Friday, December 4, 2009

The Legend of the Invincible Old Man

Patrick Parker brought up the legend of the invincible old man on his blog.

I believe in 1996 or so I went to a seminar that was being hosted at the dojo of my teacher. At the time Russell Waddell was a member of the Jiyushinkai Aikibudo organization headed by Charles Clark. “Chuck” Clark is one of those teachers that borders on magician. He bends the mind with impossibly clean technique and long dissertations of solid aiki principles. I had trained at his seminars several times and I had been looking forward to again training in the shadow of the great teacher for months.

I arrived at the seminar and headed back to the dressing room to change into my uniform. In the changing area I saw a man I had never seen before. I am guessing he was in his 60s or 70s as he had sparse snow white hair. He must have been 5’3”. He was packing a lot of extra weight. The exertion of simply putting on his uniform caused his lungs to have a strained whistle. On top of all this he had a goofy looking red and white striped belt I had never seen before.

I thought to myself “this guy is going to get himself killed”.

After the session started Chuck Clark asked the man to come up and show something. The short man stepped onto the mat and broke out into a heavy sweat. In fact he carried a towel with him to mop up the rivers that poured off him. He was having health problems in his later years.

He motioned to me to use me to make his judo demo.

Judo? My young guy mind thought I was going to show this guy what Aikido was about. I was not at the time of my life where I had learned to be a polite uke, and I would prove it now. I made a move against this man but instead I fell right into the softest and most effortless o soto gari foot sweep I have ever NOT felt. He followed me to the ground. I had been putting in a lot of mat time so I was sure this fool had made a mistake. Instantly I was put into a wrist lock, elbow lock, shoulder lock, and choke all at the same time. Four locks at once! I thought my eyes were going to explode. Releasing me from my bind I made a move with the other hand, and just as effortlessly I was bound into a second wrist lock, elbow lock, shoulder lock, choke.

This man went on to demo on me things I have never felt before or since. He could press nerves and make me leg dance. He choked me with a single finger over and over. His judo was sublime and perfect aiki.

His name was Stan Conner and he was a true master technician. He was a 8th dan in Kodokan/Jiyushikan Judo. He is the only American to have graduated from the Korean National Judo Teachers College. Though I just met him once the energy and feeling I got from him has shaped my journey on the path ever since.

While I heard his physical form passed away several years ago, I like to believe he is one of those Aiki/Jedi master ghosts hanging out in a dojo some where. Maybe he will call with a ghostly voice "Luke.... don't use Force."