Belaboring toast points for profit….

Today, and for the next three days, I’ll be posting some material I wrote last year, while writing on a site called GoodBlogs. Technically, they have the online rights to it, but it is still mine, and is completely appropriate for this venue. Therefore, I am publishing all four pieces here on WordPress, just because I want to, and to give my brain a few days to dive for pearls, and to renew and redirect my creative urges. Together the four pieces tell a true story, of my time in Hell…’s titled, “Repercussions”……

Part the first…..

When I was four, my father was stationed in Japan with the US Army, at a base near Okinawa. He was there for about 18 months, and the rest of the family, my mother and, at the time, four kids joined him there for the last seven months of his tour of duty. During that time, I was made aware, simply by traveling to and living there, that the world was much larger than I thought, and there were a lot of different kinds of people living in it. He was an officer at the time, so the six of us lived in a large house on base, with two Japanese housekeepers. Learning about Mariko and her sister, whose name escapes me, taught us many things about Japanese culture, and my mind grew in leaps and bounds.

One of the things we learned were some basic Judo (the gentle way) techniques, by one of Mariko’s friends who was member of a dojo (school). This exposure to the martial arts stayed with me, but after returning to the USA, there was little opportunity to pursue the arts further. Especially when my parents had another child, and money became a permanent issue in the household. But I never forgot Mariko, (who made the best cinnamon roles ever) or any of my experiences in Japan.

Much later in my life when I went to college, at the University of California at Berkeley, Judo was offered as a physical education course, and I at last had the opportunity to study in earnest what so long ago had made such an impression on my young mind. I took the course for 3 quarters (UCB had switched to a four-quarter-per-calendar year schedule some years before my admission), much as a duck takes to water, and after less than 9 months I had earned my brown belt, second degree.

I loved the arts with a passion I had not felt since I first discovered science-fiction at age ten. It was, perhaps, a lesser passion than when I discovered that girls weren’t so yucky after all, but studying the arts became a significant part of my life, and I have studied one art or another ever since, a matter of about 40 years. After Judo, I took some lessons in Karate (the empty-hand), Tae Kwon Do and Shotokan styles, a little bit of Tai Chi, and some Aikido..

    Then in my late twenties, I joined my first class in the Chinese art of Kung Fu. All my other exposure, Tai Chi aside (which though useful in that respect, was an art not primarily designed for use in fighting), had been to arts developed in Japan and Korea. I learned that all of those arts had been patterned after the precepts of Kung Fu many centuries before.

The origins of Kung Fu are shrouded in some mystery, but the consensus is that the monks of the Taoist temple of the order of the Shaolin were the first to learn the basic art, and developed it as a means of protecting their temple from the degradations of the numerous marauding warlords fighting over the various geographic regions in China. It is said that the art was brought to them by none other than Bhodi Dharma, an ancient warrior of India who traveled all over the Far East during his life, using his unspeakably powerful skills, developed by him during many years of studying Yoga, to protect the weak and oppressed, much like a wandering knight in Europe during the age of chivalry.

The Shaolin monks developed the skills they learned to such a high degree that the temple was eventually destroyed by warlords who had developed cannons, because they feared the monks so much. The monks scattered over the rest of China taking their skills with them, teaching them to the people, and to monks at other temples. It was said that a Shaolin monk could disappear from sight, could walk through walls, and fly through the air, and their reputation protected them probably as much as their fighting skills.

In the 1970’s there was a show on TV called Kung Fu, loosely based on a figure in Shaolin history, their greatest warrior, whose name on the show was Kwai Chang Caine. Though it was subject, unfortunately, to the occasionally bizarre demands of Hollywood culture, it was nonetheless a relatively accurate representation of how such a monk might have approached the new culture in the United States, and gave a good idea of how effective the skills learned by the monks could be, even against superior numbers and weaponry.

When I was first introduced to Kung Fu, it seemed as though all the other arts I had studied became irrelevant. I had graduated from the high-school level of Karate and Aikido to a more advanced university, that started with basics, then led the student into deeper and deeper knowledge, not just of the techniques of fighting and training, but knowledge of both the body and the mind, which are never considered to be separate entities in Chinese culture.

    The techniques learned became only a part of what one learns; much of the rest of what is taught was concerned with learning to control one’s mind and spirit. The first lesson was the most important one, and it consists of one concept…..restraint. Simply put, we do not learn these skills to fight, but to grow; to learn how to accept the danger that exists in human society without being paralyzed by fear, allowing one’s higher principles to guide action for the betterment of all creatures.

Learning Kung Fu, as well as the other martial arts I studied, was a seminal part of my own developing philosophy of life, and has been, in my mind, an invaluable tool in my own growth. But learning the arts, as I was later to learn, would have repercussions so powerful, and so all-encompassing, that they would send shock waves of pain and anguish down every step of my path in the world; repercussions that would stay with me for the rest of my life…..

To be continued…….

Sometimes I sits and thinks,
and sometimes
I just sits.