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  1. --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Not Without My Justice: The Aaron Boyd Story: Part III: Cruise Control

    Part I

    Part II


    Part III: Cruise Control

    My cup was full. After a year of diligent training Sensei granted me my first promotion, a green belt, broad and stiff. Innumerable combative theories and combinations filled my brain and occupied my thoughts in and out of class. I was taking my training more seriously than ever. Hours of each week were devoted to practicing kata in an empty field at sunset, pounding my heavy bag in the basement, checking my stance in the mirror every time I went to the bathroom. There was no question I was in this for the long haul, a permanent fixture at the dojo. Romantic images of the eternal student reigned over me, as they always had, but there was another feeling, an emergent longing, an unsatiated desire.

    It was there every time I drilled with a partner, every time I learned some lethal bunkai combination, for the duration of every class and the hours following it. I had martial blue balls. I needed to fight.

    Sensei would have no sparring in his dojo, and the senior belts vehemently abided by this. But, as young and sycophantic as I was, there didn’t seem to be any harm in recruiting friends as potential sparring partners. You know, to supplement my training.

    So my poor friends, already hating me for having become an obnoxious karatefag, now had to deal with the fact that I was hitting them up for sparring sessions, wherever and whenever. Dear reader, know that I would never lie you, and know this: it was as pathetic as it sounds. Here I am, a student in a karate school with maybe 15-20 total classmates, and not one of them would be willing to spar with me. I remember at one point complaining how the school was only open twice a week, and one of the black belts said “ehh, if it was open more often you’d get bored”. Three times a week would be overtraining? I asked another black belt what his training regimen consisted of. He shrugged. “Just here,” he said. “Twice a week if that. All you need, really.”

    My frustration grew palpable. Once in a great while a friend would oblige me to a clumsy, slow-motion bareknuckle fist fight, but overall I think it would’ve been less awkward if I solicited certain Florentine vices. I didn’t want to leave Isshin-Ryu, because while I hated my training situation, I loved my school, my classmates, the basic ideas, the exoticism and promise. I could make this work. No; I WOULD make this work.

    Around this time I received an invite to a seminar held by none other than Sherman Harrill, my sensei’s instructor. I’d heard a lot about this guy, how he was the Real Deal, stories of him training with the Grandmaster in Okinawa then returning to the states, practicing in the solitude of the Iowa cornfields twenty-some years before achieving martial nirvana. I’d never met the man and already he was my hero. Imagine the sheer outstanding serendipitous fortune to bring this, a legitimate Grand Master Descended From the Mountains, to my humble state, under the pretext of being related to someone I know! God I rock!

    I met Sensei Harrill in a packed hotel conference room a couple hours south of the dojo. He wasn’t fat but assuredly stout, with a Johnny Unitas flattop you could hang pictures by. But what stuck out with me most was the indescribable gravitas surrounding him. There’s a magnificent aura to a man standing in a room full of elite martial artists, hounded by top-level black belts, laughing and joking with the easy confidence that the entire room’s energy revolves around his simple presence. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to be him.

    Much of the seminar covered material we did in class, which I found more inspiring than redundant. This man carried deep and terrible secrets, and I knew now more than ever I was learning from the right student. His punches were fast and crisp, his kata fierce, his screams shook the Heavens.

    It was like meeting Buddha. For the next couple weeks I was swooning—no longer over Sensei Harrill, you understand, but the ideals he embodied, a tangible manifest of the ascendant Aaron Boyd I saw in the mirror every time I trained. The fantasy of the Enlightened Warrior gripped me harder than ever, and if my head traveled in farther up my ass I was in danger of being mistaken for a pretzel and eaten by a comical fat man. Something had to give, or my unrelenting self-righteous SAMURAI WARRIOR persona would envelope me, turn me into the beast I reviled most: a dick.

    Meanwhile, after weeks of empty talk and vague planning, my friend Sean finally agreed to spar with me. Sean was a smallish fellow, lithe and muscular, a member of the wrestling team and recreational bodybuilder. Of all my friends, he was the dream match, conditioned and experienced, but not the sort of cum-addled teenager who’d deliberately injure me. To prepare for this doubtlessly epic match, I consulted Sensei. I didn’t know much about wrestling besides some very basic tieups and shots, but I knew his basic gameplan would be taking me down, from the clinch or with a double leg, and my gameplan would be to stand and strike with him.
    “Sensei?”
    “Hai.”
    “I have this friend who’s a wrestler, and he’s agreed to spar with me. I’m trying to develop a strategy against him, but I need to know how to fight out of the clinch.”
    “Punch him in the face.”
    “…”
    “No really, punch him in the face.”
    “…sensei, do you know wha—“
    “See, your problem is you’re playing his game, he’s gonna try to grab your wrists, you know how to defend that! But he’s not gonna grab you, clinch you…he’s gonna shoot like—shot comes in…”

    He gestured at me to shoot in on him. I barely knew what a double leg was, other than it being some thing wrestlers do where they grab your legs and you fall down. Beyond that, the mechanics were lost to me, so I kind of vaguely shot in, bending at the waist and walking forward like I intended to slowly impale him on my head.

    “ELBOW TO THE SPINE !! Now you’re paralyzed!”

    Sensei had said a lot of things in the past that didn’t sit well with me, but this was the first time I knew he was wholly, unequivocally wrong. The spine isn’t some exposed nerve resting on top of your back. Even if it weren't protected by one of the densest layers of muscle in the body, when would I ever be legally justified in paralyzing someone for trying to tackle me? Isn’t part of self defense not spending the rest of your life in prison?

    By now I was visibly uncomfortable. It was obvious sensei had no idea how to grapple, and while I silently fumbled for an excuse (“Karate is a striking art; why should he know how to grapple?”), my teacher went on about all the swell groundfighting counters he knew and how all of Isshin-Ryu could be applied off your back, as though the totality of groundfighting was some malicious pathogen easily remedied by a single, specific panacea.

    It got worse. During the height of my martial arts mania Sean invited me over to his house to watch UFC V. Most people’s gut reaction to any early UFC invariably contains elements of pelvic thrusting and monocle-popping, depending on the side of the fence they prefer to straddle. Myself, I just watched the grappling and thought, “That looks like a lot of fun.” I didn’t care that karateka were getting slaughtered, because they didn’t belong to my school and obviously learned from some terrible, terrible McDojo. Poor things. And now here I was, facing embarrassing ignorance on behalf of my instructor, my master, and I’d just told him I was thinking about joining my school’s wrestling team.

    His schoolmarm girlfriend stepped in. Tiny woman, a black belt who could barely keep a straight fist when she punched. She jumped in and added her two cents: “Sometimes the best defense against grappling is a pinch.” To that I had no comeback. A couple weeks before that Sean invited me to the wrestling room after practice to train a bit. Between Sean, his enormous friend Brett, and his cousin who’d been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I was pretty comfortable with being sexually assaulted. I knew the pressure of having someone crush you under their girth, the feeling of total helplessness and isolation when you’re at the mercy of a superior grappler, even a smaller one. That pinching **** was ****. Terrible thought flashed into my head of her getting raped and not even attempting to pinch her attacker off, because in the horrific reality of the moment she wouldn’t have time to lie, even to herself.

    I felt sick. The world-fucking fist-pumping high of the seminar were long gone, replaced by the same frustration, anxiety, and generally unsatisfactory feelings about my training I thought I’d put behind me. Now they had grown, fermented in my subconscious, and I was in dire need of inspiration. Though I didn't share these thoughts with sensei, I still looked to him for that old feeling of boundless awe. Except now he was leaving class early, sometimes half an hour, sometimes after five minutes, always to attend what he called “business meetings”. In rare instances he'd show up in a suit, throw some reverse punches, and call it a day. I would later discover these “business meetings” were in fact pyramid scheme seminars, run by Quixtar (formerly Amway). At one point, he actually solicited ME, a sixteen year old boy, for an opportunity to join his “independent business” and sell diet pills for him. I told him I’d think about it, and he handed me a catalog. For laffs, I took it to school the next day and showed it to my Biology teacher.

    “Is there any practical application for 500,000% of your RDA of Vitamin B12?”
    “Not unless having vitamin-rich urine is important to you.”

    (As a fun side story, I was recently tricked into attending a seminar for Quixtar {formerly Amway}. At 16, I could see it was a pyramid scheme the instant he said ‘independently run and owned business’. At 21, I knew it was a pyramid scheme the instant a complete stranger from Borders solicited vague promises of work if I’d attend a ‘business conference’, but hell. I was desperate.)

    Slowly the veil lifted. I began examining the techniques presented with an increasingly critical eye, and knew, beyond any and all question, that 90% of this would not work in a fight. Most of the bunkai presented were so elaborate and needlessly fancy even a layman with no training would be skeptical. To a trained fighter, they would be laughable. Still, I persisted in telling myself Isshin-Ryu was a solid foundation, that the basics were simple and lethal, and I could make up my own bunkai that reflected my personal philosophies.

    Even that began to fall apart. I noticed from watching boxing and UFC matches that fighters were being punished, instantly and mercilessly, for dropping their hands even briefly, suffering knockouts for tiny holes in their guard. So what did it mean that I was punching with my hands at my waist? That I was blocking with wide, sweeping motions that left my arms extended, hands at my sides? My world was collapsing and I was nearly out of excuses. There were no other alternatives. I joined a BJJ school.

    It wasn’t my intent to have BJJ wholly consume my karate training. I figured BJJ would teach me groundfighting, totally absent in karate, and I could spar with the Muay Thai guys at the gym using my cool Isshin-Ryu moves. Better still, the schedules coincided nicely with one another: it was always possible to go straight from BJJ to karate, or vice versa, depending on what day it was.

    I attended exactly one Isshin-Ryu class after starting MMA. It was nice.

    I didn’t mean for it to be my last class. It wasn't supposed to end that way. It just happened. I skipped one class because I wanted to see how the Tuesday night jiu-jitsu was run. I skipped another because I wanted to try my hand at Muay Thai. A third class was skipped because I wanted to train Vale Tudo. A fourth class was skipped because……..eh. Finally, I vowed to return to karate and crosstrain and imagine my crisp gi snapping with my punches and it’d all be the same, we’d go back to the way things were before, two years ago when this was my escape, my own nerdy self-actualization, my solace, my sanctuary. It wasn’t that I could make this work; it’s that I WOULD.

    I turned onto Williams Lake Road. My stomach turned. Reader’s Digest is packed with stories of coal miner's dogs, barking frantically as they walk out the door, causing them to be five minutes late and miss a catastrophic accident. My stomach was barking at me. I knew it. The writing was on the wall and I was pretending not to speak Spanish. But its message was clear, vivid, and brutal:

    No quieres karate.

    The CAI building rolled up on my left. The back of someone’s gi was framed against the second-story windowsill, and I thought about everything I was about to leave behind, the undying commitment I’d planned and fantasized about so much and for so long dissolving in five long seconds. My foot gently pressed the gas, acknowledging my quiet dissent. I smiled. “Pancakes sound good right now.”

    > > > > > ADDITIONAL KARATE < < < < <
    Last edited by Boyd; 9/25/2007 1:37am at .

  2. Kid Miracleman is offline
    Kid Miracleman's Avatar

    Rowsdower!

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 5:05pm

    Join us... or die
     Style: On Hiatus

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Sweet.
  3. NJM is offline
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    Putting the "ow" back in "flowery technique"

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 6:15pm


     Style: CMA, MT

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I was expecting an epic asswhooping at the end.
  4. Boyd is offline
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    OFFICIAL Mayor of Cwcville

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 7:05pm

    supporting member
     Style: Electricity, Speed

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Wait until tomorrow.
    Captain's Log: Just a little update for all my TRUE and HONEST friends out there:

    1) I am STRAIGHT! I am STRAIGHT! Get it through your thick skulls, numbskulls!

    2) My name is not Ian Brandon Something.

    3) Kacey is coming with me now. I have stolen her from the other Christian Weston Chandler.

    REMINDER: I am still the one and only true creator of sonichu and rosechu electric hedgehog pokemon
  5. Ke?poFist is offline
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    Enforcer of Northeast Anti-Silliness Department Inc.

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 7:22pm

    supporting member
     Style: Kaju, BJJ, Judo, Kempo

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    man this is some quotable ****. Stop dicking around and post it all!
    Knowing is not enough, you must apply...
    ...Willing is not enough you must do
    ~Bruce Lee

  6. boondock lee is offline

    Registered Member

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 9:05pm


     Style: in hiatus

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I hope the last part will be good!
  7. Anna Kovacs is offline
    Anna Kovacs's Avatar

    Spear Sister

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 9:34pm

    supporting membersupporting member
     Style: Dancing the Spears

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    This all sounds so familiar. I remember looking up to the seminar grand masters. Taking pleasure in the snap of my gi as I practiced my reverse punches in the mirror at home. Relentless hours of throwing the same techniques over and over and over every class with no real lessons taught.

    Except for the style and the part about sparring (my karate school sparred) this might as well be my story, except for I am probably cuter then you.
  8. kwoww is offline
    kwoww's Avatar

    poser

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 9:36pm


     Style: punching bag / crew jitsu

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Excellent writing + great story = win.
  9. Jennocide is offline

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    Posted On:
    9/22/2007 11:12pm

    Bullshido Newbie
     Style: mma

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Reading this I can feel the intense frustration I had at my TKD school trying to get people to spar. I can't believe I did that for so long.
  10. Sabateur is offline

    Featherweight

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    Posted On:
    9/23/2007 12:19am

    Bullshido Newbie
     Style: IMA, BJJ Newbie

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    This is remarkably well written. For a story so many people have experienced first hand you've done a great job to keep us interested anyway. Great style.
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