Monday, August 11, 2008

The Family that Slays Together Stays Together

On the weekend after my birthday I wanted to go and watch a local Kendo class. Over the course of my life since I was 16 I have made it a point on occasion to go and watch the classes at the various dojos located throughout Southern California as part of the Japanese Cultural Institute program in California. Just after high school I attended sever different dojos depending where I was living at the time. Costa Mesa, West Covina and Pasadena were just a few of the cultural centers that I practiced Kendo at.
Kendo is an interesting art. More practical sport than art it encompasses more of the true spirit of bushido than many of the other Japanese arts that are currently practiced*

Due to my highly mobile nature during my late teens and my lack of stick-to-itiveness I never progressed to any level in Kendo. In Kendo one is considered to be in the introductory state until notified by the instructor at which point the student is allowed to acquire the armor or bogu necessary to truly engage in the art. Of the previous three attempts to practice the art I never mad it to that point.

On our visit I didn’t have any intention of getting my daughter involved in the sport. I thought that she was already too involved in martial activities with her participation in Aikido for the last 5 years and archery in the Junior Olympic Development program for the last year and a half. Kendo would just be another thing that could be construed as violent. But during our visit the instructor and his wife took an immediate interest with Aimee and began sizing her up for Kendo and Naganiata. The week following we returned and have been going steadily since.

Over the years there have been many anecdotal comments about what I am trying to do to my daughter and my parenting style.

I wasn't trying to raise boy
but rather
I wanted a strong daughter,
for her to grow up to be an empowered young woman....

“Edward has a hands-off parenting style,” a family member stated.

“You’re training her to grow up to be a CIA operative,” an employee remarked (that one is my favorite).

“He really wanted a boy” one parent from school had commented.

I had a reflective moment and did some soul searching about it to see if there was some truth about the last comment. After much reflection I came to the conclusion that this comment was not true and I did not have any deep feelings or resentment about having a daughter. In retrospect I felt the opposite. Before having a child I had the hope that it would be a girl, that I wanted a daughter. In this case with what classes she has gone through and what I have taught her from martial arts to drown-proofing to rock climbing and what I have exposed her to I reached a conclusion.

I wasn't trying to raise boy but rather I wanted a strong daughter, for her to grow up to be an empowered young woman....

We’ve been going to class a little over a month now and the workouts have proven to challenging, even harder than Aikido. The workouts are harder in Kendo but do not have the resounding after effects of the full body aches that are acquired after an hour of ukemi from Aikido. After the last session of Aikido I decided it best to take a little break after breaking my middle finger on the sensei’s gi while practicing an escape technique. After she spun out of my grip that I had on her left lapel there was an ungodly muffled snap and a moment of uncomfortable silence with a small gasp from the audience of mothers in the room. “I’m okay” I stated and returned to seiza at the end of the mat. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as the blood rushed to my finger. At that point I decided to retire from joining my daughter on the mat in Aikido, she understood.

Last month during our trip to Los Angeles Aimee’s and I made a quick trip to e-Bogu in Torrance. We walked into the warehouse and were greeted by the employees who constantly bowed as they fetched various keikogis and hakamas for us to try on. It was amazing to see the amount of gear that they had on hand.

On our last class Jill came with us to watch and relax as she did some reading and needlepoint on the sidelines. After the class I asked Jill if she would be interested in joining us. “Not my thing,” was her response. She said that she was just not into the sword swinging, running around and shouting thing. Still, it was nice to have all of the family there. Even though she is not on the mat with Aimee during aikido or wearing bogu during kendo she has been an enabler by letting Aimee participate and over all the years driving Aimee to her sessions. So in a small way, she is always there with us.

* I realize that this is just an opinion.


Ciaran said...

I had no idea you were aikidoka Ed. :)

I'm waiting for our eldest to be old enough to take on the mat in an evening, and still be able to get up the next day.

Wait till there's a multiplay ukemi game, we'll have to subliminally indoctrinate the BGD. :D

Ed Flores said...

I have been for the last 20 years, more off than on of course. It's my daughter that has been going for about 6 years. Now that she has her first adult rank (Rokkyu) I'll probably be joining her on a regular basis. I find myself torn between Aikido and Kendo at the moment.
Someday we'll make our way to the UK. When we do we shall practice together.