When I started this blog years ago I promised to write about interesting, or intriguing, or strange things in Budo; things that hopefully make the reader cant their head to one side like a Pug and say, Huh?” Things that make you stop and think for a second is my intent so here is today’s momentary descent into, “The Budo-verse”.
Back in the gym after two or three years of broken promises to myself and just pure outright laziness. Promised my Head Hatamoto that we’d “do stuff” at the ‘doj and throw each other around so must get back into fighting trim. Not all that easy at age 65 but it’s still there. Just have to reach for it and do the work.
Worked out, had a “healthy breakfast” at the whole food shop inside the gym. Pretty convenient and they had plenty of black coffee to boot with a go-cup. My health club isn’t quite as nice as the old-world “Gentlemen’s Clubs” in London; you know, the ones where you do your workout, and then go to the lockers as your man-servant hands you a gin and tonic to cut the edge off those 1,000 sit-ups, and then you perambulate to the steam room as you waddle naked across the locker room, and the shower attendant hands you your fresh, hot, monogrammed towel and the green bar of English pine soap, while you admire your pumped, buffed, and waxed nakedness in the mirror.
No. Not quite that nice but maybe one day …………..
So on the way into the office, the skies turned black with this weather front coming through with massive rain and spectacular lightening shows. Satellite radio went into a “fem-ale” mode with song after song (by Toni Braxton, Anita Baker, Norah Jones, Tina Turner ……. Old School kind of tunes) so it was a smooth drive in with ‘tunes, nice weather, hot coffee, and good traffic for a change. Stress-less, not stress-free but close so the mind drifted into thinking about conversations I had heard around me that morning at the gym about people always wanting something from you and pushy salesmen (apparently this is a week for carnival barkers) and I remembered several occasions at the dojo where someone, ostensibly looking at training, actually wanted something other than Budo. They wanted things but used “visiting the dojo” as the wedge to get into the door and to try to put me at ease for the “close”.
I sometimes think that the world outside the Budo-bubble or the Bushi-verse looks at a dojo as a means of recruitment for whatever they are hawking, selling, thinking, doing, or hallucinating about. And sometime they can be pushy so a Sensei, who has the best interests of his deshi at heart (and who is concerned about the viability of the dojo as being a “way place of learning” and not just another pit stop on the road to mediocrity) has to be direct, sometimes to the point of rudeness and everyone once in a great while, threatening to do some serious bodily harm if they can’t figure out that they are simply not wanted.
Bwahahaha. I’ve been an insurance broker and agent for about 20 years now and got my start as a professional telemarketer after I left commercial banking. Even when I was in banking before going into insurance full-time back in ’97, the big corporate banking centers I worked at actually put us through classes in how to sell and close, to how profile the prospect, and how to gauge, evaluate and control different personality types either as a loan officer, a risk management officer or as a problem loan & liquidation officer (I was all three at times).
I’m the last person in the world you want to try to manipulate for a sale of anything and everyone once in a while, I’ll just screw with them, just because ………………. “Sure, I’m interested. Tell me more. Tell me more. But what if …… tell me more ………. But would you want your mother to do that?” ….. but, who developed this and did they make any money?” ….. Have fun with it and interrupt their sales script, which throws them off. Then you get to watch them try to recover so you hit them again.
So …………….. the occasions that popped into my mind during the drive in that were the most unusual and that had the best set-up as in the carnival barker coming in, talking martial arts and then slowly and gently trying to slip the ‘shiv in were …………..
Fellow sends an email asking if he can visit and the email says that he lives and trains in another martial art here in Houston; but that a good friend of his, an Aikido Sensei from Europe is in town and wants to visit several dojo to see what Aikido in the US and Texas is like. So I say sure, come in Saturday. They both come in, sit and visit, ask questions about Tomiki Aikido and I explain how Tomiki set it up, how the curriculum works and mention that Tomiki Ryu has strong self-defense focus and a heavy flavor of Kodokan Judo with how we work the off-balance on the attacker and enter for the technique. This was all information that I already knew the European Sensei didn’t know as he had never seen Tomiki Ryu before.
So during the conversation, the fellow that had sent the original email made mention (after I had to ask several times) finally ‘fessed up that he did another martial art that consisted of punching and kicking and some throws of various types and that he had students and was building a dojo here in Houston. My thought was …. hmmm but I said nothing. Then he asked if he could train. I said no, that I don’t take visitors and that only active students could get on the mat, not visitors, not people who weren’t already Aikido Players, and esp. not visitors from other styles who would be there only that class period. His response was, “Oh, a cynic”. Strange I thought, but knew immediately that he wanted to try his art against Aikido; something I had no interest in. Last time someone talked that game I told them that I’d ask one of the police officers in the class to come over and convince them of the error of their ways. Then as a test, I turned to the Aikido Sensei from Europe and asked him a simple question; to wit, can you see the Daito Ryu, self-defense, Judo influences. He got a sorta’ funny look on his face and said, “YES. I can really see the Judo influence”. I couldn’t tell if he was surprised at the techniques or what.
So, while they were both pretty courteous and not rude and not outright challenging, I interpreted it as checking out the competition by using the European as the excuse. Then, the very next day, I received an email from the visitor that he had emailed my senior Hatamoto to visit his dojo; an effort at recruitment as I interpreted it. So the entire email, visit, conversation was, bottom line, an effort at recruitment as I had several people who had experience in what he was teaching and he must have thought that he could interest them in visiting/joining his school. No biggie to me. I only want deshi that are interested in our program anyway.
The strangest attempt at recruitment however was the night a stranger walked in unbidden with no advance notice. He had a strange aura about him and seemed a little distant but curious. We talked and he said that he did some martial arts informally (my first thought was “Oh Gawd. Another guy working out with his brother-in-law in the garage by reading books and watching You Tube”). It turned out that he was claiming to be one of the few individuals in the country who knew “Viking Martial Arts”.
Bwahaha. Hokay then. Thor’s Hammer Ryu. This must be a joke. Nope. Not a joke. So after prodding him as to what he was looking for he stated that he wanted to learn Aikido and grappling to improve his Thor Ryu. Then I made the error of asking him what he did for a living.
And for the first time I about fell off my stool. He ran a sex-club where everyone traded spouses and they had bondage rooms where the audience watched and had martini’s and bacon wrapped shrimp as someone was tied up and …… er …… ah ….. “abused substantially” as the cameras rolled. So after sagely remaining silent for a minute or two, I just had to ask. “So. Thor. How do you find clients? customers? mattress divers? WTH do you call them?” He didn’t think that was very funny but interesting enough, his expression never really changed so that told me that he’d done this before. His response was, “We have to be discreet. We just offer that we do this and then allow people to approach us and join. We love to have visitors to the club to see what we offer”.
Didn’t take too long to figure out that I was being invited over and by extension, the entire dojo. Well I thought, nothing like trying to join a martial arts dojo with 50 or 60 people who are physically active and in good shape so-as to have a fresh batch of recruits because he was overweight and didn’t look to me like much of catch for a discerning female with life choices available to her.
So he left and the next morning I went on line and looked up his sex club. Sure enough. There it was, less than a couple miles away from the dojo in the back of an unmarked strip center and Google Earth showed blacked out windows with no sign, only the suite number. His photo was there on the website along with a bunch of other people and the site had photos of the “mattress room” (wall to wall), the bar (lots of interestingly clothed & unclothed bartenders in the photo, "Ah ... say there partner .... what are you stirring my drink with?"), the bondage room (no people in this one but the ladder, handcuffs and pole in the middle of the room with chains were included). And, lo’ and behold, a group photo of people at the beach at Galveston, wearing Viking clothes and horned (horny?) helmets and carrying wooden shields and swords at what was noted as being a “Viking Wedding”.
So, if you run a dojo, then keep some things in mind.
At some point, at some time, and one day, you very likely will find yourself dealing with these people. Keep in mind that these are the extreme examples. Door to door protein or internet ISP salesmen are a dime a dozen. These were the ones that were good at what they do. They are the ones that you have to watch for. Don’t let them in no matter how badly you need new deshi. Lying down with snakes never has a good result and if you feel guilty somehow about saying no, then remember the story about the frog and the scorpion. Otherwise, you may lookup and find deshi quitting the dojo because they came to learn martial arts from you, not be recruited by Thor the Viking Sex ‘Perv.
L.F. Wilkinson Kancho
The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX