Just got back home from a dojo meeting at my old school. In fact, it was supposed to be that same dojo meeting in which I was supposed to voice my ideas about what I feel is “missing” from the training.
Funny how things turn out. First of all, I had finally made the decision last week or so to move on from my school. I had the feeling that, even if my teacher was open to my ideas, I didn’t really feel like I was a part of this “family” anymore. And so my intention was for me to stop by the dojo this morning before class and hand over the keys. I also thought I could probably get a brief word in with my teacher about the whole situation. Well, I didn’t end up finishing my morning solo practice until it was almost time for their morning classes to start. After hemming and hawing a bit, I thought maybe I should just go drop it off and be done with it. Mind you, I had no intention of wanting to actually go to this meeting after having made my decision. I had already spoken with the owner of the music studio where we hold our study group training and asked if I could practice there alone in the mornings (for a small fee of course). So I was already there and moving on! But then so, I walked in the door and my teacher was on the dojo floor warming up along with a few others. One of the adult students recognized me and waved “hi”. Suddenly I felt awkward. I couldn’t just like leave the keys and walk out forever. That would be too weird. So I sort of signaled to my teacher that I was leaving it on his desk and said unnecessarily, “So…the dojo meeting is at 11:30 right Sensei?” (You know like, feigning friendliness so as to make it seem like everythang was cool). D’oh! What the hell were you thinking dude? Why did you just ask him what time the meeting was to make it seem like you were gonna show up? Now you have to show up dude! D’oh!
So I rushed home to eat breakfast and get my morning chores done. When I got back to the dojo it was ten minutes past 11:30 and everybody was already sitting down against the wall with my teacher addressing them. I bowed quickly and sat down next to one of the older adult black belts whom I hadn’t seen in a while. He stuck out his hand for a shake. Goddamn friendly dojo people. Why do you have to make me feel so welcome? I’m supposed to be ostracized from this place! hahaha. And so I sat there for about 40 minutes or so listening to my teacher talk about dojo business matters, anxiously not-waiting for him to turn to me and say, “James! You have something to say?” But then, what my teacher did was bring up the issue with me indirectly by asking who he had given the dojo keys to. He explained, “See, all I’m asking is that people help me out, assisting kids classes, teaching while I’m gone, etc. Then I can feel more comfortable handing out the keys because they’ve helped me”. Then he looked directly at me and said, “That’s the issue with us, see.” I listened and nodded very calmly. Suddenly, I had a change-of-thought: What if I did help him for at least one of the weekday kids classes? That would mean I could maybe get the keys back and then I would still be able to use the makiwara! Cause that’s honestly been one of the things I was lamenting by moving on was that I wouldn’t be able to punch the makiwara anymore (I know, selfish karate thoughts).
So right now my plan is that, starting January, I will commit to “helping out” either on a Tuesday or a Thursday. I’m not able to do this now because of my therapy schedule and the fact that I go to my karate class in Santa Monica on Tuesday evenings (both of which will come to an end before Christmas). I think this is doable for me and that it will be different than just being another student there training. Plus, it will help me to get out of my shell every week and put on my gi and black belt and act like I know what I’m doing. And plus, I mean, it’s a place where most everybody knows my name, you know? I’ve been with this “family” for over 9 years now. You’re bound to make bonds with people over that many years, even if those bonds are sometimes tenuous or volatile. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll change my mind again. But right now, surprisingly that’s what makes the most sense to me. Why not help out? If that means that I’ll still be able to access the dojo, then that’s all I care about really. My teacher wants to make it this deal where, if you help him out, he’ll reduce your belt testing fee. I don’t care about that shit man. I’m not in here to get ranked anymore. I mean, you know how I feel about the practice of awarding belts in a system that no longer utilizes functional two-person drilling to develop real skill and mastery. I don’t wanna be no black belt for mastering air punching! That’s why I’ve had such a hang-up with mine…I’ve felt so damn fake all these years. But okay, save that for the next post.
Anyway, like I said, funny how things turn out. But it does seem like this is a wise choice, regardless if it doesn’t turn out well. We’ll see…