Shonen Tales, Redux

by Jinryu

I’m trying to figure out a formula.

Results – Effort = Fun ?

It’s 11:30 AM when I begin writing this– I went to bed at about midnight.  Though I spent about two hours reading online before actually falling asleep, so I probably went to bed at around 2AM.  That means I took a total of about 9.5 hours of sleep.

Which is abnormal for me– normally I do about 7 or so, and then I”m good to go.  The factor that accounts for it: judo.


I went to my third judo lesson yesterday night.


I’ve managed to isolate in my own brain that I enjoy judo.  But that requires clarification.  I enjoy the idea of being able to send people sailing through the air, and slamming to the ground.  I enjoy the idea of games of footwork and balance.  I enjoy the technical details that determine the difference between a sloppy, power intensive technique, versus one with good mechanical leverage, efficient torque, and a high input:output ratio.


But this is all in theory.  The truth is, I’m not good at it.  And how could I be– this is only my third lesson.


This morning, I had trouble getting out of bed because frankly, my body is completely exhausted. I don’t even have enough core strength left to sit up in bed, so I had to roll out.  Yesterday, the events of the evening turned eventually to randori.  I’m still very lost with most of the japanese terms, but I think it probably means something like sparring.

I’ve barely learned the basics of breakfalls and rolls, and I only know one throw (o soto gari) to a very low level.  Going against brown belts and black belts?  A bit daunting.  The first partner I was paried with grabbed me by the right collar with his left hand.  From there… I couldn’t do anything with him.  I was unable to establish a grip with my left hand because he always managed to keep me away somehow.  I don’t really know any throws that I can do with only one collar hold of my own.  Meanwhile, he was twirling me around, and sweeping me whenever I was even slightly off balanced.


This process more or less repeated itself for the second half of the class with me being passed from partner to partner.  I mostly spent that time catching air time, before landing on my back wondering, often, “how in the HELL did that just happen?”


Of course, I’ve been keeping my eyes open so by the end of the class, I was putting up a bit more resistence, but my body was definately starting to acumulate damage.  The amount of time it took me to get up after each successive projection was starting to get longer and longer.  MY breathing was becoming more and more laboured.  I was strating to get those twitches in my calf and foot that tell you a cramp is coming on, and that you need to slow down.

Thanks to my MMA history, I did much better on the groundwork, and was not tapped out by anyone who I partnered with, but even so, I wasn’t able to tap anyone out.  And I could feel that people were going easy.



I guess this is all to say that I like the idea of being good at judo– however, I don’t know if I like the effort involved in getting good judo results. 


To put it simply, I enjoy being good at things.  THe things I am good at, they are my comfort zone.  They are the things where, frankly, I can feel good about myself because I understand and appreciate the medium.  I will also admit– I enjoy the benefit of being better than others in some cases.  To be absolutely cynical of myself, teaching others, and in some cases, toying with others, brings me pleasure on some levels because I’m a narcissist in that way.  There are more noble side effects to the passions which I share with others, but they’re just that: side effects.  The benefits that others and the world get from me pursuing my passions is because I’ve chosen specific paths where we can all mutually benefit from my passions.  But, I can’t say that I naturally extend good-will to others just for the sake of it if there’s nothing in it for me.

To put it bluntly, in my view of the world, I’m actuallly quite selfish.  It’s just that the world happens to be lucky enough that I’m selfish in such a way that side effects of my selfish pusuits tend to benefit others with a pretty good ratio.

I guess that’s the way that I’ve managed to craft myself  a morally sustainable philosophy of life.  I’ve taken care to get good at things where, knowing myself, I believe it would be good for others to get good at as well.  I’ve been selective of my hobbies.  So, for example, you might notice I’m not into driving (in fact, I don’t have a license) and that goes along with everything I believe about single-occupant cars being one of the banes of urban development.  INstead, I’m in to bicycles.  But it’s not that I like bicycles for bicycles.  If you’ve read all my road-rage stories of drag racing with other random cyclists since I arrived at Sydney, you’ll see I’m not a nice guy.  However, I think the more people who get passionate and personal about cycling, the better– projecting my passion for cycling outwards, even for my own selfish reasons, is likely to be of more benefit for the world at large than other things.

While the moral, social, and cultural implications of my choices have more depth than that, and I’m oversimplifying a bit to villify myself to make a point, the basic idea is that I look at activity, and I ask myself– what if everyone did that?  It doesn’t matter how obscure or popular the thing is.  That’s my way of changing the world, I think.  The payoff in the long term is this great world where everyone can share in some activity that is great because of this factor, X, which I thought was so attractive and essential to life.




However, short term payoffs in unfamiliar territory are total shit.


I’m not like Makunouchi Ippo, or Uzumaki Naruto, or Kurosaki Ichigo.  At my stage in life, I have no reason to fight.


Judo.  Back to that.  I’m terrible at judo, and that’s to be expected after just 3 lessons.  I’m not saying anything along the lines of surprise, in the sense that, man, that shit is so simple, I don’t see why I can’t get it.  Not at all– I’m very recognisant of the basic equations between dues versus results.  I know i haven’t yet paid my dues to feel that I ought to be better at this.


It’s just that it’s been a long time since I tried something that is totally out of my experiences.  When I took up taekwondo, for example, there was a marked similarlity to all my previous experiences in kickboxing and Jeet Kune Do.  SO there was always some way to feel good about myself for improving in ways that I could measure, and for adding extra depth to an understanding of the human body that I had already begun to develop.


Judo? I’m not certain how to even evaluate my progress just yet. Everything is unfamiliar to me, and I”m at the bottom of the food chain.  There are no short term benefits. I think in the long term, I will enjoy being able to get through these workouts, and I will enjoy helping other people cultivate a further appreciation for it.  But in the short term? I gain nothing.  I just hurt.  All over.


So how, really, does one define what’s fun?  Why does anyone stick to something?  Do we stick to things because we think they’re fun?  And if that’s the case… doesn’t the amount of effort I’m putting in right now, versus the amount of results I feel are showing, tell me that this clearly is not fun?  I reiterate: I spent the second half of yesterday’s class being treated like a crash test dummy.

[Zanshin]’s analysis is that it was probably a hazing.


Now, if I were any other shonen protagonist, there’d be some reason why I was doing this.  The typical story of activity mastery in a shonen manga is that the guy wants to be recognised, he wants revenge, he wants the girl, or he just wants to stop being bullied.  That might have been me ten years ago, but I don’t need that anymore.  Like I said, right now, I don’t have a reason to fight.  I’ve come to terms with my inner demons.  I’ve got [CM], who completes my life.  I’m no longer bullied the way I was decades ago.  And I am a respected person by friends and family.


So why then?  Why do this?

I have decided that I am going to continue.  Judo, that is.  I don’t enjoy it right now on any basic level.  Like– it’s not fun.  There’s so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen.  Nobody is spoon feeding me and making it easy.  If I don’t ask questions, I don’t learn– and I don’t like asking people questions.  I guess the way I’m justifying to myself is that this is what I’m getting out of it.  THe way this class is taught is forcing me to be someone different.  It’s forcing me not only to submit myself to absolute uncertainty, outside of my comfort zones, but it also forcing me to learn things that I don’t know how to learn yet.  I keep watching from the sidelines.  In sports that I enjoy, like badminton, and MMA, I have a sharingan eye for things– I can analyse and predict situations based on body movements.  At the moment, the judo techniques are things that I simply can’t copy, and can’t understand.


The real question I asked myself was, should I continue getting better at things I know?





I’ve been having conversations with people about relationships lately.  Yes, this ties in.  It has to do with how some people have basically given up on certain types of relationships, or relationships altogether.  There’s a parallel here– it has to do with that outside of comfort zone feeling.  People panic and they want to grab for their lifelines.


We’ve had two guests at my apartment from Canada over the last year.  One of them was [Mayida], and the other was a second cousin of mine.  Both of them came to Sydney for adventure, they wanted to see what life could be like away from home– but for both of them, the shock of being suddenly away from their home situations was too much, I think.  They both, very quickly, reverted to attempting to recreate their homes here in Sydney, rather than trying to live in the ways over here.  It’s a comfort zone thing. 


As I get older, the bulky number of experiences I’ve had makes it very easy to never leave my comfort zone, because frankly, it’s quite large.  I have lots of experiences across a number of life’s aspects, so I almost always have an entry point.  This is good.


It’s also bad, because when I’m faced with something like judo, which comes out of my blind spot, the jarring realisation that I am lost is absolutely fightening.  I’m not just technically lost, but it shakes my philosophies of passion down to their very core.  It’s almost like a challenge to my very way of life.  Basically, I don’t like not being able to do something. I don’t like quitting something when I’ll feel that I quit because I couldn’t put up with it.  It’s one thing to quit because you think the activity is stupid or fruitless– it’s another when you’re quit because you don’t have it in you.  The latter type, I can’t abide by. 


I don’t expect that I’ll become a judo champion in my lifetime– but I need to earn my own respect by seeing if, truly, I can commit myself to something that scares me.  I want to see if I can do something where I do not have the luxury of being the teacher, or the bully.  I want to see if I still have the youth in me to remember what it was like to be the me before I am who I am now: the underdog.  I could just walk away from it, and nobody would ever know– because nobody except myself ever put an expectation to go through with it.  But I wouldn’t be satisfied– my own egomania would not abide it.

I’m 30 years old this year.  It’s just a number, sure.  I have a lot in my life to be proud of.   But I have always based my sense of achivement on passion, not on results.  In that sense, what’s more important is not a history of things I’ve done, but the story of how it was done.


Doing this is a return to a nature of myself that, until now, I’d almost forgotten: that of the underdog.  When I was young, starting kickboxing at age 18, I was an underdog.  Same goes for badminton.  WHen I was in band?  By the time I was invited into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Wing 306 Concert Band, I was 16– where the median age of the other musicians was about 50. 


The problem is, those and other aceivements are all in the past.  The question is: is who I am a resume of acheivements, or a side effect of my character?  I’d like to think it’s the latter.  But in order to verify that, I need to keep striving for more, and not surf simply on the past.


My life has always been most interesting when I have been the underdog.  So, this is me, living out my shonen tale.