Thirty-four years ago I wandered in to a boy scout camp in Hamilton Ohio with my belongings on my back in an old backpack, and a sense of adventure in my heart. I could not wait to train again with the man who had totally blown my mind at our first meeting a couple of months before. Everything was new. Every time he moved my jaw hit the floor. The things he did seemed like pure magic. I was simply in awe.
I have now participated in 34 of the 36 annual Ninja festivals. This year as I sat up on the stage I watched demo after demo. As I smiled and clapped something occurred to me about half way through. The skill that was being demonstrated that night was every bit as magical as what I had witness three and a half decades ago. And, we hadn’t even gotten past the second degree black belts yet.
A visiting martial artist from Houston Texas, who was quite accomplished by the way, had difficulty describing what she was experiencing as her first foray into To Shin Do training. “It is so practical,” she said, “it is so effective….not really aggressive like what I’m used to with the other things I practice, but then again, it is aggressive in a very different way. It’s confusing to me right now, but I love what I am seeing.” I knew exactly what she meant. Been there, done that, about thirty-four years ago.
There was another thing this person observed that seemed to astonish her. “I understand that everyone respects An-shu Hayes and Mrs. Hayes, but you all seem to genuinely respect and care about each other. It is so nice.”
That night as it got close to the time for me to do a quick demo I watched with pride and admiration as my fellow Shihan did their own magic – brilliant! Then Rumiko Hayes, who embodies the old adage about dynamite in small packages.
Then An-shu got up and faced his partner, Shihan James Kentoshi Norris. This ought to be good, I thought. The two began moving and again there was magic. At one point the entire room spontaneously breathed an incredulous “whaaaat?” I have been doing this for quite some time now, and I was not even sure of what I had just seen. Another mystery for me to pursue. There I was, come full circle, simply in awe. Can’t wait for the next three decades.