I haven't posted on Aikiweb for...we,, forever
, it seems. Here's why:
Barely six weeks ago, I was going steadily nuts as the manager of the roughest U-Haul in the Kitchener-Waterloo area (Ontario, Canada). That place was insane - rough in every sense of the word. Physical assaults on my counter staff was not uncommon; I was having to step in and defend - either physically or with threat of physical defense - my workers practically daily. A week didn't go by - literally - when I didn't have the cops in my store having to deal with yet another situation. On top of that, my bosses in head office learned quick that they had someone who not only had no problems going toe-to-toe with agressive individuals; but also had the skill and experience to do so and be able to defuse the situation and resolve it peacefully. I wound up doing a whole lot of repo work; getting U-haul equipment back from customers determined to hold on to it often weeks after their contract expired. (Trust me - not an easy skill to learn. I learned it overseas dealing with people who had me at gunpoint - literally - so dealing with Bubba-with-a-beer-can is a relative piece of cake. In the relatively rare occasion it went physical, it generally ended quickly, with no harm to the customer, and cops standing by on civil assist.)
I'll give you an idea: In my last full week, I dealt with 3 attempted physical assaults, had the cops in five times, did 2 repos, was threatened with weapons twice, had one attempted theft of a vehicle, had two people quit and fired two more, leaving just me and one other full-timer to manage a store, service 35 trucks, 24 trailers and 142 storage units.
Well, six weeks ago, that was my life. I was getting quickly burned out, getting close to making that fatal slip or mistake that would land me at best out of work, at worst in jail or in the hospital. Then...karma.
From out of the blue, my brother called me from Alberta with a job offer. He's a chef - one of the most accomplished in Canada. He's setting up a new restaurant in the tiny town of Montrose, Alberta and asked me to come and be his manager. Blood is thick after all, and besides that he knows my skill in personnel management and customer relations.
My response: "Let me think about..YES!!"
That was six weeks ago.
Now, I'm living in the tiny town of Ma-Me-O, in a shabby mobile home with the barest of necessities. (Yes, you can see the irony. Internet included. LOL!) Fewer than 1500 people in winter, the nearest store is 30 minutes away by bicycle. The restaurant isn't open yet, and I'm deep in fighting my way through the morass of building codes and local inertia to get the blace finished. It's a hard go, but I'M LOVIN' IT!!!
My stress level has gone from extreme to none. The people here are friendly, outgoing and wonderfully generous. The worst crime spree they've had happened 2 years ago when a kid from the city sprayed graffiti on the walls.
For the first time in twenty years, I am totally, completely at peace. It's wonderful - I literally cry stepping out onto my deck and night and not hearing any cars.
I've stopped smoking - no need, no cravings either. No drinking other than a light social caesar after dinner.
I've found where in the world I'm supposed to be.
Now - since this is an aikido forum, I'd better get to some aikido topics.
The one downside - and it's not much of that - is that there's no aikido here. Heck - there's no MA at all
for a hundred kilometers. I miss my old dojo; miss it dearly - it and all my dear friends at KW Ki Aikido. In addition, I'm totally jonesing for a dojo, but right now I must say the isolation has been extremely helpful. I've been working on my single-person practice (Hitori-waza, ORE's, personla regime, staff and bokken kata etc.) and even to my own jaded eye am improving remarkably. Without the need to teach or 'prove anything' to others, I can concentrate and do what I wish; examining movements in minute detail. Also, I hadn't realized how much personal stress can affect performance. I always struggled to be as relaxed as possible in class, whether learning or teaching, and didn't really realize the grim irony there. Now, without the basic stress level, once again I can just do - without the need to do for any specific purpose.
It helps - I haven't enjoyed solo practice so much in years.
This fall - once we're established at the restaurant and I'm financially secure again - I'll be opening my own dojo in the area - either in Westerose or in Leduc, the nearest sizeable town (about 45 min. away by car). As tiny as this town is, I've been astonished at the response. Everyone knows everyone in a small town, and as soon as the word got out that a martial arts instructor was in the area, I've been waylaid constantly with questions and requests for teaching. Astonishing.
I'll wrap it up now, I just wanted to say 'hi' after so long away. I won't be able to respond as much as I'd like, contact's pretty tricky way out here.
Just before I left Kitchener, I took my camera to class, as did my classmates and friends, and we took a ton of pictures and videos. I compiled them into a series of short videos and posted them to Youtube for fun. They're nothing special - the aikido is at my usual low level (I'm just a nikkyu) and the instruction is my usual rambling rant
but they're what I have left to remember the school and people I loved dearly by. If you want to see them, look here: