Once a Runner

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.
-Washington Irving

I did not always know I wanted to be a martial artist. Before I got into martial arts, I was a distance runner. Before that, I was a goalie specifically because I wanted to play soccer but not have to run. Things change.

As a freshman, I was on the Cross Country and Track teams at the University of Notre Dame. I was coming from a high school team ranked as high as 24th in the nation, and I was recruited to run for a team that had just taken 3rd in the Division I NCAA Cross Country Championships. I dreamed of running in the Olympics. Posters of Pre decorated my walls, and my favorite book was Once a Runner. Running was my life. Now? I have gone running a grand total of two times since moving to Seattle. Things change.

In high school I suffered from a few setbacks which kept me from reaching my fullest potential, but none were as limiting as the IT band injury that flared up during the summer before my freshman year of college. I could not sustain regular training for an extended period of time without my IT band tightening up to the point where it caused crippling pain any time I tried to bend or extend my leg (something you do A LOT as a runner). Despite spending hours working with trainers every day and seeing several doctors, I was never able to overcome my injury. I was devastated, and it was one of the most challenging periods of my life. Little did I know it would lead to something that would change my life forever.

After making the decision to give up running, I was looking for something else to do for exercise. Upon seeing a flyer for a martial arts class hanging in my dorm, I joined the Notre Dame Martial Arts Institute, introducing me to a community that has had a profound impact on how I live my life. I could not be more grateful for the experiences I have had through martial arts.

Recently, I was laid off from my job at Microsoft. After over three years of doing a job I did not enjoy, all the while intending to use it as a stepping stone in my career, I was finally transferred to a team working on the next generation of graphics technology that will power all major video games in the future of Microsoft’s platforms. I finally made it to where I wanted to be, but only four short months later my position was eliminated and I was released from the company.

It’s hard not to wish I still had my job at Microsoft doing something I love, but I’ve learned through my transition from running to martial arts that this will lead to a new adventure I will look back on and be grateful for. Things change, but the world keeps turning.

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Outliers (Gladwell, 3 of 3)

During his Q&A, Malcolm Gladwell noted that he has yet to find an excellent example of a social phenomenon that does not follow an inverted U shaped curve. This prompted me to ask what I thought to be the most obvious question. What about mastery? If it takes 10,000 hours to master something, is there some point past that where you’re getting a negative effect?
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A Warrior of the Light Dances

“Warriors of light are never predictable. They might dance down the street on their way to work…” – Paulo Coelho

As I walked to work today, I was doing some mental kata. I taught Pyung-An 4 in class this morning, so as I travelled I was visualizing myself going through the techniques. Swinging my hips, tensing my muscles, and contorting my face as I exchanged blows with my opponent, I danced my way down the sidewalk. Upon completing the kata in my head, I looked up to see the woman walking past me glance at me as if I had lost it.

“The warriors may look mad, but this is just a disguise.” – Paulo Coelho

All Previous Truths Apply

“All Previous Truths Apply” – James Laville

Mestre Curisco often reminds us “there are different levels within each level.” That is, within each rank there is a spectrum of abilities, and we should always be pushing ourselves to improve our position regardless of where we stand. One implication of this is that getting a new rank does not automatically mean you are on par with the rest of your peers who hold said rank, and you will have to work to keep improving your position on the spectrum in your new rank. I think this is fairly self-evident, so the focus of this post is precluding your rank from being a ceiling that limits your growth and the applications this concept can have in real life.
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Mastering the Commonplace

“The person who can vacuum an entire house without once losing his or her composure, staying balanced, centered and focused on the process rather than pressing impatiently for completion, is a person who knows something about mastery.” -George Leonard

Mastering the Commonplace, chapter 13 of Leonard’s ‘Mastery’, finally sunk in today. When he wrote about taking the time to be balanced and centered for each movement of washing the dishes, drying them, and putting them away, I scoffed: I am a busy man. The last thing I want to do is spend more time doing the dishes. I understand and completely agree with his position that we are a goal oriented society; in an attempt to see quick results, people often rush through tasks, and it costs them more time, energy, and money than doing it right in the first place. This is easily exemplified by my computer programming, where taking the time to code correctly in the first place saves time in the long run even if it postpones the initial results.

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