If you read Master Pearson’s most recent post then you’ll probably share my excitement at the near publication of our SHK manuals! This is certainly a thrill for our entire organization but particularly for Hagsaeng Naebu as we have seen most first hand, the evolution of this project. So to be witness to its completion is a great pleasure and honor. For those of you who don’t know, our dear instructor has always had a bit of an obsession with manuals and the creation thereof (in a good way Sir…in a good way!) This has always been somewhat of a running joke within Shin Ho Kwan. It was not uncommon for Master Pearson to go away on vacation and come back with an entirely new curriculum supplement for us all to learn. In fact, we came to dread his time away from our school; knowing that every moment he spent away, relaxing on a beach somewhere, meant more time for him to flex his creative muscles and therefore more forms or weapons or pressure points or mental material to add to our ever-growing list when he returned. I say this half-kidding of course. In truth, I think the majority of us were really just incredibly impressed, dare I say awed, by the amount of material he could master and his discernment in terms of what would be beneficial to us, his students, in the long run. All in all, we were and are always grateful for the opportunity to learn new material – otherwise martial arts practice could get really boring – and this approach has become something which greatly distinguishes our school and style from all the McDojos out there. But we did poke fun at him for this manual obsession. I’ll share two quick, funny memories about this before I get to the subject of this blog entry.
Once, Master Pearson took me and another student to a place called Karme Choling. Karme Choiling is a Tibettan Buddhist retreat (Shambalah) center in Barnet (North/Central) Vermont. We went there each summer for a kyudo seminar with Shibata Sensei. Why a Japanese martial arts seminar was being held at this location is a very long story which I won’t go into now but this trip was a favorite of mine. I looked forward to it every year and had the opportunity to attend many times. In fact I can still remember the numerous markers we would pass on the way, letting us know how close we were to Karme Choling – the creepy convent on the top of the hill, the mile marker where Dickinson first heard Rush’s 2112, the weird sign that said Karme Choling was 5/10 of mile away – what? the other weird sign in the woods warning visitors to leave the premises immediately if they heard sirens – or die! This visit in particular, however, was far and beyond the best time at Karme Choling I had ever had. It’s hard to explain why, perhaps the timing was right – it was the summer before I began my freshman year of college – or perhaps the personalities of our little group just worked, I don’t know. But it was an incredible 2+ weeks. That’s right, we were there for over two weeks – a true retreat! (it was such a fun time, we still quote things we heard and said that summer – what a great memory!) Anyway, Karme Choling, much like our own black belt winter retreats, had long before instituted a program called Rota (short for rotation) though which they ensured that their retreats ran smoothly, the facilities were kept in order, and everyone had what he or she needed during their stay. Every retreat that was running had to participate in this Rota system. Your Rota could be anything really, from cooking to cleaning, to administrative work, to Rotas related specifically to the kyudo program like taking care of Sensei or tidying up Ashoka Bavan (an awesome old house where most of the kyudoka would stay), to the best Rota on the list – taking care of the azuchi – the traditional small building into which we shot. Lucky for us, we were with Master Pearson, and so he insured that this was indeed the Rota to which we were assigned every day (even though I’m pretty sure you weren’t supposed to do that – ah well!). The way Karme Choling (or at least our program) worked was that there was a 2-3 hour period “off” during the afternoon right after lunch. It was hottest during this time of the day and so it made sense for us to get as much practice in in the morning as we could and then resume again around 3pm and practice into the evening as it was cooling off. Anyway it was during this time that all participants were meant to complete their rota…except for us. Which was why this was the best rota EVER! See, we worked in the mornings before practice started, opening up the azuchi and getting it ready for the day, making small repairs to its various components as necessary, and again at the end of the day to pack everything up.
This left us with the entire afternoon beak period off. And we used this time to its fullest. In fact, it is of this daily period that I have the strongest memories from that week. From driving back from Karme Choling to Ashoka Bavan with Master Pearson “using the force,” to stopping at the “General” AKA only store in Barnet and getting Wonka Bars, to being left behind repeatedly at said store and made to walk the rest of the way home, to leaving a $10 bill to pay for my $1 Wonka and shouting “keep the change!” as I ran outside in hopes to not be left behind at said store, to climbing the stairs and making our way onto the Ashoka Bavan upper porch to claim our rightful seats on the smelly worn in couch with its cigarette burns in the arm, to making foot upon foot upon foot upon foot of cordage, to reading Tom Brown’s books for the first time, to killing mosquitoes with said books, to overhearing the neighbor lady yelling at her kids (“Look at me and hear my words!”), to napping, to waiting for Master Pearson to start napping so that we could complete what would come to be known as an IME Masterpiece for years to come…the Vacuuming Manual. I don’t know who’s idea it was originally, to create such fine piece of work, but what resulted from our efforts…well it’s hard to put into words! A bit of background, if you have ever had the pleasure of working for Master Pearson, you will know that there is a right way and wrong way to do most things. God help you if you choose the wrong way! One such thing was vacuuming the floor at our school. Who knew that carpets had something called a knapp (much like wood has a grain) and that it was important to vacuum either with or against the knapp (I can’t remember which…perhaps I should consult the manual!!). Anyway, vacuuming the schoo,l to the standard Master Pearson set, could be said to have been a martial art in and of itself. And that’s precisely what we did, Dickinson and I, turned it into an art, known world-wide as Click Vroom Ryu, complete with manual and all — I wonder whatever happened to that beautiful piece of writing!!!
Ok so, one other memory of Master Pearson and manual writing – this one is actually quite more relevant to subject at hand. For a few years now, I have had the pleasure (I mean this seriously) of helping to edit some of Master Pearson’s work. In fact, I am doing so for the final draft of the black belt manual soon to hit your amazon wish list! (Hence the title of my post) When this manual first started to come together, I again had the opportunity to be traveling with Master Pearson. I had arrived home in the states after spending the year abroad in Israel. After a positively horrendous trip to Europe (ok it wasn’t that bad, but let’s just say it had some major ups and downs), with Master Pearson and a few other “special” individuals (thank god for Carrie Stolt!!!!), I wasn’t really too keen on going anywhere ever again! But… Master Pearson had put together a trip to Stillwater Resivior in the Adirondack region of New York State. Again this is one of my favorite destinations and I have years of amazing memories of traveling there with fellow martial artists. This time we were taking a bunch of kids to do some wilderness survival stuff with them. I don’t know how much wilderness survival the kids actually got to learn because soon after our arrival at our favorite campsite (#1) Master Pearson constructed a rather elaborate double decker hammock into which he and I quickly settled ourselves. And there we lay for probably a good 6-7 hours a day constructing the first draft of the Shin Ho Kwan black belt manual. It was quite an endeavor and there are many, many, short stories and memories to share about the process – although I’d probably get in trouble for a few of them – but I can think of few times in my life where I had the opportunity to be in such a beautiful setting, that relaxing, and to work on something that important. It was such a wonderful week and the memories of that time will stay with me forever!
Ah what do you know, I’ve been writing for some time now and I haven’t really come to the main point of my post. At any rate, I was going to write about one of the sections of the manual that I am currently working on – the overview to the practice of forms. I guess that will have to wait for next week. It is unfortunate that this work can’t take place in the similar surroundings as Karme Choling or Stillwater. Rather, this work we must complete remotely – through email and skype – and amidst the hustle and bustle of other competing forces (like jobs and life). I don’t have many moments like those two trips anymore in my life, which is perhaps why the memories of such times have become so precious. Thanks Master Pearson for being obsessed with manuals, for it has impacted my life and experiences greatly! Congratulations on the publication of such an important contribution to the martial arts world.