Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I am not going to tell you. You had better remember it.

We had all learned 8 basic forms as part of the Ba Gua. Each form might consist of 8 or 10 moves at least. In the later forms they become longer and more complex.

Each of the movements of the forms had a name. It is traditional in China to name a kung fu movement in such a way as to provide a clue to the practitioner as to what the movement was supposed to do to their body. One I can think of offhand is "Tiger goes to the Mountain". This would evoke images of strength, images of hard work to go up a large mountain or maybe images of a lithe and supple tiger like body.

Sometimes when the forms were practiced, we would recite the names of the movements aloud. As a beginner, along with Arol and Tim at the time, I was focused on what I was doing physically. Where my feet went and where my arms went. I repeated the names if I could remember them. Or I followed Jeff or Lonnie or Mike when they said the names.

It was very difficult for me to remember all of the names for each form. I felt like I was stupid except that neither Arol nor Tim could remember them either. I do not think the other's, except for maybe Jeff or Lonnie, could remember the names either.

I think this because we sat down one day to write down the names. Then we could go home and study them. Or that was the plan. It turned out that among all of us, no one could remember the names. We could remember a few names for different forms, but no one knew all of the names for all of the forms. Unless, as I suspected, Jeff was lying when he said he did not know.

I felt it was the most natural thing in the world to ask Mike if he would tell us the form names so that we could write them down and study them. He refused. He did not outright say no. That is not his style. He might have given some of the names, then changed the subject.

I was flabbergasted. We are supposed to be here learning kung fu, we are paying for lessons, we are demonstrating our desire to learn by asking him about the names of the kung fu movements. Why would he not tell us the names?

He said or indicated it was because we were supposed to remember them ourselves. It was part of our training as "real kung fu men". If we were real kung fu men, when he told us the names of the form movements, we would never forget them. They would be so precious to us we would never let them get away.

I think he was lying. I think he did not want us writing down all the form names. He and the top students, Jeff and Lonnie, probably knew all the form names. At the time, with Mike being so money oriented, those form names to him were money in the bank. If we wrote them down, we could go show them to somebody or......who knows what crazy thoughts Mike had.

That was another thing that was a negative for me in my attitude towards Mike. I was his student for 3 years. I was devoted, I tried to do as instructed, I remained loyal in the face of everything. Yet he would not even provide a list of all of the form names, nor would he verbally recite them while we had pencil and paper so we could record them. He would only say them if we were practicing.

This might seem like complaining. Unless you are aware of various facts. Ba Gua, or any other internal martial art, directly affects your brain. As you perform the movements, your brain is changed.

We would perform the movements of a form. Mike would recite the names of the movements. By the end of the form, our brains were not the same as they were a few minutes earlier. They were changed. The relevant part is that this process would naturally affect your memory.

You would begin the form with your brain in one certain configuration. Mike would say the name of a movement. You would store that name in your memory. Then the remaining movements of the form were completed. Each of those succeeding movements would reach into your brain and twist and change the area of the brain where you had stored the name of the preceeding movement.

It was almost physically impossible to remember the names of the forms while performing them. Mike knew this. He knew that the brain that he told a form movement's name to at the beginning of the form would be completely changed by the end of the form. He knew that it was very hard to remember or think about anything at all while performing the movements.

Knowing that, then refusing to recite the names while we were setting down with a pencil and paper seemed to be nothing more than him refusing to help us.

That incident irks me even more when I see that now, years later, when I am guessing financial times are not so good, he has released books with these form names in them for any joe blow to buy for $20. We were paying him much more than that every single month and he would not recite the form names for us so we had time to record them, nor would he put them down in printed form and hand them out to us.

Getting ahead of myself

A post or three back I talked about how the practice had moved from it's long time established spot to a new location 20 miles away. I am getting ahead of myself. I did not realize it until I posted about Tom.

I can't recall exactly what I said about Tom. I have had this nagging feeling I sounded harsh or rude. I need to clear that up.

Even though Tom was gay, and I felt it was strange to have this gay man in a group of heterosexual kung fu men, I didn't resent him or have other strong bad feelings towards him. Tom was a very nice guy. Friendly. He never said or did anything to me that gave me a reason to resent or dislike him.

What bothered me most I suppose was the fact that he was very old and in poor shape. Tom must have been in his 50's at least. His physical shape was very poor. He walked constantly hunched over. Tom was very tall, 6 feet and something. The hunching over posture he had made me feel uncomfortable. I wanted to go over and force him to stand up straight.

Tom had never done Kung Fu before. Yet here he was joining the group. For me it was about image. Mike had made it clear that image was important to him. He had apparenetly tried to rid himself of me a few times because I did not fit into the image he had of his group.

Yet here was a late 50's year old man, hunched over so bad he cannot stand up straight or walk properly, practicing Tai Chi and Ba Gua with us. People walking by would see all these young and healthy people doing exercises, and here would be this stand out person.

If Mike was truly as concerned about image as he acted, why would he allow that? Most real kung fu people who look at a class with old out of shape people think that the kung fu is for making money, not for learning kung fu. The instructor lets anyone join to make money, even old out of shape people.

My attitude was not helped by Tom's actions. I am guessing that as a millionaire, he did whatever he wanted. He was always the boss and was not accountable to anyone but himself. I do not know if this was the reason or not, but Tom, who had just been accepted and joined, begins to miss class. All the time. Not just once or twice but maybe 3 weekends out of the 4 in a month.

Again, who really cares? It was another example of Mikes deceit. For as long as I had been there, if a person did not make it to class, they were reprimanded. They were treated as if they should question whether they really wanted to be there. If they did not call to say they would not be there, they would be reprimanded even more.

Then in walks this millionaire in terrible physical shape, a man who needs discipline to get him into good physical shape, and he has the run of the class. He can come and go as he pleases. And Mike smiles that big Mike smile and says "Welcome back millionaire" every time Tom decides he can make it that month.

It was one of those insights I did not want to have. I was holding on to my angelic view of Mike with all my might. I had to beleive that he was what he said he was because I needed his help to cure my health problems. I believe all the family style, loyalty, doing what you are told, listening and thinking about what you are told, dignity, integrity....every single drop of it.

Then I personally witness Mike throw dignity and integrity out the window for the chance to hobnob with a millionaire. For the chance to gain access to and manipulate a man with large amounts of capital that Mike might have a future use for.

I felt dirty just thinking about it.

What a jerk you are!

Here I am, blithely attending Ba Gua class, thinking everything is rosy. Looking forward to having my health problems cured. Feeling blessed I was allowed to join such an incredible group of individuals. Thinking how lucky I was to have the chance to learn Ba Gua.

It is time for a weekly men's meeting. This week it was over at Jeff's apartment. People arrive including me, Lonnie, Jeff, George and a few others. This incident may be old enough to have happened back when Arol and Tim were still around.

We were all standing around making some kind of small talk. Nothing significant. We sat down in a circle and got comfortable. There is something about sitting down in a circle with people that makes you feel comfortable and protected. Allowed to relax and let your guard down.

The conversation continued, whatever it was about. I have emphasized many times how I did not speak much so as to keep a low profile. If nobody knows you are are there, they cannot give you grief.

At this men's meeting I was feeling trusting. For some reason I was talking about something. I could not even guess at what it was. Some experience that had befallen me or something I had done. I felt I was reaching out to people and sharing my life with them. My opinion or my thoughts about something or the other.

I finish speaking about whatever it was. In one of those instances that Mike always referred to as "the spirit descending", Lonnie speaks up and says "I counted him saying "I" at least 8 times".

What was left unsaid but hanging their in mid air like a glowing neon sign was "The crummy jerk".

I was stunned. I hardly ever spoke out. To take a chance and expose myself, then to have a comment like that directed at me was like a knife to the heart. I had no idea what Lonnie was going on about. I only knew that in a group of 5 people, one of them picked me out and basically crapped all over me.

What could I say? I was ashamed as I was obviously supposed to be. Mostly because I did not understand what was happening. Why the comment had been made or the motivation for it. I could not become angry because Jeff in particular and maybe George both indicated their silent agreement with Lonnie's statement.

That incident points out how different realities can clash and be the source of hurtful misunderstandings. It also for me is one of the glaring things that I really did not like about Ba Gua or the people their.

All of the Ba Gua people watched every word and every movement a person made. That was not a big deal. It is part of being a kung fu man. But then they would assign all these motivations to whatever it was that had happened. Their conclusions were based on how they thought. And they thought really shitty.

It seemed like people would always assume the worst motivations for anyone in any situation. The people were greedy, venal, liars, unthinking, shortsighted. It was really ugly to be honest. These people who were talking about saving the world, many of whom were doctors treating patients everyday, assuming that the majority of the words coming out of the mouths of people were negative in the way described above.


When I was discussing whatever it was, I used the pronoun I just as I am in this blog. I am the person doing the talking. I am the person the events happened to. In school I was taught that the proper pronoun to use when referring to actions concerning yourself was "I".


The Ba Gua people? They had a completely different philosophy. To them, any person who used the pronoun "I" for any reason was a self centered person. They thought about themselves and held themselves as more important than anyone or anything else.

To them, when they heard me say "I" 8 times in my comments, I was bragging with every one of them. "I" did this! "I" did that.

What is so poisonous and so disgusting about that is I can see what they are thinking. In some situations and with some people, the use of the pronoun "I" is about bragging or self centeredness.

I do not see how they could have considered me bragging or self centered when I publically spoke in the class about once a month. If I was a bragging kind of person, I would have been more of a motor mouth like George or Steve or Arol or Tim or Peter or just about every other member of the group.

That incident made me retreat and hide from the group for a few months probably. At the time I felt like I was attacked for no reason. I can only describe what happened now, years later. At the time I didn't understand at all.

All I could think of was how these helpful people who were going to help me with my health problems were publically embarrassing me for relating an experince or opinion that had happened to me. An attempt to be friendly and open was met with a kick to the groin.