Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Action Figures Revisited

The origin of suffering is attachment. This is one of the Four Noble Truths as expounded by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Siddhartha believed our desire for, and attachment to worldly things was the cause of all human suffering.

As a young boy looking down the barrel of a tiny assault rifle carefully aimed at my favourite G.I.Joes, I never imagined that those same Joes would some how cause me to suffer in my later years.

Okay, I admit that sounds a little overly dramatic, but the thing is, I’m selling all my old toys and collectables right now, and I’m a little astounded by the mixture of feelings that surface whilst I dig them all out of their hiding spots.

Action figures were an important part of my childhood, and an embarrassing part of my teenage years. As a kid I would spend hours in the basement constructing elaborate stages for them: A super hero headquarters, an evil gang's hide out, a sleepy town for Cobra Commander to roll in and crush. Each scene begat equally if not more elaborate story lines: six Joes lost in a strange alien world (made up of bedding and stuffed animals) without friends, adequate supplies, or even the language ability to defend themselves; Dick Tracy forming a reluctant alliance with mobsters and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to battle a horde of technologically advanced aliens from another world (He-Man villains and ThunderCats) who find themselves stranded in the 1930's. It was these elaborate story lines that emotionally connected me to each of the figures in different ways, and prevented me from parting with them even in my teenage years.

These connections are also how I justified selfishly refusing my little brother access to my toys. His vigorous style of play meant that his action figures saw much more “action” than mine did, and subsequently had fewer arms, legs, and heads than mine. I would snatch my figures off my brother and rather bare his tears and our mother’s wrath, than be forced to break the news to Darth Vader that his only Storm Trooper has no legs. My devotion to these figures even compelled me to sneak into my brothers room when he wasn’t around, and attempt to restore the victimized vehicles and figurines back to their original state to the best of my ability. I felt I owed it to them.

Right now these toys are at rest on my work desk. G.I. Joes, Cobras, several different incarnations of DC and Marvel heroes and villains, a host of other miscellaneous robots, aliens, Star Wars figures figures and vehicles all sit amongst each other. Over the course of more than two decades, old rivalries and allegiances have been forgotten. Lego pirates sail peacefully on a bright sea of costumed heroes, without fear of the 12” giants or well-armed 2” spacemen that they pass. Their stories have faded along with the desire that I once felt for all of them. Now they sit in my room like an unwanted lover; full of memories but devoid of passion. There is not much left for us to give each other now, except maybe some freedom.

Over this last week I have been sorting, repairing, and photographing my old plastic friends. Some will help pay off my student loans via Craigslist, FaceBook, eBay etc; others will find themselves in the hands of kids who had less than I did as a child. I have been surprised to find that in doing so an old hobby of mine has revived and evolved: Fixing old toys, and creating new ones!

Repairing toys is something I have long done, but now I have more sophisticated means of doing so. Creating toys though is something I had ever only done once before. It was for my little brother. I took one of my favourite G.I.Joes (he was one of the six lost in that alien world I mentioned above) and through hours of sculpting, sanding, carving, gluing, painting, and packaging, I created an action figure OF my own little brother. The figure wore my brothers very own high school basket ball uniform, and even came with accessories (only figure stand and basket ball…I wasn’t feeling generous enough to sacrifice one of my bazookas). It even had its own packaging with his photo, a biography, and his own signature in gold ink. It has been kind of hard for me to top that gift ever since (owing partly to the fact that I can be a real jerk), but he still brings it out to show his friends to this day. I can tell from the packaging that he took it out to play with at least once, but I don’t mind. In fact, I’m looking forward to the day when I can sneak back into his room to fix it for him.

In letting go of my old toys, I could pretend that I’m letting go of my desires and bringing myself a step closer to satori, but the reality is that I am probably just trading old desires for new ones. That being the case…

Feel free to contact me in you are interested in participating in my desires, old or new! Below is a link to my facebook toy galleries, and my contact information.

If you want to buy something, or if you have old G.I. Joes or other toys that you are willing to part with, give me a shout at: philipgurney[@]gmail.com. And may Buddha bless you!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


When I'm not making a fool of myself online or in the streets, I can be seen making a fool of myself in the dojo where I get my ass handed to me by kohai and senpai alike!

Located on the campus grounds of the University of British Columbia, nestled amongst the trees, text-books and drunken co-eds, is the UBC Rec Centre: home to a myriad of fitness and wellness progams, inluding martial arts. It is here where the UBC Classical Jujutsu Club studies Takeuchi-ryu jujutsu under the auspices of the Shofukan dojo.

The Shofukan is a special place. Yes, partly because I am there, but more so because of its affiliation with the Bitchu-den lineage of Takeuchi-ryu: a classical system of jujutsu from Japan founded by Takeuchi Hisamori in the early 16th century. After reading the not-so-great Wikipedia article on Takeuchi-ryu, you will learn something of its history and curriculum, but what you won't learn is just how damn difficult it can be to find a place to study it! That makes the Shofukan a very special place indeed for anybody who has an interest in Takeuchi-ryu or Koryu in general (Koryu being a term used to describe Classical Japanese Martial Arts whose origins pre-date the Meiji Restoration). It is therefore my pleasure to present to you in my first post, the link to the Vancouver Shofukan's new web page at: http://www.shofukan.ca/

Please check out the website. Inside you will find some rudimentary information on our dojo; links to other Bitchu-den Takeuchi-ryu dojos around the world; and links to some great resources that you can use to start or further your interest in Koryu. Enjoy!

Yours in Budo,

Philip Gurney