Sunday, March 6, 2011
In later posts I will give a more complete explanation of the principle arts which I practice, but I would first like to give an overall summary of my training history.
Every great basketball player had their inspiration; all the best writers have their muses; each wonderful teacher had their wonderful taughter. From an early age I, too, had four mentors that drove me to strive my very best. Yes, like the generation that grew with me, I was obsessed with the Ninja Turtles.
Were they Chinese?
Were they Japanese?
I couldn’t have cared less. It’s a shameful little secret I’ll share just with you, but I wanted to be a Beach Boy and a Ninja Turtle when I grew up.
Though it is not typically considered when listing “martial arts”, my training truly began in high school when I joined the wrestling team. Wrestling, however, is one of the oldest grappling arts that has incarnations in nearly all early civilizations across the world. I began, my Freshman year, wrestling at the 189lb weight class and had slimmed down to 6% body fat and a trim 152lb by my senior year.
When I started university, I realized very quickly that a diet of late-night pizza and Pepsi combined with strange sleeping habits left me feeling anxious and energetic. I needed to find some sort of sport or activity. Fortunately, a friend found a poster advertising the university’s new Aikido club. Knowing I would be interested, she wrote down the details and passed them along. By early October, I began training in Yoshokai Aikido and had my very first testing that December.
During the summer of my freshman year, I returned home to Grand Rapids and researched dojos in the area. I couldn’t stand to let three months go by without training. After experimenting at a couple clubs, I finally found the Toyoda Center which, at the time, was a member of the Aikido Association of America. For the next two years I trained in Yoshokai Aikido during the school year and AAA during the summers.
By the end of my senior year at University, David Mata—the sensei who had worked most closely with me at the Toyoda Center—founded the Kyoseikan dojo under the Birankai North America association. I have followed my sensei in his move and, when in Grand Rapids, train in the Birankai style of Aikido.
AS with so many students of the martial arts, it was my dream to visit Japan from the first time I walked into an American dojo. I was given this opportunity in 2008 when I was accepted to the Japan Exchange and Teaching—JET—program. My experiences in Japan during the last couple years have provided me with two important insights into Japanese culture: 1; Japanese people appreciate it when foreigners express interest in some specific aspect of their culture and 2; the best way to meet Japanese people is by joining a club or sport.
My neighbor in Kitakyushu happened to train in Judo and he was kind enough to invite me to his dojo soon after I arrived in Japan. Though I had never trained in Judo before, the warmth and positive energy at the Shishinkai Judo association was enough to ensure my quick dedication to the art. During the next two years I trained under the instruction of Haga Masamitsu Sensei. I also trained in Aikikai Aikido and participated in both an Aikido demonstration and testing while living in Kitakyushu.
Finally, my time training in jujitsu has been brief as I began barely three months ago while at home training at the Kyoseikan dojo. Though the time has been short, jujitsu has, once again, renewed my passion and energy for Budo. It is perhaps the most martial of the arts I have yet practiced and I foresee a long and happy future together.