Sunday, April 20, 2014
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Boys Hitting Girls
By Nami Bhasin
For those of you who haven’t yet met me in person, I stand at a staggering 5’ tall and am certainly not the strongest woman you’ll ever meet. Not surprisingly, I was just a bit afraid of entering the Dojo, where men and women of different shapes, sizes, and skill levels all train together. On my first day, I had hoped beyond hope that my training partners would take a little pity and be gentle with me.
Then I got paired with my very own Goliath (suffice it to say, allnames have been changed to protect the identities of actual people. Also, he isn’t really a giant, but he is very tall).
Goliath was assigned with grabbing my lapel while I found a way to get out of the grab and move to a safe distance. Not once in that 1-hour class did my giant opponent, “take it easy,” with his grabs. Each time he tugged at my Gi, I grew slightly more furious with him. Doesn’t he realize this is my first class? Doesn’t he see that I’m just a little girl?
I spent myself on frustration until somewhere in the middle of class, while I was catching my breath with my back on the mat,when I realized the only thing I was mad at was his insistence on treating me as I might be treated in a real-life scenario. He wasn’t a bullying goon, but he was acting like one on purpose—and it was to help me learn! I soon felt gratitude for my training partner, who saw in me what I did not see in myself- a woman who is strong and capable of defending herself. There was amindful practicality to Goliath’s toughness, and I saw in him a type of masculinity that was new to me. He was compassionate, but tough. Fair, but practical.
I recently read an article about the push in New York to ban Mixed Martial Arts, and the subsequent backlash by UFC President Dana White, who describes the ban as, “thepussification of America.” 1 Some of MMA’s defenders have castDavid (as in, “…and Goliath”) as the model for today’s young males. The disturbing dissonance here is that David was completely aware of his own body, size, and ability. He leveraged what he had to kill the giant Goliath. In order to fight MMA style (or any other ring sport, for that matter), one must change his body to match that of his opponent. Where David acted mindfully, many fighters are being asked to conform to a specific and narrow definition of masculinity that says, “Men win fights. Period.”
To the men of the Dojo, I offer my humble thanks for practicing martial arts with a purpose. Since that first class, I’ve been paired with many a Goliath (it turns out a lot of men at the Dojo are quite tall), and I never again prayed for special treatment. Their best shot at me is my best shot at learning how to defend myself.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
My Path and the Lessons Along the Way
By Antonio Dixon
My first encounter that I remember of the Ninja was ananimated character from my youth named Snake Eyes. The G.I.Joe figurine was a big deal among my friends. Everyone wanted to be him. Why not! He was cooler than the rest of them because there was nothing he couldn’t do. At some point I started making may own ninja weapons such as wooded shuriken and trying mind control on my friends. Although I didn’t knowNinjutsu existed as something I could learn, the path was calling out to me.
Twenty years went by and I checked out some dojos here and there with nothing taking root. I found myself working at an outdoor experiential education center and making friends with two co-workers Ian Sanderson and Randle Charles. They were great teachers and were always looking for the truth on how lifereally works. This is still true today of my friends.
One day during lunch at work Ian had just gotten back from a week-long training in Boulder. He stated talking to me about themartial art he had been doing and invited me to join him in training. I told him I would think about it. Not really sure about the whole thing, I did not go.
A month went by and Ian asked again. This time I said yes. I could always just check it out, right?
To my surprise when I showed up for training I saw three other co-workers training. They were already doing rolls and break falls. These were people I worked closely with and I had no idea that they were a part of what was now starting to look like a secret ninja group that I was invited to join. I was sold before the first lesson.
The trainings that first summer were often intense, long, and consisted of kata and ninja philosophy. At times ourconversations were about the lineage and how this art came to us at that moment. These conversations would take me far into my imagination and at that time I was starting to understanding that this art is infinite and deep with meaning. We found ourselves training in after-hours office spaces, empty homes being renovated and outdoor parks. Anywhere and everywhere was our dojo.
That same summer there was news of a seminar happening in Boulder Colorado with Stephen K. Hayes at the dojo that my friends, and now training partners, were planning to go to. They said that this would be a good way to be introduced to To-Shin Do formally. I decided to go and in the process I ended upmeeting the owners of the Boulder Quest Center who would later become my teachers. As the seminar was about to begin I stood in line to bow in. It was me at the end of the line with my first time tying on my white belt. Some colored belts werebefore me and then a long line of black belts that never seemed to end. I was nervous and excited. An-shu came out and with a smile asked everyone to sit down. The person holding the space of the linage for me, my friends, and our secret ninja group in Santa Fe was right in front of me. I felt a direct connection to something bigger, a connection to the lineage and community ofNinjutsu. An-shu said “if you are in seiza please feel free to sit in a way that makes you comfortable.” He continued to say that in our western culture we are not as accustom to sitting in this posture for a long time. I immediately felt understood. The training went on that weekend and I trained with many black belts and never did one of them seem too big in ego, or that they don’t train with white belts, or that they were not willing to help me. This felt good. It crossed my mind if I would ever be like those black belts that helped me and what this path will look like for me.
Since that seminar I have learned that To-Shin Do is a journey ofsmall transformations that have led me to having a full sense of being a well-rounded human. The most noticeable growth I saw in myself is how I receive feedback, which is funny because I work at a place that is always giving and receiving feedback. I thought I was good at this. Being told I was not ready to advance to the next belt was challenging at times because as a long distance student the next time I could test would be 3 months or 6 months away, or sometimes more. This made me take a close look at my ego and need to feel accomplished. Why do I feel this way? What is the truth about how I see myself? Do I trust how my teacher sees me? How will I know I’m ready without letting my ego in the way? This is where believing in yourself, in what you do, and your teacher(s) is key. Applying the student creed to all aspects of training and life allows me to recognize and overcome self-doubt while working on accurately assessing myself and remaining humbly confident. To me now any training is a form of advancement, not just getting a belt. It is all about the small transformations that lead to growth and reachingmy goals.
Another way I have grown as a result of training in To-Shin Do is studying the elements. It has given me a bigger picture on how we operate as humans. As I enjoyed experiencing each element in the movements and how it relates in our lives, Ialways found myself saying “I’m kind of Earthy, Watery, etc…” with all the elements. Somewhere in the Wind element it all started to not matter as much if I felt them and I started seeing the qualities of the elements playing out in my training, life, and in others. An example of this is I had an experience where someone was speaking aggressively to me and I become earthy. Not immovable, but confident. Not necessarily letting them talk to me that way, but in control of the situation. I also started feel compassion for this individual. This allowed me to make the right choices on how to defuse the situation. I believe this is a result of my training in To-Shin Do. Prior to my training verbal confrontation often resulted in me feeling like I had no control of what is going on and an overwhelming sea of emotions that where challenging to navigate.
Five years have gone by since I started training in To-Shin Do. I now have the opportunity to share this with others in a To-Shin Do Club that I formed with my students. This has given me the opportunity to help others on the path and give back to the lineage. I have been teaching the foundations of To-Shin Do and have found twice as much in the lessons. The beauty of To-Shin Do is that there is an endless amount to learn.
Finally, this has been a long and fulfilling journey and I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to all who have helped me along the way.