Tai Chi Experience, Part II

Multiple people taking a Tai Chi class. Image Source: Visit Fairfax (Lawn Tai Chi), https://www.fxva.com/event/tai-chi-on-the-lawn-(free)/22723/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 20
    Goal = 3 Pages a week. 20/20 Pages (for artist). 20/32 pages (for completion of 1st issue)
    Actual = 0/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Rough Drafted a page and will (hopefully) write it tonight. I usually try to rough draft the pages either Friday night or Saturday, but because I took a Tai Chi class with a friend–didn’t really get to rough draft as I normally would have, so I’m a little slow this week.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Hard vs. Soft

So, today I thought I’d take a moment and detail my experience in the Tai Chi class. It was really a very interesting experience. It was pretty much what I expected: part meditation, part mindfulness, and part martial arts. The class was small, yet friendly, and everyone wanted to really work hard, including me. And for me, that was difficult because Tai Chi isn’t about working hard, its about letting go. Again, this is where the meditation and mindfulness comes in, but Tai Chi is about decentering yourself and letting the stress go. While I’m not a “stress-puppy” (to use slang that went out of vogue at the turn of the 2000s), I tend to follow my late uncle’s advice of “staying Neutral,” (i.e., never too up or too down), so I’m pretty much already decentered to begin with–not meaning that I’m not stressed, I mean, I’m in a PhD program and a poor graduate student again for Peter’s sake, so of course I’m stressed, but I try to “stay in the middle” emotionally, so it’s hard to let go of something I’m not really holding (or only hold it when I need to).

Water vs. Stone

My real problem came in when I was trying to replicate the forms. I haven’t done real karate (with a teacher in a class) in years, no, decades now at this point. I remember as a karate student, I was super accurate with my forms and my “technique.”  Perhaps it is just memory clouding my perception of things, but I found myself frustrated when I would miss a movement demonstrated by the teacher. He probably sensed my frustration because he said that someone from karate is going to have a hard time adjusting to Tai Chi. Karate is “hard” meaning that it is precise, hard-hitting, and rigid where as Tai Chi is “soft” meaning that it is more “flowing” and more “elegant” and not nearly as rigid.  I found this to be very true as I struggled through some of the hand and foot combinations.

Learning through Unlearning

What I’m glad of, however, is the fact that both the teacher and Tai Chi were forgiving. I tried very hard to mimic the movements, but didn’t get them right all of the time (most of the time, if I’m honest), but the teacher said that to learn one needs to unlearn what one has learned.  I know this implicitly, but it was nice to be reminded of it. Whenever I want to master something, I have to basically start over, go from whatever level I am and begin at level one all over again, otherwise I don’t really do that well in whatever it is I’m trying to master.  This is what I needed to do in my graduate school (by rereading all of my books on Rhetoric for my MA in English), in my writing (by creating a process by which I draft and revise, write and rewrite, before submission), and now through Tai Chi, by figuring out the intersection between Tai Chi and Karate, and learning one, while drawing on my knowledge and experience in the other, but not letting it interfere with the new learning. While it may be a while before I get to take another class due to my schedule, it was a great experience and I’m glad my friend invited me to come.


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Sportsmanship–The Lost Art

Image Source: emaze.com

So, I’ve recently become enamored with a video game that has a mostly online focus: Gwent Beta for the Playstation 4.  The Witcher fans will recognize the game from Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt as it is a heavily reworked version of that game.  Gwent is essentially a “card” game in the Magic: The Gathering sense, but the cards are often animated and the computer administers the effects of the cards and acts as scorekeeper and referee.  The game, ostensibly a Free-to-Play game (meaning that it is free to play, but offers a store where players can purchase “kegs” of cards using in-game and real-world currency).  Many gamers term this a “Pay-to-Win” in that those who are willing to pay real-world money often have a distinct advantage over those who just grind away for the (slower earned) in-game currency.

Image Source: PlayGwent

Now, I really don’t like this model and I was determined not to spend any additional money on this standalone game (I mean, I bought the Special Edition version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for double the cost of the base game.  How much more does CD Project Red–the makers of both games–want me to do?)  I was also resigned to the slow pace of earning in-game currency and losing multiple matches while my currency slowly accrued.  It is also a beta and the current build on PS4 is buggy as all-get-out.  It has crashed my PS4 more times and in many more different ways in the past 3 weeks than any other game that I have owned.  And we’re not talking just random freezes, but hard crashes.  It crashed so utterly, one time, that I had to pull the power cord from the PS4 and replug it in because nothing that I did would shut off the system.  I even put up with that, but the thing that finally got to me and inspired this blog is the “taunt” system that the designers included with the game.


Now, I realize that they didn’t want to open up players to the abuse of a regular voice chat, but “taunt” system is the “canned” version of verbal abuse because no one online understands the concept of sportsmanship–i.e., being gracious when you’re winning and not being salty when you’re losing.  You just play the game to have fun.  However, these days, playing the game is not enough, it seems, unless you can decimate your opponent and then “taunt” him or her about it.  There have been matches where I’ve done the math and I’ve clearly won and declined to play the rest of the cards in my hand because what’s the point?  I’ve won already–I don’t need to destroy your ego or use the taunt feature to make you feel bad about yourself.  We were playing a game and I happened to win that round.  I’ve been in the losing seat just today, knowing that I did not have the cards and rather than the opponent just ending it, he/she played their entire hand and and added with a pre-canned taunt for good measure.  Needless to say, that person did NOT get a “Good Game” response from me.  And this is increasing.  Where it was rare, it has become something that happens 3 out of every 4 games–and there’s no mute button that I know of (except the mute button for the TV which blocks out all sound effects)

I see this in other online venues as well.  If players can’t win/aren’t winning, you can be sure that some will choose to leave no matter how bad it hurts their stats or the team’s performance.  “Backing out” is the term for it if you aren’t a gamer (i.e., “this sucks, let’s back out” and blip they are gone).  Winning too has taken on this same level of destructive behavior, but instead of just taking a loss and learning from it, the winners are now narcissistic braggadocios.  They are the greatest thing on God’s earth if you listen to them after a match.  There are even people online–YouTubers and the like–who brag that they just want to get online and “crap talk” with their buddies.  That’s what is fun to them.

Really?  I thought it was about playing the games and having a good time while online.  Why does the idea of sportsmanship (being a gracious winner or loser) have to die for you to feel like you’re having fun?  When did just playing the game not become enough and it was decided that in order to have fun you have to belittle other players?  And why are we okay with that?

Tour De France 2017

Image Source: Bicycling.com

Today is the start of the annual three week bicycle race The Tour De France.  I try to watch it every year (when I can).  I really enjoy watching both the scenery as well as the tactical aspects of the sport.  I also enjoy watching the spectators and the countryside as the Tour travels the French countryside for the next three weeks.  There is also an element of nostalgia because my uncle (who instrumental in instilling in me a love of sports and sportsmanship) and I watched this when Greg LeMond won the Tour in the 80s.  We used to watch the abbreviated two hour show on weeknights and the full Tour that they showed on the weekends and I remember I used to watch, enraptured, waiting to see if LeMond could pull it out.

greg lemond_everymantri
Image Source: EverymanTri.com

Last year, I watched the lead-up races to the Tour with baited breath.  This year, however, I’ve had other things occupying my time (writing and reading, among other things) and I’ve not kept up as much with the teams, so I can’t say with certainty if “The Sky Train” (the nickname for the Sky Team) will be as dominate as they were last year and in previous years.

Blog entries will still continue (and I promise they won’t all be on the Tour De France–I’ll probably only mention it as a weekly wrap-up of some of the most exciting moments). Most people seem to enjoy the tactics of the teams going up the  mountains, but I really like watching the cyclists freewheel down the mountains and go up and down the hills, valleys, and curves that make up much of the French countryside.  To me, this is some of the most interesting racing available in all the sports from track and field all the way up to motor sports (and this is coming from a Formula One fan as well).  I love the tactics and the way the Yellow Jersey inspires riders to dig into the very depths of their bodies and souls to try to win the Tour for themselves or their teammates.

This is the kind of passion that I’d like to try to find for my own characters to make them real for readers.

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