Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The Importance of Choosing the Right Words
This was going to be a post about Hans Reiser, the Linux geek who was just convicted of murdering his wife. He insisted on taking the stand for eleven days against the advice of his attorney. The court watchers say that's what sunk him. He come across poorly under cross-examination. His rambling, often-contradictory explanations didn't tell a coherent believable story and didn't poke a single hole in the prosecution's evidence.
An chestnut in Law school goes "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."
But that's a really Grim Fairy Tale, so I'll go with a different example. This is an actual true story that really happened. We were there, and there are witnesses.
Some years back my wife and I took Taiji from a famous Chinese coach who had just moved to Oregon. We were hoping for internal body mechanics and all the rest of that good stuff. What we got was what sells: molasses-slow forms, no application or cultivation of internal strength, white uniforms, black belt clubs and promotions every X-weeks. We were interested in Chi, not Chi-whiz so we left.
Part of the problem is that we were looking for martial arts. The students tended to be upscale versions of the crystal-gazing hairy-legged bark eaters. Getting them to do push hands was hard enough, let alone thinking about developing strength or fighting.
After a few months we started doing the Short Yang Straight Sword Form. In retrospect, I really liked the form. There is a lot in there. But it was tough going for the fluffy bunny crowd. So the advanced student who was teaching the class gathered us all together to talk about swords. I can remember what he said darned near word for word.
He said "Don't think of this as a sword. Think of it as your chi wand. We're not going to sword fight. We're going to learn to play with our chi wands. Your chi wand is a very personal thing. If you handle it enough it will start to collect and store your chi, and you can use it to emit chi. You should never handle anyone else's chi wand without permission. And you shouldn't let just anyone handle yours. Be very careful where you put it. You never want to step on your chi wand."
Tiel and I carefully didn't look at each other and silently asked "Did he say that? Did he really say that?" The guy standing to my right looked like he was having some sort of seizure.
"After a while you will get used to handling your wand. When you are feeling down or depressed pick up your chi wand and play with it for a while. You'll start feeling better and more energetic." Somehow the poker faces stayed on.
Then he showed us some basics - grip, stance and how to make horizontal cuts.
"Now hold on tight to your wand, and keep it level. You don't want your chi to drip off the end while you're waving it."
We managed not to say anything or crack a smile. But then he said
"You're doing really well. Now I want you to get a partner and stand like this. Now very carefully, touch your chi wands together," at which point a female voice murmured "What am I supposed to do? All I have is a chi button."
I had to pretend I had a coughing fit and sit down for a while.