Saturday, July 29, 2006

Moving Out

It's my last night here in Beppu, at least for a while. My apartment is all cleaned out. I left my swords with my iaido teacher, and a whole bunch of other crap that I have accumulated with my calligraphy teacher. The place is looking pretty empty, and, without wanting to wax too melancholy, I'm feeling a bit empty too.

I had intended this post to be about "Why I do martial arts" but I really don't think I'm ready and/or in the right frame of mind to address that question right now. But just to touch on it for a second, my friend phoned me up the other day and announced that he was going to start training in earnest because, as he put it, the time had come for him to either get serious or to "flush it all away" and give up training in martial arts. He has a family now, and he's busy with his job; he is also seriously involved in the tea ceremony, and so basically, he has come to a crossroads: quit to spend more time on other things, or go deeper so that he might actually get better at iaido and jodo and therefore get something out of it.

I think I'm close to the same crossroads, actually... I haven't practiced much this past four months. From a training standpoint, perhaps moving to Beppu was a bit of a mistake. But hindsight is always 20-20, isn't it? Next fall, I intend to start teaching iai as well as jodo (as long as the Jodo club can get an indoor practice time!) and maybe that will help. I'm also probably going to start going to jodo practice in Beppu, despite the fact that they seem to be a little bit at odds with Namitome Sensei and his group. Politics, politics ...

I also think I might get a bit more into Niten Ichi Ryu. I had a one-on-one practice with Iwami Soke a couple weekends ago, and it was really good. Well, actually it was terrible; or rather, I'm terrible ... we were practicing walking, for God's sake. That's how far back to the beginning we had to go.

Cleaning the dojo under the watchful eyes of Imai Soke, Kiyonaga Soke, and Aoki Soke.

It was an interesting practice, though. First, we spent about an hour cleaning Imai Sensei's old dojo. It was a bit neglected. As it was well over 30 degrees and extremely humid, I was really embarrassed because, as I shlepped the vacuum cleaner over the floorboards, I was literally leaving a trail of sweat droplets every few inches. By the time we finished cleaning, I was dehydrated and absolutely exhausted. It was really, really tough for me to muster up any strength or "spirit" for training, and that's awful when Sensei wants to see how much spirit you can develop. I looked and felt like a wet rag.

It made me happy to be able to clean the dojo, though. I have always felt that true training is synonymous with being in service; with being of use to somebody. Perhaps, if we really believe that the focus of martial arts is self-improvement, we should go out a few nights a week and hit a soup kitchen and skip the dojo entirely...

Anyway, here's the flipside of things ... a tongue in cheek portrait of "Jeff-as-samurai". (To be perfectly honest, I ran into my friend on my way to practice, and she insisted on taking a picture of me.) But actually, it's not a bad shot... if every Japanese woman under the age of 60 didn't think that "budo" was synonymous with "weirdo" maybe I could use it to pick up chicks... if only ...

Yeah, I'll admit it: I only got into iai because of the cool clothes. And I'm okay with that.


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