Sunday, December 03, 2006

Here's a post probably a bit more relevant to what I am going through right now.
I encountered one of those "speed bumps" on a very deep personal level, had a huge enough glitch to make me Pay Attention, and got down to work on my own personal issues of rage and rebellion.
I did the work of paring away distractions, I did the work of finding a way to Listen, and am doing the work of making myself, somehow, a simpler, easier person to be. I have too much to do, to continue to be so high-maintenance for my own self. My work has become larger than I am, and I am my work. This is something my Rolfing teacher Harvey Burns said: "I am the work". I kind of get that. I have to be the work, to do the work. I have to stay active in my own process. I have to manage it, and keep it going. I have to model what I hope to give others a step into.

In so many ways, budo is where it all started for me. Here's an early window:

I'm sure the question in everyone's mind is:
What is different for you now that you are not training in aikido? I trained in aikido from 1989, starting with Joe Birdsong of MAF under Akira Tohei. Joe's first teacher was Tri Thong Dang, whom I believe trained under Ueshiba and under Koichi Tohei. I might well be wrong about that... In any case, Joe is a good teacher and a great dancer.

I had to take three years off due to financial and personal reasons, but I was miserable when I stopped, as if someone had taken away my source of sanity.
I began again under someone who had beaten me badly in a kenjutsu fencing match with old-fashioned bamboo fukuro shinai, a man I knew would teach me what he knew of the sword, and originally it was the sword I loved. Jim P introduced me to several other teachers, from Stephen McA to Brendan H. In about 6 years I ended up a shodan assistant instructor under Brendan (nidan in aikido and godan in judo) in Round Rock at Mr. Matl's dojo. Lots of other folks worked out there, but Mr. Matl was Brendan's sensei and therefore mine. He gave me much in our time there, and I will not forget. I learned to love and respect judo there.
Brendan, poor determined Brendan, tried so hard to forge me with his own hands. He gave me moments of truth that devastated and remade me. I would drive home crying my eyes out and not knowing why. Frustration, perhaps, or joy. No telling, at 11 pm.
After I joined the Aikido list in 1998, I began to cross train even more. I met students of Nishio Sensei through my "brother" Kregg and met people like George Simcox, Rocky Izumi, Chuck Clark, Philip Akin, Chuck Gordon, Alan Drysdale, Hiroshi Ikeda, and so many others. I have taken ukemi from all of these folks.
Tragically, very little from Shoji Nishio but quite frankly at the time I wasn't up to it. I have also trained with Seagal's student Larry Reynosa. I did not like his style, granted, I allow generously for differences.. looking back it was very Shin Shin Toitsu with a generous touch of Dillman and Kali.
Standing where I am now, I might have liked it better, but I was very committed to what I understood as softness at the time.
I have trained with Don Angier at one seminar, and with his students, who are wonderful folks, especially Kurt Von Quintus and the Dallas Yanagi Ryu fellows.
Granted, this is all a fairly shallow experience. But what does one spend a lifetime learning? I have trained in Wing Tsun, gaining my first level with Sifu Jeff Webb in Austin, and in "garage" kenjutsu and kickboxing with my buddy Dan A. Dan, you still out there doing a job you love?

I have done judo with the current national champion of his age group (being trashed joyfully and gently by Matl Sensei is one of my most treasured memories -- "so you want learn newaza?" mash, smoosh, wad...).
I trained a little with the gentleman who owns Tai Chi People in Austin, a remarkable person, also a healer. He is the one who told me "killer is healer. You need a knife in the battlefield AND in the kitchen".
All of this should serve only to tell you where I've been. And it doesn't matter. I have faced the spectre of the lack of women teachers and gotten over it. Men are teaching. They can be good people. The responsibility is on me to be brave and make it mine.
So what the hell am I doing NOW? it is a composite of jujutsu (aikido is jujutsu. It is. completely.. or you are getting an incomplete version) kempo, weapons and strategy.

Chuck calls it Kokoro Ryu. When his teacher Richard Gordon was trying to describe to Fumio Demura what he did, and where it came from, he pointed to his heart and said "I just do what's in here" and Demura said "Aaah, Kokoro Ryu". I understand that some enterprising person has taken that name as a trademark, however, I don't think they had Demura's blessing.. (smiling) It's hard to know exactly where the art comes from, but it is simple, elegant, deep and undeniably effective. During his military service, Richard Gordon trained under a variety of individuals including Koichi Tohei and Gozo Shioda as well as some undeniably old school jujutsuka and swordsmen. We may never find out the whole list,
I don't know how much he remembers. Chuck is constantly researching and backtracking to find his roots. I am a tadpole wanting to be a bird, yet again. I am humiliated, frustrated, terrified and fascinated. It is like my early days in aikido all over again, from the butterflies at the beginning of class to the pounding frustration of trying to throw powerful giants like Martin, flexible wires like Monica, sandbags like Tim and Bob, and the implacable ferocity of my teacher Chuck Gordon. I learned to enjoy my fists in Wing Tsun, and I do not give them up here. We HIT each other, with fists and weapons. We become astonished at what we can take, and are eminently careful with one another in it. Bruises are inevitable, but they are in aikido training too. You just aren't warned of it. Broken limbs have not happened, and I know they do in aikido and in life in general.We are careful, gentle, intimate. The class is too small for anyone to have a Persona as happens in large groups. We know each other too well. Occasionally I'll GET a throw and Martin will step up to take incredible ukemi repeatedly. Occasionally one of the others will Get It. Tim is one of the best at that, he's been with Chuck the longest and really and truly threw me once. Once I figured out I was still alive it was really cool. But I said a Very Bad Word on the way over. Quite involuntarily.
It is more intense than any aikido I've ever done. It is more complete in terms of using fists and feet and assorted weapons. It is terrifying and my teacher pushes me harder in the most terrible places. The fact that he is also my mate may enter into that somewhat, on the mat we are teacher and student and I love him and hate him with the rest of the class.I often wonder, gee, is that where that came from? in terms of what we get now in judo and aikido. Nikajo was never this painful. Kote Mawashi, a pain by any other name...

Aikido by and large has been gentled to help the masses, and believe me I don't have a problem with that. Whatever will help people reach beyond themselves is fine with me. It is so desperately needed. If aikido fills a person's needs, that's wonderful! not everyone needs to go to quite the masochistic means I have. Not everyone is into this deep personal adventure.
Unlike others who have left aikido in anger, I have left it in a more positive light. I am simply an adventurer. I may still teach something I call aikido, but only in that I believe that peace is best held from the high ground.
Ueshiba did beautiful things.. those who believe that any one of his students holds the whole picture has an unclear notion of the human mind. I have striven to follow a path more similar to Old Mori, in that I have explored and tried many things. I may never serve my country militarily, nor will I found a new religion, but I will follow my Path. Right now I am involved in a deep and brilliant history lesson, one I will pass on to whomever I teach, one I am striving to embrace with all of my being.

(Dec 2006)
Now, as the assistant instructor in a tiny club on a military installation, my training has an immediacy and a depth most people only daydream of. Our senior student is no longer in security, but he still has that focus and earnestness. We try very hard to pay attention and challenge each other. He is so giving, and forgiving, I couldn't ask for a better whetstone. I hope I can do the same for him.
Chuck remains one of the more difficult sensei I have ever faced. Not because of our personal relationship so much, I keep that pretty strictly limited to keeping him functional. His teaching style is very much demonstration, not explanation, which is strange for a man of so many skilled words. In a way, this works, because words cannot convey this stuff. In a way, it's harder, because we are both so wordy, and it's like cutting off an entire sense, and growing a new one, to learn this language called budo.
My personal evolution here, lately, has been deep and wide, in feeling if not in result.
Once again, the words fail... but as the bodywork has freed me, I am so free, just to train.
It doesn't hurt to fall, I can stand up and sit down (seiza is not hurting) I can move pretty freely, the pops and clicks are mostly just sound effects, the left wrist still needs bracing but I can offer it from time to time.
These things are all huge, in this training microcosm.

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