Not losing; natural stance

Shinpen Suikogaden 1

 Do not think of winning; 

think, rather, of not losing

-Twelfth principle of karate

Nakasone explains this in different ways. Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu said, “Knowing only how to win and not how to lose is self-defeating”, which is a practical way. Only to consider winning “breeds excessive optimism and causes impatience”. Given the worst that can happen, will I deal with that? Follow the saying, When angered he can make even a ferocious beast crouch in fear, but when he smiles even little children run to him. We avoid arrogance, and cultivate humility, because pride comes before a fall, hubris before nemesis.

Or, the thought of winning and how wonderful that would be skews my thoughts now, and prevents me from being in the present; and makes a set-back more disconcerting than it would otherwise be.

A trick from gymnastics is to picture in my mind completing the task- a dive with triple somersault, say- correctly. Thinking of winning in that sense fits me for winning.

Or, “not losing” can simply mean “be prepared”.

 Ready stance is for beginners.

Shinpen Suikogaden 2Later, one stands in natural stance.

Learning, we learn particular stances, which can seem unrelated to fighting- why balance on the outer edges of your feet, feet parallel four feet apart, knees bent and above the feet? We learn the stances from earlier masters who have found what works, and then adapt the stances naturally as we spar. There is a continual motion between conscious competence and unconscious competence, working on understanding then profiting unconsciously from our understanding, and in combat the mind is tranquil as we respond automatically. In a golf swing, the novice’s brain is all active, and the master’s fires only in the necessary place.

Similarly, practice kata exactly, and move freely in combat.

Be constantly mindful, diligent, 

and resourceful,

in your pursuit of the way

Miyamoto Musashi, aged thirty, after winning sixty duels, considered that he had a natural talent but was not a superior martial artist. From that time I practised fervently morning and night, seeking to grasp the principles of the Way more deeply, and around the age of fifty I came to a natural realization of the Way of Martial Arts.

Indeed. As I progress in enlightenment, I realise how far I have to go.

This is the last of the drafts I have had sitting around for eight months, and since starting it I have stopped practising karate. I feel that Genwa Nakasone’s commentary does not reach the bottom of the Principles, and that meditating on single words of them- “mindful”. “Diligent.” Mmm- might be of benefit. I went back to the book after months, to try to glean more from it; and it tells me the gleaning is all the effort of life.

Half an hour with Ken Ham

Is Creationism a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era? No. For anyone interested in origins- biologist, physicist, astronomer, or lay person with an interest in the world- particularly Young Earth Creationism requires denial of evidence. Raymond Damadian, born 1936, is a YEC, but the education required to produce comparable achievements in his field, now, would include evidence clearly refuting YEC.

All that said-

How persuasive is Ken Ham as a speaker? Can I set aside my knowledge, and my commitment to the opposing point of view, to assess this? Here he is in debate on 4 February. His main half hour presentation begins at 27.30.

It is breathtaking. He takes so much. For example, at the end he argues that children should be taught creationism and not Darwinism in schools, because if they have the wrong theory they may make the wrong deductions about their world, and lose out. I want to say, wait a minute, that’s my argument: but rather it is that children should be taught truth as best we know it, not by ideology; and that would indeed cut both ways, if YEC had any credibility.

That, though, is nothing. He steals the word “Evolution” itself. He notes how Darwin’s Finches have different beaks, and how this shows Evolution. Darwin said all organic beings which have ever lived on this Earth may be descended from one primordial form. Genesis 1:25 says God made the beasts of the Earth according to their kinds. He identifies the “kinds” as Families, one rank above species, so Noah did not need to take so many animals on the Ark, and the Families have evolved into the different species we now observe. Rather than a tree of life, he says there is an Orchard.

No proper scientist could believe such crap, I say, which creates an opening for him: he dredges up two or three who have published proper peer-reviewed papers, yet believe YEC. Had I simply said the overwhelming majority of proper scientists are Darwinist, he could not refute that so easily.

He distinguishes observational from historical science. Observational science tells us what is happening now, and can be shown by experiment. Historical science cannot experiment, because we cannot see what happened 13.8bn years ago, or six thousand years ago- we have to infer it from evidence. I deny the distinction, but he repeats it several times: his supporters could take away that argument for their rhetorical arsenal.

All across the world, at the Cretaceous/Palaeogene boundary, there is a thin layer of clay with iridium concentrations fifteen times Earth normal; but iridium is far more common in asteroids. It is postulated that this iridium comes from the Chicxulub impact. Go on, explain that, Ham. Oh, I am so angry with him, despite his great charm- he called himself a “bloke”, explaining this was an Australian word. English too, of course.

I loathe his argument that the only sure foundation of science or morality is the Bible: if we reject that, we cannot resist gay marriage or abortion; and have no ground for postulating universal natural laws, if the Universe came into being randomly. Wrong, Wrong, I say. Ignorant YECs will go away reassured by his arguments.

Leaving karate

File:Falls of Kirifuri at Mt. Kurokami, Shimotsuke Province LACMA M.2011.135.2 (1 of 2).jpgInsensibly, I moved from “I won’t go to karate tonight” to “I don’t go to karate”. None of my reasons would have been enough by itself. Even now, the shin guards are in the bag, ready.

There we are, dancing, kicking and hitting without hitting anything. I had just found what a difference hikite makes to my snap. When I punch or block with my left hand, I pull my right hand back, palm upwards, fist at waist-height. This seems counter-productive. The non-striking hand is needed for defence. Yet it feels as if it adds force to the blow. I don’t feel great aptitude for sparring (kumite) and while I felt I could get to Presence, or singleness of mind, in kata, I did not feel it in kumite. “Don’t be so tense,” people said.

I felt no hostility because I was trans, yet I did not like practising without my wig. I kept an old one, the hair flat, almost matted, for sweating into. Sometimes, I had to take it off, as a Gi is warm. Once, last Summer, I came home and ran a cold bath to cool off. I used to go round the community centre turning the radiators off. I was perplexed and disconcerted when S, who is about 4′ tall- ten?- went round turning them all on again, after. This felt like a challenge. How to respond?

File:Hokusai portrait.jpgCertainly not as, when we were advancing across the hall, turning, advancing back, and always turning back foot muarte so as to move down the hall towards the door, to crowd her against the less experienced children. That felt like bullying. Then we practice second kata together, I concentrate on hikite to get my blocks full focus, and she did it faster than I.

There were other reasons as well. ÂŁ6.50 per evening, when the tutors are all volunteers, seems steep. Mick’s class on Monday evenings, with its difficult balance of keeping discipline yet entertaining the many young children who turned up, was too much for the children for my taste. That is great- start them at seven, and by fifteen they will be naturals, skilled for life- yet it was not the class I wanted. I preferred Andy’s high-priestly seriousness, his humour there as an undercurrent, carefully fitting moves together. Mick by comparison did not always seem to get quite how to make a sequence of blocks and blows. Andy’s class was where S. was.

I rather resented learning kata by standing in a line doing them. I can’t see what is going on, and I can’t remember the moves from one week to the next. I spent hours in my huge living room with the videos, learning Saifa, Bassai-dai and Seiunchin. I need to do one count repeatedly, and learn what each limb does, rather than running through the whole, however slowly. (The DVDs are still by the telly, not away on a shelf somewhere.)

Lots of reasons. I can’t get to grading on Sundays as the bus does not run, and I have something else scheduled for each second Sunday of the month. Mostly that girl, though.


St AignanWas it a bit much, calling anti-abortionists “Nazi“?

If it were, I would not necessarily find that out. A looks over, turns away slightly, then walks off, B following going “What?

What?” though A is silent. Here, I only have the benefit of words, not looks, and silence could be awestruck admiration.

Perhaps you thought it spot-on. There was that line which went about a few months ago- if you were really “Pro-life”, you would not be so keen on the Death Penalty, invading other countries, etc. It is a brilliant line, I wish I had come up with it, but what I lacked in originality I made up with in invective and anger.

No, those against abortion are not Nazi. I had a friend who did some voluntary work for that cause, and she was lovely. Case proved.

Is it some other anger and bitterness which manifests itself in this outburst? Was it just a misjudgment, to start a post on The Producers and have nowhere else to go with it?

I came across a blog which said that Christians should not praise, celebrate or mourn Nelson Mandela. So I commented, asking “Did he do any good at all?” and got back the answer no. The Left says the Right should not appropriate him, and some question whether a torturer should escape prison just because he confessed his acts, or whether apartheid is completely dead when white South Africans have so much more wealth than black South Africans. Who needs a law to enforce that a poor man cannot go to an expensive restaurant?

Channel 4 News dug out Terry Dicks, who said Mandela was a “terrorist”. But right-wingers who wore “Hang Nelson Mandela” tshirts in the 1980s are entitled to praise his adroitly avoiding civil war in the 1990s, if not to appropriate it. Everyone was Dreyfusard by 1910, but those who had been wrong about Dreyfus had moved on to be wrong about other things.

Even when the whole world is indulging in warm fuzzies over Madiba, there are angry people about, being angry. President Obama shook hands with President Castro, and Terry Dicks talks of execution.

I have this view of myself as irenic and accepting, and I can do that, and I get angry and sarky (Br.Eng- US.Eng is “snarky”, I understand) about Homophobic Bigots, and yesterday about those who imagine themselves pro-life.

Mentioning the War

I look at these photos and I feel love, pride, and wonder that my father could fly operations. At the funeral, there were a few from the Bomber Command Association to pay their respects.

Even if he looks a bit unhappy here.

Then they went round to the tail. The war was over in Europe, though Hiroshima had not yet been bombed and it was possible that 218 squadron would be posted to the far east, and they look playful- especially him, between his machine guns. Mild kudos to whoever can identify the pilot- comment, and say why.

Lanc tail 2

Then- oh, wow.

Off duty

I don’t recall seeing this one before, but I love the eye contact. He must have come out with a great line to evoke that reaction.

We mention the War too much. Our TV dramas are still set in it, and we mark endless anniversaries- if every five years is significant, then all the time is an anniversary of something in WWII. Next year is the centenary of the start of WWI, and in November is Remembrance Sunday.

Government uses this interest to justify vast military spending: two new aircraft carriers, and a new nuclear playset budgeted at £100,000,000,000 and hardly likely to come in so cheap. Would we really destroy life on Earth, even if the Americans let us? And there is mawkish sentimentality (well, sentimentality has to be “mawkish”, even if nothing else is) around “doing their bit”, “all pulling together”. We remain British.

training-group photo

Added: I love The Aircrew Dictionary, and particularly “as useless as Anne Frank’s drumkit” as a representative sample of its black humour.

Poor employers

The ticket-collector stopped and chatted to the two men at the opposite table, and of course I earwigged. They are on a work to rule, at the moment. The management is dreadful. Their staffing levels are stupid and wrong. You can’t provide a decent service, he is ashamed. They have got the stops wrong, too. This is an express, and South of Swanston it provides a suburban rail service, which would not be so bad if they had suburban rail prices.

There is all this disruption for the []
-Some of us remember the Bedford electrification, says the older man. It was going to be so much faster, and we put up with it for five years, and it was slower than before.

When they get onto card readers, I join in the conversation. The man is willing enough, and explains how Oyster is outdated. Payment by proximity, rather than touch, of your “Barclaycard”. Barclays was the first bank to provide credit cards, and in the 70s that is what we called it.

The ticket collector moves on, and we discuss Government computer systems. They used to be in the union, and now they run a small charity for rail workers. The fact that they are wearing the same tie is a coincidence.

-We saw a closed shop agreement, from the 90s, just once. We looked at it as if it was the Domesday book.
-It worked. The management and the union got together, and agreed where a worker would go. If you were cleaning the toilets, you knew you would be moved on eventually. Now, they get immigrants to clean the toilets.

He insists that his office cleaner gets paid the Living wage for the time in his office. They exchanged emails when it went up last month. The contractor said he would rather pay that but his other customers would not stand for it.

ScotrailI have done employment tribunals, and he has seen them from both sides. Employers can come out biting scratching and gouging, I say, and tell of the forger.

He has a discipline problem now. The man is not doing the work. All the other workers know it, and they want rid of him too. He just draws a salary. He claimed to have gone to a station in Norfolk, which is a day’s work, with the travel- only that station is unmanned!

He laughs.

-But that would be gross misconduct, claiming to do work you have not done.
-[] who did the investigation could not make it stick.

Odd: certain gross misconduct, with insufficient evidence, which still definitely happened. He tells me of how the poor employer can get caught if he puts a foot wrong with the procedure, which is not quite true: the employer can “lose”, but still not pay damages.

-One man thought he would take us for thousands, and all he got was a reference!

I had a woman who took a reference. She was pregnant, and could not face the hearing. She was angry that the defence said she was a sulky teenager who never did any work, and the reference said she was a saint in human form.
-That is very unfair to the next employer, he says.

But from spending time with her, I thought the reference was more likely correct than the defence.

Loch Fyne

The boat was on a mooring. I rowed out to it, cast off, and pulled up the sails.

This was the first time I had done this by myself, and I nearly capsized. I scrambled over to the port side, and nearly capsized the other way. On an even keel, with the sails pulling, I found myself sailing towards the rocks- so I went about, turning just before I hit them, and felt the most glorious adrenalin surge.

With my father, I lay in the boat, in the sun, with almost no swell on the loch. Just after lunch, I looked over the side, and saw two jellyfish. Their crowns were separate, their tentacles intertwined, floating horizontally together, and they were beautiful. Then we drifted home mostly on the tide.

Loch Fyne

These photographs were taken just before Dad moved to Linlithgow, and two taken at the same time hang in my father’s bedroom. I resent all those photographs of his wife’s descendants, littering the living room, and not one of me. Then he has photographs of me presenting male- What?

And Loch Fyne 2








HikiteIf I strike someone, why on Earth would I pull my other hand back so that the fist, palm upwards, was by the side of my lowest rib, and my elbow pointing backwards? Is that merely silly? A sensei tells me to practise hikite. Oh, OK then.

An aim I have is to strike in a state of no-mind (if I use the word correctly)- the autonomous nervous system does what it need do, and my fist comes out with the right force to the right place. I might also say, striking with my Qi. If my conscious mind judges what I do, I become tense and robotic, so that my strike is less powerful. So I practise striking the air to learn what the ideal muscle movements are, so that I can later make them, without thought. Striking the air must satisfy any tuptophilist desires. But why would pulling back the other fist be part of that?

I am bothered about the strength of my strikes. Perhaps I need more press-ups. Oestrogen takes away muscle strength, which is why the IOC allows trans women to compete as women. (That link- I can’t actually find the recommendations themselves.) Oh well, try it.

As I perform the different set blocks, slowly, I concentrate on that hikite of the other limb. The full force of the striking limb should exert just before contact, rather than throughout the strike, and the pulling back of the other limb occurs in that moment. It seems that the movement of both limbs enhances the force of the striking or blocking limb, even though the torso stays in the same place and the withdrawing limb goes in completely the wrong direction. The sense is clearest in the blocks- I contract the back muscles on both sides at the same time, and that feels powerful. In a strike, it is the chest muscle on the striking side that contracts: the value of hikite feels less. In the mirror, however, I see my hips moving as I strike: this could be the way of putting the hips into the strike.

In sparring, I want to use my other limb for a quick follow-up strike, or at least to block possible blows. Having it by my side seems useless. One rule of interpreting kata is that “a hand returning to chamber usually has something in it”- grab a wrist or arm or hair.

Speculating wildly, perhaps mammals fighting, being more open, prevents males doing too much damage to each other; or it could have something to do with the efficient way a quadruped walks or runs, moving opposite limbs alternately.

Taigyoku shodan, first kata. At my level, I am allowed to have two stages, preparing then moving. First count- prepare: place left foot, look to left, left fist at right shoulder preparing for gedan berai; then move- turn at hips to face left while sweeping the left hand down; at the last moment pull the right fist into chamber. With force. Having so much to think of before it may flow without thought, I need to practise each count separately and repeatedly. And- it appears that the hikite may increase the force of the block. Unless I am just fooling myself.

Why hikite?

Grizzly bears fighting

Moving on does strike in the same place. Repeatedly, in fact: on the Empire State Building, for example; but it has a lightning conductor, so that is alright.

-How would you like to end?
-With a neat conclusion, boxed to put away and tied with a neat bow.
-OK, then.
Gosh, I like that response. Taking my cynicism and batting it back at me as a challenge. And it is possible.

It really is time to move on. While that Quaker stramash (or stooshie, it is telling that Scots has so many words for a fight) was uniquely ghastly, and while there has always been something to bring my mind back to it- the long grind to my Minute of Disunity, then my appeal, then H’s Disownment, then her appeal heard last week, meeting after meeting anticipated, suffered and relived- it is over. There is nothing more I can do about it, and indeed while I would not be going to a Quaker meeting if I were still in South Wales, I can now talk to those involved with a moderate degree of friendliness, and work with them, and I am supported and contributing in a Quaker meeting which delights me now.

I thought I was safe, with Quakers, if under threat everywhere else, and I was not. I am not safe anywhere- though I am moderately capable, so I can, mostly, look after myself.

-Do you think you overanalyse?
If I cannot trust my feelings, I have to make decisions somehow. question is, how likely is it to happen again? Not, particularly. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats: I know more of myself, it was a bad situation- a clusterfuck, actually, everything going wrong at once. It really is better to spend time searching out opportunities than threats, but I do not think it is likely to happen again, and if it did I could handle it better.

I was hurt because I would not back down- but I won my appeal, and had I backed down I might be whining now about people walking over me.

Actually I would rather be right than happy: happiness seems merely tantalising.

I have the tools to deal with this. I need to look around now, at the opportunities now. It hurt, a lot. I trusted and I was dumbfounded. It really is unlikely to happen again. That is what matters.

Emotional being? Hello?
-I’m frightened.
It really is alright. It is not going to happen again. The tiniest likelihood of the greatest pain may seem a terrible risk, but the likelihood is so, so tiny-
-Why did it happen, then?
-The really most awful luck.
-They’re not. Really, really, they’re not, and that has to be in part a rational rather than emotional decision.

O God, how can I practise trust?

And- I have always thought it was my good qualities which led me into that confrontation. I could break that down, and analyse that- but just as you can’t please anyone, so different ways of being work with different people.

Smoothing differences

true peaceHow shall I speak with my enemies in the gate?

I sought to build up Cardiff Quaker meeting as a loving, supportive community wherein service was a delight. I am not proud of all I did, and perhaps that desire could be picked away at, to show arrogance and disrespect at its heart- but then my conception of how the meeting could be really was both possible, and better than how the meeting was. Seeking to smooth a conflict, I got sucked into it, and then- I was going to say “I think”, but that phrase here is always redundant- scapegoated and cast out. Now I am in a different Quaker meeting, enjoying supportive friendships. I went to the Yearly Meeting, a four day gathering in North London, where I met Kate and ZĂ©lie: one a prime mover in the Minute of Disunity kicking me out, and one on the panel which granted my appeal against it.

And- ZĂ©lie has also worked to disown H: at the time of writing, I expect the result of H’s appeal within days.

I could lie to the taxi driver. “Back to work tomorrow?” he asked, making conversation. “Gotta be done,” I replied. I do not want to admit my weakness and failure, that I am unemployed, to these women, and I do not want to be caught out either.

First, Kate came over as I was having dinner, and I did not recognise her immediately. We had only met once, and it was a stressful time for me. Even looking at her name badge, it was only seeing her area meeting which reminded me. Next day we picnicked together in the sun in the garden. She is delighted to see that I have a new meeting, and am valued and contributing in it; disclosed that they found the procedure of handling the appeal very stressful, so now there is an appeal panel rather than just giving the job to the neighbouring area meeting; and said that Cardiff had been known to be a troubled meeting for decades.

true peaceIt was a lovely encounter. I maun notice all the joy in it, take that to my heart, for it can build me up, and help me to pick myself up.

I was pleased to meet S from Cardiff. We caught up, friendly enough: her children progress through University, etc. With L, it was more difficult: she could and should have stopped the procedure against me. With K, it was impossible- encountering her had led me literally to shake the dust from my feet, knowing that some present would notice the Biblical reference, though before I had liked her. And with D, we only started guarded greetings when someone bustled up and started speaking Welsh to him about a procedural matter. What can I take from these? Well, I am here– they did not manage to get rid of me, that is a victory of a sort.

So to ZĂ©lie. I passed her a couple of times, looking away, when she said in a demanding and cajoling manner, like the teacher she used to be, “Oh Abigail, don’t just ignore me”. So we ate together, taking small food samples from tables round the courtyard, and talked. She boasted. She had taken a great part in cutting a lot of the personal spiritual journey parts from the book of the Swarthmoor Lecture, and since I found these the most moving bits I disapprove. She is writing a book on eldership and oversight in the yearly meeting, and gave me a questionnaire on how it works in my meeting as part of her research. It is the first piece of Quaker work she has been paid for. What are you doing, now? Oh, I am unemployed. That sticks in the craw.

If I could shame her publicly for her acts, I would- and I can’t. Fuck. Maybe I should listen to myself- I tell H not to give her energy. I could, perhaps, take some reassurance that we could work together at the trivial level she desired for Cardiff meeting. That disunity minute only hurts me now insofar as I allow it to.

I feel guilty at talking to her, as if disloyal to Heather, but do not see what I could achieve by not doing so. I have been trying to get over this all day: while I might have done other things, I have been brooding and writing this. I forgive myself for that.