Blog / Poetry · December 6, 2022 0

some phrases stick with you for life

Going through some old papers, I came across a phrase that for years has been my unofficial motto. I even used it to caption my yearbook picture. I wrote (and I used to believe) that “winning is an attitude.” Like Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, I stole this phrase from my judo coach. I remember the exact moment I became bonded to these words.

We were competing in the Eastern Collegiate Judo championships in Maryland. I was competing out of my weight class. Normally, I fought in the 209 pound division, but coach needed someone to fight in the unlimited weight class. I was a big boy, but I would be going up against even bigger boys who outweighed me by 30 to 40 pounds.

I was used to lifting heavy weight.  I’d been a weightlifter and a bodybuilder since I was fourteen. Gym weights, however, don’t tend to move around and fight back. Despite all of that, I made it to the finals. My opponent was humongous and as solid as oak. He was the immovable object, but I certainly wasn’t the irresistible force. I’d tug on his gi and he wouldn’t budge. He’d tug on mine and I felt like a Raggedy Andy doll in his grip.

I knew that I would have to use speed and endurance if I wanted to win. The big guys tended to tire quickly. I had to keep him moving. The strategy was working. I managed to get a foot sweep in for a koka.

I was winning. 

I went into defence mode. And that’s when coach got pissed. During a short break, he grabbed me by the back of the neck and pulled my forehead against his forehead and said:

“You’re playing not to lose. Don’t worry about losing; losing will take care of itself. Focus on winning. Winning is an attitude,”

And with that, he sent me back out onto the mat.

I’d like to say his speech fired me up and I went on to win the match, but I didn’t. I didn’t escape out of one my attempted throws fast enough and this beast of a judoka got a hold of me. My feet left the ground and the next thing I became aware of was the ref yelling Ippone! 

Match over!

I may have lost the match, but I gained something valuable. I learned that no matter what challenges I face, never worry about losing. Instead, focus on winning and let losing take care of itself. This simple change in attitude did wonders for my self-esteem and confidence. Now my default mode is to face into the challenge.

Death, 
Fears big brother,
Drops the gauntlet 

I have definitely fallen in love with the haibun, which is a form of Japanese poetry that combines prose and haiku. It originated in the 17th century and typically consists of a brief lyrical prose story followed by a haiku poem. The haiku usually relates to the prose in some way, providing insight or elaboration on the story or scene being described in the prose. The haibun often has a meditative or contemplative tone, and may be autobiographical in nature.

There is something about the form that really resonates with me. I really excited about exploring the fomr some more. I am even contemplating doing a 365 day haibun project for 2023. I reckon if I were to write a haibun a day, I could master the form in a year or at least be proficient in it.

I am struggling to imagine myself committing to a project of this sort for a whole year. My personality type doesn’t lend itself to sustained projects. I’m more of a butterfly flittering from one idea to the next. My blog archives would bare witness to that. I fall in love with a new idea at least every other week.

But I really like the haibun. As a literary form, it seems well suited for me.

We’ll see…

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