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Home > Columns > Paul Schweer > June, 2004 - Passing Through
by Paul Schweer

Passing Through by Paul Schweer


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I sat in the parking lot for a while, then four people in three cars showed up at the same time. One of them had a key, and we all went in. There was no changing room. I got into my gi in one of the bathrooms.

I was standing on the back left corner of the mat tying my hakama when I saw him come in. He walked to where I was from across the mat. I bowed. He offered his hand and we shook. "I have to be preemptive with you," he said, and I felt my center drop and turn. Got a good look at his elbow. He laughed, gave me a smile and a friendly pat.

We did knife taking. I worked for a while with a slightly built girl -- reminds me of a dancer, way that she moves, like she might pirouette at any given moment. But she didn't seem to have any trouble throwing me, or avoiding my cuts, or taking the tanto. Then my turn, and it went okay. But I put a little much into an elbow, and heard a muffled crunch... certain I'd hurt her. But she was okay. Got up laughing actually. "My elbows do that." I wished that they didn't, hoped that I wouldn't hear them do it again.

One of the guys gave it back to me. Tanto in the eye. He looked like I'd felt when I heard the elbow crunch.

I got to uke for some of the teaching. At one point I buried the tanto's tip in the loose cloth covering his belly, felt the wood press hard against his flesh. He stopped and said to the students watching us, "If you get stuck... take it gracefully." He ran me around, and I mostly felt like I was chasing my attack all the way down and into the ground. But there were a few times when he left things unresolved, and I'd slash or thrust or try to get up... whatever was there... and he'd show us a little something else.

I sat, at one point, on the side. He saw me. Walked through the people training and bowed to me. He attacked, and I did my best. And there, as people stopped training and sat, he attacked again and again -- thrown time after time by a guest, in front of his own students, in his own dojo.

Then he stopped. And smiled big. Bowed, and said thank you.

I ain't there yet. I care too much about stuff that don't count.

But there are, out there, a few friends patient enough to let me try. Generous enough to let me train with them. Comfortable enough with themselves to let me screw up, fumble through it, under their nose. Under their roof. In front of everybody.

Even when I'm just passing through.

© 2004 Paul Schweer.


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