For family, friends, club38 folks, Dharma brothers and sisters and anyone interested, I thought I’d bring together some thoughts about my adventures with Club38.
I know I don’t look it, but I have an invisible disability - ME/CFS and PTSD following an accident in 1991. It means that I have chronic pain and debilitating exhaustion. There are a ton of other symptoms, one of the main ones is Post Exertional Malaise (PEM). An hour of activity will trigger a few hours of wipe out. Sometimes that wipe out goes on and on and becomes a crash. ME cycles around relapse and remission as many chronic illnesses do. In 2018 I had the classic Country & Western nightmare when I lost my job, marriage, house and dog all in one fell swoop. (I still miss the dog!) Landing back with my old mam and eldest brother, I set about rebuilding after a complete collapse.
First off I went on a three month meditation retreat. This triggered lots of writing (Yarn, Sunshine & Shadow). Next, I tried to improve my fitness. One of the challenges of long term disability is to try and keep a base level of fitness going. ‘Use it or lose it’! I was finding a daily walk harder and harder and so started thinking about alternatives. Yoga gave too much PEM. Tai-Chi and Chi-Gung I found boring. I used to be a juggler and was into kites for a bit too.
Flying two string ‘stunt’ kites had been great fun and I wondered if things had moved on since the last time I had flown them. Turns out there are FOUR string kites. I was intrigued. It looked like it might combine lots of my interests.
Club38 is a private facebook group you can join when you buy a Revolution kite. Joe Hadzicki and his two brothers Jim and David, developed the quad kite. Four strings enable a kite to move forward and backward, side to side and to spin. After marketing the kites for a while Joe noticed that people often did not get the full fun out of it. It’s quite hard to learn. He came up with a series of challenges that teach you the moves. Logically set out, the levels progress through basics to advanced and then combination moves. You film yourself flying a pattern, submit it to the group and if it passes you get the information about the next level. He has a special super-power, it is mentoring! He’s an excellent teacher too!
All this was just right for me. Something new, difficult and interesting that helped with my fitness. If I got my rest schedule right I could go for a session and forget everything unconnected with how to fly that kite.
Putting all this together the sessions gradually morphed into a kind of ‘practice’ in the sense of meditation and mindfulness. I half-jokingly made it into a ‘way’ I called ‘Kaitodo’, the Way of the Kite!
It was doing me good to go through the levels the same as anyone else without them knowing anything about the disability thing. It helped me feel more normal. I’m sure everyone has their challenges that they keep quiet about. I wanted to make my situation more public because the whole kiting thing has been so much more than just a fun little distraction or a hobby. It has been my main way of keeping going through the difficulties, through the pandemic lockdowns and everything.
The folks at Revolution Kites, Joe in particular, and in the club38 group, have been very helpful to me. This is to thank them on the day after I made the 42nd passed submission and gained the title of ‘Double Triple Master’, the first in the UK!
The fourteen patterns of the Club38 programme get quite involved and I found myself struggling to remember the details. Brainfog is an issue. I used visualisation at first just to remember, then to have something to focus on rather than ruminate on negative things. It seems that it has also had a beneficial effect on the learning process too.
Because I wanted some training effect I started thinking about how the body moves in relation to the kite. The stances needed and how to move between them. It felt a lot like jiu-jitsu which I used to love back in college days. If the wind is strong it actually helps an awful lot to have good movement. It stops you getting pulled over so much for a start! The combination of applying mindfulness to a martial arts stance in the context of studying the wind and the movement of the kite all came together in moments of real joy.
I recommend it :)