Jane Austen does MMA

Sitting on a plane with a laptop and Jane Austen is bound to lead to trouble. Reading the arch-observer of human nature while shooting forwards through the thin upper atmosphere in a metal tube gives one plenty of time to think, to watch, to listen. And to worry.

My nature is relatively simple. I look at what I’ve done, think to myself that it ought to have been better, and contemplate ways in which I can. ‘What do I need to do’ is almost a mantra. Recently, several things have changed. I have a job, doing what I actually think I do best – teaching. For all my intimidating presence and propensity to hector my students, they tend, in the end, to listen. Sometimes they even grow to like me. A recent facebook thread I entered into is a case in point. It was an odd argument, with my antagonists singularly failing to get what I was on about, and getting very right-on holier than thou with their argument – it was a girl singer who plays some metal guitar on her single. They were in rhapsodies. I said they wouldn’t be if she were a guy. They said it doesn’t matter what ‘between your legs’ (interesting they didn’t go chromozonal) even though earlier one had suggested he could watch it all day ‘with the sound off’ – when the original poster, an ex-student, stepped in. ‘I understand where mr langman is coming from (they don’t know who you are)’. I was taken aback by the sudden respect, almost reverence.

So, I’m thinking about my advancement. Whether I’ve wasted a year training in shotokan when I not only seem to have gone backwards, but am increasingly treated like a novice. Interesting. But it’s time to move on. To something more direct. So next year will be the year of tae-jitsu. Interesting, and more chance to hit people (and get hit). I love the form and discipline of karate, but its sharp, controlled techniques are becoming increasingly hard to control. As is my own nature.

My nature, as I suggested, is simple. I just want to be good. Damn good. And yet the timescale within which I have to work is increasingly small. I seem to be having more left-hand trouble. More evenings when it is recalcitrant, when forks are a bitch, and when it hangs stiffly by my trouser pocket, as if held by a long, invisible sling. My concentration is shot. Five years ago I would have read Mansfield Park by now – now I’m just over one quarter of the way in. but I seem to be developing new strategies.

At nets on sunday, when I finally got to bat, I noticed that not only was I coping much, much better than usual, but was complimented on my straight bat, and how I looked like a natural front foot player. So the work is paying off, it seems. Will it translate into runs? I think so. In fact, I know so. I have grand ambitions for next season, and they include at least one century. So I seem to be slowly adjusting to my new deficiencies – on this flight I have had probably ten discrete sections of activity. Editing, reading, writing, reading, editing, reading, writing, reading, contemplating, writing … and when approached in these quanta, so to speak, I seem to be achieving.

Though it’s my natural inclination to fight, to argue, to rage, it is increasingly obvious that this is possible in a new way. How better to defeat an opponent than to refuse to engage on their terms. Make them come to you. Marc Antony forgot that at Actium. Look what happened to him. But it feels so like admitting defeat. But I must ignore that feeling, and concentrate on my own advancement. And that means focusing on myself, and fighting when, where, and with whom I choose.

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