The Study and Teaching of Hakko-ryu at Hakko Seishinkan Dojo - 2
10/19/91-Thursday morning I ran around the valley with Natasha doing errands. We went to where she works, L.F.L., and she used her employee discount to buy some things for me. We talked about Ralph and Steve most of the day, with the emphasis on Ralph. She told me that when he returns from Japan in March, they (Ralph and Natasha) are probably going to move to San Diego. She also told me that when I become a black belt, I have to start teaching (Hakko-ryu). I have to at least try, or Ralph would be very sad.
When we got home, Natasha decided to clean for a while; I helped a little. We planned on training together, but Steve came home earlier than expected.
Steve brought up the red car, which was now sitting in the driveway, and we decided to go out to work on it. I played with the carburetor, adjusting the fuel level in the bowls, and it started to run much better. It was running well enough that we decided to take it out for a short spin. It made it up the hills, but just barely. It still lacked power. We figured it just needed a good tune up and made tentative plans to take it to "Tune Up Masters" Saturday.
After allowing dinner to settle for a little while Steve and I went out to train, His techniques seemed especially vicious, and I made a comment to that effect. He told me he was feeling better and never said we were going to take it easy. We trained for about an hour and then we went out to the living room to relax.
Collin came over about 9 p.m. and I was invited to take part in his class. Steve did the seiza portion of the kata with Collin, and then invited me to do the same. He told me to pay attention and to make corrections where necessary.
We worked on his Osae Dori techniques most. We told him to keep his shoulders even, to open his knee for flexibility, to not raise up from seiza during the take down, to shikko (on his toes) into the formal pin. He had a lot of trouble with shikko so we all worked on it together. The class lasted quite a while.
When Steve decided to end the class, Collin asked if he could watch us do henka. Steve declined. Collin left almost immediately after class was over.
Steve and I talked for a while and he told me that I was a big help. I told him I really enjoyed helping, and I did. It was a lot of fun.
Friday morning Ralph called and asked if I would help him at the house. I told him I'd be over about 1:30 p.m.
When I arrived, no one was home so I began to work on the red car. It was then that I noticed two pieces were missing. I found the pieces in a styrofoam cooler (where I had put them) and began to put them on. Ralph showed up in the middle of it all. I stopped to help him move a filing cabinet into the house, and then returned to my work. I soon discovered other problems and worked to correct them. Ralph came out and asked me if I'd like to go with him to pick up Natasha. I said, "Yes." We stopped at his work and then at Wendy's on the way.
10/22/91-Training was interesting tonight as Koji joined the class. His kata really seemed good. He did have some trouble with me, though, with Tekagami. He complained that my wrists were too big. Ralph showed him the "grab the guy's fingers" idea to help him out. I remember when he showed me that idea when I had the same problem with Frank's wrists.
Frank Koppenhaver used to work at Superior with Ralph and myself and was a student of Ralph's long before me. Frank was a very physical guy, muscles on top of muscles, with wrists the size of my ankles. He was an Ikkyu, with what appeared to me to be good techniques, and was just about to take his Dan exam when he just stopped coming to class. It hurt Ralph a lot. I guess he got frustrated with all the delays. They were mostly his fault, though. Evidently while he was in Monterey on a visit he slept with Julio's wife in Julio's dojo. He then bragged about it to somebody up there. Needless to say, Julio was offended. It should be noted that Julio and his wife were separated at the time.
10/25/91-Ralph and Natasha got stranded on the Golden State (5) freeway on their way to Monterey for the weekend. They had me beeped, and I went to assist them. Luckily for me they only got as far as Lyons Avenue in Newhall (only a few minute drive from my house). It seems they were driving Steve's car when Ralph noticed smoke pouring out of the back. He told Natasha to jump out of the car as soon as it came to a stop and pulled over to the center divider. They both got out safely and were soon picked up by someone.
When I got to the car I noticed oil all over the exhaust manifold. It appeared to be coming from the air filter housing so we opened it up. The filter was soaked and oil was dripping into the carburetor. I figured it was the P.C.V. valve and decided to plug the hose that I thought the oil was going through. Ralph and I were trying to whittle a stick down to size when Natasha suggested we use one of her mascara bottles. It worked. We put some oil in the engine and Ralph drove it to the nearest exit.
We replaced the P.C.V. valve with the assistance of Steve, put some more oil in the engine, and then drove home. I wasn't going to go over to the house as it was late, but the car was smoking so bad I figured I had better. When we got there Steve told me that the oil light began to flicker when he was getting off the freeway. Checking later revealed the engine was, indeed, low on oil again.
10/26/91-Saturday I awoke to heavy rainfall. I called in the hope that they would excuse me from working on the car. They had put up a tarp and were working anyway. I went over. Steve and I worked on it for a while, talking with some of his friends on the phone, and decided it was beyond our capabilities. Oil on the number four plug cinched it. Natasha made a nice dinner with soup and rolls, and we all watched the movie "Edward Scissorhands."
10/28/91-Monday Ralph called and asked if I would meet him at a carburetor repair shop after I got off work. I was there by 3:15 p.m. About a half-hour later Steve beeped me and told me that Ralph only made it down to Thrifty's, and asked if I would pick him up from work. I told him I'd be there in about 20 minutes.
On the way home I was talking with Steve about writing about Ralph and him. I told him that they would soon be Shihans and that all the Shihans have biographies. I told him that I thought Ralph and he were very interesting people and that the paper would be great. He reminded me of the sandbox incident that happened up North.
A few months ago Shihan Brian was visiting Julio's dojo. Ralph and Steve were there, of course. Well, Julio had this little sandbox full of sand and crystals. There was a crystal on one side of the box representing Hombu Dojo, crystals on another side representing Julio's and Shihan Brian's dojo, and even a crystal at another end to represent Ralph's and Steve's dojo. Julio explained this to everyone with a lot of enthusiasm. Shihan Brian remarked under his breath to Ralph and Steve that it was all "too California (like) for him."
Ralph, Steve, and Natasha set out in search of something to deface the box with. They found some very small skeletons and some fake dog shit. Natasha distracted Julio while Ralph and Steve placed the dog shit in the box. They also placed a dead bug next to a small sign saying, "New mind." The "New mind" concept was something that Julio was also preaching. Steve said they rearranged the crystals in such a way as to suggest that they were all running away from the dog shit. I was told that this was all done with Shihan Brian's knowledge and approval.
A few days later the "shit" hit the fan. Julio was evidently having a children's class and asked one of the students to bring the display out for all to see. The child left and did not return. When Julio went to find out why the child had not returned, he discovered what had been done.
Julio evidently thought that Mel had done it, as he was the only one with a key to the dojo. Shihan Brian admitted to it and wrote Julio a letter of apology. He had only meant it as a joke and couldn't understand why Julio was so mad. Ralph and Steve also wrote a letter of apology. I don't think they were joking.
10/30/91-Wednesday, Ralph called and told me that Julio is getting Sandaikichu. He was upset about this because that meant that Julio would be two ranks ahead of Ralph and Steve, sort of above reproach. I thought that one was only able to get one rank at a time and asked Ralph about that. Ralph said it was probably motivated by money. I thought it very strange that Julio would invest so much money in further training, especially since he recently wrote home saying that, "he was learning nothing new."
One bright note about the whole thing: Shihan LaMonica was in Japan at the same time as Julio because of the annual Taikai. He gave a demonstration with Julio as his uke. At the end of the demo he said that everyone probably thought he uses too much weight and not enough technique, and that he was too slow. With that he smacked Julio in the ankle with a baton (he's the chief of police for a city in Ohio). He walked off the stage, sat down, and glared at Julio laying on the stage. He didn't say he was sorry or anything. He didn't even act concerned. Julio had to go to the hospital because of torn ligaments. Ralph and I speculated if the injury was intentional or not, and what might have motivated it.
11/1/91-Thursday was Halloween. I had to stay home and hand out candy while the wife and kids went Trick or Treating. So, Ralph postponed training until Friday. During class Ralph concentrated on the kazoosh used in Yoko-katate-osae-dori. We used it for the opening in different henka. He told me that my technique would work, but that I did not have to use so much strength. We trained until the sweat burned my eyes.
We were about to end the class when Joana, a friend of mine from work, showed up to borrow my video camera. Ralph invited her to watch us train. I was very tired, but at Ralph's insistence we continued.
After class Joana said she thought it was funny the way Ralph made me moan in pain.
11/4/91-Monday was another good, sweaty class. We worked on combinations, seiza, relaxation, and clearing the mind of thoughts. Ralph emphasized relaxation in technique, saying that it would make our techniques stronger.
After class Ralph did shiatsu on me because my back was bothering me. Boy, was I sorry I asked for that.
Ralph asked me what my topic for my five page report would be. I told him, "seppuku." He seemed pleased I had finally chosen a topic.
11/7/91-Class turned out to be a demonstration for a young guy from Steve's work. I think his name is Sean (?).
I thought I was going to just sit the whole thing out like I usually do, but they had me in there most of the time. First, Ralph and I did the Shodan kata. Then, Steve and he traded off with each other showing henka and more practical applications.
When we got to the nigeru section, I accidentally tore one of Ralph's nails to the flesh. He was holding my gi and was giving the, "if there's no door or window (through which to exit), we make one." speech. I was supposed to atemi him, but instead, I slapped his hand from my arm. He asked Natasha for a few Band-Aids (one turned out to be a Ninja turtle Band-Aid) and continued the demo.
Note: Due to the upcoming arrival of Shihan Brian for Ralph and Steve's Yondan, and my Shodan, test, I neglected to keep this journal current. As a result, some things (dates, classes, etc.) may have been forgotten.
11/16/91-Another demo tonight. Sean, Eric, and Hallie (both from up North somewhere) in attendance. Ralph and Steve directed, with Koji and myself dressed out. Natasha sat with those watching.
Ralph started by reading something that was written by Shodai Me Soke, Okuyama Ryuho. The physical part started with Ralph and Steve doing the Shodan kata. As I recall, they both traded off with each other demonstrating henka and some of the basic principles of Hakko-ryu. I was the uke for virtually everything. Ralph and Steve hammered me for quite a while. They finished up by doing the Nidan and Sandan katas.
After class everyone was invited into the living room for conversation and drinks. I had sworn off drinking till after my test so I abstained. But, I enjoyed myself thoroughly by watching everyone else trying to hold intellectual conversations as their ability to do so was diminished by alcoholic beverages.
During the conversation someone voiced concern for me. They felt sorry for me because I had undergone such abuse. The falls were especially crisp to lend to the credibility of the art. I assured them that I was O.K. Little did I know, the next day I would suffer headaches as a result of neck strain.
During the course of the night it became apparent that something was bothering Natasha. This was evidenced by a loud crash in the kitchen, I went in to investigate. Natasha was opening a beer and assured me that everything was O.K. Then she started to complain that Hallie was an old girlfriend of Ralph's and that she had been staying at the house. Natasha was very jealous of the attention that Ralph had been showing her. While in my presence Natasha quickly downed two 16 oz. beers and started on a third. I began to suspect that trouble was on the horizon.
Ralph came into the kitchen and Natasha left. I told him that Natasha was very jealous of Hallie and that he should be careful. He was well aware of the situation.
It started to get late and the crowd began to diminish. Pretty soon it was just Ralph, Steve, Natasha, Hallie, Eric, and myself. Natasha started to get loud and then took Hallie into the bathroom to have a conversation in private. Everyone left in the living room looked at each other nervously. I asked Ralph if he wanted me to hang around. He said, "Yes."
After Natasha and Hallie exited the bathroom, Natasha called Ralph into the office to talk. Hallie and Eric then decided to leave.
Natasha yelled at Ralph as Steve and I tried not to listen. She accused him of lying and of betraying her. Most of the incident was very private so I won't repeat what I heard. After about ten minutes of that, Natasha left. I tried to talk to her, but she ran into the darkness.
I went back in the house and asked Ralph if it was O.K. if Natasha stayed at my house for the night. She had a problem of sleeping at the park when they had an argument, and it was very cold outside. Ralph said it would be O.K. and urged me to go out and look for her immediately. I did so. Steve and Ralph waited by the phone at home, as they thought their presence would complicate matters.
After several hours of searching for Natasha I finally found her at a gas station located at Polk and Foothill. As soon as I got out of my car she told me that she had already talked to the attendant inside, and should she be bothered by anyone, he would call the police immediately. That hurt my feelings. I assured her that I would not do anything and we began to talk.
The conversation was very personal. I asked her if she would come to my house for the evening. She thanked me but said that she had withdrawn $200.00 from the bank and was waiting for a taxi. She was planning on staying at a hotel for the night and would go to a friend's house the next day.
The taxi arrived shortly, she got in and drove away. I took down the vehicle number and company phone number as it drove away. It was a good thing, too. The next day Natasha called Ralph and told him that she was going to commit suicide. He called the police and gave them the numbers, with that information they tracked her down.
11/17/91-I called Ralph, he wished me a Happy Birthday, and asked if I thought poorly of him. I assured him that I did not. He was very sad about the whole situation, and at the same time relieved that it was finally over.
A few days later I tried to call Natasha at work and got no reply. Ralph then told me that Natasha had gone back up North. He gave her the orange car and she took all it would carry.
During the next two weeks we trained hard for the tests. I finished my paper and submitted it for Ralph's approval. He said that overall it was O.K., but that it was too vague in a few places.
They did not begin to clean the house until the week before Shihan Brian's visit. What a madhouse. Everyday that week we tried to train, study, and clean house. Inside and outside had to be cleaned, and it was a lot of work. We cleaned, packed, and hid stuff away.
Thursday night was our last training before the weekend and it was a good one. Steve attended the class, and they both worked each other as well as me. It seemed as though it was finally coming together for me. The stress was beginning to show on Ralph. I asked him a question and he snapped at me. He apologized later. I knew it was just nerves. After class Steve told me that I needed to get Shihan Brian a gift.
Friday was a nightmare. I went out during lunch to cash my check. After work I went straight to the mall. I was lucky, and the first place I walked into had the perfect gift. I got Ralph and Steve a present while I was there.
Finally, the time came to go to the airport. Tension was really beginning to rise. On the way down, Ralph and Steve asked me questions they thought Shihan Brian might ask me. One of the questions was, "What was the perfect dojo like?" I told them that it would be very much like their dojo, that we would start every class with kata, and that there would be serious training. Ralph acted upset and told me not to tell them what I thought they wanted to hear, tell them what I thought. I got upset and told them that was what I thought.
We got to the airport as the passengers were deplaning. Shihan Brian greeted us and I was so nervous I called him, "Sir."
In the car Ralph asked Shihan Brian if Julio was coming down for our tests. Shihan Brian said that Julio asked if he could be present, but that he had tried his best to dissuade him. He did not think that Julio would be present. Ralph seemed relieved and made it very clear that should Julio show up, he did not want him at his test.
When we got home, there were four vases with flowers sitting on the front porch. We went inside and read the cards. Frank had sent them. Score a few points for Frank. Of course, Shihan Brian's arrangement was the largest and nicest of the four.
12/7/91-We were up late and the morning came much too early. At 9:30 a.m. we were training. It was a long class. Shihan Brian bowed us in and started with me. We did the kata together twice. He said I did it better when I was tired because my nervousness had worn off a little. By the end of the class we all had done about six katas each.
After class Steve and Ralph finished their papers. We then went to lunch at "4 and 20," where we all gave Koji a hard time and accused him of not being, and not speaking, Japanese.
After lunch Shihan Brian gave us our written tests. While we worked on them he read our papers. He checked our test when we finished, and then told us that we should read each other's papers as they were very good. Ralph wrote about the Shinto religion and Steve wrote about the History of Japanese Sword Making.
We had a little time to relax and went out shopping for the night's dinner. When we got back, Shihan Brian and Koji made Curry and Rice.
During the course of the weekend, I think it was on Saturday, Ralph told Shihan Brian about Natasha's good fortune. Evidently, after she broke up with Ralph she called her tea teacher and told her that she would have to quit coming to class. The teacher told Natasha that she was just like a daughter to her, and that she could not leave. She told her that she would put her up until she found a place to stay. So, Natasha returned to L.A. to stay with her teacher for two weeks. Her teacher then recommended her for a full paid scholarship to learn Tea Ceremony in Japan. She was approved and will be going sometime in 1992. Cool, huh?
About 7 p.m. we had another training. Sean and Eric, prospective students, were allowed to watch. Frank and Koji were there so the mat was pretty full. Ralph deliberately worked on Frank and me right in front of the viewing audience just so they would have the proper respect (fear) for his techniques. Ralph worked with me on reversals for a while, and just before the class ended Shihan Brian asked to see some. He also asked to see Ralph do some Yondan henka.
After training everyone was invited for dinner and movies. While eating Mike Hannah called for directions. He was very close and arrived in time to get two large bowls of Shihan Brian's delicious fixings.
Everyone content, we went out to the dojo to watch movies. Shihan Brian had taken movies (Super 8mm) every time he had gone to Hombu Dojo. We got to see a film of Shihan Irie doing henka when he was younger. He was fantastic.
We also got to see another Shihan that Shihan Brian said had extremely harsh techniques. Evidently, when Mrs. LaMonica went to Japan for her Shihan license, that Shihan rubbed her wrists on the tatami until you could almost see the bone. Shihan Brian believes, that as a result, Shihan LaMonica never returned for further training. Shihan Brian also said that that Shihan is no longer at Hombu Dojo.
Another thing of interest that Shihan Brian pointed out was a plaque that is on the wall in Hombu. The kanji was done by a WWII General that was a friend of Shodai Me Soke. This, he said, supports the idea that he (Soke) was an ultranationalist during the war. He told us the General (responsible for the Rape of Nanking) was tried for war crimes and acquitted of all wrongdoing except for command responsibility. Even though he did not order the Rape of Nanking, he did not take charge or attempt to stop it. He was hung.
Ralph had rented a projector just for the evening. It cost him $100.00 plus a $300.00 deposit. The evening, however, was cut short by this rented monstrosity. It started out O.K., but by the end of the second film it was running so slowly, it was intolerable.
12/8/91-As I was preparing to go to the dojo Ralph called. He wanted me to bring my video camera and some blank tapes for the tests.
When I arrived, Shihan Brian and Mike were training. I got dressed, we readied the camera, and entered the dojo. My test was first.
Shihan Brian did the kata with me first. Then Mike did henka with me. First suware, then hantachi, and then tachi. The tachi henka included tanto techniques. When I would get out of breath, Shihan Brian would encourage me to sit in seiza and rest.
After finishing the reversal portion of the test, he climbed up on the bench at the back of the dojo, and pulled out a pair of ice block tongs. He had hidden them there earlier in the opening at the top of the enclosure. I looked at Ralph nervously, remembering what he had told me about this part of the test. "Stand up and get ready to defend yourself," he said, "because he'll attack you ferociously." Shihan Brian motioned me to get up, and I did so quickly.
He attacked me a few times and said that that was enough. One time, one of the points of the tongs got caught in his sleeve. I worried for a moment that I had injured him, but he was all right. We both sat in seiza, and as I attempted to catch my breath, he told me to relax-I had passed.
We bowed out and went out to get something to drink. After a few minutes it was Ralph's turn. I was not allowed to attend because he is my teacher and he was testing for Yondan. His test went quickly and he came out sweating, breathing hard, and victorious. Now it was Steve's turn. He looked very calm, but he said that his looks were deceiving as he internalized his emotions. He also returned victorious.
I was awarded Shodan, presented with some certificates, a kanji which says, "Keiko Nyukon" and "Mainichi Renshu," "Put your soul into training," and "Practice Everyday," a Yudansha card and pin, a new hakama, and Ralph's black belt. Ralph gave me his belt because my belt had not yet arrived from Japan.
Ralph and Steve were awarded Yondan, presented with some certificates, new Yudansha cards (Steve's was lost before presentation), and certificates declaring them "Vice Directors" of Nishi Kaigan Hakko-ryu Kai. Shihan Brian said that they were doing the job anyway so they might as well have the title. Ralph and Steve were shocked and very proud to receive such an honor. Way cool! Ralph also received Shihan Brian's black belt to temporarily replace the one he gave me.
After the awards we gave Shihan Brian gifts. Ralph and Steve gave him a large tsuba that probably measured 12" across. It's the piece that is between the handle and the blade of a Japanese sword. I gave him a large wax candle in the shape of a dragon. I also gave Ralph a smaller version of a dragon, and I gave Steve a candle in the shape of a Geisha. Presents accepted, thanks given, we posed for group and action pictures.
Shihan Brian packed his bags and we readied to leave. As we were about to walk out of the house Ralph gave me a key to the dojo post office box. I put my Yudansha pin on the lapel of my jacket and asked Koji what the kanji on the bottom said. He told me it said, "Pod." What a funny guy. The joke is, Mudansha are "pods," and Yudansha are "cool breezes." Mike left at this time.
On the way to the airport we stopped to have lunch. During lunch the conversation revolved mainly around Julio and his dojo. "Toxic Shame," a new age catch word, something we are all supposed to suffer from because our parents scarred us mentally when they shamed us as children, was conjectured to be the new thing in Julio-ville. Shihan Brian said that there was a rumor going around that Julio was trying to worm his way into the Mimawari Yaku position for California.
Shihan Brian also voiced concern about the quality of Julio's black belts. One student, Lillian, an 80 lb. weakling with a spirit to match, was the epitome of Julio's wrecklessness. Shihan Brian said that Julio was doing her a disservice by making her a Shodan and allowing her to think she might actually be able to protect herself against a real attacker (especially if the attacker was a man).
At the airport we sat and talked for a few minutes before Shihan Brian boarded his plane. As he did last time he was here, there was no tearful goodbye. He said goodbye, shook our hands, and didn't look back.
The trip home took an eternity and was mostly silent. I think everyone was emotionally as well as physically drained by the weekend. Still when we got home we were determined to celebrate.
We drank a bottle of Champagne (cheap stuff), a twelve-pack of Michelob, and a few shots of Vodka mixed with "Censored" (supposed to be "sex") on the beach. The champagne and beer didn't do much, but the mixed drinks put us down pretty hard. In my drunken, emotional state I told Ralph that I tried to make him proud and that I owed everything to him. He responded by punching me in the arm repeatedly. The next day my arm bruised very nicely.
12/9/91-Everyone awoke the next morning feeling a little less than human. I took Steve to work and then went home. I tried to take a nap, but was unsuccessful. I returned later to help Ralph get his car to a smog station. While the car was being repaired, Ralph and I returned the movie projector. He told them, that as they said, it did run a little slow. We returned for the car and it had passed.
12/10/91-Ralph got the car registered again and cleared his name of all his tickets. He was free to drive again.
12/12/91-I had my first class in Nidan last night. We only did a few of the suware waza, but I worked up a sweat. Boy, does that stuff hurt like sin. I think it's the kata dreamed up in the bowels of Hell. Ralph pointed out the importance of the cutting action necessary to make the techniques powerful. Frank joined our class about twenty minutes later and we began to work on Shodan.
Frank's kata was a little rusty, but Ralph worked him through it anyway. After kata we worked on Nage and Niho Nage henka. Frank's ukemi had also been affected by his absence, and this is where I feel it really showed itself. Once or twice he took really bad falls, and if it hadn't been for the mat, he probably would have cracked his head open. He was pretty embarrassed by the whole thing. I told him that he shouldn't be because the henka was difficult to fall out of, and I had fallen badly myself.
12/13/91-Collin showed up just after I got there. He announced that he had taken his citizenship test today. The actual ceremony would be in a few months. I asked him what it was like learning history again from the American point of view. He didn't really answer me. Steve and he then went out to train.
Frank, Ralph and Hallie, and I went to Sushi King for a celebration dinner. That location was picked because Koji works there. Lucky for us, unlucky for him, he was our waiter. They all ate raw stuff by the truckload. I ate Teriyaki beef. We all drank too much and Hallie had to drive home.
The conversation turned into a debate over whether Ralph's dojo would be able to compete with Julio's dojo, assuming they were across the street from each other. Frank thought that Julio would do better because of theatrics and the promise to make people a shodan in a year. Ralph and Hallie thought Ralph's dojo would do best because eventually people would figure out that he's teaching the real thing. Either that or Julio's quality would have to improve.
12/16/91-Frank called off training because it was his Mother's birthday. Ralph and Steve made jokes to the effect that, "He did pretty good. Two classes on time, in a row, without calling off."
Ralph and Hallie were having a rough night so I asked Steve if he wanted to train with me. He told me that he was going to train with Collin. Collin ended up calling off for the night because of a sick child so Steve asked Ralph if he wanted him to train with me. Ralph said it was O.K. because he was going to train with Eric later.
Steve and I did Nidan kata over and over again. Each time Steve would take me a few waza further and then start over again.
Ralph and Eric came out to the dojo while Steve and I were training. Ralph began to tell Eric how the classes would begin, etc. After a lengthy talk about rei and dojo rules, they bowed in. They started to work on movement. First in suware, then suware to hantachi, and then in tachi. Then they practiced a prostrate, side to side rolling technique that helps the student to fall correctly. Steve and I left them training, and Ralph told me later that they also did some of the kata, including Tekagami.
12/20/91-When I showed up for training, I noticed a broken window along the sidewalk. I asked Ralph and Steve, and at first they acted like they didn't know what I was talking about. Before Ralph and I bowed in, though, Ralph told me that Hallie did it Monday night at about 3 in the morning. Ralph said he kicked her out and she got violent. She punched the window out with one of her hands, and she cut herself in the process. As a result, Eric may not continue training with Ralph because he feels Ralph treated Hallie badly. Ralph said this was exactly why he trys to keep his personal life and Hakko-ryu separate.
Ralph and I trained in Nidan for about 1/2 hour before Frank showed up last night. After we were done Ralph did the shodan kata with Frank. It was interesting to watch the kata from an outside point of view. Ralph made some corrections concerning Frank's "mugging" grip. He stressed technique as opposed to physical strength, over and over again. I think I learned a lot, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ralph's artistry of motion. He told us that one can judge a person's proficiency and understanding of a technique by the effortlessness with which he does a technique. In tekagami he made us aware of the importance of driving the uke's elbow across the body to kazoosh and gain control of him. When they finished the kata, we worked on the principles he was talking about in henka.
Steve had ordered pizza, and as we walked out of the dojo, it showed up. Steve haggled over the price with the delivery man because of a misunderstanding that occurred when it was ordered. We walked down to the liquor store for drinks, and I told Ralph that I enjoyed watching him train with Frank earlier. Everyone accused me of "kissing butt," and said I didn't need to do it anymore as I was already a Shodan. We also talked about Julio. Julio has told his students that there was nothing more for him to learn from Hakko-ryu, and that there are only four people that are better than him at Hakko-ryu in the world. Julio and his attitude really make Ralph very upset.
12/23/91-Ralph called and said there would be no training tonight as he was sick. He said that Frank was going to visit anyway and that I was invited. I told him that I would show up too.
I arrived with Christmas presents for Ralph and Steve. One was a microwave oven that I had found in the trash and had fixed. The other was a copy of this journal up to the last entry. They liked the microwave. It remains to be seen if the journal will be liked also. I told Ralph that he needed to read it before he showed it to anyone else because it had some information of a personal nature in it.
Steve and Sean came out from training, and Ralph told Steve of the journal. Steve said that he had come to the conclusion that I was completely and utterly insane for writing it.
Ralph and Frank wanted to get something to eat and asked me to drive as they were both slightly "inebriated." I took them to an "In and Out" burger place. While there we harassed the workers (women) over the intercom.
When we got back, we couldn't find Steve. We thought he went out to get something to eat. Later, Ralph discovered that he was training with Collin. Collin wished us all a "Happy Christmas" before he left and urged us to enjoy the popcorn that he had brought over as a gift. Ralph and Steve did just that.
We sat and watched the tape of Shihan Irie training with Gordon up to the Sandan kata. He really is fantastic. Ralph said that Shihan Brian told him that because Shihan Irie knew that he was being filmed, he was not doing any higi. As if anyone would notice!
Ralph asked me if I liked being a Shodan. I told him that I do, but I don't think it's sunk in yet. He also told me that Natasha might call and ask if I would train with her. He told me that it was all right with him. I told him that I didn't think it was a great idea for a variety of reasons. He said it was up to me. I'll have to talk to him about it some more.
Note: I stopped writing the journal for a few weeks because I thought that Ralph and Steve did not approve. When I advised Ralph of this, he told me that I had made the commitment to be the dojo's scribe and that I was to continue. I tried to talk my way out of it (due to laziness), saying that it was a lot of work, but Ralph would not hear of it.
12/24/91-It was almost time for me to go home (I was at work) when Ralph and Steve showed up. They had a gift for me, and wanted me to open it right away. I started to open it and saw a black belt. I did not continue because no one at work knew that I was training. Ralph and Steve encouraged me to open it anyway, saying that now was the time for everyone to know. I did.
After Ralph and Steve left things got real weird. The other guards started asking strange questions like, "Is it a real black belt or just an honorary one?" I later told Ralph that I sidestepped that question, and he told me that I had nothing to be embarrassed about. I should, instead, be proud. He said that if anyone ever asks if the belt is real again that I should tell them, "YES!" and that I earned it. I was not to belittle its significance again.
12/26/91-Natasha called me at work and invited me to a New Year's Eve party. I told her that I would think about it. She cried about Ralph a few times, and then told me of her comical experiences with some Japanese people on Christmas day. She made a traditional American Christmas dinner and said the funniest part was when they ladled the gravy into bowls thinking it was soup.
Natasha then brought up the idea of us training together. She told me that she had already talked with Shihan Brian about it, and that he was going to get back to her about it after the holidays. She said that he would teach her and that I would just train with her. I told her that I didn't think it would be a good idea and she cried. I told her I would think about it.
We postponed training until Friday because Frank was moving. I offered to help him but ended up driving to Glendale following his directions. After a while I gave up and went to Ralph's house. We decided to watch a movie and get our documents framed. We had to hot-wire the car to start it when we were leaving the frame place. For some reason it didn't want to start.