Monday, March 23, 2009

Now We Are Six(th Kyu)

I finally broke down and bought the Orange Box. I'm kinda excited because I can now play Team Fortress 2 with some fellow reviewers, and I can finally play Portal, which I've heard so many good things about (and the fact that it's a puzzle game is an amazing plus), but I'm bizarrely not excited about Half-Life 2. As is, it's a miracle in itself that I'm playing TF2, a kill-your-opponents game, because I've never really been into shmups (although yes, TF2 technically is more than just a shmup). Maybe someday I'll get around to playing HL2, or maybe someday I'll just pass it off to someone as a gift. Does anyone know if you can pass off games that you've purchased on Steam but not yet installed?

Anyway, while TF2's downloading, I thought I'd put in a little blog update. Not that I expect to be playing it anytime within the next six hours (wait, this is taking up how many gigs of space?), but with my connection slowed down a bit due to having something better to do, I figured I might as well put in some time doing something productive elsewhere. I felt bad about leaving my last post being something that really only mattered for a couple of days (although BFG had another game sale this past weekend with code SPRINGBREAK... whoops), so I wanted to get something up as quickly as possible just to freshen things up. I actually tried two separate posts late last Tuesday night, but they were both so amazingly incoherent that I couldn't bear to even finish them. (That, and the general fact that they went absolutely nowhere anyway.) Today though, I have a solid topic to talk about, so let's put the Maria Rita on loop and go for it.

The title for today's post was lovingly lifted from a book of poems by A. A. Milne that I got a while back (it was... oh yes, on my sixth birthday). Unfortunately, poetry didn't really interest me back then, nor does it really interest me much now. I usually read over a piece of poetry like any other bit of prose, rather flatly and emotionlessly. So far as I can remember, only one poem has ever really stood out to me in a "huh, that's interesting" sort of way. That was Walt Whitman's "When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer."

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

For whatever reason, the events I'll eventually get around to detailing in this post made me think back to this book of poetry, which I never even read, even in the almost fifteen years I've owned it. I dug out the book, and found that there really is no poem entitled "Now We Are Six," but instead the title comes from the last poem of the book (entitled "The End"), which is apropos for this post, so I might as well retype it here as well:

When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive..

But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Abrupt subject jump: Let's talk karate. For those of you wondering, the famed "5000 Katas" tally disappeared rather quickly. Why? Well, once I started getting into the dojo and practicing the katas more heavily, I realized a tremendous problem: I lost count almost immediately. All of a sudden, the need to actually think about the movements in the katas and to focus on my stances and strikes and blocks completely overshadowed a petty little tally. If I focused on the numbers, the katas wouldn't have been good, and the entire exercise would have been futile. So for the 5000 katas plan to actually work, I would need to rent a midget to do the counting for me, so I could focus on the katas. (Why a midget? Simply put, he needs to fit inside my gym bag.) So yeah, 5000 Katas is dead in practice, although not in spirit. I'm still chugging along, just without the tangible steps toward a goal.

Since I've not had much more important things to do during the day than write reviews, prepare for work in the evening, or do whatever oddjob needs done around the house, I've been finding myself at the dojo roughly six days a week to work out. There are a couple of us who try to get together roughly lunchtime-ish (according to their work schedules) to spar around a bit, and there are another cluster of us who have been meeting after school-ish (according to their school schedules) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to work on different things, and I still have the usual classes Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons for organized group practices. To say the least, I've been practicing a lot, and a lot of different things. I've since started work with on a lot of kenjutsu exercises, including working on the Toyamaryu katas and preparing for a possible trip to a chanbara tournament in P'burgh next month. I'm pretty sure that if I could spend full days practicing in the dojo with someone, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.

Last week though was sort of hellish though. Why? Testing. Need I say more? Those who know me know that I am bizarrely panicky when it comes to any sort of major test or examination. This past week was no different. I still went in town to the dojo everyday to practice as usual, but I could feel my nerves taking a hold of me. My mind was racing the entire week, and I had a hard time relaxing. (Okay, so not being able to relax is a running problem for me, but you get the point.) The night before the test, I had a hard time falling asleep, and I felt sick to the stomach for that entire day. I went into the test an absolutely jittery blob, and came out feeling like so much less. All of the katas that I had been working on for months were terrible, I blanked when it came time to recall terms and wazas, and honestly, I feel that it's by miracle alone that I passed that test.

Now I am sixth kyu. A blue belt. I was quite displeased that I had gotten to that level in the way that I did, because I felt that I had done a terrible job. I have no doubt in my mind that what I did was a terrible job. Nonetheless, I somehow passed, and found myself in the dojo the next day, wearing the hakama I wear for practicing kenjutsu, with a blue obi. I don't think I actually practiced that day. Instead, I sat on the floor of the dojo and meditated something fierce. I love the irony in how I phrased that, "meditated something fierce," but it's really the most accurate way of describing what I did then. I've never really been able to meditate before, but something actually worked this time around. For the last week, I had been completely unable to empty my mind and just relax, and the morning after, I finally accomplished thinking about nothing for probably the first time in my life. It's a nice feeling. I kinda miss it.

Anywho, I guess if there's one thing I "got" out of that time, it was that I came to accept my "fate," per se. I've come a long way since when I first started practicing karate back in what, June? Since then, I've picked up so much knowledge not just on karate but also kenjutsu and other fun forms, and it's weird to think that at one point in time in my life, I never thought I'd even make it this far. And yet, here I am. I have great potential, and I can't talk myself into thinking otherwise. After the test on Thursday, I managed to learn Heian Sandan in a matter of ten minutes on Friday and fifteen minutes on Saturday, with more fine-tuning today. When I first started, Heian Shodan took well over three days to get the hang of, but here I am now, understanding everything that's going on, and everything flowing so much more naturally.

I'm still by no means perfect in what I do, nor do I expect to be anytime soon. I'm still bitter about the test, but all I can do is just work out my kinks (and my tics) and just prepare myself for next time. I've come a long way, I can't deny myself that, and I have so much further to travel. Now I am sixth kyu, and I am clever as clever. But I can only hope that I will continue to grow for ever and ever.

Actually, in retrospect, that was kind of a dumb way to tie everything together.

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