Thursday, June 24, 2010

Your Feet Are Weak

When I graduated from high school,
I began pushing the limits of my
physical stamina. I jogged almost
every day, gradually increasing the
distance until I hit the six mile mark.

Then after my freshman year of college,
I started triathlon training. After one
month, my typical workout was a fast
20-mile bike followed by a perpetually
faster 10-mile run. This typically lasted
around three hours, which left me pretty
useless to do much else. When I rode or
ran with anyone else, I would leave them
in the dust. The catabolism ate down my
body weight to a mere 163 pounds.

In my sophomore year, I started lifting
weights and put on more than 30 pounds
of muscle. By the end of college, I had
gotten pretty big, but so was my appetite.
I continued lifting for 10 years, and did
some cross-training as well. In general,
my body was been equal to many world-
class athletes.

Then at age 31, I started Fu Tai Chi with
Grandmaster Victor ShengLong Fu.
I had to let go of most of my experience,
and my education, such as the university-
level kinesiology and the weight-training
techniques I learned from the early-ninety's
Mr. Michigan. Everything was just so

Now I've been studying and practicing hard
with Fu for seven straight years. My balance
has increased so much that I can't even explain
it, other than to say my feet have reorganized

My right foot, which has always been a little
weaker than the left, has gotten bigger, stronger,
and now the ball and big toe hurt all the time.
They have new calluses and ache from the new
way I walk, stand and move. This is not the
kind of ache you get from wearing fancy shoes
with heels; this kind of ache tells me that the
way I used to walk was babying my feet,
instead of strengthening them.

The age-old tenets of tai chi say,
"the root is in the feet." When you begin to
practice the slow twisting movements of
tai chi, your ankles will twist and your feet
will begin to clutch the earth in the same
way a tree does, or the way an eagle grasps
a tree branch. Your feet will get amazingly

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shut Down and Shut Up

By the end of the 2007 summer, I had
gotten a little pudgy. My restaurant
had a beer license, and I loved to drink
MY beer when I was there. I practiced
my tai chi every day, so even though
I looked soft, I was still pretty capable.

Dustin came into town and demanded
that I go on a whitewater river trip with
him the next day. I said I had too much
to manage with the restaurant, and that
it was out of the question. He convinced
me with a check for $15,000; so I packed
for a week off the grid, and left with him for
Cataract Canyon.

The subject of volleyball had come up, so
Dusty brought his net and I brought my ball.
All the way to Moab, Dustin and Scotty
mouthed-off about how they would beat
everyone and anyone in a game. I have
always thought trash-talking was really low
brow, and unsportsmanlike, so I said nothing.

But the bullshit didn't stop. Two days on the
river, and you would think these guys would
have something else to talk about-- but no.
These guys would not shut up !

I asked this tall young guy, Brandon, if he
could play, and this only seemed to fuel the
trash talk.

"Remember that last trip ? We beat everybody !
And then, just the two of us beat everybody
at the same time ! Muah ha ha ha ha ! We're
gonna kick yer ass !"

We landed at the beach at Brown Betty rapids
in the afternoon on the third day. We guy-wired
the net for tension and got some air into the ball
with the clever use of a ballpoint pen.

Dustin and Scotty are both short, but superbly
athletic. When they take off their shirts, the
muscles just ripple under offensively-tanned skin.
When I took my shirt off, a pony keg of beer
sloshed beneath a blinding moon-tan. I believe
this was a big part of their confidence, not to
mention that these two had played a lot together.

Brandon didn't have a lot of volleyball experience,
but he could really move. When it was my shot,
I placed the ball all over the court, and ran them
into oxygen debt. At one point in the second game,
they were both bent over, sweating and breathing hard.
I told Brandon loud enough for them to hear,
"Look at 'em, they're exhausted."

Rare was a set from Brandon that was good enough
to spike, but I did punch a few right down their throats
for good measure. Mostly, I fed them pain with my
serves. I heard Dustin whine, "Man, that stings."

We beat them three straight games. These two rock-hard,
deep-tan maniacs stood there with the most bewildered,
disbelieving looks on their faces. I stuck out my belly as
far as it would go and laughed punishingly as I grabbed
two fistfuls of fat and did a little dance.

Dustin never talks about that day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010