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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Aikido for the Classroom, Part II

No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength.
- Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

I had to restrain a really, truly violent student for the first time two weeks ago.

For the sake of those involved, I won't go into details. It's enough for now to say that when I arrived to respond to a frantic distress call, the situation was already well beyond any solution but physical intervention. A very large, very angry adolescent needed to be stopped now, and I was going to have to be the one to do it.

Procedures were forgotten. Training was forgotten.

I should have known better, of course; besides my regular training in aikido, I had been through training specifically for situations like this through the school system. But I charged in mindlessly, shoving a desk out of my way, with no plan except to be bigger and stronger than the student.

The trouble is, I almost wasn't.

I like to think that regular martial arts training and exercise makes me a little stronger than the average musician/teaching aide, but hell hath no fury like the pent-up rage of a large tweenager. It took everything I had to stop his charge without hurting him, and a little more I didn't know I had until then to avoid hurting myself. Had he been any bigger, or had I been any smaller, I likely would have failed to stop further violence.

What did I do wrong? Well, nothing. And everything.

The hold I tried on him was indeed one prescribed by my training, but it only barely worked. Not because I was doing it incorrectly, but because I wasn't really big enough or strong enough to pull off this particular hold on such a large student. Had I kept my presence of mind, I might have realized that it was too risky to try and pull this off with brute strength, started my half of a more appropriate two-person hold, and yelled for help from one of the other adults in the room.

But I didn't. I gave my mind over to instinct, and started a contest of strength. Thankfully, I won this one, and prevented any further violence or injury. But I must admit, I got lucky.

What have I been learning in a year-plus at the dojo if not to stay centered and avoid dependence on strength? Apparently, I haven't learned it enough.

One thing I learned in this instance, though: I've got a lot more training to do.

Monday, April 4, 2011

No Replacement

Every few weeks, I decide to look into what martial arts options I have to choose from besides aikido.

This has been going on since just a couple months after I started training: I'll have a particularly fun taekwondo class or a bad day at the dojo and decide I need to see if there's something out there that won't hurt my joints so much, or frustrate me with mystifying connection exercises, or make me wear a skirt. Then it's time to fire up Google.

The list of links that results from my search I have pretty well memorized.

There are some that make me turn away immediately: two branches of a cheap Midwest-wide taekwondo chain that promises a black belt in three years; a "dojo" where the uniforms are red, white, and blue and the martial art taught, as far as I can tell, is called "martial arts"; and a mixed martial arts gym whose website is awash with pictures of large, angry-looking shirtless men who seem ready to jump out of my computer screen at any moment and beat me into submission.

It's easy enough to cross these off the list right away. There are plenty of more attractive options, though.

The dojang where my taekwondo instructor learned his art isn't too far. Rates are relatively affordable, though still twice as much as the dojo's, and the founding master is from the Korean old school that does not approve of cross-training and pushes an entirely false nationalistic history of the art.

Just across the street from the dojo is a place where traditional Japanese arts are taught by a very well-known instructor. My taekwondo instructor and one sensei at the dojo are both former students of his and very complimentary. The rates there, though, are more than three times what I'm paying now, certainly more than I could currently afford.

One place that looks particularly interesting is a well-reviewed Shorinryu karate dojo that also dabbles in kendo. To get the individual workout of a stand-up art and yet keep in kendo the weapons training and Japanese-ness I've come to enjoy in aikido is an appetizing prospect. Alas, this place too is quite expensive, at least if I want to participate in any of the weapons work.

It goes on like this. Every option on the list either makes me turn up my nose or say wistfully, "That would be nice, if only..."

Except for one. The third or fourth result on the list is always a small nonprofit aikido club fifteen minutes from home and a scant five from work. The rates are reasonable. The schedule is accomodating. Weapons training is part of the regular curriculum. There are several qualified instructors, each with a unique approach to the art.

Check, check, check, and check.

So it was the first time and so it has been every time since then.

I have said  before that aikido is not, for me, some kind of ultimate or ideal martial art. Some of my instructors and training partners see it that way, but for me, aikido is just what I found when I went looking. That said, I keep looking, and I keep finding it. Maybe I should take a hint.

Besides, the joint pain passes. The confusing exercises are few and far between. And the skirt? Well, I can cross that bridge when I come to it.