I’m working on “flow,” or the movement I feel as I pass between writing and aikido/tai chi chuan. The swings can be terrible and disorienting, but completely necessary. When I was a teenager and taking martial arts like judo and karate, I would get excited and jump in full tilt and go, go, go and then get tired, injured, and burnt out. Then I quit. Later I would start again. I started at 11 and by 22, I was pretty much a mess. My lower back, both knees, one elbow, and an ankle were all pretty messed up. By 22, I had, through the encouragement of a girlfriend at the time, get into writing poems. I then stumbled into my first workshop, which got me my first publication. And then I wrote. Wrote poems like a madman until I was 25 and graduated with my MFA. But truth be told, by the end of the MFA, I was worn down. The next year after my MFA, I wandered about. I wrote little. Revised a lot, and began shaping my thesis into the manuscript I have today. Then I went to Japan, didn’t write much, and started the martial arts thing again. The difference was this time it stuck.
The trick once I returned to the US was how to manage my energy. I took exams in aikido in 2004 and 2007 and in between, I tried to write. Getting that mix right proved very elusive, but in the last few years, say from 2011 or so, I’ve found things to be easier. Up until then, I always felt like one was sucking the energy out of the other. They competed for limited resources. And then came a change.
I no longer write in long stretches, but in short intense bursts. And my martial arts energy goes up and down with a strange kind of regularity. The reality is no matter what you do, you have down periods. The two arts synced up. One was down when the other was up. They started to generate energy for each other. Maybe this was a maturity thing. Maybe I had to get to some weird point where the two fed off each other, like how you can hang with certain people, whether you’re an artist or a writer or a martial artist and and you all feed off the crazy energy you all radiate. Talking about this with somebody, he laughed at me and said “it’s all about flow” in that kind of gentle but I-could-of-had-a-V8 head slap way. Maybe I’m just dense. Maybe I’m a little slow.
Weird thing is riding this flow isn’t like riding waves. It’s like being push down the river by a gentle current. Of course, maybe I just haven’t gotten to the rapids and rocks yet.