Sunday, February 18, 2007

Am I Becoming a Jodo Bully?

I'm back in Tokyo for a couple months, and while I'm here, I'm going to try and take advantage of the abundance of practice opportunities I have. If I want to, I have about 4 jodo practices a week, and maybe 5 iaido practices. Obviously, I'm going to pick and choose; and of course, I have to take a couple nights off a week just to go grocery shopping, pick up the dry cleaning, etc.

It was nice to see Miki for practice. She told me how to get to practice, and introduced me to Hatakenaka Sensei. The dojo seems quite strict, and they practice really hard, which is great, but my knees tend to be destroyed by the end of a 2-3 hour practice. Most people are pretty young, so there's not a lot of standing around, either, which is kind of a big contrast to my practices in Oita.

Saturday was Jodo practice at the Budokan. Things got off on the wrong foot right away, as I couldn't find the men's change room, so I ended up changing in the washroom, and got some very strange looks for having my clothes strewn everywhere, and for being there in general. Then, I went to "hang out" in the foyer outside the dojo before class started. It may be that I'm just used to people being more friendly in Kyushu, but I wasn't expecting such a cold reception. Most people just ignored me, although a few were kind enough to talk about me or make jokes about me as if I wasn't there. So I was starting to get a tiny bit irritated. (Small things annoy me, what can I say?) I also saw the American fellow I had met there about a year before. He noticed me but didn't bother coming over to say hello; remembering the last time I spoke to him, I didn't bother either.

Class started and sensei asked me to work together with the American guy. He introduced himself now, doing the "alpha male" thing and trying to crush my hand. He's the same size as me, although quite a bit stronger, I'd say. We worked together, and it was pretty obvious that he hadn't practiced much in the intervening year. In his defence, maybe he just wasn't used to practicing with people who are the same size as him, but all his moves were very, very slow, and extremely tentative. He wasn't putting any power into any of his movements. I got the feeling that he really didn't know what he was doing, so I got even more irritated when he started giving me corrections, especially as I didn't think they were really valid to begin with. But ... maybe they were what he had been taught. Fair enough.

We did shi-uchi kotai, and on #3, he pulled the stunt where, as tachi, you resist kuritsuke in mid-swing. He stopped me dead in my tracks, and gave me a look like, "That's not going to work." All this time, I had been taking it easy on him, so him suddenly putting muscle into it was a bit ridiculous. Then, he started to correct the timing of my tsuki, so the next time I hit him with a hard shot in the gut. Well, to be fair, it was about 60% of what I've gotten in Fukuoka in the past. He winced in pain, and sarcastically said, "Thank you" and then blocked my next hikiotoshi aside with his sword. It was the kind of gesture that says, "Okay, if you want to fight, let's fight."

I was worried things might escalate, but we kept it civil. Fortunately, sensei came over and had me practice with someone else after a while. But I was kind of upset about his attitude; that was the first time in 15 years that I've ever had kata practice almost spill over into "free sparring", and I was left wondering who was in the wrong: him for trying to correct me when I am senior to him, or me for letting him upset me and then reacting to it. Oh well. Next practice should be ... interesting?

Since then, I've been thinking about various times I've been warned about "jodo bullies": people who are anxious to prove their superiority to you somehow, and who try and hurt you whenever possible during a practice. Who was the jodo bully there, him or me?