deralte: (Default)
( Apr. 14th, 2016 01:21 pm)
So I went to Bujinkan training last night, and I'm happy to report that I found a solution for having bruised knees after every class. Namely, I wore a knee pad on the knee I normally use to get up and voila, no more bruised knees. Training on a hard floor like that is a bitch on the knees.

But my training was not a lot of fun otherwise since I had the training partner from hell. He was friendly, I'll give him that but had so many bad habits, it was a nightmare to train with him. First, he couldn't shut up. He would narrate what he wanted you to do while you were doing a technique. It was insanely distracting especially to me since it takes more of my concentration to pay attention to someone giving me orders in Japanese and I can't exactly ignore him since my mind automatically tries to translate. So I was not operating at my best and him treating me like a newbie who needs to be narrated through every technique was not helping at all. Then this asshole gets annoyed because his techniques don't work automatically on me - not because I'm trying to mess with him but because he just tries to power through everything and doesn't consider space and movement, plus he ignored me when I told him how to throw me when he'd get stuck. So somewhere in his little brain, he decided I was deliberately fucking with him so from then on, I was not allowed to do a single technique.

See, in Bujinkan, the whole point is that you and your training partner are supposed to be replicating real life conditions. This means that you react when someone throws a punch at you and you pretend you don't know what they're going to do next. This asshole just decided to pretend he was god and would walk away from me or strand straight up even though he had just been hit by a punch to the stomach etc. so I couldn't do any of the techniques properly. Really frustrating. Even worse, he started to give up on doing anything to me but hurt me. Like, nearly crush my wrist rather than the throw we were supposed to do. Or even tried to strangle me once which wasn't even close to the technique. And he didn't react when I tapped out when he tried crushing my shoulder (you let the person go or at least let up when someone taps... he went for more pain). I was resolved to punch him in the nuts next time he tried that and had started not being so nice (punching him upside the head rather than ignoring the opening, etc.) when I noticed all these smudges on the floor. He goes and pulls off his sock and his foot is covered by a plastic bag that is filled with blood. And it was leaking through his sock so there was blood everywhere that I'd been rolling in (ick). Instead of stopping training then, after he was gross enough to come while actively bleeding in the first place, he just put on another plastic bag and got a new sock.

I took the opportunity to switch partners and trained with a nice 5dan for the rest of class who was about my level of skill so we had fun. But asshole's sock leaked a second time 20min later and he still didn't stop training. I went home and washed myself and all my training gear to get all the blood off.

I am 100% refusing to ever train with that man again. He is very likely to injure me through his lack of skill (more than the bruises and sore spots I already have). It's going to be annoying to explain in Japanese and it may lead to them treating me like glass but I do not need to be put in the hospital while I'm here because some idiot broke my wrist and didn't listen when I told him to stop.
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deralte: (ariana print club (by me))
( Mar. 2nd, 2016 11:35 pm)
Just had my first Osaka bujinkan class. It's actually quite convenient for me because there's an express train into the city which I can catch to get there perfectly on time. I went early today just to make sure I knew where it was, and so I could stop in and get some plain black t-shirts from uniqlo for training. I brought one with me, but it's always better to have extra, especially since I didn't have room to pack a gi.

So I got there and introduced myself to the guy who I was pretty sure was the sensei. We have a nice chat. I let him know where I live and he says he comes from that area. I think nothing of it, but I'm excited because he says there's no one to train with when he goes to the training hall which is right next to the arch center where I work. I give him my phone number and tell him to invite me because ancient training halls are awesome. I let him know how long I'll be there and by then it's five minutes past and no one else is there so he says let's start. We just do some basic freestyle punches and response then. I think I might have tired him out because he called a break, and then we switched to throwing shuriken. I got a 10 min personal lesson on throwing shuriken and now I know how to throw a spread which is neat! And how to defend against a barrage of shuriken with my short sword. Cause, you know, I live in feudal Japan. lol.

We had switched to training with a sai when someone finally came in, followed by his wife, and two more stragglers came in several minutes later. I didn't protect my face well enough while training with one of them cause when they flailed with their wooden short sword, it smacked me right on the nose. It hurt quite a lot but there wasn't any blood. It's tender to the touch now and swelling a bit, but at least it's not broken. I'm curious if it will bruise. I can add it to my collection then since there's no padding in the room we train in so bruises are to be expected. I ended up training with a French guy who trains there which was good since I could give him advice in English, but I do hope I get to train with the others as well.

We trained for two hours, then I headed back to the station because if you don't get to the express train back early enough, you don't get a seat and then you have to stand for 20min until people get off at the first stop which my feet were very much not up to. So I do the usual rigmarole of transferring to a local train at the last minute because my station isn't on the express line (it really only adds 5min to the journey... it's just a pain), and the train empties out as it usually does since my stop is one stop before the express stop. I go to get off and lo and behold, the bujinkan sensei is getting off at the same time and was in the same car. We're the only people who get off and he does a doubletake when he sees me. He asks how I get to the arch center everyday and I tell him I bike. We keep walking, both going in the same direction. It turns out we live on the same street, just a block away from each other!

So I hope I get an invite to train in the ancient training hall near here eventually. He seemed pretty satisfied with my skill level (how do I know? he paid me the bujinkan 'compliment' of letting me be uke occasionally and get beat up by him).
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deralte: (Default)
( Jan. 24th, 2016 07:56 pm)
So I have been having a blast here in Tokyo despite jetlag and the pain of walking up and down subway steps (this is the reason I lost so much weight in Korea... you just have to live with the pain for the first few days). I have been hitting the communal bath on the top floor to compensate for all the aches but soaking in hot water can only do so much.

I went to see Star Wars in 4D and it was utterly amazing that way. Having your seat tilt down following the slow pan of the opening shot was really thrilling, as were all the space battles. They sprayed mesquite into the room whenever there were things burning which I liked but it also made me a bit hungry. It was actually a little weird to have something hitting your legs at the same time as a tentacle monster attacking Finn. Japanese 4D theaters have more seats and they tilt forward more. So much so that if they had gone slightly more angled, I'd have slid off. No wonder they suggest you put your bags in free lockers before you go in. Incidentally, to get the tickets, I had to go to the roppongi hills cinema several hours before the show and buy one of the last four tickets for the 3pm showing. They sold out insanely quickly but this was unsurprising considering the weekend was already sold out when I went on Friday. By virtue of seeing it alone, I actually had a really nice center seat.

I made it to Mandarake in Shibuya to check out the "doujinshi for women" as they put it. There's not a lot of series I'm interested in atm (I already have tons of doujinshi that I've only flipped through at home) but I love to look at the western series doujin because it's rather fascinating to compare to the western fandoms. Usually, the focus of pairings is quite different. So for example, the Avengers fandom is still being dominated by Tony/Jarvis with science bros not too far behind. Stucky was a rare pair and I only saw a few Stony. I have yet to figure out too why the Boondock Saints fandom is still going strong in Japan. Anybody? But much to my surprise The Hobbit fandom was really fascinating because the doujin almost exactly reflected the western fandom. Bagginshield dominated (it was nonexistent in Japan in 2013 when I last checked) and Bard/Thranduil had become popular since the last movie, with a couple of rare pairs and gen thrown in for good measure.

I also made it to Akihabara. I checked out animate first as I usually do but my interests in anime don't currently line up with anything that is showing atm (except One Punch Man), so I headed over the building with the mandarake cafe in it. The lower four floors there have recent doujin, electronics, and an astonishing collection of figurines and memorabilia. There's one shop on the third floor I believe which consistently sells all the figures about 20% cheaper than anyone else so it's worth checking out. I first tried to find a new battery for my lenova pad but I was told they don't make anything like it in Japan so I'd have to get one from the US. Oh well. I then set out to find memorabilia and figurines from Natsume Yuujinchou and Star Wars. I particularly wanted some action figures of Rey and BB-8 but she was almost as hard to find here as in the US. I did get a cute 3-inch figure of Rey which was made for the Japanese market only and looks great but there were no BB-8 figurines to be found, or the larger Rey figurine which the internet tells me exists but I have yet to see. My capsule luck held and I got an awesome looking tengu from a gegege kitaro machine. Turns out it's one of the rarer expensive ones so I was doubly pleased. (You can tell by how they price them in other nearby stores that sell figurines individually. Mine was the most expensive, therefore it was pretty rare.) I picked up some tiny Natsume yuujinchou figurines like one of Madara as a daruma. I then headed out and north to another store which was advertising for Star Wars. They did have a BB=8 figurine there but it came with R2D2 and I wouldn't have been able to fit him in my bag. So I bought a cute set of BB-8 stationary and headed back to my hotel.

I have been eating out on occasion but mostly living on the hotel breakfast (which is quite nice) and convenience store food. The thrill of meat buns and onigiri for a buck will not wear off for awhile. I also tried some famous Asakusa pudding which was amazing until I hit the burnt sugar at the bottom which totally ruined the rest of the pudding for me. I also had some famous maple melon bread and a delicious sweet potato paste thingy.

Today, I headed out of Tokyo to attend Bujinkan training at the Hombu dojo. Nobody told me, but they knocked down the old dojo and built a new, larger one with better facilities. It was a bit difficult to find at first until I started looking for the kanji. The other dojo was quite stereotypical looking so it was easier to find, though I suppose you could always just follow all the foreigners on a Sunday morning. There were a ton of Australians there and I made friends. I trained with one of them, M. who was my height and a bit of a beginner, plus she had a leg injury, so we took it easy. I don't mind teaching someone since it helps me learn as well (it's only frustrating if they're not trying and this was not the case). Despite the dojo being bigger, it was still crowded so when we switched over to sword, there wasn't really enough room to do anything. But it was fun. Hatsumi soke has a wicked sense of humour (that Jack definitely gets from him). For example, he took a guy down, let him go and then when he thought he could escape, put him in an even worse lock, and all with a smile on his face. It's interesting to be able to understand enough Japanese to know what he was talking about. He talked about intent and convincing your opponent that they took a hit, even though they didn't. We then got a gruesome story about Japanese executions and people getting their heads chopped off. Apparently, heads being chopped sounds like a wet towel being snapped so they went down a line and at the last person, they snapped a towel instead and the person died of fright. He's also still talking about things that Jack passed on like spiraling in to the proper point while taking people down and of course, taking the right space and distance and moving. I liked his point of using both sides of the chest to take someone out (catching on one hand, then bringing that shoulder down before taking the space around the opposite elbow and letting the rebound from the shoulder you pressed down send the other shoulder up). I ended up with a few more bruises and tired but I found out where there's training in Osaka and made a lot of new friends. Plus I got some calligraphy painted by the soke.

I headed back to Asakusa afterwards and wandered through the markets looking for a place to eat lunch (it was 2pm by this point). Everywhere I tried had people waiting outside in the cold for a seat so I bought some snacks and wandered out of the tourist areas until I found a ramen place for lunch. I haven't had proper ramen in ages so that was nice. I then headed out, bought some food for my dinner and stopped at a cat cafe near by hotel, Cafe Calaugh. This one was set up a bit differently than ones I've been to before. They served food and drinks and didn't cover anything but the cats seemed to mostly ignore the food. I found a snuggle buddy who huddled next to me for warmth and then inherited a lap cat from someone else. That cat just didn't want to do anything other than sleep in people's laps. I had to pass her on myself after my hour of time was up. She did give me a kiss when she first came to my lap - probably to smell the hot chocolate on my lips.

I head down to Nara tomorrow so I'm getting ready. Ja ne!
deralte: (stardust expect me when you see me)
( Jan. 10th, 2014 02:13 am)
Bujinkan last night was focused on sui no kata (water). Sui is flowing, yes, but it's also about controlling the flow within your body. The arm comes up to block, and though your wrist moves, the crook of your elbow should still be pointing up at all times (it's the same for the strike), as you block, your back hip opens up and is pulled in, the back hand comes straight up then strikes out in shuto, and all that energy from the hip gets transferred to your back and arm, backing up the strike. You are also pulling your shoulder muscles back when you block and strike, this makes you use your whole body not just your arm. I need to practice this and keeping my elbow crook facing up.

We did a lot of variations on sui no kata. They changed a little when the attacker switched to throwing crosses. This shortened the amount of time/space you had to respond so we were sort of doing relaxed versions of sui no kata. One hand up to block, the other with the elbow up to block the second punch that usually follows, you go around that arm (using the elbow as a pivot) and then do the shuto. A variation had you placing your hand on the back of their neck, then straightening and twisting so they fell down.

The weapon was once again sword (I'm assuming because Jack got a new wooden Chinese style sword which he wants to play with). Sui no kata works very well with sword. You still block with the sword (keeping your kamae), then move in to use your other hand to either grab their sword, or what not. The attack btw, was not overhead but swinging the sword one handed from about neck height (my partner's sword was very heavy so my arm is killing me, plus it wasn't well finished so I have a splinter too). One variation involved the usual block, but then a circular motion while stepping in to get their sword out of the way (a sort of twisting of the blades) while still allowing yours to be pointing at them.

My training partner was a new green belt I've never met before, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that while his movements were very slow and jerky, he was generally on the right track. Jack told me to stop being so nice to my partner though. *oy vey*
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Got to go to the first class of the year in Bujinkan today. Not that many people were there but Jack was and we sort of did basics. I say this because chi no kata, ie earth was our theme for the evening, but beyond a few lengths of the mats doing the kata by going as low as we could, there wasn't that much basic repetition. The idea though was that while the striking hand was swinging forward, your back hip and shoulder curl in, adding the few extra inches you need to make the strike connect, and also keeping that back foot at a 90 degree angle gave you a little more distance as well. The strike itself was sort of wound up in the shoulder before hand. We used chi no kata to take the space in front of a person's solar plexus, block with the other hand, then use those techniques I described above to take those last few inches. We did this then with a two finger technique into the jugular notch. We then did it if your partner threw a cross instead, but it was really only a matter of distance changing. Then we did it blocking a kick (you pull up with your hamstrings on the foot which is grounding you while the other foot comes up to block against their shin bone, then ideally, you get away). Another was to do the block and hit part, but instead of going forward, you took the hand which you'd blocked and twisted them down into a throw/role using one of the gyaku (my dyslexia makes it impossible for me to remember which is which). Another variation on that was if your partner grabbed you and punched with another hand, you did the same chi no kata movement, then rolled your shoulder up to break their hold, putting the hand in a good position for another gyaku. Another thing we did was the person grabbing with both hands, you put your hand or fist on their chest and did the chi no kata movement by stepping backwards instead, and that breaks their grip and you are then far enough away to escape or attack at your leisure.

The weapon was sword. First was standing in a seiwa position (all blocks/attacks were from this position today) with the sword held in one hand and as they attack overhead with another sword, you take the space underneath their hands, then walk in and let your walking and movement guide them to a point where they lose their own sword or you've injured them (my partner and I were joking that we had mithril armor on to survive any such blows). Next was going down on one knee and thrusting with the sword at their chest, then immediately flip the sword around to bat away their sword. The hardest part of that one was the timing since you had to do it so that it stopped the downward swing but only to a slight degree, and also surprised them. The timing was later than you would think. Next was almost a block using jumanji, where your wrists are crossed with the sword actually pointing backwards, using the pommel as a block against where their sword was being held as it swung downwards (timing was quite late), then you used your free hand to grab their sword and moved in while pushing down on the pommel. After that it was more freestyle. And finally was a crazy looking move where you move the sword behind your back holding it diagonally across your back with the point aiming for the attacker (stepping backwards on the same side as the hand holding the sword), their sword glances off of the sword on your back and you use your free, forward hand to grab their sword, at the same time changing your feet so the opposite foot is back, and swinging the sword back around. Ideally, you then remove the sword from them using the free hand at the same time swinging your sword forward and pointing it at them all of this ending in the chi no kata widening/winding up. The chi no kata movement gives you the extra few inches you need to skewer them while removing the sword even further.
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I was unexpectedly invited over a friend's house for thanksgiving, so I made some pumpkin eggnog pie and stored my own personal thanksgiving ingredients for another day (ie Friday). It was a lot of fun and I tried green bean casserole for the first time (which I'm sure sounds like heresy to some of my readers, but it's not all that common on the east coast and although my father is from the midwest he loathes green beans, so it's rare for me to eat them at all. (and he's perfectly correct in that non-fresh green beans served plain are disgusting, but these green beans were fresh and covered in cheese, tomatoes and bacon so they were sure to please)). I was interrogated on my research and we shared embarrassing family stories before watching some james bond. I left a little early, partially because I nostalgically watched them set up a roaring fire before realizing that I could no longer survive in the same room as a roaring fire due to asthma, and partially because I had promised my little brother to spend the rest of the day playing Civ 4 with him. We played until about 2:30am *L*

I have a paper and presentations on that paper and another presentation due soon so I have been doing work over this break, but it's very hard to focus since I'm just sick of this semester as a whole. Because of my trip in August, I've been on the go for the past 4 months and I need more than one day off for mental health. But I have three more weeks until I can really have more than one day off. *sigh*

I made my own thanksgiving meal for myself on Friday (which is what I always do, and it's a very relaxing way to spend the holiday to be honest... I am, of course, not the most social of people in the world). This way, I get to make a smaller amount of turkey (two turkey breasts, already deboned), and ignore making a lot of the foods I'm not as fond of (I appear to have gone off sweet potato casserole at some point. I adored it as a kid, but it seems too sweet to me these days). I have since been lackadaisically reading academic articles, interspersed with tumblr, watching half episodes of Adventure Time, and reading fic.

I have only seen two movies since August and they were Thor 2, and Catching Fire. Thor 2 surprised me by being a lot of fun, if only because Darcy and Loki stole the show. Catching Fire stayed very close to the book, and it's been fascinating talking to people who haven't read the books and getting their opinions on it. I suppose my anthropologist is showing...

Made it back to bujinkan training twice in the whole semester, most recently on Weds when I sort of half taught the class everything I could remember learning in Japan. They train at such a high level in Japan though that it makes it hard to explain because a lot of it was just me going. "Uh, the uke throws two punches, you evade the first then capture the second with the sai, then do whatever you like to take them down without getting hit yourself". It was kind of interesting to teach it to two very different people (body types, personalities, etc.) I also found out I do a lot more things like cross stepping completely automatically than I used to, so it surprised me when one of them commented that I was cross stepping to the other one, when I had no memory of doing it.
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Before I jumped on the shinkansen in Kyoto, I bought a bento so that was dinner covered. I had actually made good time and expected to get to my hotel around 10pm. I needed to hope a train to Ueno and then Kashiwa from Tokyo station though, and then I discovered that Kashiwa station was hopelessly confusing at night, plus it was raining so I ended up taking a taxi to go a very short distance, but it saved me from dragging my luggage everywhere so it was worth it.

Kashiwa station is about a half hour outside Tokyo proper by train, but I chose it because it makes it very easy to hop on the train going to where the hombu (main) dojo for Bujinkan is which means I made it to training with plenty of time though the rain from the approaching hurricane did make things a bit wet. I trained with a young woman from Brazil. She was a green belt so I had to keep showing her things, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing since it made me relax. We trained with sai for the last half of the class (using our thumb to imitate it when we didn't have a sai handy) which I'd never done before that was cool. The idea was to use the point to guide the person into whatever position you wanted them to be in, just not forcing it. While I was doing it to my partner, the soke (grandmaster) saw me and said "good", which is pretty much the highest compliment you can get. I blushed and bowed, and rode that high right into the 5th dan test which happened a few minutes later. This time, it was even easier to sense the sword. I closed my eyes and there was darkness and then behind me I saw a slash of white light. I don't recall rolling, but I was suddenly further away and the soke was saying, "pass".

I pretty much spent the rest of the day insanely happy. I registered my 5th degree black belt, then ended up hanging out with a 10th dan and his students who were visiting the area. I hadn't realized there was a tabi shop near the train station there, but it was still a little more expensive than the ones I bought in Asakusa at the beginning of the trip. I had lunch with them, then headed back to Kashiwa where I showered, marveled at being a 5th dan, then finally got my stuff together (weatherproofed as there was a hurricane) and headed in to Akihabara. There, I treated myself to whatever I wanted (within reason) from the various anime stores which is how I ended up with a Natsume Yuujinchou figure, and doujinshi as well as many other small figures/keychains/cell phone danglers from other shows. My only limit really was that despite the fact that most of these stores were selling $100-200 figures, about half didn't accept credit cards and I only had about 5000 yen on me to last the rest of the trip in cash. Around 8 or so, I decided to head back to Kashiwa. I had dinner in a kaiten sushi place where I pretty much stuffed myself with eel and salmon. I then headed back to my hotel to plan out my trip home.

Monday, the hurricane really hit Tokyo. The rain was coming in sideways and the wind was insanely strong. I stayed in my room until checkout at 10am, then stored my luggage. I headed to the nearest post office to mail in my fee for the 5th dan test. My flight wasn't until 6:50pm so there was no point in heading to the airport until early afternoon at the earliest so I wandered around. I hit the 100yen store and bought a better umbrella at 200yen, but when I stepped outside, the wind hit it and turned it inside out then ripped the cover off and it blew away. I laughed a lot. So I kept using my dinky little 100yen umbrella I bought in Nara and that one was fine. I then discovered a Hobby Off on the top floor of the shopping center which was pretty much heaven. I bought tons of One Piece and Rurouni Kenshin and other anime merchandise (mostly keychains) though I found a Natsume Yuujinchou figure for $6 which was a companion to the one I'd bought in Akihabara so I pretty much had to buy it. I bought a pastry in a nearby cafe, then had the rest of my lunch in the kaiten sushi place again. I treated myself to some expensive eel which was fatter and I guess that did make it taste more delicious.

I picked up my luggage from the hotel, packed in the 100yen and Hobby Off buys, then headed for the train station. The trains were all delayed by the hurricane, but this worked out well for me since I had a hard time changing trains and lines in the time allotted while carrying two heavy bags. I've never been on a train that had to slow down so it wasn't blown off the tracks before though. I made it to the airport and of course found that my flight had been delayed by two hours. I had checked in the morning and there hadn't been a problem, but the delay didn't surprise me. I shrugged and checked in but found out that the delay meant I'd miss my connecting flight and that I'd be getting in to Madison at 11:30pm not 7pm. This meant I had to try to find a new ride home but everyone was still asleep in the US so I sent explanatory emails, ate dinner, then headed on through the security check to wait for the plane. It ended up boarding an hour later than they said, and then once we were on board, we waited another hour before we were able to take off. I watched a travel network show while we waited, then Life of Pi while eating dinner. I was lucky to have the seat next to me free, so I settled in against the side of that seat with an extra pillow and took a 4 hour nap. I then rewatched part of Monsters University, dozed for a half hour, then gave up on trying to sleep and read some articles I needed to. Then they served us breakfast, and we arrived in Chicago. In Chicago, I had to pick up my bags then take them through customs, then drop them off again which was ridiculous.

I was then left to my own devices for three or four hours waiting for the plane. I got a drink at Adaigo tea because I adore their fresh teas, then bought dinner. I found a place I could plug in my computer. My phone refused to work at all, saying there was no service despite all the data being turned back on now that it was in the US. As a result, I had to call everyone using skype which meant most of my friends didn't pick up. About 10 minutes before my flight boarded, I finally managed to reach one who agreed to pick me up for the airport. The airport isn't that far from my house, but the GPS sent us the wrong way so I ended up not getting home until 1am on Tuesday. And yes, I went to class at 11am that day. It took me about two weeks to get over the jetlag.
So, my trip over wasn't the best in the world (tv was faulty, headphones broke so I had to use the crappy and painful airplane ones, couldn't nap even though I had two seats to myself), but I made it into Narita airport riding the high that comes with being awake for more than 24 hours and knowing that it's only 4pm where you landed. I determinedly gathered up my four bags (bc the xrf tracer makes one and I had to split my big bag into a smaller one to get around the weight restrictions flying in) and stored two of them at the proper airport terminal since I was flying out again in two days. I then caught the wrong train to Tokyo (still made it but 30 min later than I expected), and had to figure out how to get to my hotel using poorly depicted subway maps. I finally made it my hotel and I was pleasantly surprised that my non-smoking room barely had an undercurrent of smoke and was larger than most business hotel rooms. I'd forgotten how hard Japanese beds are, but I also remembered my old remedy of sleeping on top of the comforter (folded over if needed to provide the necessary padding). I let everyone know I was alive, repacked and rearranged and tried to get some work done but I could barely keep my eyes open so I went to sleep at 10:30pm and woke at the ungodly hour of 5am. I then dozed for a half hour or so then gave up and got up.

So I was exhausted but this gave me time for a leisurely convenience store breakfast. I may have immediately eaten some inari sushi and melon bread for said breakfast. I have missed how fantastic convenience store food is in Japan. I then got some of my correspondence in order, and checked a few more things on the internet since I had somehow managed to get all the way to my destination the day before without buying a second ticket for the subways/trains around Tokyo and I'm not sure how I managed that. Unfortunately, this was not an intuitive process and many of their gates seem set up so that even if your card fails, it still lets you through and even though I saw they had failed, I had no idea how to get a ticket once I was on the other side of the barrier. Or I just somehow got into a ticketed area without having a ticket. I don't remember this ever being a problem before in Tokyo so I'm wondering what's changed. Either way, I spent a lot of time pretending on the other end that I had lost a ticket which I never had. I have been to Tokyo twice before so my plans were rather unique merchandise oriented rather than sight seeing. I first headed to Asakusa where the Kaminari mon (or as most tourists know it, the giant lantern gate) is. I have stayed at a very cheap ryokan in the area and when I did, I learnt the location of one of the few shops I've ever seen that sells black tabi (with indoor and outdoor soles) cheaply. Since it is the Obon holiday, the area was pretty packed for a weekday morning. I had fun wandering around a bit and visited the temple since I'd never seen it this bustling. There were a lot of festival booths up, though I didn't indulge. I then found the store I was looking for, bought three sets of tabi for $10 each (they go for 35-40 online), wandered around the marketplace for a bit, bought a cute magatama dangler for my phone, then headed south on the trains. I got off with the intention of seeing Tokyo Tower, and by seeing, I meant walking towards it until I was close enough to get a good picture since there was no way I was paying the fee to go up there or having to walk the entire way. So, I got a nice picture on the grounds of a peaceful Buddhist temple. The cicadas are buzzing like mad this time of year and it's very hot and humid, so, you know, typical Japanese August weather.

Once that was done, I headed to Shibuya where I grabbed a nice lunch of cold somen (a perfect meal on a hot day). Once that was done, it was afternoon so I was able to head to Mandarake where its shelves of doujinshi (for women) brought me to paroxysms of joy. What surprised me though was how much more popular western fandoms are these days in doujinshi circles. There was a whole shelf devoted to sherlock holmes x watson and below it was a nearly as large shelf just devoted to Sherlock. Avengers and Supernatural also had their fair share of shelf space. I'm afraid I may have wiped out their Hobbit section. It was not very pairing related (keeping in mind that mandarake is usually selling used doujinshi so all the trends they display are several months if not longer, behind) but instead adorable stories about Fili and Kili and learning to braid while Thorin face palms in the background or ends up with a million braids and Balin laughing at him. I also picked up some Naruto doujinshi too since I adore anything about Minato and young Kakashi growing up (as you can tell by my fics). After that Mandarake, I headed to Ikeburo where I got lost trying to find the Mandarake there (which has even more doujinshi!) and stumbled into K-books instead which doesn't have a very large western related comics section but does have much newer doujin so you can see the trends that are forming. That anime about giants attacking cities in a post apocalyptic world is really popular. I then finally found Mandarake and ended up looking up more obscure things like Rurouni Kenshin (which has passed into obscurity doujinshi wise, it appears), star wars, etc. I got some good One Piece doujins and found a really long Person of Interest one which was intriguing. It was getting late so I then headed back to my hotel with my feet killing me from all the walking and my arms killing me from carrying all the doujinshi I bought.

I got changed at my hotel then did the short walk to the Tokyo Budokan where these is Bujinkan training with the soke on Tuesday evenings. My purpose there besides training was to test for my 5th degree blackbelt. The test is usually after the class, but there were so many of us, they did it before. The test is that you have to sit before one of the high level people who has a slightly padded wooden sword. You have to sense when the sword is coming and roll out of the way. I had hoped to pass on my first go, but, as pretty much everyone told me afterwards, it was obvious I could sense the sword, but I wasn't moving fast enough (and I had a stinging sensation on top of the left side of my head to prove it). So, I got some advice on moving faster and I have to take it again on the 27th. However, taking the test before the class really messed up my training since I was so busy obsessing about it that I missed parts of the class, and since many things are only demonstrated once in Japan, and my training partner's level was below mine and he didn't speak English or Japanese, or Korean or Spanish, I was a bit muddled for the entire class. Which is a shame because I feel like I really didn't get the best out of the training. Hopefully it will go better on the 27th. I'm still trying to figure out if I should rearrange my schedule near the end of my trip so I can get to training on the 15th. That's technically another day of the conference I'm attending and to get to training, I'd really have to leave Nara the night before. It's all a bit complicated. I guess I'll decide after I see if I pass my test.

So, after training, I chatted with the few people I knew, one of whom I'd met the last time I was in Japan. Everyone was very helpful, which is mostly, I assume, because they know I'm Jack's student and Jack is very high up on the list of important people in Bujinkan. I parted ways with them to hit the supermarket for their half price specials (which unfortunately in Tokyo are 30% off and seem to start at 9pm rather than 50% and at 6pm as it does in the country). Nevertheless, I picked up some tasty sushi, peaches encased in gel (the cheapest way to eat fruit in Japan imo), and some somen for dinner and ate in my hotel.

The next day, due to jetlag I was up at 6am again, so I killed time until 8 or so. My plans for the morning were derailed though by the post office not opening until 9am. I had to wait until then to bring my doujinshi over and ship them to myself in the US. (I have to buy lots of books on this trip, but can't afford to carry them in my luggage so they get shipped back as I buy them.) Because of that, I left the hotel about five minutes too late to catch the train I wanted to catch and the lateness continued down the line so that I reached Narita airport a half hour later than planned, and then I got off at the wrong terminal so I had to take the bus around. Still, no one complained about me checking in for an international flight less than 2 hrs in advance and all went smoothly checking in. I'm resigned to the extra fees I have to pay for my carting the XRF scanner around at this point.

I flew Korean Air and I have to say, they have awesome flights. Nice big blankets, and they removed one of the usual seats to make all their seats in economy wider. They also served a full meal despite the flight being in the mid afternoon. And then there was their inflight entertainment system. It had screens that were seven inches wide and at least five long. And much to my shock, they could be accessed before the plane even left parking and played continuously through take off with pauses for cabin system announcements. They also could be paused whenever you liked. And there was a huge selection of movies and television shows, plus radio and games. Why in the world are American airlines incapable of this? I was able to watch the entirety of Wall-E on the flight which was my only relaxing period of the day, to be honest.

Once off the plane, I had to collect my luggage, and rearrange it so I could drag the three bags I had in addition to my backpack all the way to Seoul. I have a little fold out cart which holds the duffel bag and scanner if I strap them in well, but those bags and the other big suitcase are very wide so manoeuvring them by myself is... challenging. It's a good thing I actually have muscles because those bags were heavy enough to be quite a strain. Though to be fair, I've had several men take pity on me over the past few days and say, lift the suitcases over the train platform edge for me. Once into Seoul (takes about an hour by train and costs $4), I had to find my hotel which was easier said than done because I had thought I had a map and I didn't so I had to figure out for myself where things were and find some free wireless (not that hard in Seoul) so I could use google maps. I ended up doing a lot of walking I didn't need to, and the walking I did do was made more mercilessly by the sun, heat and humidity. In the end though, my hotel is within sight of Seoul station (though the sign isn't), and is a five minute walk at the most without my suitcases.

I booked my hotel based on three things - it's proximity to one of the bigger subway stations, reviews which didn't mention bedbugs, and a price cheaper than most of the hotels I'm staying at in Japan. I remember seeing the rooms were discounted a lot, but I didn't realize how much until I got here because this is a really nice hotel. Everything is automatic. The toilet seat heats itself for me when I sit down and then flushes without me touching a thing. The do not disturb sign is done with the press of a button, the hotel elevator can only be used by scanning your key, etc. (Cards with transmitters are big in Korea. People use them for everything even getting on public transport. They've pretty much completely eliminated paper tickets.) They provide free water bottles, filtered water, and the shower is just gorgeous. My room doesn't include breakfast so I inquired as to what it was and it was about $14. So, to put it another way, this is a hotel that is usually well above my means, but I somehow ended up here very cheaply so yay!

I literally got to the hotel room around 6:15 and I had to meet two fellow archaeologists (phd students) for dinner and drinks at 6:30 two subway stops away. So I sent them a txt telling them I'd be late and headed out. I got turned around in the subway though because... well, either the signs make more sense when you're Korean or my dyslexia really doesn't like the way they're set up because I keep going the wrong way on the subway. I've taken to double checking and that mostly seems to have stopped the problem so maybe it was the dyslexia. I got there about twenty minutes late but thankfully they were both waiting. We went to a famous mandu place in Myeong dong which is utterly packed at that time of night and filled with neon lights and signs. It's pretty cool looking. After that, we went to a drinking place and polished off many many beers while discussing archaeology, the state of archaeological theory in various places in the world, our research, and ended on game of thrones *L* Good times, but I was pretty drunk by the end of the evening. Made it back to the hotel okay, but being drunk on top of the jetlag meant it took me longer than usual to sober up, and then despite all the water the night before, I still had a bit of a hangover when I woke up at the god awful hour of 6am after going to sleep at 2am. (Damn you, jetlag!) Unable to get back to sleep, I killed time on my computer and debated going out to get something for my hangover. I was craving ramen, but didn't know where to find it at 8:30am. It was also a holiday, and, oh yes, my birthday so I knew things would be even slower to open than usual. My hotel is about half way to Namdaemun market. It wasn't exactly bustling at that time in the morning but it was kind of nice to wander around. I eventually settled on a small restaurant where I had naengmyun which is buckwheat noodles in a vinegary broth with an added eggs and vegetables. The woman running the place poured what I can only assume was mustard into it, and all in all it was delicious and just what my hungover body needed. I then felt like I still needed to do some walking so I headed towards Myeong-dong again (since there was no point in getting on the subway to go just one stop over).

Once I got there, I spent a lot of time wandering around trying to figure out where the hell the cinema was and then once I found it, how to get to it. You had to walk through a closed Uniqlo store to get to the elevator which led up to it. Gah. Still, I had fun exploring Myeong-dong without the packed crowds of the night before. At the theatre, I used the very complicated ticket system to buy a ticket for the first movie of the day (which was a cheap $6) called Snowpiercer. I'd been told the night before that it was a scifi classic in the making and that they were going to cut 20min of it when it went into US distribution so I had better go and see it now. Since it was a holiday and my birthday that meant none of the museums or universities were open so going to the movies, window shopping, etc. were my only options.

Snowpiercer is based on a French graphic novel so the plot was excellent and it was very well acted. I almost didn't recognize Chris Evans for awhile there, and it was lovely to see one of my favourite Korean actors, Kang-ho Song. Very graphic violence in places and bodily harm. I was sandwiched between two Korean women and they had hands up to cover their faces several times, and I personally would have liked a multiple amputation warning... Beyond that, the film suffered from the usual failing of many scifi films in that the conceit of the film (that the world had frozen and a train that ran around the world powered by a perpetual motion machine held the only remnants of humanity) just didn't hold up to scrutiny very well. I really felt for the characters and I liked the conceptual ideas and how it explored what happens when you have a few hundred people left as all of humanity and they're all stuck on a train, but on the other hand I kept sitting there going, "Uh, I guarantee you that in and around volcanoes is still habitable." Bottom line, it's a pretty gritty and chilling film, and is well worth watching.

After that, I ended up getting some street food (some sort of pancake filled with spicy pulgogi - yum) and sweet potatoes along with a blueberry yogurt smoothie and a petite choux for lunch. I also bought a pumpkin pastry for my birthday treat later that night which inexplicably is labelled masterchef korea so I wonder if it's a recipe from there. I then caught the subway back to my hotel and prepped for my afternoon trip to the jjimjilbang, or public baths. These are the equivalent of the onsen/hot springs in Japan in that you're naked with a bunch of women in hot pools, though the ones in Japan tend to pride themselves on being from volcanic water while I don't think the Korean ones make any claims. I went to the Dragon Hill jjimjilbang because it is famous and I had a coupon. I knew it would be crowded because of the holiday but it honestly wasn't that bad. I had a time trying to find my way around the place since it was a 5 story tall building, and I'd been told someone would explain the etiquette of the place to me when I got there but they were so busy, nothing of the sort happened. I have years of experience at Japanese onsen so getting naked amongst a lot of strange women wasn't a problem (though, wow, that was a lot of staring at my breasts going on there... I suppose it was the counterpart of all the Korean men staring at them when I'm not naked... I'm kinda amused by how none of the men even glance at my face.) I made my way downstairs to the bathing pools, took a shower before I got in, then started doing the rounds. There was a cool pool, and a hot pool, and a warm pool, and an insanely hot wood lined pool, plus a ginsing pool, a seasonal herbs pool, and a herbal medicine pool (I loved how the herbs floated like giant teabags in the pools). There were also various pools which had massage jets in them. Plus, there were two saunas one with aromas and was a wet sauna and one was a dry one. I alternated between all of these getting more and more relaxed. This would have been the end of it in Japan, but in Korea, you are given a tshirt and shorts to wear in common areas and can go all around the building in them. I wandered around, exploring (they had a gym with fake horseback riding. It looked hilarious.). There were more saunas in the common areas. I couldn't go in any of the charcoal burning ones due to my asthma but I went in the wooden pyramid and the jade one (they really were pyramids), and tried lying on a pillow of jade (quite comfortable since the floor was heated). The tv room was turned off and I didn't want to pay for internet so I didn't bother. The salt sauna looked cool but required socks. I went in the ice sauna which was damn weird. I dozed on the floor in the main area for a bit reading some fic on my phone. There was an arcade and pool and restaurant so I guess if you wanted, you'd never have to leave the place, but I decided to strip one more time and hit my favourite pools from before for some relaxation before heading back to my hotel. I got into Seoul station around 7pm and treated myself to some bibimbap for dinner (salty sweet grilled thing pieces of beef) since it was my birthday. They had some amazing pickled eggplant appetizers there too. I then headed back to my hotel for my pumpkin pastry. Took another shower since I hadn't washed my hair at the jjimjilbang. I tried to write this entry, but by then, my body was very aware that I'd been functioning on 4hrs of sleep on top of a hangover on top of jetlag and I went to sleep at 11:20pm and slept until 8am much to my shock. I may have finally conquered the jet lag!

Today, I was supposed to meet one of the professors at Seoul National University (the premiere uni in S. Korea), but despite my searching online I had very little idea where I was going. I left two hours before I needed to be there but it wasn't enough. I went the wrong way on the subway, wrong way after getting off the subway, walked for a mile uphill in the heavy heat and finally enlisted a guy who looked liked a student to help me. He was kind enough to take me directly to the building I needed to be at which was good since I'd have gotten lost on the campus as well. The professor had gone home by then so instead I was given her contact details and told to call her later on. I did so and I get to try all this again tomorrow. Anyway, after that it was afternoon so I changed some travellers checks at the bank on campus (since my birthday celebrations had cut into my funds more than expected) and then I hit the campus bookstore for archaeology books because those are damn hard if not impossible to find in the US. I'll be shipping them home before I leave Korea though there's one more big bookstore I want to hit first. I then tried to get back to the center of Seoul. Tried being the word because in my dyslexic wanderings, near as I can figure, I ended up going the wrong way outside of the SNU entrance, and I eventually caught a local bus (thank god the metro pass works on everything) going who knows where. I simply waited until I saw a subway station and got off the bus then, then figured out my way back to my hotel using the subway from there. I chilled in my hotel room until dinner then walked to the local mall to get dinner. Dinner was ramun (ie ramen) which was amazingly spicy. So tasty! I'd eat that every day to be honest but it's probably not very healthy. (and now I know where to go when I'm hung over again!) I am now going to get more things done before I go to sleep and try again to get to SNU in the morning. Wish me luck!
deralte: (bujinkan (by me))
( Jul. 3rd, 2013 12:07 am)
I find it amusing that I'm worried about running out of images for the Sauron-chan tumblr even though I have 170 unused pics in my Sauronchan folder and I take photos of him all the time. I suspect I'll stop worrying once I drag him all around Korea and Japan in August.

I'm off to Convergence in Minnesota on the fourth. I've got a long drive up there, but I'll be meeting my brother and mother to enjoy the con. I have to finish writing an abstract before I do though since it's due on Saturday. Meh. I look forward to the free food, great atmosphere, and room parties:D

In other news, I somehow managed to teach a 2 hr class of Bujinkan last night, and on bo! My worst weapon! They've been asking me to teach since January so I finally gave in, but let me tell you, teaching bo techniques when you're dyslexic and don't know left from right is really hard to do. Still, it went surprisingly well, and they have exhausted my knowledge of the bo, so I can never teach it again. Mwahaha!

In my experimental technology class, I pressure flaked obsidian, hafted the obsidian point, and used it to carve a soapstone bead. I feel very accomplished. (I apparently suck at flint knapping, but I'm pretty good at pressure flaking. Go figure.)
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deralte: (stardust expect me when you see me)
( May. 23rd, 2013 12:33 pm)
It's been nice to get back to Bujinkan in NJ this week. Ironically enough, on Monday, when I got to the class, I was the highest ranking person there which meant I had to start the class, which wasn't too hard, but figuring out what to start them training on when I hadn't been there since January was much harder. Luckily, they've been doing bo drills, so I just set them to reviewing them (even though I'm not very good at bo drills) and Jack finally came in about 20min in. He switched us to doing more recent bo drills, combining about four of them into one. He has someone read them out when they go over all four at once, but I found it easier just to memorize them physically one after another (dyslexia and verbal commands for physical actions doesn't work as well as I would like). I have a copy of the bo drills Jack is using now so I can use it in my own training and go at my own pace. Since all the left and right commands in bo drills make them extra difficult for me. Probably need to buy a bo though...

Yesterday, I got to training a bit late because I forget how bad traffic is in NJ. J. was teaching fairly relaxing moves of either going in and taking space around the face before doing whichever take down, or taking the space around the elbow of a stomach punch and going from there. Jack arrived in the last twenty minutes or so and had some good advice. One take down was really difficult because it involved no strength, but you had their shoulder joint resting in the crook of your arm, with your shoulder against theirs, and your hand/fingers pointing up in the air. Then you moved in and around, without pushing to get their shoulder in a place where it would spiral to the ground (plus, lightly break up their stance by slightly bending their knee). It was not a very intuitive move and both I and my training partner, T., (who is much higher ranked than me) struggled at it. Another thing I noticed on another move was that I was having trouble and trying to pull doing this one move which was supposed to be a sort of guiding of the knee - not because I was doing it wrong, but because I didn't have the hand/single arm strength to do it by placing my hand in the exact same way as J. was. Once one of them suggested a new way, I found it quite easy. I need to keep that in mind in the future.
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While I was studying for quals, I made up a list of 20 things that had to be done after quals was over, then spent most of spring break attempting to get those things done. Today, I'm finally feeling a little bit better since only 6 of those 20 things are left on the list and only two of them are difficult to do. (I apparently was supposed to have slacked off after quals... whoops.) Since those 20 things included everything from doing my taxes to writing a fullbright application, it was a pretty daunting list, so I am very glad I am nearly through it. I am also glad that the conference presentation which I did earlier today when well and is over. (And even more glad that they had the funding to feed us... I will do a lot for a free lunch and dinner apparently).

I took one day off over spring break and went to Milwaukee where I had never been before with a friend of mine. We hit the zoo, which is huge and full of peacocks. I have never been to a zoo when there's still snow on the ground but I guess it was no surprise to see the polar bear happily frolicking about. In fact, everyone but the African animals seemed to be enjoying the weather. After nearly starving ourselves trying to see the whole zoo before lunch we headed into the Milwaukee proper to visit The Safe House which is a restaurant for spies complete with a secret entrance (which they don't tell you about... I am still shocked that a restaurant that doesn't even have its name on the outside can stay in business) and exit. It's a fun place with good food, but we nearly collapsed from starvation because the wait list was so long. Once we finished there, we visited the Domes which are basically botanical gardens which I thought would be bigger than they are. Nonetheless, that allowed us to head back home in good time where I got back to work.

I'm having a hard time going back to bujinkan here. On the one hand, I'll be testing for my 5th dan in august while I'm in Japan so I should stay in practice, on the other, training in the gym twice a week in the early afternoon has made me both more productive and made me feel better about my fitness level. I feel like I waste a lot of time at the buyu class since it's two hours three times a week in the late evening or saturday morning which is when I generally get a lot of work done, and I also hate the way I have to teach the class so often now that the main instructor has left. Plus, I have to pay for the honor of teaching *sigh* But I feel guilty about abandoning them. Meh.

I somehow found the time over spring break to mainline Person of Interest which is rather accurately described as "what if Bruce Wayne and Batman were two different people who teamed up to fight crime." I'm really impressed by the way the show has so many strong female characters and treats its female characters with dignity and respect. It's also fun to watch a show with less plot holes than some of the more popcorn series I usually watch (I'm looking at you Castle).
deralte: (bujinkan (by me))
( Jan. 10th, 2013 02:07 am)
Bujinkan tonight was basics as it is every January. Monday was bo (staff) basics, and today was 5 kata basics for 1 hr and bo for 1/2 hr. bo started with us practising a basic strike - grasp the bo with both hands holding it horizontal with your knuckles facing outwards. The hands stay in that basic position except for coming slightly off the bo when you strike so that your wrist is strait and pointed towards your opponent. You strike by sliding your hands down towards the non-striking end of the bo while switching feet, changing sides with each strike and making sure to use the entire length of the bo. The second bo strike was a skee, which is a strait shot which involves the back hand twisting the bo as you hit straight forward, so the bo will turn upside down as it hits. Adjusting your aim is a matter of moving your feet and keeping your hands close to your body. The third strike we practised, usually in a combo with the first two was a skee, then the first strike, but done aiming downwards so the backhand is high up in the air after that hit. You then bring that hand down to your hip which brings the end of the bo up to strike a high hit. Tonight, Jack added drawing back on the bo after that to hit down and then up again in the same strikes but on the opposite side. (I can't help but feel that we're being taught a bo kata step by step here).

We practised the kata first by going down the mat doing the kata very loosely on both sides, and instead focusing on bringing the hip to the heel and using the energy from our core to power the moves. This meant drawing the hara in when moving so as to a) be smooth b) lose less energy (I think). The concept of using your core for movement is very confusing to be honest, and I only had a crash course this week while the others have been working on it for 6 months and still look confused. Anyway, another point he made was to always cut your fingers, ie, replace one hand with another so as not to lose any space. Once we'd finished with all of the kata except for the fourth one, we switched to applying these lose forms to partners. First was just ichimonji but then you came around and placed your palm/fist in their T as a natural form of movement. Another earth/fire form involved taking the space around their face or throat before they came in which required jumping in without hesitation and took a bit to get used to.

All in all, it was fun to train, and I've tried to go into a bit more detail here so I can remember to share this with the group back in Wisc.
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deralte: (bujinkan (by me))
( Dec. 20th, 2012 10:31 am)
Back in NJ. Happy to avoid the blizzard that is raging in Wisc.

Training tonight was a review of what everyone had learnt over the year which was good for me since I hadn't been in NJ for most of the year. Jack wasn't there, nor was it all that crowded but it was nice to see most of the regulars. Things I will have to show people back in Wisc are as follows:

Kaname and spreading out to take space. This 'technique' involved going to the outside of the punching arm and manuvering it using your right hand/arm. You got your shoulder under their shoulder, and stood at a 45 degree angle from where their feet were. Then, simulatenously, your left arm spread out to take the space in front of their chest and beyond, your right took all the space around their right arm, and your left foot went back into the space bt their legs closest to their right leg. Your body is the pivot point for the kaname here, so your leg isn't just going strait back, but your hips are twisting forward on the left leaving your hips cocked even though your leg is back by the end of the technique. Hard to explain and demonstrate *L*

Another was an odd 'guiding of the thumb' tech where the person punched, you softly caught the punch on the inside, then gently as possible, guided their thumb in its weakest direction, kind of a sharp arc outwards, then a gentle one around. Very different when the other person crosspunches instead. Then you either have to get the angle perfect, or you go for height or near the floor to get them down. Works best when the other person fights back.

A simple technique was going in when the person punched, taking all the space around their chest then walking straight through them on the opposite side from their punching hand. Easy so long as you don't stop. Training partner found it hard to do bc my height made it so easy to just try to man handle my neck around instead, she kept getting distracted by it and stopping.

Another was catching the space around a person's elbow before they could throw their stomach punch. The key to the timing was to get them to commit to the attack, but take the space where the elbow would be before they wound up for the punch. Since that's pretty much a split second window, getting the timing right was a bitch and I managed it maybe once or twice.

I had to teach one, so I just did going under the punching person's arm and catching the shoulder before bringing them down in their weakest direction. Then they showed something Jack had done very similar the week before which was to take not the space around the shoulder, but almost within it. You literally took the space under and around the shoulder blade by rolling up from underneath after going to the same spot I was, then once you very obviously had their balance and space, you could bring them to the ground (very hard to roll out of).

Final technique, was the kaname applied to the sword, which made it into a sort of horizontal spiral. You caught the other sword strike on the middle of your sword, then brought it in a giant, shallow circle around, increasingly controlling it with the tip of your sword since it slides down from the middle while you circle. If you do it right, you don't get hit as you come in, then the second circle brings the sword behind their head and you're done. I swear it makes sense when you see it *L*

In other news, had a dream this morning that I was in Korea, leading some sort of uni club on a trip to this mountain lake. In the dream, I'd watched a flood warning if there was a major storm the water would surge downstream and flood all of us who lived along the lake. In the dream, I told this to one of the young women I was travelling with and we decided to head away from the storm and river to this beachfront area. We went too far though and had to find a way back to our group, but then we got separated when a Christian bus driver gave me a free ride... well, it got complicated.
I had a really good time at Bujinkan today. I shared teaching duties with two of the other black belts which was a nice way to go about things since it gave you some breathing space to think up new techniques (I'd rather not teach at all, but I am the highest ranked person there so oh well). And for the first time in a long while, I feel like I learnt something too. I was explaining how I knew that I was in the right spot to do the technique I'd come up with and not get punched by the person's opposite hand, and I realized that I was using their other hand as my guide so that if the hand was in a certain spot, I knew that I was in the right spot. It was something instinctual I was doing, but since I had to explain why I was doing it to someone else, I learnt something too.

I saw The Hobbit today and it was really great. I was always a little frustrated by the limited pov of the Hobbit so it's kind of nice to expand things even if there was some padding in some places. Other things like the Riddles in the Dark scene were just perfect. I want to go see it again. Also, I need to reread The Hobbit.

I just finished reading Rivers of London/Midnight Riot (why must you change names bt countries publishers? Do you know how long it took me to find the damn book in the bookstore? Do you?). It's kind of like MIB set in London but with the background of the Dresden Files (without a main character as misogynist as Harry Dresden, though Peter Grant is your typical male) and it wins so many points for having a genuinely multi-ethnic cast and background setting, and for having an author who did a lot of research. On the other hand, it could stand to liven up its plots a bit. All in all though, I bought the second book today:)
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deralte: (Default)
( Sep. 23rd, 2012 08:08 am)
My dream this morning was quite long and involved. Me and a bunch of other people gained super powers from these sketchy experiments in ghettos that altered the space surrounding these experiments (a good way to discover them was to accidentally stick your hand through a wall where they were happening). I ended up coordinating a bunch of these powerful people as we tried to discover who was behind the experiments and shut them down since the resulting powers weren't always living-friendly. This was kinda a post-apocalyptic world too cause I remember running down city streets with wolves running right next to us. My power was that I was telepathic, enhanced toughness, and the phasing through matter ability that all of us had to a greater or lesser degree. We were running an op trying to get into this cordoned off, ruined area to stop this one experiment. I couldn't go in because I was too well known, so instead I 'convinced' this unassuming looking scientist to go and he got through fine with me guiding him. Meanwhile, I had two of my men (who were those guys from the Hawaii Five-O reboot whose names I don't know because I've never seen the show and I expect they only made it in my dreams cause I saw them on tumblr before I went to sleep) distract the opposing forces by getting captured, tied to a pole, and tortured while wise-cracking until I gave the all clear and they wiped the floor with them. Scientist guy turned off the experiment by sticking his hand through the roof which gave him the phasing power we all had and he was heading out of there when I woke up.

Bujinkan was extra long yesterday because we're losing our main teacher which is sad because he's the only guy who outranks me here. The training was interesting with cross blocks and various take downs, then doing the same thing with knives and hung bo. We switched at every new technique so when I switched to this one guy who isn't usually there, I wasn't really expecting anything other than judging the other guy's level to see if he needed any help or if I could relax or even if he could help me. He hadn't caught some of it so I walked him through it. Then it was demonstrated again, we go back to training and the guy just starts trying to whip through the technique in such a way that every time he did, my fist connected with his head (not hard because I'm nice). So every time, I'd stop and tell him to wait for the second punch. Three times in a row he didn't listen, and then he stops and goes, "Look, I only get here once every two months so let me do what I want." I stared at him and considered my options. Jack's way I would have punched him as hard as I could in the head to show that he was doing it wrong. I could have just let him do it wrong until we switched partners (because any respect I had for him had just been lost - maybe in other martial arts you don't help your training partner but buyu has a strong tradition of doing so and it's how you get better. Not that your training partner is always right, but most of the time they are, and ignoring them is pretty much like saying, 'I'm not going to do this part of the training.') So my third option was standing nearby in the form of an extra person who was watching the nearby pair train, and I switched out with him so I would neither have to hurt the idiot, or encourage the guy's bad habits. He thanked me for my patience after the class, but I really have no idea what that means so yeah.
Bujinkan on Saturday had a really good theme. The idea of attacking hard, then soft, then hard, then soft again. So like, first was a hard block to a right punch, then you gently used the right hand you used to block to follow the fist back to their chest, while stepping back to avoid the second punch (people automatically pull back their opposite first when they're punching), then quickly bring the fist near their chest up to hit them under the chin and bring it around to extend their left arm out at a 45 or so degree angle behind them (your other hand comes up to block), then ever so gently guide them a few inches further then take your hands away. They drop. We did a lot of things that mirrored this pattern throughout the class. Twas nice.

Currently, inspired by this, my brother and I are debating who would win in a battle between Vader and Magneto. Kirk is arguing that Vader would just force choke Magneto and I'm arguing that the force choke is too slow and Magneto would just flip the lightsaber so it sliced through Vader's head. Thoughts?
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deralte: (vash sands of time (by me))
( Jul. 19th, 2012 02:26 am)
Although 'caresses' is a weird way of putting it, I was happy that today's theme for training was being as soft as possible, which is something I will, no doubt, always need to work on. What shocked me was when the sensei told me that I was being very disrespectful and had not been doing his techniques for the past month, but had instead been substituting my own. I told him I was sincerely trying to perform his techniques and meant no disrespect, but at the back of my mind I was trying to figure out what the hell was happening because I had no idea I was doing anything like that. It was only as I was showering after class that I realized the nitty gritty reason why I've truly been so frustrated. See, I'm very good at this point at observing someone doing a technique once or twice then adapting and recreating it so that I can do it to my training partner. I make a very detailed observation of what the sensei is doing noting everything from whether a punches power is coming from the spine or from the whole body to what angle the left foot is at in relation to the uke. I also try to keep track of whether I'm using the right or left hand/foot for each part of the technique because my dyslexia means it's insanely hard for me to keep track of such things, and even without anybody talking, there's still a good chance I'll forget which foot I'm supposed to kick with. Jack, Hatsumi soke, and most other teachers (who base their styles on Hatsumi) show things, then simply tell us to "Play!". This means I can take all my observations and immediately apply them. What E. does is that he starts talking and since I'm trying to be respectful, I listen to the sensei. All those observations which are stored in my short term memory are either overwritten or loose large amounts of detail. I'll no longer remember that I observed the angle the foot was supposed to be at or that I knew the exact location it was suposed to be put down in to take the space. Instead I remember something general like, "Foot goes around here." if I remember the foot at all. My theory is that the movements E. kept seeing me do instead of his own were what my brain substituted into my short term memory whenever my observations fell short. I've sent him an email explaining all this which I hope will help us both because he did make an effort to demonstrate things more for me today and I made an effort to ignore him when he spoke and keep my mind on our training which means I can actually remember in some detail some of the things we did tonight (which looking over the last few entries of this journal, is a first).

One technique was someone grabing your shirt and you cradling it gently, while hitting (kicking in my case) to the lower stomach, groin area. Then you used your fingernail on their pinky, by pushing against the bone right at the bottom of the finger and pushing in and up in a hooking motion. At the same time you move to turn the hand over then perform whatever form of gyaku or arm bar you want. He also did what to do when there's a knife at your throat and a wall at your back. (I remember doing something very similar with Jack before). You arch your back as you lean against the wall and bring your arms up in suposed panic (E. made a good point that you can actually get away with placing them pretty close to the person with the knife so long as you sell it). Then you twist your hips into the space your arched back give you turning to the side. This brings your hands with you and traps the knife which is at your throat, then you keep the knife there and use control of the elbow to get the knife away. A variation which I liked was if the knife wasn't directly against your neck but was instead just held there by a fist that was. Since the person's elbow is right there, you take the space beind the elbow and by that you control the rest of the arm, and you just keep crowding in until you have all their space. I would have liked to have tried it on someone tall though.

E. suggested I look into learning methods for dyslexics, which I've never really done because I compensate quite well in an academic setting. While I found some surprisingly good tips (and found that I'm using a lot of them already), I'm also sad because doing this research reveals that my need to focus so hard to listen and absorb anything at the expense of everything else is probably the fault of the dyslexia as well.
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deralte: (bujinkan (by me))
( Jul. 18th, 2012 11:54 am)
Dreamt I was training here in Minnesota only in a much larger place than we do, and that the teacher, E.'s wife was sitting on the side and when he corrected me I fixed it immediately and when he (to my dread) kept talking, his wife told him off that I already got it. (You can tell what I really want to happen, huh?)

After about a month of his babbling though, I think I've finally pinned down E.'s philsophy vs Jack's. See, E. is training for that fateful day when ninjas drop out of his cieling and try to kill him, or when he's targetted by a mob boss and his martial artist thugs. I have no doubt he will overcome them should that happen. His philosophy is that if you're ready for that, then you're ready for anything. Jack's philosophy is that 99% of the time you're going to be fighting someone who is either an amateur or is trained in a lesser art. In point of fact, I don't think Jack plans for you to be attacked by other ninja at all since to get high ranking in Bujinkan you're either thoughtful and not going to be acting as an assassin or thug, or you're high ranking and you're not very good (*L*). There are other places teaching ninjitsu in this world, but they fall into the lesser art categories. E. thinks there are other martial art styles out there that can overcome Bujinkan style, while Jack is confident that there aren't any other styles that are better, though some styles have one or two specific moves that are hard for the human body to defend against no matter what you train in (this is why, though I have been taught to fight against a Muy Thai fighter, I will run very far away if I ever have to face one).

E. doesn't understand that his uke's are going to move as he would want them to because that's the role of the uke. You can fight back, but you're there so the sensei can show the rest of the class what he wants them to see. The sensei should be capable of demonstrating it no matter what, but a good uke will attack, fight back and reasonably respond as if they don't know what's going to happen. E. spent a lot of Monday's class cackling about how he like's fighting people like me who have good fighting instincts because we're predictable, but his basis of this was from when I was uke-ing for him. He did the technique which got him behind me, and the reasonable thing to do was to turn the other way to meet him. This isn't what I'd do in real life, but my role as uke is not to defeat the sensei, ne? (My actual reaction is 'shit, they got behind me.' *rolls forward, or kicks out backwards or does both*). Jack calls me tricky because I naturally, without thinking about it, tend to force people to do their techniques perfectly in order to do things or to change their techniques when my shoulder bends in ways most other people's don't. However, unless I'm fighting someone of a high rank or am told to fight back, I don't bother doing it deliberately because it's disheartening to never have your technnique work when you first start training. I basically let whoever I'm training with get the technique when they're reached a level of competence I think fits their rank. This is what good training partners do.

E. did make a good point on Monday that you should go with your second instinct in a fight. Discard whatever you thought of first because you probably telegraphed it, and go with whatever you think of second. That's hard to do in a high speed fight, but it's good advice and something to strive for.

Generally though, I think both E. and Jack are correct and approaching the same problem from different angles. E. will indeed be prepared for anything if he trains to fight other ninja. And Jack will be ready for anything because he trains to fight everything, though he is perfectly correct in assuming that you're not going to be fighting a competent martial artist 99% of the time. E. thinks bujinkan has it's flaws. Jack thinks it has it's flaws too, but he's altetered and adapted it enough that it doesn't, for him, have those flaws. Which is perhaps the thing that E. is missing. I remain convinced that E. isn't doing any favors for his students teaching this philosophy though. He has to constantly say, oh, you lower level guys won't be able to do this, or not throw people because their ukemi sucks. Of course, Jack's solution to this at this point in time is to just not train wtih lower level people or at least newbies anymore, but Jack's at a level of seniority where he can do that.

In other news, it rained and thundered last night and all this morning and it was lovely because I can sleep through rain and the lack of light it brings, hence the dream. I have high hopes it will break the hot weather too. *fingers crossed* Korean is going well btw. Aced the first final exam, though of course now we've entered the section of the course I'm not as familar with so it will take more studying to keep up.
deralte: (bujinkan (by me))
( Jul. 2nd, 2012 11:47 pm)
Really frustrated by training tonight. Not because it was anything hard, but because E.'s teaching style drives me insane. I get where he's coming from. He teaches the way he wishes he were taught and the way they teach in American schools which is repeating information a million different ways in the hopes that one of those ways sticks. The trouble for me is that his favourite method is talking verbally about everything. I pretty much hate it because I'm not a verbal learner, so someone saying more than a sentence or two at me while training forces me to stop giving all my attention to my body and movement and try to decipher the torrent of words that just keeps coming at me (It has literally taken me 12 years to reach the point where I can demonstrate a technique and talk at the same time and even then I have to know what I'm saying in advance (or be doing something easy)). E. almost always says and demonstrates what he wants you to do right when he starts talking. If he stopped there, I'd be fine, but instead he keeps going and not only do my eyes glaze over but I have to keep focused on the concept that he demonstrated five or ten minutes before at the beginning of his monologue. I told him part of this that I wasn't a verbal learner and his technique doesn't work for me and he was like, "But I've seen you do it even when your eyes glaze over." and I should have pointed out to him that in fact, I'd have a much higher sucess rate if he just shut up. Part of me is just offended by how inefficient the whole thing is too. He averages 1 technique per half hour which is kinda ridiculous for a 1 1/2 hour class.

It's really frustrating too because I think he knows a lot and has a lot to teach, but it just gets buried (for me) in a verbal rush. He talked at me a lot tonight and while I recall something about car repair and different ways of teaching, what I really thought was useful was when he asked me to punch him and leant into my fist. I was solid so he asked me to draw my punching arm further into my shoulder and I could feel how now it was my back foot supporting the punch. That was the most interesting thing he did all night and he barely said a word.

Some of my frustration tonight is with myself. I enjoy training in the nine different schools we teach at Bujinkan, but I really don't know their names. And this was hard to get through to E. He was all, well even if you don't know the name, you should know what it's like and I was like, uh, no cause I don't know the name so I have no idea what you're talking about. I've never really cared what school I'm training in, I just note the new positions of the feet and different stances or different ways of dealing with things and go for it. It used to be that every year we'd train a different school so I recall a whole year of one thing or another, but I still can't tell you the names of those schools. E. thinks that you have to know each individual school to play around within that school - this is true. But, on the other hand, I have never felt the need to play around in one specific school. While not all of Bujinkan is homogenus, one of my favourite things about this art is that it all operates on the same underlying principles. I'm not thinking "would the bone breaking method or a arm lock me better here," I'm thinking, "There's a space there I should take. Is my space also good?"

So, right now I'm icing some bruises and my poor GPS seems to have suffered heat death in my glove box because it died on the way to training. I thought it was just a one off but it wouldn't turn back on when I tried to go home so I crossed my fingers and hoped I remembered the way back which thankfully I did.
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Several years ago, Jack told us a story about how he demonstrated something perfectly to one of his sensei - something he'd worked very hard to master. And that sensei (I can't remember if it was Hatsumi or not) replied with something like, "Good, now throw it away. Forget it." I remember chuckling a little at the story because it was hard to imagine a time when I'd have mastered something enough to be told to throw it away. Yet that's the lesson that E., who teaches here in Minnesota, keeps repeating to me (though rather, he thinks it's useful for his beginning students, which it really isn't). I told him that I'll freeze and I'll think too much if I throw away what I have, and E.'s answer was that I had to do it anyway to overcome it. But he can't really tell me how to overcome it because that's pretty much the esoteric point where we're all floudering. It's kinda terrifying. Bujinkan can be explained as a very simple precept - be in the right space with the right timing. And that's it, if you're always in the right space with the right timing, you're set. But doing that is one of the hardest things in the world (this is why the original explanation of the sharingan in Naruto was so terrifying if you knew martial arts because a person who is always in the right place at the right time is pretty much invincible). There was one time when I was training a year or two ago with J. and Joe with Jack watching and I did a very complicated series of things, and Jack was like, "Okay. Now do it smoother." And I took a deep breath and I had to center everything in my head with each movement flowing to another movement and myself being aware of where I was and my oponent and the space around me and I was half sure I would screw it up, but I got through it. That, I think, was the closest I've ever been to throwing it all away. I'm left wondering if the answer then is to stop taking all those hard fought trained responses for granted and force them to become conscious again, and then I wonder if it's even possible for me to do this. Can I focus on this while I'm so stressed out from my phd too? This is hard mental work when during term time, all I want to do half the time is just punch and throw some people to relieve my stress.

Something else M. said tonight - that perhaps I'd overthink less if I incorporated more warrior into academia than bringing the academia to the warrior. I've been finding it helpful to treat my advisor more like my sensei and less like my advisor, and I wonder if incorporating more buyu philosophy into academia might lessen my stress. It's certainly worth a shot. I know for example that my timing is off for some of the papers I'm working on. I find that hard to fix because I write good papers no matter when I write them, but maybe I'd be less stressed if I timed better. I'll have to keep meditating on this basically.

M. taught two very basic exercises today culled from Duncan (who has been teaching seminars for years, and I'm fairly sure I've been to one a long time ago). One which will be very useful is a stability exercise, standing with your feet apart, toes at angles away from your body and your knees over your feet, you lower your body as low as it will go while still keeping your arse tucked in and your back straight (Jack has taken to calling this 'keeping a bowl balanced in the center of your hips from overflowing' if that makes sense). You then hold that for awhile. Two exercises were for going from side to side and blocking with the hand above the leg you have stretched out. A second exercise was more complicated involving a side strike (while the hand is in shuto form). It starts with one hand out in a fist (feet are still in the above form), the other up with palm out in front of your forehead. You strike, bringing your elbow in and the hand that was out in the fist gets pulled back to your waist. The striking hand circles and as it goes up, the hand at your waist also goes up and becomes the striking hand with palm facing out from your forehead while the other hand goes out in a fist. I found it kinda impossible to get it to work with my dyslexia which surprised me, because these are basic movements, but it makes sense that I linked them to moving my legs as well so without doing that, I found my basis for movement disappeared and I was left with my dyslexic incomprehension of right and left. M. suggested that I pay attention to the movement of my shoulders which doesn't help, but his other suggestion of trying different colored gloves or pieces of tape or something on each hand might be useful and I will try it out some time. The other basic exercise was falling back at a 45 degree angle moving from your hips and just letting your head and the rest of your body follow. Not as hard, but also easier to mess up.
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