Monthly Archives: July 2017

Aikido: “It’s like surfing.”

I took a co-worker to Aikido practice a few weeks back. He was a complete beginner, but was an accomplished surfer. His body was flexible, and he moved a lot. When I trained with him, it was a good workout.

After practice, he made comparisons with surfing – about how he was reminded of learning to maintain one’s balance, about sensing the momentum of a wave, and moving with it.

He asked me – “Today, everyone was very polite and accommodating to each other. Is Aikido ever nasty?” I told him yes, it is a martial art, and I have been guilty of throwing people hard when they resisted. But at the same time, I expect to be thrown very hard when I resist, and it is very fulfilling.

“People do Aikido for different reasons. We can help each other to become stronger. It can be like a dance. But it is a martial art. Ultimately we are studying how to fight. What about surfing?” I asked.

Well, the thing with surfing is that only one person can ride the wave. Everyone is watching for where the wave will come, and it’s a fight to get to the spot where you can ride it. If you are strong enough and can read the waves well enough, you can be the first one to the spot. When I was learning to surf, we would travel places, and sometimes the local people wouldn’t let us surf. My instructor would get really mad, and sometimes there would be fistfights on shore. But, in the water, there’s little you can do.

I used to do that, too. I was good enough that I could ride the wave whenever I wanted. But now, I don’t think that that is such a fair thing to do.

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Personal Ecosystem

There is a jumping spider about the size of my thumbnail who lurks in the area around my bathtub. I saw it this morning as I took my morning shower, close to the drain, and afraid that I might flush it accidentally down the drain, I made it crawl onto my hand, by putting one hand in front of it, and pushing it from behind with the other. it crawled on, and after crawling a bit, must have become scared, as it played dead. I put it down at the back of the bathtub, which is connected to a shelf on which there is a Listerine bottle behind which I have seen it hiding. (The Listerine bottle being translucent, I can see if the spider is hiding behind it.) Scattered around the bottle are various corpses of ants and flies, remnants of its previous meals.

It playing dead, and my hands being wet from the shower, it stood face down in a bead of water where I had left it. After my shower, fearing it might drown, I took the edge of my towel and wicked the bead of water away. The spider still played dead. “It’s alright buddy.” I said. “Take care, now.”

This is the longest friendship I have had with a spider. I check for it when I shower, and I see it once a day at least. Jumping spiders I have seen at Hongu Taisha Shrine in Japan are very tame. They would jump on my arm and let me pet them, but the one in my shower will shy away, though it will turn around a look at me. Jumping spiders, like praying mantises, have good binocular vision for hunting, and to have an insect look back at me gives me to odd sense of it having a personality. My bathroom has a resonant frequency, and if I hum a little tune that has notes at the resonant frequency, the spider will move a little. Maybe it knows my voice.

I have two other web spiders of different species, the web of one of whom I have found the corpse of a cockroach, at first looking freshly dead, and then a couple days later its exoskeleton shriveled and empty-looking.

I have discovered recorded sounds of the forest on Youtube, and for the past two nights I have listed to this track while I fall asleep. I find it deeply relaxing. When I have headphones on, I am transported to the stereo soundscape of a forest, in the rain, with chirping crickets, hooting owls, and the occasional crow. It is expansive. I feel that I am in a space where I can hear for hundreds of meters around, the insects and owls off in the distance watching over things, and signaling to me that it is safe. There are no predators. I can breathe easily.

Incantation

When biking in Hualien, my friend and I passed by the Honglim Smoke House (鳯林菸樓). Built during the Japanese period, it is in a Japanese mud-daub style, and was built for drying and pickling vegetables using technology that the Japanese brought to Taiwan. After being restored by the Taiwanese government in the 90s, the private caretakers have basically left it to rot, and it is now filled with surplus building materials, trash, and guarded by two rather mean dogs. They barked at us from inside, as we were peering inside the window of the smokehouse, and when we circled around, they stepped out and stood in the middle of the street. I wanted to cycle around to see the entrance of the smokehouse. I incanted. “You keep to yourself, and I’ll keep to myself. You don’t bother me, and I don’t bother you.” Then I signaled this in my body language and rode forward past them as if they weren’t there. They lay where they were, and pretended they didn’t see me. Up till then they had been very territorial. Once I had seen dog trainer legend Cesar Millan tame an aggressive dog by acting like a high-status dog: calm, unaggressive, not making eye contact, but moving confidently into the aggressive dog’s territory as if it were no big deal. This really works.

 

For Love

It is better to do things because you love to do them, without regard to whether you will get big.

Morenasso Sensualonda tells a story of when he was teaching kizomba (a dance originating in Angola) in France. To help popularize it, he would visit parties that advertised themselves as playing salsa, bachata, and kizomba music. He would arrive and there would be salsa music playing, and he would wait. “Salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, bachata, bachata, bachata…. Kizomba! and I would dance!, and then it would be over, and I would wait. Salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, bachata, bachata, bachata… Kizomba! The whole time the DJ would play only one Kizomba song an hour! And you couldn’t blame him. He was watching the dance floor, and if when he plays Kizomba, I am the only one on the dance floor, then he will not play that much Kizomba. In fact, if he played more Kizomba, people would be mad at him for not be doing his job!”

It can take a long time to teach and cultivate a circle of friends, who can then grow to a population of people who can dance. Kizomba is is now widely danced in Europe. I do not know whether Morenasso had set out to create a population of people would could dance to music that he loved, but I believe that had fashion not gone his way – that he would still be dancing it out of love.

If we do things for popularity, if we never get popular,  or if we fall in popularity, then we have nothing. If we do things out of love – it’s the only reason we need.