Thursday, January 7, 2010

Aikido, Iaido, The Internet, & The Phone book?

My Quest


This last October, Lanette and I had a discussion about my increasing lack of physical activity. I used to work out somewhat regularly at a local health club that shut down suddenly amid much controversy. Though I am not in the worst shape, walking into a gym or fitness club feels like giving a speech in my underwear to me. It doesn't matter whether anyone is looking at me or not, I feel like an impostor when I walk into a health club. The new place my wife works out just wasn't doing it for me, and I felt ever more awkward when I went there.

In the midst of our discussion, a light went on in my head. I've dreamed for most of my adult life of taking a Japanese martial art, at least one on this incredibly broad and inclusive list (note: broad and inclusive used sarcastically here).

You see the unifying theme here? Basically, I wanted to "play Samurai", and this workout deal was my "in". I shared this list with Lanette and, with here enthusiastic encouragement, began searching for a local dojo. I spent October and November searching the Internet, using every possible search term I could; asking friends and acquaintances; and posting pleas on twitter. I also trolled a lot of martial arts forums. When all was said and done, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that not a single one of these arts was practiced closer than 40 miles (about 60 minutes driving) from my house. This was not an acceptable commute.

Aikido


By late November, with Lanette's patience wearing thin, I finally found Susquehanna Aikido. No Aikido, was no on my expansive list, but Aikido does do bokken work, which was what I most wanted. Incidentally, it is less than 10 minutes from my house. I began participating there, about thrice a week in late November, and I'll take my first test at the end of this month.

I really enjoy Aikido, the club, and all of the people I work out with. Lanette has supported my endeavor with surprising enthusiasm. I'm occasionally disappointed at how little we do actually work with bokuto, but I understand that Aikido is more focused on practical defense, and sword work is probably not high on that list. Also, as silly of a thing as it may be, I'm really bummed that we don't wear the Hakama in Aikido until we reach black belt, which takes about 8-10 years to attain, from what I understand. I know, it's just pleated pants that look a lot like a dress, but the hakama was almost as important as the sword to me.

The Kicker


Okay, here's the kicker. The other day I was tinkering around with Google Maps on my Iphone, and for what ever reason I entered the search term, "Iaido". This was a bad idea. A little dot popped up on the map, not miles away in Mechanicsburg, PA or Kensington, MD. No it was 5 minutes from my house in New Salem! Arrgh! The place had no web site, and is only listed as "Ki Karate" in the Phone book, mentioning nothing about Iaido. I pass it daily on my way to work, and never once did I notice the large white letters "Iaido" in the window. I called the place and found out what I would need to buy and when they met, and my disappointment grew. I'm not sure what's the most frustrating / disappointing...

  • The fact that the classes meet the same time as my Aikido weapons class (my favorite part of Aikido),

  • The fact that the initial equipment investment will never be approved in light of what I already spent on Aikido, or

  • The fact that I was so close to having exactly what I wanted.


The bottom line is, I really enjoy Aikido, and I'm not likely to quit anytime soon. I just wish I had the unlimited time and resources ($) now to practice two arts. I really need to be content in what I have and what I'm doing.

I probably will take Iaido at some point, likely in the distant future.  For now, I will concentrate on Aikido.  My mind and body have all the coordination of a clumsy 2-year-old, and I need to remedy that before I consider branching out.  Besides, all of the instructors at my dojo are excellent and worthy of respect.  The atmosphere is supportive. My fellow kyu are all dedicated and friendly. Most of all, when I am there, I am truly present in the moment with what I am doing.  I don't clock-watch.  I don't think about my grocery list or what I did in class this morning.  That alone is worth the price of membership.

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