Bad Calls in Taido Tournaments

From the 2009 world Taido championships:

Kanaeko, the Japanese player, received a score for a kick which obviously missed his opponent. Antti, the Finnish player, displayed much better movement during the match, yet lost on a bad call. Adding insult to injury, Kaneko went on to win first place and yet another gold medal.

There’s no getting around it: if you have tournaments, you will have controversial decisions by judges. It’s simply not possible to please everyone, and even the best judges make mistakes.

However, some calls are just bad. They’re obviously bad, and this hurts Taido.

I’m not going to be writing a lot about how to improve judging in this article. Fixing Taido tournaments is task that I’m not up to accomplishing this morning. So before I get ahead of myself, I want to limit the scope of this post. I’m going to refrain from offering any solutions here. Not today at least. I’m also going to hold off on describing the various kinds of poor judging and bad calls. I’m not even going to give any examples other than the one in the video above.

This article is about just one thing: why reducing the number of bad calls in Taido tournaments needs to be a major priority for all of us.

What is a “Bad Call?”

For our purposes here, a bad call is any time a judge makes a major fuck up. That can mean giving a score for a non-connecting technique, failing to give a score for a worthy technique, showing an obvious bias for a particular competitor or team, or otherwise deciding in opposition to the facts of the match.

Things that I won’t classify as bad calls: scoring discrepancies in hokei matches and decisions in matches where neither competitor displays quality technique. It’s difficult to see everything when judging hokei, and that’s why we have three judges whose scores carry equal weight. As for the latter case, I can think of very little more difficult than judging low-level jissen matches in which both competitors show a total lack of understanding of unsoku and distance. As such, I tend to be lenient on judges in that situation. Honestly, those calls never affect the results of a tournament, as neither player has any real chance of winning anyway.

In tournaments, there are going to be winners and losers. There will also be losers who thought they should have been winners. This is a natural state of affairs that cannot be avoided in competition. What we can hope to minimize is the number of times we let bad calls hurt our art.

Who Loses When a Judge Makes a Bad Call?

Simply put: everyone loses. Here’s a brief look at the how various people are negatively affected by bad judging calls in tournaments:

  • The Winner – A player who wins due to ill-gotten points receives reinforcement that his performance is correct and worthy of a win. He has less motivation to improve than if he had lost.
  • The Loser – A player who knows he was robbed of a point will feel disenchanted and resentful. Tournaments can lose their appeal after a bad experience like this.
  • The Judge – A judge who consistently makes bad calls gets a bad reputation and loses the respect of his own students and those from other dojo.
  • The Audience – The spectators who witness bad judging decisions are often confused about the rules and scoring system. As a result, they conclude that Taido doesn’t make sense or is generally bullshit.
  • The Organization – An organization that certifies poor judges cannot retain the respect of its students. Any organization that hosts tournaments should be aware that the quality of judging is one of the very most important factors in creating an event people remember fondly. Further, an organization that cannot uphold solid rules invites politics.
  • The Art – When outsiders see videos of Taido tournaments, they judge our art based on what they see. Most of the videos we present are taken in tournaments, which means that people will judge us based on the quality of our competitions. Advertising our bad calls to outsiders gives Taido a bad reputation.

In other words, nobody is immune from the negative effects of bad calls in tournaments. It is not a minor issue as it affects, not only how current competitors feel about their participation, but also how prospective students view our art. If Taido cannot get it’s tournament system to work at a higher level, we will be unable to attract new students in the future.

Judging Tournaments in the US

I should mention that every Taido organization has a somewhat different system for handling their competitions and judge training. Since I live in Japan, a lot of my criticisms are directed mainly at Japanese judges. However, bad calls at the 5th WTC were not limited to Japanese judges.

Most of my judging experience was in America. We didn’t have many tournaments when I trained and taught in the States, but we took them extremely seriously when we held them.

Uchida Sensei understood that tournaments we not only for the benefit of the school and the competitors, but also for the parents, friends, and spectators. He made sure that each judge knew it too. Before every tournament, we would have several meetings and seminars for the judging staff covering every aspect of judging, from rules, to scoring, to making calls and giving on-court instructions. He wanted all of us to represent Taido in the best possible way so we could inspire the competitors and earn the respect of the spectators.

Not so say that we didn’t make bad calls. My point in relating this is to say that, in US tournaments, we were keenly aware that bad calls could destroy the tournament and have negative consequences for our school and students. We worked very hard to minimize that possibility.

Let’s Make this a Priority

That’s all I’m asking: let’s agree that this is a very serious issue and needs to be addressed by all of us who teach and judge. We need to be working with our organizations to improve our judge training and reduce the numbers of bad calls we make. At the very least, in time for the next world championship (Finland 2013), let’s take some concrete steps to make our tournaments better.

I’ll write more about what I think some of those steps should be next time. I’d love to see your comments.

Andy Fossett – Taido History

I didn’t include this information here for a long time, because I didn’t feel it was relevant. However, we each make Taido our own, and some people have asked me for more details about my background and experience. Perhaps this will clarify some things.

Below, I’ve listed a year-by-year account of some noteworthy events in my Taido career and some other major life events. In some cases, I’ve stuck to the facts, and in others, I’ve added additional commentary.

The Timeline

1977

  • I was born on 24 June in Atlanta. Every patient in the hospital was miraculously cured.

1984

  • My father and I began practicing Taido on 4 October.

1986

  • I competed in the US Taido international championships.

1987

  • I was chosen as a founding member of the first Top Gun class and was elected as an officer in that class.
    • Top Gun was originally included not only advanced application practice, but Taido theory as well.

1990

  • I became the first student under 18 years of age to be admitted to the Kishi Kai.
    • Kishi Kai, at that time, was a class for adult brown and black belt students. Training included theory, application, and detailed practice of hokei.

1992

  • Along with Carlos Martinez Jr. and Eddie Perez, I became the third person under 18 years to be awarded a Taido black belt in America.

1993

  • I competed in the first Taido world championships and international friendship tournament in Japan.
    • This was my first trip abroad.
    • Training for the tournament was administered by John Okochi who had become my mentor in Taido.
    • All of us who went to Japan on this trip (about 25 people, including children and parents) got a clear picture of how different Taido was in the rest of the world compared to what we had been taught.

1994

  • I was voted to be the intermediate (teen) class president.
    • Along with Negishi Sensei, I was also responsible for running the trainings for these classes.

1995

  • I accepted a scholarship to study physics at Georgia Tech.

1996

  • I assisted in operations of the international Taido friendship games.
  • Mitsuaki Uchida and I became the first people under 20 to be awarded 2dan in America.
  • Bryan Sparks and I founded the Georgia Tech Taido club.

1998

  • I traveled solo to Japan, visiting dojo in Yokohama, Fuji, and Hirosaki over a period of two months.
  • I began studying Literature and Sociology at Georgia State University.

1999

  • I traveled again to Japan, this time for three months.

2000

  • I judged the US Taido 25th anniversary championships.
  • I was awarded 3dan.
  • I began practicing basic T’ai Chi.

2002

  • I began studying yoga.
  • I helped organize and was a main judge at the US national championships.
  • I was awarded 4dan.

2003

  • I graduated from college and relocated to Japan to teach English.
  • I joined Negishi Sensei at the Yokohama Taido dojo.

2005

  • I competed in several tournaments around the Tokyo area.
  • I visited Atlanta to assist operations of the US Taido 30th anniversary tournament.
    • 100% of my students from Georgia Tech won medals in at  least one tournament event.
  • Taido/Blog was born.
  • I began practicing CST (Circular Strength Training) training methods.

2006

  • I traveled to Australia for the second Asia Pacific Games.
    • I placed second in “Taido no Hokei” (creative hokei) and third in team jissen.
  • I visited US Taido summer camp to see my first students test for black belt (Shelley Matthews, Bolot Kerimbaev, and Laura Sparks).
  • I competed in several tournaments in Tokyo and Kanagawa.
    • I placed in a couple of team jissen events and won a nengi award.
  • I returned to the US.

2007

  • I began training in Kaikudo Karate and Gracie Barra Jiu Jutsu.
  • I traveled to Holland for the European Taido championships and international friendship games.
  • I began writing occasional articles for the Finnish Taido Kamae magazine.

2008

  • I moved back to Japan and joined both Taido dojo in Osaka.
  • I began training in Judo.
  • I attended various training camps and seminars.
  • I competed in the 18th all-Japan workers’ championships.
    • Placed third in -mei hokei division – the youngest person to do so.
  • I competed in the 42nd all-Japan championships.

2009

  • I got married and started a new business, doing freelance web design.
  • I was awarded 5dan Renshi.
  • I lead the training at a seminar for students at Kobe Gakuin University, who went on to give their best performance in several years at the all-Japan university championships.
  • I assisted with a training camp for the Finnish National Team in Tottori.
  • I assisted with preparations and execution of the World Taido Championships.
  • I broke my arm in the International Friendship Games.
  • I received certification as a Circular Strength Training (CST) Instructor.

2010

  • I judged the first Australian Taido national championships in Sydney.
    • Kaneko and I taught a series of Taido seminars over the two days.
  • I founded GMB Fitness to teach athletic movement and agility for adult physical education.
  • I relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii.

2011

  • GMB raised over $15,000 for the relief efforts after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake a tsunami devastated northern Japan, affecting hundreds of Taido students.
  • I began training in Parkour.

2013

  • I visited Sweden for the first time, training in Gothenburg with the Swedish and Australian teams.
  • I attended the Taido seminars in Helsinki prior to the world championships.

2015

  • I taught and assisted with the European championships in Sweden.

2017

Unsoku Practice Routines

Below are the basic patterns and routines for practicing unsoku. I’m willing to bet that you haven’t mastered them all…

Unsoku 8po

The most basic unsoku practice is unsoku happo, which contains the eight unsoku movements.

The order is: so – in, ka – gen, ko – ten, tsui – tai.

Notice that they are grouped in pairs of obverse movements. Unsoku happo is a very important practice in Taido. It is simple, yet contains all of the eight steps. It doesn’t require a lot of space to practice, and the pairing of like movements helps to remind us which unsoku work together.

Ido Tanren

The other simple unsoku practice is ido tanren, which combines techniques with the unsoku steps. This routine only uses ka-soku and gen-soku and is found in two halves in sentai and untai hokei. The purpose of this exercise is to use the unsoku step with whichever technique you are practicing.

The order is: ka + waza, gen + waza, ka + waza, gen + waza.

By using ido tanren, you can practice both sides of any technique with unsoku. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of this practice for developing strong attack and defense habits.

Unsoku no Jigata

The most complicated unsoku routine is unsoku jigata, which means footwork in the shapes of letters. Actually, the footwork doesn’t follow the letter shapes, but the shapes provide a kind of map for the movement.

The thing that makes this routine so complicated is that its really 24 separate routines that are simply determined by the same process. Most people don’t like unsoku jigata very much because learning it is a pain, but it can be a good way to stretch your imagination with respect to unsoku and break out of habits. Besides that, you can bust it out during class and sound really smart by saying “OK, lets do combinations with random unsoku series. How about C3 and sentaigeri?” Then when everyone looks at you funny, “What you guys didn’t learn unsoku jigata yet? That’s all right, I’ll just tell you. C3 is ka – ko – ten – gen.”

It’s a great way to make all the black belts in the class feel like a bunch of morons (though you’ll probably pay for it later).

Of course if you’re planning on doing this, you have to learn it first. The way it works is that you imagine a square wherein each corner represents an unsoku movement. Southwest is gen, northwest is ka, northeast is ko, and southeast is ten. For the m and x routines, the center is so-in or tsui-tai, respectively. Confused yet? Good. Now you superimpose the upper-case letters C, U, N, Z, M, and X on the square. You do the unsoku in the order suggested by the shape of the letter. You get more combinations by flipping the letters around backwards and upside-down.

Does this seem convoluted and silly? Yeah, it’s just as fun and useful as memorizing all the state birds back in junior high. Memorizing the routines is not the point – practicing them is. I’ll spare you all the brainwork and just give you the patterns. Here they are:

  • N1: gen – ka – ten – ko
  • N2: ko – ten – ka – gen
  • N3: ka – gen – ko – ten
  • N4: ten – ko – gen – ka
  • Z1: ka – ko – gen – ten
  • Z2: ten – gen – ko – ka
  • Z3: ko – ka – ten – gen
  • Z4: gen – ten – ka – ko
  • U1: ka – gen – ten – ko
  • U2: ko – ten – gen – ka
  • U3: gen – ka – ko – ten
  • U4: ten – ko – ka – gen
  • C1: ko – ka – gen – ten
  • C2: ten – gen – ka – ko
  • C3: ka – ko – ten – gen
  • C4: gen – ten – ko – ka
  • M1: gen – ka – so – in – ko – ten
  • M2: ten – ko – so – in – ka – gen
  • M3: ka – gen – so – in – ten – ko
  • M4: ko – ten – so – in – gen – ka
  • X1: ka – so – in – ten – ko – tsui – tai – gen
  • X2: ko – so – in – gen – ka – tsui – tai – ten
  • X3: gen – so – in – ko – ten – tsui – tai – ka
  • X4: ten – so – in – ka – gen – tsui – tai – ko

So, there you are. All 24 of them. And if you think trying to practice all these is going to be tough, try typing them sometime…

Unsoku 5rendo

A far less mentally-taxing pattern exercise for unsoku. “Gorendo” means five continuous patterns. That’s a lot less to memorize and also easier to use because they all move in the same direction. If you paid much attention to the jigata, you’ll see that it includes the patterns for unsoku gorendo. Take a look at N1, Z3, C4, U2, and M1. At any rate, I’ll repeat the five patterns in one place here for clarity:

  1. gen – ka – ten – ko + ten
  2. ko – ka – ten – gen + ten
  3. gen – ten – ko – ka + ten
  4. ko – ten – gen – ka + ten
  5. gen – ka – so – in – ko – ten – ko

I let you off the hook on unsoku jigata, so there’s no excuse for not memorizing unsoku gorendo as soon as possible. It will help you.

Now Practice

To truly develop facility with unsoku, all of these practice routines are essential. Most students only practice two: happo and gorendo. The result is that most people use just two types of unsoku in jissen. Happo is great for developing the single steps, and gorendo works well for circular patterns that cover a lot of ground or skirt obstacles in a hurry. Most jissen consists of only these sorts of unsoku.

Many students have difficulty moving directly from unsoku to attack or defense. Ido tanren is sometimes practiced in the US, but only occasionally and with limited techniques. Ido tanren is not designed to train speed or endurance – proper practice teaches how to eliminate the gap between unsoku and technique. By practicing this routine thoroughly, one will find it easier to attack without hesitation and defend confidently.

And almost nobody practices the jigata patterns. They’re a pain in the ass, but they are the only systematic method in Taido for teaching your body to move well in any direction at any time. The patterns don’t always flow smoothly in one direction, and this forces you to learn to change directions quickly. So when the unexpected happens in jissen, you can adjust and adapt without breaking your unsoku and creating openings for your opponent to attack.

The Point

The point here is that all of these patterns have value for the student who wishes to attain a complete education in Taido. Of course, most people will take the easiest path and practice only the bare minimum. It’s possible to do quite well in tournaments by only practicing basic unsoku, hienzuki, sentaizuki, shajogeri, and senjogeri or suiheigeri. In fact, that’s just about all one sees used in most matches, but it’s not true to the ideal of a creative and dynamic martial art.

Unsoku is the door to greater mastery of Taido, and these routines are the methods for attaining that mastery. You can choose a superficial practice of Taido and attain a superficial understanding and ability. But if you hope to grok this Taido thing deeply, my suggestion is to start with the practices on this page.

Types of Hokei

As far as I knew when I was starting out, there were only six hokei in Taido. I was off by a bit. Taido has five kinds of hokei. Each type of hokei looks totally different from the other types. This is because they are each designed to practice different things.

Firstly, there are the six -tai hokei which focus on one of each of Taido’s basic technique types. The reason we have six -tai hokei is that untai no hokei was changed at one point. The version most-practiced in the US is the old version. The rest of the world practices the newer one (which we call shin-untai no hokei in the States). These hokei are the basis of Taido practice for most students. They include most of Taido’s basic techniques and can be used to practice the basic theoretical concepts.

After that, there are five -in hokei. This is the feminine version of the hokei. In the modern era, we suggest that all students learn both the -tai and -in hokei sets. These hokei feature a lot of ryunen dachi (like jodan kamae) which build your legs, and most of the hand strikes are nukite. None are as athletic as some of the -tai hokei, but they are very difficult to perform smoothly and accurately.

The third kind of hokei we learn is the -mei hokei, which are designed for developing control over the breath, energy, and muscles. There are three -mei hokei. These hokei are typically only taught to older students, and that’s a real shame. Actually, many instructors claim that seimei no hokei should often be used as a warm-up for practice, but very few of them ever do this in their classes. Since it’s slow, most people can copy and keep up with seimei, but katsumei and enmei are only taught to black belts over a certain age, so they are very seldom seen by most students.

Next, there are three -sei hokei, which include techniques more suited to self-defense than the other hokei. In fact, they look much more karate-like. We have low kicks, elbow strikes, throws, blocks, and all kinds of other fun things which seem to be lacking in the general canon of Taido technique. These hokei are usually only taught to students above 3dan – the idea being that young, able-bodied folks should be able to use more physically-demanding moves.

Finally, there are two -gen hokei, which include pieces of all of the above. These are sort of omnibus hokei, and as such are pretty long compared to the other types. Yogen is sometimes set to music. Ingen is basically senin no hokei with an extra bit added at the end. Very few people actually know these hokei because they are reserved for those with high ranks. These are kind of the “master hokei” of Taido.

There is also an old hokei, called taii, that is “no longer practiced” because it was designed for use during the transition from Genseiryu karate to Taido. Few people actually remember how to do this hokei (because very few people have been around long enough to have learned it. Back when it was part of the curriculum, it was only a requirement for 4dan), and none of them do it the same way exactly. Since it is not normally taught to students, those of us who know it sometimes get a few odd looks when we practice this hokei.

So here’s the list:

-tai hokei

  • (old [American]) un
  • sen
  • un (the one everyone else does, called “shin-un” in America)
  • hen
  • nen
  • ten

-in hokei

  • sen
  • un
  • hen
  • nen
  • ten

-mei hokei

  • sei – exploratory breathing practice
  • katsu – combines breathing techniques with defensive movements
  • en – includes aspects of the previous -sei hokei at a deeper level

-sei hokei

  • ten – defensive applications of hand techniques
  • chi – defensive applications of foot techniques
  • jin – defensive applications focussing on elbow strikes

-gen hokei

  • in – senin, plus. I actually really like this hokei after a -mei hokei for warming up.
  • yo – anybody for a sing-along? When performed without the music, this is a very cool hokei, combining aspects of the -tai, -mei, and -sei hokei sets. Let’s save the song for karaoke night.

the “lost” hokei (not part of any of the above categories)

  • taii – includes many techniques from Genseiryu and the koryu kata that Shukumine practiced as a young man (primarily Bassai and Kushanku). The only hokei that includes all five of Taido’s movements.

Bryan Sparks

I am not a violent person. Despite my skill at making others want to hit me, it has always been more my style to ignore insults and walk away from physical confrontations. My quick wit has been a tremendous advantage to me in talking my way out of potential trouble. However a few years ago, I found myself preparing to be (painfully) thrown out of a pub by some very large men who worked there. These men were smart enough to see that, if they did not intervene with what was happening in our corner of the bar, someone would have ended up hospitalized.

Luckily, no punches had to be thrown. The “other party” (oddly, a friend of one of my mentors) apologized, and we all went on drinking and having a good time. As the evening continued, it was obvious that he could tell I would not have hesitated to fight him had he not spoken up when he did. And I wouldn’t have: he had been trying to make an ass of Bryan sparks.

Bryan sparks is one of my best friends. In fact, I could go so far as to say that Bryan is just about a brother to me – right up there in the Mike Healy category, which means a lot to anyone who knows me well. There is nobody I can think of whom I respect and count on more.

To shed a little light on my fierce loyalty to and pride in knowing Bryan (even in the face of eminent physical pain), let me give you a little background. No need to reach for the kleenex though – this is a Taido website, not a long-distance calling plan commercial.

A History Lesson

Bryan sparks began Taido in 1985, about a year after my father and I. I’m not sure exactly when it was that we met, but it was probably after Bryan made purple belt, because white belts had separate classes at that time. We quickly discovered that we were both very good at a lot of the same things and enjoyed most of the same Taido games. We became friends.

For a lot of years, we practiced together and hung out at Taido. We did demonstrations and competitions together. We would spend a lot of our free time at the dojo making up new hokei, and with Amir and a few other kids, we also used to make all kinds of tenkai and other routines for practice and fun.

In junior high school, Bryan joined the same Boy Scout troop I was in, and we started going on camping trips and doing a lot of other stuff together. (don’t worry, this isn’t one of those stories where we find out that we’re in love and have to hide our feelings for each other from an uncaring society that doesn’t understand… No, this isn’t that kind of story at all.) Between Taido and Boy Scouts, we saw each other at least four times a week through that period.

In high school, we both made black belt about a year apart. In fact, we were the first black belts to begin Taido as children and not quit yet. Though Mitsuaki technically practiced Taido before either one of us (I mean, it was his father’s school – he lived there), he didn’t make shodan until 1994 because he took a lot of breaks for school sports and such. I think Bryan and I share the record for longest continuous period of Taido practice in American Taido.

In 1993, we went to Japan together as part of the US team in the first Taido World Championships, and Bryan was the youngest competitor in the adult division. I don’t think either one of us will ever forget all the stuff we saw, experienced, and learned for the first time on that trip. Used panties and beer being sold in vending machines makes a strong impression on a sixteen-year-old. After returning to Atlanta, we both tried studying Japanese in school so we could better communicate when we had international Taido events.

During my last year of high school, Bryan and I decided that we wanted to spend some time experimenting with techniques and practices that were too “hardcore” for most people at the honbu dojo. So we started a church. We called it “church” because we met at my high school fields every Sunday morning. For a few hours, we would run, jump, climb, and do incredibly dangerous things on stairs. A few times, Chris Healy or Brendan Dumont would come by too, but for the most part, it was just Bryan and I inventing drills, experimenting with new techniques, and basically playing with anything related to Taido we could think to try.

Upon graduation, I headed to Georgia Tech to study physics, and the next year, Bryan followed. Well, I doubt he went there to follow me, but he did enroll the year after I did. When I found out that Bryan was coming to Tech, I knew that we had to start a Taido club together. At that time, nobody in America had succeeded in operating any Taido classes outside of the honbu dojo for longer than a couple of months. As far as I know, only two people were actually even allowed to try.

It took a little convincing, but eventually Uchida told us to go ahead. Of course, he also promised to help us. (Which never happened. Let me be very clear about this – nobody ever helped Bryan and I set up, manage, or teach at Tech except in the roll of assistant until Chris volunteered much later to become the number two instructor while Bryan was in Colorado. Ignore anyone who tries to tell you differently. I did all the administrative stuff; Bryan did all the technical Taido stuff. We were a team of exactly two members, and I’m really tired of hearing about certain people trying to take credit for “helping [us] get started.” It just is not so.) Though we started out with only one student, the two of us managed to build the club up to a respectable size. Now it is in its tenth continuous year and enjoys a good reputation for quality Taido. We’re kind of proud.

 

Unfortunately, Tech wasn’t the right school for me, and I had to drop out, though I still taught Taido there. Bryan, on the other hand, graduated in four years – a pretty difficult feat at Tech. They tell everyone in orientation that their chances of graduating at all are two-to-one against, and even then, it usually takes five or more years because the course load is just too difficult for most students. Bryan doesn’t like for people to think of him as a “smart person,” but what he did at Tech was one hell of an academic achievement.

Even before that, Bryan was doing things I had failed at. I gave up the Boy Scouts because of politics (politics! In the freaking Boy Scouts! Long story, but you’ll just have to take my word for it that I really tried to make things work out), but Bryan made it to the rank of Eagle. For those of you who don’t know, Eagle is the highest rank in the Boy Scouts – their black belt, and very few people ever achieve it.

He was also able to do back handsprings and flips long before I could, and was always stronger than I. Come to think of it, his techniques were always better than mine too. How’d it come to be that I’m the one recommending him for promotions?

Anyway, when Bryan graduated and moved to colorado for work, it hit me pretty hard. We had always been a team, and I was having some personal issues outside of Taido that made it difficult to keep my act together. I had almost decided to close the club before Chris told me that he would pick up the slack. When Bryan “secretly” came back to Atlanta, I felt relieved even before he announced that he would be back at Tech with us. I just knew that things were going to work out for the best. And they have.

Since then, Bryan and I have done a lot together. Our mutual love of beer led us to invent the “Guinness milk shake” at Taido’s summer camp in 2002. We’ve been a teaching team for many Taido events and worked together on many Taido projects. We’ve done so much together, and somehow, we still manage to like each other. At least, I think Bryan likes me.

Cult of Bryan

A lot of people don’t know this, but Bryan is the Laughing Buddha of Taido in the US. Seriously, he has all the important qualities of an enlightened master –

  • Friendly and honest to all: check
  • A lack of attachment to material possessions: check
  • Absolute absence of vanity: check
  • The ability to laugh at his own mistakes: check
  • A love of authentic good times: check
  • Lack of concern for wealth or fame: check
  • Experience with altered states of consciousness (while drinking): check
  • Ability to snap you out of it when you are fooling yourself: check

In fact, I was at one time tempted to start a cult around Bryan for my own financial gain, but in his wisdom, Bryan moved to Colorado before I could get the ball rolling. By the time he came back, I had taken up drug running and prostitution as alternative methods of income generation, and I haven’t looked back. Thanks to Bryan, i’ve been able to find and achieve my greatest dreams.

I Love You, Man

Some folks mistake Bryan’s unassuming demeanor for passivity or a lack of personal motivation, but you don’t graduate form Tech in four years without going into debt unless you have some serious drive. You can’t run a business unless you know how to set goals and work towards them in a step-wise fashion. Groups of dedicated students do not just form around anyone – Bryan has got some serious management skills, even if he is incredibly good at hiding them from most of us.

Actually, Bryan has a lot of the same qualities that I see in Negishi, my other Taido best friend. Which is why I recommended Bryan for 3dan a couple of years ago. I know he thought it was too soon (he spent seven years at shodan, and I only allowed him to remain at 2dan for six…), but when I was consulting with some other folks about it, they all had about the same thing to say: “You’re telling me that Bryan is still 2dan? How’d we let that happen?” Needless to say, I had no problem finding support for my campaign.

It’s because he’s so often quietly keeping his commitments and doing consistently good Taido that people tend to forget about Bryan and his contributions. However, once people remember that he’s still around, doing his thing, they want to support him, because it’s hard not to respect the kind of person who takes care of business so reliably. At the risk of gushing just a little bit, anyone I know with any sense at all loves Bryan sparks. It’s just impossible not to without having your head up your ass.

And so lately, as I’m starting to think about leaving japan and heading back the the good ol’ U S of Andy, i’ve been looking forward to getting to be partners again with Bryan. I’ve (as always) got lots of plans that I want to try, and I know I can trust Bryan to tell me which ones are feasible and which ones may as well be acid-trip material. However it all goes down, I at least know that I can count on him to work with me on building this Taido thing in the right direction.

That, and to buy me a beer when I’m short on cash.