dal niente

Tag: love

Middle of nowhere with everyone that matters 

It’s 6am somewhere and I’ve just woken up. I have no idea when I will get over the jet lag, but given that we are ona cruise, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much anymore since we are working on whatever schedule we please. It’s nice like that.

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Being on a cruise is a bit of a social connections detox. Part of it is because of the fact that you are on a boat and don’t know anybody except who you come with. CM and I aren’t the type who actively seek to meet new people in these sorts of situations– part of our reasons for being in this type of holiday is to not have to deal with people we know.

The second reason is that there is no internet. Well, there is, but it is only by satellite uplink, and at 75 American cents per minute, it gets real steep real fast. 

So there’s no email and no Facebook and no alerts to constantly demand your attention. That actually counts for a lot.
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Our Montreal wedding was less than a week ago, and our Sydney wedding was less than two weeks ago. It’s only now that we are realising what the whole honeymoon process is for: it is to recover from the wedding. 

CM had more involvement in the planning of the Sydney wedding than I did. It is one of those situations where I know that she has more aesthetic sense than I do, so I necessarily left most of the choices up to her. It’s mostly near the end where i was involved in some of the legwork, like driving things back and forth to the villa where most her her visiting family were staying. I honestly can’t say that I had relatively nearly as many responsibilities as my wife did in setting it all up… And I still felt like it was a lot of work.
For those of you who are not yet married,all I can say is if you can afford it, get a wedding planner. CM mostly planned the Sydney wedding from scratch, and I mostly took care of the Montreal wedding, but they were both mentally very draining. By the time we were at the weddings, we were exhausted and any little thing was making CM upset.

Weddings are a mixed bag– there is so much social expectation to do things a certain way that we really felt string pressure to get things right and to impress in ways that we wouldn’t normally care about. This makes a lot of people upset. It makes a lot of people bitter and angry.
On the other hand, the celebration is something else. It’s a gathering of the people who you honestly like to spend time with but can’t normally coordinate with enough to actually make it happen. You get to catch up and people will tell you, with sincerity, all the nicest things. 

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Getting Married

Tomorrow, [CM] and I will be signing papers… and we will be married!

Fast forward

It’s hard to keep up sometimes.

I think I mentioned this, but I’m now engaged. Proposed, and got a yes. Yes, I’m stoked.

At the same time, despite being in my early thirties, I’m sometimes caught off guard by how “adult” my life has become, seemingly overnight. Not necessarily because of the engagement, but all things combined.

[CM] and I got permanent residency in Australia early this year; now we’re engaged. Her parents are talking about helping us put a downpayment down on a house. I was performance reviewing two of our employees last week, and was in a meeting with my boss about the future of the company. All that, and I got a learner’s permit for driving (yes, I’ve never learned to drive before). It all seems so very grown-up.

When did this all happen?

We’re Engaged!

On August 2nd, 2015, I proposed to [CM].

She said yes!

Progress

Working at the educational institute has been very much like how I imagine running an election campaign might be.  And I suppose that’s to be expected, considering that my role here is to basically stir up the practical legal training market to a certain extent, and to gather up allies before we essentially take to the fields against national regulators.  Basically, there in terms of education reforms in market for pre-admissions education, there is war on the horizon—and we need to know which banners are on our side before actually declaring it.

 

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Given that I’m on a pretty tight deadline to get admitted (licensed) for legal practice (because this is connected with my application for an extension of my VISA and things), I need to keep working to get in a certain amount of days of work per week to meet the work-experience pre-requisite of my license.

Work at the educational institute takes up my Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.    Work at my employment law job is Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays or Sundays.  That makes for a 6 day work week which is about 50+ hours per week.

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Employment law is pretty straightforward—I often don’t know the answers to the tasks when they’re assigned to me, but the whole point of a lawyer’s work is to look into things you don’t know.  Otherwise, if the answer was obvious, a client wouldn’t pay you to do it.  And if your boss already knew the answer, they wouldn’t assign it to you.   So most of the time, my work as a lawyer is kind of like spelunking, and that’s kind of what makes it interesting.  At least, it gets interesting once you get over that initial crippling fear of being responsible for something going wrong.

I think right now that’s the issue with working at the educational institute—I’m still finding my feet here, even though I’m arranging meetings and liasing with other institutes to get ready for the coming regulatory reform.  Being a campaign coordinator is not something I’m used to, so I remind myself every day when I walk in that I just need to chill out and work at a pace that is comfortable.  I need to stop freaking myself out about what I can’t do or am not comfortable about doing, and just do my best to do it.

I wonder if a reason why true adulthood is so scary is because real maturity is about being able to stand your ground in various contexts—not losing your shit when complicated problems come up, or when you don’t even understand a problem.  Contexts are everything—we’re strong in some situations, weak in others.

Get enough training in an area, you get something, some sort of “substance” that makes you “substantial.”  If you have the right eye for it, you can recognise this thing in other people, and you learn to respect them for it and what they can teach you about theirs.

 

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[Sensei-R] has been bugging me again to start doing judo competitions.  I think I might see if I can register for one this weekend.  The reasons why I’ve hesitated are multiple, but in looking it over, maybe it just comes down to fear.

The current judo class is one that I’ve gotten used to.  I mean, the dojo that I train at, it’s full of familiar faces and a familiar hierarchy.  I know who is who in the zoo, so to speak.  Outside of it’s walls? Out there, where the competition lies?  It’s an unknown.

Although I was training seriously in taekwondo in 2007-2008, did some kickboxing in 2012, and have been doing judo now for almost two years, I haven’t done competitive fighting in years—over a decade, actually.  There was a brief sting of kickboxing where I entered one tournament a few years ago, which I wrote about at the time—I lost that one by throwing in the towel due to much blood coming from my nose, although as things go, my opponent had probably broken part of his shinbone and I might have broken his nose.  I just quit while I was ahead.

 

And that was the takeaway lesson of that competition—quit while you’re ahead.  After that competition, I wrote about it and noted, relevantly, that I’m not as interested anymore in smashing bone on bone and seeing whose breaks more.  I am not willing to trade blood like I was in college—I threw in the towel, not because I was significantly hurt, but because I made a conscious decision that I was unwilling to get any more rough than I already was.  And in part, I made that decision because, unlike my college days, I was thinking of other goals in life now–  for instance, starting a family with [CM]. 

Progress Reports

Finding out that you’re making progress is a difficult thing.  There’s little nuanced bits to feeling accomplished– either you notice some little thing has changed that wasn’t a certain way before, or someone outright tells you something that you didn’t even notice.

[CM] is in Montreal doing an elective at a major metropolitain hospital, and she often tells me that she just feels bad: she doesn’t really know what she’s doing, she constantly feels like she doesn’t know enough.  I have much the same problem with all sorts of things at the moment.

Feelings of inadequacy and ignorance are akin to helplessness and powerlessness– they are soul crushing negative emotions that make you feel, well, bad.  She and I talk back and forth about things we’re not good at– getting it out of our systems sometimes helps, and it’s better than nothing.  Sometimes the outside perspective gives us the opportunity to cheer eachother up.  I’ll admit– life for us has been pretty hard lately.  I haven’t seen her since the end of December 2013, and I miss her terribly.  But she’ll be back in a couple of weeks, and my hope is that for all the hardships we’ve faced on our own ends will have us a stronger couple because of it.

Part of surviving a long distance relationship, and life in general, is about maintaining your own life.  It’s hard for me to be supportive of CM if, for example, I’m not even maintaining my own life.  If I can’t get my shit together, if I’m demoralised, she can smell it even though she is literally half a globe away.  My suffering becomes her suffering and it becomes a vicious circle if she’s also having a hard time.  At least one of us has to have something good going on, some “win” to report or bring up the troops’ morale so that one of us can support the other and tell the other that it’s all going to be all right.

I think part of it is just finding the small things to quantify as wins.

So what’s my win for today?

I’ve long been feeling that I’m getting nowhere with judo.  That, combined with injuries, makes me often wonder “what’s the point?”

Today, there were only about 5 guys total in judo.  This included one of the orange belts who started around the same time as I did, and a green belt who has probably a year extra experience on me.  Both of them are significantly bigger and stronger than I am.

Because the class was really small, [K-Sensei] decided that we were going to do some technical development.  Nothing but throwing while he watched and critiqued our technique.

When it came to ippon seoi nage, the one armed shoulder throw, everyone got critiqued the hell out of it.  He had them repeat things over and over.  When my turn came up? No comments.  A bit of a “not terrible.”  Which, in K-Sensei langauge, is about the closest I can get to a compliment.  One of the other guys told me that my seoi nage was super technical compared to theirs– it just seemed so much easier, especially considering that I was throwing people while being smaller than they were.  Yes, I’m patting myself on the back– but I think it’s important to do that every now and then.

Constantly complaining and putting myself down is another way things can get to my head, and I don’t want to read back on this blog some day and think that I was just living a totally miserable life without any satisfaction.  I do have my small wins, and to learn to recognise these is the first step in getting in the habit of a happier life overal.

Later in the night, we were doing o soto gari, the major outer reap throw.  Again, a lot of criticism for the others– but when it came to mine, he told the other students: “that is a killer’s throw.”

“Is that a good thing?” I asked.

“Judo is supposed is gentle, but in reality, it is kill or be killed.”

So I guess that’s a good thing.  I point this out because K-Sensei is a crazy badass.  He’s in his 60s, and recently won a gold at Kodokan– which is judo headquarters in Japan.  He’s a total beast, not just for his age, but in general.  Whenever he scrutinizes my training, I just feel like shit– because he has extremely high standards and his broken English just make him sound extra harsh all the time.  To me, I’m like someone training to be in a town militia, whereas he’s an ex-special forces commando who has the task of being my drill sergent.  [R-Sensei] is a lot more diplomatic– I feel that I learn a lot more theory with R-Sensei because he’s generally a very kind guy who takes the time to explain things clearly and with a hella lot of patience.

K-Sensei, on the other hand, not infrequently will just throw his hands up in exasperation: “FUCK what I tell you about grips!  What is this SHIT! I not teach you to throw with fucking grip!”

So to have him recognise me, even just a bit? It’s a big thing for me. Small things are important.

Gratitude

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Blue thing on the top left: Elastic ankle brace. Not really useful, but I use it as a liner for the 3-strap plus laced ankle brace at centre top.

Middle top: The 3-strap plus lace ankle brace. It doesn’t completely immobilise my ankle, but it helps.  Laces tighten the brace. Two of the straps crisscross over my instep, and then under the sole of my foot, attaching by velcro vertically along my leg, while the third strap wraps around my ankle.

Middle: a Shock Doctor knee brace with hinged side supports.  It’s not as serious as some badminton players I knew who had orthotic knee braces, but in Judo, you can’t have any hard surfaces on your gear (you might hurt your opponent).  As it stands, because this knee brace has metal hinges and support beams along the side, it’s theoretically illegal for competition.  I use it while trianing though because it’s sufficiently covered with material that it shouldn’t hurt anyone.

Bottom, in red: an older wraparound knee brace with hinged side supports.  I don’t use this one as much anymore, because the metal hinges could potentially hurt my partner (they’re not as well padded as with the Shock Doctor knee brace).  However, if it happens that both of my knees feel twitchy on a given tradining day, I will wear this as my second knee brace (one brace per knee).

On a typical judo day, I usually end up wearing some combination of the above.  Lately, I’ve been wearing none of it, because I’d like to work on strengthening my ankle (injured last October) and my knees (chronic pains which have been ongoing for years now).  However, there are some nights where I will be wearning all of the above, or substituting one of the knee braces for a knee pad.

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A bicycle tire, split halfway down it’s length, and tied to an old obi (belt).  I use this for rehabilitation of my right shoulder, and to strengthen my left to make sure that it doesn’t suffer the same fate as my right.  When my knees get better, I plan to use this to practice seoi nage uchikomi (shoulder throw drills).
 
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A foldaable walking stick.  If ever my knees or my ankle starts acting up, this helps me keep it from getting worse.  I got a foldable one because it’s easier to carry by bike.  Thankfully I haven’t had to use this one in several months now.
 
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I can’t remember exactly when I started doing martial arts.  I think I was perhaps 16 or 17 at the time. It has been a long journey– I started off in Jeet Kune Do.  I moved on to kickboxing.  I did some MMA.  I did taekwondo.  I logged some boxing.  Now, I do judo.
 
I have entered into tournaments, and I’ve never gotten gold at anything.  I’ve been motivated and I’ve been depressed– I’ve gone through ups and downs as my training happened at the same time as the rest of lifes’ events.
 
What have I learned along the way?  What is it that keeps me going?
 
As someone who has never been the best fighter, I have nonetheless worked hard and made it to silvers or quarter finals on more than a few occasions, including in open-weight events.  I’ve paid the price though, as you can see from the above pictures.
 
What have I learned from being a second rate martial artist?  What have I learned from working hard and never quite being the best?
 
I’m sure everyone has a way out there for them to figure out who they are, and who they want to be.  For me, martial arts have been one of those ways.  While other passions, such as badminton and music have ebbed and flowed, I keep coming back to martial arts.  I don’t know why.
 
Maybe it’s because when I was younger, I never thought I’d live to see 30.  I remember violence in elementary school that made me wonder what would be the point?  I remember racism and hate.  In high school, I remember thoughts of rebellion from my family constraints.  I made some of the greatest friends I ever had in high school, who I kept through college.  I remember getting confused and lost in college, having no clue what I wanted to do in my life.
 
These sorts of situations make you wonder, really, why bother with a future?  Is it just going to be the same shit, a different day?
 
Martial arts was an intersting scenario– because I never really could pin down just what I loved about it.  Perhaps for a while, it was some sort of sadism– a sense of empowerment.  It might even have been the masochism– there was never any logical reason to keep on fighting, it was always easier to just roll over and give up.
 
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In the past, the take away message for me from years of training has been one of anger and rage.  Martial arts to me was a way of channeling frustration– of burning negative energies.  Frustration at my lot in life.  Frustration at not being better at this or that, both in martial arts and life outside.  The rage was a fuel that pushed me forward– it helped me get better at things.  It allowed me to endure harsh training.
 
Lately?  I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with martial arts, and what I’ve learned from it.  Am I still angry?  Do I still fight for the same reasons?
 
The answer is no.  And that was to be expected, perhaps– peoples’ motivations change all the time I think.
 
But I think that this thing that I fixate on now is probably the last thing I’ll learn of martial arts.  It is the thing that I will spend the rest of my life cultivating, because it is what I think is a sustainable mantra to keep me going for the years to come.  It is the thing that, should we have children one day, I would like to pass on to them as well.
 
I’ve learned a lot of things, but one thing stands above all others:
 
Gratitude.
 
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Gratitude that I wasn’t born into a dangerous country in a dangerous time, where I would have to fight every day.  Training in martial arts teaches you all about weakness.  You realise every time you get injured how much worse it could be.  You learn to cherish health and being alive, and to make it count.
 
You can develop a grattitude for weakness. In knowing weakness, in getting hurt, in shedding tears, in being frustrated at your own inadequacy, you alternate between bouts of anger at being powerless and bouts of humility.
 
Sometimes anger can bring you closer to people, because there may be people who share in your anger.  Anger is like fear or being wiped out because you’ve reached an evolutionary dead end– anger spurs you on to change yourself, because you’re not satisfied with who you are. For a long time, I cultivated strength in myself through anger at myself and others.  It was always adversity that fueled my momentum, whether it was actual or imagined.
But what I’ve come to understand, increasingly, is that a better source than anger is humility. Without gratitude for basic survival, for being the privilege of being weak over being dead, there is no humility.  Humility is what allows you to love and be loved.  You realise you can’t do it all alone, and that you’re interconnected with those around you.  Without humility, we never learn a lot of things about how to interact with those around us. 
 
Grattitude for life arises out of humility.  For all the aches and pains that I constantly report on, the fact of the matter is that I know now how lucky I am to have survived the kind of training that I’ve done.  And not just raining– there are all these unforseen events that just popped up in life that could have, on numerous occasions, just ended me.  To be a “has been” or to be a “never was” is the privilige of living to see another day– and we can never be too grateful for that.
 
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The thing about being grateful is that it’s an admission.  People who aren’t grateful and say they owe nobody anything?  People who are super proud of themselves at the expense of others? These people are full of shit, and if they don’t figure it out sooner, they’ll figure it out later: it’s a lonely state of affairs where you owe nobody anything.  It means either that you’re the type of person who could never love others, or were never loved by others.  There are people who take and take to where they want to be, and they call themselves “self made men.”  But no man is truly self-made.
 
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Gratitude does not necessarily mean enslaving yourself to others who you owe.  It means taking the gifts which they have given you, and paying it forward.  Just as you should be gratful for your opportunities to pay things forward, those who did nice things for you should be gratfeul for the things you do with the opportunities they gave you.
 
 

Being grateful does not mean settling for what you have– it’s recognising that where you are now is a result not just of your own efforts, but of things beyond your control.  It is an understanding of interconnection between you and your environment at its most providencial and at it’s most unforgiving.

 
Gratitude is a realisation that good things have happened in the past, and that you have survived bad things.  In that way, being able to feel gratitude is a source of fighting spirit in face of future adversity– because if you can man up to feel gratitude at something, then you have enough understanding of the past to have some sense of your actual capabilities, and you can take on great things in the future.
 
Gratitude is not just words of praise for yourself, for fate, or for others.  It is the actions you use to take responsibility for what you owe.  What you owe isn’t just in terms of material things– it is in terms of the society that gave you a chance.  Gratitude is paying it forward so that maybe some day, someone else will be grateful as well.
 
And if they are grateful, then they have also learned things about anger, humility, and love as well.

Kantians, Newtonian Physics, and Calling Bullshit

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Forget that there are a lot of non-Newtonian physics that have since been developed.

I’ve been writing a lot about people lately because lately, I’ve been spending more time hearing about people and being around people.  There are a lot of good things about people, but they’re always good things because they’re held on a backdrop of some glaringly bad things about people as well.

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Some people think that it’s fun to be an asshole, or they actual have sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies to some degree.  Some people are just selfish, although to what degree selfishness is just on the same string as actual mental disorders is a case by case thing. You don’t need people like these in your circle of friends.

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What I should point out though is that life is really short, and there are a lot of interesting people out there.  There are some people who we should probably stick to because of what we owe them. That means sometimes putting up with a lot of bullshit and a lot of abuse.

But there are limits.

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As a general rule, I think communication is important.  We need to make sure everyone knows what everyone is thinking.  Passive aggressiveness? That’s a bullshit approach for people who want to be stuck in bullshit relationships.

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If someone does something wrong by you, and they do it over and over, you have only two viable options: help them correct their behaviour, or cut them out of your relations.  It’s really that simple.

 

Correcting their behaviour involves, first of all, being strong enough to call the person on their bullshit.  It means treating people as responsible people who are capable of rationalising their choices– you are essentially asking them to find a way to make the right choices for your relationship to continue.

 

Cutting them out? Well, that option is pretty simple in theory.  But we’re weak– we often go back to people who have wronged us because we like particular “redeeming features” and don’t have enough self-esteem to think that we can find new relationships who are overal better packages.  We settle for table scraps with a bit of good seasoning on it.

Don’t.

 

 

 

When someone does wrong by you– give them the chance to save face.  Let them know that what they did was not cool.  Give them the chance to be in a good relationship with you, whether it as your lover, friend of colleague.  If you can’t get all the bonus niceties? Then you’ll have to downgrade to progressively more and more utilitarian relationships.

Do not baby people.  Do not make excuses for the bad behaviour of others because they live in this or that context, or were raised this or that way, or had this or that bad break– you’re not doing them any favours by being one more person who wasn’t a true enough friend to point out that they’re being a dick.

 

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I have decided that I’m not longer going to put any efforts into hanging out with [TheCaptain].  Yes, TheCaptain was one of my main studygroup mates, the other being [DilligentB].  But he’s been super unreliable about every situation where we’ve ever tried to arrange social things with him.

He’s a serial “flaker,” someone who gives you little or no warning of when they’re not going to show up.  He’s the sort of person who says “Yeah, sure! I’ll be there!” but then leaves you hanging.  And after that, there is no attempt to reschedule on his part.

His epidemic lateness to events that he does show up at was to the point where when he proposed a lunch once, I flat out refused because I knew he’d never make it on time and I’d just miss my lunch break waiting for him.  Turns out that the other people who did meet him for lunch ran into just that problem.

The latest episode was a dinner party I was going to organise so that we could all catch up with him after his semester in Asia.  Essentially, the even was organised for his benefit. Surprise surprise– he flaked on the event that was organised for him.

I will admit that a large part of the reason why I even hang out with him is because it’s more or less mutually beneficial for school work.  But I’d like to think that, in addition to being one of the major forces for him ever even making it through law school to begin with, we could also be friends.  Turns out that he’s not really friend material.

He’s the kind of person who is so bad at keeping his word that the next time I see him at some social event and he volunteers a “I’d love to!” I’ll call his bullshit in public.

 

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Fundamentally, the person who flakes or who shows up late is being disrespectful of the importance of your time.  Everyone has priorities in life– and it’s not necessarily a full tilt race, but if I am going to carve out time in my schedule to enjoy doing nothing with you, then you better show up, and you better show up on time.  Is that too much to ask?

 

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Do society a favour. The next time someone flakes on you or is late?  Make sure they know the error of their ways.

The Dodgeball Theory

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Lance Armstrong: Could I get a bottle of water. – – Hey, aren’t you Peter La Fleur?

Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong!

Lance Armstrong: Yeah, that’s me. But I’m a big fan of yours.

Peter La Fleur: Really?

Lance Armstrong: Yeah, I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late.

Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit… Lance.

Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals?

Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like… shame.

Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. But good luck to you Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.

(quote of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is from IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0364725/quotes )
In the movie, Peter LaFleur (played by Vince Vaughn) is the owner of Average Joe’s Gym.  We don’t know much about his life leading up to that point, except that he seems to be genuinely emphatic person with a lot of sympathy for the marginalised fringes of society.  When his gym is about to be shut down due to defaulting on tax payments, the members of his gym who decide to raise money to save it are telling, through their personalities, of just what is and isn’t what we expect in a gym, because of the modern gym culture’s unsaid rules.

The gymgoers at Average Joe’s are those who either perceive themselves as, or actually are, the rejects of society.  They have self-esteem issues, mental disorders, and financial problems.

They are not the poster boys of the typical gym advertissement– square jaws for the guys, sports bras for the girls, spartan haircuts or a more granola looking pony tail, and perfect teeth, and sports apparel.  Note that none of these things are things that you actually need to go to a gym to buy– nor are you actually likely to develop a broader chin by going to the gym.

The movie, being a comedy, largely revolves around making fun of the neuroses that are actually very real mental health issues in  contemporary society.

It’s easy to forget that in the pursuit of building ourselves up to who we want to be, there is a lot of mental foundational insecurity that neoliberal society encourages us to cover up, rather than address directly.
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The reality is that for all the “hobbies” we want to get good at, it is seldom that we run into something that we’re really wiling to pay the price to study.  I mean, really, really get good at.  I make a distinction between loss and sacrifice.  Loss is where things are taken from you and you don’t even know where it went… sacrifice is a situation where you willingly give something up.

A person who studies all their life but knows nothing of the outside world suffers loss– but a person who knows of the outside world and does the same by choice suffers even more, because his sacrifice gives up the alternative world of possibilities in exchange for the path chosen.

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I don’t have a gym (weight training) membership– I don’t think I’ve really stepped on the grounds of a gym except for a small hotel fitness room the last time [CM] and I were in Gold Coast a couple of years back, and before that, I went to the gym a couple of times upon my return from Korea.

It’s not my cup of tea– for many of the themes that come up in Dodgeball.  It’s not so much the fitness that I take issue with– it’s the image of fitness.  I’m sure a lot of people go to the gym for great reasons, but lets just say it’s not my cup of tea.  The example I always use is that I cannot say that learning martial arts is better than ballet– both are highly evoloved disciplines that have history, standards, benefits and disadvantages.  But despite that I probably wouldn’t be caught dead doing ballet, I cannot say simply that martial arts are better than ballet.  I’ve just come to recognise that it’s apples and oranges: it’s a question of tastes.

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That being said, there’s a famous Bruce Lee quote that says something along the lines of “nobody really develops a taste for diluted wine.”

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The reason why I mention Dodgeball is that there is a quote from Peter LaFleur which explains everything about his philosophy in life. It has to do with how, if you never develop expectations, you never feel disappointed.

On that note– I have expectations.  High expectations of myself and those around me.

A great deal of my ability to get through life has been to quantify these great expectations into little pieces so that I can feel progress– but it doesn’t change the fact that there are broader goals that I am aiming for, and I pursue them feverently.

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Lately, I’ve been increasing my training in judo.  I’ve at least doubled the amount that I did per week compared to 2013, which comes out to about 8 hours of training per week.  The training there is pretty good– compared to other dojos, dojangs and fighting gyms that I’ve trained at in the past, University of Sydney Judo consistently taxes physical endurance (stamina), power (force output over time) and flexibility.  How much it challenges your technical and mental capacity is up to you, it depends on how much of a challenge you try to make for yourself.  But the fitness training alone is already a very solid common denominator.

Like any other training hall, it doesn’t necessarily correct a lazy attitude (which is more likely to be left unaddressed than a bad attitude), but the nature of combat sports that put you against an opponent is that you will inevitably be punished for not adhering to the expectations of the club.  If you don’t do your homework, you will take more of a beating.  If you don’t have the right attitude, people will be less inclined to share and learn with you.

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For the last half year, I’ve been having mixed feelings about my relationship with martial arts, due to number of related circumstances.

One of the major reasons is that my outlook in life has changed dramatically from the time when I first started doing martial arts.  There was a period in my early twenties where I had rebellion issues– I was lashing out against my upbringing and martial arts were one of the few activities that I could turn to that gave me a sense of control over my life.

When I say that my outlook was different back then, it isn’t that I never expected to live to see the age of 30– but I certainly didn’t think very far ahead.  I was quite fearless. And fearlessness got me quite far.  You read all the time in Japanese and Chinese literature of this concept of an “indominable spirit”–  The main thing that allowed me to progress quickly was that I had little regard for injuries.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt; more accurately, even if I was afraid of getting hurt, I was able to tap into a rage at my social condition that told me “this is worth it” and fight in spite of (as opposed to in opposition to) those limitations.  Essentially: I had the mentality of a shonen manga hero, which probably explains my ongoing critique of the more celebrated shonen protagonists.

The issue that has been developing over the past half year is that my body can no longer keep up with my willpower, and I can feel it.  I know for a fact that there are a lot of really old practitioners of martial arts out there who are in their 60s and still kicking ass.  Indeed, Randy Couture was a hero of mine for a really long time for the simple reason that he was beating the clock.

But for me… the situation is a bit different.  Most of these old masters are, well, really good at what they do.  By the time they slow down, they have already achieved a level of technical proficiency sufficient to bridge a large amount of physical limitation– they’ll still be able to kick around all but the most talented of a new generation with technique alone.

I am relatively new to judo, with an orange belt and zero competition points so far.  I’m on average about 10 years older than everyone of the same belt grade as I am in this gym.

I think that I’m learning at the same rate as everyone else who started at the same time as me– indeed, for people who started at the same time as me, I think I can say that despite knowing very little about grappling prior that I am one of the better players out of the group that started at the same time as me.

But I’m not satisfied.  Martial Arts to me has never been just a sport of forms or kata– it has been one of technique applied under pressure.  Yes, we do randori (sparring)– but what is missing from my training right now is the “killing intent” that you only get from competing with rival schools.

And therein lies the contradiction– I no longer have the je ne sais quoi to work in spite of the fear of injury now.

When I was younger, I trained like there was no tomorrow.  Indeed, there was a level of trust among my training partners and I that we would do anything to further our proficiency in this or that technique even by just minute quantities. ALthough I never spelt it out, whenever I fought with someone from a rival school, my life was on the line– and all I would have to rely on was the training that I had undergone with my nakama.

Indeed, although tournaments were rough, I’ve only ever seriously injured my eye, elbow, shin and ankle in tournaments.  In training, the list was much longer.

However, I think that’s the correct way for things to go though– ideally, competition should be easier than your training, if you’re doing your training right.

I am training hard in judo.  I’m not as capable of as high of an objective physical output as I was at my peak around 2008, but I am arguably working my body a lot harder overal than I’ve ever worked it in my life.  (What I mean is that objectively overal, I may not be as fast or powerful as I was in the past, but I am able to soak up more training than I used to)

But for what?  What am I training towards?  What is my goal?

And that’s what’s difficult about this situation now.

I am at a point in my life where I have the mental fortitude to train harder than I’ve ever trained in my life.  I am more creative and analytical than I have ever been.  But my body is slowing down as a result of old injuries and mental brakes accumulated, and as a result I am no longer willing to put my life on the line.  Indeed, if I went into a competition with my current state of mind, I’d be easy prey due to my lack of commitment.

That means, essentially, that I’m extremely reluctant to take on competitions, even though [Sensei] last week was telling me that the club could have taken a gold instead of a bronze at the most recent New South Wales tournament if only I had signed up for it.

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I have two conflicting wants out of martial arts right now.

I want to practice martial arts for many, many years to come. I want to be able to teach martial arts to our (CM and my) children, if we one day decide to have children.  I want to see generations of youths come to change their lives and their perspective on the world, and citizenship in community, through martial arts.  The possibility and conceptualisation of this goal that has come to develop slowly over the past couple of years.

On the other hand, I want to continue to grow.  It’s simply an extension of what I’ve done until now, almost like a Peter Pan-like syndrome– I want to continue to fight.  I want to feel bones straining against bones, the grind of teeth into mouthguards.  The heaviness of gravity when attempting to stand up.  Dizziness in the head?  Vision going dim?  That might be happening to me– but you can be sure that I’m not taking this without making the other guy work hard for it.  I long, not for the war stories, but the war.

But these two wants are incompatible.  I became acutely aware of this when I briefly took up boxing (as opposed to kickboxing) in about 2012 for about half a year– I realised that I was at a point of my life where I didn’t want to eat any head injuries, because what’s in my brain is of paramount importance to me nowadays.  It’s who I am.

I quit boxing because it was a ruleset where winning the game very acutely accentuated the fact that this is what martial arts is about– it’s about risks and rewards.  And I was no longer willing to take certain risks in that context.  Since then, it has been a bit of a slippery slope.

Judo is a bit different– there’s relatively little risk of me getting brain damage in judo, for instance.   But the risk of more injuries to my joints is significant, especially at the competition level.

I guess the basic problem is that I’m not sure if I’m willing to risk injuries anymore.  I’m not sure what participating (win or lose) in competition exactly does for me– I don’t know how to put it into words.

I just know that there’s a part of me that wants to just go in there and do it.  However, the fact that my body is as bad as it is is a testament to what previous years allowing this kind of fighting spirit to go unchecked can actually do for me.  I just know that it’s something I want– although I don’t know if it’s something I need.

Perhaps what I need is to figure out how to age properly.

Short term or long term…?

It frustrates me.

The reason why I refer it to Dodgeball is because I wonder if I’m just giving up before starting because it’s easier that way.  Was LaFleur right or wrong?

Unlike LaFleur– I want to be strong.  I’m not there yet.

Am I to admit that some people just never get there?

Relationships in popular fiction

Thought this was an interesting read:

What J.K. Rowling’s Ron And Hermione Bombshell Tells Us About True Love And ‘Harry Potter’

Read the article here