Joshu’s Mu!

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Jan 2 2011

By Roman Carlo R. Loveria

Roman Carlo R. LoveriaImmobilization no. 7, or kote gaishi (wrist turn-out),” writes Adele Westbrook in Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere (Tuttle Publishing, 1970), “can end in either an immobilization or a projection. Its functional characteristics, however, as uke [the person who delivers the attack and becomes the recipient of the technique] is being brought down to the mat, will be substantially the same.” Westbrook then goes on to explain how the technique is executed: “The hand of uke [...] will be gripped as illustrated. Your left thumb will apply pressure upon his knuckles between the fourth or ring finger and the little finger. Your other fingers will close around his thumb and palm.

From that position you will extend his hand back and over his forearm; this torsion upon his forearm will unbalance his entire body and open the way for his fall. Particular attention should be paid to the angle of the wrist torsion. Since too wide an angle may cause dislocation of the wrist, the aiki method emphasizes that you should fold his fingers back toward his forearm rather than stretch his hand over out and over in a gyaku position.”

The author finally cautions that, “You should also try to keep his right hand low so that his fall will not be a heavy one and he will be able to slide down sideways onto the mat. Otherwise—and this is only safe for experienced performers—he may be forced to perform a high somersault over his own outstretched, turning arm. In either case, however, he will fall onto his back.”

Replace the word uke with ‘writer’ and then imagine that the person applying the technique is an editor and you get a rough idea of the Varsitarian editorial process. At least as far as this particular writer is concerned. Every brainchild of an article passed on, or usually after, deadline was a kind of attack which only guaranteed that I as a writer would “fall onto my back.” After my editor sees the weaknesses in my words, her corrections would then throw me into a “high somersault” of revisions over my “outstretched, turning arm”—yes, that same arm that passed the article in question. Now a real assailant would ideally lose any taste for attacking again after being slammed onto the concrete pavement with a twisted wrist, but the writer must get up again, write anew, submit, revise and get thrown down again. In time, it is hoped that he will get better at breaking his fall and at writing.

My goal upon taking up Journalism was to become something of a cross between: an operative for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad; a Zen master along the lines of Roshi Philip Kapleau; a writer like Umberto Eco; and an aikidoka with combat skills at par with those of either Morihei Ueshiba or Gozo Shioda.

College was already halfway through with chewing me but it did not look like my story was going to take a road like the legendary Ernesto Guevarra’s. So, most of my time was instead spent in either the Religion or the Humanities section of the Central Library, with my personal interpretation of zazen (sitting meditation) and any book that happened to be within reach. At home, it was the same drill with books, the only difference being that it was all done with my back along the x-axis.

“A screaming comes across the sky”

Somewhere in the bedside pile right now is a copy of Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence (Vintage, 2009), waiting for the time when it will be imprudently read as escape alongside more pressing work begging attention from the back of my head. The only reason that I bought Pamuk was because of one question, one surprise-quiz afternoon in college: “Name one winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature from within the last five years.” Literary Journalism Professor Joselito Zulueta furrowed his brows, and perhaps almost snorted, at my ignorance when he heard from my seatmate slash checker that I had answered Kazuo Ishiguro. I have never read this author but his was the only name that I remembered then from scanning bookstore shelves.

“He’s too young!” Mr. Zulueta said along with several shrugs of disappointment. His face had contorted into the germ of a guffaw but it never got to laughing point plus he was shaking his head. I thought the air had shifted around me by a few millibars higher.

Thanks to my other professor, the dashing Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Christian Esguerra, that incident did not leave me permanently shell-shocked. Although thinking back now, I am not sure if I was already a writer for the Varsitarian, when that question stumped me. Nevertheless, I am sure that I have Mr. Esguerra to thank for that milestone of an invite to the Varsitarian qualifying exams. Emboldening was the sight of several other classmates who also signed up for the exams. The imagined juvenile formality of an entrance exam for a student paper however, turned out to be a six-hour siege before blank pages taunting me to bleed eloquence. When I walked out of the room toward the 6 p.m. sunset, it felt like the stubble on my chin had grown out at more than its usual daily rate.

“Every angel is terrifying”

For this former Literary Section writer and later, editor, nothing compares to the occupational reward of conversing with masters like National Artists Cirilo Bautista and Bienvenido Lumbera. Prof. Bautista was very open to my questions about his works and his days in the University of Santo Tomas. With every subsequent phone interview for the next article, he would ask, “Roman, ‘di mo pa pinapabasa ‘yung isang article na sinulat mo.” Well, this may not be one of those articles, Sir, but I hope this kind of makes up for the ones you were not able to see. With Prof. Lumbera, I was only blessed with one conversation, not by reason of his reluctance or anything similar, but because I was assigned only once to talk to him. Those few hours in his office at the University of the Philippines, however, I frequently return to in my thoughts. Amid the books and the patina of old movie posters adorning his walls, I think it was the paternal patience of Prof. Lumbera that saved us both—more so with me—when we got into a heated discussion regarding the proper avenue for a true social revolution. Of course we both left off with smiles but it is only now that I can properly thank him for the enlightenment he has caused in me.

Aside from the interviews, I hope dementia also never touches that time when I worked through all those extra-editorial events. Having thrice sweated between my steps and a tower of chairs in my arms almost made me want to quit. Yet seeing that my comrades were also inching away to deliver towers of their own to the same dinner we were setting up made me think again.

I hope that night when I co-chaired the Ustetika Literary Awards alongside Samuel Medenilla also never bleeds away into my greying hairs. Back then, I felt that so many details had been bungled. The Parangal Hagbong that year was awarded to one of the University’s literary jewels. Dr. Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta should have received the said award much earlier, a fact I tried to point out to her with as much tact as possible when we approached her for it.

As I write these recollections down, I receive word that Dr. Dimalanta had already passed away. I recall now how she shrugged off my anxieties back then regarding her accepting, much less considering, the Parangal Hagbong. With a smile and a raised brow she said, “You know, I’ve received many Parangals already!” I am glad that she accepted it anyway. V

*Roman Loveria, a cum laude graduate in AB Journalism in 2009 is the former Literary and Associate Editor of the Varsitarian in his two-year stint. He is currently studying Law at the Ateneo de Manila University.