JOHN MEANEY

9.8.08



HARMONY

So last week I was demonstrating how to punch a wall in a Zen-like manner -- or rather explaining the traditional use of a makiwara striking post -- when Chris Hill exclaimed: "That's not Zen." And I explained that it really was. (In fact I was bemoaning the overall state of karate, which has either lost or never had the aliveness of MMA -- mixed martial arts -- while forgetting the traditional bits that were actually good: serious attitude, hitting solid objects daily -- I prefer punchbags -- and grappling. Or maybe I'm getting old.) Neither stray thought nor emotion: that's Zen.

There are those who allow their left frontal cortex to dominate all actions, existing only cerebrally, and I guess that's a choice I understand. But the Olympics symbolize another way to live.

And didn't the Bird's Nest stadium look like a Jim Burns painting brought to life? For anyone who saw the whole of the opening ceremony, the future is here, and it is so sfnal. And with 2008 wu shu performers demonstrating their own kind of harmony.

Ironically, here I am glued to a screen -- me, the person that normally discourages TV watching only because the daily hours in front of the goggle box are a substitute, often, for achieving one's real dreams. Unless your dream is to become a scriptwriter, in which case you probably need to watch a lot, just as an unpublished writer needs to read a lot.

But there was some terrific judo today, the first day of the Games. In the final of the womens' under-48 kilo category, Alina Dumitru whipped out an awesome ippon-scoring throw for the big finish. And the men's under-60 kilo category ended with a blinding wheel-the-man-through-the-air move from Choi Minho. Marvellous. I understand that it's a hard sport to watch with comprehension if you've never practiced it.

So I'm going to recommend a book that will be rivetting only to two kinds of reader: those who practice martial arts and those who don't.

The book is The Pyjama Game and the author is Mark Law, award-winning author and journalist for the Daily Telegraph. As a 49-year old who never did sport, he took up judo ("the sport that puts the harm in harmony"). The book is partly his story, mostly that of the people who made the discipline... and it's beautifully written, and very funny.

Every bout begins with the command Hajime! Law's description: "it sounds a little like one Glaswegian greeting another." Apart from the one-liners, there's writing like this:

"But in all this there seems to be one common language, a language of fighting like no other... This is a vernacular of colliding and twisting torsos, of sweeping legs and whipping wrists, of assertions written in the air with flying bodies."

And the historical stories are fascinating.

In some earlier blog, I wrote that the best knockout I ever saw was in a lightweight women's fight at the British Judo Championships sometime during the 90s in Crystal Palace. (A throw leading directly to a strangle, forearm impacting the carotid artery. Beautiful.) But it's still an immensely civilized discipline.

Facing off against an opponent in any combat sport involves one essential aim: to deck the other guy. I often smile when I hear a boxing referee say "Good luck" to the fighters as they touch gloves. There's something paradoxical and wonderful in wishing luck to both of 'em.

So here goes. To all athletes -- Olympic or not, combat or not -- good luck, everyone.

4 Comments:

Blogger Bruce said...

I didn't know where to post this, or how to send you a message, but I HAD to let you know. I am 38 years old, and I have been reading SF/Fantasy since I was 7. I am about 3/4 thru your book "Bone Song" and I have to say, I have never read anything as compelling as this book! i could go into all the reasons why, but I'm sure you have heard them all before. I just thought you should know you have gained a fan for life and I will now be going ordering all of your previous material from Amazon.com. Thank you for being an exceptional writer and for treating me (and your other readers) as intelligent, thinking beings. you may (or may not) be surprised how often this does not happen...

Bruce Arnold

September 7, 2008 at 5:47 AM  
Blogger John said...

Hey, Bruce... You've chosen a fine place to post this, and thank you very much for doing so. I do indeed begin with the assumption that intelligent, thinking beings like books, and that we are all equals. I try to err on the side of under-explaining, if anything. Somehow I feel confident you'll be able to keep up!

I hope you enjoy the earlier books, which you'll have seen are different from Bone Song and Black Blood. My next firm project, in progress, is a massive space opera, the first volume being Absorption. You're officially the first to know!

...And thanks again.

All best,
John

September 10, 2008 at 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there

Would like to repeat the sentiments of Bruce above and to add that I have read all your books (with the exception of 'To Hold Infinity'). I must admit that 'Bone Song' and 'Dark Blood' are my abosolute favourites and was wondering if there will be a third novel at some stage. I think they're brilliant; I love the universe you've created (it's different - e.g. the use of bones, the toxic rain and the execution scene in Dark Blood) and the way you ended both novels with such shocking cliffhangers. The characers are very interesting. I love Riordan, Gertie, the nurse and the very sinister character with the glasses (not quite sure who he is but I can give a good guess). Thanks for the great books and good luck with your future projects. But ... please return to this universe soon.

Best wishes

Jaz

November 18, 2008 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger John said...

Thanks, Jaz. I think there will be a third book, though I'm not contracted to write it as of now. It exists in outline, under the title "White Bones", and part of the story takes place among the Lightsiders who are hinted at in the first two books. But I don't have a cliffhanger ending yet...!

November 22, 2008 at 8:56 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home