="C.E. Clark (Chuck Clark
Would you help us get to know you better by expanding on your history and experience in the practice of budo?
Hi Mr. Clark!
Thank you for asking! I usually don't like to discuss myself although I did post a personal experience on another column, but lets delve into it a bit.
Actually, I have yet to own an Aikido book! I could not tell you what is on the market. I remember being in a Barnes and nobles book store to pick up a frappucino and noticed a martial arts section. I noticed a couple of aikido books (don't remember the name). One was on various exercises to practice maai, break falling, etc. and one the other was by some guy I never hear of. Thumbing through, the excercise one was kinda cool and the other with a little kihon-waza was bland and rather difficult to follow and conceptualize by the way it was presented. I bought neither because I did not have the money and was not worth the inflated price.
so, if I seem to speak with authority, it comes from a particular experience of mine; my character exudes confidence because what I speak of, is a true experience. Now lets delve into my history. From a young age of around about 10, I studied some ninjitsu but to no real measure, from there I studied Shotokan Karate which is full contact. I then studied American Karate, and then a little of some other karate, a little judo, and finally I arrived at aikido.
I have made all the mistakes at one time or another in a certain regard so I learned the hard way regarding how to detect those "self proclaimed" sensei vs. a certified sensei! The first two instructors of aikido that I moved around to turned out to be self-proclaimed idiots rather than a sensei. I was young and did not no better at the time and alot of regrettable mistakes were made. The next sensei I ran across was certified and actually new what he was doing but I questioned the way he ran things from time to time. So, I stuck with him the longest based on the notion that no one will do things to suit me %100. I stayed their for 4 yrs until we had a falling out that I mentioned in the aikido and aiki column. I left that dojo 1.4 years ago.
Now, I travel to train with various sensei as I have not yet settled nad there is no other dojo even remotely close to where I live. People from my previous dojo and from the area where I live feel it necessary that I open a dojo. I have only considered this just so I would be able to train more regularly like I used to. I have the skill and methodology to organize and effectivly convey the techniques but, I don't want to do that until I reach my goals at a certain level. So, it may seem selfish but I need to work on myself so that later I can put more into the students. I could probably carry a student to shodan but I don't want to be limited to this.
Ahhh rank, I think you asked about rank. Good 'ol rank. Well, another misfortune in the place I trained for 4 yrs. was all about rank. The sensei was a control-freak and rank was a constant issue in the way hr trteated mudansha. Parting from there was a good thing. Before I came to that dojo, I had earned black belt from the the 2nd self proclaimed sensei in just over a year (which is not possible in a real dojo). I did not know any better. Some time had ellapsed and I heard about the dojo that was certified. When he asked if I had ever trained aikido, I said yes, but I don't know how it wouold measure up. After training there for a month, I realized that I had not recieved decent instruction previously. He offered to see what level I could come in at and I said no, I will sart at the bottom (7 th kyu) and work my way back up because I wanted to learn everything right. I also did not want to out rank their top student which wasn't saying much.
The awkward thing was that my skill level was constantly above the sempai! He would always ask me how to do something and so forth. It never bothered me until the end of the 4 years. I had finally advanced up to one rank behind him, in the beginning I was 3 ranks behind him. One should only be concerned with the self but it does get frustrating when you have to compensate for a sempai regarding to having to show him how a techniqque goes, terminology. etc. etc.
At that dojo, the sensei took me all the way to nikyu which I never really got. I took the pretest and was great, the problem is that the falling out happened one week before I was supposed to test nikyu.
Since then I have traveled to study with various sensei. Among them, Yasuo Kobayashi-shihan, I visited Keith Moore-Meido (Toyoda-shihan's successor), others who have helped me include; Derek Nakagawa-sensei and so on. Before that of course, I trained with Toyoda-shihan on ocassion efore his passing.
So my rank? With the AAA it is negligible. I no longer have a rank there as I am out of it. However, my skill and knowledge expands past the 2nd kyu from which I was ready to accept. I am a very articulate and analytical person so it comes fast and natural for me most of the time. Moore-Meido offered me to start a study group under his guidance and at my instruction. I could not do this because I amy be moving soon career wise and feel it is not the time. So, it was nice he placed that confidence in me. Perhaps I will do this soon.
I hope this helps clear up my foundation in budo. I guess you could say that I am a Ronin with no master other than myself. I hope to rectify the situation soon and seek permanent placement under proper guidance.