February 02, 2009

Eat bitter

Doh! Block print from the Bubishi, a Chinese martial arts manual. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

El Cabrero has often thought that those who want to make the world less violent and more just could do a lot worse than study and practice the martial arts. I'll go a step further and particularly recommend those arts which entail sparring with live opponents who are not trying to make you look good or enhance your self esteem.

There's nothing like getting your clock cleaned a few dozen (or hundred in my case) times by people who are really good at it to give you a sense of realism and pragmatism.

One great lesson you get by making a habit of sparring it that the mere fact that you want something to happen or not happen by itself has absolutely no bearing whatsoever one whether you can be successful. Success happens, if it does, by paying attention to what is going on in the moment and adapting your actions to openings as they occur. And by paying your dues.

Most people who have been successful in sparring (or in lots of real life endeavors to which it is analogous) have had to take some lumps along the way. The Chinese have two great expressions for this needed step. One is that one needs to "eat bitterness" before one can eat sweet. Another calls for "investing in loss."

I've done plenty of both. I remember once very early in my karate career when my old man observed a class in which I sparred with my first instructor. I have since lost track of the teacher and wonder to this day if he was really as good as I remember him to be or if I ever got anywhere near his level in later years. His technique seemed impossibly strong and precise, his katas or forms were crisp and powerful. And he was a bad dude when it came to sparring.

On that particular occasion, we bowed as usual and he proceeded to mop the floor with me. I probably have been clobbered worse many times since then, but I can't remember when.

After it was all over, my dad said "You really had him worried in the first few minutes."

"Really?" I said, desperate for any encouragement.

"Yeah. He thought he'd killed you."

STIMULUS ACTION ALERT: the American Friends Service Committee is urging people to call their US senators and urge them to prevent the derailment of President Obama's stimulus proposal, which is facing hard opposition. AFSC is also urging that the Senate reject a flawed and error-prone anti-immigrant measure called E-verify. The toll free number is 1-800-473-6711. To find your senators, click here.

El Cabrero and amigos will be holding a public meeting in Charleston, WV tonight on the subject.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, Hooverism lives. And while the economy tanks, welfare rolls remain at or near their lowest levels in 40 years.

DYSTOPIA. Here's an abstract from an article from the Jan. 26 New Yorker about those who see gloom and doom on the horizon. It's worth tracking down the full article.

GETTING TO UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE. This article, also from the New Yorker, discusses getting there from here.

MALLED. America's love affair with shopping malls is in the post-honeymoon phase.


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