The last weekend with Quintin Chambers and the little jodo group here, served as a thoroughgoing wakeup call for my own practice. Crossing sticks with someone nearly twice my age and feeling that authenticity, that gleeful combative edge from QC, was a reality check most of us never have the opportunity to get slapped with. I understand why his students hold him so dear.. because now I do, too.
Admittedly, I've been whining and grumbling and feeling sorry for myself. We started SMR Jodo at my own insistence, because it's been so hard for cg & I to create space to train in. He needs to train, just to keep moving, and I just need to train. My twice separated shoulder and the bulging disk in my neck can't take any more ukemi, but by damn, I'll not put down weapons training. Chuck has been leaning more towards weapons for years, more since the hip replacement, which has really slowed him down.
I didn't really understand what Jodo was about, I just knew it was something good, and what we had done with Peter was incredibly interesting. I didn't understand what Aikido was about, or Kokoro Ryu, or Rolfing for that matter, when I started. I've been coasting on that gut feeling that guides most primates, most of the time.
Like the eight-ball in the corner in the corner pocket, I've just gotten lucky, so many times.
QC asked me why, after having done so many things, I ended up in SMR Jodo.
It flashed through my mind that this was completely backwards, that I should be interviewing HIM.. but..
The reason was the same.
I wanted something I could do for the rest of my life. I like the depth and the variety of the art. I am more naturally a sword person, but there's room for that, and room to grow with other weapons.
I was exposed to a depth of humility, compassion, endless inquiry, passion and talent for teaching, integrity, elegance and simple, savage joy in combat, that just blew me away. And I got to speak conversational German, learn more about that and other languages, exchange puns, and just enjoy sharing with good people.
The first day I spent the morning dealing with a possible ovarian cyst rupture, and accompanying rolling around on the floor at 6am, and doctor visit just to be sure I was all right to practice. It was a bad morning, at least I didn't throw up on the poor cat, who was trying to comfort me.. all I cared about, was that I didn't have to hostess the weekend from a hospital bed.
Chuck got me a hot pack and in to a PA, who pronounced me sound after extensive palpation, discussion, and urine sample. Chuck dropped me off at home, and I finished my (delayed) hostess work, then walked to the Bernard Brown Center where we had rented a wonderful, cheap space for training. I was so pale and sweaty from that little stroll, that Dan S tactfully negotiated a "rest day" for me, not realizing that I wasn't leaving the room.. He kept asking if it was still OK for everyone to stay with us.. Dan is still getting to know me.. heaven help him. Brendan, please provide tech support. 8-)
For me, I'll stand up and show up, if my limbs work, and my nervous system will get me there.
By then, I was starving, which I took as a Good Sign, and got lunch with the group, but I still didn't dress out or attempt to train for the rest of the day, mostly because I was just still too shaky to trust my weapons control. I took a lot of pictures, some of which are quite good due to incredible lighting in the space, and I look forward to sharing them.
We got through the day, got everyone fed, settled, and back to the house. By then I was back to functional.
The morning came, and I got everyone out the door, showed up and dressed out. The weekend progressed pretty normally from there. We learned three new kata, and Joe and QC pushed us out of Seitei into Omote (basically, you're not raw beginners any more).
I'm still the P!nk of budo, I'll do anything I think I can get away with, and laugh my ass off trying.
I found a real kindred soul in QC, and he kicked my @ss, just bowing in.
He settles down slowly on that reconstructed knee, and bows in just like anyone else.
From that start point, my Bad Morning was a coffee spill.
The thing that QC does, with that infectious combat glee, is infuse practice with a real spark of life and death, a real awareness that what we are doing is lethal. QC's training smile is a dragon's grin.. you never forget it, or those eyes rimmed with the blue of time, fixed on you, with humor and perception.. what have you got, where are you going, how will you get there.. always thinking of the riai. Even when nothing else is going on, moving and thinking, all the time. QC is hyperkinetic even at seven plus decades of life. We should all be so vital, so lucky, so motivated.
"That's what we do, we attack the weapon"..
He talked about controlling the line of attack, as I have been taught by Chuck. The angle is not quite as suicidal, most of the time. Many times, I've wondered, how much of that was CG, and how much of that was what he was taught. The options are many, and this beginner's mind can only begin to comprehend.
I understand why Frank Gordon broke down, in private conversation with me, after training in the seminar with Sugano, after his first battle with cancer. he was just so glad to reach those levels of practice, again. I share it because he would want me to, to make my point. I wish we could have a moment like that again, in fact, I had hoped for it. I will always be sorry that we won't (Frank Gordon died of a blood clot after followup cancer surgery).
QC has given me clearer understanding, of the kind of intensity one can attain, despite physical infirmities, in one's practice.
In fact, QC, and Frank, have given me an ever clearer directive in terms of my training.
Ichi Go, Ichi E.
One life, one meeting.
I may never see you again, but I will never forget what I have learned from you.
I will also not wait, to find the sweetness, the intensity of survival, in my training.