Heat Signature

by Jinryu

The following is an old post that I had written up at about 3:55 AM on June 29th, 2009, but apparently, I forgot to post it up.

I’m not sure when it happened, but RsM’s changed in a lot of ways and I can’t always put my finger on it.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talkig about when I mention RsM, or “Racketsports Montreal,” it’s a badminton group that I started with the help of Vittek back in about 2003.  It might have been 2004, I can’t exactly remember anymore.  It consisted of two parts– a badminton club, known as the “RsM Weekender Club” (now known simply as “RsM”), and an online co-op equipment store (www.RacketsportsMontreal.ca).

Of course it changed for me in a few obvious ways: I was gone for a year and I did take on partners, so it’s natural that since a lot of players moved on and new ones came to take their place, my place in there both as an exec and as a player are different.

It’s something else though. The feeling I get nowadays is that when I step into RsM, I’m the visitor.  When Vittek and I were still new on the badminton circuit or when RsM was still new as a club, we used to go around to other badminton clubs to check out how other clubs were run as well as recruit some members.  “Vagrants” we used to call ourselves, and the whole practice of vagrancy was one of those things that was necessary in order to see what was out there.  You’d go to one gym and find younger players who were more energetic and smash crazy; another might have older players that had superior tactics and placement; another might have a hodgepodge of elite class players without much technique.  Whatever the case, going to different gyms always provided a different feeling and the only thing you could be certain of was what you brought with yourself.  All bets were off as to local styles of play, paralleling the old world of martial arts where dojos would specialize in particular branches of the same game.  In the same way, we were like “dojo destroyers.” In most cases, you were the intruder, and the hometown was hostile in some subtle way or another because of some unifying spirit that each club had.

Some clubs give off more of a unified spirt than others.  The most territorial of clubs really get your blood going because they’ve got something to proove, and they’re the ones ultimately who you remember.

That’s what’s strange about RsM for me now.  When I walk in there, the fighting spirit of the place is very different– I don’t recognize it anymore, and in fact, I’m not sure I even feel it.  It’s presence is masked to me.  I feel that when I’m there, I’m at a club that has it’s ways and that I’m the visitor, looking to stir things up.

I was playing with Yu-Chih the other day– she used to be one of the players on my original LBA teams.  I met her at the very begining of my badminton experience– she was a Montreal badminton player who also happened to frequent Badminton Central, an international forum of badminton enthusiasts, and it also just so happened that she frequented the Chinatown YMCA where I made my first leaps and bounds.

Back then, she became one of my first badminton partners at the Y, along with Van, Tan, and [Machinegun Man].  She was a really competitive player who ran in circles with other ‘badminton heroes’ of mine like Demarco, Cheng Hua and Kwan.  She could beat me at singles, even though she was years older than me,  not as physically strong, and, a girl.

We played together at RsM this past Saturday for the first time in months– maybe it’s the first time since I left for Asia even? I can’t honestly remember how long it’s been.

It seemed like she had a lot of fun– it was at the end of the day and the damage my body had taken from Numac was really starting to slow me down, so I really wasn’t doing as well as I wanted to.  We lost a set 2-1, but it was pretty close and we were doing quite well.

It was fun because that reminded me of the early LBA matches where YuChih was my partner in mixed doubles.  Back then, I’d never played mixed ever before and she was always carrying me through the match because she was an excellent mixed player.  She used to always get on my case about my choice of shots and my tactics on court, and she was always sort of the ‘big sister’ of the team because out of the 6 of us, she had the most experience.

Nowadays, she’s apologetic and complains constantly that she’s not a good player anymore.  Her footwork isn’t as fast, her reflexes aren’t as sharp– she points these things out jokingly during a match and it makes me sad.  She was one of my badminton heroes back then, and I hate to see any of them come to this point.

Some of it revived while we were playing though– she’d score a shot and I’d yell out something without even thinking about it, like “Nice shot!” or “That’s the way!” or “BANG!” and she’d turn around with a smile, surprised, but nostalgic of the good old days.

I spent the earlier part of the day playing as Vittek’s partner, and that too was strange.  I haven’t had much chance to play with Vittek lately because, for one, I don’t go to RsM that often nowadays.  But when I play with him, sometimes it feels as if we’re resuming just where we left off.  I feel like I’m back on my team and to this day, even if we don’t always win our matches, there isn’t a badminton partner that I feel as syncrhonized with as Vittek.

We played for a couple of hours as a team and we were undfeated, and in many cases against people who we shouldn’t have been able to beat.

Ironically, this is kind of what upsets me about my experience at RsM– RsM’s grown soft.

I play badminton once every two weeks at most.  Sometimes I’ll go 3 or 4 weeks without.  Vittek plays about once a week.  For me to go against people who were playing the entire year that I was away in Asia, people who continue to play every week, sometimes multiple times per week, and for me to still be able to beat them?  What is that?

On one hand, I’m really glad for the sense of community that there is in RsM– while I was in Korea, I saw a photo, for example, of the entire gang at a sugar shack in a huge group photo with dozens of people together and having fun off courts.

But something’s missing.  Where’s the passion?  Where is the drive to improove the skills?

There’s nothing wrong with socializing, but I think that’s where I can’t get along with the crowd nowadays– there are very few people who truly want to win, and without that, I feel that I have very little in common with them.  It feels like it’s just a social group of friends.

Quynh, who used to be a supporter of RsM even through it’s darkest days, has quit RsM because he feels that the attitude of the club is all wrong nowadays.  His view is a bit more extreme than mine because he’s a lot more competitive than I am, but the main observation that we’ve both made is the same– RsM’s teeth have grown dull.

I don’t recognize its heat signature anymore.

And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s needing to be nostalgic to see the best of something in front of me.

However, I’ve decided that I’ve mostly moved on.  When RsM was what it was in my fondest of memories, it was a time when RsM was also the most stressful– financially it was always a challange for me to manage it and make ends meet, it was also more than a few sleepless nights of headaches to make sure that politicking with the Lakeshore Badminton Association and the Badminton Quebec tournaments went right.

I guess I was hoping that they’d figure out some way to keep that passion alive while I was gone– I mean, I was just one person, before I left for Asia, essentially running RsM on my own.  When I left, I took on 5 partners to run the place.  Don’t more hands make for lighter work, instead of more disponency?

Anyway, I’ve decided that I don’t really have the time to put much more effort into RsM.  I suppose I should be glad that at least the badminton club and store run themselves without my help at this point.  I suppose it’s a bit like parenting– this is the point where I just let it go and see what it can make of itself without me, because I can’t run it’s entire life for it.