Category Archives: Bone & sinew

Those first few weeks

Me, pretending that I don’t, in fact, want to drink an entire bottle of wine with my large frozen pizza after that goddamn run.

I’m a multi-sport athlete.

I run, bike, cross-country ski, and in my “down” time, I sail, hike, lift weights…

I go.

I do all this stuff because it gets me out into the wide world, where the act of propelling myself merges with the beauty around me and helps me find joy, God, the sheer exultation of being.

And though I’ve been active like this regularly for nearly a half-decade, I have a confession:

The first few weeks of a new season suck.

They suck big, hairy donkey balls.

A little afternoon torture session

I went for my first run in a while today.

Oh, fuck me.

Windy. Cold. Tired. Sore. Runny nose. Need to poop. Whiny. Cold-sweaty. Icy puddles.

And my body isn’t used to moving that way anymore.

We’ve been doing this thing on skis for the last several months, and now you’re asking for what???

My brain, on the other hand, is all like, “Dude. Yesterday you skied 15k. You tellin’ me you can’t jog a measly 5k today? Pffft.”

Shut up, brain.

Be gentle with yourself

It takes time for the body to adjust.

It takes time for the mind to adjust.

It takes time for the spirit to adjust.

When you’re starting a new endeavor, be it sport, business, relationship, job, adventure… give yourself time.

Savor the transition.

Drink a lot of water, and a little wine.


Eat well.

Enjoy your time as a beginner (again).

The beatdown commeth

I know I was (ok, ok *am*) a cocky and mouthy little fuck back in the day. But at least I didn’t go to classes for a combat martial art and lip off to the biggest guy in the class, whom I’ve never met, and who’s belt is definitely darker than my pure-white-as-the-driven-snow one. At least I didn’t ignore the rules of the dojo and keep wearing my stinky hippy necklace that my fourth-grade girlfriend gave me back in the day, because I figured that it a) might get broken; b) might make a good handle if it doesn’t break; c) is against the rules of the dojo.

It seems someone is just begging for a beatdown, and I’m just the guy to give it to him, but I’m going to have to wait for a little while. I want to regain my control and finesse a little before I lay into him seeing as how I don’t want to actually do any (lasting) damage; just open his eyes and his mind. And besides, the later in the semester this happens, the closer we’ll get to free sparring.

Regardless of what my mom well tell you, I think providing this service is going to increase my positive karma. This kid is so similar to how I was, it’s almost like going back in time to give myself a lesson.

Let the workout begin

Each year, usually in the fall, I do a workout. There are only eight reps, but the first seven are somewhere in the neighborhood of 140,000 pounds. Yesterday, when it was 92 and humid, I got serious about rep one. Ugh.

So yeah, this year’s firewood arrived: fifteen cords of nice, fresh-cut red oak. Every year, I get a little better at managing this influx of wood, which is good, seeing as how it’s our only heat. This year, my plan is to try to cut a saw-tank’s worth of gas each evening after work. If I can do that, the pile really only oughtta take a couple weeks to get cut to length.

Then, the sooner the better, I’ll get a bunch of friends over and rent a hydraulic woodsplitter or two and we’ll go nuts for the weekend. Hopefully by mid-September, all my wood will be cut and split and partially stacked. And then I’ll relax in my chair and sip mai-tais while nubile slave girls fan me with palm fronds. Man, do I love this time of year!

Considering a chiropractor

Yeah, so my back is bothering me. And Hitler went to Poland for tea.

I can barely get up from the couch when I’m sitting down. And once I’m up, getting back down is a collapse into agony. This seems to happen to me about twice a year. And now, after three or four years of it, I’m getting good and fed up. I want to be able to go play hard with The Boy. I want to worry about important things, like just exactly how high a slow-fast-jump-sky-daddy must be to qualify as a bona fide record.

I don’t really want to go to the doc for this because I already have his most important advice: loose some weight. Everything after that is just x-rays (which I don’t need, seeing as how there’s been no trauma to my skeleton) and anti-inflammatories,which I’m already taking. My doc is a good doc. He listens, he does his doc thing, and I’m happy with him.

Sometimes, though, it’s good to get a couple folks with similar but different backgrounds working on the same problem, you know? Like getting a hardware guy and a software guy together to get your serving really popping off. Or a designer and a developer to make your web project sing. I think maybe it’s time for me to take a look at chiropractic.

I’ve always been a little leery of the whole idea. I mean, I know these folks go through their own version of medical school, and really know the physical body inside and out and are just the cat’s pajamas according to a lot of the people I’ve talked to, but there are also rumors of having to keep going to a chiropractor once you start, and of people getting more hurt from overly-enthusiastic bone cracking.

Any of you have any thoughts or advice? And yes, Pete, I know that you’d be happy to crack my back for me. Over and over. Thanks for the thought, man.

Beach trips = n-1

…where n equals the number of days since July 19. There was one day last week that we had a thunderstorm, so we stayed home. Mostly, we’ve been making the thirty-five minute drive up to Bayview beach because the water is so much more refreshing, there are fewer people, and the drive time is a chance for The Wife and I to catch up after our busy days and for her to gain more ammunition for her theory that hams pretty much incessantly talk about their rigs. I’d say it’s only about 97 percent of the time.

I think the string is about to be broken unless some miracle happens tonight and I can get out of ben tomorrow without wincing, grimacing, and sucking in a great lungful of air to combat the pain in my lower back. I think I tweaked something at the beach yesterday, and going back today didn’t really help. In fact, it’s pretty painful to do anything but lie down right now. Grrrr.

Life’s a beach

Got out of work today feeling nausous, headachy, and generally crappy. Went home to a pizza oven of a house. Got convinced (not much of a job there, lemme tell ya) to go to Bayview Beach (where The Wife and I got hitched; remember?). And then life got waaaay better.

The water was *perfect.* The temperature was *perfect.* The white sand beach was uncrowded. The breeze kept the bugs (almost) away and brought little waves up for about two straight hours of “toddler surfing.” Man, life is good.

Mixed news on the Taijutsu front

We (all six of us) went for a walk down the road this morning. Bub had a nice sled ride, the dogs got to see something that isn’t the yard, and we generally had a good time.

‘Bout half a mile down the road, at the neighbors’ driveway, I slipped on some glare ice and went down just like that. *Whump!*

However, in the space of “Whump!,” things slowed down a little and I managed to do a two-sided break-fall! I’m totally stoked about it because it means my training and practice is starting to become internalized and automatic.

Unfortunately, it was a two-sided break fall because as I was falling on my left side, there was some of me under me, which rolled me over to the right, but not soon enough. Most of my left leg got twisted up beneath me, hurting my ankle and knee on that side. I gimped the half-mile home OK, but as I sit, things get a little tighter.

Proving the old “go out the back door” saw [ask Pete, if you don’t know it], I bought a big container of Aleve last night. 😉

A New Stick

Two weeks ago in taijutsu, I broke my bo (a sixish-foot staff) when blocking a strike from my training partner (not Pete, damnit ;-)). Monday night, I got a new staff of compassion (I’m thinking of naming this one Betty, but I haven’t decided yet). It’s made of white oak so it’s not going to break when I’m blocking an attack. It might break when I whack someone, if I hit them hard enough.

The Hard Part

So maybe I’ve decided to keep going with taijutsu.

OK. That’s easy enough to say.

The hard part is the doing. Oh, it’s easy enough to go to class twice a week for a few hours each time. It’s even a relatively simple thing simple thing for me to go to Minneapolis for a weekend seminar in October (Guess what, honey? Surprise!).

The hard part is the same damn thing that’s always been the hard part for me whether it’s music or writing or smack laying: practice. I’m at the point with taijutsu where if I want to get better at a non-glacial pace, I need to practice. I can’t just sit back and rely on my natural talent like I do with music. I can’t coast on the skills other people have installed in me like I do with writing.

I need to get off my ass and run and jump and be stealthy and hit a heavy bag and get hit by someone else and swing a sword around and get the hell out of the way and study tactics and meditate and eat the right things and not only learn Japanese but go to Japan for a few personal tutor sessions with Hatsumi Sensi and pay attention to both Eastern and Western anatomy and learn biomechanics learn to shoot a long bow without aiming.

Oh, did I mention gardening? That’s actually the root of this whole martial tradition I’m studying, believe it or not. After all, it was a bunch of dirt-poor farmers who were just trying to grow food for their families and kept getting harassed by the elite classes who started the whole ninja thing. It was just a way to protect families and friends and villages from government-sanctioned maurading by heavily armed and armored and highly trained troops on horseback.

Ninjutsu, at its root, was also a small middle finger waved in the general direction of the emperor. That might be the part I like best. Hell, I can do that without practicing.

Ass Kicking?

Note the question mark. That’s the important part. That’s the part that indicates, in some small way, the internal struggle I’m having with taijutsu.

I love the scrapping and the skill building and the mental and physical discipline of taijutsu. I love that I’m more powerful, more flexible, more graceful — mentally as well as physically — than I was before I started. I’m grateful for the cameraderie of the dojo and new friends I’ve made through this martial art.

The hard parts are the questions: Why am I there, at the dojo, in the first place? What am I trying to do? How do I measure myself?

I talked to Greg about this some last night after class. He said that he’s been there too, off and on throughout the time he’s spent working with martial arts. He said it’s no fun for him to have start over in class every seven weeks, and is trying to figure out another way to structure class at Northland.

At the beginning of class, before our parking lot chat, Greg talked about the idea of dojo, what it means and a little bit of where it comes from. These are all things I’ve heard before, but for some reason, they were resonating at a deeper level with me. I found myself sitting in seiza, no treally paying attention to the words Greg was speaking so much as the feeling of them, finding them deep inside. Especially when he talked about Hatsumi Sensei telling everyone in the school to “keep going.”

I think that personal experience was an indicator that I need to keep on keeping on, at least for a little while.