Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Ninja Quest

So, I’ve been a little slack on the adventuring lately – been feeling slightly under the weather – so for today’s post I’m going to relate an adventure I had a few months ago, when I decided to try to be a ninja

I was having a crisis of creativity one night, and bored with my city and my situation I called my baby brother. After explaining that I'd freaked out over being trapped here I was pretty much out of things to say, and he wasn't all that forthcoming with the conversation, so I blurted out an idea that had been floating randomly in my head for a while. "Hey, I'm thinking about taking a martial art. Got any recommendations for me?" And he did. After discussing my many options and calling our older brother to consult, he recommended I train in ninjutsu at M.B. Dojo with some guy who's apparently a bigshot in the art. So I sent the instructor an email describing my goals (self defense & physical confidence) and asking for information about classes and their training philosophy.

I received a very encouraging reply in which the instructor said that all that was required to train at their studio was a good heart, humility, and the willingness to learn. Check (I hope), check, double check. I made an appointment to go in for my free trial class.

And thus my quest to become a ninja FAIL! I suck at being a ninja. Not only did it take Mark (aka "Sensei") showing me a movement about 8 times before I could half-way imitate it, I then completely forgot how to do it after having done it correctly for 5 minutes. Seriously. It was a "do it across the floor" kind of thing, and I'd manage to make it to the wall executing a valiant attempt at the move all the way, then I'd turn around and COMPLETELY FORGET HOW TO DO IT. I kid you not, I now completely regret every time I ever rolled my eyes in math class or shook my head at the poor sap who wasn't keeping up in chemistry, because now I know what it's like to have your brain utterly abandon you. I turned around and had no idea what the crap to do. It. Was. Awful. Of course, that wasn't the only part of the class that sucked. Other humiliations included: freaking out when my partner knocked me to the ground (ok, not freaking out, but failing to fall correctly and letting out a rather comical "oof"), completely forgetting how to do yet another move after having done it successfully for three minutes, backwards resulting in a large bruise on my nail bed, being the only person not wearing all black (he said "athletic wear" and so I showed up in my gray yoga pants and blue tank top with cutesy-baby-blue sports bra peaking out while everyone else was wearing head to toe black), not knowing any of the rituals (such as bowing when entering the mats, calling Mark "Sensei", entering the building through the correct door, etc.), and basically sucking so horribly at everything that I've been periodically blushing while writing this every time I remember another embarrassing moment.

I debated with myself for several days over whether I should return for another class and push through the humiliation and my utter lack of physical ability. Ultimately, I decided not to. I admit, a large part of this decision is the result of my own cowardice: I have always been very poor at any pursuit requiring athletic prowess – martial arts, sports, dancing, you name it. In fact, physical endeavors inspire a brand of fear in me that borders on terror. But, in addition to being reluctant to subject myself to further torture, I also wanted to spare the other students at M.B. Dojo the tediousness of my presence. During my one and only class, Sensei frequently stated that they were “taking it easy” and “returning to basics” no doubt for my benefit. If I were to start attending regularly I would run the risk of either setting the entire class back or forcing Sensei to devote an inordinate amount of his attention to me. Neither seemed fair to the initiated group at the dojo, so I concluded that bowing out (pun intended) was really best for all involved.

And though it’s unlikely that anyone who attended that class will ever read this post, I would like to give a shout out to the lovely, kind, and welcoming people at the dojo, and thank them for allowing me to intrude on their class. Despite my abominable performance and the fact that I was depriving them of a challenging class, they were all welcoming, kind, and supportive. One student, in particular, stood out to me. She had this peaceful kindness, and the most genuinely friendly smile I've ever seen, and she quietly corrected me when I (once again) completely forgot what I was doing halfway through it, and she looked at me with compassion and an expression that said, "don't worry about it, I've been there." I instinctively liked this girl a whole lot. I'm really grateful for her help and her non-judgmental advice, and her warm and welcoming smile. Thanks for being awesome, Sara(h).

So, while I did not pursue ninja-hood after my introductory class, I did learn a few things about my limits, my fears, and the kindness of strangers that night. And that’s quite a wealth of knowledge gained in a few short hours. Sorry I wasn’t a better student, M.B. Dojo, but I am grateful for the opportunity to learn, even if the lessons I took away aren’t the ones I was expecting.

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