Monday, June 1, 2009


I find that not being the beginner makes a difference. I'm new, but I'm old, if you get my meaning. So while I make a big phony show about being so humble, I get a chance to say what I know -- which is limited, but it has the virtue of clarity.

I rolled with some white and some blue belts this morning. First, it's sort of surprising that I do handle the blue belts. I wasn't all that great technically, before, aside from my odd body composition, and I'm way out of practice, but there was no challenge, aside from the heat and the tired. In the back of my mind I was wondering if W promotes people too soon. Of course, it would all be much sooner than R does, or did. There's probably benefit in this -- really earning it. Point is, I'm getting the idea that no one doubts that I really am a p belt. There's that tiny voice of insecurity that even the very very most gifted and brilliant people might sometimes have, after all. And introspection is yet another one of my countless endearing qualities.

Not everyone is a teacher. It's a rare thing, apparently. Because it's not enough to know, and not enough to show. The steps have to be understood and pointed out and rehearsed and supervised. While I was rolling, even with blue belts, I had to stop and tell them, as if for the first time, to keep their elbows in. "Don't be the Chickenman," I said. "Be the T-Rex." Elbows in, not elbows out. "Chickenman gets his wings broken." This is very basic, and they seemed not to know it. Some didn't respond, as if they thought I was wrong. Ah well, some of them I will take advantage of, if I get the sense that they do not respond to gentler forms of correction. This, I think, is fair.

The way I learn these things is by association. It's the greatest part of memory. A certain choke? -- I think, starting a lawnmower, or, tearing a phone book. That's how I get it. Others have different learning styles, but we don't know what it is, so we have to hit them all. That's what an experienced teacher does. You don't have to tell them that's what you're doing, but you need to do it.

I used bjj largely as a way of coping with my son's situation. What that means is that now I need a new reason. It isn't enough, that I enjoy it. It's too much time and energy to justify by the mere fact that I like it. The cost, in terms of ache, is much higher than cf, so the benefit has to be greater too. Is it? I don't know. You simply do not and cannot understand the cost of it. 49 is certainly not old, but it's simply nuts, being 49 and doing what I do, or am planning to do. Really it is. It's not like weightlifting or running or whatever. Even if you're older than me, you won't really get it, since you're not doing it, to feel it. If you're younger, I promise, you don't get it. You don't. In terms of skill set, and self-image, and a pursuit of excellence, I like it. But it's not practical. I suppose I will continue, barring catastrophe. But I like unanswerable reasons. I don't want to be nuts.

Starting at a new place is fine. I find that my old teacher-persona works perfectly. Not in a need to instruct, but as a sort of professional demeanor. Calm, friendly, humorous but sincere -- I had it down really well, and it's still available. And frankly, although I'm still a tad apologetic about it, the new belt helps. I am used to authority, although I don't exercise it at all anymore. I see the belt as a sort of suit and tie. It's the uniform we wear when we're acting like grownups.

I'm aware that I have no authority, other than personal, there. I'm the new guy. I don't have a problem with hierarchy. I really do check my ego at the door. Makes it hard for people to get into the building, but the alternative is far uglier. What, you thought I've been kidding, about my beauty and my genius? Fool. But in a place where someone is allowed to choke you into unconsciousness, it is prudent to leave emotion out of it.

I am, life has taught me, clueless, sometimes, alas. I step on toes without realizing it. So I'm trying to keep it low-key. Of course, that's what I have tried before, and generated some antipathy nevertheless, on several notable occasions, none of which I have discussed in these pages, save one. I have to trust though that anyone with an issue will bring it to my attention before it becomes a matter of capital punishment. That gets bothersome. I'm almost out of lives.


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