In the 1978 film, a young student enters the Shaolin Temple where he quickly progresses through the 35 Chambers of Gung Fu training, advancing faster than any previous student. He then leaves in order to help his town people fight against local oppressors. Returning to Shaolin a triumphant hero, the student, now turned Master establishes the 36th chamber, a special martial arts class for laypeople to learn Gung Fu.
Archive for August, 2011
When I left my sifu in January of 2004, I realised that the Gung Fu he had taught me had enriched my life in ways that I find hard to convey. Some seven years after his death I now attempt to honour him by bringing the same joy to the people who come into my life. But, ultimately the greatest tribute I can pay to the man who patiently taught me martial arts is to continue on the same path, to keep practicing.
The hardships that are faced during Gung Fu training are physical metaphors for the hardships we face in life. Gung Fu is about discipline, practice, moving forwards and following through. I accept that no-one can be coerced into training. The flash that gives rise to the burning desire to practice must be borne out of a person’s free will. Despite initial progress in movement, self expression and fighting, it is difficult to provide encouragement whilst also asking that they remain patient, because many of the benefits of Gung Fu are intangible. I can’t fathom how my body, my central nervous system, my thought processes have been altered since 1993 when I started my voyage into chinese martial arts. In fact, I am no better equipped to describe the changes than I am aware of the cells of my fingertips vibrating.
I will always remain thankful for the person I have become because of Gung Fu.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
Can you hear that?
The ocean waves crashing up on the beach.
The laughter of the children.
The constant carrying on of the adults with their small-town gossip.
Can you hear that?
The adults have gone inside.
The children have gone to bed.
The ocean waves crashing up on the beach.
Friend of DWC;
Managing to train twice a day, most days.
I could write a prescription that sets out exactly what I do. It would describe the movements with such clarity that I could make you feel as if you were right there alongside me. The paper I would hand you would set out the number of punches I threw this evening when I went into the ’36th Chamber’, or the kicks.
I had Executioners From Shaolin playing on a screen in the background.
Or, as you scroll your eyes up on that list I handed you, you’d note the time that I went to the gym this morning and how much I pulled.
If you flipped back to yesterday you’ll read about the number of plates I squatted and the sprints and the skipping. You could even flip forward to tomorrow’s page where I had laid out my goal to spar.
The irony is that I would be willing to give anyone these details without fear of them catching up to me. Simply because very, very few people are willing to put in the required work in an age that encourages, nay creates an inability for the masses to focus beyond a few seconds. It is the same age that encourages us to bypass the very notion of hard work, in favour of the faster, more efficient, yet spiritually and physically stunted approach to achieving our goals.
For Murakami, the creative process is a sport.
Here’s what he has to say about talent, focus, and endurance:
In every interview I’m asked what’s the most important quality a novelist has to have. It’s pretty obvious: talent. Now matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist. This is more of a prerequisite than a necessary quality. If you don’t have any fuel, even the best car won’t run.
The problem with talent, though, is that in most cases the person involved can’t control its amount or quality. You might find the amount isn’t enough and you want to increase it, or you might try to be frugal and make it last longer, but in neither case do things work out that easily. Talent has a mind of its own and wells up when it wants to, and once it dries up, that’s it. Of course, certain poets and rock singers whose genius went out in a blaze of glory—people like Schubert and Mozart, whose dramatic early deaths turned them into legends—have a certain appeal, but for the vast majority of us this isn’t the model we follow.
If I’m asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist, that’s easy too: focus—the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it. I generally concentrate on work for three or four hours every morning. I sit at my desk and focus totally on what I’m writing. I don’t see anything else, I don’t think about anything else.
After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed of the writer of fiction—at least one who hopes to write a novel—is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, or two years.
Fortunately, these two disciplines—focus and endurance—are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote of a moment ago. You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise. This involves the same process as jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique. Add a stimulus and keep it up. And repeat. Patience is a must in this process, but I guarantee results will come.
In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn’t write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him.
Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate—and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? I know that if I hadn’t become a long-distance runner when I became a novelist, my work would have been vastly different. How different? Hard to say. But something would definitely have been different.
I must not fear
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass
Over me and through me.
And when it has gone past
I will turn the inner eye
To see its path.
Where the fear has gone
There will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
This is an excellent sparring clip.
It shows a paced workrate where both gentlemen are trying to assist the other one in skill improvement. It isn’t a rivalry of ego’s which tends to represent the majority of sparring interactions. The most important aspect is that it is a great example of the principle of DELIBERATE PRACTICE in action;
My knuckles are sore. Not because I’ve been training. In fact I’ve allowed my other half of my life to completely disrupt my training.
No, my knuckles are sore because I punched a guy in the head. It wasn’t part of my initial plan, then again dealing with a drunk at a banquet hall who wanted to assert his alpha maleness in front of his girl wasn’t part of my plan either.
It was all very lacklustre but it reminded me of a very important point. Don’t wait for them to attack, hit first and hit hard.
In this case as he was puffing his chest and spouting garbage he stupidly raised his fists. That’s when I hit him.
From that point on he was very cooperative, making my job considerably easier.
Not sure whether he impressed his girl, but he certainly amused me.
There is no heaven
There is no hell
There is only this world and it’s Dark reflection
And we do not know in which of the two worlds we are.
It was a disappointing week, but in many ways it shouldn’t have been. I returned to teaching a formal Gung Fu class (thank you Ms. BE, Ms. BK and Ms. SD for showing up). Judging by the feedback it went really well. I guess I spent the last few years concentrating on myself and a few private students. I’ll run with it until the end of September and see how things play out.
Mr. P seems to be making good progress as he nears his fight. I gave him some drills to mimic the effects of adrenal dump as well as the nausea associated with being hit. Of course the idea was to make him feel vulnerable and then have him fight back hard during our sparring exchange.
This week has made me feel like I am competent at what I do. Not that I require reassurance considering how hard I work at keeping my skills honed. I treat my private training times as sacred, moments at which I become one with a divine spirit and imbued with a greater energy. At times like those, I care little about what happens in the World around me.
This week also had me being belittled by a complete stranger behind my back who chose to describe my sprint form as ‘terrible.’ Ironically, I am pretty fast. Perhaps my sprint style resembles my Gung Fu; function over form, where effectiveness is more important than appearance.
In Heaven everything is fine
You’ve got your good thing
And I’ve got mine
People passing by my chair see me silhouetted, my outline stenciled against the window. I’m sat, rooted to my chair. Sun beams onto my back. I’m at the airport waiting for my flight home. An iced coffee planted into the holder by my side and a bustling airport of people that I ignore. My dismissal is a curt one, for as my eyes rise from the computer screen I realize that every person seated, walking and whisping past is an extension of my own soul, a part of the same divine spirit which allowed me to exist and from which I draw my strength.
Why do we force ourselves to grow apart? We are but one singularly unified consciousness. Our ego-centred view which fools us into thinking we are separate and distinct beings is at best naive and at worst plainly destructive. Clearly the seed wears a different costume from the tree that it becomes, but it always remains eternally connected.
I listen to music and surrender to it. I let go of my attachment to this place and allow my soul to rise through the ceiling, up into the sky. My spirit soars, plunges and submerges into the sun, thus returning to the source.
Eyes wide, I’m sat at the airport, at one with everything and living entirely in the here and now. Blissful. Joyous.
Perhaps it had something to do with that a–hole who wasted my time yesterday. He stood with this hands in his pockets while giving me attitude. I stood with mine out in front, watching his posture.
Maybe it’s the fact that in my mind’s eye, I’ve now had enough rest. Perhaps it’s the dwindling funds in the account due to the patients trickling down in the summer months.
It could be the winds. Oh, how those fall winds affect me – signalling a change is coming. I get so restless.
It’s time to get back on the horse.