<![CDATA[Fil-Am Kicking Scribe<br /><br />The Official Website of Juan Rader Bas<br /><br /> - Blog: Contemplations]]>Sun, 01 Oct 2017 12:22:17 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[My Son's Rock]]>Sat, 23 Sep 2017 22:46:42 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/my-sons-rockPicture

 
It’s funny how the mundane becomes special. If not special, at the very least, important.
 
For my son and I, one of those things is a broken piece of sidewalk a block or so from our house where a tree’s roots have simply overgrown and broken through the sidewalk. To be honest, I don’t know exactly how or when it became special and which one of us made it so. Initially, for me anyway, it may be something that stems from the OCD in my family. Right or wrong, good or bad, it’s become a part of ‘the me’ that has to do with my son and our relationship. It’s crazy how this silly piece of concrete has taken hold in our minds and hearts and bodies that it will likely become one of those things that we’ll look back on with fondness and remember as one of our father-son bonds.  I can hear it now: “Hey, Dad. Remember that rock?” or  “Son, you were so full of energy. Do you remember jumping off that broken pavement near our house every time we walked Bauer?” That silly piece of damaged concrete has become so meaningful to us that we’ve worried that it’ll get repaired one day and our rock and our ritual and our bonding will be lessened somehow. (I happened to talk about our rock with a neighbor recently, without giving away its meaning to me, and he reassured me that it’ll not likely get repaired because fixing that part of the sidewalk would involve uprooting the tree and that’s not likely going to happen anytime soon because the roots are so big. Phew.)
 
Every time we walk by it, usually when we’re walking the dog, we have to touch it. I step on it with my right foot when we’re walking away from home and with my left on the return leg. Even when I’m alone walking to my son’s school to pick him up or walking the dog without him, I still touch it. 


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My son might do something that simple as well but usually he’ll attack it with some kind of run up and his version of a Parkour maneuver that ends with an aerial spin and landing where he’s facing me in some kind of Matrix-inspired martial arts stance/landing; one knee down, an arm outstretched behind him, his head up and his eyes firmly locked on mine. More recently – since his eighth birthday or so – he’s taken to using this broken concrete as a springboard of sorts to the perpetrating tree and makes his final dismount off said tree’s trunk. (Naturally, the protective father in me says an instant prayer to my guardian angel, his, guardian angel, Saint Jude, whoever will listen to protect him from hurting himself. Additionally, I’m impressed with his fearlessness and that he does all of this without hesitation. Even at his age, I wasn’t as daring, although I did have my moments. Some of that may just come from his youth and lack of experience in getting busted up but some of it must also come from his mother who is still fearless into her forties.)
 
My son and I have other meaningful things that come from everyday events and rituals that have taken on special meaning. To some people they would seem ridiculous. Others, meanwhile, might relate because they have their own special mundanities. The best part of this rock thing is that it just happened and evolved into what it is. I think that’s important. It’s important to have those quirky bonds with people, especially family members and children. Children often see adults as those bigger versions of themselves who are often grumpy, loud, are always serious and, basically, no fun at all.  We’re also their heroes simply because we’re older and can do things they can’t yet do or know things they don’t yet know. Through things like this, my son gets to see a side of me that’s real, even vulnerable. As an older dad (I’m nearing 49 and my son is only 9), my son will remember, long after I’m gone, that we had a relationship and that it was goofy and fun and creative even though his dad was aging, beyond his prime, and busted up while never giving up in trying to get to where he wanted to get to and becoming who he wanted to be. In turn, my son will, hopefully, develop an even closer relationship with his own children. While doing so, if he can spare a moment to remember his own dad, maybe he can share that relationship with me too.

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<![CDATA[Martial Arts Are Human Beings]]>Sun, 27 Aug 2017 09:21:00 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/martial-arts-are-human-beings
As I’m getting older and trying to reconnect more fully with the things that make me happy – in this case, martial arts – I recently reread Joe Hyams’ Zen in the Martial Arts and I’m rereading Karate-Do: My Way of Life; Sensei Gichin Funakoshi’s autobiography. I first read Hyams’ book in 1989 when I was a sophomore at university. Sensei Funakoshi’s autobiography, I first read in 1986 around the time I’d earned my green belt. From the first time I read these books – yes, I’ve read them many times and, for a few years, I read Zen in the Martial Arts annually – these two books, along with The Book of Five Rings and The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, became primers for how I should live and act in the dojang, at school, at home and, in general, life.
 
In none of these works does it say martial artists are superhuman, immune to emotion, insecurity or error. Martial artist are not infallible. None of them say that martial artists are indestructible either. I bring this up because I just reread the section of Karate-Do: My Way of Life called ‘Recognizing Nonsense.’ In these few pages, Sensei Funakoshi cautions against falling for the tales of amazing feats and the outstanding claims some martial arts masters assert. This section, in turn, reminded me of something that happened recently and my friend’s comment about my reaction to it.
 
Here’s it is.
 
I’m a teacher and in the summer months I am part of a teacher-manned maintenance crew that works out of my school district’s Grounds Department. We do landscaping at all the schools, painting jobs, and other basic construction-type tasks. On occasion, we help teachers move from one classroom to another or one school to another. We also spread mulch in our elementary schools’ playgrounds.  So, on one of our lunch breaks in July, I went to the bathroom in the Faculty Lounge of the school where we were working. My friend had just come out of the bathroom and I figured he was going back downstairs and outside to rejoin the rest of the crew. The bathroom is a single-person setup with a door that opens out and into the Faculty Lounge.
 
When I was done and exiting the bathroom, as I went around the door to shut it, lo and behold, my friend was hiding behind it. He took a step toward me, hands raised, arms outstretched and said, “Waah!” Naturally, I responded. My hands, in turn, rose and my elbows were relaxed. I must’ve looked like I was about to grab the lapel of his gi, had he been wearing one, and deliver some kind of nage waza that I’d learnt during a semester of Judo in college. Upon realizing that it was my friend, I relaxed and let out what sounded to me as a slow motion “Whoa!” I sounded ridiculous and we both started laughing. All of this happened in a matter of seconds; say, two or three.
 
My friend, however, still smiling, said, “Great. Some kind of black belt you are.” While I was still laughing at the ridiculousness of my verbal response, something about his statement struck me. I was hit with the thought that he has such an inaccurate perception of martial arts practitioners. I surmised that his ideas of what martial arts are and how they behave come from what he’s seen in movies and from all of the myths and legends that get shared all over the world from one generation to the next; things like having to register one’s hands and feet as lethal weapons and that just because we’re martial artists (or maybe it’s just black belts) that we can kick everyone’s butt from one side of town to the next. This is what prompted me to write this blog post. I want to set the record straight on what it is to be a martial artist.
 
Before I say anymore and you think I’m just some yahoo who’s simply flapping his gums and has no foundation for what he’s saying, here is my very brief CV: I’m a martial artist with thirty-two years of experience. I hold a master rank in one style and I’ve trained in others. For varying lengths of time – one-day workshop to several months to several years - I have trained under many notable masters and instructors. Some of them include Grandmaster Kwang Jae Lee, Grandmaster Ik-Hwan Kim, Grandmaster Sung Bok Nam, Master Levy Diogene, Master Herb Perez, Master Steve Loh, Dan McGhee, David Sonta, Sifu Larry Tan, Grandmaster Sang H. Kim, Master Giduk Kwon, and Grandmaster Sungkeun Yoo.
 
So, here goes.
 
Martial artists are human beings. We laugh, we cry. We can be scared. We can be startled. We can be confident and we can be insecure. We can be kind and we can be mean. We succeed and we fail. We have desires and we can be selfless. We lust, love and lose.  What we’re not are the superheroes you see in the movies. What we’re not are emotionless robots. That prototype of the infallible seemingly everyman who turns out to be a fighting machine is stuff of fiction. It’s cool but it’s not real. It’s Seagal, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Statham and Snipes. Don’t get me wrong. I love all of those martial arts badass movies but they don’t depict an accurate portrayal of what a real martial artist is like. Granted, the characters in most of these movies are ex-Navy Seals or CIA or MI-6 so perhaps the real life versions of these individuals are on high alert all the time. Otherwise, simply because of our training, martial artists are not.
 
Many, if not all, martial artists are badass fighters when called upon but that person who’s always on alert and knows when they’re being followed and wakes up in the middle of the night at the slightest feeling of danger is a rarity. We, everyday martial artists - even masters - are merely human beings. We get up in the morning and go about our days just like anyone else. We get mad, we get sad and we get happy. We worry about taking care of our families, of the monthly bills, of the chores we have to do just the same as everyone else.  Not all of us are that smooth, witty-tongued  centre of attention. Martial arts training, however, does teach us to control our emotions and impulses in every aspect of our lives but especially when dealing with our troubles. When we go somewhere unfamiliar or have to do something stressful, our training has taught us to be confident and alert. Having been knocked down on the mat and gotten up many times in the dojang, when we’re down in real life we’re able to rise up yet again. Martial arts training, of course, does give us better fitness and healthier bodies. We learn skills we can use to protect ourselves if ever attacked. We acquire and live by a set of rules and act according to a certain code of respect, self-respect, decorum, propriety and service  - what the Japanese call Bushido - but, ultimately, martial arts is about control – control of you - and being the best version of you that you can be at any given moment.
 
I didn’t need to be on high alert when I came out of the bathroom so I wasn’t. However, when I am in a situation that makes me feel or sense danger, my alert level does go up. In fact, contrary to what my friend might have preferred, I didn’t respond with a block and arm locks and a submission hold or with a redirect and front kick to his middle. That’s because my training allowed me to respond, and not react, to the fact that it was my friend playing a joke on me and not simply attack who was in front of me. I was able to control my mind to assess the situation, my emotions to know that I wasn’t really being  threatened, and my body so that I didn’t punch or kick or throw my friend.
 
So, my dear reader, remember that martial arts might transform a person from a regular version of him or herself to a superhero one but they don’t make us superheroes in the ways martial artists practitioners are portrayed in the movies. Regardless of style or rank, we are human beings first, just like you. 
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<![CDATA[Knee Saga]]>Mon, 19 Jun 2017 19:02:06 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/knee-saga​19 June, 2017
 
KNEE SAGA
 
I have depressive tendencies.
 
I haven’t been diagnosed but I’ve read enough to see a lot of the characteristics of a depressive in myself; things like being alone, losing interest in stuff, not wanting to go anywhere or do anything, feelings of hopelessness, to name a few. I also tend to see things darkly. That, however, might just be a practical approach to things. I’d rather prepare for the worst so that I’m ready for it if or when happens – in my mind, it’s more likely when than if. If it doesn’t happen, that’s a bonus.
 
With the ongoing saga that is my knee, my depressive triggers have resurfaced. I had a follow-up appointment with my ortho last Tuesday and he examined my knee, which was feeling pretty good. During the examination, a sharp pain emanated from within the joint. As the days passed since seeing him, the pain has gotten stronger. (Over the weekend, though, it’s subsided but that’s because I’ve been off my leg for a lot of the time.) My doctor ordered an MRI that I got last Saturday. He also used the word ‘surgery.’ It’d be a 30-minute arthroscopic procedure but with a four to eight week recovery. He said at four weeks I’d be walking again, although not any long distances, and at eight weeks I’d be ‘normal.’ Whatever that means, I’m not entirely sure.
 
The last few days, my mind and my heart have been in a whirlwind of uncertainty. I coach volleyball. I don’t do a lot of the drills or jumps and runs I put the team through but I do need to be able to instruct and demonstrate. I need to be on my feet on court. I also have a summer job that pays hourly and I need the money. Knee surgery now would impact upon both of these things and not in a positive way. With a four to eight week recovery period, if I got the surgery now, I’d be better by mid-August. There’s plenty of volleyball left to coach and I can continue to prepare for the sixth degree black belt test in December I’m trying to get approved for. Getting the surgery now, however, would also mean no income because I wouldn’t be able to work.  On the flip side, and if the diagnosis isn’t so bad that I have to undergo the surgery now and I can put it off, I could possibly go about my summer as normal and get the surgery after the volleyball season has concluded in November or, maybe, even after the sixth dan test a month later.
 
Deep down, I know I’ll end up not taking or not being able to take test and that pisses me off and brings me down. I’ll either be laid up recovering, my knee will be in even worse shape, and/or I won’t be prepared. Since I was a kid, there are two things I’ve always wanted to be – a writer and a martial artist. I’ve been both to some level of success. In the 1990s, I managed to sell articles to various martial arts magazines and get paid for them. I’ve published a book and gotten a touch of respect and notoriety because of it. That’s not enough, however. I want to be a working writer. As for the martial arts, I’ve had several good years of training, teaching and competing. I had my own dojang (training hall) twice in my life but, more than that, I’ve tried to live my life and guide my actions according to the warrior ways prescribed by the codes of Bushido, The Samurai and The Hwarang. Even without a dojang now, I try to train at my wife’s dance studio whenever I can and, through my daily actions at work, on the volleyball court and more, I try to live according to what my black belt symbolises. Thankfully, so far, I am able to absorb and accept the situation I am in because of what I’ve learnt and taught as a martial artist.
 
For now, I’ll use my indomitable spirit and of perseverance to forge ahead and battle this renewed opponent, my knee, and its allies of age, injury and life. Throughout the battle, I hope I make the right decisions on when to get my surgery, if I do actually need it, and my training for the sixth dan test.
 
Thanks for stopping by. 
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<![CDATA[Making Choices - Life 2 Juan 0]]>Sat, 03 Jun 2017 00:01:31 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/making-choices-life-2-juan-0 2 June, 2017
 
Last autumn, I reinjured the knee I damaged in 1996. I was doing a lot of running, getting back in shape and training towards earning a guaranteed spot in the 2017 New York City Marathon (NYCM). I’d begun my training the previous April and was in a good groove. As a result of my injury, I had to forego my 2017 NYCM dreams. I followed my doctor’s instructions, did the PT (physical therapy) and slowly my knee was getting better. Before long, I was doing some cardio training (no running) and playing squash. Throughout all of it, I’d do some flexibility training and some light Taekwondo training when I could squeeze it in. I don’t have my own school anymore and I coach volleyball from August to November so finding a time and place wasn’t - and isn’t - always the easiest thing.
 
Recently, I’d gotten into another good groove. I was training regularly, eating better, and dropping weight. Then I discovered that the Kukkiwon (the world governing body of Taekwondo) will be holding special promotion tests in the United States throughout the year in various locations. One of them is taking place in New Jersey this December. This coming August, I will have met the time requirement to test for my sixth degree black belt and I’m using the test as impetus to up my training; all while monitoring the strength of my knee. I don’t know if my application will be accepted and, depending on my knee, if I’ll even be able to perform. If I am, I hope I am able to perform that deems me worthy in the eyes of the examiners, and my own eyes, to be awarded my sixth dan.
 
As life would have it, I reaggravated my knee two Sundays ago while mowing the lawn - our uneven, undulating lawn. I maneuvered the lawn mower to turn left but it got caught on one of the bumps and didn’t turn. My knee did, however. All this after completing the Euflexxa treatments my doctor recommended. So, I went back to the doctor, got another cortisone shot and was given a pair of loaner crutches. I’ve stopped using the crutches but I still have a minor limp and there’s still a little stiffness and an occasional shooting pain. I’m hoping in a week or so that the pain and limp will vanish enough that I can get back to some cardio and, eventually, light then regular Taekwondo training.
 
For now and for the next six months, that’s where my focus has to be. I have to give up squash, which is going to be a killer because I enjoy it, it’s a great workout and it’s my son’s and my ‘thing’ together. Without a school and master to train under, I need these opportunities like the Kukkiwon special promotion test and preparing for it is going to take up much of my extra energy and time. Like the old Chinese adage says, “One has to eat bitter to taste sweet.” It’s a choice I hate having to make but it’s one that has to be made. As much as I love squash and athletic pursuits, Taekwondo is a martial art and martial arts are about life. They’re not just the physical attributes one develops through practicing them. If you’re reading this and you’re someone who knows me well, you know that since 1985 I am and have always been a martial artist before most everything else. You’ll also know that I didn’t get into martial arts training for the physical benefits but for the psychological, spiritual and emotional ones. If I could have a regular place to train, I would be willing to give up almost everything else to train daily even if my knee wasn’t injured. The other option, albeit a forced one, is to choose to hang up my squash racquet and my black belt but that would be completely contrary to what martial arts are all about. Quitting martial arts just because my physical abilities have waned decision would be akin to giving up on who I am and what I’ve believed in the last thirty-two years.
 
So, while life leads two-nil in our current match, I’m hoping to pull a goal back in December. And after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll find an equalizer and even a winner. In the meantime, trying to see a positive out of all of this, I’m hoping that my predicament can be a lesson my son can learn as well; that one has to make sacrifices and choices that he might won’t like or want to make in order to get what he wants or needs.
 
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<![CDATA[Chuck Norris]]>Wed, 08 Feb 2017 23:36:55 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/chuck-norisChuck Norris
 
This coming March 10, Chuck Norris will turn seventy-seven. Two Tuesdays ago, I turned forty-eight. Both of us are martial artists, masters even, specializing, or at least, getting our foundation in Korean martial arts. I’m not comparing us. Not by any means. He’s a champion, successful, a legend and pioneer. Me, I’m small fry. But, in a roundabout sort of way, Master Norris has been a part of my martial arts life from the beginning.
 
I began my formal martial arts training in 1985 when I was training in Shotokan Karate. A friend from school and I went to take a class, a semi-private class, given by a journalist friend of his father. At the dojo was another Hong Kong-based journalist who was a mutual friend of my friend’s father and my father. My friend’s father worked in government publications and my father was (and still is) a journalist. To be completely honest, it wasn’t a class per se. The two men were there to work out. It was a Sunday morning and my friend’s dad’s friend said to just come around and he’ll show us the basics and give us an intro-type workout. With the other man there, a higher-ranking student and, based on his black belt rank, a sensei (master), we got a proper intro to Karate. Although there for his own training, in true black belt fashion, he gave us his time and passed down a little of what he’d been taught. This man won’t likely remember me but when I was younger, even before this impromptu karate class, I’d called this man ‘Uncle Alan.’ Some of you reading will know who this is. Anyway, Uncle Alan showed us attention stance (musubi-dachi), front stance (seisan-dachi) and low block (gedan-uke). He showed us how to travel in seisan-dachi and how to turn. Both me taught us how to bow. From then on, I was hooked. I wanted to be a martial artist.
 
Around the same time, the summer of 1985, my friend, his cousin and I went to the cinema to watch a Bruce Lee movie. It was The Way Of The Dragon (released in 1972 and in the United States as Return Of The Dragon). This is the one in which he goes to Rome and the one Bruce Lee wrote, starred in, and directed. (You know, I think he might have even produced it too.) It was also Master Norris’s introduction to the world. He played Colt, the American champion for hire. At the end, he and Bruce have an excellent showdown full of skill, respect and honour.
 
Move on a couple of years and I’m living in The United States and Master Norris has movie after movie coming to a theatre near you. Some of them were Delta Force, Code Of Silence, Missing In Action, Firewalker, Invasion U.S.A., Hero And The Terror, Sidekicks. Then, Walker, Texas Ranger came on TV. I’ve also read his two autobiographies – The Secret Of Inner Strength and Against All Odds. All this time, I was training in Taekwondo, getting my own black belts and opening my first (sadly it failed) dojang. Nonetheless, Master Norris was there. Some years after that, I saw him in an infomercial for the Total GymTM. I almost bought it (If it was good enough for him, it’d be good enough for me) but didn’t because there wasn’t space in my flat and I already belonged to a gym. At that time, the late 1990s, I remember being amazed at how fit he still was at almost sixty years old. I remember saying then, “If I could be half as fit as he is now when I am fifty, I’ll be happy.” Sadly, due to a mix of circumstances – not least of which were cumulative moments of weakness and my surrender to depressive thoughts of constant failure – I am less than half as fit as Master Norris was then. And I’m turning fifty in less than two years!
 
Master Norris has, in more recent years, undergone hip surgery and gotten older, yet he’s still in good shape and he’s still kicking. You might have seen the commercial in which he crescent kicks a saltshaker to the face of a man after that man’s friend tosses the saltshaker to him. He’s also inspired a series of websites listing ‘facts’ about how tough he is based on the characters from his movies. They’re all in good fun and I believe Master Norris was quoted as saying that he was okay with them. Some of my favourites are: “Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice.” and “Chuck Norris can hear sign language.” Then there’s, “When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.” I got these from the website http://chucknorrisjokes.linkpress.info/top-100 but there are others.
 
So, I do still have time to get back my mojo and become the martial artist I should be. But I don’t have a lot of time to get back there by fifty. Time goes by very fast as one gets older. It does for me, anyway.  To be in half as good, or better, shape as Master Norris was in 1998 and get back into being a fulltime martial artist. Those are the goals.
 
In some ways, I feel like this is my last chance; that if I don’t do this, everything else I shoot for will be missed yet again and I’ll never truly be the best version of me I can be. But if there’s one thing going for me, I’ve never quit anything and I am a martial artist. It’s the source of my power. I can’t fly or read minds and I don’t have x-ray vision. What I do have is a black belt with hours of training. I may not have trained like I used to in a long time but the lessons learnt from all the kicks and punches and falls are longer lasting than the ability to kick, punch and fall.  I’ve learnt fighting spirit, a warrior’s spirit. I’ve developed an indomitable spirit – maybe to the point of stubbornness and delusion – but I have it nonetheless. It may not always win but it’s there. It’s dormant and I have to wake it up. Master Chuck Norris and the examples he has left for me and younger generations of longevity and consistency and being a black belt versus wearing a black belt will be its alarm clock. Thank you, Master Norris. Thank you, Sir. 

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<![CDATA[Wishing Has Value]]>Thu, 02 Feb 2017 01:10:46 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/wishing-has-valueHow far back would you go?
 
There are times in our lives – I admire those who’ve never felt this way – when we want to change our lot in life. It might be everything, it might be one thing, it might be somewhere in between. To do that, we might wish for a lottery win. In some cases, we might wish to be able to go back in time and change the course of events in our lives that led us to where we are into events that lead us to where we wish we were. Sometimes, we wish for that to come with the knowledge that we made the change. At other times, we wish for complete ignorance so we don’t suffer the heartache of losing the good things we have. I mean, it can’t all be bad, can it? Maybe bad is the wrong word. Maybe disappointing or unfulfilling or empty are better.
 
Some people would stop me right here and say all someone needs to do is trust in God and leave everything in His hands. Perhaps that is so. But, being human beings – flawed and imperfect – it’s only natural and, I think, even good to let our minds wander and wonder ‘what if.’ And that brings me to the question at the top of this post. How far back would you go?
 
For me, there are several times I might jump back to and, in doing so, I would prefer to  go with the knowledge of everything that had happened to me in the previous future (my present reality). I would try to steer things so I’m where I want to be and what I want to be but in a way that I still get the good things I had before going back. Yeah, I’m greedy but why not? This entire notion is a greedy one, after all, isn’t it?
 
So, one of the places I might jump back to would be when I moved to America. What I would change:  I would return to Hong Kong and finish my secondary schooling there. Then, I might come here with a full sense of closure and completion of my Hong Kong youth.
 
Or…
 
I would go back to when I was applying to college. I wouldn’t have gone into teaching, knowing what I know. I would’ve gone into Communications like I originally thought I would in 1983 when my brother was going through the college process and I was reading through his college books. This might get me closer to being a working writer today.
 
Or…
 
I would’ve gone into the Air Force as I almost did when I was eighteen. I would’ve ROTC’d, flown and retired after my seven years. This might’ve given me a sense of patriotism, fraternity and a place to belong.
 
Or…
 
I would’ve taken a leave from school and trained hard core in Taekwondo when it was announced that Taekwondo was going to be an Olympic sport. I remember having that chat with my college girlfriend. She was indifferent to the idea. I might not have gotten on any kind of team to fight at The Olympics but, then again, who knows, right? Even without this, I became a martial artist in real life (less so lately though) but this might have solidified my place in that world. I might have made better connections and never stopped. I might have become a fulltime instructor. Still to this day, Martial Arts is THE single best thing I’ve ever gotten into. Like I told my son the morning after I turned forty-eight, I’d give up almost everything  – squash, my marathon finishes, my volleyball successes, some relationships, to name a few – to have a place and be able to train everyday and get back to being the fifth dan I am supposed to be.
 
Or…
 
I’d have gone to school at sixteen when I moved to the US, done my last two years of American high school and, perhaps, America would feel more like home than it actually does today. As it was, I ended up taking a year off because I was supposed to get my Green Card and go back to Hong Kong to finish school. After that, I’d come back to the US and do college and live in America.
 
Or…
 
Well, I could go on.
 
The thing is, I consider myself an average guy and there are many aspects of my life that I wish I could go back and change. Some of you reading this might be average Joes and Janes too and wish you could go back as well. Sadly, we can’t go back and we have to deal with our lot in life, hopefully get support from those around us and change the things we can in a way that works. Good or bad, as the saying goes, “it is what it is.” It is nice to dream, however, and imagine what life would be like had things gone the ways we wish they had. And, it’s not all boo hooey, pining and sad. You see, even though the motivation to wish for the ability to go back in time and make these changes stems likely from a missing piece in our lives, wishing and imagining are also ways to remind us of our goals and dreams. It reminds us that, while things may not be what we want them to be, we don’t have to accept our lot in life. Wishing reignites that desire to be something bigger than what we are, to reset our goals, to start believing and re-believing in ourselves, and to make change. Truth be told, we might not always get there. I may never get an agent and become a working writer but I’ll be damned if I ever give up. I’d rather fail knowing I never quit than quit, forever wonder and live with endless regret and doubt.
 
So, my two cents’ worth: Never stop dreaming. Never stop fighting. And take those time travels as often as you need to.
 
 

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<![CDATA[A Year In The Life - 2016]]>Sun, 15 Jan 2017 02:38:29 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/a-year-in-the-life-2016Another year has come to an end which means it’s time for my annual look back at some of the major events and moments of the last twelve months; the ones I was directly involved in, the ones I witnessed personally and/or the national and global events that had a an impact on me. Good or bad, they made a lasting impression and may have even changed the way I think about and look at things as a man, as a husband and as a father.  Listed in chronological order, here they are.

  1. Mini-College Reunion (January):  I had one of the best times of recent years in January and it came, best of all, on my birthday weekend. I met up with two college chums for lunch. One of them, Vaughn, I’d seen semi-regularly for an annual tennis match and meal after graduating from Rutgers in ’91. Unfortunately, fighting the nemesis called Life, those annual get-togethers ended in the late 1990s/early 2000s. The other friend, Heament, I hadn’t seen since before graduating and he was a year ahead of me. I became close with both of them but with Heament there was something extra special; no offense to Vaughn. I was already a US citizen by the time college started but I felt then–as I still do now–like a stranger in my own land. Maybe for immigrants, America never really becomes ours. Anyway, Heament is from Singapore and I am from Hong Kong; two historic, business, academic centres and cultural centres in Asia with similar backgrounds. As a result, Heament and I became fast friends and, to this day, I still look up to him as an elder brother of sorts or kuya, as we say in Tagalog.  So, when Heament contacted me that he was going to be in New Jersey and asked to meet up, I agreed with more than an ounce of enthusiasm. To add to it, I took my son along so he could see, again, the town where his dad went to college and so he could meet two of his dad’s dearest friends. We met in downtown New Brunswick and had lunch at a local restaurant/bar; a new place that wasn’t around when we went to Rutgers. As it goes with good friends, we picked up right where we left off, poking fun and doing so with ease. We talked about our families, joked at the lack of speed of the wait staff (in fairness only one waiter was on shift), shared work stories and had a great time reuniting. We left if that we needed to do it again, sooner than later and not after another twenty-five years or so. If we do, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.
  2. Asian Books Blog (February): Last year, Asian Books Blog came across my book, contacted and interviewed me on the writing process, my book and on self-publishing. That was three years after my novel, Back Kicks and Broken Promises, came out so it was with surprise and enthusiasm that I agreed to their interview request. As a result of this interview, my book became eligible for the 2015 Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year Award. My book didn’t win but it did garner some respect. At one point, early on, Back Kicks was in the lead on votes. Either way, win or lose, this experience reminded me that there is an audience for my work. My writing won’t appeal to everyone but there are those to whom it will. Write on!
  3. Commitment to Fitness (March): With no adequate place and lacking the proper equipment and partners to train in Taekwondo (a man can’t live on forms alone; well, at least this man, who’s been a forms champion, can’t), I made a decision this year to put Taekwondo on the back burner and get back into shape. That meant (still means) losing at least ninety pounds, getting back to structured and regular cardiovascular and resistance training, improving my diet, and regaining my flexibility. In March, I signed up for a 10K with three weeks to train. I trained, ran the race, albeit slowly but at the level of fitness I was at the time, and made a commitment to run the 2017 New York City Marathon. As a member of the New York Road Runners, the organisers of the NYCM, I could get guaranteed entry if I completed nine qualifying races and volunteered at one by New Year’s Eve. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to regain my life.
  4. Almost losing my son (April): I thought I lost my boy the morning of our final day in Boracay (an island resort–some say THE island resort–in The Philippines) in April. He was in the ocean, with my wife, about one hundred metres from the beach, and they were Paddle Boarding. My son veered into deeper, rougher water into a maze of moored and traveling motorboats. My wife sat on her board watching him, presumably ready to jump up and get him if she felt the need to. The guide from whom we rented the boards rescued him after he saw me enter the water and begin swimming out to him. Thank you, Lord for protecting him. There's nothing as wrenching like the emptiness inside when you see your child in distress and, potentially, fatal distress at that. I’m a competent swimmer with good endurance but I’m not fast by any means and I wonder if I would’ve made it out to him. From where I was, it may have looked worse than it did but, either way, as a parent, I was reminded not to take anything for granted when it comes to him. When he got back to the beach, the guide pulling him in by the attached cord, my son hopped off and took my hand. That touch was likely the most meaningful and best human contact I got all of last year.
  5. My son’s First Communion (May): I wouldn’t say that I’m a Holy Roller but I still observe the basic tenets of the Catholicism I was raised with. As a result, my wife (who is also Catholic) and I are raising our son as one so he has some moral and spiritual foundation. So, my son going through his First Communion–and some months earlier his First Confession; both Sacraments that help define Catholicism from other religions and other forms of Christianity–did have profound impact on me this year. For one thing, it brought back some memories of my on First Communion. For another, it got me thinking more deeply about the meaning of things in the Catholic religion and my relationship to it. 
  6. My son earning his Junior Black Belt (June): As a long-time martial artist and Taekwondoist, any time someone I know gets their black belt I am very excited and I welcome them to the fraternity of black belts. I refer to it as The Officer’s Club and I can say that my son is, now, a Junior Officer. As a dad, I am very proud of him. As a martial artist, who still believes that getting involved in the martial arts in 1985 is still the best thing I’ve ever done, I am very supportive of him. I’ll admit, though, that there is a little bitter to the sweet of his accomplishment. As a Taekwondo dad, in addition to being tradition, it was also my dream to be my son’s teacher and to pass Taekwondo on to him. This is something that those who are not in the martial arts, at least not lifers anyway, don’t understand. Practice in martial arts is not a sport or just a physical pursuit. It is a way of life akin to a religion. Due to many different circumstances, sadly, I am not his teacher but I trust the instructors at the dojang he does attend. In a year or so, my son will test for his ‘regular/non-junior’ black belt and there’ll be two Taekwondo back belts in The Bas Family.
  7. ‘Losing’ a Friend (June): I haven’t really lost a friend. No one died and I didn’t get into a relationship-ending fight with anyone. What did happen was that my friend, my work wife actually, got a job closer to home. With texting, mobile phones, emails and Facebook, it’s very easy to stay in touch; unlike when I moved from Hong Kong to New Jersey and the only accessible ways of communicating were handwritten letters and expensive long-distance phone calls. Nonetheless, I miss her greatly. I have other friends at work but this one was, and is, special. Of course, we worked. We supported each other, were in the same department and helped create and maintain aspects of our departmental curricula that are still used today. We worked but it was her friendship and knowing that I’d see her that made work that much more meaningful. Not since my teenage years in Hong Kong, hanging out with basketball teammates and my best friend Nabeel; not since the late 1980s and early 1990s, forming a friendship with Ron as Taekwondo students and black belts; and not since my undergrad years, joining the Rutgers Squash Club and making friends with students from Singapore, namely Heament, have I felt that I had a friend; a best friend. Lu was that for me for twelve years and, while I am very happy for her and her family, it was bittersweet to walk through the gym and exit our school together for the last time in June. In addition to teaching together, having each other’s backs and making each other laugh, we coached volleyball together from 2004-2006. We were part-time running partners. She was one of the most supportive people around me when I published my debut novel and she’s seen me at my worst and at my best. So, if you haven’t gotten the gist yet, Lu was my bestie, my BFF. She’s right up there with Nabeel, Ron and Heament, the other people who’ve been and are best friends. I’ve met and known many people in my forty-seven years but none will be or have been as close to me as Nabeel, Ron, Heament and Lu. I love them all and, at least with regard to my daily work grind, I will miss Lu in abundance. 
  8. Mother-In-Law Scare (July):  In 2015, my father-in-law passed away. He’d been sick, off-and-on, and in-and-out of the hospital a few times over the previous years. In July 2015, he got really sick, was hospitalised and died the following month. This past July, we all got a scare when my mother-in-law didn’t feel well and had to go to the hospital herself. She’d had a medical condition, without any resulting debilitation, and is doing well now but, a year after her husband’s death, it was with bated breath and stopped hearts that we-my wife, her brothers and sisters and I–received every text and phone call. It wasn’t the best month of our lives but, once again, it showed the power and love of family to rally and stick together. 
  9. Getting Injured (October): Well, I was on track, registered in all my races and ticking off one race after another. After about four races and five months, my left knee started to act up. I have a history of knee injuries but I figured the low-key walking/running I’d been doing would be fine. Well, to make a long story short, I ran my final race of 2016, hobbling and in pain, on October 30. For some weeks before that, I’d developed a limp, the pain had gotten worse and I feared for knee surgery. After the race, I finally (yes, I’m stubborn; I’m part German after all) went to see an ortho. I got a cortisone shot (my new fave!), did a stint of PT. Things are better now. I’m doing the PT on my own, I had a follow-up with the doctor after New Year and have been doing some very light cardio training and squash with my son. Running is out of the cards for now, as is full-on Taekwondo training. Instead, it’s rehab, get back to fitness, lose weight and then we’ll see. I was gutted not being able to finish my NYCM qualification and to get this injury setback. I’d lost over twelve pounds by the time I had to stop training and I’d cut my mile time by over a minute and a half. I know there are ways to bounce back. I knew better than to approach things the way I did. Next time, I’ll be more respectful of my body, more humble in the effort it takes to race (of which I do have some experience) and to remember that everyone has their own experience. There are individuals who’ve lost two or three hundred pounds after starting a walking/running program and drop down to, say, 180 or less. That worked for them and I thought it might work for me, as it has in the past, but it didn’t. Instead, I got injured and sidelined. 
  10. Trump (November): Well. What else is there to say, other than I’m hoping and praying that he doesn’t screw up the country, ruin families, turn us into a nation of fearful haters and that the next four years go by very quickly and that he doesn’t get reelected. It’s unsettling, though, that in 2016 someone who lobbied on a platform of division and fear got elected president. When I woke up the following morning and discovered that he was elected, I felt fear and uncertainty like I’d never felt before. I believe in the system that elects presidents in this country and I hope and pray Mr. Trump does a great job. If he doesn’t, he screws up this country and as an American citizen that affects me. However, with all of Mr. Trump’s brutish attitude and divisive rhetoric and hate mongering, I truly felt fear. And that fear hasn’t fully subsided. Those feelings have subsided but just a bit) but I still count down until we have someone else more sensible–Republic, Democrat or Independent– in The White House. 

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<![CDATA[Top Ten Books Of 2016]]>Thu, 29 Dec 2016 00:33:51 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/top-ten-books-of-2016My Top Ten Books of 2016
 
And, here it is. My list of the top ten books I read in 2016. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I do this annually and that my list is based on the books I read that year, regardless of the year in which a book was published. Interestingly, 2016 saw me read more recently published books (mostly 2015 and 2016) than I usually do. This year also drew me towards reading more non-fiction books as well.
 
What gets a book on my top ten is the following criteria: whether it changed a part of me or my life or how I look at life, the book’s emotional impact on me, how unique and creative I though the book was. Each book’s level of entertainment, education and ‘page turnability’ also determines if it makse the list or not. And, again, as I say every year, this is purely my subjective list. You may not like it and some of the books may be the kinds of books that don’t normally draw you to them but they called to me and I gladly shared a good part of my 2016 with them.
 
So, without further ado, here they are.

1. The Latinos of Asia: How Filipinos Break The Rules of Race by Anthony Christian Ocampo, Ph.D. Stanford University Press, 2016.
2. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016.
3. Incensed by Ed Lin. Soho Crime, 2016.
4. Arsene Wenger by John Cross. Simon & Schuster (UK), 2015.
5. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey. GRAPHIX, 2016.
6. The Sandwich Thief by Andre Marois, Patrick Doyon (illustrator). Chronicle Books, 2016.
7. Descender, Volume One: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen (illustrator). Image Comics, 2015.
8. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel by Salman Rushdie. Random House, 2016.
9. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong (Jason Pargin). Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.
10. The Thank You Book (Elephant & Piggie #25) by Mo Willems. Disney-Hyperion, 2016.
 
Honourable mentions:
 
One-Punch Man, Volume One by One, Yusuke Murata (illustrator). VIZ Media, 2015
Captain Awesome and the New Kid (Captain Awesome #3) by Jim Kirby, George O’Connor (illustrator). Little Simon, 2012.
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<![CDATA[Carrie Fisher]]>Tue, 27 Dec 2016 22:21:10 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/carrie-fisher
Carrie Fisher
21 October, 1956 – 27 December, 2016
 
 
I didn’t fully process Carrie Fisher’s death until a couple of hours after I’d heard the news. When I first heard of her heart attack en route from London back to The States, I prayed that there wouldn’t be any news of her death for a very long time.
 
As it was, my wife was checking her Facebook account and announced the news today as I was parking at an AMC movie theatre for the 1:35pm showing of Passengers. Not until we pulled into a Dunkin’ Donuts back in our town that it truly hit me. I was reading a post on Facebook from Entertainment Weekly sharing the reactions of her death from many of her co-stars, family members and friends. As I read their tweets and posts, waiting in the car for my wife and son who had popped into Dunkin’ Donuts, tears formed in my eyes and I instantly got that empty, lost feeling in my gut. The last time I recall feeling this way for a celebrity and someone I didn’t actually know was when Brandon Lee died in 1993. The first time I’d ever witnessed anyone tearing up and feeling the impact of a celebrity’s death was in 1977 when Elvis died. After that, it wasn’t until 1980 when I watched my sister breakdown when she heard that John Lennon had been gunned down in New York City.
 
For some, Carrie Fisher may not have been as iconic as John Lennon or Elvis Presley. For others, however, she may be a larger one. For me, she’s right up there with the iconic of the icons. Carrie Fisher was a symbol of my generation. In an era that saw a added push for ‘girl power’ way before The Spice Girls, with movies like 9 to 5, with Sandra Day O’Connor becoming the first female justice in the US Supreme Court, and Sally Ride becoming the first women in outer space, Carrie Fisher was cast as Princess Leia in what would become one of the most beloved, watched and successful film franchises of all time. More than her success in the Star Wars movies, Princess Leia became a role model for the young girls of that generation. Here was a character that was confident, strong, beautiful, intelligent and badass. In many ways, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia was the precursor to many of the badass heroines that have followed since. For the boys, well, who doesn’t like an attractive woman who can kick ass? And there’s always that slave girl outfit from Return of the Jedi. In the same way that Sophia Loren and Ursula Andres influenced a young man’s adolescence of their generation, Carrie Fisher did so with mine.
 
More than this, however, there was Carrie Fisher the writer–an insightful, thoughtful, intelligent and witty individual. She wrote Wishful Drinking, which became a one-woman HBO special, based on her troubles with substance abuse and her consequent recovery. Postcards From The Edge is hers too. That was adapted into a highly successful movie starring Meryl Streep. More recently, there is her recently published memoir, The Princess Diarist. She script-doctored as well for films such as Sister Act and Hook.
 
It’s with sadness that I write this blog post. I wonder, too, how Carrie Fisher’s death will impact upon Episodes VIII and IX of the Star Wars triple trilogy. If Princess Leia’s death is to be written into the saga, it can’t happens between movies. That would be irreverent. She has to have an honourable one, a noble one in the way Obi Wan and Han Solo had. But, then again, who says Princess Leia has to pass on among the stars? With what they did in Rogue One with resurrecting Peter Cushing’s Admiral/Grand Moff Tarkin, it wouldn’t surprise me (and it would please me, too), if Princess Leia didn’t just show up in Episode IX but had a major part to play. She is Luke’s sister, after all, and has yet to fulfill her Jedi destiny.
 
Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you.

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<![CDATA[The Best Me]]>Wed, 09 Nov 2016 04:09:32 GMThttp://filamkickingscribe.com/blog-contemplations/the-best-meThe Best Me
 
 
My running career is on hold. To be honest, it’s likely on retirement. My Taekwondo career is pretty much the same way and so is my squash enjoyment. You see, a left knee injury has resurfaced and is causing pain to the point that I was limping everyday. I’ve seen an orthopedic surgeon and he’s prescribed sessions of physical therapy, given me my first ever cortisone shot and I’m seeing him in two weeks for a follow-up.
 
I’ve always had knee issues. I had Osgood-Schlatter Disease growing up. In April 1996 (or was it 1995) I was knocked out at The Big East Taekwondo Championship and landed on my right knee. That freak landing resulted in a partially torn ACL. I never had surgery but I did go through several weeks of PT. The day before my final PT visit, I blew out my left knee playing a football (soccer) match with friends at Brookdale Park in Bloomfield, New Jersey. I was dribbling the ball into the final third when my leg, from the knee to my foot, didn’t move forward. The rest of my me, from the knee up, went forward after the ball tearing the joint’s meniscus.
 
Recently, with nowhere to train properly in Taekwondo, I decided to put Taekwondo on the back-burner and started running again; in the hope of qualifying for the 2017 NY City Marathon and to lose weight and, once and for all, get back into fitness. Generally, things were looking good until about two or three weeks ago when my left knee started hurting. The pain subsided and I continued to train and play squash until, after a four mile training run, I was laid up the rest of the day. I took a week off before doing a three-mile taper. My knee flared up so I took the rest of the week off before running my scheduled race – The Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, a five-miler that starts the New York City Marathon week of activities and events. The resulting pain was sharp and forced me to limp. It was so bad that whenever I had to get up and walk, I’d have to stand up slowly, allow blood to get to the joint and then inch my way onward.
 
Now, having seen the doctor and gotten my meds and shot, I’ve been given the green light to do some elliptical training and stationary bike riding but nothing with impact – like running and squash and Taekwondo. Being in this condition - able to walk and not limp, thanks to prescribed anti-inflammatories and the cortisone shot, but always fearful of my knee giving in, I’ve been forced to accept a number of things.
 
First, I have to accept that I’m simply getting older. Even if I weren’t injured or out of shape, I am older than when I last seriously trained for a marathon and put everything else on hold. Even then I was full of recovering injuries! Second, I need to be more humble and respectful of the marathon distance; something I am horrified to admit because I’ve always been respectful of it. Even though I’m heavier and not in any kind of running shape, I eased into base training and into my proper training plan like I’d done it all before. In some way, I have done it all before but, this time, I relied too much on muscle memory and my own grit and my Taekwondo-inspired indomitable spirit and my high pain threshold to forge ahead. Full speed ahead and all that! Stupid. Third, and finally, I have to find a different path. Maybe I can still run again and train in Taekwondo and play squash. Maybe I can’t. If I can, I have to be the best I can be of the me I am now and not the me I was twenty or thirty or even just ten years ago. Life goes forward and not backward. And so must I.
 
At forty-seven, this is a lesson I should’ve probably learnt years ago. Instead, I’ve held on to the past and tried to be the best of the ‘me’ I was then. When I became a husband, and then a father, my life ceased being my own. If I’m going to be completely honest, it never truly has been just mine. It has and always will be God’s, my family’s, my friends’, my students’, my athletes’ and others’. After all, whenever we enter someone’s world and they enter ours and we do so sincerely, don’t we become part of that person and he or she becomes a part of us?  
 
Today, while I am still trying to lose weight and get back into fitness, I am starting to try and be more accepting of whom I am and what I am. I do this for my sake and my own piece of mind. I do it, for wife and my son because, you see, they’re who my life belong to now and they need me; the best me of today and tomorrow. 

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