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I’ve been part of the Maniphesto network for a few years now. It’s an open network for men doing men’s work. A forum for both debating general gender related questions and sharing difficult personal stuff. It’s been personally valuable and rewarding for me so far.
Now I’ve been offered to join the Maniphesto Core for 650 DKR a month. I’ve been sharing quite a few vulnerable things on the forum, and gotten good feedback, all for free. So why join the Core? I’m not quite sure yet. But it does feel right. And I have only got more than value for my money from the men behind it so far. So I decide to trust it. It seems a bit like entering a door not unlike another door I opened recently.
Inside the door refers to an old Chinese tradition in the passing over of the deeper aspects of martial arts from teacher to student. Hopeful new students would practice outside the house of the master, until he deemed them to be ready to come inside, where the secret techniques could be taught away from prying eyes. Today it’s my turn. My teacher, Torben, has invited me to a boring conference room to initiate me to nei kung. Inner strength. Following the tradition I take the three sticks of incense he gives me and bow before him and before the picture of Chang San-Feng, the founder of our style of tai chi chuan. Torben reads me the rules I have to follow after being admitted inside the door. I accept, and we square off in front of each other.
Half an hour later we’re almost finished. “Don’t tense your muscles!” Torben barks. I try not to. I’m moaning as I’m pummeling my abdomen with my fists. All the soft parts. My entire core. And I’m sweating like crazy, even though for an outside observer we’ve hardly been doing anything. Just some slow movements and some static poses. It’s a lot harder than it looks.
The carrot’s in the future. Within two years of daily practice, I should be able to withstand any blow to my abdomen, or push my opponent off his feet while being totally relaxed myself. I sometimes wonder why I want to learn this. It seems hardly useful outside of a tai chi competition. But as a daily practice it must be good discipline. And it makes sense to me to learn to toughen up without tensing up.
The door to the Maniphesto Core is less physical. I open it in front of my computer with my credit card. 650 DKR and I’m in. I’m met with a welcome video greeting and a detailed quick start guide. Seems easy enough. Read the rules. Name, title, profile picture, bio. Record an introduction video. Join the discussion forum. I can do that. Next. A longer guide for formulating a vision for where you’d like to be in your life three to five years from now. Then write down the steps you’ll take to get there, including the daily practice you’ll undertake for discipline and clarity of mind.
Hm. I’ve got my nei kung, and can think of a few other things I can do. But a vision three to five years ahead? Sometimes it’s hard enough to make it from one end of the month to the other! I’ll have to give this some thought.
Next. Join a Core team who’ll support you week for week in honoring your commitments through clear and honest criticism of how you’re actually doing. Men you’ll support by doing the same.
I feel my stomach tighten and my heart beating faster at the thought. I’m all alone here, but already feel like I’m being watched. Criticism? Oh, I’ll get criticism! I have a few fancy ideas about what I’d like to do. But an actual vision to open for criticism from men I don’t even know yet? My childish ideas? That seems pretty vulnerable!
The instructions tell me not to fret. It’s quite normal for most men to not have a clear vision of where they want to go, and to feel anxious about sharing it. Finding out is a process, most likely starting with building up discipline through daily practice and finding out what motivates you.
All right, then. I put down nei kung in the morning. Meditation in the evening. And come to think of it, I do like to teach. To write. To inspire. To see the eyes of others light up. Perhaps my vision is connected with that? That’s all right. I think I can share that with others. Perhaps their criticism can even help me elaborate on it, and get clarity about how to actually get there?
I feel my stomach relax at the thought. The soft, vulnerable front of my body. The part I protect by tensing up, playing small and living without exposing my vision. For just like in a tai chi competition, I’ll likely get hit right there if I dare risk stepping out of my defensive pose. The secret lies in accepting and relaxing into it. Then blows may hurt without doing harm.
It’s practical nei kung. Inner strength. My brothers will help me learn by pummeling my stomach every week, like I do every morning. Tough, masculine love and discipline. Without tension.
Let’s do it.