Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 2 of Seminar

Day 2 of the seminar saw some journalists down at the Salle to film us. Something about living history and that kind of thing.

Today saw a bit of abrazare, a lot of dagger work and some longsword for the crowd. I started the day incredibly low energy, and kind of sleepwalked through a lot of the techniques. My form suffered and it showed. Guy probably noticed as well - came over and corrected me a couple of times.

Second part of the day saw me get my second wind. Did better, got more learning in.

Again, I'm glad that some small but significant matters got corrected:

  1. Apparently my stance is too wide all this while. Guy described it well - if one imagines a square, my feet are occupying opposite corners of the square. This is wrong - it should occupy both corners of the same side of the square. I gain about a foot or two of measure this way.
  2. My pushing has been corrected. Instead of pushing against the chest and shoulders, go for the chin and head instead. When pushing encounters resistance, change the direction of the push. Push in the right place lightly beats pushing in the wrong place strongly.
  3. Structure is all-important. Maintain your structure, break his.
I'm sure Kenneth will have far more insights than I do, but these are the ones I've managed to pick up and hopefully retain. Tomorrow's stuff is probably a dagger round up and sword work. Am going to get an early night to rest up for tomorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

String Theory

I learnt to fight with string today.

Apart from the obvious cool factor of that, I took a lot away from the first day of the seminar in Finland.

Once again, Kenneth goes into the pedagogical and technical aspects of the session; I don't need to belabour the point. I will go more into the personal development dimensions of the seminar.

I start with a somewhat suprising revelation - I may be passionate about the sword, but I am not entirely prepared to give up my life entirely for it. If the others here have a love affair with swordsmanship, I have probably a strong friendship with it.

That said, I've always been most interested in swordsmanship as a personal development tool, and that is what I shall focus on.

  1. Our martial art comes off a 16th century manuscript. Note I do not say "based off" or "derived from" a manuscript. For all intents and purposes it is the same martial art taught off the manuscript - or as close to it as we can get to it. While I have learnt content from the book, I've never learnt it in the order that the book presented. This small difference in the seminar and the way I normally learn it makes a vast difference to me; it allows me a bigger insight into the historical way the martial art is taught and gives the thought processes behind using the martial art more structure. In short, there is value in keeping it real.
  2. There are times where I am tempted to make things up when I don't know something. That is just ego. The irony is, the manuscript itself provides notes on variations, and possible applications. Often what I can make up is far inferior to what has already been provided and thought through by people who have a far more vested interest in the outcomes of these applications. In short, if you don't know something, check it up. Don't make up shit.
  3. In the course of learning this martial art, mistakes creep in. These may be small mistakes like hunching when you should be extending, not raising your arms enough and the such. These small mistakes matter, and happen because the human body is inherently lazy. To make sure your body does things properly, you must train. In short, practice, practice, practice. Don't just think about it.
  4. In the course of practising the martial arts, the simple moves work a lot better than complicated moves. The reason is that the simple can be executed without too much fuss. In the chaos of a fight, a simple move is more likely to be used and executed well than a complicated one. Do not mistake simple for shallow. In short, simplify, simplify, simplify.
That's all for now. Laptop running out of batteries. Will write more after the seminar.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Small Successes

The trick, as in all things, is with the small things.

Kenneth has written up an awesome series of posts regarding his growing insight into the art of swordsmanship. I will not repeat what he has to write, but suffice to say that much of what he has to write, I agree with.

My current tally in Helsinki is 4 training sessions, two a day. The training and pedagogy is completely alien to me, and yet makes a lot of sense. In it, where I was saw static drills, I now see drills as what they are - training tools. That alone is worth the trip here.

That isn't the only thing that I've learnt though.

My first four lessons here were spent learning basic material again - stuff that I should be proficient in before I got here, but wasn't. Going through the material again under the watchful eyes of Guy is something else. I managed to correct quite a number of things that I've been doing wrong systematically. I don't know whether my form has improved or not - thats for other people to judge, but I feel my movements becoming smoother and less gummed up.

It's with the small successes that I'm developing my insights from. Something as simple as raised hands, a flapping elbow and one fewer step in a drill makes a vast difference in the execution.

I'm also glad I made the time to come down to Helsinki to train. Apart from the opportunity to train, it is also the opportunity to get away from work and life stress. I also got time to spend with people that I don't get enough time with nowadays.

Heading for this retreat made me realise I've got an awful lot of clutter in my life that I would like to cut down. In life the simple things matter. Do them well, invest in them and you get your dividends. Investing in clutter just creates more clutter.

More later when I get the chance to write or when I get home.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Heading to Helsinki

Be back in a few weeks.

Friday, June 20, 2008

How Do I Go On?

An anonymous commentator asked me:

"On those days when you were chugging along without being able to find meaning or make any sense of things, how do you make yourself continue?"
That's a good question. I'll share with you a little insight of what I learnt in California.

My first night in California was cold and miserable. I didn't get an ounce of sleep because of jet lag and the fact that I was basically in a sleeping bag on the floor of my rented apartment. I missed home badly. I called home hysterically, and I was in tears.

It wasn't the call home that made me feel better though. It was the resolution I made to myself that night. I promised to make my situation better in small ways, starting by getting a mattress.

The next day, fatigued and jet lagged, I dragged a queen sized mattress home by myself, up a flight of stairs, through a narrow corridor. I must have been desperate.

Every day brought about new improvements. New chairs, new desk, new cable connection, a TV, then a TV stand. Pretty soon, the apartment was nice and comfortable.

You see, meaning is what you make of it. When the big things don't make sense, focus on the small. Sooner or later, when you have accumulated enough small victories, the world reshapes itself around those victories.


I hope I answered your question, Anonymous, especially the one that was unasked but implied. I don't know what works for you, but I've found that plugging your way through a series of minor accomplishments does wonders. Sooner or later, on the back of these minor accomplishments, a major revelation will happen and there, you will find your sense and meaning.

Friday, June 13, 2008

No Story Ever Ends... merely gives the basis for a new beginning.

Two years back, I worked an unpaid internship for a software company in California. I wrote about my heartache and trials here.

My writings on my unpaid internship:

"Why am I insane enough to do this? The simple answer - I need every break I can get. I've already alluded to the difficulty of getting a visa sponsor. If I do a good job here, maybe, just maybe, word will get around. Besides, I promised almost a year ago that I will do absolutely everything in my power to stay. I'll not break that promise now."
Two years later, I got my break. Just not in the way I expected.


I was incredibly surprised when someone I didn't know about wrote dropped me an email. He tracked me down by the blog address I left on LinkedIn, he said. He told me he liked what he saw, and that there were people back in California vouching for me.

People back in California vouching for me, he said.


Deep down inside, I've been struggling for the longest time to make sense of what happened, that life-changing experience that got cut short. I thought I buried that part of my life, but I know better. It never leaves you. You just keep chugging along, and one day, inexplicably, it will make sense because you make it make sense. You answer that call from your past, and use it to build your future.

Now, just like then, I'm leaving people behind. This time, though, I know better. I know that the story between us will not end, because no story ever ends. Not unless you let it. I won't let it.

Don't call this an ending. Just another part of the great story we call "life".