A long time ago, I came to the realization that things in life were either going to go uphill or downhill. You were either conquering mountains or settling for living a perfectly flat and boringly dreary life until death finally remembered to come for you.
When I met the Fabulous Publisher Babe™, she introduced me to the Anti-Stodgy Campaign, where she tries to do one completely new thing every month. Doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Just new and different. Take a new way driving somewhere. Try a new toothpaste. Eat at a new restaurant.
Uphill, looking for new mountains to conquer. I’d already been doing that, so it was easy enough to transition into a formal format of things. I’m still learning.
In fact, I always plan to be learning new things. Forever a student.
I joke with folks that my nickname should be Xuéshēng (Chinese), although I suppose Sinh viên (Viet) might be more appropriate, considering.
Learning new things these days means I started about a year ago with a new form of Tai Chi in the Park taught by a friend of mine: Sifu Stone. Traditional Beijing form via Taiwan. Chen Pan Ling 99. Nothing at all like the Yang style (24) that is most common around here. More complicated than just four times as long.
I took to it because in the mid-90s I studied (Vietnamese) Hong Gia Kung Fu at a dojo in Garden Grove, CA. (Orange County, south of LA). There were mornings where I had worked until 2am as a bouncer at the Riverside Cowboy (Riverside, CA, well inland), then driven straight to the dojo and parked in the lot and slept for a couple of hours until folks arriving at 730 tapped on the window of my truck to wake me up for 3-4 hours of training.
And I’ve studied other forms over the ages. All my Vietnamese cousins were profoundly weirded out to learn anything about English Quarterstaff, when they were used to the bo. But then, Robin Hood wasn’t a cultural touchstone with them.
So I’m learning. Got the 99 form down last year and continue to refine my understanding of the movement and the process. The intent.
Then Sifu Stone went back to Maryland to spend a week with his Sifu, and brought home a lot of new things for the PNW students to pick up. We’ll be learning a weapons form based on the standard cane that folks use to walk around, which is really something more of a basic sword form. All the motions are similar, but the stick doesn’t require perception of where your edges are as you move.
Not a particularly complex form, either. Probably about 25 motions, thought Sifu only taught us the first half-dozen.
One of the other students was surprised at how quickly I picked it up. I told her that I’d studied European longsword (1 and 2-handed) at various times in the past, and there are only so many ways to swing a stick to hurt someone.
After that, there will be at least one formal sword form, based on the Jian (a long, skinny blade intended to be wielded generally one-handed, and not typically sharpened more than about sixteen centimeters from the sharp tip. Thick spines that can be used to thump. Or as the old saying goes: “Edge wounds, point kills.”)
Lots of experience with that sort of thing. Plus I own property with blackberry brambles. And a machete. I have spent a lot of time over the last decade plus hacking my way through such brambles. You learn where the blade is, where the thorns are, and how to sweep through without getting hooked.
The definition of summer around here is best summed up as “I’m bleeding.” Because I do.
But I learn. Cane form. Then sword form. That will keep me busy.
I’m far more flexible today than I was a year ago. As in, bend over to put on and tie both shoes while standing, and not (usually) fall on my head. (Not today. I hurt from stretching new muscles too far yesterday.)
Still, student. Xuéshēng. Sinh viên.
Forever learning. Forever doing.
In my case, I wanna be that annoying old fart at the park doing forms when I’m 80. Because I’ll still be in good enough shape.
Don’t plan to teach. Sifu Stone is roughly 8 months older than me, and much more committed to that side of things.
But I’m forever learning. Trying new things, and in doing so, building up new muscles for excitement and long life.
Having fun, because at the end of the day, that’s what its all about.
What are you doing to stay active and happy?