Bruce ... the boat guy
Hello, I am Bruce Baker from Barngat, NJ, a little town just above Atlantic City.
I am not long to Aikido, about four and a half years, or martial arts, didn't start till thirty six, but I believe I have been a good student who searches, studys, and learns from mistakes while seeking the truth in all martial arts.
Presently, I am studying with a very kind and generous teacher, Chester Griffin sensei 4th dan, who has just turn seventy, and is treasured by every sensei and shihan I have met in the last four & one half years. Although he has mellowed through the years, I sometimes see the older style of martial training I came to expect with Karate tempered with the harmony of Aikido.
(this is gonna be long one, for a couple of reasons, you might want to settle in, or stop here, cause them is the important facts)
The short of martial arts is getting two intense years of Kempo Karate/Wally Jay jujitsu. My first teacher, David Hulse sensei 3rd dan, kept pictures of Jigoro Kano, Ginchin Funakoshi, Wally Jay, and Morehei Ueshiba for the balance of Judo, Karate, Jujitsu, and Aikido to understand martial arts with a cross above the pictures to show religious balance of life. So too did we bow in and off the mat with the prayer hands, to pray for peace, open triangle, to see the good in all things, and covered fist, to thank our teacher and those that came before for what we have learned today. Simple tenents, but how often do we remember to think of these things?
Because of money concerns/ overhead, he closed the dojo and went back to earning a living for his family and took care of those concerns. Both he and his wife had run dojo's for their teacher who up and went to Florida, closing the dojo's before his two year try by himself, but after fourteen years of injurys and teaching, it was time to move on.
I too, understood the importance of family first, having help support my five brothers and two sisters until welfare and gainful employment for their adult lives began and I was twenty seven years old. Even after serving in the Coast Guard from seventeen to almost twenty, and being hospitalized with clinical depression from the then undiagnosed Meniere's disease did not stop me from working in the Marine Trades for the next almost thirty years ... two years of working in the boat store after school in high school ... rounds it up to thirty last year. Normal kid, sailing, boating, bowling, Paper route, boyscouts, seascouts, church choir, church dinners, some college credits, no father, little brother who died at fourteen from a bad heart/crippled body, normal pull yourself up by your bootstraps life ... no big deal.
Funny thing about Atl. Hlnds, you get a few Accidental Suicides now and then when people from disorganized crime(Lucky Luciano mob) have squabbles? You learn to stay away from those funny looking guys from out of town who stand in driveways, or near parked cars next to the Italian construction companys? Either that, or the kids you went to school with are in a biker gang, and they are your friends, or you have to jump into three brothers attacking one of our brothers cause all of them have had too much to say and too much to drink? Funny how them things happen?
Let's just say, speed and strength somehow overcame martial ability when the need arose, so until middle age set in I found no need for martial arts, although they were damn interesting? Like most of those who dispell pressure points, I would grab joints and twist, or throw bodies to affect defense rather than slug it out.
So while some people were doing Aikido, I was out in the boonies sailing, motorboating, drinking, carousing, and generally getting into trouble. In fact, I remember one family who had a son who was training with Yamada sensei in NYC and my brother was dating his sister, but that is another story. Kind of like when I was seven years old this old guy gave this demonstration of throwing and holding a wooden sword with two guys pushing on it, then walked on brittle tea cups without breaking them. I asked him after the demonstration was over, why he moved so slow, and did he hypnotize the people? He laughed. Next day I got a telephone call where I was asked to go to Japan to train in martial arts, and my mother looked at me like I was going to get a slap in the head. I thanked the nice man on the telephone, and went back to watching cartoons. (weird huh?)
My father disappeared when I was eleven and he just died last year, another story ... I didn't get free until twenty six, just in time to meet a woman and get back into family mode of my own for the next twenty some years until today. Three kids, mortgage, house, barely making ends meet, the usual fun, plus ... undiagnosed side symptoms of Meniere's getting worse with every infection.
Anyway, the recession 88-92 was a pain, and I bumped about different places ... marine trades is seasonal if you close December to March, work another job, take unemployment ... good time to train if you can swing the money.
For the next few years after the dojo closed in 92, I studied, tried my teachers friends dojo, Tae Kwon do (got bumped out after two months for making his national junior (17 year old) black belt champion cry because I was too rough after he kicked me in the head and laughed. Hey, I never left a mark on the kid, just humiliated him by neutralizing everything he knew?), then some brazilian Jujitsu (not Gracie because of some patent rights to gracie name, his cousin? Renzo though), and then Aikido with Sensei Chet. Doesn't mean I didn't get out and visit other styles, read, study and compare notes, that is half the fun of figuring out martial arts?
I can honest say, I have built houses, destroyed houses, drove pilings in marinas, worked as a carpenter, plumber, foreman/service manager, driven and sailed hundreds of different types of boats up to fifty feet ( not including coast guard ships and vessels), Rigged/fixed outboard and inboard motors on near every kind of fishing boat, built ninety mile per hour Cobra Catamaran Fishing boat (complete from making the wiring to rigging electronics), and stood toe to toe with some pretty impressive fighters in Karate ( and laughed about it) as well as some very nice upper echelon people in USAF Aikido.
So, how did I come across pressure points? Between all the bunkai written down in my notebook, and what most of my teachers show about the hidden techniques their teachers show, I wondered why these hidden points worked or didn't work with different types of hits, pushes or rubs? Wally Jay had about the best success rate at activating pressure points, but he attributed them to points where weakness occurred or muscles/tendons connected. Something we all do. It works ... don't fix it!
Ok ... About 1996, I have my first real spin the room I can't contol my balance, and that declines until 1998 I am finally so bad a blind man couldn't miss Meniere's and I am clinically diagnosed with Meniere' disease. I have been doing Aikido for about a year with varying degress of dizzyness, drugs, and antiverts ....
Let's see ... About three years ago, 1999, I go to a triple seminar with Leon Jay (Wally Jay's son), George Dillman, and Remy Presis (Stick fighting, who died the end of 2001 ... very nice man, great teacher). We used to do silat sticks warmups with Larry Trainor, my first teacher Daves buddy, and I was an old hand at Wally Jay's jujitsu .... but who was this little Dillman guy?
Since starting Aikido I was begining to feel comfortable with the manipulation of jujitsu, but entering and blending were the ongoing battle. Push here, this opens that hand or knee, this closes a hand , or this paralyzes were old friends to me ... don't know why it works, but do it like this and it does. Next thing you know I am saying 2 ...4... 6... and George is saying, those will be all the numbers you will need to know to START learning pressure points. (I guess after forty you get crusty and call everybody by their first name off the mat?)
That was fine, but then we start with ANGLE and DIRECTION, on the PROPER MERIDIAN. TWO PRESSURE POINTS CREATE PAIN and SUBMISSION, while THREE will knock out your opponent?
What? You have got to be kidding?
Interspersed with the lesson, are three or four knockouts with this modified version of judo/jujitsu revival? Sure enough, these are people whose eyes roll back, dialate, and are gone! If you ever knock out someone, you will never forget the eyes, and slump ... like a sack of potatoes off the potatoe truck.
What really got me going was that most of the knock outs were in the exact placement of many aikido techniques we were practicing at the Aikikai two days before! Can't BE? Aikido with pressure points?
Sure enough, three days later at Aikido practice, there is Griffin Sensei, doing a normal instruction class, and there he goes ... same exact order, areas used for knockouts over the weekend at the seminar? Now I am really hooked on both Aikido and this Pressure Point study. It is bad enough I love seminars with all the different people, buying videos, books, and other things I can barely afford, but now this?
So back pedal again, in 1999, I am dianosed with sleep aphnia, can't get enough oxygen when sleeping, get Bell' Palsy in June 2000 on my right side after a root canal on a left tooth, then again on the left side after a root canal on a right tooth ... eventually leading to full disability, trigeminal neualgial (three facial nerves on jaw, cheek, and eyebrow connected as tha jaw in front of the ear) and an illnes that turns on after five to ten minutes of aikido practice like the flu with a hangover on a ship in a hurricane. Try it, you won't like it.
This become the battle of trying to train, or just funciton at all while studying. My personal battle is to maintain what little advances I have in health, while supplimenting my training with knowledge, cunning, guile, and trickery while still trying to hold to the tenents of a true Martial Art, which easily fit into the tenents of Aikido.
So, if I get depressed, testy, misspell words, or am curt, please forgive me, my intentions were childlike, and my anger is towards these pains not you.
Did I believe in martial arts or Aikido before I trained and practice ... no. They were bogus things that a gun or a two by four to the back of the head would cure.
Will I write truthful to the extent of my years of life and experience ... yes.
Can't say I know anything but what I remember, and sometimes not much of that? Very little is embellished and it is all true ... mixed up sometimes, mistaken, but true.
Thank you for reading this, and I hope we all progress in our lives, our training, and become better human beings for liveing and practicing Aikido.
Bruce Baker/ Barnegat, NJ
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