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In 1990 I was single, 25 years old, 6'2" and 150 lbs. (yes, I was SKINNY). In October this year I'll be 40, married for 14 years and a father of two. I'm still 6'2", but now I'm 205 lbs. Two months ago I weighed a sedentary 215 lbs. -- see below for details.
IN THE BEGINNING
Before Aikido, I tended to do Aikido-like things.
I'd never been in a fight, partially due to my skill in the art of verbal self-defense. I'd insult the offender in an intelligent, humorous way and walk away while their friends laughed at them trying to figure out what I said.
Whenever I was goofing around with my friends and somebody started getting rough, I'd always find a way to compensate for not being very strong (my upper body strength sucks). Usually I'd use balance / unbalance or leverage / joint-locks to get away.
When I decided to study martial arts (to help me protect my girlfriend if it ever became necessary) I needed to choose a discipline. After reading a stack of books, I narrowed it down to Judo and Aikido. No sparring, no competitions and the defensive focus in Aikido were the deciding factors.
I LOVED IT! I was MADE for Aikido.
Of course I had to teach my body to move differently than before, but it all *clicked*. I understood it. It all made sense. It was difficult, but felt very natural. I caught on quickly.
I trained in 1989 and 1990 at the University of Toledo in Ohio for 3 semesters and passed my first 3 tests to reach 6th kyu. [NOTE: 9th kyu was awarded if you failed your first test, 8th kyu if you passed. I don't know if that's how most dojos do it.]
Thenů I got married. She gave up competitive bodybuilding; I gave up Aikido. I've been away from Aikido since 1990 and I've missed it terribly!
I like the sensei (John Parks -- 3rd Dan Yoshinkai Aikido -- 4th Dan Yagyu Jui Jitsu). I watched him teach an adult class and I've spoken with him several times.
EVALUATION AND ADJUSTMENTS
About 3 months ago I decided to evaluate the dojo. I participated in a youth class and an adult class back-to-back on the same night. That was a HUGE mistake. For the first 3 days I couldn't even get up off the toilet without handrails. My legs were killing me! I was walking like Tim Conway on The Carol Burnett Show doing his old man routine. It took me 6 days to feel normal again.
Since my brush-with-death Aikido class:
- I'm eating and drinking better (6 smaller, better meals instead of 3 -- more water -- no coffee)
- Riding my new bike 15-20 miles at a stretch 2-3 times a week
- Rollerblading when I can.
I will be resistance training on my new home gym to supplement my cardio workouts.
I've spoken with sensei about my rank. He said I earned 6th kyu, so as far as he's concerned I'm 6th kyu. He'll order the belt I need. My old belt was green. Now it will be orange, maybe with one or two white stripes (he needed to check). The only stipulation he placed on my rank was that I must demonstrate adequate knowledge of all techniques thru 6th kyu before testing for 5th kyu. That, of course, only makes sense.
I still have both my dogis. They still fit. My dogi-bag is still serviceable as well. My weapons have been in their carrying bag since 1990. I'm not sure if they've become dangerously dry so I'm having the youth instructor (Norbert Jaeger -- 2nd Dan) check them out. Apparently, he's an expert woodworker and made beautiful custom weapons for sensei.
I've only just recently managed to work out my scheduling and funding issues. I'm finally getting back into Aikido! I'll be training every Wednesday and Thursday.