Monday, May 08, 2006

My Martial Arts Journey - Part 3: The Training Begins


With any path you take, whether it’s in school, a career, relationships, or a hobby, it takes discipline. Being a Christian takes discipline. Discipline, for me, meant learning three things: respect, listening, and patience.

Try teaching today’s 13-year old the three components of discipline I just mentioned. Not an easy task.

But Mr. Koga knew what he was doing. For every lesson, I did a series of warm-up drills. Just enough to get my heart going and bring on a light sweat. Then, he had me sit in seiza for twenty minutes to simply ‘listen’.

Listen to what? Listen to my breathing, listen to my surroundings, and listen to Sensei. Patience was taking the time to calm myself, or get centered, and be prepared.

This practice, which is also called the act of ‘centering’, is still practiced today in many martial arts.

After twenty minutes, I then began learning how to roll forward and backward. I was like a flat tire. “Thump. Thump. Thump.” After 4 months of continuous training, I wasn’t as flat as before. In addition to these exercises, I began learning break-falls and foot work.

Break-falls are meant to teach you how to land softly when you’re thrown. Foot work, in bujutsu, is almost the equivalent as stances, as found in linear martial arts (Karate, Tae Kwon Do), but with a sliding, gliding action. Imagine you’re ice skating on a mat. Very similar.

Lastly, Sensei had me running and biking to build up my endurance.

No questions asked (because I really didn’t know any better at the time), I did this regimen for over a year.

Side Note: To this day, I have incredible hearing. I can hear sounds and pinpoint where they are coming from and from what. I can hear whispers from across a room. My wife has learned that if she wants to whisper something to our boys, she takes them outside (usually it’s to tell them my birthday or Christmas gift :-) .

After proving myself to Sensei Koga, I was ready to begin…(drum roll, please) more break-falls, more rolls, and more time in seiza. Yeah, more of the same. But instead of doing all this within an hour, it was increased to two hours. This regimen went on for six months.

All throughout my training, I was burning for revenge. I wanted to show any bully that I wasn’t going to take it. For I could now do a great break-fall from 3 feet and roll mightier than a storm cloud. My foot work was as sharp as a razor.

You get the picture. But, despite all this, I was disciplined.

During my training, I entered the world of high school. The kids were a lot taller, and some, more mean looking. I just happened to take a few classes with juniors, and seniors, who took me under their wings and protected me. They also just happened to be football and basketball players. What a strange turn of events.

Some of you may remember the episode of, “Tom and Jerry”, where Jerry is given a whistle by Spike and told, “If you ever get into trouble, just blow the whistle, and I’ll come runnin’.” Yes, I was given the whistle.

Funny thing, though, I never had to use it. In fact, here I was training and training and more training, but never really had a problem throughout high school. I did have one minor altercation, but the kid who committed the offense was quickly warned never to do it again. Score 1 for the small fry!

Of course there was that time I was flattened by a girl in PE (flag football) and she was very apologetic about it. It turned out, her brother was the starting quarterback on our high school football team. He was also a captain on the swim team. When he found out what she did to me, he laughed and we all became friends. He also recruited me for the swim team. Go figure.

Side Note: I made the junior varsity swim team, during my freshmen year in high school. I swam with the late Ronald Goldman, who was murdered. Ron was a good guy and helped me along. He, I, and two others won our medley relay, against Barrington High School, to win the meet. I still have the swim team picture of us.

The next part of my training concerned techniques, for which I won’t go into detail with. I will post links, in the last part, to give further information. In Part 4, I will discuss my shodan exam, and becoming a ronin (a wanderer).


Tim Ellsworth said...

I'm enjoying this series, Mark.

But when do you get to the part where your sensei says, "Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?"

Mark said...

Tim, thank you!

No pain, no...uh, what do they say?

"Board no hit back." - Bruce Lee

Pain existed when a friend of mine did a technique, incorrectly, and almost ripped the tendon in my right thumb.

My doctor told me, that if the rip occurred, my martial arts days would be over. Along with my thumb wrestling career, of course. :-)

Jeff said...

Holy cow. All that inspirational tale, and right at the end, "Ronald Goldman" is tossed out there. That must have its own side note somewhere.