Monday, September 22, 2008

Turnabout is Fair Play

I turned a conversation I had with my friend and co-worker, Keith Vargo, into a piece for my Blog, and now he has turned the same conversation into a piece for Black Belt magazine. His piece is much better than mine. I don't think the article is online yet, but if it does go online, I'll link to it.

Coincidences, and Reasons Not to Practice

Okay, reasons NOT to practice first. I have a whole bunch of 'em.

Japan is hot in the summer. Like, really quite hot. And humid! Boy, is it ever. I sweat like a pig just getting dressed in the morning. By the time I get to the station, I'm a mess. I'm drenched. Can you imagine practicing martial arts in this weather? I sure can't.

My knee kind of hurts. Not too badly; just, you know, sometimes. It kind of twinges when I'm walking up the stairs, for example. Kneeling on a sore knee? No thanks!

Plus, there seem to be complicated politics going on. Teacher A doesn't like Teacher B, and doesn't want me practicing with him; Teacher B thinks Teacher A is crap and doesn't care if I practice with him, but says I'm wasting my time, blah blah blah. Oi vey! It hurts my head just thinking about it. Who needs all that confusion?

On top of all this, I gave my sword to a friend of mine to hold over the summer. His schedule is hectic; my schedule is hectic - it sounds crazy, but we just can't seem to find the time to get together! It IS crazy! Can I practice without a sword? No, sir, I maintain that I cannot!

Okay ... Okay ... it's all bullshit. I don't know why I haven't practiced since I've come back. A little bit of column A, a bit of column B; the main reason is that I'm a bad, bad person. Argh.

Meanwhile, I have had a couple of random run-ins with people who actually DO practice; my teachers, actually. The first time, it wasn't so exceptionally surprising since I was at the station near the dojo, right after practice time. I was on my way into the city to meet a friend for some reason, and saw an older man walking with a sword case. "Sensei!" I said. He turned, recognized me, and gave me a friendly smack. "Where have you been all this time?" I explained that I had gone home to Canada for the summer. "Okay, why didn't you come to practice today?" I had to go into a few of the reasons above (sore knees, no sword); he just nodded. Sensei are usually pretty good judges of character. He knew I was making excuses; I knew he knew I was making excuses. I felt like a complete rat.

Then, yesterday, I was at a minor station in downtown Tokyo with a couple friends. I saw a few folks with sword cases and said, "Oh, they must be iaido people ... Wait a second, I think that's my teacher!" She was looking across the street in my direction. I looked back and smiled. She continued looking in my direction, so I waved. She looked away and started talking to the people with her, then pointed back in my direction. "I'd better go say Hi," I said to my friends. I crossed the street and walked up to her. We were only a few meters apart, but she still hadn't made direct eye contact with me; she was looking right at me, but kind of past me, to the other side of the street, where another man with a sword case was coming out of the station. By this point, I was standing right in front of her; short of grabbing her or shouting, I didn't know how to get her to notice me. Suddenly, I started to wonder if she was treating me as persona non grata because I had stopped going to practices since I moved away. Paranoid, I just decided to go away before she noticed me. It was making me way too uncomfortable.