Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Asian Invasion

For the last few weeks, my life has become decidedly more Asian. My life has the tendency to randomly import other cultures as a central interest for certain periods of time, usually involving the languages of those cultures. Tragically, I'm not actually fluent in any other language, but I've picked up bits and pieces here and there.

My life's linguistic experiences began with a dead language: Latin. I still remember bits and pieces, but I think what I gained most was just a decent vocabulary that I would soon discover to be the root words for many of our English ones.

After Latin (and ignoring a very tiny attempt at Spanish) came my temporary infatuation with Russian. I was quite proud of myself for learning a decent chunk of the vocabulary, and some of the alphabet. My Russian faze also included reading Russian literature. I started with Crime and Punishment (which book gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling in my soul--as you can imagine). After all, who wouldn't enjoy a book about an ax murderer? Right? Okay, so it wasn't really the most chipper of books, but I enjoyed it for some reason or other. After Fathers and Sons and Anna Karenina, I decided I quite liked Russian literature, but that I couldn't really recommend that anyone else read it. (Could I really look my sweet, innocent friend in the eye and smile while I handed her such a depressing book?)

Anyways, after Russian came Italian. Italian is quite lovely. I like pasta too, so it worked out nicely.

And now, Japanese has invaded my life. Last week, there was one night that I couldn't sleep at all, so I just lay there with my Japanese vocabulary list circling round and round in my head. Despite what you may be thinking, this was not pleasant. Don't believe me? You try going to sleep with words like "hajimemashite" and "doozo yoroshiku" and "Oyasuminasai" going through your head. Trust me, it isn't quite as soothing as "The Song that Gets on Everybody's Nerves" or "The Song that Never Ends".

Anyways, the difference between my previous cultural/linguistic obsessions is that this is the first of them all to cause me physical pain (let alone contribute to my random night of insomnia).

As a part of what I deem "The Asian Invasion", my Judo class has been making me think of Asia. After all, it's a martial art. Tragically, I like to focus more on the "art" part of "martial art"... and forget the part that involves intense physical training and exercise. Charlie Brown the Sensee didn't forget, though.

"Down and back five times!" came the order.

Now, if you remember, we're speaking that mysterious language used by athletic people, so "five" doesn't mean "five"... it means "five times three". Yep, my favorite lie had returned in the form of wind-sprints to punish me for complaining.

"You knew it was coming," said the Pessimist in my head.

The Optimist tried to catch her breath and said, "But maybe since we're doing this, he won't make us do as many push-ups and other stuff."

"Wanna bet?"

Needless to say, the Pessimist was right and I soon found myself doing regular push-ups, diamond push-ups, wide push-ups, push-ups that are so weird and hard I'm not sure what to call them, pulling myself across the mat using my elbows and toes, flipping over across the mat, pushing/pulling myself across the mat using my legs, falling repeatedly on my way across the mat, doing the grapevine and running some more (though not wind-sprints).

Death. That was a pretty good description for my feelings about that. I thought I was going to die. For those of you who may not know me well... I'm not an athletic girl by nature. I'm most at home doing school or art or some kind of work that allows me to drink coffee while doing it.

"Oh, suck it up," the Pessimist rolled her eyes, "You signed up for this, so deal."

"But I don't like this," the Optimist moaned pathetically, "I signed up to be a ninja, not to put myself into the position of doing push-ups. I think push-ups were designed by sadists."

The Pessimist sighed and turned her attention back to the Sensee. He was explaining something in his low growl of a voice that is almost never loud enough to hear. Then he turned and pointed at me, a horrible gleam in his eye.

"Come here," he said.

I was going to be the example. The guinea pig. The one who had to figure out what the heck he meant by his instructions and follow them without knowing for sure the consequences. I stepped forward.

He grabbed my Gi in the usual way (one hand at the collar-ish thing, the other on the back of the sleeve). I followed suit.

"Now sweep my leg," he growled.

After a moment's hesitation (as I tried to figure out just how he expected me to do this) I kicked his ankle.

"I can do this job," squealed the Optimist.

"Just wait," the Pessimist said, her tone like that of one condemned.

"Then, so that she can't do that, I can do this," he said, and demonstrated his move again, except this time he actually used his example student. My leg went right out from under me and down I went: BOOM.

Some people laughed. I laughed. I went to stand up and instead found myself lifted (with what I think was only one hand, but maybe two) swiftly, easily to my feet.

"Wow," said the Optimist, a bit subdued, "He's terrifying and strong enough to back it up. Scary."

"I knew it," said the Pessimist, "I always know when something's disturbing."

"Oh come on," said the Optimist, "You thought this class was a bad idea and you were wrong. This class has increased not only the physical health of the students, their flexibility, and their ability to do awesome ninja moves, but has also been very fun."

The Pessimist paused, "You know? You're right," she said with a little half-smile.

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