Today I met the Grandmaster. I didn't expect to, and he didn't let me go. Now I have to reconcile what I have heard with what I know and with what I want and with what I expect. It is disturbing and troubling.
I have in my life a series of false starts in my studies of kung fu. I will call it all kung fu because it is the hidden skill which you should be ashamed to brag about. Whether it was aikido or judo or tae kwan do, it has all been incomplete. I have no belt, I have no certificate. And yet I have done enough fighting at an early enough age so that somehow everyone seems to appreciate that I am some kind of warrior. I do not quite understand it, but I can accept it. I am a fractional badass.
I feel very incomplete about this lack of formal mastery. I have nothing in my life that I fear, and yet I have taken on an outlook that expects the worst and I am constantly on guard against it. Yet it is not for myself that I fear. I fear death less and less. I simply passionately do not want to be helpless in the face of tragedy. I want to know what to do when things go wrong. I want to be useful under circumstances that are beyond my control. I want to manage chaos, and I feel that it requires some kind of skill in addition to courage.
I have a large body of fiction in my head which is unreconciled to reality. It is the fiction of preparedness. I size up men in clubs and bars and streets and venues on the edge of civility and I expect that I should be able to manifest a kind of controlling calm aside from my helpless calm of reason. I want to add to my repertoire an ability to communicate a deterrent threat. I have a desire, while not large, also not insignificant, to express a martial aspect to my moral authority. I feel that I should have that personal power. And yet there has never been a moment in which I have felt the threat in my adult life. Perhaps it is an echo of a powerlessness I felt as a child.
I have injected myself into interpersonal fights to break them up. I did not hesitate, and it has been this lack of hesitation that frightens me. I have not wound up in over my head, but I fear getting in over my head. I need to wrestle with my need to find a fight worth fighting. I am compelled to call my vision correct, to call my judgment justice. I am passive. Can I retain that passivity? Should I?
I need also to wrestle with my vanity. I feel quite strongly that I should not be led to vanity by this capability with my body. Yet it seems to be the only way to dodge a sworn duty to defend and protect. When I learned to shoot I knew that I wanted to be as comfortable with a gun as a police officer is, but that I never wanted to do police work - never be sworn to duty. And since then I have learned what police work is like and I admire it and I find a kind of brotherhood with police officers. Still, I do not want to do their work.
The above is the confession I wrote a month ago. I think I've dealt with it. Now I want to move forward. It is clearer to me that I think of kung fu as a sport, and it is a vanity. I have no desire to become a warrior. I disclaim badassery. That's not what I'm trying to accomplish. I want to be able to dance the dance, not for competition, nor for survival, but for the sake of knowing and for the sake of vanity. I'm cool with that. Now I just find an instructor who is cool with that. This is my 80% conclusion.