Friday, May 23, 2008

Cows Coming Home to Roost

My martial arts training predates my yoga practice. In fact, I started the latter because I found that Japanese budo training doesn't have much in the way of warm-ups. (The strong emphasis on stretching in US dojos I figure to be more about liability than flexibility.) After I began teaching yoga 4 years ago, I found myself growing worried about injury. My budo training has thereafter suffered, being too afraid to really put myself out there. This anxiety about injury has become self-perpetuating. A couple years ago, I began to feel a twinge in my right elbow, ironically caused by yoga, albeit in the Extreme Sport Style of Ashtanga, as taught in Japan, usually by former fitness instructors who get their "license" after a mere 2 week course, with their knowledge of the body seeming to go no further than "heads, shoulders, knees, and toes." (Knees and toes.) The elbow had been fine awhile, but around Golden Week I began to feel the twinge again. So I gave myself a couple weeks off before going back up to Takeuchi. And of course, I badly injured it on the very first technique, within minutes of arriving at the dojo. Then I wisely continued to train for 2 more hours, feeling the hyper-extension getting more and more hyperer. The next day, I felt like lead weights were hanging off my arm, with a decrease in mobility of about 20%. Well done. This further feeds the fear. I love budo, and my move to the Kyo was initiated by the chance to train here. But the nagging voice in my head has grown more confident. Can I train in a way that avoids injury and still allows me to teach? Or are the two mutually exclusive? As my odometer rolls toward my 41st birthday, my doubt grows.

I did teach this week, but badly. Murphy with his damned Law brought many beginners around this week, so I was forced to demo some pretty flaccid poses. I need to keep healthy. I have begun to teach more around town, and am bringing a couple big guns to Kansai for workshops. Plus Shugendo training season is coming soon. I give myself 6 weeks off from Takeuchi, though I'll try to at least watch practice, keep my feet wet...

Bizarrely, in the days following the injury, mukade began to show up in the house again. (For any yoga students reading this: Remember, this blog is my writing practice, and that last sentence was pure fiction. So please, enjoy that savasana.) One was trying to blend with the sofa, Ninja-style. I didn't want to kill him, so I rigged a mukade catcher (co-designed by W.E. Coyote and the Acme Corporation) consisting of Tupperware, a newspaper, and a tea tray, then I introduced him to our neighbor's yard. The next day, another Ninja had shown great dedication by getting itself boiled alive in our bath. Within moments of this event, fate made me read that centipedes are messengers of Bishamon, the Japanese name for the god of warfare. Wondering if this was some portent regarding my elbow and training conundrum, a few days later we hiked out to the Bishamon Temple in Yamashina to see what he wanted. But the god was strangely silent. He did introduce us to a small figure in an adjacent shrine, that of a Fudo stature wrapped by a great white serpent. In many traditions, including Christian, snakes represent knowledge. (Cue Eve, Tree of Knowledge, apples, etc.) Fudo represents Immovability, Strong Intent. Fudo is the Japanese name for Acala, another Hindu figure, closely related to my Yoga name, "Tejas", meaning spiritual fire and intensity. A CLUE!. I have been quite heady lately, more into books and this Mac than much else. Has my quest for wisdom and ideas begun to constrict my body, snuffing out my desire to train and improve in both yoga and budo? Hmmm.

Walking back along the canal that runs between Biwa and the Nanzenji aqueduct, we see another snake on the high curved concrete embankment. We can't tell whether it was live or dead, but this snake doesn't seem appetizing to the kites above or to the feral cats who haunt these parts in great numbers. OK, I get it Mon. Knowledge is only so palatable to the cats who are more about instinct, or the kites who live by reflex and concentration. Feed the body. Feed the body.

But it still doesn't sink it fully. We leave the canal and climb up toward the crest of Higashiyama, to that place where 6 trails intersect like spokes on the Wheel of Dharma. I try to let memory lead me to the hilltop home where PsychoSanta now lives. It's been 6 months since we put him there. But my head fails me. I give over to the feet, which take us along deer trails and down a fun and hilarious descent to Oku-no-In. But the head's not down yet. It wants to go up to the Amaterasu's cave behind Himukai Jinja. Feet defiantly follows a narrow path between the aerials of new ferns and too a small cemetery, whose grumpy keeper we had the misfortune to meet a week before. We hop the fence and as we cross the unkept grounds, I wait for his voice to call out, "Chopper, sick balls!" The "Stand by Me" reference lingers as we walk the rails down toward Keage.

Body trumps head. Head tries to raise by writing this post. A lovely rain falls outside, lulling ears and eyes toward sleep. Head folds. Body rakes in the winnings...

On the turntable: Duke Ellington, "Centennial Edition"

On the nighttable: John Updike, "Your Lover Just Called"

On the reel table: "Songcatcher" (Maggie Greenwald, 2000)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is this why you didn't come to Tokyo over the GW?
Hope all is better now.