Little House In Ise


The Destroyer
April 3, 2008, 11:28
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

I’m not in the good old boys club. I’m neither good enough nor old enough and one out of three doesn’t cut it. Getting older seems to be working for me so two out of three may be possible eventually. As for “good”… that’s another story…

Since I’m not in the good ol’ boy group that Doshu regularly greets and jokes around with, the fact that he was very solicitous about my health this morning made me nervous. As my partner for the day and I were starting out, he walked up to me and said, “Be careful, I’m not sure why but, be careful.” It turns out I was training with a man Doshu has, apparently, nick-named “The Destroyer”.

Aikido has its fair share of jerks and Honbu is no exception. The Destroyer is the first one I’ve met here. He was definitely rougher than most people that I have worked with here but the thing that set him apart was his determination to make me fail. I don’t mean that he just fought techniques, he fought them in ways so that they could never be made to work without using significant force.   He then acted as though it was my Aikido that was at fault.

People who let their personality problems influence their training and Aikido are more than a pain in the ass, they are dangerous. Sadly, these people are not as rare as one would like. Usually these wastes-of-effort are just a few minutes out of my life and I can move on. At Honbu, however, you’re stuck with your bad choice for an hour. When it’s good it’s very good but the other way is true too.

Assholes are a fact of life and Aikido too. They are a big enough problem that I have been in seminars where the topic of “self defense” was presented with regard to dealing with jerks in the dojo rather than on the street. As with the infamous street, the secret to survival with a jerk is awareness. If you can avoid them in the first place, do so. If you can not, set you limits verbally and up front. If they pass your limits, walk away. Training as though your life depends upon it is a great philosophy but training with an untrustworthy nage really could put your health at risk.

During class, Doshu approached my partner a couple more times and cautioned him. Doshu pointed out that making a training environment that everyone could enjoy was his goal. From that point on my partner spent the class watching out for Doshu and only being an ass when he thought he could get away with it. For my part, since I didn’t trust him fully, I stayed soft and over-committed my ukemi so as to make sure that I was in control of every fall. Shihonage was my only real worry and, oddly enough, Doshu was nearby during that technique. Fancy that! So, from the health and safety perspective all turned out well. From the training perspective, not so much.

The nicest part of the whole thing was leaving the changing room and bumping into one of favorite teachers. He was looking into the dojo and scowling. “The Destroyer” was throwing someone around rather roughly. This sensei explained the nickname and its origin. He turned to me and in English said, “Don’t be bothered with him, he is stupid.”

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4 Comments so far
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One of my teachers told us that ‘onegaishemasu’ is also a granting of permission, and that you can revoke that permission. It takes a lot of guts to NOT be macho and decide that it’s better to walk away, especially if you’ll be seeing that person in the dojo again.
I once had to work repeatedly with this huge brown belt who thought a strong grip meant to squeeze people’s wrists as hard as he could and stand stiff as a stone. I would have bruises on my wrists–and it takes a lot to do that! Working with him would always jack up my adrenaline because he just pissed me off. One teacher tried to explain to him that his stiffness was a martial deficit, but to no avail. Finally I realized that I had been cutting him some slack on throws because he complained of a bad back. I stopped thinking about his back, and he stopped showing up at class altogether.

Comment by userhacker

Eric,

Part of me really wanted your story to end with “So, finally, I plastered him.” But that would be incorrect. Momentarily satisfying, perhaps, but incorrect nonetheless!

Your post echoes some of the same themes we have been discussing at our dojo. Correct ukemi is not just the ability to resist technique. Too often, “over-resistance,” or resistance that has no martial context, only leaves you open to a different technique. I’m willing to bet that, when this guy resisted your technique, he left himself open in numerous ways that you wouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of in the dojo.

Correct resistance means that you are giving a committed attack, followed by striking a balance between resisting enough to force your partner to execute their best technique, but not so much that they can’t perform the technique at all. It’s a hard, hard skill to acquire.

I’m glad you emerged from that class relatively unscathed!

Comment by aikithoughts

[…] I got thrown hard every damn time I stood up. Doshu noticed and moved in to chaperon. Unlike the Destroyer, this guy kept right on pounding even with Sensei […]

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