I know I was (ok, ok *am*) a cocky and mouthy little fuck back in the day. But at least I didn’t go to classes for a combat martial art and lip off to the biggest guy in the class, whom I’ve never met, and who’s belt is definitely darker than my pure-white-as-the-driven-snow one. At least I didn’t ignore the rules of the dojo and keep wearing my stinky hippy necklace that my fourth-grade girlfriend gave me back in the day, because I figured that it a) might get broken; b) might make a good handle if it doesn’t break; c) is against the rules of the dojo.
It seems someone is just begging for a beatdown, and I’m just the guy to give it to him, but I’m going to have to wait for a little while. I want to regain my control and finesse a little before I lay into him seeing as how I don’t want to actually do any (lasting) damage; just open his eyes and his mind. And besides, the later in the semester this happens, the closer we’ll get to free sparring.
Regardless of what my mom well tell you, I think providing this service is going to increase my positive karma. This kid is so similar to how I was, it’s almost like going back in time to give myself a lesson.
We (all six of us) went for a walk down the road this morning. Bub had a nice sled ride, the dogs got to see something that isn’t the yard, and we generally had a good time.
‘Bout half a mile down the road, at the neighbors’ driveway, I slipped on some glare ice and went down just like that. *Whump!*
However, in the space of “Whump!,” things slowed down a little and I managed to do a two-sided break-fall! I’m totally stoked about it because it means my training and practice is starting to become internalized and automatic.
Unfortunately, it was a two-sided break fall because as I was falling on my left side, there was some of me under me, which rolled me over to the right, but not soon enough. Most of my left leg got twisted up beneath me, hurting my ankle and knee on that side. I gimped the half-mile home OK, but as I sit, things get a little tighter.
Proving the old “go out the back door” saw [ask Pete, if you don’t know it], I bought a big container of Aleve last night. 😉
Two weeks ago in taijutsu, I broke my bo (a sixish-foot staff) when blocking a strike from my training partner (not Pete, damnit ;-)). Monday night, I got a new staff of compassion (I’m thinking of naming this one Betty, but I haven’t decided yet). It’s made of white oak so it’s not going to break when I’m blocking an attack. It might break when I whack someone, if I hit them hard enough.
So maybe I’ve decided to keep going with taijutsu.
OK. That’s easy enough to say.
The hard part is the doing. Oh, it’s easy enough to go to class twice a week for a few hours each time. It’s even a relatively simple thing simple thing for me to go to Minneapolis for a weekend seminar in October (Guess what, honey? Surprise!).
The hard part is the same damn thing that’s always been the hard part for me whether it’s music or writing or smack laying: practice. I’m at the point with taijutsu where if I want to get better at a non-glacial pace, I need to practice. I can’t just sit back and rely on my natural talent like I do with music. I can’t coast on the skills other people have installed in me like I do with writing.
I need to get off my ass and run and jump and be stealthy and hit a heavy bag and get hit by someone else and swing a sword around and get the hell out of the way and study tactics and meditate and eat the right things and not only learn Japanese but go to Japan for a few personal tutor sessions with Hatsumi Sensi and pay attention to both Eastern and Western anatomy and learn biomechanics learn to shoot a long bow without aiming.
Oh, did I mention gardening? That’s actually the root of this whole martial tradition I’m studying, believe it or not. After all, it was a bunch of dirt-poor farmers who were just trying to grow food for their families and kept getting harassed by the elite classes who started the whole ninja thing. It was just a way to protect families and friends and villages from government-sanctioned maurading by heavily armed and armored and highly trained troops on horseback.
Ninjutsu, at its root, was also a small middle finger waved in the general direction of the emperor. That might be the part I like best. Hell, I can do that without practicing.
Note the question mark. That’s the important part. That’s the part that indicates, in some small way, the internal struggle I’m having with taijutsu.
I love the scrapping and the skill building and the mental and physical discipline of taijutsu. I love that I’m more powerful, more flexible, more graceful — mentally as well as physically — than I was before I started. I’m grateful for the cameraderie of the dojo and new friends I’ve made through this martial art.
The hard parts are the questions: Why am I there, at the dojo, in the first place? What am I trying to do? How do I measure myself?
I talked to Greg about this some last night after class. He said that he’s been there too, off and on throughout the time he’s spent working with martial arts. He said it’s no fun for him to have start over in class every seven weeks, and is trying to figure out another way to structure class at Northland.
At the beginning of class, before our parking lot chat, Greg talked about the idea of dojo, what it means and a little bit of where it comes from. These are all things I’ve heard before, but for some reason, they were resonating at a deeper level with me. I found myself sitting in seiza, no treally paying attention to the words Greg was speaking so much as the feeling of them, finding them deep inside. Especially when he talked about Hatsumi Sensei telling everyone in the school to “keep going.”
I think that personal experience was an indicator that I need to keep on keeping on, at least for a little while.
Pete kindly reminded me last night at taijutsu (and again this evening) that I needed to come clean about my first (Sally-ass, so he says) injury at the workplace. Last Wednesday was a pretty decent day until I was up in the extension (as in UW) office working on a computer. I was sitting in an office chair and I turned around to get something off the desk next to me and something in my knee went “ting.”
You laugh. I heard it. It was definitely a “ting.” Unless maybe it was a “thwup.”
Anyway, I figured, hey, I’m young, this is no big deal. I’ll just stay in the chair until I’m done with the computer, then I’ll get up and walk it off. Hardly even worth commenting on. Until I tried to walk down the stairs.
I gimped my way down to the cave, plopped down in my chair, and called Pete.
“Uh, yeah, man, I’m not going to make it to class tonight. I hurt my knee. In an… office chair accident.”
There was just laughter on the other end of the line.
“Yeah… I was even sitting at the time.”
I had to hold the phone away from my ear.
But at least I had a good excuse for not showing up. At least I didn’t fall asleep on the couch.
Sorry, Jonus. We’ll be there next time; two of the seven dwarves: Gimpy and Yawny.
Last night, it was almost everything I could do to drag myself to taijutsu. I was tired, hungry, not particularly into it… I had a whole litany of excuses for why I didn’t want to go. But I ignored myself, hauled my butt off the couch and to the dojo, and am I glad I did!
We worked on some new ukemi (injury-preventing techniques) ideas, then tried applying the kione hapo in a situation where we want to protect someone else. That morphed into numbers fighting strategies (think two on one or three on one) and practice. We ended with projecting our ki/intent to a partner like this: I stood in shizen (a standing kamaie) with someone behind me with a shinai (bamboo training sword) or a padded boken. They were supposed to focus their intent, give a kiai (the stereotypical martial arts “yell”), and swing for me. I was supposed to pick up their intent, move with it and get out of the way of their strike. It was super cool to just *know* when and where to move.
Now, to practice that sort of openess during the rest of the day…
Apparently, I had an exceptionally good strike on Pete’s foot this past Monday. Or maybe it was lucky, though I doubt Pete will agree.
Anywho, we were working on a little free-form project and he was doing a lot of standing on my foot. Well, I couldn’t have that, so I decided to go for his foot. That was a great idea. Except that he was going for my foot at the same time.
You see where this is headed, right?
Yeah, so he was faster, but I was higher, and we were both going pretty hard. I managed to bend his toes pretty much backward over the top of his feet. After picking himself up and hobling to the bathroom for some water and a little swearing (I’m reasonably certain), he headed home to do some icing.
I just talked to him at luch time today and he’s going for a doctor’s visit tomorrow because he thinks there’s a good chance he broke a couple toes.
So I feel like a toe-breaking schmuck. *Sigh* Maybe I won’t pound him quite as hard tonight…