Archive for July, 2013

Training Fest Part Two: Bujinkan

by on Sunday, July 7th, 2013

After standing in the hot sun for three hours shooting guns, I kind of wanted lunch. It was after one o’clock, and I hadn’t really eaten breakfast to begin with. Budo training took us to the Dojo, a two car garage that had been decorated in Japanese Dojo fashion, complete with padded floor and numerous bokens and swords of different sizes and types of wood hanging on racks on the dark yellow walls. Skipping lunch, I ate a handful of almonds and drank two bottles of water before changing to my Gi.

Training was already in progress.  Gabe, a trainer from southern WI was teaching class. Stephanie, a young student from my dojo and fellow white belt, partnered up with me. We had a hard time knowing what to do, but figured things out, none the less with no help from anyone. It was like a sauna in there, and that is about all I remember from the first hour. I was sweating so much that I thought something was wrong with me, and eventually took off my Gi to train in a tank top. Something I haven’t done since my first week training since we frequently work on lapel grabs, and defense from that kind of attack. But it was hot and we were all sweaty and I was soaked all the way through my belt.

However, I did remember that he would allow another black belt to show a technique. Then Gabe would expound on that move until eventually going back to the original idea and tell us to “play”. Next I partnered with a black belt, Eric, from another Dojo. He was very helpful, except he kept asking if I was OK after pinning me or throwing me to the ground. Of course I was fine,  and I apologized because I tend to make a lot of noise.  I also trained with Gail, we did techniques from kneeling positions on the floor for a while.

It is interesting to note that there is a trainer  who is missing both legs and an arm from some accident years ago, (I’m assuming he was in the Army or Air force but I don’t know for sure). He removes his prostheses to train and he is a black belt. He is also very good with guns. So the trainers at these events frequently do techniques that start from a kneeling position for his (and our) benefit.

After break, another trainer took over the class, and we switched partners again. I worked with a boy who is only 13, but quite good, and I trained with Gabe. We covered some interesting things during that session, how to defend yourself from two attackers and actually tangle them together and bring them to the floor. Josh E joined us for that comical technique.

One of the most valuable things happened at the end of the training. We all sat on the floor and discussed the training. We discussed what people had gotten out of it, and most importantly, how real the training is. The trainer (I can’t remember his name) made a point of explaining that this is real fighting technique. If any of us had a sword in our hands during a fight, we could be considered a lethal weapon. Then, he discussed something that had never occurred to me before. The fact is, that if someone were to attack you in a real live situation, they would be crazy enough to not care about hurting you or even killing you. People who are angry enough to attack a person, are crazy enough at that moment not to care about anything else.

The cool take home from that was, we are learning skills that enable us to throw off a crazy attacker . We are learning how to  distract them by doing something unexpected. He showed some examples, like when someone threw a punch at him, he stomped on the guys foot.  Or ducked under and behind him. I began to think of more possibilities.

His point was even more real to me because at the very end of weapons training, Josh E let me shoot his 40 caliber pistol. He loaded the magazine, which held around 16 bullets. I shot 4 but forgot to uncock it when I was done. I completely forgot that another bullet had automatically been chambered too and held the gun while waiting for Josh to  finish shooting mine. I kind of waved it around. This trainer, whose name I can’t remember, was standing at the other end of my waving weapon and began yelling at me. He drove his point home by discussing with Mark, who wasn’t at fault, about lack of supervision. I felt really bad, though I knew my finger had been nowhere near the trigger. Anyway, I will never forget to decock a gun or unchamber the bullet.  And I will never wave a gun around like that again. Point learned.

I am learning to be a lethal weapon.

Training Fest Part One: The Gun

by on Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Processing. Had an awesome day of training yesterday.  I learned so many new things, I don’t know how to begin this journal.

It was a special training weekend, an event held every summer by invitation only, at a dojo north of here. Five members of my dojo went to the event, along with 3 other trainers from cities around Wisconsin and members of their dojos. There were probably 25 people in all, it wasn’t a large gathering. Not like the training day in May at my dojo where there were nearly 50 attendees.

I left early Saturday morning and drove two hours to get there. Funny that I’ve lived in this state for 13+ years, and have never really been outside of Madison except to drive to Chicago or south. It was a beautiful, scenic drive. The countryside is very green this time of year, and that part of the state is alternately forested, and farmland. After crossing the Wisconsin river, the terrain grew  more hilly…mountainous by Wisconsin standards, and portions of  those hills had been blasted away to make way for the road.  The quiet country drive helped me prepare mentally for a long, information packed day of learning, and training.

The day began with introductions. I recognized many of the trainers from the May training day too…Now I can remember some of their names too. Introductions were also made to the weapons we were going to be firing. I was the only first time student to shooting guns, and I brought along the most valuable, and most formidable thing that I “inherited” from my dad after his death. His Sig Saur semi auto 45. I had never shot it before, or any gun for that matter, and have wanted to get more acquainted with the thing so that I could hold less fear around the object. Besides, it may come in handy if there is a zombie apocalypse.

The shooting “range” was smaller than I had imagined. At the farm where we trained, they had plowed up a big berm of earth to shoot into, but the area was really overgrown with weeds 3 to 7 feet tall. We flattened many of them, but one student pointed out that many of the weeds were highly toxic to touch and would create blistering burns on your skin that spread like a rash. As part of our ninja training, we avoided those for the most part, except for one poor girl who didn’t get the memo. She must have pushed it out of the way with her fingers, on both hands and her sandaled foot, welts began to form immediately.  The rest of the day  she remained bandaged and the welts spread, as predicted.

And I shot my gun. I’d been given a smaller weapon to try before shooting the 45, a 22 caliber pistol that was an easy loader, and didn’t have too much kick. I needed to break into this thing slowly. So I took my time, taking it all in, watching and absorbing, learning while others shot different weapons. At first I noticed how sensitive I was to the sound of the shots. One of the first guns to be fired was a 50 caliber, I’m not sure what to call it, shotgun, but more similar to a musket than a rifle…and when that thing fired, BOOM! Wow did I jump!  But I was really jumpy for approximately the first half hour. Every shot that was fired, I popped out of my skin a little. I guess I hadn’t realized how loud they were.

Then I let Mark, one of my dojo masters shoot my 45 first. Holy cow. It was the only 45 on the range, and the cartridges that flew out of it went eight feet or more into the air. People to the right of us jumped out of the way as he emptied the magazine. Six shots. My big weapon didn’t hold many bullets, but I soon learned that it didn’t need to.

Finally, I picked up the weapon.  The recoil and the explosive sound that it made, made me want to duck and cover. But I held fast, stuck my bravery to the ground through my feet and fired again, and again. After 4 shots, I turned to Mark, “I’m closing my eyes.” I realized I was shutting them at the last minute as a reflex, so he suggested that I breathe into it, like swinging the sword. Better, take it easy, know what to expect. From then on, it became less difficult. We stayed out on the firing range for 2 and a half hours, and the longer I stood there, the more I became desensitized to the firing. The less it bothered me, and the easier it got. In all, I fired 4 or 5 magazines from my gun, and by the end, Mark was wondering if I’d been kidding about being afraid of the thing earlier. I was a natural, and a really good shot.

Of course, I thought it was the gun, more than me. A gun like that makes shooting easy; makes it hard to miss the target. I still think that gun is a frightening thing, perhaps even more so. But now I’m not afraid of it.