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- July 2015
Chapter 4
   Thu Jul 02, 2015 1:54 am

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Chapter 4

Permanent Linkby Sonseearae on Thu Jul 02, 2015 1:54 am

I got to the dojo at 5:55am and came through the door with a couple of stragglers attending the 6am advanced class.  The majority had already arrived to change and get ready for the class but these two drove over in their gi's and were ready to go.  I was looking around for Daniel when Sensei Li caught my eye and motioned toward the office with his ever ready smile.   “Good morning Daniel,” I said as I stuck my head in the office.  
Daniel looked up and his eyes met mine with that same twinkle he nearly always had, “Ready to begin cleaning?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” I replied hurriedly, “and I want you to know that I'm pretty good at it.  I used to clean my grandmother's house regularly before we moved.  She even had a maid service come once a week when I was younger and she always said that I did a better job than they did.”
“Really,” Daniel said with apparent interest.  “So what do you think made you so good at it?”
“Well, my grandmother used to say that the reason I did such a good job was that I paid attention to detail,” I replied.
Daniel nodded his head in agreement, “I've noticed that about you while you watched the class practicing.  You don't know this yet, but the ability to pay attention is your greatest asset.  The cleaning up that I've got in mind for you is going to be very different than the cleaning up your grandmother had you do but we're going to work on improving that ability even further while you're here.”
“Well,” I said, “I promise that I'll do my best.”
“That,” Daniel said as he stood up, “is good, because that's all that's required in order to succeed here. In fact, I truly believe that if you give it your best, you'll far exceed my accomplishments.  Now let's take a walk and get started.”
I was taken aback by this latest comment and had to ask, “What belt are you?”  I knew that Sensei Li was a black belt and that he was Daniel's student so I was expecting Daniel to be at least a second degree black belt but was secretly hoping for higher.  I mean, if he expects that I'll exceed his abilities then I was hoping that he was a fifth or sixth degree black belt, or even higher.  
“We'll talk about that after school during your first lesson,” he said, evading the question.
We walked to the back of the dojo where those Japanese room dividers were, and walked behind it.  It kind of looked like a Japanese room.  Actually, having never seen one, maybe it would be better to say that it looked kind of like I’d imagine a Japanese room looking.  There were lots of plants and cushions on the floor, apparently for sitting on because there were no chairs anywhere.  There was a fountain and what looked like an altar of some sort that had some incense sticks on it, as well as a bunch of stuff that I didn't recognize.  “This is my sanctuary; welcome.  Go ahead and take your shoes off and take a seat on one of the cushions,” Daniel said as he placed his shoes on a mat to the side.
The cushions sat on top of some sort of pad or small rug; in fact, if you've ever seen a horse blanket, it looked almost exactly like that all laid out.  The cushion itself was about volleyball sized if someone was sitting on it.  It was round but a little flattened out.  I sat down and it felt a little weird like it was filled with unpopped popcorn kernels or rice.  Daniel sat on the other cushion facing me about four feet away.  “What do you know about meditation?” he asked suddenly.
I had heard of it before but little else.  I knew that at least some monks meditated but that's about all. “Not much,” I admitted.  
“Good!” Daniel exclaimed, “then you won't have to unlearn a bunch of bad habits and preconceived notions.  Most people have certain serious misconceptions about meditation.  For instance, some believe that mediation is some arcane religious practice, but it is not.  People from all religions and backgrounds meditate; in fact, even many atheists and agnostics meditate.   
I nodded, “I guess I'm guilty of making assumptions to a certain degree myself.  So what is meditation?”
“Well, it'll be much easier to explain that after you've given it a go but, in essence, meditation is complete awareness of each and every moment.  Your mind, which is not to be confused with your brain, is a distracting influence.  Meditation is the best way of cleaning up your mind.  Try this,” Daniel said picking up a hacky sack he had produced from who-knows-where, “I'm going to toss this ball to you and I want you to catch it.  Think you can do it?”
“I think so, but it'll depend on how hard you throw it and if it's a good toss,” I offered.
“Fair enough,” Daniel said, “it'll be a easy toss.  Here, try to catch it.”  Daniel tossed the ball underhand right to me and I caught it easily.  “Great, toss it back,” he said.  “Let's keep it going,” he said and we continued to toss it back and forth as he continued to talk.  “Many people think of meditation as deep concentration, but it is just the opposite.  In fact; it would be better to think of meditation as anti-concentration.  Meditation relaxes the mind and when the mind is relaxed, we can concentrate better.  For instance, how many times have we thrown the ball back and forth?”
  “I don't know,” I stammered.
“Weren't you paying attention?” Daniel asked with a smile that put me a little more at ease but I still felt like I had failed.  “We threw back and forth six times,” he said.  “Don't be too hard on yourself, it's just that you haven't been properly trained is all.  I'll bet you've seen some martial arts movies in your day, right?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “I think I've seen all of them.”
Daniel laughed and continued, “Now those fight scenes are scripted and choreographed but you've probably watched scenes in which the master takes on several opponents at one time, yes?”
I immediately thought back to Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, “Yes,” I said, remembering the image.
“The reality is that a true martial arts master can fight multiple opponents at one time.  Bruce Lee was a good example to think of.” Daniel said with the barest flicker of a smile.
I almost fell over.  “I didn't say I was thinking of Bruce Lee!  How did you know?” I asked.
He ignored me and continued, “How does one defend against multiple attackers who are throwing punches and kicks from every direction?  The answer is twofold.  First the master must learn how to repel an attack.  That part is easy.  Then he must quiet or relax his mind so that he is not distracted. Now, I'm going to throw this ball to you again.  I'm going to throw it toward you just like I have been doing, and at the same speed.  If you drop it, our deal is off – no job, no lessons.  Are you ready?”
I was mortified.  “Wait, no!” I almost yelled.
“Come on Josh, you've just caught the ball easily six times in a row while carrying on a conversation.  What's wrong?” he asked.
“This is important to me!” Then after a pause I added, “I'm scared I'm going to miss this time.”
“That's it exactly,” Daniel began.  First of all, don't worry, I'm not changing the conditions of our agreement; your job and lessons are safe.  I was however, trying to make a point.  When your mind was relaxed, catching the ball was no problem.  When you felt fear, your mind tensed and suddenly, you were unsure of yourself.”  To my relief, he put the ball down.  In order to be a master martial artist, you must train the body, mind and spirit.  Starting tomorrow we'll begin training your mind in the morning, your spirit in the afternoon and your body during what you think of as lessons; but in fact; every bit of what we will be doing here is a lesson.  Understand?”
“I think so,” I said, an excitement growing inside me.  This was not going to be your average, everyday martial arts lessons.

People confuse passionate with crazy all the time. Just to be clear, I am bat-$#%^ passionate.
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