Pa told me that the other day when we were sitting in the Chinese buffet and talking about our medical issues. When we were all younger, we’d talk about cars. Now I sit with my father talking about all the times we’ve hurt ourselves and the latest things to go wrong with our bodies.
I’m only thirty-three, so it’s not like I’m old. But then again, I’m not the young man I used to be. I’ve been thoroughly unkind to my knees over the years, and they’re starting to fight back. My left knee is a hazard, because when I twist it just so, there is an awful popping noise followed by a wild change in attitude and distance in relation to the local planetary surface. I fall down, in other words.
My competitiveness and ambition far outstrips my physical ability. I can be a stubborn piece of work when I really want to do something, but that only takes you so far. But handball, of all things. I hurt myself doing something I didn’t particularly want to do trying to warm up for something that I did want to do, because this little voice in my head says, “you HAVE to beat this guy!”. And so I get a little crazy about a fun little game and end up sitting on the floor holding my knee, and that damn little voice is still jabbering away at me, “alright, that was good hustle, just a bit unlucky. Wait for the pain to die down, then go out there and stomp on someone’s instep to even things out. That way both teams will be down a man…” But I don’t do that, though that little voice is there speaking to me from my lower brain stem, no matter what sort of values my frontal lobe tells me I believe in.
“You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to do this, so don’t permanently injure yourself trying to do it just for today, and risk your whole lifetime of enjoying this sport.”
I’ve repeated that bit of advice numerous times over the years. It’s easy to say to someone, but hard to follow through with myself. On my second day of collegiate fencing I hurt myself pretty badly warming up, but limped over and put on a lame, mask and glove anyway. After testing my knee through some footwork, I was determined to go ahead. And I’m glad I did, because I got to experience three saber bouts last night. I won against my first two opponents, fellow beginners, and felt I didn’t embarrass myself against the senior student who was instructing us (on a side note, the rules of right of way are sort of a pain). That would be a theme for the night, as it carried over to the kendo club later on. Yep, I also went and did the bamboo dance for two hours afterward.
So yeah, I ignored my own advice about not being stupidly gung ho, and today I’m dragging a heavy book bag all over campus with a swollen and bum knee. I’m lucky that my iaido instructor is going to be out of town for the next two weeks, because there is simply no way that I would be able to even sit in seiza, let alone practice seiza no bu, ippon me repeatedly for forty-five minutes.
Was it worth it? You bet it was. But it’s not a behavior that is going to continue to be worth it the older I get.
I need to go to the book shelf and find some reference to being a hard headed, passionate fool in budo.