Thursday, July 1, 2010
yo-yo # 78: team losi cherry bomb
i intended to write about something that i've since forgotten about. that's the kind of thing that happens when you strike yourself about the head with blunt objects.
not a yo-yo this time, actually. i AM getting used to my new loop 900's, but so far i haven't slammed myself with those. i've punched myself in the nog with pretty much every manner of yo-yo. probably the worst 'kablam' i've taken came at the hands of a galactic goose while filming some lame trick to show to drew and seth. that noise still haunts my dreams. i actually don't hit myself with loopers too much, and when i do - well, it's not like they've got a lot of mass. alas, no, tonight's round of self-inflicted trauma was performed with a sword... fortunately (for me) it was a wooden one.
when everybody goes to sleep around here (especially in the summer), i like to go outside to my 'dojo' under the oaks and work out a bit. back when stacy was in residency, she worked regular 30-hour shifts, so every other day, i didn't see her, and when i did she was too exhausted to do much more than ingest a few bites of rice krispies before passing out. in those days, with a three year-old daughter, i rarely made it out to my dojo, so the backyard became one. though our quality of life is exponentially improved now, training out back is a tradition that is too ingrained to neglect.
when i was little, i was afraid of the dark. i remember being terrified, not of grotesque monsters or nightmares... but of the dark itself, and its capacity to produce any sort of terror. i now understand that i was also afraid of the quiet, and of the fact that when enclosed within the night's silent blanket, you are utterly alone... with yourself. over the years, i have conscientiously flooded those fears by learning to sleep outdoors, by sitting outside in total, unforgiving blackness, and to some extent, by these rounds of 'night training'. if you're going to root out the splinter of your selfishness, you're going to have to spend a lot of energy exploring your fears. i'm working on it.
there is something almost narcotic about training alone at night, especially with a weapon like a sword, which is such an anachronism with regard to modern life. alone with myself (not unlike a child in bed) i find myself confronted with ideas with which i'm not always comfortable. like yo-yoing, it's become a way for me to communicate with myself, and once you've had some measure of that, the pull to continue is irresistible. i'm sure it's the same with runners, or people who paint those little metal soldiers, or what-have-you.
so tonight, i was performing a few basic sword katas from aikido, and probably pretty badly. my mind was jumping all over the place. i think i was vaguely imagining some romantic visage of some of the old aikido masters whom i hold in highest regard, performing these same kata on their own, refining their respective spirits (just like me, right?). and finally, in a moment of precient, merciful serendipity, i imagined that i shared a secret with those great masters: that out here, cutting through the night with a sword, there is clearly more to life than the mundane...
it was at that precise moment that my left hand slipped from the hilt of my bokken, the released pressure causing the back of the blade to swing around and nail me right above the left eye. it didn't hurt. i wasn't cut or anything... but the blow to my pride felt momentarily significant. there i was, acting like i had something in common with these 'great masters', when i obviously can't even handle the damn sword properly. what a doofus!
but in the next moment, it occurred to me that the blunder had nothing to do with my left hand, but with my state of mind. what sets the 'masters' apart, in every discipline, is focus. we say 'kime' in aikido (though i have no idea what that actually translates to); the concentration of the mind on the task at hand. sometimes it's wielding a sword. sometimes it's slicing zucchini. sometimes it's playing with a silly little spinning toy. my problem was that my mind was on other people, doing other things, outside of my control or influence... and i got whacked on the head for it. i'm thankful, because if i hadn't, i might have kept training with that mindset, which would have been a waste of a beautiful summer night...
i was swinging this oak sword around, with the implied idea that the night was somehow something MORE than what it was; MORE than life itself. but there is nothing more than life itself... or at least, nothing that i get to understand here and now. 'the fire cannot see the ashes,' as they say. the fleeting idea that there should be something 'beyond' the mundane betrays what an absolute beginner i am at life. in truth, the only thing that sets any 'master' apart as 'great' is his or her utter devotion TO the mundane. when you're holding a sword, don't ponder the mysteries of the universe... JUST HOLD THE FRICKIN' SWORD!
it's the exact same thing with yo-yo. how many thousands of times have i been 'idly' playing, my mind bouncing between faraway thoughts like a hyperactive cricket, only to pull into a glorious snag, yanking the yo-yo back prematurely into my knuckles? it happens especially often with a yo-yo like this: the team losi cherry bomb.
the brainchild of yo-yo renaissance guy, steve brown, the cherry bomb was the 2nd ball bearing yo-yo i ever played (after the raider). my girlfriend's little brother (now my brother-in-law) bought one at toys r us and showed it off. i immediately hated it, but only out of envy. it was way cooler looking than the raider. by that point though, i hadn't caught on to the whole 'butterfly shape' thing, as it would interfere with my mediocre loops. the losi line were among the first to feature an adjustable gap (albeit, it was only adjustable due to a pair of o-rings in the guts (a la the fast 201). still, it worked pretty well, and the cherry bomb allowed a level of string play for which i was not-yet ready.
the thing about c-bombs is that they break in pretty quick (way more so than the renegades which supplanted them as the dominant tool for y2k string-trickery). until they do, however, they will punish your knuckles like ruler-swinging nuns on a pack of truant, angus-young-clad schoolboys. for the first few days (or forever if you keep the gap small), EVERY TRICK requires your immediate attention, and the yo-yo is totally prepared to chastize you should you not comply. after awhile, the c-bomb feels kinda like a pet doberman. sure it could snap at you, but you've kind of learned that for the pair of you to get along... you just need to present and attentive. most yo-yo's out there today are nothing like that. for the most part, there is no break-in period. there is no punishment. we've grown to like our yo-yo's soft and cuddly and forgiving. i'm not saying it's a bad thing - but the lessons of the cherry bomb are lost on many.
is that a bad thing? are those lessons still relevant? i think they are. learning to play yo-yo with focus and care changes the way you approach all yo-yo's. when i'm throwing my shiny new, massive-gapped pro, it's easy to hit obscure, experimental, multi-layered tricks... but it's also easy to 'look away'; to go through the motions and play with a perfunctory, half-absent attitude. i know i'll hit the trick. there are no consequences, or even much in the way of communication between the thrower and 'the thrown'. throwing the same tricks on a cherry bomb is different. even if i'm absolutely present, the wind might blow funny and everything might snag into delicious oblivion. the trick is fragile; in perpetual jeopardy... not unlike life (though we trick ourselves into believing otherwise).
if you're going to play, play utterly. completely. totally. as though the string is the only thing separating heaven and earth. withhold absolutely no measure of yourself and your joy... and maybe in equal part, your pain. don't fuss about what it means or symbolizes. it means you playing with a yo-yo, and that's all. the nearly impossible task; the challenge for a lifetime... is recognizing that that right there is PLENTY. that the mundane IS the mystery of the universe.
people talk about how yo-yoing is meditative, and i guess it can be. but i think you have to be careful with the words you choose. personally, i never want yo-yoing to be transcendental. i never want yo-yoing to represent an 'escape'. for me, it's just about playing with 'the truth of the moment', which is at once a very light-hearted and yet absolutely serious thing. the universe is transient. i know i only have so many breaths and i may be one poorly-considered left-turn away from the last of them... if i'm going to use one of those moments yo-yoing? best believe i want to put everything i have behind it, and that includes not only my high-powered equipment and muscle memory (hi k-strass)... but also, most critically, my focus.
in today's world, you can buy the app, and then... you have it. you can refer to it whenever you need to make that perfect carbonara or check the map of reykjavik (i spelled that right first try!). but there is no app for real understanding. there is no app for kime. people are so used to the rhythm of 'buying and having', they want to say 'i understood once, so i understand now,' but it doesn't work like that. you have to keep trying to understand; keep bringing the world into focus; keep feeling the simple magnitude of the simple, the trivial, the everyday. it's not just in the great and romantic moments where we design our character... it happens as we brush our teeth or take out the garbage. the power and meaning of yo-yoing are not only available in the moment when we finally hit that elusive trick or win worlds... but also in all of the misses and tangles and string-burnt snap-starts that tie our tiny glories together. you have to keep inventing your understanding in every throw. the beauty is... you'll never run out.