The post that plunged me into full scale writer's block. This is going to involve parts of my childhood which weren't necessarily pleasant, hence the reason I have been finding any and all reasons not to post on it. Its a good thing I told people it was coming, otherwise I'd duck it today too. The story starts from waay before I ever began seriously training. I could skip ahead, but then you'd be missing a large chunk of the story and the stuff in my head I'm trying to flush out, which is one of the purposes of this blog.
This story starts with me entering junior secondary school (junior high for the Americans). I skipped two classes in primary school so I was probably one of the smallest kids in an incoming class of about 300 people, and I was one of the smarter kids too, which really didn't help things. Suffice it to say that bu the time my three years were up, I had learned how to run, take a punch and keep my mouth shut. By the time I left I had made enough bigger friends so people left me alone. I had also learned a very important lesson. It doesn't matter if you are the more rational or the one with better ideas if the other guy can still just beat you up. Pacifism is nice but it only works if everyone does it. In the real world, some people choose to be predators and unless you have the means to fight them off, you always run the risk of being prey. Therefore, for me, one of the purposes of all my MA training has always been effectiveness.
From junior high I tested into a fairly exclusive private secondary school. Switching educational systems dropped me back a year so I was closer in age to my peers, though still the youngest. Since puberty kicked in late for me, I was still one of the smaller people and still one of the smarter ones, so the cycle repeated itself. At that point I was also really physically and socially awkward. I barely had enough confidence to look anyone in the face, which didn't help matters any. Things got better, I found friends. learned how to avoid most of those who didn't like me and just blend in. Puberty hit, I shot up a couple of inches and got tired of being a target. I started reading every thing I could on martial arts and exercising like crazy. In my last year there, one of my tormentors caught me on a bad day, I lost it and slammed him into a concrete post. Not particularly something I'm proud of, but it got me some peace once people realized I was strong enough to fight back. I got tested a couple of more times but generally people started to let me be.
The insecurity and anger from those days is something I still carry around these days. The reason I wanted to learn martial arts was partly some kind of Charles Atlas type fantasy of being able to confront my tormentors and beat the crap out of them. In my head I knew that was the wrong attitude to have but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a part of me wanted an excuse to be violent, preferably in defence of myself or someone else, so I wouldn't feel as weak or as frail. Somewhere inside me there's still a little kid scared of the bigger people around him and looking for a reason to lash out. In someways I've gotten past that need, in other ways I haven't.
So, what did I actually study? Well, in college it started with Aikido. I suspect one of the reasons I started there was my better nature looking for a less outwardly violent way to deal with my fears. Either that or Steven Segal movies. In the winter term of my freshman year I was signed up for two 2 hour classes a day, six days a week. Oberlin has a pretty old club that is affiliated with the Cleveland Aikikai, which was ironically founded by Oberlin alumni. That winter they were hosting a travelling sensei whose name I'm ashamed to say I can't remember. He was my first real teacher. His focus was heavily on basics. Hundreds of rolls and falls daily and long hours of randori where he stressed moving from your center, remaining mobile at all times and 'blending' with your opponents force. He was also pretty open to the use of atemi as set ups for throws and locks. It was long hours of fairly intense work and I loved it. After winter term he moved on and was replaced by a series of instructors from Cleveland or the school club. The quality of training fell quickly as the club became more and more accomodating of people who wanted to say they were doing aikido without actually doing any hard work. I pretty much left the club at this point. I continued to train with them on and off because I was friends with those in charge, but it got too 'nice' for me.
Part 2 of the story tomorrow kids, plus a special post on one of my favourite topics, Beer