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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.

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