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RisenPhoenix Finds a Way to Harmonize his Energy


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So lets get the cool stuff out of the way first, so you guys can skip the rest of this hullaballo.
 
Hey guys, I went to Japan and did this:
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=IlVhKozokXE&app=desktop

 
A 90-second demonstration in front of the Doshu, and we were the only group from the US to participate.  And not only that, we managed to do a damned good demo (lining up not withstanding. DOH!) considering we had a group made up of people from Boston, Colorodo, California, and a guy from Hong Kong (who studied in Boston a while back).  And we, as a group, only really met the day before and practiced maybe half a dozen times together.  But it was amazing.  The floor looked so small where we were sitting (functional the second floor, but the first one with seating), but entering out into the space it felt absolutely cavernous.  The adrenaline rush I got was unbelievable.  Enough that two nearly back-to-back breakfalls didn’t feel like anything (and there was no warm up).  Just a great trip and I can’t wait to go back.
 
Quick over view of the highlights of the trip behind the spoiler because after writing them out I realized they aren’t so quick.
 


-Practicing at Hombu dojo for two classes with Doshu (and one with another instructor)
-Practicing at Aikido Kyoto with Okamoto-sensei (another 3 classes, she reminded me a lot of Sioux, and her not-quite uchi deschi were awesome).
-Practicing at Iwama!  Probably the highlight for me as it was such an adventure getting out there in the first place, but also because the class was so small and I was handed to someone to teach that I got the most out of it.  I definitely have things I learned from their style and dojo that I want to try and incorporate into my practice now.  Bonus points as I was told to come back. (If I could spare the time, money, and NOT having Company kill me, I'd so apply to be an uchi deschi for at least a few weeks.)
-Visiting many shrines, temples, and castles in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Kanazawa
-Eating ramen on Ramen Street in Tokyo station (seriously – they even have it named that way on the official direction maps)
-Every freaking garden.  EVERY ONE.  I wish I had a green thumb.  And my own yard.
-Every freaking meal.  FOOD IS SO GOOD.  Even if it would be Paleo-hell.  I don’t think I’ve consumed that many carbs in a long, long time.  Lots of rice, minimal meat, lots of noodles.  Decent amount of veggies, but I’m fairly certain I eat more.
-On the food note, being able to go into a 7-11 and grab onagiri (rice balls) that were both cheap, healthy, and taste amazing.  Bacon/Ham and egg rice ball?  Yes please.
-Also Green tea EVERYTHING.
-Visiting an Onsen (traditional Japanese inn, with public hot springs/baths.  More importantly – tatami mat floors and futon sleeping arrangements.)
-Aimless wandering which lead to crazy discoveries (like a museum with an exhibit called “Edo Dandyism” – more swords than Oscar Wilde would like, I imagine).
-Actually maintaining a journal with my thoughts and experiences.  I feel like this is a huge breakthrough for me, as I kind of learned that my writing for myself doesn’t require a connecting narrative between entries.  I ended up writing over fifty pages of chicken scratch in 2 weeks. O_O
-TWO “It’s a Small World” events:  meeting people who are from not only New England, but grew up in Rhode Island, which is where I grew up before moving to the Boston area.  Something surreal about discussing local politics when you are 6,500 miles away from the location.
 
I could probably pull out more, and elaborate so much more.  If you guys have questions or want to know more, ask.  I’ll write about this stuff for days.
 
Okay, if you read all that, ready for the challenge?


 
So that last few months, I’ve felt like this comic:

comic201.GIF

 
Everything feels out of place, except for when I’m on the mat.  So I want to focus on being on the mat for this challenge, and hopefully bring some of that serene sensation to the rest of my life.  Also of note is the fact that in August I’m testing for 2nd kyu.  While I’m confident that I’ll have no problem with the exam (especially since Sensei has been asking if I’ll test for it since… oh, shortly after I tested for 3rd kyu), I have some personal standards for myself I need to reach before then.  That being said, I actually still need to finish the OFFICAL standards for the grading – namely finishing up 200 hours of class.  I’m close, but still need 30-something hours.  I want to knock those out during this challenge, so next challenge I can focus on making things smoother for the exam itself.
 
I also need to work on my sheiko, or knee walking.  It’s next to useless, really, but required for many exams.  I could claim wonky knees (which is marginally true) and get a pass on the knee part and perform the techniques on my feet, but some of the techniques have subtle or not-so-subtle changes when they are performed with a lower center of gravity.  In order to become more comfortable with sheiko, I’m attacking it two ways.  One is to practice every time I go to class – so maybe 4-5 times a week.  The other is to work on my stretching and mobility to keep myself limber.  It’s a flaw that I keep trying to tackle, but I normally look at it from the side of lifting.  Maybe tackling it with a more monk-trait in mind will help.  I do know that I was in seiza a lot in Japan and it was oddly comfortable.  Something maybe about appropriate context making it easier.  Or just utter fear of accidentally insulting someone.
 
Thinking I’m going to tackle the mobility by replacing the accessory lifts in my 5/3/1 programming with things gleaned from Supple Leopard.  Yes, I’m attempting to read Supple Leopard again.  This time I’m skipping everything and going right to the Stretching chapter.  I get bogged down too much fearing that I don’t have a solid grasp of anatomy that I freeze up on reading more.  So I’m just going to try and calm down and dive in head first and adjust from there.
 
Finally I want to tackle a few life issues over the next few weeks as well.  So just a list of tasks that I should really get accomplished in the next couple of weeks.  Ranging from Fathers Day things to car issues and a bit of a job hunt.  Sight unseen this challenge is diet and lifting, but those things will be ongoing in my Battle Log – especially since I seem to have lost 3-4 pounds while in Japan.
 
The TL;DR version?
 
1)     On the Mat:  Finish the required 200 hours of classes to test for 2nd kyu (currently need ~35 more).

 

2)     Sheiko Around the World: For every day at class, practice sheiko for at least 2 minutes.  Aim for 5 minutes by the end of challenge, even if it’s for practicing techniques.

 

3)     Mobilize For Real:

  1. Read Chapter 7 of Supple Leopard
  2. Actually apply the damn thing
  3. Maybe replace accessory lifts with stretches? (any suggestions here?)

4)     Adult Tasks:

  • Find Father’s Day present
  • Take car to get a tune up/oil change
  • Get car inspected
  • Pay off credit card with saved Japan money
  • Call Doctors office to fix insurance issue from the Knee Debacle
  • Host a Game Night
  • Have a Me Day to Hide
  • Look for and apply to 1-3 jobs
  • Finish reading a book or two (Supple Leopard does not count)
  • Re-evaluate budget and plan if I can pay off one of my smaller student loans without becoming destitute (Definitely can't swing paying off one of the smaller loans.  So instead a larger-than-average chunk out of the big ones will happen)
  • Go for 3 2 1 walks/rucks to get out of the house and away from people
  • Pay bills
  • Fix the bed rest pillow
  • Other things I’m probably forgetting and will update this list with when they arrive

 
Alrighty then.  Time to throw down.
 

aikido_flash2.gif

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Stupid aikidoka...

 

No one can harmonize with your energy.  You're hopeless.

 

Right, so four people.  I forgot about Giants who study related arts.  Cuz you're a Jerkface.

 

 

Anyway, challenge updated.  Thoughts, comments, and critques welcome.  This feels like a bit of a light challenge, to be honest.

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Oh, most definitely.

Then again, I do plan on still lifting AND being at a caloric defict still. So things may get tricky there. Still fighting jetlag, too. Hopefully it'll be ironed out by Wednesday for Stairs. Last lifting cycle left me a bit demotivated so I'm not sure if I'll start lifting again this week or next week. Depends on how my body feels and how well rested I am.

Apparently I can't take it easy. Ha.

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You lost weight and saved money while on vacation in another country? I think you did it wrong...

Seriously, it sounds like an amazing trip and I am jealous.

 

So, really I'm just paying off the credit card with money I saved for the trip.  But, uh, funny story.  I accidentally withdrew 100,000 yen from an ATM while I was in a rush to the train.  It translated to ~$800 USD, and I was very glad I transferred a bunch of savings money to my checking account just before I left.  But it meant that I ended up using cash a lot more than my credit card (for things like hotels).  Also, FYI, Japan is a money culture.  Cash makes life SO much easier.  Also, me using cash to pay for two of my hotels meant I paid the foreign exchange rate fee only once, as opposed to twice or more.  But at the end of the day I took back a good chunk of money with me that I had expected to blow.  So it gets used to cover the ~$400 of Japan-related travel, as well as a flight for Company to visit and a hotel booking for a wedding in October.  So I feel pretty good about that.  Especially since I can now toy with paying off one of my smaller student loans with the saved money (if I'm okay with being a little on the destitute side for a month or so).

 

I should sit down and re-evaluate my budget.  Guess I found another adult task to do.

 

Monday morning of the challenge, and I started the day by finding out I set my alarm wrong.  An alarm set for 6:30 PM doesn't really help you get to work.  But apparently most of my jetlag is over, as I woke up at 7AM fairly naturally.

 

So work, then aikido tonight.  There's supposedly a general meeting/board meeting after class tonight.  One not-so-good story from Japan?  I called Bullshit on a member of the Board who was traveling with me.  Pretty much she and a Sandan were complaining politically about the dojo and some of the behind the scenes work.  Was I evesdropping a bit?  Yea.  But I thrive on keeping quiet and paying attention.  But she was complaining how nothing ever was followed through, and that the Board Advisory Committee hasn't helped at all.  The Sandan asked who was in charge of that... and she pointed to me.  I caught her in the reflection of the bus window we were on.  Sooo....  I turned around and called her out.  Mainly about how it's hard to Advise the Board if you're given no information and not invited to the meetings of the Board.  Let alone organize anything to help (functionally the committee I was put on was told "Fix things and get back to us" and then never invited back and never given anything but the same, extremely limited information as the general membership - you can't act that way).

 

And apparently my annoyance and calling her out got her feeling so guilty that she apologized later at the hotel.  (And again I explained I'd help where I could - but both the things suggested to the Board have either been ignored, or I/the advisory committee lack the contacts, and not getting information is the best way to make things not happen.  And that it's hard to help when people on the Board flat out just do things with out consulting the advisory committee for help, and then complain how we do nothing.)

 

Ahem.

 

Sorry.  That turned into a bit more of a political rant than I meant to.  It annoyed me.  My dojo is on the edge of losing it's space, and it makes me on edge.  Yea, if my dojo folds there are plenty of dojos in the area that I could practice at - hell, I know many instructors at those dojos, too.  But my dojo is mine, dammit.  I help where I can, but I need to the space and information to act if you want me to.  Shoving me in a corner and limiting my information flow means I won't act - I'm too careful about my actions that no info means no action.

 

Okay.  I'll shut up now.  Should probably do work, anyway...

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I wouldn't replace accessory lifts with stretching. I get that time may be the crunch rather than want or desire to do, but they serve very different functions. Perhaps, add 5-10 minutes of mobility work to your warm-ups for both lifting and aikido instead?

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I love your description of the trip to Japan. So much awesome.

 

Good for you speaking up to the board member from your dojo. Getting people to communicate and follow through in a volunteer organization is a common problem. Add on the seniority traditions you get in a Japanese martial art and it is no surprise that a newer member is not hounding the senior people. I hope that things improve from now on.

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I wouldn't replace accessory lifts with stretching. I get that time may be the crunch rather than want or desire to do, but they serve very different functions. Perhaps, add 5-10 minutes of mobility work to your warm-ups for both lifting and aikido instead?

 

Or I could get my ass up earlier.  That's probably the wisest choice.  Gotta read up on things first, though.

 

Related to this, dear gods.  My glutes from a run I did yesterday and my quads are DOMS-tastic.  The glutes make sense.  I'm confused as to why the quads are wonky and sore.  It's a weird spot for them to be sore, too.  More reasons to up my mobility.

 

I love your description of the trip to Japan. So much awesome.

 

Good for you speaking up to the board member from your dojo. Getting people to communicate and follow through in a volunteer organization is a common problem. Add on the seniority traditions you get in a Japanese martial art and it is no surprise that a newer member is not hounding the senior people. I hope that things improve from now on.

 

Thanks!  It really was a dream trip (minus one glaring issue that will never be encountered ever again - because I will never travel with that individual ever again).  There is so much stuff I saw and experienced, and I I still didn't even scratch the surface (or the entire northern part of the country).

 

And yea, I'm glad I spoke up, too.  Normally I wouldn't.  But it's doubly annoying for people to question my competency (call it a character flaw, but I know exactly where my competencies lie because I evaluate them, and often undercut them, all the time - I don't need people semi-maliciously doing the same) AND ignore the fact that I have helped in the past as much as I've been given the chance to (making posters for seminars, helping get food, cleaning up, manning registration booths, etc etc).  I can and will help.  Yes, some things I can't do - the movie night they have once a month both falls on a day I don't normally go to the dojo and requires a library membership up here to get movies to watch, which makes me not an ideal person for that task.  But expecting everyone to do everything without taking an account of their skills or trying to communicate?  Kinda dumb. (Example:  I am terrible at outreach.  It requires you to be very out going and good at small talk.  I am not particularly good at these things, or breaking the ice.  Ergo, I should not be a "Break the ice and expand the client base" person.  People want to talk while I'm in the dojo?  I'll chat all day.  But outside my very few comfort areas, I am a wall flower.)

 

Anyway.  More of me rambling.  How do you guys stand it?

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I'm looking forward to hearing more about your mobility work. My knees feel terribly tight when I try to sit in seiza. Not exactly painful. More like I'm at the limit of how far I can move and they just won't go any further. I used to be able to sit seiza so I know this is a loss of flexibility, not some natural limit.

 

One of the sports medicine people said that it is possible to regain that mobility with hard core massage and stretching. He did not give specifics because I was seeing him for my shoulders instead of for my knees. Clues much appreciated.

 

My dojo also has several people working towards 2nd and 1st kyu this summer. We are doing a lot more swari waza practice.

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We RARELY do suwari waza.  It's kind of up to us to grab someone who knows what they are doing to ask if the techniques are correct.  But I really need to work on my movement on my knees, particularly tenkans.  They just feel... so off balanced and I raise my center too high.  The whole benefit of sheiko is your center of gravity is almost always lower than an opponent, and I want to capitalize on that, especially since it's an advantage I rarely have.

 

Practice, practice, practice.

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Added some Adult tasks:

 

  • Re-evaluate budget and plan if I can pay off one of my smaller student loans without becoming destitute
  • Go for 3 walks/rucks to get out of the house and away from people

The walk/ruck one was supposed to be in this challenge as a separate entity.  But I honestly have no idea how I'll fit that in with my already busy schedule.  But who knows.  Something will pop up I'm sure.

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Your challenge is making me want to focus on karate a whole lot more, but I have all-the-things! going on right now :/

 

Hmm...maybe a kata a day? That might not be too much...

 

Your challenge looks awesome and I'm super jealous about your Japan trip! I'm glad you had a lot of fun!

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Your trip sounds awesome! What a great experience. I hope you get back there again before long. So do you speak much/any Japanese? How did you find communicating with the locals? 

 

Looking forward to seeing how you go with this challenge!

 

It was fantastic.  I can't even properly relay it in text.  And I speak minimal Japanese.  By which I mean I can ask questions in Japanese and then totally not understand the rapid fire answers given back to me by native speakers.  But by and large I got by.  Kept it very polite, and used Japanese as much as I could.  I did have one of the guys I met tell me I was doing not bad for someone who really didn't speak Japanese, mainly since I could order food correctly.  Of course, I had been around for 2 weeks and gotten much more comfortable by that point.

 

And thanks!  I hope to entertain!

 

Seriously, what is it with martial arts and internal politics? Can't we all just sing kum-ba-ya and punch each other in the face?

 

Or throw each other.  But I know, right?  It's one of the reasons one of the junior instructors hasn't tested for his Nidan.  He didn't want to get sucked into the politics of everything. (And now he's testing for nidan, because Sensei told him to.)

 

Your challenge is making me want to focus on karate a whole lot more, but I have all-the-things! going on right now :/

 

Hmm...maybe a kata a day? That might not be too much...

 

Your challenge looks awesome and I'm super jealous about your Japan trip! I'm glad you had a lot of fun!

 

Yea, I also have all-the-things-going-on-itis.  But I'm eternally a monk and the Japan trip and soon-to-be-grading are priming a more aikido-based challenge set in the near future.  It happens in waves.

 

A kata a day sounds fantastic.  DO IT!

 

Thanks!  Hope you got a chance to see some of the pictures on the book of faces.  But I will post some of them when I've sorted through them all.  I took 600.  I have it down to 350 now.  Slowly figuring out what are the cool ones and what are the duplicates.

 

 

So, Day 1 update!

 

I tried to adult yesterday, and the universe mostly thrwarted me.  Tried to make an appointment to get my car's oil changed and a general inspection done, but the website wasn't cooperating.  And I fought with my budget a bit.  Made the sad revelation this morning that my student loans won't be paid off in the two years I was hoping for if I keep at the current rate.  So I may have to figure something out on that front.  I already pay a lot, so I'm wondering what corners I can cut to give me more room to drop more money onto them.  At the moment the only thing that comes to mind is dump my girlfriend. >.> <.< (And even then, it wouldn't save me that much money in the grand scheme of things.) *Ahem*

 

Then I went to class after work.  I now have 34 classes remaining to complete my 200 hour-requirement for the next exam.  So that's about 6 classes a week until the end of the challenge.  Next week may be tricky, since Company is flying in, but I can front load some as well.  Also if I really wanted to, I could ask Sensei if I could count the 6-7 hours of mat time I got while in Japan to count.  He wouldn't say no.  But ultimately it feels silly, since I'm not running against the clock for the exam - I have another 6 weeks after this challenge before the exam, and I'd definitely hit the requirement by then anyway.

 

Sheiko started to happen, but not the whole 2 minutes I think.  I was practicing some general movement and attempting to do suwari tenkan waza practice.  I can't quite figure out how to do tenkans without giving my toes mat burns at the same time.  But the practice eventually devolved into me and another guy who went on the Japan trip showing people what we learned and talking about the trip for almost an hour.  The instructor even said she wants to talk to the Saturday instructors and have all of us who visited different dojos have a show-and-tell period and practice.  Which would be fantastic.

 

It was nice to talk to the dojo people about the trip.  In person I've really only gotten the chance to tell coworkers about the trip (and I gave minimal info), and TinMan and his girlfriend and the neighbor.   But it's the first time I got to talk to people who grasped how enormous this trip was for me.  And, well, when I get excited about something I get very animated and chatty.  It's rare for me. (Now, Nerds who have met me will try to claim that's my default.  They tend to forget that Nerds I meet I've usually been following for a bit and therefore have little-to-none of the ice breaker worries I have in usual crowds.)  It was really great to not only related the stories I had in general, but be able to throw in (HA!) bits of aikido without having to slow down and explain what it meant and why it was important.  As the instructor last night said, "There's no better thing than telling aikido people the stories from an aikido trip."  And it's true.

 

Highlights of class besides that?

 

I walked in and the instructor grins at me (which is RARE - she's kind of the stern, grandmotherly type) and says "And lo, the prodigal son returns."  That made me laugh.  A lot.  Given it's only been 5 days since I got back and was busy recovering.  Anyway, talked to her a bit about what I learned until we had a guy come in to watch a class.  So I mosed on to change and stretch.

 

(As an aside, my entire body is sore.  My legs, hips, glutes, back, shoulders, arms.  EVERYTHING.  I don't know why.  Except the glutes because I had the terrible idea to run on Sunday.  But I'm sore and I can't figure out why.  It's annoying.  Maybe I'm getting sick?)

 

We have a new student at the dojo, as well.  Met him while changing.  Older, bigger guy.  Uh.  Kinda managed to piss him off while on the mat.  I'd say not my fault, but it kind of was.  Then again, he also got annoyed way to easy.  We were doing kotegashi, which kind of requires a lot of space.  And we were doing it out of yokomenuchi, which as I interpret it is easier to do keeping it in a circular pattern than in a linear one (at least when going quickly).  My partner - who I love working with because I can move him so easily and was on the Japan trip - attacks pretty quickly.  So I had to move equally quickly.  So.... we kinda ended up in this guys space a bit more than we should have.  We paid as much attention as we could mid throw, planned as best as we could.... but our momentum was just a lot to work with.  And we had space - at least compared to the practices at Hombu and Kyoto.  And both of us hadn't been back yet to the mat, so we were giddy.  Anyway, after our planning failed and we landed closer the guy made an annoyed "Will you knock it off and stay in your area!" shout to us.  Now, his partner - Sensei's wife - giggled at us.  My partner is a tease, and joked he could take MORE space and proceeded to do the technique with a lot more space than was needed, but that was the joke.  Guy didn't like it and started raising his voice to yell at us.... and the instructor stepped in and told him to stop getting angry on the mat.  And then equated me and my partner to energetic puppies.  Then laughed at us.  The guy tried to tell the instructor "Sometimes you need to get angry on the mat."  She blinked and just went "No." before walking away.  Childish on my part?  Maybe.  Buuuuttttt I really don't feel bad. (Also I worked with the guy later, and he doesn't give much to work with, except in kokyuho.  Thus.... work with him on kokyuho, and avoid other techniques in all likelihood.)

 

And in the "This behavior should annoy me but it actually makes me giddy with glee" category....  I've mentioned Big Goober in here a few times.  Guy is approximately my age and size, but his ego.... it's amazing it fits in the dojo.  So his attitude is rather poor, and I think his aikido is also kind of poor.  And his ukemi is equally crap (I don't have to throw him, he throws himself).  I suffer working with him if I need to, but otherwise I try to avoid him.  I don't learn much from him, nor is working with him enjoyable.  But I can survive.

 

We had to change partners and when I turned around he was kind of right there and the technique really should have been practiced with people your size.  So I sat and waited to start bowing and.... dude totally ignored me.  And not a "well I didn't see you" ignore.  A blatant "I'm looking at you, seeing you're there, and obviously turning away from you in disgust" ignore, as he looked for another partner.

 

I don't think I've ever been happier.  Especially since his refusal to work with me let me work with someone who I greatly enjoy working with.  But it's a behavior I should be annoyed with.  But really.  His shitty attitude works in my favor.  Sometime harmony is just not putting yourself in a situation in the first place.  So huzzah, I don't have to work with an ass, it seems! (Honestly, I expected this behavior as soon as he tested for 2nd kyu.  But he seems to totally be ignoring me.  Not only on the mat, but off.  Again, no feeling bad, just amused.  He welcomed the one other Japan-traveler back, and then ignored me.  See, I shouldn't be giddy about this, but I AM.)

 

Anyway, day two is starting pretty slow for me.  Two aikido classes tonight, then a meeting about what we can get Sensei and the senior instructor who shepherded up through Tokyo upon arrival.  Should be nice.  If my body stops complaining.

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It's stories like that that make me glad I study at a splinter school.  Heaven help us when my master retires or dies, but it's nice while it lasts.

 

As far as the lugs with too much testosterone, you'll find they should either leave or adapt.  We've had no small number of people start at our club because they "wanted to learn to fight".  Of the more than two dozen I have encountered, only one stuck it out and his attitude has shifted dramatically over time.  He even talks about his previous attitude with a fair amount of apology.  Perhaps your sensei would benefit to assigning some reading about the aiki principles?  :P

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It's stories like that that make me glad I study at a splinter school.  Heaven help us when my master retires or dies, but it's nice while it lasts.

 

As far as the lugs with too much testosterone, you'll find they should either leave or adapt.  We've had no small number of people start at our club because they "wanted to learn to fight".  Of the more than two dozen I have encountered, only one stuck it out and his attitude has shifted dramatically over time.  He even talks about his previous attitude with a fair amount of apology.  Perhaps your sensei would benefit to assigning some reading about the aiki principles?   :tongue:

 

Dude, the entire Boston aikido scene is super political.  Kanai-sensei brought aikido to New England.  Almost all of the schools and academic clubs in the area can be traced back to him.  My dojo was born out of the fallout of his death and how his dojo handled things afterwards.  We have 10-12 regular/rotating instructors because of this.  If our Chief Instructor calls it quits, either we're heavily covered or it will all go to shit.

 

As for the asshat, yea.  I'm not exactly sad, like I said, that he's ignoring me.  The problem is he does seem to think himself a modern day samurai.  And I can't deny he puts in the hours, which at the moment is enough to get to the grading needed.  Maybe if he tried to test for shodan Sensei might put the breaks on him.  But.... no idea.  I'll just grin and bear him for now, as a few other people are doing.

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