December 15th, 2009

For You Blue

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”For You Blue” is on the Let It Be album and was 100% written by George Harrison. The song was inspired by Patti Harrison, and George said, “[It’s] a simple twelve-bar song following all the normal twelve-bar principles, except it’s happy-go-lucky!”

Back in September I started something I’ve been wanting to do for over (and you have no idea how weird it is to me to think it’s been this long) twenty years. I couldn’t exactly tell you what started the urge in me, but I suspect it was a combination of the Ninja Turtles and Bruce Lee that first got me interested in martial arts. There was something almost graceful and certainly beautiful about the way masters of the various arts could disarm, disable, and defeat their foes, and it appealed to me from the get-go. I have a vague recollection of borrowing a movie from a friend that was about a “Kung Fu Finger Book,” (this is most likely it, but who knows?) a movie that had everyone fighting over some sort of book that apparently contained instructions on a deadly form of kung fu that apparently involved fingers. Pretty much the only thing I remember about the movie is that people were constantly asking other people if they knew where the kung fu finger book was, seconds before a fight broke out.

Regardless of where the interest sprouted, I never had the opportunity to study any of the arts. The closest I got was writing a paper on the rise in popularity of the martial arts in America, and borrowing The Tao of Jeet Kune Do from a friend’s dad who studied karate. I didn’t really understand the book back then, but I knew it was way awesome that Bruce Lee had invented his own martial art.

The more years that went by, the more any idea of studying a martial art seemed silly. Sure, I knew that old and older people still practiced, but they had started young and I, like Luke Skywalker, was too old to begin the training.

I met a fellow named Gary in the improv troupe, and found out pretty soon that he had a Tae Kwon Do studio, but it took me about three years to talk to him about it. We met for lunch early in September and talked about what all was involved with a fellow my age starting out, and he not only convinced me to give it a try, he pointed out that there was a class that was held at the Community Center at my very own church. Huh. I’ve never been one to notice things.

I checked on it, and sure enough, the next sessions were to begin in two weeks. I signed up, figuring the worst that would happen would be that I’d hate it and be done with it. I didn’t figure anyone got beat up in their first couple of classes. When I showed up, I was given a white belt, which I soon figured out meant “guy who has paid for classes.”

It was a little surreal, that first class. I was being taught things that I already knew, at least to some degree. I would never say that I learned a martial art by watching movies, of course, but I did learn some things about martial arts – terminology, philosophy, the fact that you bow to your sensei, that kind of thing. Actually doing those things, though? So weird.

Tae Kwon Do has the belt system, like many martial arts – White to Orange to Yellow and on up. My teacher explained it to me early on that the belts were kind of like grades in school, with a black belt being similar to graduating from high school. The degrees of black belt past that were analogous to college, grad school, and beyond. Each belt requires the learning of specific skills and these are incorporated in a form, a series of skills performed in sequence. The form we were studying in this session was 28 moves long.

Now, I felt I was understanding the moves themselves -not that I could perform them that well – but it turns out I was foiled by something I didn’t know I’d have to deal with: memorization! I could not remember the sequence of moves for the life of me. If someone called them out, I could perform them semi-correctly, but left to my own devices I quickly became a statue, frustrated at my inability to remember the series.

It was when I learned that we were learning a form that I experienced what can only be described as rebellion. See, although I never met Bruce Lee, I had learned some things from watching his movies, reading his books, and reading about him. See, he wasn’t just a movie star, he changed martial arts in a lot of ways. His philosphy, the aforementioned Tao, was that a fighter shouldn’t memorize forms, a fighter should gather moves from whatever worked. So he might take a kick from karate, a grapple from judo, and a punch from boxing and mix them into his Jeet Kune Do (which means “Way of the Intercepting Fist”). He was very very adamantly against students learning forms. Even though I wasn’t in Jeet Kune Do and never had Bruce Lee as a teacher, it was a tenet I had grown to accept over the years, a viewpoint that made a lot of sense to me. Yet here I was, learning a form. It was surprising to me how much that bothered me. I guess, though, in one sense, I shouldn’t have let it bother me, what with the fact that I never really learned it…

I was the oldest white belt in the class, and only one of the two youngest people was a white belt. The other one was an orange belt, and the day he chose me to practice a move on, I was reminded of the episode of “Seinfeld” where Kramer was taking karate. Elaine discovered he was in a class of kids, which explained why he was “dominating the dojo.”

The class ran for two months. On the last day we took our belt test, with the assurance that we had already earned our belts, this was just an exhibition. If our teacher didn’t know we were capable, he wouldn’t let us take the test, he said. Since I couldn’t remember the 28-move sequence, I took some comfort in that. On the flip side, though, I also felt like I didn’t deserve the belt upgrade because I couldn’t perform the sequence.

The next session starts in January, and I am planning to sign back up. I enjoyed 90% of the classes, and didn’t mind the workout I was getting while in the class. I think it could eventually be a thing I really like, but I’m also planning to take it a step at a time and see how it goes.

I’m still going to feel a little guilty when I watch Bruce Lee movies, though.

One Comment on “For You Blue”

  1. Emily says:

    Your ND reference made the read well worth my time. Lol.

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