No one need respond to this post. It's mostly to capture my own thoughts, feelings, and memories as of late with regards to the martial arts of which I am a part.
About eight years ago I started taking Jujutsu. I got to 7th or 8th Kyu and then had to stop for what was to be a short period of time, but which turned into an eight-year hiatus due to an overabundance of pride on my part.
Without going into details, let's just say that it was a stupid reason for not returning, and as Sensei reminds me often now, I would be a 2nd degree black belt now if I had kept on with it. But I guess that isn't the point. The point is that I missed it a great deal, and after finally locating and firmly attaching my balls again, I decided to go back.
I opted to start all over again, as a "white belt." Sensei told me, after I tested the second time for 9th Kyu, that I was the only person to have done that. I could have just gone straight back to green belt, as that was the belt rank I had previously attained. But I wanted a firm reminder to remain humble at all times, and so declined the opportunity and decided to start all over again.
Long story short, going back to Futen Dojo and my beloved Jujutsu was the best thing I've done for myself in a long time. Once again I feel like I'm a part of something meaningful. My dojo-mates are my friends, and I feel a real camaraderie with them. Futen Dojo teaches traditional Japanese martial arts, and the rituals, teachings, philosophy, etc. all make it incredible special. My Sensei, Michael Coleman, is without a doubt one of the coolest, wisest people I've ever met. His wife is beyond lovely both outwardly and inwardly, and I care about them both very much.
When they recently decided to open a new dojo, I volunteered to help with it. Although the building existed, almost everything had to be redone. Painting, walls put up, a little Japanese-style house (the dressing room) had to be built, shoji screens assembled and mounted, TONS of cleaning, etc.
Keith and I (he takes Jujutsu now as well) volunteered as much as we could. We definitely were not the most skilled, nor did we have any special crafting talents, but we did what we could. We did end up having a knack for painting, especially edge and trim work. I can't think of a single wall in the new dojo that I didn't edge or paint or put a wall on or SOMETHING. I didn't do even half as much as a few key people who really deserve Sensei/Ana's gratitude, but I did what I could.
So looking at the new dojo, which is truly gorgeous, I feel a deep sense of belonging. I put a lot of myself into the place. I put a lot of goodwill and my own spirit into it, which I hope serves as a blessing. I believe that when you create something yourself, rather than just pay for it, it becomes more than just a structure with pretty Japanese decorations.
I was very pleased to be a part of the "private" opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday night. There was sushi, champagne, cake, etc. Sensei and his wife presented each of us who worked on the new dojo with a new Futen Dojo t-shirt as well as a daruma doll. Go to Wikipedia and look up daruma doll to know more, but basically they are hollow, spherical dolls with a face, supposedly that of the man who founded the Zen philosophy. The eyes are blank. You think of a goal or a wish, and fill in one of the eyes with ink. You then place the daruma doll somewhere where you will see it. When you pass it, or see it, you are reminded to take steps toward achieving your goal. When you have achieved your goal, or your wish is granted, you fill in the other eye.
Ana gave us these dolls, saying we had helped them achieve their goal of the new dojo, and they wanted to help us achieve our goals. The energy in the room as we silently filled in one of the eyes of our daruma dolls was just....I can't even find the words. The energy was amazing.
Afterward we watched a slideshow of various pictures of the dojo being created. In every picture I was in, I was painting. LOL Ana even said, "There's Traci painting again. Traci's an edging master." That was awesome, and made me smile.
After that, I got to be a part of the first group ever to actually use the new dojo to work on my Kyu. Keith and I both did. It was really cool.
Two weeks ago I also attended a two-day Shibu Kai, which is basically five hours a day of martial arts. Lots of things way above our level were taught to us. Lots of Ninpo, lots of usage of "tools" (read: bokken, hanbo, etc.), and lots of general practice. Very tiring weekend, but it was nice to see how physically fit I really am.
On Friday night I begin a separate weapons class in addition to the Jujutsu I already take. Eventually, once I get far along enough in Jujutsu, I will also be taking Ninpo, and possibly Koryu Karate. Along with the weapons classes, of course.
Other than that, I'm doing fine. I've lost 108 pounds (12 more to go), my most recently job evaluation went stunningly well (13 Exceptional ratings out of 17, with four Proficients), Keith has a new job in his field that pays well, John has a new job that pays well, and basically all is well.
My mom, as usual, has all sort of health issues that are relatively minor, but unrelenting, which tends to wear on you when you are an only child and already prone to anxiety.
Oh yes, and I adopted two bunnies from the Humane Society. Chewie and Zoey. Sassy things. I absolutely adore them.
Not that anyone who reads this lives in Milwaukee, but the Futen Dojo website is:http://www.futendojo.com
You can find pictures of my bunbuns at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/10867218@N00/