Monthly Archives: August 2009

Reaching Out… Or Not…

The other day I was on the Park&Ride line going up on campus. A Heathen friend of mine sat next to me and we chatted about school for a bit. He got off on the first Boulevard stop, and I stayed to ride to the second. So I’m sitting there zoning out, exhausted from my first week back to a big university, and there goes a girl walking past me wearing not one, but two Mjolnir pendants around her neck. I stared dumbly at her while she went past and walked off the bus, going right next to me on her way out the rear door.

I’ve chased people down the sidewalk before to find out who they were when it looked like they shared my small community of specialized interests. I’ve ridden at break neck speeds trying to find vintage scooterists I passed going the other direction. I’ve left notes on bulletin boards, business cards on seats and posted fliers all over town. Being involved in fringe interests and hobbies, I’ve always felt compelled to reach out and connect with the few and far between people who are into them as well, even risking like a lunatic to get someone’s attention.

Here goes someone who might be a lonely Heathen on campus, someone who might not know about the Heathen community around here. I felt like I had failed a duty of reaching out to say hello and find out, to network and connect. That maybe I had done something wrong in not saying hello.

After thinking about it, I’m not so sure anymore. The last time I asked someone about their Mjolnir pendant it ended up being about their D&D Dwarf character and nothing else. You can’t make assumptions based on the pendant alone. But where does this feeling of obligation come from in me? Am I even the right person to try to be reaching out? And since any Heathen who cared to could do an internet search for local Heathens just as easily as I did, does it make sense to stop someone who is hurrying on their way to their next class? I view my school as if it were my job, and I definitely don’t want to be bothered by random strangers wishing to talk religion when I’m at work.

I’m trying to learn lessons from my past. One of those lessons may be to mind my own business as much as possible. All of my organizing and promoting in the other hobbies I’ve been a part of seems to have done nothing but exhaust me emotionally. Not like religion is a hobby, but Heathenry is a (very) small community in the wider world of religion, and it’s even rarer to see a Heathen that I don’t know just out and about than it was for me to see a scooter enthusiast I didn’t know. In the old days, before everyone in the world had an internet connection, there was this feeling of isolation. We who had divergent culture and interest, who were social and religious minorities, we were strangers in a strange land. Imagine walking through Mumbai, and suddenly, through the crowd of Indian folk filling the streets, you not only see another American, but they’re wearing a T-shirt with your high school’s logo on it. Of COURSE you would want to say hello and find out who they were, and if they knew anyone you did. You’d probably end up doing something together based on nothing more than relishing the familiar and comfortable in a strange and sometimes distressing place.

That sort of explains why I sometimes feel as I do when it comes to needing to say hello to certain people. But there is also the mental exhaustion, and sometimes exasperation, that comes from it. I’ve heard people using Japanese words that I’ve talked to, and found out they were batty otaku. I’ve met people who for all the world looked like they should be on a 2-Tone dance floor, who just stared in confusion when I approached them. I’ve approached people about kendo who turned out to be Narutards and ninjers. And more than once I’ve approached people about vintage scootering because they were wearing Vespa T-shirts, only to be told that they only owned the T-shirt, never been anywhere near a scooter, Vespa, vintage or otherwise. It starts to get on your nerves after a while.

I guess for the most part my objective should be to do the things I love, and if someone is serious about it they’ll either ask me, be introduced to me, or we’ll meet when our converging interests bring us to the same place. It’s not like I feel antisocial about it, but I think that the above compulsion hasn’t done much good for the community, and has probably been bad for me personally. I know that in the case of my scooter club, my emotional attachment to the club and how I expressed it eventually ended up being unhealthy enough that I was driven to not only quit the club, but the vintage scooter scene entirely.

I sort of go back and forth on jewelry items, and my Mjolnir has been hanging up for a while in favor of my military ID tags. So I switched out to wearing Mjolnir openly recently, so that if there are any Heathens out there who wanted to say hello to another it would be an opening to. I don’t expect them to go out of their way, and I’m not going to do it either, but if the situation is conducive to it, there can be the eye contact and the opening facilitated by Mjolnir, and we’ll get to meet each other. Otherwise I’m focusing on my work, and letting other people, better people for the job, do the chasing for a while.


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Filed under Faith, The Heathen Gods

Fitness Report 28Aug09

Waist – +/-40″*
Weight – 218.4 lbs

Exercising – Yes, a good average
Dieting – Trying, but not doing very good at it this week
I feel – Exhausted

I’ve been very physically active this week, but I’ve also been eating out too much. As you can see, I’m up two pounds this week. That’s keeping with the 215~220 fluctuation trend I’ve been on for a couple months. No worries, I just need to reestablish a healthy routine so that I don’t feel the urge to do things like buy banana bread and chocolate muffins from the student union.

* I still haven’t found my damn sewing tape measure.

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Filed under Fitness Report, Right Living

Am I a sabreur? I AM a kendoka!

Yesterday (24Aug09) I started my club activities at the University of Kansas. I’ve only the one class on Mondays, so I spent most of the day holed up in the student union and reading the assigned text for my classes. But come evening I went on over to check out the exercise facilities on KU, and then participate in fencing.

First I met with the KU Fencing Club in the Robinson Gymnasium. We were introduced to footwork, the smelly, ill-fitting equipment and shown “three, four and five”, which are the basic strikes. Let me back up for a second. The three types of Olympic Fencing were demonstrated to us, and then we were asked which style interested us and told us we could pick whichever that was to do. KU seems to have a heavy concentration of saber fencers (termed sabreur), which works out because the saber is what I am interested in.

It remains to be seen how much kendo is going to help or hurt me. Initially it seems like there are concepts that are similar, it’s just that the executions are technically different. For instance, in moving forward in kendo the feet are both pointed forward at the opponent, and in fencing only the right foot is pointed at the opponent and the left is turned sideways, but the movements and balance are similar. I imagine it has something to do with the attacking techniques required by the differences in the weapons. I’ll figure out all that kind of stuff later.

I’ve decided to make a commitment of one semester to fencing, to see where my interest with it goes. Currently my interest lies with familiarization, and trying something new. I figured that if I was going to practice swordsmanship, trying out a different style would be a good thing. I’m not sure how to put exactly why into words yet, but it’s something I want to do. I’ll be going once a week, and in that time I hope to learn whether or not I develop an interest in fencing as something on its own, or if I tell the club “thanks for the experience” and not come back in spring. It works out well for me because both clubs meet on the same days, only at different times. My Mondays are going to be pretty action packed for a while. You would not believe how sore and tired I was last night.

Which leads me into the KU Kumdo/Kendo Club. After fumbling around with the fencing club for a while, it was nice to go back to something I felt more confident with. This is the second new dojo I’ve been to. It’s a little weird practicing at a different place, because the routine is different. The KUKC is less formal than the Kansas City Kendo Club, being mostly students and Korean kumdo folk. In kumdo the rules are the same but the style is different, and the kumdo folk tend to drop a lot of the formalities of the Japanese. There were four or five returning club members, a visiting scholar who is the senior member, three absolute beginners and myself.

I introduced myself and everyone was pleasant, and then we got to warming up individually and I felt pretty good about myself. The group warm-up was brief but intense, and I probably sweated as much just with 150 hayasuburi with KUKC as with 600 hayasuburi with KCKC. The Tae Kwon Do Club warmed up the room for us before we got there (it’s in the Martial Arts room in the new Student Recreation Center), and it was like exercising in a very stinky sauna. On a side note, the new Rec Center is really nice. The MA room has these “pseudo-tatami” foam mats, and its not like a wooden floor, but it’s much better than outside.

I started off with kirikaeshi with the senior member, then back and forth with kihon waza. Then we moved on to jigeiko, and I got to spar with just about everyone who had bogu. We finished off with one point knock-out competition, and I ended up getting to try my hand as a shinpan for the first time. Which was a whole new level of difficulty, and not something I was real comfortable with. BUT, I managed to score men on my first match, so I feel like I didn’t show up and make a fool of myself. Lost the next two, of course.

Everyone at both clubs was friendly. I had a really good time at both, but especially at KUKC. The sparring was fast and aggressive, and in a style that I’m not used to. I feel like I have a lot I can learn from them, and look forward to participating with KUKC for the rest of my stay at KU. There was brief talk of maybe arranging a dojo visit/special practice between KUKC and KCKC. It’s just idle talk at this point, but I think it would be beneficial. One, to get more diverse experience for club members, and two, to help build good kendo relationships in the area. I put up the KUKC contact information on the KCKC website, and will mention to sensei this Wednesday about it.

This was an excellent start to student non-academic life. I believe that success lies with involving yourself at many levels, and committing yourself to the school. Investing in the school on a personal level, and outside of just wanting to get good grades. I don’t want to show up, do class, and then bail afterward. I want my life centered on KU, so that I will have a better chance of doing well in the school.


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Filed under Budo, Fencing, Kendo

K.C. Ethnic Enrichment Festival

Sunday, 23Aug09, the KC Kendo Club participated in the Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival at Swope Park in Kansas City, Missouri. About nine of us went onstage in front of a few hundred people and did a little demo. I was constantly afraid someone was going to fall off the edge of the stage! The stage was also very hard, and not easy to sit seiza on. We went on after the Israeli folk dancers and before the Lithuanian folk dancers, which is kind of funny in light of another blog I read not too long ago likening martial arts to folk dancing. I’d post the link to it, but I forget where I read it.

DSCN1626Anyway, we were based out of the Japan booth and the Japan-America Society people were very accommodating to us. I’m a member of the JAS as well, so I recognized most of the people working at the booth. After the demo we were given some of the Japanese food they were selling. I particularly liked the rice balls. I would have stayed to help out with the booth, but my folks came up with my sister and her kids, so I walked around with them doing the family thing.

And ate a LOT of food! I actually ran out of room in my stomach before I ran out of money in my wallet. I ate a Scottish sausage, Scandinavian pancake balls, Swedish meat balls, Kenyan nyama chomo (meat on a stick), a Greek gyro, and some Japanese rice products. I wanted to try more, I just couldn’t!

DSCN1654The demo itself went well, I think. I felt it was maybe a little long, and my father told me he overheard some people making comments along those lines. Joe Q. Public doesn’t know what he’s looking at, so I’m sure the subtleties of what sensei was trying to get across were lost on most people. The set up was logical, though, and I’m not at all about playing to the lowest common denominator, just maybe playing to a shorter attention span. But we got lots of applause and a few laughs, so I felt the whole thing was good.

I watched some of the folk dancing later on as I was wandering around. Folk dancers seem to be either very old or very young. They were all of them good that I watched. A lot of the music started to sound the same, though, speaking of subtleties being lost on outsiders. I saw some of the “Parade of Nations fashion show”, but not much. Which wasn’t a big deal, because if ever there was a place to people watch, it was at the festival. A lot of the performers and workers were walking around in traditional clothes, and quite a few attendees were as well. It was very interesting all the way around.

DSCN1667Afterward we had a couple people visit us at the Japan booth and inquire about the club. I found out today from a friend who attended that there was one person who is a kendoka and didn’t know that Kansas City had a club. So, out of the demo we’ll probably get a handful of curious people showing up, and hopefully one of them will stick around for a while. It seems that our club is a nice size, and it’s exciting for me when we can get a lot of people there at once for something.

I enjoy doing things like this, and it was a good opportunity for some of our families to meet each other. Build community and all that, which I am so fond of. We’re having two Japanese festivals come up soon, the Greater Kansas City festival and the Saint Louis festival. I’m committed to the GKC festival, and I have thrown my hat in the ring for road tripping out to the STL fest. Road trips are good bond builders, so hopefully we’ll get a handful of folks wanting to head across state.



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Filed under Budo, Event, Kendo

Fitness Report 21Aug09

Waist – 40″*
Weight – 216.8 lbs

Exercising – Yes, but not as much as I want to
Dieting – Yes, but but not as rigidly as I want to
I feel – pretty good this week, not getting enough sleep, but not feeling run down

I’m going to keep the fitness reports simple and to the point, so not a whole lot of talking about stuff here, but following the above, or one like it.

*I had to use a steel tape measure because I’ve somehow lost my cloth tape measure. But for what it’s worth, my cloth tape measure said 40″ a few days ago right before I lost it. I don’t know how I lose things like that, it’s not like I have a large house.

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Filed under Fitness Report, Right Living