He looked at the footprints. “What
“It is my life. It’s a metaphor if
you want, but its also true.”
Trist looked pages as they turned of
their own accord. Trist didn’t understand.
“Yes,” said the woman, “they’re
footprints. And handprints. When one looks upon these pages they
see the answers to their question.”
Trist looked from the pages flipping
by, showing nothing but the stationary, black inked prints. As pages
went by though, he became aware that between the pages the footprints
were positioned differently, and it gave the illusion of them moving
before his eyes.
They were, in fact, very small at
first– and he could make out not just footprints but handprints too,
along with small grooves and shuffled drags. They were the crawlig
trails of a baby. The pages continued to leaf by, the magic of it
being that no matter how many pages past there were still more left
in the volume. Trist watched intently, trying to hold a boyish,
fascinated smile from being too obvious. It seemed alive! It was
He saw the footprints and handprints
crawling before his eyes, like a fly walking about a table. And
then, at some point, the handprints dissapeared entirely. Trist
didn’t understand at first, and he turned his head sideways to ask
but his eyes couldn’t leave the pages.
“I did learn to walk you know,”
chuckled the woman. “You can see that the learning was not always
Indeed, Trist remarked, there were
moments when the erratic progression of footprints would curve in one
direction then suddenly whip in the other, only to stop completely,
suddenly accented by the exclamation of shin marks dotted with small
But as the pages trailed on, there were
less stumbles. The handprints became more and more rare. The
footprints became larger. And their direction wasn’t random
anymore– it was obvious that the footprints were walking in a
“The first part of finding the Way
was to try and get there.”
“Get where?” Trist asked. She
Trist found himself growing more
excited as the rhythm of the footsteps grew faster– they weren’t
walking steps anymore, they gradually turned into a heavy march, with
a strong rhythm driving them forward. Then there was a sudden
lightness, a jog, until finally it was a bowling sprint, with no page
with more than a single foot down at all, while several pages in
between were just blank. Then suddenly, the race stopped. Both feet
were there. A second set of footprints appeared, facing off with the
And again, the footprints began to
waver. So did the second set. But they began to waver and circle
“What… what’s happening?” asked
Trist. He felt his heart sinking, panic somehow taking him over.
The footprints were now erratic– they
were all over the place, both sets.
“Is it an enemy? What is that?”
She laughed. “No, that is when I met
my husband. And that is where I learned to dance.”
“I… so what happened? You gave
“I told you, Trist, that this book
gives you an answer to your question. Not your questions. But the
question that is the root of your other questions. What is that
“I… I don’t know. How do I put it
into words? I don’t know.”
“The Way is like words– it’s the
answer that you know, to the question you can’t phrase. And if you
cannot answer, it is not a problem– just as how following the Way
does not mean that you have to go in a straight line. From the
moment when I crawled on my hands and knees until I would finally
fall upon them once again, I was living the Way. There is no
direction but forward. One does not go back in time, but turns
around so that even that which has been visited can be revisited in
front of you.”
“But, why aren’t you still going that
“Aren’t I? They Way isn’t the
destination, Trist. It is the steps.”
I saw a video of myself playing badminton yesterday– Vittek brough his cameraphone with him and filmed a couple of minutes of me in action so that I could play it back to myself.
Seeing oneself on film is always a shock. I’m not talking about home movies when you’re a kid at your own birthday party. I mean, when you’re doing something that you’re really into. I remember the first time I saw myself sparring on video, years ago– it was a total shock. How my world felt like from the first person was totally disconnected from what I was seeing on that tape in the third person. It was surreal.
Years later, yesterday, I would relive that moment but with badminton, instead of the martial arts. And then I understood.
I have a really … shall we say… strange body mechanics.
When I was beginner, I remember (yeah, I do) that players used to laugh at me because of the way I moved. I always figured that it was just bad technique– it wasn’t anything particular, it’s just that I was awkward. And now that I see it on tape, despite the fluidity of my motions it is still something that I totally didn’t expect.
And yet, the more i look at it, the more it does feel like ‘me’.
I got a few lessons, basics really, from Demarco, who is a player who I highly respect. I asked him to show me the basics– I asked him to teach me how to hit a clear. I’ll spare you the details, since not all of the readership here follow badminton– but suffice it to say that I thought my technique just needed some tuning– turns out it needs a total overhaul in all the important areas. A few minutes with him and he told me what I could change and it was like throwing potasium in water– it just sparked. It was uncontrollable. My body and brain didn’t know how to contain what I was learning– I was hitting wildly powerful clears, and I was having a very hard time keeping birds in the court.
Looking at what he was showing me, I couldn’t have been able to take his teaching earlier on– i needed some basics, some experience ‘doing things the wrong way’ before i could appreciate what he was telling me.
He changed a few other moments of my game too, and gave me a total ego boost. He told me “[Jinryu], you are too fast. You know, you are actually outrunning the bird?”
“Really?!” I said. I never realized.
“Yes! You are running faster than the bird but you are getting there early and wasting your time so it’s USELESS!”
He told me to change some parts of my techniques– eliminate hesitation, and take net counters high… and I tried it. And it was insane. They aren’t physical differences in my running speed, but when I went to take drop shots at the net I was literally too fast– I was arriving too soon and I was literally forcing my muscles to stop because otherwise I felt I would fly into the net. I was uncontrollable!
It was an amazing feeling. I never felt I ever had any specialties at badminton, but now that Demarco explained to me how to actually use my speed properly (which I didn’t even really know I had until he pointed it out) I really feel that damn– looking around me, others really are kind of slow! I’d be running at the net with his modifications in mind and then suddenly, I was there. It’s like time around me slowed down. Ever read GUNMM? There’s a chapter in the last book where Dr. Nova increases her clock speed. She’s running so fast that the world around her seems to be running slow– and she gets to where she wants to be in an instant but then realizes that her momentum is still very real, despite the relative slowness of the world around her, and she literally can’t stop herself and her body just flies forward wrecking everything in her path.
Okay, so i’m not running at Mach 1 or something. But the technique that i’m trying to do requires a particular ‘prime’ position… you run to get into this prime position from which you can hit. And after making the changes demarco described, I was in my prime position coming in fast, so fast that I felt that my muscles were straining to keep me from bowling into the net.
Okay, okay. I’m just gloating now. I’m not really THAT fast. It’s just that… my perception of things has made the world around me seem a bit slower, even if I’m not actually physically going faster. His techniques– his method– his method of doing this particular basic counter is so refined compared to my previous paradigm that its like I’m learning it from scratch. The difference between his method and my method is simply scary– I never understood until he showed me his version just how many years of experience lay like a moat between us.
Demarco is, in my opinion, a fucking genius. His analytical ability just astounds me. I’ve always been asking people for pointers before but they just gave me the general sermons about my technique and stuff– no one ever told me anything useful enough to really help me the way he did in just a short 15 minutes of the most basic drills.
To tell you the truth, the whole experience is kind of hard to put into words. So… I won’t bother.
Suffice it to say that I’m feeling really good about myself. Because this is the first time in a while that i can clearly see a path. I know how to do this now. It doesn’t matter how I do it– but I know I’m going to try, and every step is a bit closer to it.
When I was doing the drills with Demarco, he kept on telling me “take your time”. Take my time? But… I need to get there sooner! Otherwise…. oh shit, i’m flying into the net. What the hell changed? Why was this happening? I’d done this kind of run from the backcourt to the forecourt thousands of times… why was it hurting my body so much? Why was I clenching up and feeling so tense?
“[Jinryu], when you do this, don’t forget to breathe.”
I exhaled as if someone had just punched me in the stomach. What the fuck… he was right. I’d been so caught up in doing his netcounter’s technical aspects that I was running the length of the court without breathing, to the point where I could only acknowledge his pointers with a nod, yes, nod, yes.
To tell you the truth, it was embarassing. But how couldn’t I hold my breath? I was nervous with excitement, I’d never felt I was so close to a breaktrhough… I had always been searching for a better paradigm, a better skillset, a better art of war, and I’d thought that it would take forever– and he had shown me a taste in just 15 minutes!! Not even. It couldn’t have been 15 minutes, come to think of it– my body wouldn’t have lasted those drills for 15 minutes. It was perhaps 5, maybe 10 at most.
When I finally got the chance to play a game against Demarco, i felt i was being crushed. I don’t mean by his moves. I mean by his presence. The fact that he had given me the keys to learning something was an enormous weight on me– if he could change me world that quickly, what could I hope to accomplish by playing him? If the bird went to Demarco, I felt my muscles tensing, I felt my weight double and my body resisting me. His aura was paralyzing me. He didn’t have to do anything– he just had to teach me a fraction of what he did, and the mere thought of facing someone so far beyond me had me moving as my veins were circulating lead. My partner and I still managed to put up a good fight, but in the end we did lose.
I tried the techniques that he taught me. A few times, i got them perfect and they scored uncontested points. It was beautiful.
But at the end of the game– even though it was actually a relatively slow paced game– I found that I had gotten a cramp, and I had to force myself to breathe normally.