Friday, August 31, 2012

Having a Job You Love

by Crazy Ivan

If there's a secret to happiness, it must be that.  You have to either have (a) a whole bunch of money or (b) a job that you really love.  If you don't have one or both of those things, odds are that you're gonna spend a lot of your life doing something that you don't really want to be doing.

Of course, no matter what your job is, you'll have to spend time doing stuff you don't want to do.  No amount of awesomeness in your job is going to make going to the dentist fun.  So there's a base rate of boring and/or painful stuff you'll find yourself committed to one way of the other.  But if you play your cards right, you might avoid making one of those boring/painful commitments a 40+ hour a week one.

I remind myself constantly that I'm really lucky to have the job that I have.  Not many people get to spend their days doing something that they're truly passionate about and not many people get to spend their days having fun and helping others have fun.  To be sure, there are plenty of people out there that spend their days hanging out with their best friends, playing games and having fun... there just aren't that many that get paid for it.

I try to keep all of this in mind day to day.  As I fight my way through the crowded subway commute each morning, I try to remember how much I enjoy my job.  Over the summers and the holidays when the hours get really long and the mornings get really early, I try to recall how much less fun pretty much any other job I'm qualified for would be (I'm not qualified to be a Mythbuster, unfortunately).  When I have the occasional bad day that everyone has even if they have the best job in the world (again; Mythbuster), I try to remind myself that ultimately, the good eclipses any minor bad thing that might have happened that one day.

But even though I try to keep this at the forefront of my mind all the time, I'm still occasionally taken aback by it.  Yesterday provides a perfect example.  I was at the House of Skills most of the day yesterday which meant that I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Lucky.  As you know if you read yesterday's post, Lucky suffered a broken leg and hasn't been getting out much.

And as we were talking, he was admitting how frustrated he was by the broken leg.  But what was amazing was what was frustrating him.  It wasn't that he couldn't go out and play soccer or that he couldn't ride his longboard or go up a flight of stairs with ease or scratch an inch on his calf or go out with his girlfriend or join in any reindeer games.  What frustrates him the most is that he can't work.

To put this in perspective, for a lot of people with broken legs, the part where you take 6 to 8 weeks off of work is the one small silver lining around the whole ordeal.  Sure, there's plenty of bad to outweigh it, but most people have jobs that they'd be perfectly happy to not do for 6 to 8 weeks while they recover.  But my job is so fun that if you can't do it, you're frustrated.

And I can't blame Lucky at all for that.  I know that if I broke my leg and couldn't work I'd probably spend 8 hours a day blogging or checking in on the forum or making Trick of the Day videos under the theme of "Tricks you can do with a broken leg".  I couldn't stop doing it altogether.  But even then I'd be frustrated because I couldn't go out and be a Myachi Master.  I would be missing all the smiles.  I'd be missing all the fist pumps of victory from new players that just hit their first Under the Leg-360.  I'd be missing all the maniacs who have come to challenge me.  I'd be missing all the new tricks that were being invented, perfected, morphed and reinvented.  I'd be missing out on all the screaming, applauding crowds at the schools and the camps.  I'd be missing out on the vindicating feeling of proving somebody wrong about what they "can't" do.  I'd be missing out on all the Myachi Mania.

So on behalf of the Myachi movement, we all wish Lucky well.  Because not only his missing all the Myachi Mania, but all the Myachi Mania is missing him.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Update on Lucky

by Crazy Ivan

Many of you have already heard about Lucky's misfortune, but for those who haven't let me spend a few sentences getting you up to date.

Several weeks ago, Lucky was longboarding in the city.  It was late and dark and as he slid to a stop near a subway station, he failed to see a pothole in front of him.  His foot slipped into it while he was still moving pretty quickly and before he knew it, he was wiped out on the road with a broken leg.

Despite stereotypes to the contrary, New Yorkers are great people and several bystanders took action to help him out.  They called an ambulance and stayed with him until the paramedics arrived.  Before long, he was in a hospital, shot up with pain medicine and slowly realizing that he was not going to be able to open FAO on the following morning.

He called me at almost one in the morning to tell me what had happened.  I was still down in Tennessee overseeing the final week of Dollywood, but from there I was able to rearrange his schedule and cover all his upcoming shifts.  He wasn't sure the extent of the injury at that point, though he was certain something was broken.  I wished him well and passed back out.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to today.  Turns out that he broke his leg a bout a foot above the ankle and the break was severe enough to require surgery.  He now has a plate in his leg, which makes him .09% cyborg (which is pretty cool), but the important thing is that he's recovering nicely.  He's got his sense of humor back, he's getting pretty adept on his crutches and he's even keeping his skills up.  One of the great things about Myachi is that you can play even when you're bed-ridden.

So, as awkward as it is to keep calling the guy in the cast "Lucky", he seems to be pretty lucky indeed.  He is expected to make a full recovery without losing any of the strength or flexibility in his leg.  He's healing nicely and so far all the news from the doctors has been positive.

I've been getting a lot of questions on the forum, at the store and on Facebook about him, so I'll keep everyone posted here if anything changes.  We don't have an estimates time of return just yet, but when he's ready to make his triumphant return to Myachi Mastery, our loyal readers will be the first to know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Rise of Grind Tricks

by Crazy Ivan

There was a time when Grinds were a technicality.  When we tried to categorize all the tricks together, we noticed that there was no category where the Dark Slide really fit.  We could have just modified the definition of Centrifugals (and to a large extent, that's exactly what we did), but this trick certainly didn't belong with moves like the Snake, the Crane, the Roller Coaster, the Vert... these moves were all about the Myachi being stationary.  The Dark Slide starts on the Elbow and ends on the back of the hand.  That's hardly stationary.  What's more is that there's no use of centrifugal force in the Dark Slide, so it's pretty inaccurate to lump it in with a category with that name.

So we created a new category and called it "Grinds".  That made sense from a skateboarding/tech-deck perspective and it sounded like a cool addition to our list of categories.  But the solution created a problem of it's own, obviously.  You can't have a "category" that only has one trick in it.  So we set about coming up with a couple more grind tricks.

The first several were pretty easy.  We reversed the Dark Slide (which is easy to come up with but pretty hard to accomplish) and we use the other obvious elbow to hand and hand to elbow slides.  We ended up with about a dozen tricks that we could call "Grinds" and we were satisfied with the idea that we were done there.

Over the intervening years, Grinds was the one category of tricks that I would constantly forget when I was trying to list all of them.  I hardly ever used any of them in my shreds (except the Dark Slide) and virtually never taught any of them.  On rare occasion, a new one would be invented.  Off the top of my head, the only ones I can think of that were created during this period were the "Wrist Twist" and the "Mind Grind", though there were probably a couple of others.

The slow pace of this categories growth really ended when Monk came into the game.  He started using a few of these moves and shortly after that Mav showed up and rolled with it as well.  These two guys (along with Animal) were really defining what was "cutting edge" in Myachi at the time so their interest in Grind tricks quickly transferred to a movement-wide resurgence.

But I don't want to overstate this renaissance.  It was still a pretty minor category and the "re-opening" of that box was so subtle and small that it went unnoticed.  Mav would come up with a new trick and I would say, "Cool, now there 26 grind tricks".  Monk would come up with two variations and not to be outdone, Animal would come up with 2 more and suddenly we're over 30.  But that still leaves it the second smallest category with only basic flips and spins behind it.

So, up to this point, the timeline of Grind tricks looks something like this:

July 2004 - Butter comes up with the "Dark Slide".
Sept 2004 - We realize we need to add "Grinds" as a new Trick Category.
Sept 2004 - Kid, Big Dog and I come up with half a dozen or so basic Grinds.
All of 2005 - Nothing happens
All of 2006 - Nothing happens
All of 2007 - Nothing happens
March 2008 - Monk and Mav get into forearm Grinds.

And over the next few years, not much more happened.  The category swelled a bit more, but even today there are fewer than 100 Grind tricks that have actually been mastered by anyone I'm aware of.  It's still a small part of a large game and I'm not aware of anyone who is really focused on that element of the game right now.

But a second renaissance might be occurring right now.  I've actually only noticed it over the last couple of months, so it could well be an anomaly.  Perhaps there are just a few new Grind tricks out there that people are excited about and maybe a month from now they will start to drop off the radar again.  Perhaps some new breakthrough in Portals or Splits will distract everyone and the cutting edge Grind tricks will be pushed aside, left unmastered for a few more years.

The fact that I'm writing this blog belies the fact that I don't believe that to be the case.  I don't think we're seeing an anomaly, but rather the beginnings of a major shift.  It's probably no coincidence that I'm seeing a rise in Myachi Masters (and a few really skilled Maniacs) doing Grind tricks at the same time that the whole world is seeing a surge in the popularity of Contact Juggling.  Contact Juggling is nothing new at the house of skills (I've been doing CJ longer than I've been playing Myachi, after all) but the reaction that people have to the grind tricks might be changing as they grow more familiar with CJ as an art form.

Whatever the reason, it feels like Grind tricks are reaching something of a critical mass.  I've seen this happen in the past with Splits, Portals, Merges, Matrices and High Body Strikes.  Once there is a sufficient repertoire of tricks in any category, everyone starts to gravitate towards it.  It becomes a fundamental part of being a well rounded Myachi player and then, as all the many talented people who play this game start focusing on their deficiencies in that one category... BOOM.  Suddenly the tricks grow so quickly that we can't even name them all.  Hundreds of extraordinarily skilled people are all adding their own flavor and what was once an afterthought is soon a major player.

But, of course, I could also be misreading the tea-leaves.  But I'm sure that even if this second renaissance isn't happening now, it will happen in the future.  This is just too broad a category of tricks to be left so unexplored.  The fact that they're all insanely difficult has been a barrier to pushing the envelope when it comes to Grind tricks, but I remember a time when the same was said of Portals and Matrix variations.  And in today's world I've met at least 3 people who could pull of a legitimate Matrix at age 7.

I guess the take-away here is that whatever the future holds, you probably need to get to work on your reverse Dark Slide...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Next Series Teasers

by Crazy Ivan

First things first.  We aren't even close to the next series.  Series 5.4 is in the works (along with what I would assume will be 5.4x), but the process is a maddeningly slow one and we're not on the verge of having these things on store shelves by any measure.  The whole process takes months and months to complete and the largest portion of it (the part where they stick the Myachis on a boat and send them across the ocean) takes the longest by a big chunk.  We haven't even gotten to that part yet.

So consider this to be the first "teaser trailer" for a Summer Blockbuster.  You know, the one that comes out in October of the year before and shows you just the tiniest clip and a little snippet of dialogue and frustrates the heck out of you because it's reminding you that you still have to wait another 9 months to see the movie in question.

This method seems to work really well for the Hollywood studios, so I figured we'd give it a try.  I've been observing the formula for decades now, so I think I've pretty much figured it out.  You start with some little tidbit of info that doesn't answer any questions, but instead it raises a bunch of new ones.  It's like when we found out that Bane was going to be the bad guy in Dark Knight Rises.  Did that mean that Batman would get killed in this one?  Did that mean they were going into the whole Future Batman thing?  Did that mean Batman would spend half the movie recovering from a broken back?  (Sorry, I'm a Batman geek)

So in the interest of raising a few questions without answering any of them, here is my "Teaser" for the new series:

Responding to calls from the Maniacs, this series will have a lot more diversity in the fabric department.

And that's all I'm giving you.  That's it.  Just a little tease.  And see how that raises questions that it doesn't answer?  As any Myachi Maniac knows, the last few series have been all (or nearly all) corduroy so when I say "diversity in the fabric department", obviously that means a few non-corduroy sacks.  But how many?  I did use the words "a lot more" rather than "a bit more" or even simply an unmodified "more".  So how many is a lot?

And while we're on the subject, notice how this is all completely ambiguous anyway?  All I said was that there would be more fabric diversity, but I didn't even hint at what fabrics.  There are, of course, dozens of non-corduroy fabrics that we've used in the past, so I could be referring to any of those, but there's no guarantee that I'm even talking about fabrics we've used historically.  It could be that we're using some totally new fabrics.  There's just no way to tell with nothing but that brief, non-specific statement.

This is, of course, only the "Teaser Trailer".  Like any good marketing campaign, I'll be following this up with a slightly longer version that gives a bit more detail while still raising even more questions.  So be sure to keep checking back with us...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Paddle Grips

by Crazy Ivan

I've written remarkably little about the Battle Paddles on this blog up to this point.  One of the shameful reasons is that I simply haven't been blogging all that often in the time since they came out, but there's far more to it than that.  The real reason I haven't written about them more is that they're hard to write about.

Up to this point, there isn't really any commonly accepted lingo with regards to the Battle Paddles and before we can really start talking about them, we have to define our terms.  Now, I don't want to write a 5,000 word diatribe where I name all the tricks, parts, holds, traps, etc. for the Paddles.  That would be overwhelming and thus useless.  Instead, I think the right approach is to parcel things out and define them as we go.

I figured the best place to start would be the same place you start if you get a new set of Paddles: Putting them on.

There are four distinct fasteners on the Paddles and a total of six individual loops.  As you get more and more comfortable, you'll find that you're not always using all 6 loops or all 4 fasteners.  Instead, you come to find that some tricks are possible only if you use a certain combination of these loops.

These various ways of wearing your paddle are referred to as "Paddle Grips"; as in, what particular way are you gripping your paddle.  There are 15 possible combinations that you might use and while some of them would very rarely be used, it's best to be thorough.  If there's one thing I've learned in my time as a Myachi Master is that you should never set limits on creativity.

Below I'm going to breakdown all 15 possible Paddle Grips, but before I do, we need to define our terms a bit.  The photo below should help.

Here you see what we call a "Full Grip".  All four grips are being used.  The hand is fully bound up in the Paddle in every way we intended to be possibly.  This is the type of grip that you would normally start with so this is where we'll start.

You'll notice too that I've added a number to each strap or loop.  The 1 refers to the wriststrap, the 2 to the thumb loop and so on.  Below, I'll be referring to each grip by a number.  A 134, for example, would be a grip that uses 1 (The Wriststrap), 3 (The Pinky Loop) and 4 (The Finger Strap).  So this would refer to a grip where the thumb is left loose.

This might seem confusing at first, but as we go, you'll see that it's much easier than referring back to the individual straps over and over again.

1234 - The Full Grip

This is, at least at this point, the "standard" paddle grip.  It's the best one to use if you're playing a sport that requires running up and down a field or a court, as it's the strap that leaves the paddle least likely to slip as you move.  The drawback to this grip is that it doesn't offer much wrist movement and thus isn't the best for freestyle or net sports.

123 - The Trapper

This is a grip where the wrist, the thumb and the pinky are strapped in but the fingers are left loose.  This is not used very often, but it does allow for some really cool traps between the backhand and the paddle and thus may eventually become a common grip for table games.

124 - The Sentinel

This is the grip that I use most often and is the best grip if you'll be wearing your paddle for a long period of time.  In this one, everything is strapped in except the pinky.  It's basically a small trade off where you lose a bit of control and gain a bit of comfort.  It's definitely recommended if you plan on wearing your paddle for eight or nine hours a day.

134 - The Hitchhiker

In this grip, you use everything except the thumb loop.  This allows for some spectacular pinches, but it leaves the paddle pretty loose on the hand.  It's much harder to catch long distance and high speed passes so it is mostly used in freestyle, but could also be useful in some court games or Fu related games.

234 - The Free Flow

Here, you're using everything except the wrist strap.  This is a very common grip for freestyle, as the wrist strap can impede the flexibility you often need for swaps, body crosses and centrifugals.  It's also more comfortable over a long period, so for many Paddle sports, you'll find yourself using this grip.  The major exception is something like Myachi football where you're running down field a lot.

12 - The Ebert

This is a rarely used grip where only your wrist and thumb would be strapped in.  I can't think of many advantages to using this grip, but I'm not prepared to say that there aren't any yet.  It just means we need to explore a bit more.

13 - The Dr. Evil

This is even more unconventional than the Ebert.  Here you would forego the finger straps and the thumb loop and use only the wrist strap and pinky loop.  It's hard to imagine a grip that would leave you with less control (except the single strap grips below), so I feel common in saying that this will remain the least used double strap grip.

14 - The Talon

Although I haven't used it much myself, I can immediately see the utility in using only the wrist strap and the finger straps.  You won't have as much control as you would with your thumb in, but it allows for a lot of quick tilt on the paddle, which could come in handy when playing table games.  It could also make for some cool freestyle capabilities, though they seem like they'd be pretty tough to pull off.

23 - The Surfer

Another option I'm just throwing in to be thorough.  Here you would be using only your pinky and thumb and you'd probably only be doing it because you hadn't tried it before.  I can't imagine what advantage it would give you, but it would be really hard to control and the paddle would be really likely to slip off your hand.  Oh yeah, and it would probably get uncomfortable pretty quick.

24 - The Free Form

This is one of my favorite grips.  I probably use it third most often after the Sentinel and the Full Grip.  Here, only your fingers and thumb are strapped in and the wrist and pinky are left free.  It is the single best grip for freestyle, as it allows for a full range of motion and all but the most specialized centrifugal moves.  It isn't a very good grip for sports, though, as it doesn't offer you enough control for passing.

34 - The Scout

Another grip used strictly when freestyling, this one uses the finger strap and the pinky loop while leaving the wrist and thumb free.  It is certainly not as common as the Free Form, but it does have advantages in certain paddle-trap moves and thus I use it occasionally in the course of a day of jamming.  It is difficult to control and becomes a bit of a strain pretty quickly, so I wouldn't recommend it for long periods.

1 - The Free Hand

There's really only one reason to use this, but the reason is awesome enough to justify its inclusion.  You have almost no control of the paddle here, as only the wrist is strapped in.  In fact, normally when you use the Free Hand grip, you don't even strap the wrist down very tight.  This allows the paddle to swing pretty much freely, rotating around your wrist.  This allows you to toss the Myachi up, swing the paddle out of the way and then free style on your bare hands for a minute.  A quick throw and a difficult twist later and it can be back on the paddle.

2 - The Slap Stick

There isn't much of a reason to include this one (or the next one for that matter) as you will probably never use them of see anyone else using them.  This is a grip where only the thumb is strapped in and isn't recommended for freestyle, traps, field sports, table sports, net sports, fu, or any other possible Myachi endeavor I can think of.  Again, only adding it to be thorough.

3 - The Renegade

See above, except instead of just using your thumb, you're just using your pinky so you have even less control of the paddle.  Again, this one isn't really recommended for anything and is just being included to be thorough.

4 - The Python

Ah, finally we get to the reason why I bothered to include single strap grips on this list in the first place.  You'll likely never use the three grips listed above, but this one comes in really handy for a lot of freestyle tricks.  In fact, this is the only grip with the paddles that will allow you to do a Snake or Crane.  This would, of course, be strapping in only the fingers and leaving the wrist, thumb and pinky free.  It's certainly the grip that offers the most range of motion and thus some of the coolest freestyle possibilities, but it is useless for sporting and traps.


Alright, so now that we have the basics out of the way, I'll be able to easily refer to various Paddle grips as we talk about the different games and tricks we've developed with them.  I'll probably throw down at least two more blogs about the nomenclature along the way, but with this primer I'll feel comfortable launching into some of the more complex stuff without needing illustrations.

Oh, and get to work trying out all those grips you hadn't considered yet...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ultimate Myachi: The Ultimate in Myachi

by Crazy Ivan

Bones brings a lot to the table when it comes to Myachi Mastery.  He's got sick foot skills, amazing creativity, solid grinds, great multi-Myachi work, the kind of personality that forces people to have fun against their will, a passion to learn new stuff, an insatiable appetite for perfection, a sophisticated sense of humor, an eclectic interest in skill toys, a really cool mop and some of the best portal tricks in the game.  But if I had to choose one attribute that was his most valuable from a Myachi perspective, it would be his initiative.  He's not just an ideas guy, he's also a guy who gets it done.

A perfect example of this took place a bit more than a week ago.  I logged onto Facebook and saw that I'd been invited to a new FB group; Ultimate Myachi.  I was immediately intrigued and checked out the page.  It was something that Bones had dreamed up and done.  The idea was to play a version of Ultimate Frisbee (which is technically just called Ultimate and the people who play it aren't shy about reminding you of that) using Myachis and Battle Paddles.

The first game ever took place on Monday in Central Park.  Unfortunately, the scheduling did not allow me to make the first game so I can't give you the play by play that the game deserves, but from all accounts it was crazy fun.  Bones, Kid Myach and Mav were all present and several local maniacs showed up for it, including one we hadn't seen for years (shout out to Caffeine).  They all gave the game hugely positive reviews.

From what I understand, there was a huge learning curve involved in the first game so it took a minute for everyone to get the hang of the rules, the strategies and the fast paced catches on the paddle.  But by the second half there were some highlight goals, steals and passes that everybody was talking about the next day.

We'll be playing again next week and anyone who is within driving/walking/subwaying distance of Central Park is invited.  We'll be bringing plenty of Battle Paddles so don't worry if you don't have a set.  We're already expecting a much bigger turn out for the second go-round so it's entirely possible that we'll have two games going side by side next week.

Bones hasn't set the date next week (he's probably waiting for me to write the schedule for next week, which I'll be doing tonight), but when I have the date it'll be posted here.  Or you could just join the Ultimate Myachi page on Facebook.  Then you'll know as soon as I do.

Consider this blog to be a bit of a preview for the game.  I hope to post a more detailed breakdown next week that will include the rules of play, some pics and some video of a game in action.

And if you have a fun idea for a Myachi game or a Myachi sport, let me know.  While we've got a group of maniacs together who are looking for a workout, we'd love a chance to try something new.  If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments section below.  Or go all Bones with it and just make a FB page, announce the game and do all the leg work to make it happen.  That's even better.