Sunday, April 9, 2006 - 9:23 AM

Eric Clastic slowly walked down the busy street of Los Angeles. His head hung low and hands neatly tucked into his somewhat loose jeans. He had just won the EPW Deathmatch Title not even two weeks ago and already it was on the line. Ready to be taken by the likes of some unworthy competitor. Eric had worked hard for this and he didn't want to lose it. This title made Eric feel different. More respected, perhaps. He wasn't quite sure. All he knew is that he liked the feeling and didn't ever want it to end. The words of the ring announcer still echoed in his head.

HERE IS YOUR WINNER AND DEATHMATCH CHAMPIONNNNNNNN ERIC CLASTIC!

The memory puts a small smile on Eric's face, though it quickly fades as he ponders his past. Maybe this title was just luck? With five losses under your belt, it's hard to feel too confident of anything. And yet, at the same time, it tells you something about yourself. If you can go out there, week after week, and lose nearly every time, but still find it somewhere in your heart to win a match, you've accomplished something many people can't. Eric tried to stay positive with this mind set but his attempts were useless as it only led to him remembering the losses.

Eric came to a halt as he approached the corner of the street. He awaited the walk signal. It finally flashed on and Eric made his way across the street. As he neared the end of the road, an impatient car honked its horn at him. Eric ignored the yelling woman that sat in her car and continued off the road. The car screeched around the corner, still honking. Eric laughed to himself.

He continued down the sidewalk until something on the ground caught his attention.

"Spare some change?" an old, dark man in rugged clothes leaned peacefully against the building wall.

Eric stopped and looked at the poor man. "Excuse me?"

"Would you be kind enough to spare some change, sir?" the man repeated, smiling.

Eric was a bit surprised to see the man smiling. He searched through his pockets and pulled out a five dollar bill. "Sorry, I don't have any change."

"Sorry to be a bother, sir." the man, still smiling, nodded.

Eric thought for a moment. This man needed the money more than he did. "Here." Eric handed the man the five dollar bill. His smile widened as he took the money from Eric's clutches. Eric paused, unsure of what to do. But he continued their conversation. "Can I ask you something?"

"Go right ahead."

Eric wasn't sure if he should ask this, but decided it would be best if he did. Hopefully the man would understand. "You don't have a home or food, and yet you are still so happy? Why is that?"

The man didn't reply.

"I'm sorry. I — I'll just be on my way." Eric was embarrassed and began walking away, before he was called back by the man.

The old man spoke. "Wait. I'll tell you why I'm so happy. You see the birds? The trees? Life? I stand here all day watching it all. The birds as the frolic and play. The trees as they sway in the breeze. People heading for their destinations. Everyday is a new adventure to me. Sure, I can't afford a place to live or food to eat whenever I get hungry, but I don't need those things. I live life the best I can. If God intended for me to have a home, I would. But this is what I was given and I'll make the best of it."

Eric smiled. "Thank you so much, Mr. ...?"

"Jeff. And you are?"

"Eric Clastic."

The two shook hands and Eric made his way down the street again. Now, feeling more enlightened. If someone like Jeff could be so happy all the time, so could he. Suddenly, Eric began appreciating the things he had taken for granted lately. His home. His money. And especially his career in EPW. Jeff had taught Eric something noone else had ever been able to teach him. Eric turned around, wanting to speak with his new acquaintance some more. But Jeff was gone. Eric didn't understand. Jeff had made it clear he never left that spot, so why had he left now?

"How strange..." Eric said quietly. He turned back around and continued his walk down the street. As he was walking by a building, an older man of Asian decent appeared through the doorway.

"Eric Clastic?" the man said, with a strong accent. "Could it be?"

Eric stopped and looked at the man. He nodded.

"Oh my!" the old man seemed excited and stuck out his hand. Eric was hesitant at first but thought it would be better to go along with the man's gesture. The mere touch of Eric's hand made the man jump with delight.

"I Master Rukijo. Would you like come in?"

"Actually, I'm quite busy at the moment. Maybe some other time."

"Why you lie to me? Please. I know teachings beyond your knowledge. In! In!"

The man was persistent. Eric wasn't quite sure whether or not he should go in. But maybe this man could help him. "What kind of teachings?" Eric asked.

"I help you win. Matches! Win matches! I know secret. You must know now. Now!"

What an odd man, Eric thought. Is this guy for real? Or was Eric just imagining things again?

"In!" the old man quickly made his way into the room. Eric followed, still wondering what exactly was going on. Inside the building was empty. The walls were nothing but white and the floor was concrete, with only two small cushions that lay next to one another. The old man took a seat on one of the cushions and motioned for Eric to follow. Eric slowly walked over to the cushion and sat cross-legged. The two stared into one another's eyes. Neither speaking.

"So..." Eric broke the silence.

"Silence!" the man yelled at him. Eric was startled. He opened his mouth to speak but decided against it and stayed silent. The old man slowly closed his eyes. Taking long, deep breathes in through his nose and slowly exhaling through his lips, he spread his hands across his head. Eric watched intently. Studying the man. Trying to understand what was going on.

"What did —"

"Silence!" the old man yelled again, relinquishing his hands from his head and opening his eyes. He glared angrily at Eric, who winced in fear. "My name Master Rukijo. You want know secret?" the man seemed to be answering Eric's questions without him even asking. "First. Tell me what you believe takes to be good wrestler."

"Uh..." Eric thought to himself. What did make a good wrestler?

"Quickly." Master Rukijo snapped. This was a scary man and for someone who was just seemingly meditating, had very little patience.

"I believe, to be a good wrestler, you have to have skill, commitment, and strength." Eric answered.

"Bah! Wrong! Try again." Master Rukijo barked.

"Did I forget speed?" Eric wondered.

"No. You not understand. Wrestling nothing to do with strength or speed or commitment or skill. Wisdom." The man's words instantly brought Eric to a state of confusion.

"Wisdom?"

"Yes. Yes. Wisdom!" the man was excited.

Eric was confused. This man was making little sense. What did wisdom have to with wrestling? Knowing the capital of Kentucky wouldn't help you win a match. Suddenly, Master Rukijo raised his hand and slapped Eric on the side of his head. Eric was too startled to speak. His mouth simply hung open. Master Rukijo then placed his hand on the bottom of Eric's chin and slowly raised it back into place.

"Wisdom not knowledge." Master Rukijo said aloud.

Now Eric really didn't understand. Master Rukijo simply raised his finger in the air, signaling to wait. Eric listened. The old man placed his hands behind his back. "How many fingers I have up?"

Eric's left eyebrow raised high into his forehead. "How the hell should I know?"

"Answer question!" Master Rukijo was definitely an impatient fellow.

Eric quickly pondered what to say. A guess would be the most logical answer. "Eight?"

Master Rukijo seemed to grow angrier. "No! Again!"

Eric laughed to himself, realizing how pointless this little game was. "Three?"

"No! Again!"

Eric sighed. "This is ridiculous. This is the secret to wrestling? It doesn't even make sense. You're a joke. Look, if you want an autograph, I'll go get a pen and paper and sign it for you. Stop wasting my time. Please."

Master Rukijo lowered his head and frowned. He began talking aloud to himself, leaving Eric in complete confusion. "Maybe he will never understand. I try. And I try. But nothing. Some people will never understand my teachings."

"Look, just tell me this: Do you seriously believe this method works?"

Master Rukijo cheered up a bit. He raised his head and stared deeply into Eric's eyes. "Yes. Of course. Now, teachings very slow. But they become much harder. I tell what, go home, think about this, and if want, come back tomorrow. Ten o'clock sharp!"

Eric agreed and excused himself from the cushion. He expected Master Rukijo to do the same, but Rukijo simply closed his eyes, and placed his hands on his head. He was silent. Eric laughed silently before heading out of the building.

Eric returned home. His safe haven. He took a seat on the large, blue sofa. All was quiet in the house. Not a creature was stirring. Not even a mouse. The only sound that could be heard was the refrigerator keeping the products inside cool. Eric liked his humble abode. It allowed for great concentration and focus. And that was exactly what Eric needed right now. Thoughts of Master Rukijo raced through his mind. The man was crazy and yet, Eric felt a sort of connection to him. It could be that they were both crazy, but it seemed to go beyond that. This man knew what he was talking about and Eric wanted to learn more.

Monday, April 10, 2006 - 10:03 AM

Eric was nearing the building of Master Rukijo. He could make out a thin, frail looking figure standing outside. Master Rukijo. As Eric came closer, he could make out the face of Master Rukijo, who seemed angry. Eric was confused.

"What you doing?" Master Rukijo yelled as Eric came to halt in front of him. Eric looked at him strangely. "You late! Late!"

Eric backed up a little. "I — I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was so late."

Master Rukijo sighed. "Well... no matter. In! In!" he demanded. Eric had no choice and followed.

The room was nearly identical to yesterday. The plain white walls, cushions on the floor. But now, a chest was located in the corner of the room. It was a large chest plated with gold and silver streaks. A large, metal lock was clasped around the handle where one would open it at. Master Rukijo seated himself on one cushion. Eric on the other.

"Do not worry about chest. Focus on me, now." Master Rukijo spoke. Eric turned his attention towards his master. "You have returned for reason. You want learn wisdom. But I must warn you, this not simply guessing. It knowing without actually knowing. Let us try again." Master Rukijo placed his hands behind his back again. "How many fingers?"

Eric still didn't understand what this had to with wisdom. And what the hell did knowing without actually knowing mean? But Eric had learned not to stall with Master Rukijo and quickly answered with the first number that came to mind. "Two."

Master Rukijo smiled, and then laughed. "Yes! Yes!" Rukijo brought back his hands and tapped Eric on the head. "You are learning quickly, young one."

Eric didn't understand and he was going to make it known. "I don't understand. All I did was guess."

"No!" Master Rukijo seemed disappointed with his pupil. "You not guess. You know! You followed heart and that is wisdom."

"But you said wisdom was knowing without actually knowing."

"It is." Master Rukijo answered. "You know in heart answer, but brain is still confused. Take love example. When follow heart, great relationship. When follow mind, bad relationship. Lying, cheating, stealing. Now, another test."

Eric watched as Master Rukijo rose to his feet and headed to the chest in the corner. He swept his hand over the lock. It unlatched and fell to the floor. Eric's jaw dropped in amazement. Master Rukijo opened the trunk. Eric raised his head and tried to see inside, but it was useless. The chest was too tall. The man leaned into the chest and dug around for a few moments before returned to his cushion. Master Rukijo had three paper cups and a red, rubber ball. Placing the three cups in a row between himself and Eric, he lifted the middle one and placed the ball underneath it.

"Now," Master Rukijo spoke. "Which cup is ball under?" Master Rukijo placed his hands on his knees.

Eric didn't understand. "Are you serious?" Master Rukijo simply nodded. "Well, the middle one of course. I just watched you put it there."

"You are using brain again, Eric. Not heart. You must learn to use heart." Master Rukijo lifted the middle cup, revealing nothing but air. Eric was astonished. He put the cup back down. "Now, try again."

"How — How did you do that?" Master Rukijo didn't answer. "Um... okay. This one — no, wait! This one." Eric said confidently.

Master Rukijo lowered his head in disappointment. "You are not following heart." he lightly poked Eric in the chest. "You must follow heart. Now, try again."

"I'm sorry. I really want to learn this, but I'm just not getting it. Maybe you could teach me how to do it?"

"No." Master Rukijo shook his head. "That not how it works. You must teach self. Only way to learn wisdom through practice. Some learn quicker than others. We will practice more. Now, again." he pointed to the cups on the floor.

Eric didn't think. He blurted out the first thing he thought. "None." Master Rukijo looked at him strangely. "None of the cups have the red ball under them."

"Why you say that, Eric?" Master Rukijo questioned happily.

"I don't know... exactly." explained Eric. "But I realized my heart couldn't decide which cup the ball was underneath. So, I figured that the ball wasn't underneath any of them. I'm right, aren't I? I figured out wisdom, didn't I?" Eric was excited.

"Good job, Eric." Master Rukijo congratulated him calmly. "You are learning quickly."

The two continued with these odd tests for nearly the next two hours. Things such as what weighed more, which was bigger, and which contained more. At one point during the training, Master Rukijo led Eric outside, where they studied the birds that flew by, the people that walked into stores, and the trees that swayed in the wind. He would ask Eric questions about them and Eric would try to answer. Though usually wrong, he did come to a correct answer occasionally. With every test, Eric's wisdom grew. Slowly but surely, he was learning. Learning the teachings of wisdom. Finally, Master Rukijo brought Eric back inside and ended the training.

"You have done well today, Eric." Master Rukijo smiled. "I have never seen a student learn with such speed you have. Come back tomorrow. Ten o'clock sharp." Eric smiled and thanked his master before leaving the building and traveling home.

This training made Eric feel great. Like he could accomplish things no one else could. Even though the training seemed easy, it was very treacherous and Eric was tired. At home, he napped on the sofa.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - 10:00 AM

Eric arrived at the building right on time. But something was different. Master Rukijo wasn't there? Eric peered through the window plated door. Nothing except the two cushions and the chest in the corner. He slowly walked in.

"Master Rukijo?" he questioned. "Are you in here?" Nothing. Eric didn't understand. Why wouldn't Master Rukijo be here? He's the one that told Eric to come in the first place! Eric rubbed his chin in thought and continued farther into the room. He wasn't sure what to do, but decided to take a seat on his cushion. Suddenly, the door slammed shut.

Eric was startled to see Master Rukijo standing at the door, looking upset. "You have failed first test of today." Eric was confused. "The first day you saw me, was I not outside?" Eric nodded. "The second day, I was outside, was I not?" Eric nodded. "So why was I not outside today?"

"I don't know." Eric responded.

"Your heart told you not come in." Master Rukijo began, taking a seat on his cushion. "But you followed mind. Curiosity. Confusion. When I was not outside, you should have known not come in."

"I'm sorry."

Master Rukijo exhaled a long, deep sigh. "Oh, do not worry. You still learning. Come, we train!" Master Rukijo laughed, easing Eric's mind just a bit.

As Master Rukijo said, they began training. They repeated things they had done the day before, as well as introducing others. The training lasted over two hours this time. Until finally, Eric cut the training short. He placed his hand on his chest and breathed in slowly.

"Master Rukijo," Eric said painfully. "I have some kind of pain in my chest. I'm sorry."

"Yes, yes." Master Rukijo said unsurprised. "Wisdom is lot of strain on heart. I understand. It will take time to get used to. We end training for today. Take tomorrow off. You have match Thursday and need to be full health. I expect to see you Friday. Ten o'clock sharp."

The pain was becoming sharper and Eric was beginning to sweat. Master Rukijo swept his hand over Eric's chest. The pain instantly disappeared. "Thanks," Eric smiled. "I'll be on my way now." Master Rukijo nodded as Eric left the building.

"That is one crazy man." Eric laughed to himself as the doors shut. Master Rukijo smiled strangely as Eric disappeared from sight, his left eye slightly twitching.