When we left off, I had just given up on the Aikido club since it became the refuge of people who either wanted to play at being Japanese (asiaphiles, really sad people) or just wanted to sound cool by telling people they were learning Aikido. Both groups were experts at whining over the least bit of discomfort and so they gradually sucked out any semblance of hard training from the group so a bunch of us left.
It just so happened that around this time, a little group calling itself OMAI (Oberlin Martial Arts Initiative, horrible name I know) was looking for new members. It was more of a free sharing space where people from dozens of different backgrounds hung out, trained together and taught each other stuff. I'll call the two guys who ran the group poser and sifu. Poser was just that, the worst example of a martial arts poser I have ever met. Imagine someone who'd read hundreds of books and gone to a few seminars but had no real steady experience outside of a couple of barfights acting as though he was an expert and you'll have a good idea. Basically Mushtaq minus all his life experiences and everything else that makes him interesting. Sifu, on the other hand, is the real deal. When I met him, he was a black belt in American kempo, a senior student at a close by kajukenbo school and had years of misc. training in longfist and excrima(his mother's family is Filipino). As of now, He's a second dan in kenpo, first in kajukenbo, a BJJ blue belt and just opened up a school in a suburb outside New Your City. I apparently have free sparring priviledges any time I want to pass by.
Among the people who trained there were the aikido refugees, refugees from the karate club and people with backgrounds in japanese and brazillian jujitsu, hung gar, tai chi, wing chin, jkd concepts, hapkido and muay thai. We worked lots of basics, learned some forms and spent a air amount of time sparring under several different rulesets. Everything from grappling to sticks to rubber knives to clinch work. It was hard and sometimes brutal but great fun. Eventually we got rid of poser and the club lost a couple of less motivated people, which was fine with the rest of us. I stuck with them for the rest of my college years. Some people came and went but it remained a pretty solid group where i learned a lot. In that time, we had a fairly well known capoiera teacher come through and then a brazillian foreign exchange student who had been training since childhood so I took the opportunity to pick up a decent amount of both capoera regional and angola. I plan to get back to it some day.
After college I was inactive for a while then I moved to NJ to live with my brother, look for a job and decide what I wanted to do with my life. There, by a weird turn of events I ended up studying dachengquan, northern mantis and hsing-yi with the teacher I am currently returning to. His main focus was on breath and alignment so we spent hours in standing and moving meditation. In his opinion, what separated styles were differences in 'flavor' and combat philosophy. The ability to remain calm, maintain proper alignment and generate power through intergrating breath and movement was the true skill to aim for regardless of the style you practiced. His methods seemed to work for me, so I see no reason not to stick to them for now.
Anyway, I ended up going back to Cleveland for a year during which time all sorts of weird stuff happened in the family and I hit a brick wall with regards to training and school. Now I'm slowly getting back into the game. As far as objectives go, I want to learn as much as I can and get better control of my body and mind. Plus I really want to get in more competition practice while I'm still young enough so getting banged up is not an issue. Now that Mushtaq is relatively close, I might drive or take the train up that way sometime so he can toss me around a little. I'm also paying close attention so Scott Sonnon's work since people I hold in high regard hold him in high regard.
I'll probably talk about specific training in my fitness post coming sometime this week.