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Old 11-27-2009, 03:17 PM   #4
Ellis Amdur
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Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 899
Re: The first time you fell on your (_!_) thanks to your hakama

Japan, 1976. I was an ikkyu at the Aikikai honbu and even so, was pretty well noticed by the various shihan. I was at just about every class, I trained like a fiend and I'm 2 meters tall - at that time, the highest altitude in the dojo. So I took ukemi for most of the shihan almost from the git-go (except Yamaguchi, who would only use you if you fell according to his criteria, which I never could figure out).
So after a couple of months, I got my shodan. There was a fashion then - maybe now - of having a hakama that covered your toes. (Bushi actually had a hakama at ankle height or higher - which you see in a lot of koryu. Think about it - the hakama was a riding cullotte, worn over the kimono. Without the cullotte, kimono opens up and that which makes a man most mister is flying in the breeze and getting caught in the saddle. But with an overlong hakama, you get off your horse, and what do you step in and drag into the house even if you take off your shoes? ).
Anyway, I had this specially made hakama - super long. I go to Masuda's afternoon class - about 80 people. I plant myself right in the center, front row, perfect seiza. As was my intention, Masuda sees me, and in his impeccable broken English, which he was very proud of, he says, "New brack beruto!" And he beckons me for a tenchi-nage - he's going to usher me into the world of the big kids with a thump and a crash, and I leapt to my feet and my toe catches on the hakama and I'm laid out horizontal, flying like an arrow towards him. He takes a step back and I pancake right on my face.
Japanese reserve, right! Gotta preserve someone's feelings in awkward moments, right? That's what they do over there, right?

Everyone in the dojo is laughing so hard, some people are crying. Masuda is just staggering around, guffawing and I lurched to my feet to attack him again and he keeps backing up, still laughing, waving me away, saying, "no, please no. No. No more. Please"
Back to my seat, I skulked. Took five minutes before the class started. Off I went to a tailor.
Oh yeah, I didn't know you were supposed to wash the hakama a few times in salt and vinegar (that's what people did) to fix the dye, and I left calligraphy of blue swatches all over the white mats. That, OTOH, was not considered funny, as waka sensei let me know later.

Ellis Amdur

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