dal niente

Tag: substance

Let me tell you something

Have you ever noticed that some of the most overweight people– or at least, the most inactive– are the ones giving you the most advice about dieting and how to be healthier?

It drives me fucking nuts.

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Passports

[Zanshin]:
I’m going to say something crazy.
Sometimes I miss the pure freedom of being a mid twenties loser with nothing in my pocket but my passport and a sense of nihilistic desperation.
That’s crazy, right?
This is better.

[Jinryu]:
CRAZY
I totally enjoy spending hours filling out forms about my last 10 years of globetrotting
And all my odd jobs since the beginning of time
From my cubicle
My warm, cozy cubicle

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I’ve been filling out applications for my Australian Graduate Visa for the past two weeks.  I don’t think it’s normally that complicated a thing; it’s just that I have a particular work and travel history that makes things rather troublesome.

The main difficult parts are that you have to provide specific dates for addresses that you have lived at, all travel you’ve done in the last decade, all jobs you’ve held since you were born, and all schools you’ve attended since the beginning of time. Curiously enough, trolling through my digital records, it seems that I really only came online and had a real online presence in the mid 200s.  Much of my digital history, especially all those MSN conversations and emails, were lost with two email accounts that are now defunct.

[CM] doesn’t have as long a work history as I do, with a handful combined of paid and unpaid jobs.  But for me, I’ve held over two dozen jobs in the last thirty years somehow.  And while my travel list for the last decade includes something like 30 entries, CM’s is about double that.  It gets even more complicated because although I’ve vacationed internationally, in which case the form doesn’t require specific addresses, CM has actually lived internationally on a semi-permanent basis.  Keeping track of all those postal codes becomes very much impossible– even nowadays, she has trouble remembering the postal code of the place we currently live at.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The next step in our lives is some sense of permanence.  We want to start settling down.  We want to stop moving from city to city, not knowing what comes next.  This will all be possible

 

We’re going to make it official in January by buying a cat.

While on the subject of technique,

the main thing that I appreciate about, well, things, is intricacy.

Techniques are what make an activity intricate.  Little things that are necessary for the macro-existence of the whole.  Customisation is what brings uniqueness and relevance.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I haven’t been to judo in about two weeks, but while on the cruise, I went to the gym daily.  Sometimes twice in a day.   Although I did put on quite a few pounds (due to the 24 free food services), I specifically intended to spend a lot of time working out.  It’s part of the whole plan to reconfigure my body.

This is the third day back from the cruise, and I can see that my body fat is starting to drop– I can see my abs again, and I’m back to using the worn notches on my belts rather than the next ones down.  Looking in the mirror, a week of gymming and eating like a tyranosaurus has actually helped me even out my upper body quite a bit.

I can see why a lot of people love gymming for this reason– with some willpower, there is a lot to be enjoyed fro the technical aspects of sculpting your own body to the way you want it to be.  Alas, gymming was just a temporary thing for me.  I’m not really into it, and all the time on the boat I spent in there was just a means to an end.

Mostly, the workouts were make me more rounded for grapling.  This meant a lot of work on all parts of my chronically injured rotator cuffs.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

In looking at myself in the mirror in my apartment, I can see that there are some changes that have occured after a week of working out and eating.  My trapezius, deltoids and pecs are noticibly larger.  Well, that, and my gut– there’s a hella lot of fat stored there, but that’s going down.  I haven’t weighed myself, but compared to the 70kg when I left, I’m guessing I’m probably in the 75kg range right now.  When I lose all the fat I’ll probably settle down to about 72kg, and after another month I’ll probably settle in at about 71kg.

I specifically trained certain other muscles less, because while there are certainly areas that I want to increase stability in, there are other areas of my body that I want to reduce muscle stregth in order to get a better balance.  For example, I have been working to increase strength in my gluttes, while reducing reliance on my hamstrings, which is one of the ways that I’m addressing occasional pain and instability in my right knee.

The whole point of the gymming was to take an intensive kickstart to reconstructing my shoulders.  Normally, during judo, there’s only so much work I can do on my shoulders because fatigue is what invites injury during training.  With my shoulders more rounded now, I’ll be able to maintain a wider and heavier range of operation in judo, which will raise my base output.

I guess you can think of it like defragging a hard disk.

-=-=-=-=-

Tonight is the first time I go back to judo in two weeks.  The white belts that I was working with so intensively for the past three months prior are now probably all yellow belts.

More or less

The reality of the real world is that there’s always more that we can do.  The hard part is in deciding when you’ve got that right amount– but the “right amount” in itself needs to be contextualised in terms of your goals, because right and wrong is just relative to what it is that you want to get to.

 

Which is a long winded way of saying that basically, everything is a bit easier if you know what you’re after, and in what order you want to get those things.  Once you know what you want, you just have to decide how much of a rush you are in to get there.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

Last week, [CM] and I got on a cruise ship to New Caledonia, which is to Australia what Hawaii or Cuba is to North Americans.

Now, on one hand, I feel a bit guilty about it because cruise ships are, frankly, beastly.  It’s like taking a Las Vegas hotel/casino, breaking it off at the foundations, and throwing it into the water, and somehow make it capable of not only floating, but sailing.  That takes an insane amount of fuel and supplies that get expended at a totally inefficient rate compared to any other form of sustainable living.

Not to mention that the crew’s wages are, well, not great, despite that they’re very well trained not give you the slightest hint that they’re in any way unhappy with their jobs.

The end result of all the externalisation is that I get to take a ridiculously enjoyably vacation for 8 days for less than 500$, which includes delicious foods all day around.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I am conflicted, because I am someone who really wants to get somewhere without having to live on the shoulders of anyone else. I want to live a more sustainable lifestyle that wastes less and that makes it so that when I leave this planet, I’ve left it with a bit more than less.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Let me put those thoughts to one side first though. 

 

Despite my hippie side, there are other things that I want to do in life– like get through law school in one piece, and eventually have a successful career, and start a family with CM.  But to do all this?

I need to survive first.

And that means knowing how to manage my mental state.  Deciding when enough is enough.

A day before we left on the vacation, I was so strained between thesis writing, working, and schooling that I had been sleeping 5-6 hours per night for 4 nights in a row.  I was going to school or working every weekday from 9-5, coming home, having dinner, and then writing papers until 11 or 12 at night.  It was, frankly, killing me.

But it wasn’t in the cards for me to give anything up– the way that things were scheduled, I just had to do all of it.

Quitting really wasn’t much of an option, because I had set a goal of finishing the licensing course and my postgrad degree by a certain time of the year (before my visa runs out).  I mean, sure, quitting is always an option– but it’s not a very good one.  I decided I could tough it out. And I did.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Part of what enabled me to get through that hellish period, which was worse than any final exam preparation period, was that I decided to just cut back on the perfectionism.  I started calculating my time in terms of my ability to provide an efficient return on results.  If the efficiency started to drop, then it was time to say that was enough for now– move on to a new task and cover the field with some effort, rather than focus too much on any one area and just get a few good results here or there.

 

 

In reality, this is what people do in the adult world all the time.  You do the best you can with the time you’ve got.  I think that university is really bad for students like that– it gives you this illusion that all you need is dedication.  In a  university situation, you laregely have huge amounts of time to prepare for a final exam or an essay– it is the procrastination that kills you with stress when you try to cram it all in.  It’s not so bad because a couple of week of exams and it’s all over right?  Then the problems dissapear.

In the adult world, there is always something else to do.  I’m not saying that this means that you don’t do your best– but I am saying that doing your best at work is only part of doing your best at life– and you need to manage your energy in that way.  You need to pick and chose your battles.  And not only that, you need to treat the situation like a marathon– not a sprint.  You can’t burn yourself out too early– getting to the finish line is more important than passing some people in the short term.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

Part of my strongest features, I think, is that I have a pretty good understanding of my limitations.  Yes, I bitch a lot– and you as readers get to read a hell a lot of my bitching.  But this all here is more me recording what I’m doing and how it taxes me than it is me really bitching about things totally out of my control.

I generally know how tell myself that enough is enough.  Which is why there is a lot of wisdom in me being passionate about non-academic and non-professional pursuits– because those alternate lives are what I use to escape to and allow my brain to exhale.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

Long story short– I am back from vacation.  But just as some people live from paycheque to paycheque, I am living from assignment to assignment.  I never really look at anything more than 2 days before it’s due (either at school or at work) because there is so much on my plate, and so many plates behind that one, that there’s nothing to be done except do what I can in the time I have.

Yes, I write a lot on this blog that is negative. This too is part of my self-medication.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

This post is all over the place because I’m really exhausted.

-=-=-=-=-

The secret of living a balanced life is giving a fuck, and knowing when to stop giving a fuck, in order to balance your mental health in a way where you retain the ability to enjoy things and maintain connections with those around you.  If you lose the love of what you’re doing, or those around you, what’s left?

Scissors versus Rock

When you can’t win with the facts, win with the law

When you can’t win with power, win with strategy

When you can’t win with technique, win with tenacity

 

Of course, these aren’t rock-paper scissors scenarios– largely, these are saying that even scissors can beat a rock if you have a large enough pair of scissors!

There are a lot of these situations where you’re simply not good at something.  This applies to all facets of life.  There are always going to be methods of doing things that you’re not good at– but you can get better at things, or you can use your other strengths in the meantime.

Without meaning to brag, I’m generally a pretty good public speaker if I’m given license to manage the room how I want.  Speaking in legal contexts is a bit different– I’m not in control of the room, I’m directing the attention and understanding of a judge, which means that there’s a whole formalised system of how I do that. So I still have a lot to learn in this regard.

But where I fall short of confidence in standing up and speaking at hearings, I make up for it in what I do have as good, transferrable skills to the situation.  I’m great at research; nobody organises documentation like I do; and I can stare right back at anybody with a perfect poker face.

 

So that’s where I put my effort in, until the areas in which I am found wanting get better.

 

I just don’t understand the people who don’t try on any front.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

If one is going to engage in something, why not do it well?

Why shoot oneself in the foot by undertaking to do something that one doesn’t want to do well?

I’m not saying that you have to be an Olympian, a Valedictorian, or the Survivor.  What I am saying is that effort is an indicator of pride in one’s work.

All those feelings that people get related to low-self esteem? I can probably guess that that has something to do with not knowing what one wants.

I think that if you know what you want, then it’s a lot easier to put things in black and white and grey– it’s a lot easier to be focused to to know who you by categorising or qualifying the world around you in terms of your objectives.  That sense of place, a space where you exist in relation to everything else, is where we derive self-esteem from.

Your Honour, I move to have all my friends struck off the roll

15:30 in the afternoon.

I got out of the first round of mock interlocutory proceedings at about13:30– we’d been “in court” since 9:00AM. Most other classes had gotten out by about 10:30 or so.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-

In lawyer talk, “friends” refers to fellow lawyers, and to be “struck off the roll” means to have their practicing certificate revoked.  Usually this is done if you’re incompetent.

Not that

Well, I guess that’s not really possible, since I”m not actually in court; the teacher in front of the room is a solicitor, not a judge; and my friends aren’t even on the roll anyhow, since we’re all doing our licensing course.

But I was pretty pissed off this morning. Pretty pissed off because although this was a mock interlocutory application hearing, and even though it was our first one, the majority of the class didn’t do their homework to make their cases go as smoothly as they could manage.

I am not against people being beginners– I’m a beginner too. But what I can’t stand is when people don’t give a shit and waste everyone’s time watching them slog their way through a field of mud for stupid reasons.

Some of the real smart (and by smart, I mean idiotic things done by my peers today:

  • objecting to their own client’s affidavit
  • not numbering the paragraphs or pages of their client’s affidavit, and then giving the judge a different version (so that every referene to the affidavit had to be referenced by “a page after that, after the words blah blah”
  • not knowing if the applicant was a plaintiff or defendant (not knowing who their own client was…)
  • not knowing what their client wanted (hmm… money, maybe?)
  • relying on paragraphs of an affidavit that have been struck out, just a few minutes ago
  • saying “well, because that’s what it is!” as ‘evidence’ instead of saying “I direct Your Honour’s attention to Annexure C of the Affidavit of …”
  • Objecting to the entireity of the opponent’s client’s affidavit, all at once.

God, teachers have it so tough.  If I was them, I would have just told them all off for obviously not doing their homework.  Although today’s practice run was for grades, it really just reflects poorly on everyone when a bit of effort would have made things a lot more educational for everyone.

My life as a role playing game

Went to the physiotherapist today.  First time back in that place since November.  December was in Hong Kong working, January was me doing intensive summer classes, February was more summer classes, March was my practical legal training (licensing) course, and … wait. It’s still march.  Wow where did those last 4 months just go?

 

For those of you who have problems with joints, I highly recommend spending the time to find a good physiotherapist.  It’s actually quite difficult, because they’re really hit or miss.  Some of them baby you too much and don’t explain to you what’s going on with your body or why you’re doing whatever exercises you’re doing.  Some of them are too technical.  Some of them just want to make money.  But if you find one that’s just right? Stick with them.

I know a lot of you people out there like to go to chiropractors and take herbal medicine and all that, but I’m very much wary of those sorts of things– I’m sure there are a few good people out there, but the idea of having someone crank parts of my body or taking chemicals (natural or not) without any recognised clinical evidence is a really not a good idea.

 

Physiotherapy is a lot like going to the gym, or signing up for a yoga class– except that there’s a focus on understanding specific muscles and ligaments, and how small things can really throw a wrench / spanner in the works.  I’ve had personal trainers in gyms before, and sure– they’ll give you a program to make your body look good.  But will they give you an actually functionally balanced body?

I’ve only been doing physiotherapy for the past year or so, but the results have been great.  About half a year ago, I severely damaged my surpraspinatus (part of the rotator cuff) to the point where opening doors that had those hyradulic auto-close-behind-you things on them was actually difficult.  Even brushing my teeth with an electric toothbrush was painful.  And while sure, time heals everything, one of the major themes that goes through physio is that your body doesn’t always heal things in the right way.

Since my rotator cuff injury, I’ve rebalanced my shoulders.  Plural.  Not only does my dominant right arm (the injured one) work almost as good as before the injury, but I’m confident that I’ve rebalanced the muscles throughout the shoulder so that the liklihood of that injury reoccuring has substnatially diminished.  As good measure, I’ve also been working the left shoulder so that it can enjoy the wisdom obtained by his brother.

My most recent injury was to my knee.  I’ve always had problematic knees, ever since high school– volleball and Jeet Kune Do was terrible for them.  But about three weeks ago, while doing some groundwork at an Orientation Week club demonstration, my overzealous partner did something weird. I heard some rice crispies noises (snap, crackle, pop) and next day, I couldn’t walk without a cane.

I thought it was a lateral collateral ligament from self-diagonising myself with youtube, but the physio did some tests and set the record straight– wasn’t too far off the mark, but he says it’s an illiotibiial band sprain.  The good news is that since I’ve been working my ITB since about a half year ago, I’m already mostly doing what I need to do to rehabilitate this knee. In fact, even though the injury was 3 weeks ago and I haven’t had the time to see him until now, the fact that I’ve been doing knee related exercises and streches consistently during the injured time is probably why today I can already run and do judo.  Otherwise put, my usual physio routine has made my recovery time signifiacantly shorter.

 

My knee still isn’t perfect, but my point is that the physiothearpy solution to knee problems makes a hella lot more sense than some of the things that chiropractors and herabalists claim.  Yank my knee this way or that way? Make me eat glucossamine?

 

Knee pain is usually due to ligaments or tendons getting inflammed, caught or rubbing in places that they shouldn’t due to lack of flexibility or a disbalanace of antagonistic muscles. So the solution to a knee problem isn’t to just hit it until it works they way you want it to, nor is it to take some pills to kill the pain or magically regenerate cartilege.  It has to do with fixing the machinery that stabilises the knee to begin with.

 

In my case, my right knee is supported by a weak gluteus maxius, an overpowered hamstring, a really tight hip flexor, and a really tight ITB.  So what I need to do is basically stretch all of the above, and work that glute more.

It’s interesting how when the physio pointed it out, the muscle development on my right leg is significantly different from the development of my left leg– you can feel it just by touching.

 

 

In the past, I’ve thought of calling it quits— stopping martial arts altogether due to acumulated injuries and creaks and groans.  But physio?  Physio has unlcoked this entirely new gaming experience for me– in which I get to customise and balance a character who happens to be me.

It has somewhat changed my outlook on life completely.  The problem with any game is that once you beat it, you don’t pick it up again.  Things go obsolete and that’s that.  But suddenly?  Suddenly I’ve discovered that not only can I work on the world around me– but I can actually work on myself.  And that’s an interesting revelation.  

 

Although it was my shoulder that I injured about 6 months ago, at the time I did ask him about my knee pains as well.  Since then, I’ve been working on rehabilitating my knees.  I’ve cut down on biking to balance out the muscle mass of my quads and calves.  I’ve stretched more dilligently, I’ve worked on deeper rangers of motion.  And the results?  The results show, and I can feel them.  Even with the recent injury, my knees are more stable now than they’ve been in years.

Nowadays, I treat the physio exercises like grinding away at a JRPG.  I’m putting points into specific muscle groups, either in strength of flexibility.  And then I’m keeping in mind how putting points into those stats affects the balance of the localised area, and how that local capability translates to the whole body’s dynamics.  Essentially, I am building a machine out of my own body, experimenting on the best builds and trying to find a setup that best works for what I need it to do.

As with gaming, I’ve been being consistent and miticulous.  I’ve been paying attention to the ranges of motion available to me; how much effort it takes to squat the same weight people at judo; how much time it takes to warm up a muscle group; how much it takes to make that area sore; and the kinds of injuries I get.

 

Yesterday, I did randori against a white belt.  He was 18 kilos heavier than me (about 30 pounds).  Not only that, but he’s a highly fit guy.  It’s the first time I do sparring since the knee injury, but it’s also been three weeks of very specifically intended work on balancing my body.  Even though I did the sparring left handed, and had my right leg back at all times (which means that I really only have particular left handed throws available) I was highly successful and never felt like I was out of my element.  The confidence of knowing that my body was working the way I wanted to work really counted for a lot– it meant that I could operate less violently and take my time. I didn’t need to take any extreme measures to will my way through tight situations– I just needed to use my muscles the way I could, say balanced and low, and do my job.  It’s true that he was a white belt– but even so, I think I’m pretty proud of myself to say that with one knee on the rehab list and doing everything on my non-dominant side, it is not a small thing to throw an 86 kilogram person down to the ground..

On the ground, I was doing groundwork with some other people and similarly did really well.  In a strange way, really paying attention to my body over the past month has given me a very different and new sense of confidence in sparring.  It’s a bit hard to describe.

 

I guess the easiest way of putting it is that in the past, a lot of my “substance” as a fighter has been iron will, or fighting spirit.  A lot of the other orange belts who started at the same time as me recgnise that the difference between me and them is that I’m not scared of any of them– and that gives them a reason to be afraid of me when we spar or compete against eachother.  That fighting spirit comes from being willing to hurt people.  I’m not saying I’m going to gouge out your eyes or something like that– but I am willing to throw you down, which is actually something that beginners in judo have a hard time developing.  It’s a sort of focused agression or killing instinct.

 

But lately, that energy has been changing.  I think, because I’m becoming more attuned to my own body and capabilities, there’s a gradual philosophical shift in the way I conduct myself.  Now, I’m seeking technical superiority.  I have enough willpower to match even some of the most agressive opponents– but now, I’m relying more on technical and leveral advantages.  I have a better understanding nowadays of the angles that my body works at and doesn’t work at– and that has given me better options and allowed me to make better choices in situations, trading up a few moves ahead of my opponent.

 

Where was I going with all this… physiotherapy is good for me.   If you have problems with your body, take an interest in it.  Go see your general practitioner, sure– but keep in mind that your health is an involved process.  You can’t just treat it like a car with bi-monthly checkups– you have to take an interest in it.  You have to do the maintenance.  You have to appreciate its limitations and the ways that it can be improved.

 

I suppose I don’t yet have a flying car, but some advances have been made, and I do appreciate them for the quality of life they’ve given back to me.

College of Law

super rant to follow.

So today was my first day doing the “Practical Legal Training” stuff– essentially, the last bit of formal schooling I’ll need to do.  Well, not exactly last when I really think about it.  I still have to finish my final papers for my actual postgraduate law degree in tandem.

Read the rest of this entry »

On the Bright Side

  • My knee’s lateral collateral ligament is a lot less angry at me today.  But that’s what over 2000 milligrams of ibuprofen, ice, and having my elevated on an overturned laundry basket (while I lie on my back on the living room floor or in bed to do work on my netbook) for a couple of days will do for you.  Frankly, considering how the morning after the injury I couldn’t even walk, I’m really surprised at how fast it’s recovering: today, I can bend my knee almost normally, I can walk quickly and without a cane for support.  No, I’m not going to try running or judo for at least a few more days.
  • I got the printer working with my netbook last week, which is a huge boon because normally, Linux just hates peripherals, period.  Well, more like, Linux hates hardware and will almost never make anything easy for you.  I sometimes wonder why I don’t just go back to Windows, but then I remember: I’m a solicitor in training, and one of the areas I enjoy working in is intellectual property (including copyrights).  I’d be kind of a dick if I was still pirating as much as I was when I was genuinely poor.  That, and every time I boot up a machine with Windows and it takes me more than a minute or two, it makes me cringe a little.
  • I should add that no, we didn’t buy a printer that we couldn’t use– but {CM]’s laptop, which does run Windows (and interfaces with the printer perfectly) is with her in Canada for the next couple of weeks.  So I’ve had to fend off the wolves for myself for the last little while.  GIven that I have to do research for three research papers, one of which is due in two weeks, having a printer is helpful.
  • I’ve finally gotten off my ass and decided to sell a crapload of older PS3 games.  It’s not difficult to do– it’s just a matter of getting it all lined up and writing it all down into a Craigslist ad.
  • I finally got through all the essay questions for a job application– the tough part has been reducing the essays to 200 words or less, which is the limit for each question.  The questions are, in my opinion, huge questions, in the sense that they’re so broad that you’d be able to write a 5000 word essay to answer them.  Once [DilligentB] writes back with her comments, I’ll be finalising that application.
  • I started reading the College of Law materials for class next week, and was pleasantly surprised– the materials are very practical and deal with things which, in my opinion, should be taught in universities at the very beginning of the program.  There are a lot of things, such as how to draft advice and legal correspondence, that I had to look like an idiot and learn on the job.  It would have saved me a lot of trouble if I had just learned these things early on before getting part time legal work.  But I guess that’s the whole point of this “Practical Legal Training” prerequisite to our licensing.  That said, I think I’ll enjoy these courses a lot more than the uni classes, which have been way too theoretical and detached from actual practice for my tastes.
  • I got a 20$ gift certificate from the local supermarket today, because I spent 102.53$.  Yes, I had to spend 100 bucks to get 20 bucks back, and it wasn’t easy to buy 100 dollars worth, let me tell you– but I managed to stock up on neccesities like dishwashing tablets and cell phone credit, which I can use as needed.

The Dodgeball Theory

20140204-151550.jpg

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?