The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.


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Letter to the Unknown

Dear Universe,

How are you?

Just wanted to reflect out loud here…helps to sorta clear the air you know? A slow inhale…and exhale…

Okay, so I’ve been here in Los Angeles for 10 months now. Fast approaching one year. Holy shit that’s quick.

For starters, I’ve held down this Habitat for Humanity job for the past 8 months. Initially what I had thought going into the job last December was that the two-day-a-week work schedule would allow me the flexibility of taking graduate school courses. I knew that, had I decided to go back to school, I would have liked to go part-time while also working part-time. Eight months after starting the job, and having gone through a free 5 week introductory course at the prospective college back in January/February, I’ve finally come around to the tentative decision not to go back to school. I think money definitely has something to do with it (the program I’m interested in would cost nearly $40,000). But also, I realized that going back to school right now would be less about me tuning in to my authentic voice and more about listening to those “shoulds”, i.e. “I’m 33; I should be in a career track; I should be working in a job relevant to my education; I should be financially independent; I should not be living at home; I should have figured out this stuff before my thirties; I should be ashamed of myself for not being more like other successful thirty year olds; I should stop making a list of shoulds…”

Right. Eat a dick shoulds.

I also thought to myself that having the Habitat job would be beneficial because then, if I decided not to go back to school, I had the opportunity to become a full time employee. Alas, having grown increasingly tired of the physically strenuous job that it is, I decided nah fuck that, and put my application out there for other work. I should say here too though that another important aspect of Habitat was aligning my values with what I do to make money. Yes, I could sweat and bust my balls at any other similar-type job, but Habitat’s mission is a Christian God’s mission and although I’m no True Believer, I’m down with that sorta spiritual-sacred-in-the-mundane-interconnected-type thing. Not that that really has anything to do with the company statement, but I think real work needs to be about helping people and the planet and why not make a living doing that? What we literally do on the job is pick up people’s donations in a big-ass company truck and re-sell those items at what’s called a “ReStore”; the profits of which (at least according to company propaganda) go towards funding the construction of homes for those who cannot independently purchase one on the market. I’m not gonna get into the details of exactly how that works because I honestly don’t know how all that works. But from the people I’ve talked to the process is such that, Habitat does not do free hand-outs of homes. They have what’s called “sweat equity” in which the potential home-owner actually takes part in not only building their own home but also in volunteering with the day-to-day of Habitat operations. In other words, it ain’t no charity.

But yeah, I’m tired of Habitat. Or at least, tired of the specific job that I do for them. It’s basically dirty, sweaty grunt work. People look at me and they’re like “Oh you build homes!” and I’m like, “No lady. That ain’t me, but that sure would sound gloriously noble wouldn’t it? Nah, I’m just here to pick up your used junk. Give it to me!” Haha. I’m not saying I have a problem with dirty, sweaty grunt work. I’m just saying I’m tired of it. There’s other types of not-so-dirty-sweaty grunt work out there.

Well anyway. At the moment I’m waiting on a call back about another gig I applied for. Hopefully I’ve passed all of their background checks and I’ll be able to transition out of Habitat by mid to late August. Supposing I do get the gig (which I’m already supposing that I did; just waiting on an official offer), that will allow me to take twice a week karate classes at the local community college. What’s significant about those is that the instructor is a direct student of Angel Lemus (one of my practical karate heroes) and the focus of their classes emphasizes function over form. In a way, it’s kind of a last ditch effort to find someone (anyone!) who teaches this applied karate stuff. I’ve been weaning off my study group practice recently because I had been losing my enthusiasm for it. The study group is all about teaching ourselves, which is fine except that, learning kata bunkai really does require the knowledgeable guidance of a skilled instructor, at least in my experience. I mean, it’s like reading Kris Wilder’s book The Way of Kata and learning from him in person; two very different things. And perhaps because learning very technical things engages my “inferior function” (see Carl Jung), I always come away feeling so incompetent and stupid, which just makes me feel dis-empowered to want to keep continuing on my own.

Or it could be that I’m just done with karate and I’m making elaborate excuses for myself. Like a comatose loved one that I’m hesitating to take off life support.

Or it could be that I’m actually a lazy underachiever and I’m just not disciplined enough to study and practice more often.

Or it could be both of those things…

…or none of those things.

So let’s see here: I’ll transition out of Habitat by the end of August. I’ll be working this new gig 25 hours a week. I’ll be taking these karate classes twice a week. I’ll still be going through my dialectical behavioral therapy through the end of the year; once a week individual, once a week skills class. I have my personal work-out routine 2 -3 days week; one day judo or jogging, the other two days by myself at my former dojo. I realize that my continued involvement with martial arts is more about keeping physically active and healthy than anything else, at least for the moment. Maybe I’ll take up swimming when I’m older…

But hey, I haven’t told you yet I was cross-training with taiko lessons did I? Here’s a photo:

James taiko May 2016 (edited)

No we’re not posing for the camera. Our instructor snapped shots as each of us took turns leading the class in a performance piece. I’m looking at our music sheet, trying very hard not to lose the count!

Remember when I was interested in learning Aikido? Not anymore. Yeah, I decided I would rather learn taiko than another martial art. If I’m going to learn anything new to align with my gentle nature, I’m going to drum or dance; taiko is kinda both of those things actually. I’ve had about 20 some-odd classes so far in 6 months. It helps keep me connected to creating music, although trap set (which was how I got started drumming back in my teens) and big Japanese barrels aren’t the same thing necessarily. These lessons have been good for a lot of reasons actually. I was going to write to you about it a few months back but…I dunno. Just kept putting it off. The school is really nice. The instructors are top-notch. I may not be signing up for lessons for the next three month cycle this August, but I hope to start up again soon after. Gotta find a class that works with the new job schedule. It’s not surprising to me that there’s so much similarity in the body mechanics of taiko performance and karate. They’re both percussive endeavors and they both emphasize bodily expression (albeit with completely different purposes!). Maybe I’ll blog about this later.

. . .

Sometimes I’ll hear people talk about their “5 year plans”. Hmmm, at best all I’ve got right now is a 6 month plan, which is all the things I just listed. Maybe I should have a 5 year plan, but you know how I feel about those shoulds. I mean, I’m sure that a 3 – 5 year plan is going to surface sooner or later. I know that would make my dad feel better about where I’m at in life. But fuck dude, I don’t care about making my old man feel any better. I need that shit for myself! Sometimes it’s nice sailing on this big goddamn ocean, but it’d be great to start seeing some land on the horizon. Am I even following these stars correctly…?

Okay Creator. I’ve gotta go now. I’ve done enough reflecting and it’s making me antsy.

Talk to you later.

Love,
QK


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Making friends ain’t easy and being human is hard

I think at some point I’m going to have to grow comfortable with the fact that getting to know new people and making friends is going to be a difficult process for me. I struggle with the anxiety of being social. Social anxiety.

There are moments, like now, when I feel disappointed in who I am. I feel dislike for myself. These moments usually occur whenever I feel as though I’ve failed to meet some “should” standard, i.e. I should have talked to that person. I should have been more friendly. I should have asked questions.

I think the last time I remember people liking me and making friends seemed easier was when I was a child (that statement may not be totally accurate). As of late, it seems as though this process has become an arduous social task. An inner groan rumbles forth and I have to push myself to meet new people and do new things. Mainly I think, and ironically so, it isn’t so much that I fear people, but rather, I’m afraid that they won’t like me. My self-esteem and self-confidence is under construction.

At times I fear being lonely. I fear that I won’t develop these social skills to make friends and that I’m forever destined to be outside looking in.

The only remedy I’ve found that works for me during these moments is to unequivocally love and accept myself for who I am. It doesn’t always work, but it’s the only real defense I have against the suicidal and depressed thoughts. This is what is meant by spiritual gongfu. Resilience.

It’s good to remember that each and every moment can be radically different. What may seemed true a second ago, one hour ago, may not be the case after. It’s not so much about distracting the mind from the problem as it is engaging in the various moments of your life. Those moments can change your life.

– QK


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Resilient Strain

I think a person has got to develop some sort of spiritual resilience so as to protect what’s inside.

People can be against you but may act as though they are for you. They can kill the life inside of you simply by having a myopic spiritual awareness. These people can be your co-workers, your bosses, your associates, but more dangerously, your own friends and family. Your own family can not even be on your side.

So you’re out here alone buddy. Nobody can save you but yourself. It’ll be good to gain some soul friends along the way, but ultimately you’ll need to have it in you to persevere.

Ultimately, what is important is the life inside that seeks metamorphosis into the physical world. You’ll need to nurture and protect that until it has its own wings to fly. That life is your life-blood. Your life-line. It is the thing which connects to the “child” inside of you. The one who knew how to be creative without thinking too much about it. The one who knew the secrets of the Self before it was rationalized out of existence. The one who still knows the magic of being alive on this strange floating planet known as “Spaceship Earth”.

A resilient strain. Like an impervious form of bacteria or insect that cannot be killed through conventionality.

Listen to me: You can do everything “right”. You can follow all the rules. You can live up to all the standards. You can have a house, a car, a family, a two three car garage…and you can lose it all. You can lose it all and never regain it. And do you think for one second that there is a God in the physical universe around you that will be ticking off a checklist of all the things you did “right” while living your time out on Earth? Do you think there will be a medal or commendation for “good service”? I think there is something so loving and warm about our Universe but also so cold and distant and shockingly indifferent. Be aware of what is arbitrary and what is eternal. You live once. What kind of life will it be?

SMASH it.
– Hiji Até