The Right Coast

December 11, 2005
The way of the baby
By Tom Smith

Well, I am reclined in my 'Perfect Chair', heat pad on high, made useless again by my &%$#ing back. Instead of going out to get the tree, I am sitting here cursing the ineffectiveness of Robaxin and ibuprophen. The pain is not severe, just enough to be uncomfortable and to make it difficult to drive or shift trees about.

The cause of this backal imbroglio is none other than two year old Mark, whom I did not mean to include in my brag about well behaved children the other day. He was running around screaming, obviously possessed of a diaper that was about to go critical. The odor level had exceed what even experienced parents are willing to tolerate. I bent over to pick the little fighter up, he threw himself into an evasive squirm, and zap, I felt a little knife slip into my spine. It didn't hurt that much, just that sinking sensation of, oh shit, now I am going to be useless for X days. It's ironic; four days ago I grappled with a 2nd degree black belt who weighs 175 (a lot less than I, but still substantial) and at least held my own, if I say so myself, but it was a 30 pound toddler who put me out.

It leads me reflect on something I have been meaning to blog about for a while -- the way of the baby. If you observe them, you can see that toddlers really are little masters of certain martial arts principles, in particular the mysterious ki, as the Japanese call it, or chi or qui, in the alliterated Chinese. This is the energy flow that is utilized in Eastern fighting arts, but also healing arts such as acupuncture and the like. It probably has something to do with yoga, too, but I don't know much about yoga. I noticed some time ago that picking up Mark is like picking up a gyroscope. He will arch his back, and make picking him up as hard as picking up 30 lbs can be. But when he wants to be picked up ("Ride!", "Carry you!", or "puckup!") then he practically lifts off on his own. He seems to really know how throw his ki around.

In my art, we practice certain ki moves, but they are very basic. Some years ago, it was more elaborate, apparently. The method they used was to think of ki channels along a regular grid pattern. One day one of the women from my dojo practicing this technique bumped into an old Chinese man at a market, and he remarked "you are like graph paper!" (An unrelated, but not so sweet story about this woman is that she would put two plums in a plastic zip lock bag, staple it to the wall, and practice ripping the plums out of the bag, over and over again. She got very good at it. Possibly some issues there.)

I would like to know more about ki. It is emphasized in the "soft" Chinese arts. I bought some books on Amazon that seem pretty good. This one is amusing. It focusses on "standing meditation." Essentially, you go stand somewhere, under a tree is especially good, for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Just stand there. Don't walk about, sit down, scratch, or anything. Don't move. It is a lot less easy than it sounds. Not least because it can be very boring. But that is part of the point. I would like to find the art, perhaps secret, that involves just lying somewhere for hours at a time. I think I could become an exalted high oceanic master of that one. Especially now. I shall become as a log in the forest, and my enemies shall trip over me. This book also comes recommended. Yes, there is a lot of mumbo jumbo, but just ignore that, and do the exercises. They do seem to work, at least sort of.

Last time my back went bad, I tried various ki exercises. But what really worked was drugs. Thank God for big pharma. Robaxin seems useless, but I am looking forward to the steroids, and if I am still laid up tomorrow, the narcotics. That stuff really is magic. Those little ninja molecules slip into your nerves, and all you can say is, thank you Jesus. Back standing under the tree before you know it.