Catching up with Sihing

It was nice to catch up with my Sihing today. I had intended for us to go to the Starbucks in my area, but we ended up at this fancy restaurant in Stratford whose name I can’t remember – Caffe Concerto or something. Had eggs benedict for the first time – not bad – and something called wild elderflower, which was also nice. Not something I could do regularly, but it was nice.

I hadn’t seen Sihing in a few months now since I stopped training. He hasn’t trained for a while either due to a knee injury, so we were both in the same position. We’d lost touch for a while, but thankfully we’re back in contact, and I intend to keep it that way. We talked about what we’ve been doing for the last few months – he’s been having physio for his knee and been studying for an exam, I’ve been looking to change career. We also talked about some deep stuff too, which I won’t go into here. It was great to see him again.

I’ve always liked Sihing. He’s been something of an inspiration for me with regards to my VTK training, and was always able to give me good advice on life, which he did today. I was kind of sad to have stopped training with him while Sifu was away, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the time, and things just got in the way. Oh, and I was lazy when it came to training at home. We did speak about VTK a bit today, and though I’m not able to train with him again (and nor is he ready to train at the moment), there’s no reason I can’t train  at home and get myself in shape so that, if and when we do train together again, I won’t be holding us all up.

So, maybe my VTK journey isn’t quite at an end after all.

In other news: Sifu is moving to Australia in a week or so to train with Sigung and his students there. He’s quite happy about it, and I’m happy for him too. He’s wanted this for some time now, so it’s good that it’s finally happening for him.

If I’ve learnt one thing about life in my time on this earth, it’s this: life rarely follows the script we’ve written for it. Life is one long improv theatre with one take. You’ll either get it right or you won’t, but if you’re lucky, you’ll get chances to make it right if it ever goes wrong. Which is great if, like me, you always seem to be getting it wrong.

Anyway, off to bed now. Take care.

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18th March 2017

Apparently, I’m self-deprecating, according to a friend of mine who’s read this blog. Not a big surprise – I’ve done it for years, although I’m trying to stop. Tear myself down before others get the chance to – it’s a defence mechanism, and it’s a pretty rubbish one. It’s going to be – it’s a defence mechanism, i.e. you’re on the defensive. Any mechanism that doesn’t help you to proactively fight what it is you’re defending yourself against is, in my view, useless and inefficient. Then again, that view is informed in part by my VTK training. In VTK, we don’t just block and attack; we block and attack at the same time.

So, with that said, let’s see if I can not tear myself down today.

That friend of mine I mentioned got married last year. I know this because I was at his nikah and his walimah. For those who don’t know, a nikah is the actual marriage, which in Islam is the marriage contract signing with two witnesses, whereas the walimah is the wedding reception. It also doubles as the announcement that you’re married. Of course, some families do a two-in-one event, which more closely resembles the Western concept of a wedding. My friend’s family didn’t do that, though. I barely spoke to him during the walimah, though, as he was busy getting his photos taken. That’s probably the dullest thing about weddings for me – having to pose with people you couldn’t care less about to get your picture taken with them. It’s amazing that anyone would willingly sit through that for hours.

And yet, amazingly, they do. And live to tell the tale.

So here I am, sitting next to that friend, along with people I’ve known for forever, it seems, writing this post about someone else’s wedding. Worse ways to spend an evening, I guess. Especially when I’m sitting next to an aunt who doesn’t seem to have aged in almost twenty years. (She asked me to mention that.)

I’d probably write a little more, but I’m a little tired right now. Or maybe it’s just that I feel like I’d be forcing it if I tried to write more. So, I’ll end it here. Take care, and maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.

Writing after VTK

I would have said that it’s strange, going from writing pretty much every day to not writing for almost two months, except I thought that might happen. I just hoped that it wouldn’t.

If this blog had anything as identifiable as a muse, VTK was it. This blog’s very name is a VTK reference. VTK was, if not the direct focus of Fist From The Heart, then at least its inspiration. Everything else pretty much revolved around that – the social commentary, the personal reflection pieces, the short-lived training journal.

And now, that’s gone.

I haven’t trained for months due to personal reasons and things getting in the way, which I’m not going to go into right now. Although, perhaps, part of me wasn’t ready for it. I never did kick down that iron gate, but I like to think I put a dent in it, and that’s something. But without VTK in my life, I felt – and feel – like a major motivation for writing this blog has gone.

But I think it comes back to that iron gate, too. It wasn’t just about VTK, but life. I was able to reflect on my failings, but never quite followed through in addressing them. I did that so many times, I guess I figured it wasn’t worth sharing them anymore. My social and political pieces felt kind of forced, as if I wrote them because I felt I needed to, and not because I had anything worthwhile to say. So that went too. And I wasn’t going to go down the route of writing film and game reviews for the sake of content. So, with my muse having left, I felt like this was the end.

But perhaps, it’s a beginning.

I’m looking at the prospect of a post-VTK Fist From The Heart, and I don’t know what that’s going to look like, or what it should look like. And I’m not going to figure that out any time soon. But if I’m going to figure it out at all, it’s going to mean writing again. So, here we are.

And not training anymore isn’t the only big change in my life. You may recall I wrote some time ago about my refusal to take the medication the doctor had prescribed for me. Well, a month ago, I started taking it. The reason was pretty simple: I realised that I don’t want to die. It was kind of hard swallowing my pride along with the pills the first time, but I survived. It’s starting to become part of my routine now. I do hope for the day when I’ll be off the Vitamin D and the cholesterol tablets, and despite the odds being very much against it, being off the diabetes medication. For now, though, this is my life. And it’s not as dreadful as I feared. Unless they start putting me on more medicines, which is when it’ll become exactly as bad as I’d feared.

And with that, I’m off now. Hope you guys still follow this blog. Take care.

23rd January 2017

I remember when I started this blog not too long ago, I was training actively in VTK, and I was working to address my doubts about religion. Well, now I’ve stopped training, and my doubts have been resolved for now.

What that means, essentially, is the reasons I had for starting this blog don’t really apply here. It also means that I no longer feel the need to pour out my deepest, darkest thoughts on the Internet – not that there’s much for me to share anyway. I couldn’t care less right now about commenting about the world around me. I have enough work to do on myself at the moment.

I wish I told my friend this when he came today, but I knew he wouldn’t understand – so I resorted to the ‘I’m tired’ rubbish. He knew it was rubbish. I knew it was rubbish. The truth is, however, I’m done with worrying about this world. I’m done with being enslaved to it, I’m done with putting my hopes in it. I’m just straight up done.

I don’t know if this is a goodbye. Maybe I’ll see you later. Take care.

5th January 2017

He who is unwilling to forge his own path must suffer having to follow the paths that others have, or the ones imposed upon him.

That is probably as deep as I’m going to manage for a very long while, and it has a little history. I’ll get to that in a moment.

When I first started this blog, I didn’t really have a plan. I just felt the time was right to get back into blogging, sharing my thoughts and feelings on whatever I felt like. I also thought that writing regularly would grease the gears for my literary work. That hasn’t happened so far, but what has happened is that I’ve shared some of my deepest, darkest thoughts on this blog, and the catharsis has been pretty damn good. Trouble is, after doing that for so long, I have little left to purge, and what I do have, I’m starting to lose my nerve on sharing. Probably temporary, but I’m becoming increasingly aware that my family do in fact read this blog, and that’s caused me to hold back on some things.

An example: I wrote a post last Monday about having relatives over. There was a bit I left out, because I didn’t feel I could post it at the time (because I had my nephew looking over my shoulder as I was typing it out), but if you want to have a look at the post again, I’ve added it now. Basically, I had some friends over, and yeah, we did stay too late. My relatives came back from a dinner somewhere, and noticed my friends. As soon as my friends left, I had to suffer the ridiculous spectacle of being lectured on the friends I keep (my friends, by the way, are practising Muslims, the kind of friends I need more of, not less), being told that they were al-Qaeda (when they are furthest from such terrorists), and how they might harm my family, and on and on. I had to walk out of the room a few times, although my uncle did keep me from leaving at one point. They don’t even know my friends, they probably don’t want to, but they certainly don’t want me bringing them home. And I had to listen to this.

But I didn’t write about any of that, because I knew I was going to be criticised for that by my family, who have already told me not to write about certain things on my blog. And I’m only now realising how absurd it is for me to worry about that. Either I write the truth as I see it, and haters be damned, or I shut this blog down.

I’ve digressed a little bit, but it felt good to get that out. Anyway, the point is, after exhausting most of my inner demons (but not quite getting round to, you know, slaying them), I found I didn’t have much to say. I have done a few social commentary pieces, but I’m not sure they’re my best writing on here, but I’ll let you judge. I doubt anyone has noticed or cared, but that’s the reason I haven’t done a post a day as I’ve aimed to do. But I also haven’t done much writing, which I had expected this blog to kickstart.

Which now brings me to the quote I started with. That’s mine, by the way, but I’m sure others have expressed the idea better.

I haven’t read my writer friend’s recent work, but I can tell you that he is a writer. He’s written several books already, and is getting them ready to publish. He’s prolific, and he works very hard. None of what I’ve just described could actually be applied to me. He’s tried his hardest to get me back into writing again, but I’ve resisted. I have been writing of course – you’re reading this blog, after all – but nothing literary. It’s true that I’ve been lazy at times, and I need to knuckle down, but it’s also true that my writer friend and I see writing a little differently. Not radically differently – just enough to not entirely agree on it.

Writing fiction is a business, which is something that we both agree on. Where we diverge is on the act of writing itself. He seems to believe that all that matters is being prolific and getting your work out there. There’s nothing wrong with that, or to phrase it more precisely, that’s not something I’m prepared to criticise. We all have bills to pay at the end of the day – unless, of course, you happen to be living on a mountain somewhere (in which case you wouldn’t even be reading this). For me, however, the work itself has to be worthwhile. It isn’t just business for me; I have to be able to stand by the quality of my work, even if that means a redraft, or even starting over. If a publisher forced me to hand over a manuscript I wasn’t totally ready to stand by, the police would have to be called – if I left anyone alive to make that call.

 Of course, the problem with all of this is that, unlike my prolific friend, I haven’t written any fiction for two years. One poem, which is on this blog, and that’s pretty much it. Stephen King, I most definitely am not. So because I haven’t taken the initiative to do it myself (which I’m to blame for), I’m having to endure my friend lending me books which he expects me to read (which I should be doing independently anyway). I may have talked about this previously.

I finished a manuscript at the end of 2014, and it was a wreck. I should’ve really stuck to the plan on it, but there you go. Of course, my writer friend tried to take credit for it because he kept prodding me to finish it, and only recently has he given me the respect I deserved for completing it, which just isn’t good enough. It’s probably another reason I’ve been reluctant to write: I feel sometimes like it’s coming more from him than me. But anyway, I’m just venting.

The point is, he offered to take the manuscript off my hands and work on it, but I turned him down, because I wasn’t happy with what I’d written. He’d probably say I was being precious about it, and maybe I am a bit. But that’s just how it is for me. I’m going to start that project afresh (in addition to another project I’m working on), because that’s how it has to be. When I publish something, I need it to be the very best version of that story I can produce. ‘That’s good enough, it’ll do’ is not an option for me.

Is that profitable? Probably not. Is it time-consuming? Definitely. Is it worth it for me? Absolutely. The catch: I actually have to write something.

So, as things stand, I have three choices: do nothing, which is essentially what I’ve been doing; do what my friend tells me, which would deprive me of my independence as a writer; or I actually pull my finger out of my ear and do this myself. Option 1 hasn’t worked, and option 2 is not my way, so I guess I am going to sort it out myself. It’s about time anyway, and it’s not like I’ve got anything else holding me back anymore.

So while I’m definitely going to be continuing with this blog, I’m also going to be working on my writing. I think the gears are greased enough. I won’t write many updates, except for significant milestones, but hopefully, you’ll be reading at least one of my efforts later this year.

Speak to you soon. Take care.

My review of the Assassin’s Creed movie

Just got back from watching the Assassin’s Creed movie, a little later in the day than I had expected. Up until then, I’d read mixed reviews of it, and some of them I found rather irritating. Video game adaptations have a pretty awful reputation, and for good reason, and I felt that this coloured people’s perceptions of the film. Others thought they were being clever, when they weren’t. So, after having seen the film, what do I think?

I’m not going to lie: it wasn’t brilliant. It wasn’t as bad as people have made it out to be, and I did enjoy it a lot, but it wasn’t the best film I’ve seen. My expectations were coloured by a specific consideration: authenticity to Assassin’s Creed. And the film failed that in the first scene.

If you know anything about the fictional history of the franchise, you’ll be aware that in the timeframe of Altair Ibn La-Ahad, the Assassins cut off one of their fingers so that they could use the hidden blade. This was around the end of the 12th Century in the Holy Land. You’ll also know that in Assassin’s Creed II, Ezio Auditore da Firenze (undoubtedly the franchise’s greatest star) didn’t have to do that, as modifications were made to the design of the hidden blade (implemented by Altair after the events of the first game). The reason for the history lesson: the movie takes place around the same historical timeframe as AC2, the Renaissance period, and guess what the movie’s Assassin, Aguilar, does? He gets his finger chopped off so he can use the hidden blade. Now, you could argue that, since they didn’t have the internet at that time, that information couldn’t have been spread so easily, but seriously, come on. It’s a pretty key detail to get wrong.

And don’t get me started on the way the film portrayed the Animus. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was way cooler than anything in the games, and it works better cinematically. But that isn’t really the issue here: that’s not how it works in the games. Ubisoft had a hand in creating this film, so I’d have expected more effort at authenticity. Then again, maybe they didn’t have all that much influence.

I also find it interesting that the other characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. I did notice some of the easter eggs the film dropped, which was pretty cool, but I’d have gone for deeper layers of character instead. Still, at least the main character wasn’t completely one-dimensional.

I think the fundamental problem with the film, as with all video game adaptations, is time constraints. The film was almost two hours long, which is quite long, but an Assassin’s Creed game lasts a lot longer than that. Getting all that material into a film will mean some corners will have to be cut. It means that we get some glimpse into the war between the Assassins and Templars, but nothing more. If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan, that isn’t so great an issue, as you’ll already know the lore. If this is your first taste of the franchise, you’ll probably be left wishing you got the chance to know the characters a little better. As it stands, you almost get the feeling that they exist simply to kill, be killed, or push the story forward. It’s a missed opportunity, and it highlights the fact that, for a video game adaptation to be successful, it has to be able to stand on its own as a story. As much as I want to be able to say that about this film…… I can’t, really.

Still, they do get things right. The parkour, the combat, the philosophy (to a point), and the leap of faith was pretty cool. The ending wasn’t so great in my view.

Still, it was a great way to begin this new Gregorian year, so I’m not going to complain that much. Now, let’s see if they can actually sort out the games themselves…...

Goodbye 2016

So here we are: the end of 2016. It’s been quite a year. I’m going to be spending the last few hours of this annus horribilis at my uncle’s place, and then, roll on 2017.

And if things go according to plan, I’m marking 2017 by watching Assassin’s Creed. I’ve been reading that it’s not all that great, but that’s not going to deter me. It’s Assassin’s Creed, after all. Plus, video game adaptations have a generally bad rep anyway, so there’s that bias against it. But I’m going to enjoy the film regardless.

And after that? No idea. Maybe I’ll get that IT job I’ve been wanting for a while, or maybe I’ll change tack again. Maybe I’ll quit my admin job and do something else. The only definite thing is: I’m starting my book this year. Whatever it is I end up writing, I’m doing it. No excuses.

Enjoy the twilight moments of 2016, and I’ll see you all in 2017. Take care.

Christmas, WiFi and social calendars

I haven’t really had the chance to blog since my relatives came over last week from France. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve seen them. And it’s been great to have some life in the house after so long.

They’re actually here to attend the wedding of a friend of mine, which I should be as well. I’m certainly looking forward to it – I don’t go to many events anymore. It’s not that I don’t like going to them; I just don’t get the chance nowadays. Life’s like that.

My family had the idea to have a Christmas dinner yesterday (or maybe the day before, depending on when I publish this post). How did I manage to deal with the absurdity of a Muslim family having a dinner to commemorate a Christian/pagan holiday? Simple: I just focused on the food. There was a moment when I felt sad looking at the food: I thought of all the people in Syria, or who are fleeing Syria, who can only dream of such a feast. It was only a moment, though. I don’t do emotions very well.

I’ve had another thing to deal with as well: my WiFi acting up. For the last few days, I thought it could be resolved by switching to different wireless channels, but that didn’t work. Only today (or yesterday) did I finally realise that my router itself was the real problem. Should be getting a replacement soon. Let’s hope that solves the problem.

I feel like I’m a bloody teenager again being lectured about the friends I hang out with. Once upon a time, your family worried that your friends would have you hooked on drugs or throwing bricks through windows; now, they worry that your friends might ‘radicalise’ you. If encouraging you to be a better person is an example of being radicalised, then maybe we should all be radicalised. But then, it wouldn’t be, well, radical, would it?

I can’t remember the last time I wrote any fiction. You’d think that I’d be cranking stuff out each day with the output on this blog, but that hasn’t happened. And it isn’t going to happen until I make it happen. Time to sort out my to-do list.

Also, it’s time for me to be getting sleep. Take care.

23rd December 2016

Maybe I’ve said this somewhere before, but even though 2016 is nearly over, it feels like it barely began – pretty much like every year that I can remember. It feels like yesterday when I was just starting university; now I’m practically an old man. That’s life, I guess.

Well, at least I won’t be seeing out the end of 2016 alone 🙂 My uncle from Paris has brought his family to stay with us for a week or two. He’s mostly here to attend my friend’s wedding (which I will hopefully be attending also), but it’s been great to see them. Not so great to be staying up till 2 am, but it’s not like I sleep all that great anyway 🙂

And of course, I’ll be marking 2017 by watching the Assassin’s Creed movie when it comes out. I’ve heard it isn’t all that great, but I’m not going to let that stop me. It’s Assassin’s Creed, end of.

On a darker note: they managed to kill the suspected perpetrator of the Berlin attack, Anis Amri, in Italy. From what I’ve heard, he wasn’t even close to being a practising Muslim, and in fact was a bit of a troublemaker. That’s not going to stop people blaming Islam for the Berlin attack though. Idiots are going to idiot, I guess.

Well, I guess that’s me done for tonight. Take care.

21st December 2016

Does anyone remember the time when people thought the world would end four years ago today? I certainly do, and it’s hilarious to think that anyone could believe something so silly.

In a strange kind of symmetry, today is my last day of work until the new year, just as it was four years ago today. Luckily, today, I’m not suffering from the norovirus, so that’s cool.

We have ten days left of 2016, and what a year it’s been. We’ve seen two political shockwaves that rocked the establishment. We’ve seen so many celebrities die that I can’t remember them all. We’ve seen Conor McGregor lose in the UFC for the first time (his third defeat overall), but end the year as its lightweight champion (but also forfeit the featherweight title he won last year). We’ve seen Usain Bolt win another gold medal. We’ve seen Olympic female athletes do well but still not properly recognised by the media. We’ve seen untold death and destruction abroad, carnage in our own countries. We’ve seen a Japanese comedian/singer show us what we can do with apples, pineapples and pens (yes, I still think that’s awesome). And so many other things that I can’t recall off the top of my head now.

So what can we expect in 2017? Well, nobody knows for certain – if anything, that’s the big takeaway from 2016 – but we can guess.

Barring a civil war, catastrophe, or political assassination, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. From there, we’ll probably see him not drain the swamp, not bring jobs back to the United States, and almost certainly not put Hillary Clinton in jail. We will, however, see an increase in racially motivated attacks, especially immigrants – the election campaign has opened up many fissures in American society, and they’re not going to heal anytime soon. I doubt that Trump is going to round up every person he suspects of being a terrorist (read: anybody who happens to be Muslim), but that’s more hope than anything.

China will try and exert more power and influence over the rest of Asia. Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan are already on good terms with China, and now the Philipines has joined this list. The Chinese Communist Party will crack down even more on human rights and democracy, and will continue to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs. And they’ll probably use soft power to influence Western media, as they have been for years. It will be years before they’re militarily able to trouble anyone outside of their part of the world, so we’re probably not going to see them and the US kick off. However, don’t be surprised if they steal more military secrets or try to crash major US departments.

Syria will still burn, the civil war will rage on, and innocent lives will be lost. Iran will try and grow their influence in the Middle East, putting them at odds with Saudi Arabia, who will still be bombing Yemen to take out the Houthis. What happens next in this region is anyone’s guess, but it probably won’t end with Bashar al-Assad removed from power.

ISIS/ISIL/Da’ish will be sharply downgraded from so-called caliphate back to terrorist insurgency group, where they will arguably be much more dangerous. They’ll instigate attacks abroad to try and retain some influence in jihadist circles, but they’ll hopefully never again be as powerful as they were previously. With any luck, they’ll be driven from Mosul and from Raqqa by the end of 2017. The question is, who/what will take their place? I’m not sure I want to know.

Europe will see, if not a swing, then at least a shift toward the right. Merkel will lose the German election, her reputation in tatters after her open-door policy. Marine Le Pen will do well in the French elections, the far right will grow in influence across the rest of Europe, and migrants, foreigners and refugees will suffer. The EU project will probably not collapse, but it’s going to face more strain and scrutiny than ever before, as other nations decide they want out.

Theresa May will trigger Article 50, and the road to Brexit will begin. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but regardless of what Britain and the EU say in public, there will be some deals worked out. The EU needs Britain more than it wants to admit, and vice versa.

Probably more celebrities will die.

If anyone else wants to leave their comments with guesses as to what might happen, you’re more than welcome.