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Seeking Zanshin: Blood, Sweat, Tears & Aikikai Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 02-24-2005 11:53 PM
One small gal + a dojo full of big guys = tons o' fun
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 270 (Private: 12)
Comments: 195
Views: 820,735

In General How to Eat a Fish Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #270 New 02-02-2012 08:17 AM
Some time ago, I sat down to dinner with my paternal grandparents (my "Lolo Camillo" and "Lola Oreng") while visiting them in California. They were having salted, pan-fried fish that night -- a fairly common Filipino meal with the usual steamed, white rice.

As I started to dig in, Lola Oreng shrieked in laughter just as the food was poised to enter my mouth.

"You mean you do not even know how to eat a fish?" she cried.

Bewildered, I looked down and stared in confusion at the chunk of meat on my fork.

"Susmarjosep," Lola cursed, sucking air sharply between her teeth. She snatched the fork from me and proceeded to deftly graze the tines of the fork under the filet, separating it easily from the bones.

"That," she declared proudly, "is the proper way to eat a fish,"

I've thought about her choice of words a great deal since then. While I'd rather chalk it up to her Grade 2 education and correspondingly poor command of the English language, it struck a chord.

You see, when I was a child, I was duly instructed by my father in the "proper" way to sweep the floor, the "proper" way to do the dishes, and so on and so forth. It irked me then, and it still irks me now. Perhaps if fried fish were a regular part of my diet, I thought, or if I had at that point in my life been more experienced in household chores, I would have naturally discovered the best way of performing these tasks on my own.

But the whole idea of a "proper" way is especially significant to me today - after having spent over a decade of my career working with persons with a wide variety of disabilities and watching them adapt (from what you and I able-bodied people might consider the usual way of doing something) in order to do the same thing, only differently, by using their own capabilities.

So the thing that stuck in my craw when I was eight years old and when my Lola "taught" me how to eat fish is still holds today:

"Surely," I would grumble to myself as I obediently mimicked each "proper" technique, "there isn't really a proper way of performing such tasks. What they really mean is the most efficient way,"

Some people, like my father or my grandmother, might think there's very little difference between the two. But I'm here to tell you they're worlds apart.

When I first started learning Aikido nine years ago, the perfectionist in me (now where in the world did I get that from?) was continually frustrated if I couldn't perform technique exactly the same way that everyone else could.

And the more I trained, the more my short height, light weight and small stature proved that more and more, I could not do the techniques in what I thought was the "proper" way. I would come home at the end of each class quite angry at myself, in fact.

But as time passed, I gradually understood that what we were being taught as beginners is what we call "the basic form" of the technique. Not only were we expected at some point to "train technique in order to forget it" (that is, ingrain the movements so wholly into our muscle memory that eventually they can be performed instinctively). One of the fundamental aspects of Aikido (and for a petite woman like me, one of the most martially-effective) is that it is highly adaptable: if you meet with resistance, you go with it -- you don't fight against it. If your attacker does something unexpected or starts trying to fight the technique, you don't keep doggedly trying to force it on: you do something else instead.

Eventually (and by that, I mean after quite a long time) I became less hung up on the cockeyed notion that by having to adapt technique to fit my body type, I wasn't performing it "properly". I say all this because I notice that we've had a few kindred perfectionist types join the club lately. The earlier you come to grips with this, my friends, the better.

It's only through practice and repetition that your body will find out for itself the most efficient way of moving. It's not going to happen overnight.

And at some point, in both Aikido and in life, we all have to adapt. One way or the other. It's the name of the game.
Views: 2736 | Comments: 6

RSS Feed 6 Responses to "How to Eat a Fish"
#6 02-27-2012 07:23 PM
Daisy Luu Says:
(cont'd from below) It's funny, because the Chinese/Vietnamese have to de-bone the thing with chopsticks before eating, and in more traditional families, it's very "improper" to flip a whole fish when one has finished eating one side of it; instead, you de-bone when you get to the middle and then eat the other side, flesh-to-skin.
#5 02-27-2012 07:23 PM
Daisy Luu Says:
So you were going to pop the entire thing, bones and all, into your mouth?! Not to make light of your blog entry's point, but that's hilarious. Being of petite stature myself, I totally agree with your points about the need for adaptation of techniques. But...the fish....
#4 02-03-2012 08:05 AM
CitoMaramba Says:
Nowadays, we tend to think only of definitions 2 and 4 and concentrate only mimicking or copying the external form. But we can see from definition 1, that "proper" is also about adaptation, doing what is appropriate to the purpose or circumstance. So your Lola, even with her Grade 2 education, was already teaching you about aikido! Thanks for the slice of Filipino Culture. Maraming salamat po.
#3 02-03-2012 08:03 AM
CitoMaramba Says:
Anyway, I looked up the dictionary definition of "proper" and found the following:
prop·er   [prop-er] adjective 1.adapted or appropriate to the purpose or circumstances; fit; suitable: the proper time to plant strawberries. 2.conforming to established standards of behavior or manners; correct or decorous: a very proper young man. 3.fitting; right: It was only proper to bring a gift. 4.strictly belonging or applicable: the proper place for a stove.
#2 02-03-2012 08:00 AM
CitoMaramba Says:
I grew up knowing the "proper" way to eat a fish, taking out the spines ("tinik" which also refers to thorns) before consuming the flesh. Later on, when I did my medical training, we were told that one of main causes of abscesses in the oral cavity were fish spines that got lodged in the soft tissue. So there are sound reasons for removing the "tinik" before eating fish.
#1 02-03-2012 07:59 AM
CitoMaramba Says:
Hi Jamie, Since I have been away from the Philippines for almost six years now, I couldn't help but smile and chuckle a bit when I read your blog entry. I terribly miss eating fried salted fish (daing na bangus?) and rice, and have had my share of Lolos and Lolas (and Titos and Titas, Ninongs and Ninangs) exclaiming "Susmariosep!" over my mistakes. ("Susmariosep!" by the way is a contraction of "Jesus, Mary, Joseph", but I think you know that).

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