Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Few Stray Thoughts

This is an odd one: the way it works is, bjj students generally train under a black belt. Black belt is the equivalent of a doctorate -- the teaching degree. When the instructor thinks it is appropriate, he'll promote a student to the next level. With bjj it tends to be a results thing -- not so important how many fancy moves you know, it's can you use what you know. Incremental mastery. Pragmatic. So everybody starts out as a white belt. You award it to yourself by deciding to train. After that it's somebody else's call. I didn't train for a belt, but I earned it. R is a world-renowned practitioner, and it was a privilege to be his student -- for all that it was just a business arrangement. It was meaningful to have him promote me to blue belt.

The black belt actually gives you the belt. It's an award. I'm shy about it, but I have come to recognized the psychological and social necessity of ceremony and ritual. Rites of passage. In my youth I avoided them like a curse. Didn't participate in my high school graduation. By college, I'd come to understand it. Although I didn't go to my M.Sc. ceremony. Point is, I had a belt from R. Well. You know how that story ended. Sort of shamefully.

So for the past year, there was always in the back of my mind the dim, grim reminder of that belt, earned but polluted. That's how I felt about it. Sullied. I don't know -- like a wedding ring from a betraying spouse. It's just emotion. It's giving the thing more importance than it deserves. But there it is.

Now I'm bumped up, to purple belt. I feel the need to ... not be worthy of it, not deserve it -- to be comfortable with it. Truthfully, it already feels natural. That's because I'm not rolling, to see how much I've forgotten. But a case could be made that a year ago I was ready, barely. I can get that back.

I have retired that blue belt. It's in a closet, awaiting time's demagnetizing effect. Back when I had more kids than I do now, I had them in hapkido, which has what seems like 30 or 40 belts. I didn't know there were that many colors, but I paid to find out. I tied the old belts to the bedpost. Tangible symbols of accomplishment and success. I myself have a white belt, and a blue belt. The white belt is now purple. So I have an old blue belt, my R belt, that buzzes just a little bit with unfinished business. Unfinishable business.

I ran intervals last night, meant to do nine, only did six because I felt a pull in a hip muscle, and I have learned to stop, or suffer longer. Cost-benefit analysis. Cut your loses. But I can't stand the thought of the lost time, having to do the nine next week. So I'm gonna be clever, I think. Eleven point nine is not all that fast. A five minute mile. Not really a sprint -- a fifth of a mile at that pace takes a minute ... I'm a math genius. Nobody sprints for a minute. Well, the machines go up to 14 mph. That's not a sprint either, but it's much tougher than 12.

So Friday I'm going back and do shorter, faster intervals, at 14 mph. See? It's different, but similar. I'm some sort of exercise genius. How long, distance or time? I'm thinking a tenth of a mile? -- or 15 or 20 seconds at speed? With three times that duration recovery? I don't know. It's foolish to get dogmatic about theory. I'll test it and find what's reasonable, and work out a plan from there. Mix it up after that, with the gradual progression of the longer intervals, and with more rounds of the faster 14s. So out of the disappointment of a twingy hip, I've come up with another fantastically brilliant scheme. Ah. Genius.

I'm thinking of starting a significant building project. One that involves two stories and a sewage pump. Doable, but sort of intimidating. Building permits? I got yer permit right here, pal.

And I'm getting restless about bjj. There's nowhere close, and there's nowhere a little farther that has an everyday schedule that works well for me. But two-three times a week? Part of it is that I'm not satisfied with how much energy I'm using. CF puts me down, but I get right back up, and there's not infrequently a p-factor dissatisfaction, where I know I didn't do my best. I want to atone for that, and bjj may do it. (By the way, the Ever-Expanding List of p-factor excuses really is ever-expanding. Every week so far I've come up with new ones. They actually work, while they're needed. Not after they're exposed though. So my crafty mind keeps coming up with new ones. I'm a p-genius.)

I don't talk about my plans much. It's a trust thing. Not just about you -- about God, and life, and failure. As a kid I could never picture myself as an adult. I'm not much of an adult. I'm amazed at how people do it -- take the leap, chose a career, get married, buy a house, plan a family. There's so much trust involved in all of that.

If you could see my soul, it would look like the victim of a serial killer who's a genius with a knife.


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