Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 47 - Baby Steps

In the short time that I have been getting settled into this '1000 Days of Ferocious Effort' practice, I have taken some strides, made some progress, and am beginning to see some results. I continue to direct my practice in new directions, and hope to accomplish a more comprehensive unification of mind, body, and spirit during this practice, which is beginning to enter its 'heart' phase (as opposed to gently becoming acclimatized to the practice over the first 50 days or so...).

I have lost perhaps 32 pounds since beginning this practice, chiefly through the simple expedient of eating a more healthy diet... or, more accurately, by cutting unhealthy foods out of my diet. I am hoping to lose perhaps another 50 pounds or so over the next few years... but, we shall see how that goes.

Since I have taken off a decent amount of extra body-weight, I have begun to turn my efforts towards a more stringent daily martial arts practice regimen.

It is often said that when a student wishes to learn, a teacher appears... and that when one door closes, another opens.... and in keeping with such synchronicity, I was notified during the first week of November that I have passed the 'time in grade' requirements and am now being actively considered for promotion to 7th Dan by the martial arts association of my old order (The physical testing for this grade has already been successfully accomplished, but, as I am not able to travel to Korea frequently (i.e., at all!), I have a more lengthy time in rank requirement that must be completed. In any case, I have been advised that I have a Thesis/Dissertation/Practicum Requirement which must not be successfully completed, and then I will be either promoted, or passed over until next time the committee decides to consider me. (This last hurdle being a thesis ("only 21,950 words in length.. meep!!) which I must write and submit.. it is a somewhat convoluted and lengthy process, but, I think it serves to make me value the promotion all the more due to the difficulty. The process is multi-faceted, as follows (for those few... or one... or none! who care... pllpt!!):

  • First I must decide on a research topic, which is relevant to my training and knowledge, and which (according to my preceptor) should also be a topic which I am capable of researching depending upon what resources are readily available to me .. (good advice!) - I have been told perhaps 900 times that I should take my time in considering this, and that often, a thesis either lives or dies depending upon the wisdom or lack thereof of this crucial initial phase.

  • Next, I must decide what type of thesis paper I shall decide to write, from the following three basic types:

  1. An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.

  2. An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.

  3. An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.
  • Once I have decided upon a topic of research, I must present a Thesis Statement and submit it to my committee for approval. If it is approved, I move on and commence my research, and if it is not... back to the 'drawing board'.

  • If I am approved to move on, the next steps, once my research is completed... or, perhaps, concurrently with my research, are the following;
  1. Manuscript Preparation

  2. Committee approval of the manuscript

  3. Independent research competence

  4. Submission of the final draft of the thesis


  • Phase I: The candidate will make a formal presentation of the research.

  • Phase II: The candidate will be questioned by the committee.

  • Phase III: After completion of the formal presentation phases, the Examining Committee will vote on the results of the Final Thesis Defense. With no more than one dissenting vote, one of five possible results of the defense will be reported:

  1. passed and thesis accepted

  2. passed and thesis accepted pending specified revisions

  3. second defense required, but thesis accepted or accepted with specified revisions

  4. major revisions of the thesis and a second defense required, or
    Defense failed, thesis not accepted and the committee recommends dismissal from the program

  • if the committee cannot reach agreement on one of the options, then the candidate will have failed the defense and the thesis will not be accepted.

So... my work is cut out for me. I am still casting about and trying to decide on a specific, definitive, and doable topic so that I have some likelihood of actually being successful. Honestly, the promotion isn't nearly as important to me as is my not embarrassing my teachers by poor performance or shabby work... so... that is my main concern. I just want to do well and make an honorable showing. If I can do that, I will view it as a success.... in any case, I seldom wear a rank belt when I train, and when I do, I prefer my raggedy old white belt. So... I suppose I should view such a thing with more respect... I will have to work on that.

In the conversations that I have had with my preceptor/mentor regarding the thesis subject, as well as with some of the other members of the martial arts training department, I have noticed a repeated and somewhat strong urging for me to follow a convention which makes me somewhat uncomfortable;

Essentially, at this stage of my training, I am expected to take everything that I have learned throughout my martial arts career and present it in such a fashion that I can show, definitively, that it has become entirely internalized and my own... rather than simply a parroted, carbon-copy of what I have been taught.

The point that has been made, by at least four different relatively eminent teachers of mine, over and over, is that since I have studied under different teachers... and have therefore become, more or less, a converging point for various 'streams' of teaching, it is time for me to compile what I have learned, distill it into a digestible and transmittable format, and present this final product back to my teachers..

(hopefully without inadvertently... or 'vertently?' offending...)

To make my anguish, extreme discomfort and angst all the more intense, I have been more or less told that I should name this conglomeration of learning and practice of mine to distinguish it from all that came before. So I have to put a name to whatever it is that I do, and am likely to teach... (were I to teach.. which I do not... so it all strikes me as rather pointless.. but, still.. there is sits. Plap!!)

(Are any of you getting the fact that I am extremely uncomfortable with this?? It is *much* too big for the likes of me... I would prefer to NOT do this... however.. it seems to be a concerted effort to strongly suggest and reiterate that I DO!!).

I must grudgingly admit here that by insisting that I step outside of my 'comfort zone' and directly face *precisely* what I would rather choose to avoid, my teachers are doing exactly what they should be doing, and helping me to expand my horizons, and improve my capabilities.. not just as a student, or as a monk... but as a person. So.. there is that. I have learned that in these cases, even though it goes against my grain, it is generally wisest for me to place my trust in my teacher's judgment, and fling myself out into space... knowing that I will come out of it okay, and perhaps even stronger and better, if somewhat dinged up and bruised.. in the long run. So, I will do my best to put that into practice. (sigh).

So. It is looking as though I will have to write an expository paper on my own interpretation or 'style' if you will, of everything that I have studied, learned, and more likely forgotten!! over the past 46 odd years of training.

I made a futile attempt at wriggling out of this and re-directing the tacit approval of my mentors to some other topic, by explaining that I didn't feel at all comfortable in giving what I practice a name.. feeling that it would tend to inflate my ego, which, by way of my Zen practice, I am constantly trying (with mixed results) to dissolve... and would, therefore, be pulling fruitlessly in two distinctly opposite directions.

(I was feeling rather pleased with myself for coming up with this particular angle of argument... and rather thought that I had nicely sewn up the issue and would be directed to undertake some other more palatable subject for my assignment... but, as things things have a tendency to do... at least in my life... it blew up in my face, naturally, when my mentor blithely offered to designate my home a 'hermitage' and give it a name (which I would then consecrate it with... ) and which would then enable me to simply call my 'system' or 'art' or 'style' the 'Such and Such Hermitage Form of Boxing', much like, as my mentor cited, the Martial Art taught at the Shaolin Temple is known as, curiously, and (to me) somewhat spitefully, under the present circumstances; 'Shaolin Temple Boxing'. (Fwshsht!!).

Having been superbly outclassed by this point, I had no suitable reply to this, and so graciously thanked him for his wonderful suggestion, and closed down Skype with several sub-vocal mutterings.

Late last night, I received a message designating my home as '법 원 암' (Boep-Won-Ahm)(Boep rhymes with 'pup' and Won rhymes with 'one' or 'fun') - which translates as 'Dharma Garden Hermitage' (the Chinese would be written as;

法 園 庵

, and would be pronounced, roughly 'Fa-Yun-Ahn' in Chinese (Mandarin), and in Japanese as 'Ho-En-Ahn'.

I must now make or commission a sign to display, write a charter, and conduct a small ceremony to officially designate (I suppose christen or consecrate could be used here, but, in Zen, we don't really use such terms...) this place as an officially recognized and designated hermitage. It was explained that the essence of a garden is to plant and nurture something. So, Dharma Garden is a place where the Dharma (what the Buddha taught) is to be planted, nurtured, and, with proper effort, brought to fruition.) As it turns out, I am quite pleased with my home now being an official hermitage... for some reason, I feel good about that. I am happy! (I also feel that I must approach my practice with more diligence!!)

So, it is looking as though I may very likely be writing an expository thesis on what will be known as Boep-Won-Am Soen-Mu-Do or Boep-Won-Am Gwon-Boep (Dharma Garden Hermitage Zen Martial Way, or Dharma Garden Hermitage Boxing, respectively... I am not settled on either of these...or, honestly, on this topic.. but, it is a start.)

I must go back to square one of my training and methodically go through everything I have ever learned, tightening, tweaking, cataloging, and, more to the point, discarding whatever is truly non-essential. So, if this is what I am to do.. I will have to begin, and soon!! I have a time limit which must be met (once the topic of my thesis has been approved, the clock starts)... so the pressure is definitely on!

As for improving my own personal training, I have taken down my 묵인충 'Mook-In-Ch'oong'*, re-engineered the stand that built for it, and re-installed it.

*note: (Chinese 'Mook-Yan-Jong'):


(its a picture of a tree!) mook = 'wood, wooden'.
(man! two legs!) yan= man, person, human.
jong= literally 'post' but usually translated as 'dummy'

I also built an 8 foot long by 6 foot wide brick training platform/patio in order to be able to train in all types of weather (it is a morass for days in that corner when it rains... and I find that I succumb to the preference for not standing ankle-deep in cold slimy water... and, consequently.. do not train... which is bad!)

I am in the process of constructing a stand which I shall use to re-commence (Korean: 철장공 'Ch'ul-Jang-Gong'{Iron Palm Training})


In Chinese it is written the same, but has a different pronunciation:


This training consists of 'dropping' the hand repeatedly (dropping.. not hitting!) onto a canvas bag filled, at first with mung beans... and after some months with a mixture of mung beans and rice, rice, mung beans and round gravel... and finally mung beans and oil-free, lead-free, chrome-free and dust-free steel shot. Hitting the bag with tension can transfer the shock to the heart, causing damage... hitting the tips of the fingers can cause eye damage... so... it is, perhaps counter-intuitively, a practice of hitting with a relaxed arm... and coordinating specific breathing exercises.... slowly increasing the repetitions... and finally, washing/treating the hands an hour after each training session with a specially produced liniment for the hands called 질타주 'Jihl-T'a-Ju' (Chinese: 'Dit-Da-Jow')


which literally translates into English as 'Stumble-Hit Wine'.

Between regular calisthenic, flexibility and Martial exercises, combined with my training on the Wooden Dummy (to tighten and tune my structure), Iron-Palm training.. (also to fine-tune structure... along with breathing.. and, of course, striking ability..), as well as 기공 'Ki-Gong' (Chinese: 'Chi-Gong' or 'Qi-Gong')


By these methods, at least to start, I hope to better strengthen my body, strengthen my spirit and resolve, and integrate both with my intellectual-mind, which is, in essence, the goal of this 'Ferocious Effort' practice...

Once I begin to see results, physically speaking, I will incrementally increase the degree of difficulty, as well as, perhaps, the frequency of my training. Hopefully, this will help me to lose more fat, and tighten and tone, if not build, lean muscle mass.

In other facets of my life, I have been given my Zen teacher's 'seal of approval' as 'Ino' or 'chant-master' (curiously; 'Ino' used to be the monk in charge of the various work details... and the 'chant-master' was known as the 'Densu'. Nowadays, however, we call the 'chant-master' 'Ino', and the Densu is in charge of maintaining the Zendo, and taking care of the facilities... as well as some other tasks, such as waking the other monks in the morning - I don't know how or why this has changed; only that it has!).

So, I am seeing changes, hopefully for the better, and hope to continue improving over time.

... with palms joined.

No comments: