Sunday, April 12, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 3: Wood

When I was in school I was bullied a lot.  In elementary school, I was attacked by a kid named Larry (nicknamed "Moose" -- I assume for his IQ) in front of my house, but my mother ran out and stopped it.  A kid named Roman and his friend Lauren enjoyed punching the top of my head in junior high.  A kid in my neighborhood spit in my face twice, but ran away when I tried to retaliate.

I can't say my bullying was all that violent; it was more about humiliation.  Mostly I ignored the occasional hit or insult.  When I got to college I was determined to change.  I entered a frail, scared geek. I wanted to leave a powerful man.
My hopes.  Also (almost) the name of a classic monster game.
Free classes were offered in the evenings.  I took massage hoping it would help me with women (it didn't).  I took fencing hoping it would make me be cool (it didn't).  I took martial arts hoping I would learn to defend myself (it...  Well, I haven't been attacked, so I don't know).

We studied Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Hapkido, three completely contradictory arts.  We students were so confused, we fell down at the end of every session.

Or was that just part of the Judo training?

Anyway, what excited me most was the promise of board breaking.  Almost every session I would ask Master Porzio ("Don't call me master.") if we could break boards with our hands.  On the last day before summer, he took me to go get wood get boards.
"You kids stay off my lawn/lumber yard!"
We visited a lumber yard, got some small boards (12x12x.5), and returned to school. As the most enthusiastic student, I got to go first.  I stood before everyone, trembling with excitement (what martial arts practitioners and new age nutballs call "chi energy").

I thought I was going to punch the board, but Master Porzio ("Stop calling me master.") set the board up on blocks at my feet.  He told me to punch down in a circular motion, like turning a steering wheel.

I punched the board like he said.  Ow.

I tried again.  Double ow.

He punched the board himself to see if the knot in the middle was a problem.  It broke.

"It's a mental barrier.  If you imagine yourself doing it, you will."

Punch. Ow.  Punch.  Ow.

He let the other students try.  They broke the boards with little problem.  I went back to my room, then went back and watched for a bit.  The other students broke boards all night long.  They broke them with their palms, their heels.

I didn't try again.

It bothered me for years.  Wasn't breaking mental barriers how you achieved success? If I couldn't break a board, would I fail at everything else?

When I decided to have an "ending regret" birthday, breaking a board was the first thing I wanted to do.  I found a friend with a black belt who agreed to come over and help me.

First, I headed to the lumber yard.
I got wood picked up lumber here.

Getting wood is harder than it sounds. Buying the appropriate board isn't easy.  I was banned from Home Depot after the whole "You sawed a board in half, decided you want it, and left." incident.  When I found a nearby lumber yard, I wasn't sure what I needed.  I bought pine boards (12x12x1) but, on the way home, balked at how freaking thick my wood that is.

No way I could break that.
No. Freaking. Way.

I went back and got 1/2 inch boards.  My wood The boards were really-eally narrow, but thin enough to break.
My wood My board is long and thick.
The day came, and I met Master Markowitz ("Just call me Dave") to give him his payment.
True fact: you can pay for martial arts instruction with burritos.
Then we went back to my house, and I got wood the boards.

I put on my old judo gi (it still fit), but couldn't find my old white belt.  I put on a red one from an old Society for Creative Anachronism outfit.
SCA, making the world creepy one geek at a time!
"That's not big enough," Dave said as I held up my wood boards.

The thinner boards weren't the right dimensions and wouldn't break properly.  Nervously, I showed him my thick wood 1" boards.

"Yeah, that's fine," Dave ("Kyo Sa Nim Markowitz is more accurate.") said.

More next week.

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