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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Saturday, December 26, 2015

A New Look

I have spent the past few days rebuilding the AGPS website from the ground up. My primary reason for this was to clean up the backend.

If you have never dealt with programming and/or website maintenance, it may surprise you to learn a lot goes on behind the scenes. Over time, problems arise. As in the rest of life, these hassles tend to crop up at inopportune times. The developer, in a rush to keep everything running and get back to his/her regularly scheduled activities puts a band-aid on the problem. With luck, the user never realizes the situation existed.

As you can imagine, those band-aids build up. Before long, the developer has to put band-aids on band-aids and solutions get more and more convoluted. At some point, the developer (in this case, me) looks at the code and says, "I'm not sure what this does or how it affects other things. I don't think it's being used anymore, but I don't want to delete it because it might break something. Time to rebuild."

Fortunately for my sanity, I keep the reality of impermanence in mind when programming. When I put something together, I know at some point I will scrap it and start from scratch. When it happens, I don't mourn the passing of what was. I rebuild and take pleasure in what is.

I also overhauled the website because, aside from changes to content, the site has not changed in five years. The site was not cutting edge five years ago, but it did employ some pretty new methods. Five years on the web and in the world of technology means generations of improvements.

So, the site has a new look. I stripped some of the features that never got used, but all the content is intact in a (in my opinion) much more attractive package. And for the developer (me again), it will be easier to maintain moving forward. Enjoy and feel free to offer feedback on the new site.

The URL has not changed: http://trainagps.com

The Wandering Guru

"All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns." --Bruce Lee

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Respect the Jar Jar?

When I watched Star Wars episodes 1-3, I disliked Jar Jar Binks—like most people I know. In fact, "loathed" might express the sentiment better.

In preparation for watching episode 7, I re-watched 1-3 mostly to get the chronology straight in my head because, for me, episodes 4-6 had happened before 1-3 even though I intellectually knew they didn't. I planned to re-watch 4-6, too, but didn't have enough time before going to see The Force Awakens.

Anyway, I found on my re-watch, Binks didn't disturb me as much. Sure, he was still annoying, but I didn't cringe every time he appeared on screen or opened his mouth.

Now I'm watching the animated series, "The Clone Wars," on Netflix. My friend/brother Rick (RIP) loved it, and I caught some parts of episodes at his house while visiting, but I had never watched the series.

I am finding I actually like Binks—though the idea still surprises me. He is a bumbling fool, but—somehow—his bumbling tends to work in everyone's favor. He's cursed with luck—both bad and good. He's not the brightest star in that far away galaxy, but he has a knack for surviving and, when he or his friends are in danger, he can be downright clever.

What I find most fascinating is that his dim wits are the root of his cunning—much as Monk's extreme OCD was precisely what made him such a good detective (TV series, not Star Wars related). Under stress, Binks tends to notice things overlooked by other people in the same situation.

In the episode I just watched, for instance, pirates shot down a ship carrying Binks and some clones. They crash landed on a barren plain. One of the clones pointed out the geysers on the plain spewed acid. Binks noted the herd beasts didn't like the acid either.

When the pirates attack them, the clones see no way out. Binks leads them into a geyser. They follow because, technically, as a formal Representative of the Republic, he is the most senior surviving member of the mission. The pirates, more focused on the ship's cargo, lose track of Binks and party, and assume they died in a geyser. The brigands collect their booty and head off.

Binks watches the herd animals at the top of the geyser. When they start running, he and the clones jump out of the geyser's opening and run.

Because of Binks's simple-minded approach, he tends to act without a lot of analysis. As often as this gets him and his friends in trouble, it also gets them out of it. I wouldn't trust Jar Jar to plan an operation, but I'd be glad to have him on my side in the thick of things. He's far more than comic relief. He's a comedic good luck charm.

I know, I know. Binks is also a stumbling, bumbling racial slur--as are many of the aliens in 1-3 (Viceroy Gunray and his people scream Asian stereotypes, for instance)--but, nonetheless, my respect for the character has grown in the past few weeks. I'm as surprised as anyone can be by this news.

The Wandering Guru

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Road Within and Jessica Jones

Just watched The Road Within starring Robert Sheehan, Zoe Kravitz, Dev Patel, Robert Patrick, and Kyra Sedgwick.

Netflix categorizes this movie as: Comedy, Drama, Independent Drama

Really, Netflix?

The plot from IMDB.com:

The Road Within is about Vincent, a young man suffering from Tourette Syndrome. His mother dies so his estranged father, Robert, is forced to step in. However, Robert's running for political office and doesn't want his son on the campaign trail - so Robert puts Vincent in a clinic that's run by the unconventional Dr. Mia Rose. Once there, Vincent falls in love with an anorexic woman named Marie. Together, they steal Dr. Rose's car, and end up having to kidnap his OCD roommate, Alex, when he threatens to tell on them. With Robert and Dr. Rose in hot pursuit, Vincent, Marie and Alex go on a life changing road trip to deliver the ashes of his mother to the ocean.

The movie does have several moments of humor and, considering the subject matter, I would label the movie upbeat. I would not, however, categorize it as a comedy. The actors did a great job of portraying their struggles, especially Vincent (Robert Sheehan) and Alex (Dev Patel). I had no problem empathizing with them. In fact, I sympathized with them because I have issues of my own—albeit far less severe than these characters.

One of the several stand out scenes for me showed Alex forcing himself to remove his latex glove and hold Vincent's hand.

The scene reminded me of the posts I see on Facebook that belittle a person's bravery by comparing them to soldiers in combat. These people think "bravery" is a black and white word. They don't understand that bravery requires overcoming fear. Yes, soldiers and cops do it every day they put on their uniform. But a severe OCD sufferer overcoming his/her compulsions to touch another human, even if for a moment, is huge. The two can't be compared in any objective way.

But ... I have strayed down a tangential path.

I liked the movie a lot. Each of the three main characters, and the two supporting characters, show a clear development arc. In the end, each is still flawed but has grown and learned. One of them backslid, but that's part of the arc, too.

The backslide reminded me of a lesson I have to keep in mind for my own characters when writing. Sometimes they do backslide. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they make poor choices and choose not to learn--but that choice affects them too, even if they can't see or won't admit it. A story involves conflict. Not everyone "wins" their conflict. I think I've said what I want about the movie, so now I'll take an intentional tangent related to this idea.

I loved the first season of Jessica Jones. On Facebook, I read a comment where someone said they were disappointed because Jessica didn't have a strong arc. At the beginning of the series, she was a cynical alcoholic and at the end she was a cynical alcoholic.

The critic, in my estimation, missed the point. Jessica did have an arc. It just didn't involve her cynicism or alcoholism. Maybe she'll fight those demons in season two, we'll see. The arc Jessica did walk involved overcoming her fear of emotional connection. At the beginning of the series, she fears to get close to people or let them get close to her. She pushes everyone away and keeps her shields up all the time.

By the end of the season, she has reconnected with her adopted sister, developed a strong friendship with Malcolm, and has allowed herself to get involved with Luke. She still has baggage—a hell of a lot of it, in fact—but she did manage to let go of at least one or two of her suitcases and leave them behind.

The Wandering Guru

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Day to Remember

Tonight, I used Lyft--if you are unfamiliar with it, google it. The driver was listening to a talk show where they were interviewing Robert Kennedy, Jr. They asked him, "What is your favorite memory of your father?"

This got me thinking about my own dad, and I asked myself the same question. I did not have to give it much thought.

I started training in martial arts in 1978. Dad took me to classes and watched sometimes. In '86 or '87, my parents took me out of formal training. I got together with friends, often at my parents' house, to train and spar. They shared whatever they were training at the time. My dad watched some of these ad hoc sessions.

When I resumed formal training, I was twenty-one and no longer living at home. I think dad came to one tournament where I competed and one event where our Karate class did a demo. Then, in '96, I moved to Ohio and started training in Sikal.

Dad knew what I trained, knew I trained hard and consistently, and knew I had earned my instructorship, but he never saw any of it until 2003.

In 2003, I taught a workshop in Muncie, Indiana. The event was about forty minutes from my parents' house, and Dad drove up with my brother-in-law. Dad watched me teach a roomful of people. He watched as I moved with confidence. Pride beamed from his face as he watched me guide people along the same path on which he had watched me take my first tentative steps twenty-five years before.

That day, that look of pride, is my favorite memory of my dad. From the example he set, I learned what it means to be a man--in all the most positive uses of the word. He was my role model in so many ways. I am honored to call him dad and glad beyond words he got to share that day with me and see me following my passion.

The Wandering Guru