Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aikido and a New Apartment

Although I know it's wrong to procrastinate, it seems to be a habit I've fallen back into recently. I hate waiting to the last minute because I always feel so panicked and helpless. But alas, when I think about studying Keigo or Kanji, i don't want to do anything othe rthan sleep. Then again, it's been a long day, rather, a long weekend, so I can't blame myself for being a little human once in awhile. I'm not a superhero. (But I like to pretend I am one.)

Friday was the beginning of an insane, but rather enjoyable, weekend. It started with my waking up at one in the morning, not being able to go back to sleep, and discovering that I was not able to pay for my new apartment. That stressful snowball collided with the visit of a rather strange salesman that thought it rather interesting to look inside the crack of my door, checking my apartment, and my physique, while trying to sell me newspapers. I didn't want to completely scare him away, so I told him to come back at a time when I wouldn't be home. I took care of my apartment scare at school and in the midst of all that, I forgot about an appointment to skype with my boyfriend.

Saturday morning, I woke up at nine AM to the sound of my doorbell. I tried to roll over in bed, thinking it was the mailman, but the doorbell rang three more times in quick succession. I cocked my eyebrows and reached for my cell phone(s). I muted my alarms before they could ring and I also muted the volume on my computer. The hair on my neck started to stand when I heard my mail slot open, but not close. I held my breath until I heard it close, and then I heard knocking. I knew at this time that the salesman had decided to come early, so I tried to act like I wasn't home. (Although, I knew he probably peered down through my blocked off mail-slot to see my shoes and umbrella. Sneaky.) Because the walls of my previous apartment were pretty thin, I tried to listen for his footsteps walking down the hall. I couldn't hear anyone moving anywhere though, and that scared me. I got on skype with my exchange student and quietly typed what was going on. She told me not to worry, as Japanese salesman are much more aggressive than their American counterparts. I decided to listen to her and try to get ready for the day. I agreed to eat lunch with a friend and decided that it was best to get ready for the day and out of the apartment while the salesman wasn't around. However, as soon as I turned off the water and reached for my towel, the doorbell rang. I grabbed my phone and sent an urgent text to Ai-chan: Subject: He's back. Text: Creepy.

I waited until I couldn't hear anyone and then hurried to get dressed in my bathroom before diving onto my bed to talk with Ai-chan again. I asked her if I should call the police. She sounded more worried but told me not to worry because he hadn't actually hurt me. Then, my doorbell rang again. He had come three times within an hour, possibly an hour and a half at this point, which was rather new and disturbing to me. I told her I would get ready to leave, but I would leave when I  was sure the man wasn't at my door. We agreed that I should call Ai before I left, and talk to her in urgent-sounding English all the way out the door. As I was putting on my shoes, the man rang my doorbell. I held my breath and this was the ONLY time I heard him run to another door on my floor. He rang my neighbor's doorbell, and when I heard him talking, I raced out my door only to bump into the man. I told him there had been an accident and that I had to go. In the flustered moment, I almost forgot to lock my door. I ran back and locked it, and as I ran away, he ran after me. I started to sprint, talking to Ai-chan all the way until I reached a large road. She told me to call the police. The salesman crossed his ground and I had his business card, name, work and cell number. So, as soon as I was about ten minutes away from my apartment (about three minutes at a run), I called the police in the presence of my friend Laura. We waited in the company of a woman from a glasses shop until the police were able to meet us. Ai-chan talked with them over the phone and the policeman assured me that the man would never talk to me again. They told me, "We're going to call this man and tell him it's forbidden for him to talk to you again. Don't worry." I felt safe. They asked for my new address as well, so if they ever got a call from me again, they would know where I was.

I looked at Laura as they left and said, "Man, am I happy that I'm going to Aikido tonight." She laughed and we walked towards Ten Q to have lunch.

At 4:25 pm, I found myself leaving my house twenty minutes later than I had imagined to catch the bus for the Aikido circle meeting. One of the female members was going to meet me at a train station and take me to the club dojo. She called me after I was late, as I didn't have her number, and I apologized all over myself. She laughed and told me not to worry. Soon, I was with her, walking to a training center by Heian Shrine. Wow. Talk about intimidating.

Aikido is like nothing I have ever seen. I wanted to write about it yesterday night, but I couldn't find the energy or words to describe what I saw. Even now, it's hard to make the experience roll from my thoughts to my fingertips. I was disappointed in myself for not writing about it, but even though I didn't get the words out then, I think the things I saw will stick with me forever.

As soon as I walked in, the students stopped and stared at me. I understood why. I was a gaijin walking into traditional Japanese territory. My jeans and Dir en Grey t-shirt did nothing to help my appearance. The teacher told me to practice the basics with the group and sit and watch when things got difficult. He smiled and told me that Texas has good beer, and that he visits each time there is a conference in Dallas.

I am so sore from just stretching. Nothing we did was too severe, but I'm out of shape. I practiced basic deflections and footwork with the group and messed up on all of them. The girl training me laughed but encouraged me to keep trying. I got better and once she even said, "Wow... You're pretty good."

Then I sat down. I was scared (excuse me) shitless from the throws I saw. People sounded like they were getting hit by trucks when their bodies hit the foam tatami mats. Bodies contoured to the momentum of their opponents; it was painful. Yet, despite all of the pain, there was this beautiful sense of harmony between the thrower and the person being thrown. Everyone was relaxed despite the pain. It was beautiful. It was so beautiful. My heart kept beating faster and I found myself mesmerized by the speed and sheer strength of all of the members. I felt stronger just by watching.

After class, the members started talking to me. They teased me because I was an American girl that liked the Shinsengumi, and treated me like they would any Japaense person entering the group. I pulled my weight and helped put up tatami and training weapons. I felt so much at home in that environment. I really hope I can succeed in this.

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