So not a single person responded to my forum question…such a shame 🙂 We are so grateful to you, our readers, but it would be nice if a few more of you would comment every once in a while. We want to know what you’re thinking. We already know a lot about our fellow hagsaeng naebu, in fact, we spend so much time together that our answers and reactions to certain things posted on here have already become quite predictable. All the more reason why we want to hear from our readers. Don’t be shy…we check every comment before it’s posted so we wouldn’t let anyone say anything mean-spirited in response to something you’ve written! Anyway, just a plug for more active readers! Take it or leave it!
I’m counting down the days until our next meeting in the third week of August, which is quickly approaching. I am continuing to fill my free time by practicing with my weighted hoop and reading. When I’m not reading for work (i.e. collecting sermon material) I find myself drawn time and time again to my growing personal martial arts library (far more limited than Master Pearson’s…I can’t wait to get my hands on some of that material again soon!). The problem is, everything i have on my shelves, I’ve already read for the most part. But I find there is a certain comfort in re-reading some of these books. In fact, there is one book that I own (not a martial arts book actually) that I re-read every single year. Entitled, As a Driven Leaf, the book resonates differently with me every time I read it. So now I’m trying that with some other things. I just re-finished the Dalai Lama’s text Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart. Flipping through it, I noticed a lot of underlining and margin notes made in purple marker and I realized that the first and last time I read this text was when I was 14 and a senior camper at the Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, MA. It’s amazing how just seeing my handwriting and my thoughts from that time and place, sent a flood of memories rushing back to me. Incidentally, that was the same summer that I had borrowed my first book from Master Pearson’s IME office library. I can’t recall what the text was but I remember it was a collection of stories and short chapters on various tenants of martial arts practice. There was one section that described a rooster fight. This was as far as I got in the book because I lost it somewhere on our camp trip to Montreal, Canada. I literally panicked, fearing that he would, at minimum never let me borrow anything again and at maximum and probably more likely, kill me on the spot upon my return. When I got back to Rochester at the end of the summer, I bought a fresh copy of the book and quietly slipped it into its place on Master Pearson’s shelf…he was never the wiser. At least until now!
At any rate, summer always makes me nostalgic for my youth and martial arts is a huge part of that nostalgia for me. Today, in fact, I spent a good chunk of the day making the most of the large amount of empty space I have in my apartment, using it as a make-shift dojang for the afternoon. I wanted to practice some of the things which were fresh in my mind… the 5 Element Forms, Ji-Tae (which I recently taught myself), some of the new weapons stuff we’ve been working on, etc. However I couldn’t really focus on any of these things. Instead, I spent a few hours running through some material which I haven’t practiced in years. One of the cool things about Shin Ho Kwan and its history is there was a period of time during which our curriculum was highly in flux. Testing requirements floated around from rank to rank as instructors determined what really belonged at each level, different series of forms were introduced to help balance out the desire of students to learn more and push themselves. This evolution was a good thing and every art and every school goes through it (at least every good, forward thinking, progressive school. There are, of course, some schools which teach what they teach for generations not because it works, but because no one creative has ever thought to question it). There is however, one downside to this evolution. From time to time, certain techniques, or forms fall out of curriculum due to various circumstances and therefore the chance to practice them regularly is diminished a great deal. So I spent the day re-visiting some of these forms and techniques. True, my proficiency had declined significantly, but the effect of this kind of practice was not unlike re-reading that book for the second time. It was amazing how many random details about these forms I could remember; how I was able to replicate in my mind the exact time and place in which I had first learned it, who was there and who was absent, where on the training floor I was standing, etc. In the end I was a bit emotionally overwhelmed by the whole thing!
It’s always interesting to return to our past. For me, this is easily done through practicing old techniques. There is an inherent value in doing this. Not only are we physically engaging with old material which is good for the mind and body, but we’re also able to be a part of the living memory those techniques have contained for hundreds of years…and that is good for the soul.
What things did you used to do as a martial artist that you no longer do? Pull out those old manuals and journals and try your hand at those old forms which maybe you haven’t done in years. Let us know what your experience is like.