Tag Archives: writing

Rust and Introspection

armour

Well, this blog had gathered some dust, hasn’t it?

There are several reasons for that, chief among them my growing lack of motivation to do, well, anything. I haven’t exactly been lazy – I still spend at least four hours a week in the boxing gym and I’m still being as careful as I can afford to be about what I eat – yet my heart is not really in it any more.

Also, I have mostly been spending my time boxing and, while it is one of the most challenging combat sports out there, there really isn’t much to say about the training. I work out really hard, my hooks and upper cuts still need work and I often screw up the timing when I’m trying to slip straight shots. Apart from that, I basically do the same fashion of drills I used to do when I was fencing, except I’m learning how to use my fists. It’s fairly routine – just a constant ironing out of my techniques and a slow climb towards better form.

As for writing; I haven’t penned more than a handful of pages in four months. I simply haven’t had any ideas for any kind of story since the end of the summer. This week marks the first time I actually had an idea pop into my head that made me immediately start scribbling notes.

However, let’s deal with the martial arts side of things for now.

I used to love martial arts for its own sake. I loved training and I loved sparring and I loved learning new things just because I thought it was the coolest cat in the pet shop. I don’t seem to have much of  that enthusiasm left these days. Basically, I can’t really answer to myself WHY I’ve been doing it all these years, and why I’m still spending all my free time sweating.

The problem, I’ve decided, is that I have no real goal to strive towards. When I was younger, simply getting better was a good enough reason to keep me coming back. Yet as it is, I am getting dangerously close to thirty years of age and I want some actual final product to be working towards. The training I have been doing for the last six years has not included any kind of rank examinations, so I don’t have any kind of physical tests to prepare for. In, say, karate, I could always be working towards that next belt or what have you, but were no belts in Scatha and there are no real rankings in western boxing.

The only current challenge I have at the moment is to get good enough at boxing to feel confident enough to actually enter the ring for some amateur fights, but I know that it is still months away from happening and is a rather vague notion in and of itself. Not to mention I don’t intent to make a career out of boxing, since A) I like my face in one piece and B) I’m a bit old to start now.

I’m tempted to try and find some way to go back to Duello and train for the next rank there. Somebody must have surpassed the rank of red cord since my day, mustn’t they? I can’t remember that the next level was after red – when I was training there, nobody except the head instructors were rated any higher. I wonder who’s at the top of the pile now… Anyway, I don’t think I have the time or the money to pursue that right now.

This also brings me to the next hiccup – I often feel a sense of weariness when I think of western martial arts. Basically, I’m tired of talking about it and hearing people talk about it. I simply can’t muster the energy to be enthusiastic about this-and-that-fencing-hullabaloo any more. I’ve been thinking, writing and trying out new training techniques for the better part of eight years, and I’ve been talking about WMA for nearly ten – and I feel totally exhausted by the whole thing at the moment.

All I want to do is keep my head down, work hard and get the job done. I’ve lost the eccentric desire to create something new in favour of simply trying to concentrate on bettering my own skills and fitness in whichever ways seem the most appropriate at the time.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I no longer have any desire to take a leadership role in martial arts. If, for whatever bizarre reason, someone asked me to teach rapier or sabre I might consider it. But in regards to my skills as a whole, I have come to accept that I simply don’t have the experience to be an instructor, neither in my over-all martial ability nor in my social practices. My nature, at this moment, is to be a good soldier, not a charismatic leader. That may change some day, or maybe it won’t. Maybe I will always be best suited to be a tool rather than a craftsman.

That is a depressing notion, really…

Anyhow, I am constantly nagged by the question of ‘WHY?’ This had been compounded by the fact that I have essentially scrapped all my dreams and ambitions of the last few years out of a sense of pragmatism. I’m not young any more, and I have never earned a decent wage in my life. I’m still trapped by a job I’m bored to death of because I can’t afford to start over at another job that offers less money and I don’t have the skills to apply for a job that makes noticeably more.

I used to hold myself together with fantasies of being a writer who ran a martial arts school. I’d eventually retire to a country house and bash out novels. I’d sit there contently smoking my pipe and feeling like I created something worthwhile. I was riding the crest of what I thought was a decent sized wave of progress.

Today I couldn’t tell you how I ever believed I was capable of that.

When Scatha shut its doors it was the second time I had to start over, only this time I was totally on my own. It took me a long time to accept it, but I simply don’t have it in me to do that again right now. Not for two or three years at any rate. I’ve run out of schemes and ingenious plans and have to face up to the fact that I’m just going to have to work hard with nobody around to see it.

Objectively speaking I am a twenty-eight year old male who’s accomplishments include general good fitness, a certain adeptness at violence, and an ability to describe events with decent prose. My shortcomings are that I have no plans for the future that I can put my finger on, I have no career to speak of and I have a social circle the size of a dime.

It’s not exactly being a superhero, is it?

So all I can do it keep looking for a new job and keep trying to find a new way to motivate myself in my training while I ride out the rest of this rather bleak winter of introspection.

Tome

A while ago while I was in Chapters I spotted what was pretty much the most amazing-looking notebook I had ever seen. It was large and covered with silver filigree, with a darkened leather texture underneath. It was held shut with two metal clasps, and even the edges of the paper had floral designs to it.

This was clearly a book that demanded to have something important written in it.

However, I was, as usual, broke, so I put it back on the shelf and went on about my day. I entertained some notion that I may come back and purchase it when I had some money. It was a little pricey for what boiled down to a blank pile of papers, so I dismissed it for the time being.

I found myself wondering what I would ever write in so presentational a notebook. After all, it would seem like such a waste to scribble something trivial inside of it, or fill it up with a jumble of disorganized thoughts. I’ve always found the medium of writing has a certain motivation for the writing itself. Whether it is nice paper and a classic quill pen, or a vintage manual typewriter, sometimes the tools and the actions you choose for writing can influence the writing itself.

I came to a decision; I would go back to buy one of the pretty, pretty books, and fill it with absolutely everything I know, or will come to know, about martial arts.

And that is what I am doing whenever I have a spare moment.

I started at the beginning, reviewing and writing down the most basic concepts behind posture and movement, and began progressing through everything that is filling up my brain. It is a marvellous exercise in self-review. Teaching, or in this case documenting, an art right from the ground up is often where you make the most revelations. There are so many tiny things that you have half-forgotten, or internalized to the point that you forget you use them, that come up to the surface when you have to explain everything from day one.

So I shall fill my epic tome with everything I know on the subject of fighting, and keep adding all the new things I learn. I will accumulate (and in some cases complete) my research in period martial arts, I will scribble down all the drills I have found useful for training and teaching over the last nine years, I will re-think and write down every little bit of the jumbled mess of mixed fighting styles that swirl around in my restless little brain.

This should be interesting.

A Winter in Review

Well, hullo then.

I haven’t used this blog in some time – a few months in fact. There are several reasons for that, though most of them are feeble as excuses. The first and most poignant was NANOWRIMO. For those who are not aware, the acronym in question is a national novel writing competition. The goal is to write a fifty thousand word book within the month of November. Such a task required the majority of my attention. Afterwords, well, followed much less productivity than I would have liked.

And so, a winter in review;

As I mentioned, November began with my second attempt at a thirty day novel. I managed to pull a basic story idea involving a historical/fantasy plot that was based around the court intrigues of Elizabethan England. (Why I am consistently foolish enough to start deadline projects with ridiculously complicated stories I shall never know.) On the whole, the novel writing frenzy began with the wind at my back and my sails propelling me forward with great haste. Contrarily, it ended with a slow sinking into the black waters of northern seas after being viciously and suddenly attacked by Nordic pirates.

I barely made it halfway, though I did churn out some decent chapters here and there. (At the end of my last attempt, two years ago, I at least managed to make it to forty-thousand words) Sadly, I allowed three very long shifts at work exhaust me. Never managing to catch up on those sad, couple-hundred-word-count days, my novel petered out and was no more.

At first, I was all afire to start another writing project – one that was less hurried. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who works best under a little pressure. So my daily writing habits slowly declined into, well, no writing habits. In fact, I have fallen into a horrific tendency of doing absolutely nothing with the first three hours of my day. For this I feel no end of shame.

On the plus side, I did spend that uncreative time altering my diet and exercise routines. Rather I should say; maintaining the alterations I made at the end of the summer. Currently I weigh less than I ever have in my adult life, and have kept a sufficient amount of my muscle mass in doing so. In fact, I am very nearly able to say that I have actually achieved the more vain aspects of my fitness goals. That is, however, all I shall say about that. After all, there is nothing more boring than listening to someone talk about their own weight loss. I suppose, as un-stoic as it is, personal improvement seems more relevant when it is made known to others.

How insecure we all are.

As to the subject of martial arts, that tale runs along similar lines. While I find the time every few weeks to visit the open fight nights at Academie Duello, I have no practice of my own anymore. The Friday fencing bouts keep me adept and satisfy my cravings to stab at people, but I do miss both instructing and learning the material to which I am most inclined. Bartitsu, in particular, is something I would love to be able to work on again. And sabre.

(Incidentally, there was also that whole Steampunk Self-Defence Manual plan. That book, by the way, was actually completed as far as the text is concerned, and still sits waiting on my computer. However, the disbandment of SCG’s regular classes left me without anyone to help demonstrate the techniques in the photos. And so…)

Perhaps, once the weather becomes more clement, I will try and re-start an outdoor practice of one of these things. If I really put effort in I might be able to secure one student. Maybe two. The real issue is figuring out what I actually want to do with martial arts. What focus do I want to take? I have no clue really. It’s been nearly a decade since I first started training, and all my plans to make a living out of it have become somewhat prone to failure.

Yet I refuse to be maudlin. I still have almost ten years of experience, some of which is in branches of fighting very few people are familiar with. That is certainly nothing to sneeze at. I just need a plan. I’ve always been able to concoct schemes within a set of parameters, but when it comes to plotting out the rest of my own life… That, I must admit, has me at a loss more often than not.

The threat of my thirtieth birthday looms ahead like an ominous sunrise of full adulthood. I’d be lying if I said that fact didn’t terrify me almost as much as the notion of… dancing. OK, that was a bit maudlin.

And on that note, I need to go and try and find a new job now.