I began studying the martial arts to learn how to defend myself, prior to moving to Toronto to attend college. As it turned out, I didn't go to college. Instead, I went to the University of Guelph. Writing about the reason for this seemed more fitting in my Dog Blog. I wrote about it in these two posts, Part 1 and Part 2.
I started midway through the academic year, and I drove back and forth from home every day. I continued my training in Ju-jitsu during that time and the following summer. From my second semester onward, I lived in Guelph.
I wanted to continue my martial arts training. Ju-jitsu was not offered as an extra-curricular activity on campus. I looked at what was offered, and Aikido seemed to be the most similar.
I was the newest member of the Aikido class. Classes were held on two nights during the week. Shortly after I joined, a guest sensei from Boston came to teach a Saturday morning seminar. He was an older Japanese man. A few of his black belt students were with him. One was a petite, Japanese woman, in her mid to late twenties.
When practicing with a partner, you rei (bow) to each other before and after your practice. You move your left leg beside your right, bring your hands to your sides, and bow from the waist. There's an unspoken level of trust in this. You each bow before the practice, to indicate you will do your best and will not intentionally hurt your partner. You bow after to show gratitude to each other.
I can't remember the specific technique being taught during the seminar. All I can remember is that when you applied it to your partner, he or she flew over your shoulder and landed on their back. I also don't remember my doing the technique. I think I was given the option of watching, given my lack of experience.
The guest sensei taught and demonstrated the technique. Next, one person was designated to apply the technique. Another person stood facing him or her. This was to be the attacker. The other students stood in a line behind the attacker, awaiting their turn.
The person at the head of the line would attack, and the recipient would use the technique to defend themselves. When done, the person attacking would get up and go to the back of the line. The next person would attack, and so on, until everyone in the line had attacked.
The person who had responded with the technique would then walk to the back of the line. The first person would then walk forward, turn to face the line, and prepare for the attack. This continued until everyone had the opportunity to stand at the front and execute the technique to each person in line.
The person now facing the front of the line was from our dojo. He was big and brawny. He did the technique with the first few men who played the attacker role. The next person at the front of the line was the Japanese woman. He responded to her approach with brute force. He slammed her hard onto the mat. Everyone knew he had done it intentionally.
The room was quiet as she quickly got up off the mat. She faced him, smiled sweetly, and bowed to him. I was impressed with her composure.
Eventually, it was her turn to face the line. I watched her closely. Her execution of the technique was flawless. It looked effortless. I realized she was the best student on the floor.
Big and brawny was now standing at the front of the line. His body language was tense. I knew he would do everything he could to make this difficult for her. He lunged towards her, using all his strength, and using his weight to increase his momentum. I held my breath, concerned for her.
I was surprised that a human body that size could be airborne at that height, and travel that distance. His body hit the ground half way across the dojo floor. It was not a graceful landing. It was a loud splat. He didn't move at first. I think he had the wind knocked out of him. Then, he turned and looked at her with a shocked expression on his face.
She waited until he picked himself up off the ground, and walked to stand in front of her. She smiled sweetly, and bowed to him. Then, she turned to face the next person in line. He was the only one she did that to.
Here are the lessons I learned from that seminar:
1) If you choose to behave like a jerk, you will always get your comeuppance. Sometimes sooner than you'd expected.
2) A visiting sensei usually brings his/her most advanced students. It's best to be polite and respectful to guests in your dojo.
3) Don't judge a book (or a petite Japanese woman) by its cover.
4) Proper technique is always more effective than physical strength. It requires the least effort.
I only stayed for one semester in that dojo. It wasn't a good fit for me. It was too different from what I'd known. I decided to look for another martial art.
Next week: Third Time's a Charm
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.