By Diane Ako
Every summer, my dojo holds a week-long retreat. We camp and hang out and practice jujitsu for four hours a day. There are guest instructors, special presentations, mainland visitors, and classes we normally wouldn't have (dance class - yes! - more on that later).
They've been doing it for two decades, but Claus and I have only been members for three years, so we're pretty new to the whole deal. We like it, though. It's a nice way to get to know other practitioners.
During regular practice, there just isn't time to socialize. Before class, everyone rushes in from work. After class, everyone rushes home. Camp is a nice time to dedicate a week to deeper study of this art, plus connect on other levels with masters of the craft. Some of the things the sensei have to say about jujitsu, or their life experiences in general, are amazing.
Club members come and go as our schedule permits, but the bulk of the members are there over the weekend. That's when we attended.
A bunch of people got promoted this year at camp, as our professor likes to do each summer. Congratulations to Lewis, Craig, Bev, Claus, Jon, and Nilo.
I'm still at the second level (blue belt) while Claus just got promoted to a second degree brown belt. Though we started on the same day, he is now a few levels ahead. It's OK. Now he can teach me.
He's ahead of me largely because he's simply a better athlete, and partially because I was so often tired that I missed practice in favor of sleeping at night. Claus, however, is constant. He gets into a sport and he lives and breathes it.
When he's training for a triathlon, he charts his progress on a computer spreadsheet and analyzes his split times. He wears a heart rate monitor. Me, I'm lucky if I don't get lost on the running trail. We are so different.
Plus, I left for 13 months. At first, it was because I was on the morning show and the hours conflicted with night practice. Then, I was recuperating from the exhaustion of a graveyard shift and the trauma of a layoff. Then, I remained drained because I was watching a little kid all day. Finally, Claus asked me to return to the dojo because he missed me.
I stumbled across the dojo in 2007 and it was my idea to start taking classes. He wanted to come and make it our couples activity.
We liked the art, we liked the other members, and we liked having a bona fide shared hobby for the first time, so we stayed. Though I have been usually brain-dead by the time I arrive at class, I hope through perseverence I can be the turtle that completes this race.
You have to find a partner: high rank and low rank. I feel comfortable working with Claus because he knows me so well, and I trust him. Now and then I'm partnered with him. That's generally a non-issue, though when we work on ground work versus throws, it's a little distracting. As Laura pointed out, "Get your qi up. It looks like you want him to pin you down." ...Am I that transparent?
We aren't, by the way, the only couple at the dojo. We arrived as a package deal, but there are two other couples, one of them married and the other expecting a child together, and they met their mates through the club. So you know, single friends, I keep saying this is a nice way to meet new people...
We had an Oahu bladesmith, quite possibly the only one in the Pacific region, come give us a presentation on the weapons he forges. Christopher Grey Wolf spoke to us for two hours about the history of the world from the perspective of weapons-making. He was so compelling!
One of our club members is a former hula teacher. Auntie Ipo led a class on basic hula steps, because so many martial arts hide their kata in dance, like the Brazilian capoiera. Our jujitsu system was actually founded by a local Oahu guy who incorporated elements of the Native Hawaiian martial art, lua. I didn't know this when I joined the club, though I like the idea of practicing something that's part of my heritage. What a nice coincidence.
If all the other sessions were informative and educational, this one was purely entertaining for me. The guys... oh, the guys. These tough fighters didn't enroll in jujitsu class to learn to dance, but that's just what they were being forced to do for two hours on a Sunday.
At one point, Ipo wanted us to practice our "ami" or hip rotations, because it's a movement incorporated in some of the jujitsu techniques. He was in a line in front of me. Claus looked like he needed oil for those joints. "Go, Baby! Show 'um why I married you!" I yelled. I saw his ears turn red.
I bet he's really looking forward to camp next year.
What martial arts do you practice? What's your shared hobby with your significant other?
Also reach me via DianeAko.com