Thoughtful Thursday – My World for Now

thoughtful

I don’t have one particular thing on my mind for Thoughtful Thursday, so I’ll ramble about life, martial arts, French, and writing today.

WordPress is acting strangely for me today, so I’ll apologize in advance for any possibly strange formatting and such. It has been deleting things after I type them…

Life

My bank accounts have all been sorted out. Unfortunately, I am not currently eligible for overdraft protection due to my currently unemployed state. It doesn’t matter that EI will be paying me nearly as much as what I netted when I was working. It also doesn’t matter that one pays income tax on EI. Ah well, I’ll be able to eat and pay for my mortgage and my other expenses. Self employment would count if I was actually making money off of my writing or any other venture.

I think I’m getting somewhere on cleaning my condo. Some days it’s hard to tell. I find something that needs to be gone through and that makes an area messier before it gets clean. This is rather like a number of things in life.

The outside of my oven is clean. I need to run the self-cleaning setting for the inside, but I have an appointment this afternoon, so it will have to wait until later. I don’t think the people that owned it before ever cleaned it, so it’s pretty gross looking inside.

One of the things I almost have organized is my movie collection. Any non Blue Rays are in CD wallets. They take up so much less room. The problem is that I had bought a movie I already owned. It was $5, but I don’t want to get into the habit of accidentally doing that. I have a list now that has all the movies I own in it. I should probably get a real copy of Rent eventually rather than the PSP version. It’s the only PSP movie I own. Hey, I should charge that thing up and play with it sometime soon. Actually, I can probably trade or sell some games, though I think most probably aren’t worth much.

I’m registered with three recruitment agencies now. Hopefully, I will get a job lead soon, though it could be nice if it happens after the snow is gone. I like to hermit in the winter except for fun things like ice skating.

That reminds me. It’s only about $20 to get a skating pass for the year. I should do that and get my butt out of my house as there are about 8 arenas near me, which is awesome. The canal is fun too, but not near my home at all and parking at Dow’s lake gets expensive.

French

French has begun. We have a new teacher that we know only by first name. He’s very different. He makes us work a lot and often leaves the room while we are completing an exercise.

I was already doing one of the things the teacher wants us to do this semester, which is reading French books to increase vocabulary. He wants us to present on the books we are reading. They can be children’s books. They should be at a level for us where a 10-word sentence would have 2-3 words we don’t know. Any easier, we don’t learn. Any harder, we don’t understand enough.

It sounds like exam is going to be very difficult, so I’m a little scared. At least the courses are inexpensive, so if I had to retake, it wouldn’t kill my wallet, but I rather prefer passing classes.

He often likes to mention things that will damn us if we are taking the government exams. I write those down in case I go that far with French. My main aim has been to talk to my extended family. It would be nice to be eligible for bilingual job positions, though.

Martial Arts

I figured something out about my grip last night while I was practicing my cutting in my condo. Generally, they tell us to have our right index finger at a certain spot on the handle. But my tiny hands kept slipping as I cut. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong for the longest time. Last night, I noticed something on my handle. As many might know, katana often have inserts of things like fairies and such. One on each side of the sword’s handle. Near the bottom of the handle is a knot. This knot is where the left pinky rests above, on top of an opening where the manta ray skin shows, which is grippy. Well, I noticed that on the right side of the handle, near the bottom of where my doves sit, is a similar feeling knot. Instead of making sure my index finger is one finger away from the tsuba (sword guard), I’m going to try to make sure my right pinky is gripping by this knot. Hopefully, my slipping grip will go away and my cutting will improve. I’m sure it will take a bit to correct this for good, but I already feel an improvement in my grip.

Writing

I’m struggling to write this short story. I did some plotting last night. Hopefully that helps me get it written and the anthology accepts it.

Once I finish it, I’ll be back to working on The Blood Waitress Club. I might still need to fix the parts I last read to my writing group. I’ll have to take a good look at it.

So much to do and there never seems to be enough time!

Ciao,
R~

Merry Monday – Socially Spent

‘Tis the season to be jolly, right?

For an introvert, the holidays are extra exhausting. I had three parties over a two-day period. I enjoyed myself, but I was happy to have a warm bath and curl up on the couch with a remote to begin recharging.

It might surprise some people that I’m an introvert. According to the Myers Briggs personality test, I’m INTP and 33% extroverted. That little bit of extroversion is how I survive the holidays, conferences, and seminars. 

Saturday was the annual dojo sushi dinner. Tasty sushi and sake met good conversation. 

Sunday started with another dojo event involving cutting mats with a katana. Next, it was off to a party with other writers where I met an older British woman and had a fabulous conversation about literature. She was also not a fan of Hemingway. We also talked about how you need to read some trashy stuff now and then. Something to read when you’re exhausted or as a palate cleanser. For her that means mystery novels. For me it means mainstreaming.

I was happy to get home when it was done. My Uber driver barely spoke, which was exactly what I needed in that moment. He was rated well.

Tonight, I have gotten a good chunk of my filing done. I’ve also begun making a guitar case out of materials I had on hand. I need edging and a zipper to finish it and perhaps a strap. Since my guitar is smaller, it’s hard to find a hard case anyway. Besides, I’m strapped for cash, so the less I have to spend, the better. Plus, it uses up some stuff that’s lying around my place and thus helps me clean up 🙂

I’ve enjoyed hermitting today. With my library writing group on hold and French off until mid January, I’ve had no reason to go out. Oh, I should be sure to register for level 3…

Anyway, I haven’t had supper yet, so I should probably do that.

Ciao,

R~

Merry Monday: Jo-ha-kyū

Image created using Bit Strips.

Image created using Bit Strips.

I got frustrated with my Sensei and Sempais on Sunday. Lately, they bring up Jo-ha-kyū often, which is a timing used in our martial art of Iaido, but actually comes from the theatre.

This will be explained in writing terms shortly.

We like to say the kata needs feeling. It needs Jo-ha-kyū. It also needs metsuke, but we aren’t discussing that today.

Well, I snapped at them and said that they keep saying that and it’s just words without meaning. I said it was entirely subjective and asked why there couldn’t be a guideline on the timing like Jo is 6 beats, Ha is 1-2 beats, and then Kyū is 4 beats? Well, they said that’s just not possible because each kata needs different timing.

Valid point.

So we discussed it further.

Jo is the “Rising Action”. Often, this is when we are unsheathing our swords. In Ippon-me Mae, we are drawing slowly because at any point we could decide we don’t need to fight after all and we can place the sword back in its scabbard.

Ha is the “Turning Point” and is often the shortest part. This is the saya banare point where our sword is no longer in its sheath. We’re committed to following through.

Kyū is the “Climax” and usually, we’re cutting something.

But katas can be made of more than one scene and contain several Jo-ha-kyū moments.

Take Mae, for example. We rise as we draw (Jo). The sword leaves the saya and the tip is flicked into position to start the cut (Ha). We perform the horizontal cut (Kyu). Next, we bring the sword upward (Jo), briefly pausing as it reaches cutting position (Ha), and then we cut vertically down the centre (Kyū).

We write using Jo-ha-kyū. Or we should. There’s a thing our protagonist is trying to get (Rising Action or Jo), but s/he has to deal with something else first (Obstacle/Opportunity/Turning Point or Ha), then they get what they want (Climax or Kyū).

After the final Climax occurs we must move into resolution. In Iaido, we call this Zanshin. We slowly come down from the climax and the fight or story is over.

These things relate to music as well. Songs often start soft and gradually build. They rise and might hit a turning point by changing timing for a small piece or keys. Then, they climax and resolve. This might happen a few times in a song. Each climax may supersede the previous one.

Geocaching also has these elements. The Rising Action (Jo) of choosing the cache, the commitment by setting the GPS (Ha), the climax of locating the cache and doing whatever is required to log it (Kyū).

Everything in life has a rhythm.

In Iaido, we want to be able to take control of the timing. If we control the timing, we win the fight. With writing, publishers long held control of the timing. Now, the author can choose to be in control.

I now have concrete examples of each of the elements of Jo-ha-kyū, I just need to get my body to do it. You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes. It can take months or even years to get the body to apply what is known in the mind.

This happens in writing, as well. We know if we write about our character crying, the reader won’t cry. Knowing this doesn’t tell us how to write a scene where the reader will cry, though. There are other critical elements like ensuring the reader cares about the character in the first place. We know this too. We can’t know if the reader will care. There’s a higher likelihood if they can relate to the character, but we can’t all relate to each other all the time. If the protagonist is a serial killer, has no remorse, and has no reason beyond enjoying killing for murdering people, then there won’t be too many who empathize with them. If said serial killer is a forensics guy who kills serial killers because he’s using his affliction for good we are put in this grey area because we know there are major cracks in the justice department that let dangerous criminals off too often. Then we think about how this guy is doing something bad to save the lives of others. He’s doing something for the greater good. We can’t help but like Dexter Morgan.

Anyway, I think I’ve gotten off-topic. I hope you find your own rhythm in whatever you do.

Ciao,
R~

Grip

Kendo has helped me figure out a key problem in my Iaido. I didn’t realize this was happening to me, but it became very clear in Kendo.

I start with my hands in the proper position and then as I cut, my right hand slides down, then my hands are no longer on top of the handle.

My grip hasn’t been firm enough.

Grip is a hard thing as too much with the right and you won’t cut properly since your left should be dominant.

What I’ve learned is that too little grip with the right leads to a weaker cut where your aim is off. At least that seems to be what is happening to me.

I’ve been practicing a firmer grip and my hands stay on top of the sword.

The other awesome thing that happens with your hands correctly place? The swoosh of the blade.

I missed my swoosh.

Now if I can only get a proper tenouchi every time so my blade stops and doesn’t bounce…

– Roy Iaidoka

Tameshigiri – Summer 2014

In preparation for tameshigiri, Green Sensei rolled and soaked straw mats overnight.

mats

The water helps make the mats feel more like a human body, which is important as Tameshigiri is test cutting. Tameshigiri is where we see how close our technique is to being applicable should we need to whip out our swords and cut something.

Last year, I simply did 2 or 3 cuts. This year, I tested out several specific cuts.

I tested out the horizontal cut that is employed in Ippon-me Mae. This one was done well according to Green Sensei.

The rest of my cuts had issues. I appear to have trouble with following through in my cuts, so my blade would hack into the mats rather than slice nicely. If you’re hacking with a katana, you’re not doing it right.

I tested out the first cut from Gohon-me Kesagiri, and it was a fail. I wasn’t close enough to make proper contact.

I did a centerline cut and the sword got stuck in the mats. I was about to attempt to pull the blade out the way we do for Kyuhon-me Soetezuki, but I realized that part of the point of that technique is to let the body fall and the mats weren’t going to go anywhere, so I opted for placing a foot on the stand holding the mats and pulled out that way. It was more fun anyway and something I’d be more likely to do on a battlefield though it’s better not to off balance myself by standing on one foot.

In essence, my acceleration is screwed up with my cuts. I was also over cutting when I did cut through, so I have some improvements to make in my technique.

My cuts are a long way from this.

The only problem with tameshigiri is that it’s over so quickly. We do it about once yearly, so it’ll be some time before I will get to test out my technique again.

C’est la vie.

I learned some things about where I need to improve and that’s what is important. I’m looking forward to grading in the coming months and continuing to improve.

-Roy Iaidoka