What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Varekai makes the fifth Cirque du Soleil show my wife and I have seen. As before, the performers brought their A games. Each performer--aerial, acrobatics, gymnastics, juggling, baton, and more--made me say, "Wow." at least once during their performance.

Varekai picks up the myth of Icarus after his fall. Instead of crashing into the sea and dying, he lands in the strange world of Varekai. As the show opens, Skywatcher fiddles with some of his inventions and tries to get in tune with nature. He notices the figure of Icarus falling from the sky and tries to revive him after his crash.

When The Guide appears, he and Skywatcher work together to revive Icarus. Icarus comes to and realizes he's surrounded by strange, alien creatures whose mannerisms are intense as they poke and prod him. When he tries to get away, he realizes his legs don't work. His fear spikes as he crawls away.

Then he encounters The Betrothed, a beautiful female creature, and the attraction between them is palpable. Her presence soothes and reassures Icarus.

The various acts of the show tell a story of the native's efforts to rehabilitate Icarus. As the show progresses, he learns to stand, to walk, and to dance. The love he shares with The Betrothed strengthens him and provides a catalyst for her to make her own transformation. The Guide and Skywatcher move through the action, the teaching, and the learning, helping where they can.

I want to make special mention of Arisa Tanaka for her baton twirling performance. In a show packed with world class performers doing amazing feats, Arisa's skill with the batons stood out for me. Her act blended standard baton twirling with juggling and contact juggling of the batons. The contact juggling blew me away. She spun the baton around her neck and body without using her hands, letting it roll over, rotate around, and bounce off her neck, shoulders, etc. For several seconds she spun and threw the baton using her elbows. Nothing else contacted the batons. 

While the overall story is dramatic, there is a lot of comedy thrown in. The Guide and Skywatcher have some great comedic moments, but the bulk of the comedy comes from two unnamed characters, a man and woman. Their antics are at times flirtatious with each other and with audience members. These two interacted with several audience members--including me. The characters don't have official names so I'll call them Thin Man and Blondie.

Before the show begins, there is a sort of pre-show where these two characters come out and act like ushers. Margaret and I sat in the second row. The characters had just had some fun with some people in the first row, then Thin Man's eyes lit on me and went wide. He rushed over to me and squeezed my bicep and said, "So big!" As he moved on, Blondie winked at me and gave me a flirtatious wave.

Enouh about me, though. One of the most amazing things about Cirque du Soleil is how well the performers use body language. Throughout the show, I would guess there were, maybe, a dozen lines of English spoken, and most of those were spoken to the audience through breaks in the fourth wall. I remember two lines of English spoken between Skywatcher and The Guide. Thin Man did sing one song in French. The troop performed the rest of the show in a Varekaian (gibberish). The emotions and interactions between the characters were expressed with body language.

This wasn't my favorite Cirque du Soleil show, but it was excellent. My favorite is still Qidam.


The Wandering Guru

Monday, August 17, 2015

Heroes in our name

Just finished watching the "Robot Hood" episode of Doctor Who. I spent most of the episode chuckling at the absurdity of the episode while being impressed by how well it was put together.

At the end, I realized the deeper value of the episode. It serves to push the Doctor's character past the trauma he experienced in the previous episode. Of course, it's not obvious about it.

The best part for me was an exchange between the Doctor and Robin Hood at the end of the piece. I'm not going to bother with a spoiler alert because (a) the biggest spoiler is that Robin Hood and the Doctor are alive at the end of the episode and (b) I am *way* behind on my Doctor Who so most people who might care about spoilers have already seen the episode.

I'm not going to post the whole dialog, but I'll pull the bits I feel most relevant and, for me, poignant.

Robin calls the Doctor a hero and the Doctor says, "I'm not a hero."
Robin says, "Well, neither am I. But if we both keep pretending to be, perhaps others will be heroes in our name."

I love this sentiment. It reminds me of a line Angel delivered in the episode, "Deep Down." "We [champions] live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be."

I think many of the heroes we hold in high esteem today would agree with these ideas. In their time, they would have told you something like: "I am no hero. You call me a hero for doing the best I could in adverse circumstances but I did not live a life I would call heroic."

In those actions for which they are honored, they "lived as though the world were as it should be" and I think most of them would agree their highest achievement came posthumously when others became heroes in their names.

Or maybe I'm a romantic with his head stuck in the clouds. I don't know. But I figure *someone* needs to live as though the world is as it should be and that is my goal, lofty though it may be.

The Wandering Guru

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Paradigm shift

Last week, my laptop went belly up. The logic board is toast and repair/replace is beyond my current financial means.

I am now using an iPad mini with a bluetooth keyboard for all my online and writing tasks. I had considered doing this before, but the shift requires a lot of rewiring in how I do things. My entire workflow has to change and the transition is uncomfortable.

I suspect, though, this will become my norm. Even when I can once again afford a laptop, I doubt I will. The new normal will have become habit and going back to a laptop will seem odd and cumbersome.

I have yet to work out comfortable methods for website development on iPad. Fortunately, I do very little of it these days and it's all personal projects. I will end up with a desktop companion--we have a Mac Mini stored at a friend's house in Arizona. I will pick it up in a few weeks when I return to the area. The Mac Mini will be my tool for video and graphics editing and, unless I can sort out how to print from iPad, I'll use Mac Mini for printing documents.

Still some hurdles to overcome, but life would be boring without challenges. Adversity = adventure :D


The Wandering Guru

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Repetition among friends

When I teach at a Progressive Arnis training camp I find myself repeating a lot of words. Words like awesome, great, fantastic, incredible ... you get the idea.

We just wrapped the 2015 Progressive Arnis Summer Camp. Considering the amount of praise I've given the prior PA camps I've attended, it's hard to believe anything could top them. This year did. In many ways.

First, the location was amazing. Not to say Santa Fe, where previous camps were held, isn't amazing, but visiting and training on the property where Chad, the founder of Progressive Arnis, grew up made this event something special. Second, his mom, Deb, and step-dad, Brad, welcomed this large group of people with open arms. Deb made some great meals and snacks for us.

The group, as always, brought amazing energy to the training. Every face exhibited an eagerness to learn and share. As usual, the instructors covered a range of specific topics but the theme for this year's camp was Form to Function to Fighting. Each instructor presented material in a progressive manner to help the students move from the form of static training and fundamental tool development to making the material functional and dynamic in training to understanding how the material might look in an actual fight.

Guro Chad Bailey, of course, was the headline instructor. His system, his camp, his headline. He had three guest instructors. I was one of them, along with Sensei Jason May of Nan Sho Kempo Jujutsu and Sensei Matt Ansari of Shihairyoku.

All the instructors did a fantastic job and brought a unique perspective and approach to the overall theme.

Several Progressive Arnis instructors and senior students were also present and did a great job working with less experienced attendees to keep everyone engaged and learning. The event lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen hours, starting Friday afternoon and ending Sunday afternoon. It was hot and humid, though not as bad is might have been, and the weather contributed to the drain everyone felt on top of the hours of training. People were tired—but I didn't see anyone zone out from overload. A couple of people came close but the willingness of instructors and advanced students to help out kept the overloads to a minimum.

Every bit of feedback I heard was outstanding. Everyone else had the same problem with repetition I do. Great, amazing, incredible, etc. I know everyone came away with useful information and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves the whole weekend.

Last but not least, I want to congratulate Andres Arias who tested for and achieved his black belt in Progressive Arnis. As a black belt candidate, he served as the primary slap monkey—er, I mean, uke—for all the instructors and then he went through the formal test. He did a great job all the way around and when he wasn't getting tossed around or actively tested, he joined the training and helped anyone who needed it with the material.

I am honored to call the Progressive Arnis group family. Guro Chad sets a fine example and his students do an excellent job following it.

I could go on and on about this year's camp, but I would be repeating myself. Again.

The Wandering Guru

At the beginning, we are born. At the end, we die. Between, we walk the earth. This is life. I'm glad I have so many good friends to walk with me.