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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lovely Lucy and Steady Sally: A Martial Arts Metaphor

A little over a year into my journey as a martial artist, my conundrum remains the same: aikido and taekwondo competing for my time, my energy, and my attention. Aikido seems to be winning, but taekwondo isn't going away.

It was starting my job at the Academy, a school where all the students learn taekwondo as physical education, that piqued my interest in the martial arts to begin with. Taekwondo's beautiful poomse (forms), the acrobatic kicks, the statuesque stances, the rush of sparring with a friend or just punching and kicking pads or a bag. It's exciting, it's a great workout, and it makes me feel like the star of a martial arts movie.

Taekwondo does occasionally come up short in the area of intellectual and spiritual stimulation, though, and there are times in my training when I feel like 28 years old is too late to start conditioning my body to perform head-high kicks when I've never been able to touch my toes before.

When I took my martial arts search outside of work, I found aikido. Compared to the hard, simple punches and kicks of taekwondo, it's very gentle and yet very demanding. Rather than simply striking or kicking my opponent, aikido expects me to harmonize with his movements and take control of him. Sometimes that's no easy task.

I find peace in aikido's traditional ettiquette and ritual, and I find completeness in the fact that its philosophy and ethics are readily apparent in every technique. Sometimes it isn't much of a workout, though, and there are days when trying to understand it feels like trying to grab hold of a shadow. But there is a future in aikido: it keeps my mind busy and expects less of my body. I think the 55-year-old me might appreciate this someday.

I have the age-old man's dilemma: Lovely Lucy on one side and Steady Sally on the other.

Lucy (taekwondo) is, well, hot. She's sexy. She's stylish. She's always doing something fun. She's the kind of girl tough guys fight over and other guys dream about. What guy wouldn't want this girl on his arm?

Maybe she's not the best for clever conversation, and sometimes it's hard to keep up with her. To be honest, she might be a little young for me.

Sally (aikido) is certainly lovely in her own way, but not very glamorous and a little shy. An evening with her is more likely to be spent on the couch than in a club. There are nights when I want to go for a drink or a movie and she just isn't up for it.

If less exciting, she's certainly interesting. Unlike Lucy, she makes a regular habit of reading books without pictures in them. She has less to say than Lucy, but more to talk about. She can be a little demanding emotionally; she's looking for commitment, not just companionship.

She's a good cook. Her house is clean. She's comfortable.

For some time now, I've been flirting with both. I like to think that I can keep this up for a while longer. But I know someday I'll have to choose, and on that day, I'll choose Sally. She's better marriage material, and I'm not going to be young enough to handle Lucy forever. Truth be told, I was more of a Sally kind of guy in the first place.

But right now I'm still young, and I just can't get Lucy out of my head. The beauty and the excitement are too much for a guy to resist. So in the end, I'm back where I started, only a year older. I'm still devoted to one, and I'm still unable to give up the other. I'm about to turn 29, and I'm gearing up for another year of dedicated fence-riding.

If nothing else, it should be a fun ride.

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