So I read a post today on Live Your Legend which has been sitting in my pile of things to revisit for a while. It’s the first real foray I’ve had onto that site – at least as far as I can remember – and just this one post has convinced me that I should spend more time there.

The gist of it revolved around admitting your vulnerability, understanding when you’re being inauthentic, and considering the effects that being the incorrigible optimist might have on the people around you.  Check it out here, if you like.

I was hit really close to home.  Part of the business culture in which I usually submerge myself is very enthusiastic, very positive, very large, and very loud.  All of those things are great.  They’ve contributed to lots of fantastic experiences, and I’ve met many friends there.  It’s been a boon to me when I need an infusion of motivation or hope or positivity, and I think that I’ve been able to provide some of that to other people, as well.

Part of what this post reminded me of, though, is a darker side to that.  There have been times when I’ve felt that I’m the only one struggling.  That, even if everyone there wants me to succeed, my success isn’t critical or even significant to them.  As a pessimist, a T, and maybe a depressive, that’s sometimes really hard to deal with.  It’s a mark of personal failure and a hit to my pride and my confidence.  I think the comment I read about the BS Meter rang really true.  I’ve known people on their last legs who’ve insisted that everything was great.  I’ve seen people who, as far as I could tell, were trying very hard to convince themselves of the wonderful and positive stories that they were telling.  It turned me off of many of them, hard.  I’ve done some of that, myself, and I wonder how that’s affected relationships of mine over the past few years.

Again, that’s not to say that the whole enterprise is bad.  I believe really strongly in holding on to positives, successes, and progress.  The small stuff, in particular, has kept me going as much as or more than some of the big breakthroughs – sales, achievements, licensing, etc.  Remembering that, that one time, I opened my mouth to talk to a guy a thousand levels beyond where I was is pretty empowering, even though it didn’t necessarily have any bearing on any quantitative measure of my progress or success.  But the struggles, too.  So many struggles.  I worry that I’ll disappoint my wife, that I’ll let clients down, or that I’ll drop the ball for a friend, a new agent, or a mentor.  I worry that I’ll fall into the habit of hiding from success and saying that I tried, or that it was too hard, or that it wasn’t something that I really wanted, after all.


On the whole, I think that my mindset is alright, and getting better.  I know that what I’m pursuing is the best chance that I’ve ever found – and I’ve looked – to find the success that I want in my life.  I know that what I do for people is the best program I’ve ever come across, and that it’s objectively just really damn good.  I know that I mean well towards just about everyone, and that if they don’t want what I try to offer, in terms of friendship, business, time, good vibes, whatever, then that’s not my fault.  I know that, if I don’t sustain some of this amazing head of steam that I’ve been building up, I’ll have to start over soon.  And I know that it terrifies me to run this track, because what if it all really starts happening?  What if I suddenly find myself at the head of a team?  What if they’re great people, who want and need and could have success for themselves, and I fall short?  It’s tough to deal with, sometimes, and it is frequently present enough that some days I feel like I’m tripping over it left and right.

But what if I am capable?  What if, even if I do fall short, I knew that others had been in the same position, and then recovered, and even continued to grow afterwards?  What if I was that kind of example to someone with a burning desire for something, someday?  That would be a success.


The Four Energies

One of the central concepts behind SPM is the idea of four energies – types of motion, flow, or interaction, in some sense.  They’re Sink, Float, Spit, and Swallow.  (Some of you reading this probably have your mind in the gutter, going by some of the reactions I’ve gotten talking to friends about this.  Not the idea.)

I’m sure that, as my understanding and experience develop, how I characterize each of these energies will change.  For now, though, I’d describe them – simply – like this:

  • Sink – Grounding incoming energy or dispersing it through your roots.  “Stick” to the ground and become the Immovable Object
  • Float – Throwing energy upward/forward to lift your opponent and extend or open their structure
  • Spit – Whipping, waving or snapping energy.  Imagine a bullwhip in slow motion – the energy travels in a wave down its length until it reaches the tip, which snaps hard enough to generate a sonic boom (really!)
  • Swallow – Redirecting energy with circles.  Using incoming energy to add power to your own counterattack or strength to your structure

I like the idea of martial arts as philosophies, which sometimes is part of the intent, sometimes makes for some neat ideas, and sometimes is probably mostly just intellectual masturbation.  I have been toying with looking at other aspects of Life, the Universe, and Everything through the perspective of the Four Energies, though, and I think I like some of my inferences.

Sinking –

My first thought was stubbornness, really.  Or stick-to-it-iveness, if you’d rather.  When pressure is applied to you, hunker down.  Strengthen your structure.  If you have a sound foundation, you can use what’s testing you to strengthen your resolve.

Second thought?  Something I hear over and over in so many arenas, it’s uncanny: When in doubt, fall back on your fundamentals, your foundation.  If you couldn’t get a flying kick in Karate, my Sensei would tell you to work on your cat stance or your standing, stationary kicks.  If you aren’t closing sales in business, learn how to carry on a conversation, how to ask questions to get people talking about things they like and are excited about, and how to find common interests.  Build relationships.

Floating –

If you’re faced with a knotty problem you can’t break through or sneak around, take it apart.  See what gives it its structure and separate it.  Attack the problem a piece at a time or get straight to the root once you know which bits you can disregard.  Keep your focus and your form while you assault the same in whatever you’re facing.

Spitting –

Couple of things here, too.  Use everything at your disposal in conjunction to achieve huge results.  To borrow a cliche, be like flowing water and then, just for a moment, a tsunami crashing into your objective.  I actually relate this to the mindset I try to adopt when pursuing any of a number of goals.  I aspire to applying education, experience, fundamentals, and focus consistently day to day, week to week, etc.  When I pull that off, I do feel like I get this strange whipping effect.  I make a little progress, make more and steadier progress, and suddenly everything might fall into place and I’ll almost snap from a bit of a distance away to having achieved what I was going for.

Swallowing –

I like thinking of this as sort of a rhetorical device.  It’s redirecting a question to allow myself room to ask my own.  This applies to the wargaming I like to nerd out on, too.  My opponent might ask me a question by fielding lots of hard-to-hit models.  My answer, and a question in its own right, might be the threat of skating past all those difficult to kill models and winning the game by assassination – essentially killing the opposing army’s commander.  It’s having a debate – “Yes, you say that, but on the other hand…”


…Which reminds me of one of my Sifu’s favorite metaphors.  He likens Mantis to learning a language.  First you learn some words and grammar with simple techniques and basics.  As you progress, you string some of those words together into phrases.  Eventually, you can generate a sentence of techniques, footwork, structure, breathing, and energy.  Ultimately, you carry on a conversation, a debate, or an argument as you work with other practitioners or, if necessary, engage in a fight.

So, things I have fun toying with while I’m doing busywork or just enjoying some quiet.  If any other martial artists or people with analogous experience would like to chime in with their thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

Coming out of a Shell

A: I’ve been thinking lately that I’m finally getting enough of the stick out of my ass that I’m getting a little more comfortable with the idea of being halfway competent at nurturing relationships with real people with real faces.  Maybe that has something to do with it 😛

B: I think a nice way to say it is that you’re coming out of your shell

Earlier this year, one of my big goals was to mitigate my compulsive introversion a little bit.  I didn’t know how I’d go about that.  I knew, though, that I wanted closer friendships.  I wanted more people to know more about what goes on in my head and in my heart.  I wanted to be better understood, and hopefully more truthfully appreciated by the people around me.  It wasn’t that I felt I was being false or misleading up to that point, but frankly I left a lot behind closed doors.  At best, I think I’d left a lot of room for people to imagine what I am or to infer it from real or perceived clues.

In some sense, I suppose that that goal of mine seems pretty obvious for its benefits.  On the other hand, I’m not kidding about that introverted business.  My social endurance is usually pretty lacking.  I’m a “caving” guy.  I normally have to take breaks from crowds here and there to recharge myself a bit before diving back into the fray, and even ask my wife for solitude at home on a regular basis.

From what I understand, that’s completely typical of introverts.  Despite loving my friends and wanting to appreciate people, milestones, and experiences, I definitely feel that being in social situations drains my batteries.  I recuperate in private, alone.

Variations on the theme permeate my life.  F’r example, I’m intensely private about my spiritual practice, for the most part – sharing in small rituals usually gives me the willies and I prefer improvised, idiosyncratic meditations to satisfy that urge.

These past couple of weeks around the holidays have surprised and shocked me, though.  Since I gave myself that goal to be more outgoing, more forthright, in contact with people I value, I’ve found myself more or less spontaneously doing so.  I attend more social events.  I have more conversations with more people.  More of them are less well-known and comfortable to me.  The recent culmination was playing a typically raunchy and damning game of Cards Against Humanity with my wife’s mother at that family’s Thanksgiving gathering, following grand and shameless political judgments at my family’s.

I actually flinched in a big way after the political business.  Something to the effect of “Holy shit, what did I just do in front of my grandparents?”  I’m not positive of what I had felt at that moment, but it was somewhere between panic and shame, I think.  I don’t think it was that my outburst after dinner was controversial – generally we all agree on at least the principal behind what I said.  It was way the hell outside what I consider my comfort zone, though.  I’d normally spectate through such a conversation or withdraw and take a breather.  Instead, I ranted a bit, and I argued a bit, and I loudly and publicly followed a chain of logic from premise to conclusion without allowing myself to be interrupted.

I flinched afterwards, once things had died down, and I doubted myself.  It truly was outside the scope of my self-image, and that scared me.  On the other hand, it’s what I’ve pointed myself towards for the better part of a year.  It’s what I’ve been studying some (yeah, I’m that kind of person) and reminding myself of and pondering and talking up the virtue of.  And the funniest thing?  That it’s starting to look successful.  And beyond that – can you keep a secret?

It’s kind of fun.

On Again, Off Again


I have this nasty habit (previously discussed) of adding lots to my plate.  Usually it ends up becoming more than I can reasonably handle.  I’m not all that great at juggling lots of priorities and I have plenty of bumps and bruises from falling off of one wagon or another.  It’s humiliating when one of those priorities is something that I’ve professed to myself or to others is important to me – something I value and respect and want to honor, accomplish, or stick with.  It’s been diet, it’s been martial arts, it’s been taking care of my emotional state, it’s been my wife, and it’s probably been most everything that I want to be able to pay attention to with any regularity.

That humiliation feels like the bane of my existence sometimes.  It’s hard to swallow my pride and say that I’ve failed and that I’m coming back to try to pick up where I left off. It’s hard to admit to others or to myself that I’m not as capable or enduring as I’d like to be by coming back to face those priorities again.

On the other hand, coming back to those things that fall by the wayside for a bit is another way to demonstrate that they do matter.  I’m not perfect.  I’m not strong, smart, or tough enough to handle everything with its due attention all the time.  I try and try to maintain that state, but it never quite works, or never does for long.  That’s ok.  Returning to a thing to pick it back up is good and important no matter how awkward it feels.  Momentum is the least of what I lose, but any of that loss is better than sacrificing ideals, concepts, goals, or people that I value.

So the word of the day, I guess, is probably humility.  Yes, demonstrate it in public.  Don’t discount yourself or your worth, but don’t take yourself too seriously.  By the same token, be humble with yourself.  Know that you’ll fall off the wagon.  You’ll make mistakes, lose sight of your goals, forget basics and fundamentals.  Forgive yourself.  Refocus.  Remember.  Relearn.  You’ll get back on track.

Moving Meditation 2

I courted my now-wife by hand-writing letters to her while she was on the other side of an ocean.  She was in France for a semester of studying abroad and not ready to start a new relationship.  I sent the first one a couple of weeks before she left, actually, hoping it would be waiting for her.  It ended up being a week late, but that’s not bad.

Each of my groomsdudes will have a hand-written note with their gift for standing with me at the wedding.  Mostly we communicate through Facebook or email.  Mostly we see each other, oh, maybe a few times a year if I’m lucky.

While I was working through severe depression and disappointment in myself after high school and my abortive college career, I wrote to myself.  I spilled my thoughts onto paper, with a pen, in cursive.  And there were tears on my looseleaf and notebooks.


Handwriting – cursive, careful, crafted handwriting – really holds a special place in my heart.  It’s a more personal way to communicate, I think.  It’s a way to pace myself, to martial my thoughts down to a speed where I can wallow or exult in the concepts and feelings that they’re related to.  It’s a way to carve a piece of art out of graphite or to bleed inked thoughts onto a page.  Not just communicate, but communicate through a medium that takes time, thought, care, and effort.

I know that I romanticize this idea.  I know that the people I write to or for probably don’t see it the same way I do.  I know that I don’t always appreciate what I’ve done in the past – trying my hand at poetry or just bitching and moaning at the page and the universe.  When I boil it all down, though, the act of writing – by hand, in cursive, and with purpose – is really meditative for me.  It centers me and calms me, giving me some degree of serenity that I hadn’t had before.  It helps me distill the chaos that occasionally courses through my head.  It’s another mode of philosophical awareness that grounds me and it allows me to feel like I’ve put a little bit of my soul into something that I can then pass on to someone I care about.

I’m working on always remembering these little things that can keep me on an even keel and help me share with people that I appreciate them and that I’m thinking of them.


Tonight is special for a lot of people who follow a path like mine.  For many, it’s a night of dead things and fae things.  Old, unwanted things and lingering missed things.  It’s a night of death and dying – hope, light, joy, and life.  Tonight is the night the world dies.

Tomorrow, though, there’s… something.  There’s something, because I choose not only to remember, to visit, to be haunted by the dead, but also to lay to rest those things whose time has passed.  Tonight is a night to say goodbye to the things that no longer need to haunt me and with which I’m no longer served by haunting myself.  Some will cling until their time comes in the next year, or the ones after that, but with everything else tonight die fears, die failures, die the regrets of a thousand mistakes.  Or at least, I do my best to let them move on, and to move on myself.

Tomorrow hope is reborn.  Tomorrow begins the vigil for the return of spring and new life.  Tomorrow, new fears may be reborn, too, and old ones may remind us that they’re not quite ready to leave yet.  But tomorrow, I start anew, with a new burden, a new buoyancy, and a new purpose.  A new life.  Tomorrow I face an emptiness like fresh snow –  an emptiness waiting to be filled with new light, new hope, new life, and new growth.  Tomorrow is a new year.

Blessed Samhain.



I live!  It’s been a while, and it’s been a busy one.  Lots to write about, but I’m going to try to keep this one short.

On the clarity of your ideas depends the scope of your success in any endeavour – James Robertsons

A thing I’ve been wrestling with lately – more than usual, anyway – is over-commitment.  I feel like I have, or want to, priorities, attention, obligations, and work to do in every direction sometimes.  There’s my wife (recently official) and my relationship with her, martial arts (recently re-christened Iron Pagoda Fitness Club), maintaining and improving friendships new and old, my day gig, my for-now-part-time business, other business ideas that I play with now and again, gaming with friends, hobby stuff, housekeeping, focused diet and exercise outside of the gym, reading, listening, studying, learning…  This list seems to go on forever sometimes, and my tendency is to want to see some kind of improvement in all of them more or less every day.  Preferably something measurable.  Preferably something quantifiable, plannable, executable, and check-boxable.

Naturally, this produces some problems.

That approach makes a lot of sense for a lot of things.  It does not make sense for some of the most important.  I can’t realistically check a box that says that I’ve helped my wife have a better day today.  I can’t realistically say that I have certainly accomplished things that will definitively make me a better friend to Kate or Ness or Chris or any of the mob in Madison.  I can’t say, in advance, that doing X at Y time will make me feel more spiritually fulfilled.  Some things I just need to be opportunistic about.  Some things I just need to do, and perceived quality or efficacy be damned.  I wrote a note to my best friend thanking her for being who she is and tucked it into her gift for standing with me at my wedding.  I try to do something every day that will remind the Cap’n that I’m thinking of her and that she and our life together are important to me.  It’s more important to exercise consistently and to pay attention to what I eat than it is to measure every second, every rep, every ingredient, every calorie.  It’s more important that I show up and work hard at Taijiquan and SPM than that I excel or show immediate, self-perceived “improvement” in every class or with every week that goes by.

Where I start to stumble is, I think, when I forget something that my Sifu mentioned to me the other day: Training is a refuge – a source of peace and stillness – and not a task or a job.  It applies particularly to SPM for me, but to some other things, as well.  SPM is fantastic because it hurts; bruising my body in destruction drills or having muscles so fatigued that it feels like my shoulders shouldn’t still be in their sockets or my legs keeping me standing gets me out of my head and into the moment.  It puts me in the now, where I stop worrying about what I need to do, what I haven’t done, and what’s looming over the horizon.  Painting minis does that for me when I get lost in the details of the model.  Clean brush, apply paint, clean brush, apply paint, clean brush, correct paint, clean brush, apply paint…  Even getting lost in a good novel for hours at a time.  All of them are special meditations for me.  Refuges from planning, maintaining focus, working against some of my instincts and weaknesses.  They’re places where I can flow instead of putting myself on rails.

I need to be reminded sometimes to protect those sanctuaries, and to keep the kind of order required to meet some goals from creeping into my sources of a serenity that is both a goal in itself and a source of energy for continuing to pursue the rest.