Friday, December 17, 2010

the rigor of vigor

"It's better to be lucky than good..." I've noticed over the years that often times skill takes the bronze and luck takes the gold. I don't know who ends up with the silver, to be quite honest, I heard a famous poet once say, "If you ain't first, your last." I guess we'll just have to take their word on that. Anyway, I remember as a kid being told, as I sat Indian-Style, cross legged in the Stevens Elementary Multi-Purpose-Room that, "I could be anything I want to be..." That's where things started getting complicated I suppose.

I remember hearing stories from my dad and unc growing up; they'd sit there and blow out pack after pack of full-flavor 100 Native Spirits, pound through 2 or 3 pots of generic brand coffee, and just talk about life. They'd share war stories. Not just war stories about war, but often times war stories about their sisters and how much of a pain in the ass they tended to be, apparently. They would trade renditions of stories that often times seem somewhat fabricated and exaggerated only when I was there; and when I'd leave, the stories probably tapered off a bit. However, in a Big-Fish stylistic method they would converse regularly about how many bars they'd been 86'd from and how many people within those same bars that they'd 86'd with their fists.

Out of a family of 8 my dad and Unc were the toughest two. It wouldn't matter if they told the stories or not the endings would always be similar. My aunt, a fragile and beautifully short little white haired dark brim glasses lady would talk often with me as a kid when she babysat me; constantly telling me how tough my daddy was and that I needed to act more like a man. Apparently, being dressed up by my sister wasn't fulfilling my father's dreams of a warrior child; maybe he should have painted my face blue and yelled freedom when I was a baby, that would have sealed my destiny as one bad mama jama.

My dad must have been feeling a bit insecure about his ability to raise me as a fierce a beast as he once anticipated; so he put me into Kung-Fu class at age 7. It went well, for the first few months that is. I don't want to say I was a force-to-be-reckoned with. That would seem a bit precarious of me. I also don't want to say that because it would be a complete lie. After the first few months I had a bit of a life changing incident, it was a monumental piece of my Martial Arts Career. I was in my horse stance, throwing some mightily-vicious punches, counting in broken-Japanese, and it then it happened. I was removed from my feet and placed onto my back promptly. Apparently, in Martial Arts linguistics it's considered a "sweep" and is supposedly used to decipher whether or not an individual is standing properly and firmly; I wasn't. So, I did what any normal warrior child full of vigor and danger would do; I cried. I also refused to ever go back. Hell, I wouldn't even where the color yellow (I was a yellow belt, I don't mean to brag) for a year or two-thereafter.

After that total debacle of a spark into a career filled with kicks and punches, my father decided Judo made more sense. Granted, my dad wasn't dumb by any means, but I did challenge his decision making abilities when he took me from a Shirley Temple Kung-Fu class to an East-side Community Center gang ridden Judo class with a bunch of angry non-English speaking Hispanic kids. The first class titled 'orientation' might as well been called 'annihilation'. I saw kids getting thrown around like midgets in a 1800's circus show. I figured, for a kid who hated being thrown/swept/whatevere'd, this was a downright terrible horrible kind of place. So, I made it about two or three weeks; not even long enough to get a white-belt, which I assumed was given to you at the paperwork appointment quite early on.

So, I wasn't the toughest kid. I wasn't the weakest by any measure, but I sure wasn't worthy of a title like "Maximus Decimus Meridius" or "Inigo Montoya." I just didn't have the killer instinct in me like my uncle and dad; that didn't come til much later in life. I noticed that all the things my dad really wanted me to be were things you learn through living life; internal discoveries as such don't happen overnight, it's a culmination of many trials and strife's interwoven together over time. However, I've also come to realize that it wasn't physical toughness necessarily that my dad used to talk about with Unc; it was much more of an innate-nature of calmness during calamity, consistency during chaos. The sad reality, the irony of it all is that it was uncovered most drastically when my father passed away nearly ten-years ago. All that training as a kid, all the punches, kicks, and sweeps of the world hadn't prepared me to deal with a blow that could kill many; it only knocked me down thankfully. Down, but not out.

So, its years later and I just took up boxing about a month ago. My hands are in pain, knuckles swollen, some open cuts, heavy bag did me wrong I tell ya'. Monday through Friday nights from 4pm to 5pm I'm in a boxing gym being punished as if I've done something terribly wrong. It is the most intense workout I've ever endured. I am sweating, near vomiting, and asking myself every ten-seconds why in God's green earth am I putting myself through this. I don't get college credit for this. I'm not defending my countries honor. I'm doing nothing but submitting myself to the raw and unadulterated brutality of coach Omar; a great man, a tough coach.

I realized last night as I was driving home from the gym breathing like I got tear gassed and beaten in my kidney with a hockey stick, that I put myself into this situation. Somehow and someway, through the intricate maze of life I've decided that the tough road is better the easy one; I'm developing toughness. Not just physically tough but mentally tough. I am pursuing on my own those things that my father so deeply embedded into me through years of doing the best he could, with what he had, right where he was at. I don't feel tough this morning; I feel completely broken. I feel as if I've been physically pushed to the maximum. However, I still went to the gym at 8am and cranked away for nearly 3 hours. I chose toughness. I pray that I will continuously choose the long road instead of the easily accessible shortcuts offered along the path of life; which is a beautifully twisted one indeed.


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