Thursday, 27 July 2017

Beside The Mountain

For the last few days I’ve been proofreading a manuscript given to me by a friend of a friend. She’s just written her first book and after reading the first draft, I gave a few recommendations and then offered to check it all. This is, after all, one of my skill sets.

Now. Proofreading is dull and laborious and requires an extremely high level of accuracy. The main reason it’s dull (and also the reason that the author should not EVER proof read their own stuff) is that you can’t “enjoy” what you’re looking at. You are there, like an Olympic judge, to check for flaws and errors. You are not there to get stuck in to the prose.

Case in point would be my first fantasy novel, The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen. This was a labour of love that took about a year to write, edit and get published. I didn’t see a whole shit load of mistakes that were in it because I was emotionally attached to the text. The adventures of Mordalayn, bodyguard to the child queen of Alegria as he fought the wicked King James of Anghofio. Even typing that now I can feel a little tingle. Worst mistake in the first edition was “and the shoulders shouted out for their king”, which the spell checker didn’t flag up and I was oblivious to as I was too into the excitement of the Anghofian King’s Daggers taking on Mordalayn on the steps of the Emerald palace.

The book I was proofreading was about spirituality and enjoying life. One line that the author wrote that stuck with me is that it is about the journey and not about the arrival or conclusion. We all die one day, so enjoy what you have and embrace each new day.

The book also talks about seeing and interpreting signs in life and acting upon them. Also, that we are where we are supposed to be at any given time and things come to us as they are meant to, in a time/ space sequence.

Like me, the author had read You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and has adopted a lot of that wonderful lady’s philosophies.

Something that became clear as I looked through the book (yes, I know I wasn’t meant to be “reading” it but it kind of seeped in) was that by letting go of a lot of horrible shit, life can become a lot more “flowy” and much less of a struggle.

Recently I came back from Australia. I’d just completed but failed a course to be a Krav Maga instructor. The whole thing was, at the end of the day, an attempt for me to prove to myself that I could go for something that was extremely difficult and happening WAY beyond my comfort zone. I came out of it exhausted, disappointed and sore (with hip and back issues that still haven’t realigned). However I also felt elated and proud. I knew I might fail but I chose not to be Schroedinger’s Pussy any more and for that I feel good.


There were many other ways I could have done this course.

Part one was 12 days in the Australian Gold Coast in April 2017. I applied for it while travelling out in Australasia and had a whale of a time. Determined to get my mind on the wavelength of “I will pass” I booked a return flight from London to Melbourne to take part 2 in July. I had to leave Oz during the gap because my visa is good for 9 months of the year but only in 3 month spurts.

Once I got back I realised that I could have opted to take part 2 anywhere in the world (66 countries belong to Krav Maga Global, the organisation that run the General Instructors Course/ GIC) but with a non changeable/ non refundable, Doctor Dao-esque return flight booked...well, I either did the course or I stayed but lost the money for the flight.

As proud as I am of having gone back to attempt part 2, what I have recently realised is that I could have done it in London or Rome or Athens or anywhere. I booked flights to return to Melbourne way back in April because I was too focussed on what I wanted to even consider that there might be another way.

All that travel and back pain and airline food and jet lag and exhaustion and A FUCKING AUSTRALIAN WINTER!!! could all have been avoided if I’d just sat back and let life flow with me, as opposed to wading against the current up river.

Years ago in Mad magazine I saw a short, 3 or 4 panel cartoon of a guy climbing a mountain. He was tired, dirty and injured by the time he climbed over the summit with his bare hands...only to find that there was a McDonalds at the top, full of people and a road next to it, leading down, that he had failed to see.

I try to do yoga regularly but am unable (at the moment) to assume the Full Lotus position due to stiffness in my hips, partially due to sciatica and partially due to a knee operation on my left side. I found out from a yoga teacher after at least 4 years of working around the issue, that it wasn’t even necessary to perform Full Lotus and there were a multitude of other positions that would allow me not to need it.

I always had bad BAD BAADD hangovers. My record for time in bed with a right stinking one is about 36 hours. It turns out that all I needed to avoid (most) of this was lots of water before, during and after a boozing session.

I found out that when economy airlines board their flights, every bugger and their aunty stand up and just queue like lemmings. I now sit down and wait until the herd has thinned, then get up and walk at a leisurely pace to my seat.

Life can be an uphill struggle if you don’t take a breath and just go with it.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The GIC Hump

The reality of day 7 of the Krav Maga General Instructors Course (2nd phase).

6am. Wake up and find you have absolutely no desire to go to training. Eat a 4 egg omelette, a big bowl of muesli (with soy milk) and 2 very strong filter coffees. Get your shit together and traipse off to the train station with your legs hurting from the previous 6 days of training, grizzling to yourself that the weather has the temerity to be 2 degrees above freezing.

8.15am. Get to training and realise you absolutely do not want to be there. Decide to get changed anyway and wonder how long it is till lunch time, knowing full well that it's at least 4 hours away.

8.30am to 1pm. Spend your time doing bear hug releases, throws and knife attacks. Your body is protesting at the abuse you've put it through for the last week for 7+ hours a day, every day. You find that you can't remember things that you absolutely should know by this point and wing it when you are asked "Do you know this technique?" Your knees feel like they are full of sulfuric acid and every time you make a mistake you feel like the whole world hates you. It is taking most of your stamina to stay in the room and you secretly entertain the idea that getting injured would enable you to be invalided off the course without being perceived as a quitter. You then spend 30 minutes feeling guilty for thinking that. You take 2 Ibuprofen and 1 Paracetomol and a sachet of glucose sport gel.

A surprise lesson is then sprung on you where you have 2 minutes to plan and teach any technique from that morning. You silently curse the unfairness of life while frantically scribbling on your notepad.

You feel like having a little cry in the corner but summon reserves of energy that you didn't know you had. You forget the names of about 4 people in the room and want nothing more than to go home and go back to bed.
As you break for lunch you feel that your body is completely wrecked and that life cannot get any worse.

1.30pm The double shot espresso that you just drank, plus a huge tuna salad and the painkillers and the glucose gel have all combined to give you a lift of energy. Your self pity has evaporated and you have a pleasant lunch with 2 of your fellow trainees where you even laugh a couple of times. You head back to the training centre looking forward to the afternoon session.

2.30pm. You start a workshop on some rather crafty fighting tactics involving some rather painful takedowns and throws. You thoroughly enjoy yourself and make a note to use the "Grab The Leg, Kick The Groin" roundhouse kick defence at the earliest opportunity.

5pm. You wrap up the day's training feeling tired but exhilarated, realising that you learned a great deal. You confide in an existing instructor that you felt like quitting today and she says with a grin "That's called the hump. You've just got over it. Mine was on day 5".

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Schrodinger's Pussy

Yesterday, as a struggled to cope with a rather horrid case of jet lag achieved by flying from London to Melbourne, my host was talking to me and some other guests about his ability to “read” people. He was hailed as being spot on in his assessments by the people present so I asked him if he could give me one sentence about me that didn’t come from something I’d already told him.

After a few seconds he said:

“I think you’re scared”.

I nodded in agreement and replied that I had indeed been scared for about the last week, specifically about coming back to Australia to finish GIC part 2 for Krav Maga.

After a pause he then added, “I don’t mean just that, I mean about everything.”

I asked him to elaborate and he said that I live my life like Schrodinger’s Cat. When I required further clarification he told me:

“You are scared so, like Schrodinger’s cat, you don’t know what a situation will bring so you guess. But instead of finding out what the result would have been by opening the box you go with that guess as if it’s the final answer”.

And….he was right.

I’ve kind of known this for a long time but to have someone else see it is scary. I’ve lived most of my life scared of something or other and my paranoia and insecurity have reigned over huge chunks of my existence in the last few decades.

To put it in perspective.

In April of this year I successfully completed part 1 of the General Instructor’s Course for Krav Maga Global. This is the backbone of any and all Krav teaching for the organisation I belong to, with the exception of the KIC/ Kids Instructor Course, which I already hold.

Part 1 was very hard and I was physically and mentally drained by the end of it. We broke up for nearly 3 months before part 2 was to begin and in that time I was in England and Greece, keeping fit and trying to retain some Kravvyness and not just let all that awesome training fade away.

For the last week I’ve spent most of that time SERIOUSLY contemplating not coming back to complete part 2. I had a multitude of reasons to justify this feeling.

1. It’s expensive and I’m almost at the end of my savings now.

2. It’s a 28 hour journey door to door and my jet lag will undoubtedly be horrendous **

3. If I lose my passport my insurance will pay not only for that but also for the return flight of £682 that I can’t claim back or cancel through conventional means.

4. I can do GIC 2 anywhere in the world so if part 3 happens then I can use that money to take it somewhere like London or Rome which are slightly nearer than Melbourne.

I fretted and fussed and stressed and bit my nails over this for days, locking the cat in the box and was 90% certain I WASN’T going to go back when a friend in England said, “This is just self doubt”.

And she was 100% right.

I have spent most of my adult life locking the cat in the box with the canister of poisoned gas, but only guessing at to whether it was still alive or not. I didn’t want to be proved one way or the other and by just guessing as to the outcome of a situation, I could forever live in a blissful state of calm ignorance, unhampered by the nasty intrusion of reality.

As THIS STORY shows. My reluctance to not only open the box but to even acknowledge its presence made me a bit of a Schrodinger’s pussy. And with that story, the outcome, when I did finally open the box by getting back in touch with the woman involved….nearly 9 years later...was that the cat was not only alive but very pleased to hear from me again.

GIC 1 cured my fear of sparring, an irrational fear that I’ve had ever since I was 4 years old. I know what created this fear but I was unable to move past it until Rune Lind of KMG Global Team made me and the other 14 guys fight for what seemed forever*** on day 11 of a 12 day course.

I never considered myself a coward in the conventional sense of the word. I would stand my ground and even get a kicking to prove I wasn’t scared (retrospectively not a sensible or clever stance to take). However the things that REALLY mattered to me were the ones I shied away from and just guessed the outcome of. Never knowing if the gas had killed the cat or not.

I couldn’t tell the woman I loved (and still love) that I loved her, because I was afraid of the result of doing so. I locked the cat in the box and never opened it. Believing it was better to never find out than to discover that the cat had died. Once I finally opened it with trembling fingers 8+ years later the results were beyond what my dreams were made of. The cat was far from dead. The cat leapt out and wanted to play, bearing no grudges at its 8 years long isolation from my life.

When I told the woman from this story that it was better to never have known how she felt than to discover she hated me or had forgotten me she shook her head, smiled and went “You’re silly”.

Similarly with Krav Maga I have returned to a world that is going to be 12 more days of intense activity and even pain. However, pass or fail I now have the desire to shut the cat in the box only long enough to see whether it is alive or dead by the end of the experiment. If I pass I will feel like a king. If I fail I will be dissapointed but I will know that I flew back 10,500+ miles to do this and can retest at any time in the future.

It was only when I actually saw my checked baggage fuck off on the conveyor belt at Heathrow terminal 4 that I finally realised I was definitely going back for GIC 2. 7 hours to Adu Dhabi. 2 hour stopover. 12 hours to Melbourne.

When I got to Southern Cross station at 5.30am and it was 2 degrees centigrade I was laughing my head off. Amazed at my own audacity to treat a journey around the world like a trip to visit friends in the next town. I’d finally stopped being Schrodinger’s pussy.

The fears we don’t face become our limits.

Nuff said.


** It was.
*** Actually 25 minutues.