Shonen Tales

by Jinryu

I have a pair of shoes that, nowadays, I always use for biking.  They’re all leather, but not dress shoes or anything like that. They’re a unique set of shoes in that they’re almost like leather slippers, with soles on them.  They have zippers on the sides of them as part of the design.  They’re thin. In some ways, they resemble rock climbing shoes in form, except they’re fancy-ish.


I consider them, in a way, like my “agile” shoes.  They’re great for biking because their thinness fits easily into the toe-clips of my bike pedals.  THeir thinness also reminds me of my Jeet Kune Do days– back then, [VIttek] and I wore kung fu shoes on our feet.  These aren’t the kinds of shoes that protect my feet– they’re the kinds of shoes that stay out of the way of my feet, and give you just enough protection so you don’t get cut by stones or get your feet dirty.  Basically, they stay out of the way of your feet when you’re using your feet for various things– like  kicking ass. Indeed, if I ever did kick someone sideways with these shoes, the zippers would probably gash someone pretty good if I used them properly.


I bought these shoes in 2008.  I remember it specifically, because I got them somewhere in Calgary.  It was a layover to visit [TheChairman] on my way back home from South Korea.  These shoes have stayed with me since– simple, but functional.  Worn, but they have a lot of history to them now.  I sort of associate them with my “awakening” after coming back from Asia, revisiting Montreal for the first time after having embarked upon my unwitting pilgrimage.


I was just thinking about them the other day because, when I wear these shoes, I feel every stone that I step on.  I can feel the shape of cracks on sidewalks. I can feel the grooves of my pedals.  I can even feel the creak of the joints between the small bones of my feet, if I walk slowly enough.



When you really think about the things we do to entertain ourselves, they’re really just exercises in blunting our awareness.  If you watch a movie, if you drink alcohol, if you play a videogame– it’s escapism.  It’s escapism to get away from the things that you’re aware of when your mind idles and notices.




It’s important, though, to find a way to blunt your awarness, and to numb yourself to certain things. It’s necessary to keep morale up– you need to figure out coping mechanisms to get through the struggles of life.


I found out a few days ago that I wasn’t going to be progressing to the second round of interviews.  I found out while I was out biking home.  It didn’t hit me at first, but I knew it would.  Later when I got home, I took a nap in the middle of the afternoon and slept like the dead.




The thing about rejection and me is that for me, it’s really like Neitszche and the footpath– when you are rejected, you question yourself.  Everything that led you up that rejection suddenly becomes suspect: was it because of this? or that? Why, when I was measured and tried, was I found wanting?

I know myself well enough to know how I deal with these things.  [CM] knew that I was totally off, and she seemed noticibly worried about me and how I would cope with the news.  I just told her I’d be fine, and that I needed some time alone.


At certain times, I don’t want escapism– I want to wallow in self pity, and really bring myself to rock bottom.  I want to let the despair, misery, and feelings of powerlessness completely seep through me to the marrow and sinew.


Why do I want that?

Because it’s only when I completely purge myself of hope that I can accept a reality.


And it’s only then that I can start summoning up the rage I need to find a new way to do things.



I don’t take kindly to losing.  The fact of the matter is, I work hard– damn hard.  I can say that for a first-world citizen, I really go out of my way to make my life hard on myself.  I want things out of this world, I expect things from people.  I accept that I’m not perfect, that I’m not the best– but I am to be reckoned with when I set my mind to something.

THe truth is, missing out on a successful clerkship this semester is a missed opportunity.  But, I was jumping the gun a bit– I still have next year to really apply.  I shouldn’t, technically, have been applying this semester– I was just trying to see if I could get in.  The fact that I got an interview at the biggest firm in Asia-Oceania is already an achivement, and I should pat myself on the back for that.


I guess what I’m getting at is that now that I’ve worked it through my system, now that I’ve gone through the motions of grief and rage, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I didn’t get chosen for one of those valued internship positions.  And I’m moving on.  I’m doing what needs to be done for this semester.  And next year? I’ll be back.  I’ll have learned from this experience, and become 1 year tougher.




The typical shonen anime is a story of an underdog– very often, an outcast or underdog kid with no friends, and no self-confidence.


CM often wonders why I keep watching that stuff– it’s really all quite predictable, isn’t it?


I think I continue to watch that stuff because it’s an act of self-hypnosis.  The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t always who I am now.  I was weaker.  That’s not to say that I’m strong now, but I am stronger.  I’ve come a long way– and a lot of it had to do with being stubborn, and not being afraid to make mistakes.  Every now and then, I let myself go rock bottom.  It’s not an event of failure that makes that happen– it’s me.  I let myself really feel despair and hoplessness. I let myself go days and weeks even with terrible sleep, belittling myself.




It’s a cleansing process.  It’s a deconstruction, to really get to the point where I can figure out: okay.  What’s the new game plan?  That one back there didn’t work for X, Y, and Z reasons.  What’s our new angle of attack?  What have I learned?




Today, [Campbell] was too busy to go to the riverside and spar with me.  So, on my own, I picked up the punching bag, lugged it down the hill, strung it up, and just went at it until the drizzle turned into rain.


I know that scientific studies have shown that giving into physical violence actually doesn’t do much to calm your nerves.  But for me, it’s not about ‘venting.’  It’s about having an activity where output leads to result– it’s about moments in time where there is a directness connecting my efforts and the way I’m able to shape reality.  The beauty of martial arts is that you can transfer intention into the real world, and nothing in between is muddled by chance– you turn your shoulder at a bit of this angle, you lean in with a bit more weight this way– and a technique explodes forward, and you see the result.


For me, hitting a bag, brutish a solution as it sounds, is me exercising a re-calibration.  It’s me grounding myself in reality.




If you watch enough shonen anime or read the mangas, the inevitable problem is that you start wanting to be a hero. 


The thing about shonen tales is that everything is laid out for them– there’s a destiny to them, some sort of script.  In real life? Not so.  We don’t know how it’ll turn out.


But I don’t think that’s an excuse.  Even if we don’t turn out to be heroes, the fact is, the only chance we have of become heroes and heroines is if we build ourselves in that direction.  I’m not going to be walking to school one day and then suddenly become the pilot of a giant robo– nothing is going to fall on my lap that will have that kind of lasting effect.


What do you need to do?


You need to keep hitting.  And when you get knocked down?  You get back up.  And you hit some more.





One of the Go Club members, last week, showed up, looking a bit dejected.  This was the guy who I taught how to play back in January– it’s been 7 months that he’s been playing now, and he’s made enormous progress.  He’s climbed up from a 30 kyu level all the way to about 13k.


He’s going back to HK, so the chances of him keeping on his promise to beat me by the end of the year? Well– it’s unlikely.  He loves the game though– you can tell, by the way he studies it so intently.

We had a game, an even one, no handicaps.  I crushed him.  I crushed him as if we had a blood feud.  Because, really, a serious game?  That’s what he wanted.


Afterwards, we had a good laugh, we shook hands, and promised to play online again at some point.


The thing is, life is the kind of situation where you can take it seriously, or you can take it easy.

The thing about passion is that you never really take it easy: you grab at it, or more accurately, you grasp at it, and if you do manage to get your fingers around it, you clutch it because your life, in a sense, depends on it.


You want life to take you seriously.  You want to be recognised and respected for what you put your heart and soul into.


If you can work at something, and really sweat and bleed for it, and suffer for it– even if you don’t get what you want, isn’t the fact that you’re being taken seriously halfway there?