I got a great feeling this week, and thought I'd post about it.
I've written about my buddy Josh, who I work with and train BJJ with. We've been friends since we were kids, and our families remain friends to this day. Josh has always been into martial arts. In fact, he was mostly responsible for me even giving grappling a second thought (I never really intended to train in judo until the last year or two). Way back in the day, Josh trained judo at the dojo at which I would eventually come to begin training in aikido. His only exposure to aikido was what he saw on the mats while warming up for judo classes.
For as long as I can remember, Josh has had a familiar mantra: "BJJ is superior to all other martial arts. Period." For the past couple of years as I've practiced aikido, Josh has always sort of made fun of it, "attacking" me with his "zombie arm" out in front of him, walking like Frankenstein. I never really try to convince people otherwise - I can understand what aikido looks like from the outside. I can see how it's so often misunderstood.
A couple of months ago, I got a job with the company Josh works for. In fact, my cubicle is right next to his. During occasional down times, we'll goof around and pretend to fight; everything from "Jim Carey stiff-arm knife attacks" to old-school karate kata and one-steps we remember from childhood. Just goofing off. Inevitably, Josh attacks me "aikido-style", and I usually do something from 1-9 of junana hon kata (such as I can). We just mess around and have fun.
This past couple of weeks, being so near the holidays, have been really slow at work. Wednesday afternoon, we ended up playing around again. I kept doing shomenate, and to my great surprise, Josh asked me to show him what I was doing. I explained that ideally, my reaction to an attacker getting a "certain distance" from me, would be to step off the line and get my hands up. Then I could do whatever the attacker "wanted" me to (once I'm proficient, that is) - get away, knock him down, lock him up, etc.
So while I gave a "lesson" on shomenate (and tried to give a little lesson on aiki in general), I quoted Pat: "In this situation, you might be able to do something to me, but you're going to have to do it while you're flying backwards."
Josh, being practically-minded, wanted to test the validity of what we were doing. So once we did a few reps, he started trying to figure out what he, as an attacker, could do to counter or nullify what I was doing to him. It turns out the harder he tried to press the attack, the worse his condition became, and he could tell that if we were doing this at a "realistic" speed, he would be knocked down easily (even though he's much stronger than I am, and very athletic).
I was happy he showed some interest in aikido. I always like the chance to talk about it. We left it at that. After we left work, I got a text from him: "Man, you've got me interested in aikido now". I texted back: "It really is extremely neat/interesting. And way more practical than it looks on the surface." Josh: "Yeah, I just realized how practical. Changed my whole view just now." Me: "Now you're just teasing me." Josh: "No. I'm being serious. I saw some things when we were practicing."
We had lunch together the next day. I asked him to elaborate on what he saw in our aikido practice. Josh is the kind of guy that was pretty... "adventurous" when he was younger. By that I mean he was in a ton of fights. Bar room brawls, road rage fights, etc (he's much more mature now, and less of a hot-head). He explained how just from shomenate, he could remember so many situations where he could have defended himself more successfully if he'd known aikido. He also said he could see how his wife would be able to use it to defend herself, even though she's just a slip of a girl. I told him the story of how my petite wife was able to drop another one of my friends with aikido when we were both training together (he asked her for a "lesson", haha). He said he could see how aikido might be the most practical art for real self defense.
It really does seem like his attitude toward aikido has turned around 180 degrees. It's pretty thrilling to me - and humbling that my aikido...which is no more than a couple years old, could make such a drastic difference in someone's opinion about the art. It's encouraging.