Aikido Love-Fest Weekend!
So this past Sunday was a big event at Hyde Park Peace Dojo, the one I described putting up flyers for in that previous post ( the one which turned into an argument about homeopathy). It was really called the Peace Dojo Summer Festival, but privately I started referring to it as Aikido Love-In Weekend.
I had my doubts, and doing all the prep-work was annoying, but it turned out to be a big success. For my friends who worked on UchiCon, imagine that but for Aikido and you have the basic idea.
I'll just hit some of the highlights in this post.
First of all, there is a wicked cool Aikido sensei with a bald head and with a dojo on the north side, who was named Keith Moore until he became an actual factual Buddhist monk and changed his name to Meido. He came down and taught a weapons class. The class was, as always, WAY COOL. This guy is HARDCORE. He talked about the idea that Aikido bare-hand techniques are derived from sword techniques; this is true, but unless we actually get good at the basics of swordsmanship, we're just fooling ourselves if we claim a connection, says Meido-sensei. He talked about the deadly speed of an actual samurai swordfight and stressed that if your body gives away any clue of how you are about to move, then you are dead if your opponent has any skill at all. He showed how your body normally telegraphs, to anyone paying attention, how you are about to move, and taught us exercises we can do to try to erase this telegraphing, which is as much mental as physical. So we spent the whole class practicing how to change hanmi, the most basic movement, at high speed and without telegraphing.
At one point sensei picked me out of the group to attack me with a bokken. We had already had many demonstrations proving that it's nearly impossible to dodge Meido-sensei's sword, because he can see where you're going to move before you can see the sword coming. "Don't try to dodge", he said. "Change hanmi forward like I showed you". Changing hanmi forward means stepping forward into the blade and pivoting your body at the last split-second to avoid it. I did it, and the sword whiffed like half a centimeter away from me. It was hell of intimidating, also really cool.
He told us the story of a guy who demonstrated this technique for the first Tokugawa shogun, avoiding the sword of one of the shogun's men and disarming him. Afterwards somebody asked him how often he can succeed with that technique; he said that he, at the highest level of mastery, at the top of his game, could make it work four times out of ten at the most. It's a desperation technique.
One more story about Meido sensei: once before, when he came to U of C aikido club, he happened into the locker room when Michael and I were having an argument about Rush ( Michael is even a bigger fan than I am; I had called them, on this very website, "the whitest, unfunkiest band ever" -- I was contrasting them with Parliament/Funkadelic -- and Michael took issue with that description.) Anyway Meido came in and heard us and said "If you want to have a really mystical experience, try listening to the live version of Xanadu while you train. That's what I do.". So, there you have it: Rush is Buddhist-monk approved.
The second really cool thing was I got invited to go to Awassa, Ethiopia to teach for a couple weeks at the Awassa Peace Dojo, which is sub-saharan Africa's first Aikido dojo; it's part of an organization there that supports orphans and does AIDS education. Mark and Krishna have both taught there before, and I heard a lot about it from them, and it sounds like an incredibly awesome adventure. Once Enso is released we're all of us at Humanized going to take some time off, and I have decided that going to Ethiopia is exactly what I want to do with my time off. I will report further developments on this site as my plans become more concrete.
During the last session of the day, I got to meet the Israeli national women's Judo champion. She's really cool. We hung out talking for about an hour after that about the situation in Jerusalem (she's an Israeli Arab, and has lived in both East and West Jerusalem) and the situation with Lebanon. She said it's so terrifying that she doesn't even want to look at the news, but her family is outside the range of missiles so they're more or less safe. She's planning to move to San Diego and become an elementary school teacher. Also, she wants to quit professional Judo because she's fed up with the overly-competitive spirit of it. She said she wants to start studying Aikido instead -- which is funny since I have been saying that I want to study some Judo in addition to Aikido. She was one of those people who has a fascinating backstory and is just really interesting to talk to; too bad I'll probably never get a chance to see her again.