The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Catching My Balance

A good day yesterday. Finished our new spec script and sent it to our agent. All I'll say publicly is that it is a Dramady, and unlike anything Tananarive and I have ever done. And the timing of the completion is a hint. And we sent the script we just got back from Fox Searchlight to Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance. So there.


Next week, I'm going to see my first karate instructor Steve Muhammad, working with him for four days on a video project. He is the fastest human being I've ever seen, a gentleman, scholar, and father-figure to three generations of kids. Elevated by an international MA committee to "Sijo", which is a level above "Sifu", and means one who has created his own system of martial arts. One of the three most important men in my life, alongside my father and Larry Niven. You can glimpse him playing Jim Kelly's karate instructor at the beginning of "Enter the Dragon." Damned video thing should have been done thirty years ago, but late is better than never. And I haven't wanted to talk about this...a little afraid to jinx it, but Steve and I worked out together two years ago, and he was not at all unhappy with my progress over the years. In fact, he told me two weeks ago that he intends to promote me to 4th Degree black belt. I was stunned. I've spent so much time in Indonesian, Chinese, and Filipino arts that I had completely lost track of where I was as a martial artist. My inner "pretender voice" tries to invalidate this, but can't find traction: Steve is notoriously stingy about promotions. I am humbled, grateful beyond belief, scared, and as happy as a little kid. It's like getting a PhD from Harvard--presented by your dad. I never thought this would happen. I'd rather have this than an Oscar and a million dollars, I kid you not. I just want to be worthy of such a singular honor.


Watched "Martyrs" last night. This French film is not "torture porn" but if "Hostel" made you run from the theater, this one will peel the skin off your eyeballs. "Martyrs" makes most horror look like Bo Peep. It reminds me of what they said about "Videodrome": it's dangerous because it has a philosophy. NOT for casual viewers. But in its bizarre way, an art film, and a very fine film. Yow! It deals with a young woman who was hideously abused as a child. Fifteen years later, she seeks revenge, and along the way discovers the reason for the abuse. Dear God! This isn't for everyone, but honest to God, it has a deadly serious intent, and is ultimately as thought provoking as any movie I've seen in a year.'s not perfect. I think that even at 95 minutes it's a little padded, and I think some of the violence could have been more restrained. But NOT the most intense portion, which comes at the last 20 minutes. It could have been a perfect episode of the "Masters of Horror" Showtime series. It is hard-core horror raised to the level of art, I kid you not. For those of the same twisted sensibilities I have, this is an "A-". For ordinary filmgoers, an F. For the art-house's hard to imagine a film that would divide audiences more strongly. If you don't run for the door, you'll probably detect a thread of genuine brilliance here.


Been playing more with Scott Sonnon's "Prasara" yoga flows, and as I said before, I think he's created something of genuine value. Now, a lot of the Rmax boys are treating it like gymnastics (did you know that kinestheologist Michael Yessis called gymnastics the world's toughest sport?), and I think that's fine, but not the real value. The value is in looking at the dynamic transitions BETWEEN poses as being as important as the poses themselves. This is the science of flow carried to the level of physical/spiritual union. To control your breathing, or rather let the movement control your breathing during the flow called "Spider Monkey" or "Tumbleweed" is to enter a meditative state that would laugh at most life stresses. Anyway, one intent of the five Prasara series "A" flows is to prepare you to create your own patterns, and that's exactly what I'm doing. A weakness in my own home practice is my abdominals. I like to work them in coordination with other body parts, rather than in isolation. But I also have enough vanity to enjoy being ripped when I lift my shirt. The other thing is that the five "A" flows are a little light on inversions, and the Headstand is one of the most powerful poses, sometimes called the "King of Asana" (the "Corpse Pose", complete rest, is actually considered the most important pose.) Any way, I'm working on a series called "L-Train" which combines the Ashtanga jump-through, the mulabandha anal lock, a gymnastic "L" position, and an inverted version of the 4-way stretch at the beginning of the Bikram yoga sequence. It's clumsy and stiff right now, but I've only played with it for three days, and woke up this morning with my Abs and core feeling "connected" in a way they haven't since I stopped practicing Ashtanga (I love Ashtanga, but you really have to spend 1.5 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, to be able to progress. Just don't have the time.)

IF, and that's a big if, this works, then I have a yoga that requires about 20 minutes a day to get the same results, and can be performed in 3-minute chunks through the day. (Five Minute Miracle, anyone?)

Furthermore, because it is in motion, it teaches the muscles to sequence their movement so as to create a kind of coiling energy. In addition, sport power, whether the ability to swat a ball or deliver a right cross, is a matter of transferring energy from one section of your body to another, utilizing various levers and torques, "funneling" momentum through smaller kinesthetic apertures like water squeezed through a smaller hose nozzle, increasing velocity. To do this (as well as transferring rotary to angular momentum) creates not just power but tremendous sheering forces. Ask any Tae Kwon Do guy who has had his hips and/or knees replaced. Prasara allows you to really feel every half-inch of some exquisite motion sequences. When you run into a problem, you can put your body "up on blocks" with static Asana, checking in with your body at a level even Tai Chi has a hard time matching. Yeah...I think Scott's done something very special here. Love that guy.


Byron Woodson II said...

thanks for the update, I like to see your martial/athletic progress

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, I'd like to see some martial progress from you, too. Lord knows you need it ...

(We've been working the knife a lot the last few months and we could always use another target ...)

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