that I described in the opening paragraph, and from there, it was just a matter of filling in the blanks. The entirety of the post is below.

What I said might appear misogynist, but if recognizing and acknowledging the differences between men and women, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both, is considered misogynist, then I guess that’s what I am. Of course, the only people who’d complain are women, and as I’ve said, they’re irrational and emotional.

Now, if only I can find time to complete the remaining post I have in the works…

Green Bamboo Snake

September 28, 2008

Over the years, many pieces of what some may consider kung fu gossip has reached my ears. I recently saw CDG and CPG on the busy streets of Chinatown and having nothing to do that particular afternoon, struck up a conversation with them. Because both CDG and CPG are closely involved in the recently-formed loose kung fu community whose members span probably a score or two schools in the New York metro area, I was privvy to several interesting pieces of gossip. I won’t reiterate it here, since most of it is old history–water under the bridge–for those people involved, and I’m not about to bring up old wounds for no reason in particular.

One of the stories did strike a particular chord with me. Before I continue, I must explain several things relevant to the story not immediately apparent. Traditional holds that each kung fu lineage–each pai–has one and only one designated successor. That is to say, the current master picks the next master of the style. There is no rule that says that the current master has to pick the best of his students, and it is often the case that, for a variety of reasons, the master passes over the best for someone he feels more appropriate. Perhaps the best student does not have the entirety of the system, or perhaps the best student is not well suited or unwilling to be the next in line. Regardless of whom, once this person is chosen, the other students are left to their own devices. Some will stay and help train the next generation of students. Others will leave, but without permission from the head of the system, they would be unable to open a school under the style’s name.

The question of succession thus creates a great amount of politics. Many of the students will vie for the position, and once a successor is chosen, the other leading candidates might secede from the system in disgust or challenge the chosen successor. The particular story that piqued my interest concerns the former.

It is a common joke among martial arts masters that the real master is the wife. It is something I have heard time and again. The wives, having a control of their husband’s ears (among other things) in bed, are the most influential people in the school. I don’t mean to be sexist, but at the heart of the particular story is not the students themselves, but the wives of the students whose whispers resulted in the breaking of a long friendship and the falling out between two top students, splitting the remaining practitioners of the style into two camps.

A smart master does not share the intricate happenings of the school with his wife. Masters often do not bring their wives to the school. There are notable execeptions, and there continue to be, especially when the wife is a master herself. However–and this applies for both sexes–people outside the martial arts world at best have a very cursury understanding of it, its rules and etiquette, and its normal practices. To put it simply, they should not interfere. The worst offender is the spouse, and typically the wife, from which speculation and gossip enter the ears of the master. Husbands tend not to be so interested in the dealings of their wife if the wife happens to be the master.

Women are, for the most part, irrational and emotional. It is what makes them so mysterious to men, and hence appealing and exotic. The old saying is that behind every successful man is a woman. There is a great deal of truth in this proverb. The strength of the woman behind the man is directly correlated to the success of the man. Women are men’s greatest strength and subsequently their greatest weakness. A petty woman will utterly destroy her man as quickly as a generous one would make him. Worse yet, a petty or even weak woman without a strong man to temper her will end up destroying her children.

I can hear the cries of sexism now, that women love their children and would do everything to protect them. That is, of course, the problem. Women, being irrational and emotional, have a tendency to be overprotective. Their children then either end up thinking the entire world is full of scary monsters, or not being able to do anything without the assistance and approval of mommy. It is a very unfortunate fact that overprotection in the United States has resulted in the lawsuit-happy, politically-correct, everybody-is-equal mentality among everyone. For example, in the old days, disagreements were settled with fists if they could not be settled with words. Today, they are settled in court, an obvious appeal to a higher authority, that being the government in this case.

In effect, children who are unable to act for themselves, think for themselves, learn for themselves, are destroyed human beings. They no longer hold the essence of humanity, which is the unlimited potential to be and do anything. Instead, they are drones, robots, churned out by an assembly line. Nothing new would be created, nothing amazing or inspiring would be accomplished, because these things involve risk, and success in such endevours require failure beforehand.

But I digress. At the same time, a strong woman, generous and intelligent, will nurture her children to greatness. And for everyone else, hopefully, there is a strong man in the family who will temper the whims of the woman.

Anyhow, my point is, women are not subject to the unspoken rules and etiquette of men. And thus they are able to achieve things men simply cannot. They can show weakness because they are expected to be weak, while a man would be ripped apart by his peers and even by other women for the same actions. At the same time, as much good as they can do with their powers, they can also do wrong, often by convincing the man that he is not subject to the rules and etiquette, and hence should break them.

I end with this poem:

青竹蛇兒口
黃蜂尾後針
兩般皆不毒
最毒婦人心

which roughly translates into: “The green bamboo snake’s mouth and the bee’s venom combined are not venomous compared to the heart of a man’s wife.”

The following is not an easy subject to write about; I’ve put off thinking about the matter for several days now because it has been difficult to gather such thoughts into a coherent, understandable form. However, I think it is time I tackle the matter of Chris Benoit’s death.

I think the correct term for what happened is double murder-suicide. For reasons as yet unknown, Benoit, an accomplished professional wrestler, his wife, and his son were found dead by asphyxiation. The leading theory is that he killed his wife and child before killing himself. However, what reason he might have for doing this remains uncertain. Some speculate it was the steroids, some believe it to have been premeditated, and thus is likely the result of something else. Whatever it might be that would drive a man to kill his family, I am certain there is an element of mental instability involved. Sane people simply do not up and decide to push aside all of their natural paternal instincts. But then, it isn’t always easy to spot the insane ones.

(the following is a reconstruction of my original thoughts I ultimately lost to technology, and thus in my mind, while is comprable to the original, is ever the poorer for being the replica)

Some people do not see professional wrestling as a sport, and certainly not a martial art. It is possible to think of kung fu at the other end of the spectrum, not a sport either (that which is a sport is not kung fu), with absolutely no rules. Regardless of how such activities are classified, there is still at least one similarity that applies to any skilled physical activity. Our status—whether it take a materialized form or remain within ourselves—is largely dependent on our physical condition. And as our physical prowess wanes, so too does our mental self-image. What follows tends to be either depression or denial, both resulting in self-destructive behaviors.

Chris Benoit was 40 at the time of his death. Today, I average two new problems every three weeks. As prone to injury as I am now, I can only speculate as to how I will be in twenty years, when a night or two is no longer sufficient to fully recover. Today, I can break my body by consciously removing the unconscious checks that the mind has in place to prevent this exact type of damage. In fact, I do this on a controlled scale when training so as to keep lock and key from getting rusty. In twenty years, I expect the checks will cease to be relevant when even minor missteps will result in weeks of abstinence.

Even more damaging is the fact that, only after a week of lethargy, I already find myself quickly winded. A good indicator of my age is when it is easier to get out of shape than to get back in shape, at least for me. I cringe at the thought of what is necessary merely to remain in place—no mention of improving. Consequently, know what needs to be done, I wonder whether I will have the discipline, the dedication, the drive, the desire to carry out the tasks necessary to keep from dropping hard. I know Sigung has a certain piece of his morning reserved for his morning routine, and I am certain Fighter has made the same arrangements. I also know for certain that the masters at the OKFS make the effort; their presence speaks for itself. They are motivated by their students and grandstudents such as myself. The reasons to practice from their youth no longer apply, and in its’ place, they’ve found new reasons to keep themselves in shape.

The real question is: Will I?

Summer Fun

July 2, 2007

I’m back again. I distinctly remember saying outright or otherwise implying that I would write consistently. I don’t think it’s the first time, and I doubt it will be the last.

So it’s summer already. And with summer comes heat, which implies lethargy. As well, all of the masters at the OKFS are out and about, partly because it’s so nice out, and partly because they’re probably too frugal to use air conditioning. I’m not particularly interested in socializing, but it has its uses, and in particular, socializing with people from a different background, if even only as minor a difference as having come from a different geographical location, can be quite educational and even dare I say productive.

Bruce Lee’s whole philosophy behind fighting is having no style. That’s usually interepreted in a way to mean that there’s no need to have formal instruction, or to have any instruction, or that any instruction will suffice if the student is apt. I think am beginning to understand his actual train of thought, and needless to say, that is wrong. It isn’t that there’s no style, so much as every fighting style has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that no one style will be sufficient. Not only this, but even with proficiency in multiple styles, it isn’t nearly enough. Styles, at the very top, are limiters. They train practictioners to react in a certain way, and hence to think in a certain way. Which is to say, after a certain mastery of a style, it is then necessary to break free of those limitations, until there is no style, only pure combat. With proficiency of multiple styles, it is easier, as different styles utilize different thought patterns, and hence what might be mixing and matching at first will, with a little bit of ingenuity, turn into something unique and distinct to the person. It is a matter of using one style to break free of the bonds of the second, and vice versa, using the second style to do the same to the first.

But the base is always there. It is ever-present. And with multiple styles, there are multiple bases, albeit with a number of overlaps. If you will, imagine a circle, and about the circumference are pillars, each representing one particular base. For example, one might be sinking the shoulders, and another might be generating power from the ground. Obviously, the more such pillars, the larger the circle. At Bruce Lee’s level of understanding, the empty space gets filled up, and the circle becomes the pillar. The more the bases, the larger the circle, the larger the resulting pillar will be.

Anyway, I’ve slowly come to this realization over the past several months, just from listening to different people. They’re all saying the same things, or similar things, but everyone is missing a proverbial piece of the proverbial pie of martial arts. Some are missing more than others. A select few actually have most of it, and are seeking the last missing pieces.

The iPhone seems to be popular among the denizens of the intarwebs these days. I don’t see the hype. Sure, it’s by Apple. And yeah, it has a touch screen, and plays music. I can do without the massive price tag though. While the plans don’t appear expensive, remember that the phone itself is a good chunk of change. At the end of the day, it’ll be something like 2.5K over 2 years. Which doesn’t sound terrible. But considering the typical family plan is the same with 4 phones, that’s 4 times the cost of a pretty decent normal phone.

That’s all that I’ll say about that. I will make one more comment, and it is regarding a particular breed of dog… I have no respect for anyone whom I cannot see contributing to my existence. It’s a selfish thing to say, but it’s the truth in its barest form. I respect my elders because they are a collection of experiences from which I may learn. I respect my peers, because they are like me—learning, and as such, they’re bound to catch something I missed. Sharing is to our mutual benefit, and that is only possible through mutual respect for each other’s understanding. And I have a certain respect for the youth, because they are ultimately where my knowledge and experience will go, and hence they provide me with a purpose and a goal for existence itself. However, I have no respect for those irrelevant to my existence, whether by my or their own hands. Those who fall into this category will have to climb their way back to relevance. Not an easy task by any means, as I am quite the cynic.

Death And Facebook

May 22, 2007

Boingboing.net recently pointed me to an interesting blog post commenting on the persistence of the facebook profiles of the victims of the VT shootings. While I’m not particularly interested in the shooting itself (in fact, I find that the overall response to the VT shootings shows just how wussified this country has become), this is about facebook freezing the victims’ profiles, and about what happens when people who have an online presence die.

For me, death is just that–death. From the perspective of the deceased, existence itself ceases to be, and thus is uninteresting. What I find far more fascinating is the living, the people the deceased leaves behind to continue existing, and the effects upon thereof. It is interesting that we always refer to the memory of the dead. That’s probably because once a person is dead, all that’s left is the memory, of the person’s words, of the person’s deeds, etc. The effect we have upon others in life is what gives our lives meaning. Thus, preserving the memory of the dead, certainly one method by which the deceased had affected others, is almost like our way of saying that we would not allow the deceased’s life to have been lived in vain. In effect, our preservation of the memory of the formerly living gives that person’s life true meaning.

The perpetual existence of information online means the internet serves as a way for us to immortalize ourselves. I doubt many people have this in mind when they start blogs, or create profiles, or post their videos onto youtube. But intended or not, it is a consequence of an online presence. It isn’t anything new though. In the past, it was letters. How many times have we seen a book published based on some famous personage’s correspondences, or a book that has said correspondences edited for publishing? It’s just that online, we’re all famous. We’re locally famous, as opposed to the more common nationally, or globally famous e.g. that of celebrities. “Locally” in this sense means those who are emotionally close to us–not necessarily those who exhibit this trait physically. And the beautiful thing about the internet is that anyone can go from being a “local” interest, to a global one, dead or alive. Though the internet, we can truly glorify the deceased we held in the highest regard, extoll that person’s virtues in life, and unlike in past generations, we can point to the source material, ensuring little to no noise in the transfer of wisdom and knowledge. How to get the young ones to actually heed such advice is yet another debate–and one I do not dare touch at the moment.

For me, as one who lives in anonymity, I am satisfied that at my passing, even though those affected by me do not necessarily know my name or remember my face, their memory of my words means my life does have meaning. And what I say this, I’m not just talking about this blog.

A Hint of Wrong

May 17, 2007

I hate it when people know they’re doing something wrong, so they put their heads down and continue with what they’re doing, as if that somehow makes it OK, expecting the people around them to accomodate. To put it quite frankly, it’s not OK, and someone’s eventually going to come along, and call these people out on their bluff. And then they pay for their wrongs, sometimes with interest, as the more they get away with their wrongdoings, the less cautious they will be, and the harder they will feel the effects of the retribution.

For the most part, I do not tolerate such bullies. Every so often, if it is an old lady, or a action that’s too trivial with which for me to bother, I will let these things slide. But otherwise, I will call these people out. I don’t see myself as some kind of vigilante, and I certainly don’t claim to be any purveyor of justice. That I leave to other, more capable people. I just let these other people see what they might otherwise choose to ignore, usually out of incredulity or disbelief.

Edit: I forgot to include the title last time.

The Ego – Part 1

January 29, 2007

When it comes to martial arts discussions, the ego will rear its ugly head 75% of the time. That’s why this particular entry is subtitled as a first part. How many parts to this ego entry are there in total? If not countably infinite, then near close to it. So long as there’s a a metric, there’ll be two idiots trying to see who’s superior. The way I see it, there two outcomes to having an ego. Either it impedes our progress by walling off that which hurts our ego, or it is what ultimately drives us martial artists to continuously be better. I think the former is self-explanatory, but for the exceptionally dense, I will say that perfection is just a pretty way of saying stagnation. The latter requires a slightly more verbose explanation. Our egos tend to overestimate ourselves, resulting in our having to dig our way out of the shithole we’d thought we were able to transverse. This digging, in turn, propels us to heights greater than we probably would have otherwise been unable to achieve. Usually, this happens with a partner, who’s standing on the firm ground at the opposite end, watching, pointing, and most likely laughing. We can be either the one watching or acting, but either way, we’d both be dripping with dung from yet another hole.

I’ve been rather surprised that there has not really been much of an ego problem among us regulars at the three schools I attend. It isn’t so much that there are no egos, but that we firmly keep it in check, and we know that if we don’t, there’ll be someone else to check it for us. I think we’re all smart, in that rather than pick the hard way, we’ve chosen the easy way to learn our lesson.

That isn’t to say that egos don’t rear their ugly heads sometimes.

I’ll say it bluntly: I don’t like being pushed. I’m not talking about the physical act of being propelled across a space by the force emitted by another person, though that applies in this particular case too. I’m talking about being compelled to act in a way that I do not want to. This is rarely a problem, as I’m usually easily convinced. That’s probably because I have no opinion on the matter for most things, and the act of attempting to convince me is merely a small token of consideration. But that’s an academic matter; I’m quite influential with myself to say the least, and if no one else can bother with convincing me, I’d be more than happy to take such a responsibility into my own hands. However, there are things that I feel strongly for or against. I have very good reasons for such sentiments, though my ability to articular such reasons on the spot varies with the phase of the moon, the time of the day, atmospheric conditions, or whatnot. That is to say, when I don’t care, I really don’t care. When I do care, I really do care.

Now, I tend to touch with Hung a lot. I also tend to lose to him a lot. This isn’t because I’m an inferior martial artist, but because the purpose of the game I play is slightly different from the purpose of the game he plays. He plays to experience a real fight, to win. I play to improve my listening ging. Which is to say, I’m moving my listening ging from the realm of automation and experience, to the conscious mind. My goal is to be able to control myself, regardless of what gets thrown at me. Or, to put it another way, it is to never lose control of the situation and have to rely on automated processes of instinct and training to stay alive. Quite recently, Hung seems to have taken exception to the way I play. His attitude has been impatient and curt. And worse yet, he’s become quite aggressive, taking advantage of my more stately pace of experimentation and discovery and overwhelming my designs of reaching higher levels of listening ging with his experience. Essentially, the simple act of winning matches became insufficient. He attempted to put me down by going above and beyond what was necessary to secure victory. And then he gloated about it by insisting that I was weak for not playing his game, by pointing out the so-called errors when these I have continued to state were intentional.

Needless to say, I refused to take such an insult. It is worse that I considered him a friend, even if I also thought of him as something of a rival. He was a confidant, though the word “confidant” applies largely to matters of kung fu. I shared with him the many things I thought of, as he did with me, because I want him to be better. So he might propel me to greater heights. But this act of forcing me to play his game when I had previously made clear that my intentions were otherwise I simply could not take. He wanted to see me play his game, so I did. And so with my training and experience, I proceeded to beat him at it. Time and again. And again. And again. He made the same mistakes he had just moments before accused me of making. It shut him up good. And he’s been even more of an ass ever since. Not unexpectedly though, as I’ve always played the part of the lesser, the inferior. And I was satisfied with that. After all, I’ve always believed that everyone at least one thing with which I might be able to better myself after learning, and that even attempting to assert my superiority would be an indication of otherwise.

I’ve paid my own price for this streak of arrogance and pride. My body isn’t as it once was when I was young. While I’m able to capable of making full use of the floor-to-finger connection, I’m well aware that using too much of my power at any time would damage several weaker parts of my body. If I pushed myself too hard, the damage could be irreversible. It would be as if I was walking across an abyss on a tightrope. The rope holds for the whole time while I’m on it. However, the moment I get to the other side and step off, it snaps in two. While I am able to cross that maw at any time, I’d rather not snap the rope until there is a need. I’ve explained this to Hung before. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t play his game even just to humor him. The pleasure I get from defeating someone as good as him in this game isn’t worth the pain afterwards. I guess that point is moot now, as I have done what I did not really want to do, and I sit paying the price of the small victory.

Regardless, he seems to be rather spiteful of me now, and his actions have not yet showed me otherwise. He’s been working harder than ever trying to glean ways to surpass me. He appears to be using all of his resources, all of his contacts and connections, in trying to find ways to win. I’m not worried, not because I don’t think he’ll surpass me, but because it doesn’t concern me anymore. I will grow at my own pace. I just hope he doesn’t push himself too hard trying to catch up, as that was how I received my current debilitation in the first place.

Ah well. Could I have walked away the moment I felt things were getting out of hand? Sure. Could I have just taken the insults and the physical attacks and called it a bad day? Sure. But I had felt his impatience growing for some time already. I had felt the growing agitation from his inability to get me to play his game, regardless of how I explained myself. Sometimes, it is better to answer the outstanding questions unambiguously. At the very least, I won’t be jealously accused of holding him back.

Now, if only Pug was motivated by the same things… But as I said in the beginning, the ego can hinder as well as it can advance.