Life, the Universe and Everything

Apologies for not updating the blog more frequently – I’ve even been a bit slack in posting my progress on Project Dan.

Don’t worry, I’ve not given up. Far from it.

The thing is, Project Dan is more edifying than I expected, and I’m having a difficult time processing all of the lessons learned. I’ve got to steal some time somehow and make the effort to quiet my mind and spirit. I need to pray and reflect.

So far my biggest struggles have been with handling defeat (anger, frustration) and managing the stress of playing – i.e., rank anxiety – (pride, uncertainty). I’ve learned that when these arise within the context of a game, or searching for a game, that they are not functions of baduk itself; rather, they are my own character revealing its flaws. There is nothing in the game or in my opponents that gives rise to these feelings: It’s my own imperfection. Athletes like to say that pain is weakness leaving the body. In a certain sense I’m learning the truth of this statement.

There have been several times when I’ve been really frustrated with myself, almost to the point of throwing in the towel. I question whether I’ll ever be good enough to achieve shodan. These moments are trying, especially because I’ve invested myself so deeply in becoming a better player: I want to excel at baduk.

In the face of these doubts there is one thing that keeps me going and that is to play games. Putting stones on the goban brings me back to the reason behind Project Dan: To become a stronger player. I’m learning the value of action (seriously, this article from the Art of Manliness has been something of a gospel for Project Dan).

My thinking is that doing something – anything – is better than inaction. Whether I rise or I fall, I am engaged. Strength is earned, and becoming worthy of 1 dan requires serious effort. Well, I’m as determined as ever to make that effort.

This thinking has implications for all areas of my life: at home, with my family, in my relations, and at work. I haven’t quite figured it all out yet, but I can see the positive effects of baduk in my day-to-day. Think about efficiency, for example, which is a key theme of baduk. Efficiency means every stone has a purpose. What in my life could benefit from efficiency? One area that comes to mind is my family budget. With the exception of the mortgage we live without debt. My wife just left her job to stay home with our son full-time and, as a result, our income has lessened. We’ve had a budget since day 1 but it’s now more important than ever. How, then, can I be more efficient? Practicing frugality something I’ll have to work on since I’m the free spirit – financially speaking – in the family. Baduk teaches me to make every stone count, now I just have to do the same with every dollar.

Another area is handling frustrations or disappointments. Life is full of reverses. We experience them in rejection letters, car break downs and a million other ways. I know my son will look to my example in these moments and if I freeze or explode he’ll see a father who lacks self control. Well, playing baduk – winning or losing – is a great way for me to put myself into a vulnerable state each day and have to deal with it. I’m grateful to report that I’ve learned much already in these past few weeks about how to handle difficult times, especially when they are the result of my own foolishness or shortsighted behavior. Baduk is a testing ground for these. No, scrap that, it’s a training ground.

And boy do I need training! While I haven’t been as faithful to life & death problems or baduk theory as I would have liked, I have been playing most days. There is still room to improve, and I’m learning to adjust this system as I go along. More on that later.

The one area where I’m feeling pulled to right now is in the need for quiet. I’m talking primarily about a spiritual quiet – the figurative inner room. I haven’t been there as often as I should be, and it’s got me looking both ways when I revisit baduk. I know I’m being faithful to Project Dan, but am I being faithful to something – someone – objectively more important? I know that spiritual formation is essential for strength, much like exercise forms the basis for physical well being, and I need to do a better job here.

Part of baduk is the search for the Divine Move. It is part of the game’s spiritual aura, which owes itself somewhat to baduk’s profound nature. I, too, need to pursue a Divine Move, both in my faith and in the game. Perhaps it is that learning baduk will help me become a better Catholic, perhaps it is that becoming a better Catholic will help me improve at baduk. I’ve not yet explored the possibilities here enough to have any definitive answer, but I’m going to work in this direction. Who knows what I’ll find? Maybe life, the universe and everything.

Play First, Then Study

I am fighting my way to SDK (getting close!) and the most important change I’ve made to the way I practice is this: Play first, then study.

Why?

Improving play is the object of study. This is it. There is no other reason to read about baduk theory or do life & death problems. If I don’t play the game my study is without purpose.

Anxiety. I have it, I face it every time I post a game challenge. It goes away as I play the game – even if I’m losing – because I’m in the ring. I’m learning by doing, and that’s less frightening (to me at least) than thinking about doing. The only way I’ve been able to overcome rank anxiety is to play more games.

Playing games makes the books more intelligible. Seriously. If you play more the lessons in Kageyama’s Lessons will spring to life, so too will the diagrams in Attack and Defense. Experience aids study.

Play first, then study.

Note: I originally posted these thoughts on Reddit’s r/baduk where it garnered considerable interest.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I need a break.

Today’s performance was, at best, sub-par. I played three games and resigned each. Like a fool I jumped back in the ring after the first loss, and things went accordingly.

Learning to play with detachment is something that I am struggling with. My desire to play well, to advance, is overwhelming. I’ve invested myself wholly in this venture – in becoming a better baduk player – and it’s proving difficult to achieve my goal.

Of course this is to be expected. I am no baduk prodigy, and becoming a stronger gamer is not easy.

Today I was my own foe. I left important details out of the picture, I failed to read situations correctly. I deserved to lose.

 

Download SGF

 

This, however, is not the end of Project Dan: It is, rather, the end of the beginning.

Going into this I knew (intellectually) it would be hard. Now I am experiencing the reality. It’s easy to get down, to complain, or to try and blame others for my predicament but that won’t get me anywhere. I’ve gotten myself into this and I’m going to press on. I’ve got to embrace the suck.

So far I’ve fought from 13 kyu to 10 kyu. Today I reverted back to 11 kyu, but this is at least progress. I know I’m improving. Becoming a stone stronger at a time! I’ve got much to learn and many more battles to fight.

Tomorrow’s another day. Let’s play baduk!