Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Ahh, the good old days. I have been teaching and training the marital arts six to seven days a week since the late 1990s, inspired by the focus and practicality of the Traditional Japanese Martial arts — Judo, Iaido, Nihon Jujutsu, and Aiki-jujutsu — and intrigued by the creative and powerful movements of the Internal Chinese Martial Arts — Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Chang, and Hsing-I Chuan. 

I have also accumulated a bunch of odd and amusing experiences. Here are some that come to mind: 

• Once in the midst of a practice session, a scruffy, red-eyed, boozed-up man in a torn scarf and dirty coat emerged from our basement door. For a good moment he was entirely oblivious to his surroundings, but he froze in his tracks when he realized he was the center of attention in a room full of scrappers dressed in white pajamas and variegated belts. His solution was to apologetically raise his hands and quietly back out the way he came. 

Turned out he'd found his way in through an old Thai restaurant that shared our suite, but had been out of business for the last year. He never bothered us again, so apart from securing the basement door, we never bothered him either. 

• We suffered two thefts. First, in the middle of the day: Someone snuck in and lifted a pair of sneakers from the shoe rack; second, in the middle of the night: A window was busted open, and despite an expensive array of shinken, the culprit ran off with a pair nunchucks and some throwing stars. 

• I got Pepper Sprayed along with a buddy of mine. It was his idea. 

• Late one Judo night, after a satisfying romp of randori, I ended class. Just after bow out, a buddy of mine said, "We gotta go one more time!" Sounded fine to me. I ended up with the upper hand — I forget the actual throw, but when he went down his head bounced off the mat, and I lost my balance somewhere in the interim. As his head ricocheted up, mine descended, and we sealed the deal with a nasty headbutt that opened the skin beneath his eyebrow but amazingly left me unscathed. With a great sense of humor, he riposted all inquiries about his forehead by saying, "That's just what happens when you tell your sensei you want one more round!"

• To promote the dojo, I cooked up a bunch of flyers to post around the area. I also left a stack by the door in case anyone wanted to pass them along. Our dojo's name, the Institute of Traditional Asian Martial Arts, was printed in big block letters in the header of the flyer. After perhaps a year of circulation, someone pointed to the title and said, "Hey. Doesn't this say "Traditional Asian Marital Arts?" Whoops.  

• When we rented a suite in a strip mall, a night club moved in next door, and had a habit of raging death metal during Iaido practice.

• Long long ago, we teamed up with a local comedy group in East Lansing who filmed a scene of their movie in our dojo. I'm the guy in the white undershirt who gets face-planted and kicked. It was painful. 

• Perhaps against better judgement, I opened the doors one Friday night a few hours after close. At this point in history, the dojo was located just North of Grand River Ave in East Lansing, which is directly across Michigan State University campus. For those uninformed, Michigan State University has skillfully expended a gargantuan quantum of time, funds and effort to produce a student body that can booze like Olympic lumberjacks.

It led to a very interesting night. I have never distributed more business cards in my life. Unfortunately no one ever called back. 

• In my early days as an Eishin Ryu Iaido instructor, I was asked to prepare a swordsmanship demonstration for our dojo's anniversary. I made it as elaborate as I could, with eight people including myself performing a selection of kata simultaneously in different directions. While practicing a few days before the event, I swung my sword and gawked in horror as the blade went cartwheeling into the tight cluster of demonstrators. 

My most junior student, young and nimble like a bunny, hopped to safety as the blade impaled the matspace previously supporting his foot. My first thought was, "How the #%@ did I let go of my sword?!" My second was, "Wait a minute. I didn't." The tuska was still in my hands. The blade, full tang, had actually broken longways from ha to mune just above the seppa!

• And perhaps the very best:

One afternoon two guys strolled into the dojo. They said they were from Gaylord and introduced themselves as ninjas. Really. Following such an introduction, they naturally laid down a credit card and jacked its balance with some badass ninja gear, including, of course, a pair of proper ninja suits. 

So Sensei mentioned offhand he had a booth at a Gun And Knife show in Detroit that every ninja should be sure to visit, because it would be equipped with a plethora of ninjtastic equipment and gadgetry. Several hours later, this happened.

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