Category Archives: Intellectual Wankery

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…”

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…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!

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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.

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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.

Man is almost mad—mad because he is seeking something which he has already got; mad because he’s not aware of who he is; mad because he hopes, desires and then ultimately, feels frustrated. Frustration is bound to be there because you cannot find yourself by seeking; you are already there. The seeking has to stop, the search has to drop… ~Osho

Pneuma – the air, the breath, the life.  The philosophical soul.  The essence of will and thought.

Kinesis – the moving, the changing, the realization, the becoming.  The motion of a body through phases of existence or states of being.

This blog is intended as an experiment of sorts, a journal, and a sounding board.  It’s sort of a result of some decisions and some changes I’ve been making, the most important of which is probably to start willfully shaping myself and nurturing parts of my personality that I think are valuable and present, but… lacking, I guess.

So where am I coming from?  A sort of vague, procrastinating, indecisive rut, in many ways. I saw somewhere that “endurance is another way to excuse sloth” the other day, and it stung some.  I’ve been hanging in there on one of my biggest professional goals, watching other people fail themselves out, excuse themselves from the effort, or coast while I’ve pardoned myself for not achieving what I want to by saying that “I’m still here” and “I’m doing this the right way and that does take longer” and (maybe slightly more reasonably) “I’ve come a long way towards being able to do this but there’s a long way to go.”

I have a habit of letting myself down, breaking promises, and – probably the worst for me – giving in to fear.  I can put myself on the line for what’s right in arenas where I don’t really give a crap about whether I get fired, ostracized, or otherwise penalized for it, but in situations where I want to succeed, I’m often so afraid of sticking my neck out or being seen unfavorably that I may as well be paralyzed.  It’s a cruel irony.  I get so much more accomplished towards ends I don’t give a damn about than otherwise.  And I beat the hell out of myself for the excuses, the cowardice, the lack of movement.  I don’t know if it’s some bizarre sort of coping mechanism or some flavor of emotional masochism, but it’s one of the big things that I’m hoping to change and chronicle with this site.

What’s changing?

To know what is right, and not to do it, is the worst kind of cowardice – Confucius

For starters, I’ve revisited what I consider “right” in my life.  I’ve reaffirmed that it’s more important to do anything ethically and morally than quickly and profitably.  Live a life of wealth rather than get rich quick.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve not been as good in the past at building relationships with people as I’d like to have been.  I’ve acknowledged lots of stuff that I don’t need and don’t use.  I realized a few months ago that when I stopped physical training, I stopped doing what was both a great emotional outlet for me and probably the most powerfully spiritual activity that I’ve got.

I’ve recommitted to action on these points, too.  I’ve decided to study great relationship-builders, to make more effort to learn about and show care for people I’ve known forever and people I’ve only recently met.  I’ve joined a martial arts school again and consider myself to be a serious practitioner (or student, at least) for the first time in years.  I’m exploring ways to be accountable to others and to be more accountable to myself, but kinder.  More encouragement and less threat.  More building and less punishment.  Like I mentioned earlier, this blog is one of those methods.  I’ve decided to indulge in more philosophy and less process, and to work towards more grace rather than more technique.

I guess in the end I’m looking for more peace of mind.  Not peace, not boredom, and not a lack of challenge.  But something closer to serenity, maybe.  Learning to be more for the moment, more for the people around me, and to so thoroughly incorporate what I value into my being that I don’t have to think or to plan or to make time for it.  I’ll live it instinctively and hopefully it will be something that just about every act reinforces to me and demonstrates to others.

So, off we go!  I’m aiming for about an entry a week!  Poke me if I vanish!

Next time, physicality and spirituality!