I must be missing something. This list is too scant.
Somewhere up north in a cottage, can't remember the name.
Kansas City, MO
A couple of local mosques held open houses this weekend, partly in response to what happened in Quebec last weekend. They got it together pretty quickly, judging from what the Imam said.
Sadly, my visit was cut short because I had prior plans to meet some friends, but it was enjoyable. Everyone was very welcoming, friendly. The lady who's in charge of the community centre was definitely a leader; even more so than the imam even. Definitely a woman to be followed, but not hard at all - warm, in-drawing, friendly. They all did their best to be friendly, inclusive.
I didn't get to do the whole tour of the mosque, but I did see the community hall, the women's prayer room and the men's prayer room. I was present during their sunset prayer, and one of the things that struck me was how close they stand to each other, even when there aren't a lot of people in the room - shoulder to shoulder, all facing towards Mecca. You don't see that in Christian churches. Even when the pews are packed, everyone still seems to be trying to get away from each other. One of the things that was mentioned was that part of the reason they stand together in the way they do, is to indicate that none of them is any more significant than any other of them.
The imam's wife answered regarding a question about the separation of genders in the mosque. Apparently she's been wearing a full covering since she was 17 or 18, and part of the reason was that she got tired of worrying about what to wear. When the genders are in the same room during prayer, the men are in the front, the children next, and the women in the back. The imam's wife says she prefers it, because she doesn't have to worry about things like a man staring at her ass while she's kneeling or prostrating in prayer.
She did not use the word 'ass'.
Their involvement in the local community was a lot more than I realised - not just within their own group, but also with the neighbourhood at large. One thing that they do, is during Ramadan, when they break their fast in the morning before fasting during the day, is have a morning meal together, to which everyone is welcome - including non-Muslims. They offer a lot to their members, and involve themselves locally.
I will never agree with gender divide, nor organised religion, but they did a very good job of explaining why they do things, and an incredibly good job of welcoming people in.
I wish I could have stayed for more of the visit. It was a very enjoyable. I'm very glad I went.
Addendum 2017 02 07: At work today I mentioned to the Muslim couple I'm buddies with, that I'd found it odd how they stand so close together for prayer, even in an almost empty room; and the husband told me why they do it: They stand shoulder to shoulder so that the devil can't get between them and whisper things that will turn them from the path of Islam, make them do bad things, et cetera. So, it's them helping each other keep the devil at bay.
The lawyer I've been dealing with in regards to my mother's estate, is the smoothest character on the block. I wish I could have gotten yesterday morning's interaction on video, because words won't do it justice.
I had to sign an affidavit swearing that the will found was not hers (it wasn't), and as I'm getting my coat on to go I asked about how long it'd take and when he'd send it off, or something of that nature. And he says, with barely the ghost of a smile on his face, "Oh I'm not sending it. I'm going to put my coat on and walk it over to the courthouse myself, because I feel this needs personal attention and a thank-you."
Translation: He's going over there to personally make sure it gets on the right clerk's desk right away, or even right onto a judge's desk not under a pile of papers where it'll sit in the dark for a month and not get signed.
This means this situation could be entirely done and over with by the end of next week; which will relieve me no end.
My advice, my absolute begging desire of you all, is that you not die without a will. It's not just about having something to leave; it's also about making sure things are dealt with, that someone has the power to deal with them, and that if there is anything - money or otherwise - that it more tidily ends up in the hands of the people who should have it. Because, believe me when I say that the law does not always want what you want. Do not assume that assets of any kind, will automatically end up with a spouse or children, or anywhere they should be going; nor that anyone will even have or get the access they need to deal with it. I've been dealing with lawyers for almost a year now, because my mother died without a will and the bank wouldn't even, for example, tell me what was in her bank accounts, because I was not (at the time) her heir according to Ontario law; despite her wishes, despite a pre-nup, despite her husband divesting himself of claims to the estate.
Make. A. Will.
I will take any hour in the dojo with my sword in my hand that I can get. I don't care who's leading the class. I'll share the dojo with kendo, which - as I've said before - is like inviting a military onslaught into your living room, along with its sound effects crew. I'll go out of town. I'll go alone. I'll get up at 6 on a Sunday morning even. You can always learn something, and always do. If you aren't learning something, you're not trying hard enough.
I haven't yet met a sensei that I didn't learn from - even Ohmi Sensei who, a great deal of the time, I can't understand. A Japanese accent + echoey room + unpractised ear = confusion. At least I've got past my Cruise Sensei freaks me out issue. He's a nice guy; he just looks stern. He does like to keep things going quickly though, which utterly threw me off during last Saturday's Lunar New Year special class. (At least we got use of the dojo before kendo, who were coming in for their annual New Year's beating.) But, when you're trying to work with a large group of people with a limited amount of time, you pack as much in as you can; which does sometimes mean going quickly.
My sensei did ask me during class tonight, how I'd enjoyed Saturday. I always, like I said, enjoy my time in the dojo; but I can't settle in to my body or the waza when Cruise Sensei has us working so quickly, so I felt thrown off much of the time. I can't perform things very well or precisely when we go that fast.
Shiho-giri, I think, is fast becoming my favourite waza. Maybe it's because it involves so much - three cuts, one strike, piercing, waka, jodan, and four imaginary foes. Someone once said to me, somewhat snootily, that what I was doing was useless, that at least she knew how to get a sword out of someone's hands. And all I could think was, "Rule number one in that game, is that you don't try to get a sword out of someone's hands at all." With shiho-giri you do learn how to at least slow down someone with a sword, and that's by striking their hands/wrists with the flat part of the tsuka of your sword. If it doesn't make them drop the sword completely, it will at least cause them enough pain to slow them down long enough for you to get back to them.
Tonight I did learn something that this video, though fabulous, does not mention about this waza: when you're turning from striking the first opponent's hands and push forward to pierce opponent number two, the force does not come from the arms - it comes from the right hip, which you push with as you're moving forward, throwing the weight of it forward, which moves the rest of you forward.
This video should start where Ogura Sensei is showing the thrusting pierce.
Saturday afternoon we had a special New Year class with my sensei's sensei; a man that used to freak me out just by looking at him. I have since discovered he's a nice guy, but when he's not smiling he has a very stern face that used to freak me out some.
I end up doing poorly with him teaching sometimes, especially when he's just having us do drills, because he wants us to move quickly with no zanshin, and speed is my worst fault. So if I do things as quickly as he has us do them, I don't do them well. Every week I work to keep things slower, paced, so it throws me off when I'm asked to move more quickly.
I did pick up a couple of good tips though, particularly about what I do during furikaburi (a position right after nukitsuke - normally - and prior to bringing the sword down in a cut from an overhead position). Apparently rather than sending the tip first, I have a habit of pulling the tsuka (hilt of the sword) forward a little before I send the tip. This would be okay were I about to clock someone in the forehead prior to cutting them, but not so good elsewise. Being more mindful of that, reminds me to place my left hand more towards the end of the tsuba than I normally do, which is probably the biggest reason for my sword bouncing at the eend of overhead cuts - also the fact I don't lock my wrists enough.
I never fail to learn something each week. Now let's hope I can remember it from one week to another - long term.
I was glad to spend the afternoon in the dojo though - any excuse or chance I can get to spend another hour with my sword in my hand, I'll take.
For a samurai, nothing says Happy New Year (rooster) like spending your Saturday sweating.
I have been pretty impressed with the original programming that Netflix has been creating over the past couple of years; even shows I don't like are still very well done.
However, they really should not have created Shadowhunters; or, at least not done it the way they did.
It has to be one of the worst things I've seen since that travesty Star-Crossed (not to be confused with The Starlost; which was a kind of terrible, yet interesting, 70s sci-fi TV series which I wish someone would absolutely remake - along with Otherworld, a horrible, yet very interesting 80s sci-fi series). At least from the CW network I don't expect much better than what that turned out to be; but I was hoping for something a little more from Netflix. Now, I realise that Shadowhunters was based on a series of books (which I never would have read, and now definitely never will - while YA dystopia/spec-fic is fab, supernatural stuff is awful), and things do get lost in translation; but there isn't enough of that to use to disguise the cliche story, bad dialogue, and worse acting. It ranks right up there on the contrivance meter with that Terry Goodkind adaptation Legend of the Seeker. Stories like that never feel fleshed out (which is what saves Game of Thrones sometimes for some folks, because the flesh is out - all over the place - whether you want it to be or not), always feel like they're trying way too hard, and the characters are always a little (or a lot) over the top - they are always 'types', rather than people (or characters, or creatures, or something else); which is why I don't like superhero stuff. I can't abide the over-the-top typeness of the characters.
So, if you liked the Shadowhunters books, don't watch the show. If you liked Star-Crossed, you need a reprogramming of your taste. Give them both a miss, you'll be all the happier for it. But if you know anyone that's in a position to pitch to a network to have a TV series made, have them look into The Starlost and Otherworld. Please.
I think our natural tendency is to hold our breath when performing an action, but that's actually a physically taxing - even weak - move. When you breath in, and then hold a breath, you use muscles to do it. It takes power away from the body, from the actions. Breathing out, however, does not. It takes no power. We breath out when cutting/striking, because we can put more force behind it. Breathing out is an action of power.
It's also a part of why so many parts of the waza end together. Wasted motion is, well, wasted motion. Stepping, strike, and exhale at the same time. Step back, end chuburi, and exhale at the same time.
One time I stumbled and lost my balance in class because I didn't realise I'd been holding my breath that tightly or much. I got dizzy.
Tension in the body also takes away from your power, including locking your knees. You can't put force behind a cut if you're too tense, because you've used all your force, and there's no give when you move. I think ballet is the only thing in the world where locking of the knees is desirous. It actually makes you terribly unstable in iai (and other things), to lock the knees.
For the longest time I was quite unable to gauge my own improvement or performance. I think, in some ways, perhaps my brain just isn't wired that way. I keep thinking that I'll have no idea what, if anything, could improve - until one day something does, and I do notice it. I still feel a little disconnected from it all; sometimes I forget the bunkai, and the details of what I'm doing, but I'm not remotely the same waving-the-sword-around person I was when I started. (I honestly can't believe sometimes, that it's been a year and a half.)
My worst fault, still, is speed. I move too quickly. The jo-ha-kyu will come with practice, but the rest of it I still have to work on. I think part of my problem is simply that I hate making people wait, or I fear I am making them wait, so I rush through things so that I'm not holding everyone up.
Slower iai's more luscious; a samurai never rushes.