by Todd Barnes
Two weeks ago three important moments occurred in the life of the dojo. One, we had a test where we saw five of our fellow members rise in rank. Two, we had a meeting where we learned about the plans for the dojo’s physical expansion and our part in raising funds. And three, I moved to a new apartment. All powerful moments in time, they taught me a wonderful lesson about what we are part of here in Brooklyn.
First the testing. Sensei knows where we are in our training and could do away with tests altogether, but there is something about them that still works. More than twenty members sat in seiza to support the four who were testing. Sensei threw us a funky wrinkle and called up several members for surprise practice tests as well. This heightened the intensity and pressed all of us to contribute. The spirit was strong and we needed the energy of every member there to pull through. In the end, after almost two hours, we had the four planned testers rise in rank, one surprise promotion and more than forty feet purple from lack of circulation.
During a test when Sensei yells “uke!”, people rush to aid their fellow students. That is a metaphor for what we do in our training with each other every day. What works about the test is it shows us all something about ourselves and the health of our community.
At our fundraising meeting we had an even greater turnout. This was the second Friday night in a row we were asked to attend and we did so en masse. The evidence suggests we are either painfully unpopular individuals or we are committed to the dojo. I’ve met almost everyone and I’m pretty sure we must be committed (not in the rubber room sense). We discussed the need to raise funds for an expansion of the dojo. This will allow for Sensei to continue the commitment of his life to the dojo, provide rooms for visiting instructors, and allow us to grow our uchideshi program. Could there be a more inspiring project? I have no doubt we will raise the money necessary to complete the expansion and beyond.
Lastly, I needed to bring furniture up and down stairs a bunch of times last weekend. On the way down it took three people almost three hours to load the truck. When I arrived at my new address it took eight people twenty-eight minutes to empty it. That’s because Sensei and Kate came. They were joined by Sensei’s friend and former teacher, Imetai. Later Sarah arrived (the day after her test no less). Sensei and Imetai have trained for more than fifty years combined. If you have ever wondered what physical transformation you might undergo in your training you should see two Sensei move furniture. It is terrifying and awe inspiring.
And if you’ve ever wondered what kind of bond we all have as fellow students, if you’ve ever wondered how committed we are to each other. I have your answers...
- We will rush to take ukemi for each other as long as the test lasts.
- Sensei knows with minute detail when you’ve been to class, if you are injured and what progress you’ve made. He and others live their lives committed to this practice and keep their doors and hands open to us without respite.
- And there is something in this bond, this commitment, which can convince a perfect stranger (Imetai) to race up two flights of stairs, repeatedly, until all of my worldly goods are in place.
These recent events proved to me beyond doubt that we are all part of something very special.
by Todd Barnes