Dungeons and Dojos Ch. 02

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As you know, I’m headed to Indiana where my friend, Ken had invited me to move to Indiana after getting out of the Navy. Specifically, Ken lives in Wran, Indiana which is part of Ashford County. I’ve later come to learn that the city of Ashford, which the county is named after, was often referred to as “Ashford Island” because of how it sits like an island in the center of the county will all the other towns surrounding it. Don’t ask, I didn’t come up with this concept.

I first entered through the south from Thatch, from there I drove through Davenport which seemed to be a lot more developed than Thatch. I’m not saying Thatch was a complete rural area with no sign civilization, but Davenport definitely seemed a lot more going on. There was something I did notice too. There was a common martial arts academy throughout Thatch and Davenport, Silver Tempest Martial Arts. Even then, I noticed another logo with each of the academy location, ACCOMA.

I didn’t think too much of it at the time, instead I was curious to see what MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) gyms were out here, but to my surprise I hadn’t seen any. There wasn’t even any BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) schools to be found either, not even a boxing gym. Strangely I felt like as through I drove through a martial arts Twilight Zone where the first UFC hadn’t happened considering BJJ and MMA gyms are pretty much opening everywhere. Of course I realize how silly that thought was when I drove past a bar that said the UFC fights would be showing there on the weekends.

I continued driving up north through Davenport and eventually found myself in the city of Ashford. It was big enough to be called a city, but still had that small town feel to it. I actually found it pretty cool, growing up in San Fernando Valley as well as spending a lot of my time in the Navy in San Diego, I was used to living in bigger cities. One thing to take note about Southern California is that just about every city is connected to the next unlike Ashford County, Indiana. There was open space in between Thatch, Davenport, as well as Ashford. I figured it wouldn’t be much different with the rest of the surrounding cities.

I eventually made my way to Wran, by this time it was roughly 8:30 AM in the morning. My first stop was the apartment I was going to rent. Thank goodness to the powers that be known as the internet to be able to make arrangements to meet with my landlord the moment I arrive in Wran. To give you an idea as to how Wran looked like, it was much smaller than both Ashford and Davenport. It wasn’t like a farmland or anything, rather it had a downtown area that it shared with Murray, the city south of it.

The downtown area really wasn’t that big to be honest. The central portion of it had the city hall for both Wran and Murray. Rather than a local police station, the county sheriff pretty much was the main law enforcement entity throughout all of Ashford county. But one thing I did find interesting was the fact that the police vehicles weren’t parked behind a secured gate, instead they parked in the same parking lot at the designated employee parking lot. Across the street from the city hall and sheriff’s office was a public transportation hub. The hub was a small octagon shaped building with a dome like roof and the hub itself also served as a roundabout for buses to pick up and drop off passengers. I also noticed the public transportation name was called CATS (County of Ashford Transit System). At specific times the buses would go out throughout both Murray and Wran, with one designated bus that ran to and from the city of Ashford.

Surrounding the CATS station were a few buildings, really old red brick style buildings. The one next to the CATS station, facing away looking towards the promenade was where my apartment was located. A three story building, mine being on the top floor with a balcony overlooking the promenade, but my bedroom window was literally facing the CATS station which meant I’d hear the buses every morning. The place was somewhat furnished, an old wooden table to match the wooden flooring, a dark brown leather couch with more stitch marks than Frankenstein, a couple modern looking stools to match the counter top by the kitchen.

There was an old bed with a bed frame that sounded like it was going to collapse at any moment, so of course I tossed it in the trash dumpster and ordered something online. In the meantime, the wonders of air mattresses will do. I was hoping for a bottom floor apartment, with all the workouts I do at home like P90X or Insanity, I can’t imagine how annoyed my neighbors downstairs would be. But let’s hope they’re cool about me doing my workouts at home, on top of working with Ken, I’m also working the business online marketing these workout programs.

I pretty much spent the whole day unpacking and fixing up my new place. Made a few trips to Walmart and purchased easy and cheap furniture. If you’re wondering, I had attached a U-Haul trailer to my SUV with my belongings. Of course I had to find a U-Haul station to drop off the trailer. Filmed a little video clip for bahis firmaları my fitness/martial arts channel on YouTube to show off my new home and how I was going to create my home gym in my apartment. After spending all that time, I realized I had lost track of time and got a text from Ken.

“Hey, I hope you’re doing well and found your way to your new home. If you’re still coming down to the dojo today, I’ll be out and about taking care of some stuff. Nadja will be there and so will my junior instructors,” Ken texted.

I rushed and grabbed my gym bag which had my sparring gear and stuffed it with some clothes to train in. I ran down down the stairs and ran into my neighbors downstairs, a few college kids rooming together as they attended the university in Ashford. I hope they didn’t think I was rude as I was in a hurry, they tried to introduce themselves, but I simply told them my name and said that I had to go.

From the downtown area for Wran and Murray, it probably took me a little over twenty minutes to reach the dojo. Wran was pretty a small town, it had blocks of suburban residences with a few strip malls in between. For the most part, most people that lived in Wran worked in Ashford or the downtown area intersected by Wran and Murray or the few strip malls in between. Besides that, Wran mainly offered a lot of truck stops and gas stations for truckers travelling through Indiana as well as hotels for road-trippers passing through.

Ken’s dojo which was named as Franklin’s Self Defense Studio was located at one of the strip malls found in between the suburban blocks. Again, I noticed the same logo on his dojo window that I had seen before, ACCOMA. I was sure I’ll figure out what it was eventually, but until then I just entered the dojo with my gear. Ken definitely brought some nostalgia when he designed his dojo as the soothing sound of Japanese meditative music could be as I entered. There was a sense of piece and zen about the place.

The front lobby had a cash register with glass counters containing various martial arts training weapons, merch (merchandise) which included clothing with the dojo insignia included. Ken’s dojo insignia included a dragon and a tiger circling around each other reminiscent to the Yin and Yang symbol with a scroll underneath that said, “Honor, Courage, and Commitment.” Nice, Ken also instilled the Navy Core Values with his dojo.

There was a single hallway that led from the lobby to main dojo floor. Ken had set up the dojo floor really nicely. The mats were color coded, mainly blue mats with red forming the shape of a cross to divide the blue mats into four big blue squares. The wall were the mats were lined up against had a large mirror with Japanese shudders on each side of the mirror giving it a real Japanese feel to it. Around the mats were fold up chairs for parents to spectate as their children practiced.

I had arrived during the children’s class. The kids were lined up while two instructors held up kick shields. The kids would take turns kicking the shield and then run to the back of the line. The two instructors were young, black belts, but young adults. One was a tall and skinny man of African American decent and seemed to be the more enthusiastic of the two instructors. I gathered his name was Jason as the kids called him, “Sensei Jason.”

The other instructor, a more technical one. The kids called her, “Sensei Kylie.” Kylie wasn’t as tall as Jason. While he was clearly at least six foot tall, Kylie was roughly around five foot five. Kylie was skinny with blonde hair tied into double French braids with a pair of glasses on her face. Even though Jason too was skinny, he was skinny in an athletic way as muscle definition was evident with his forearms.

The two seemed to work well together with Kylie giving most of the technical instruction on what kick to use on the shield, as well as how to execute the kick. Jason was the motivator of the two. He was the one that was very encouraging as well as cheering the kids on letting them know how good of a job they did. I pretty much caught the last fifteen minutes of the class. They ended it with having the kids line up in formation based on their ranks and had them sit and meditate for about a minute before dismissing them for the evening.

As the children and their parents filtered out of the dojo, Jason made his way towards me. “Hi, I’m Sensei Jason. Can I help you with anything?” he said greeting me.

“Yeah, I’m a friend of Ken Franklin and I’m new here,” I replied. Of course I meant I was new to Indiana, not new to martial arts which of course Jason misinterpreted what I said. It wasn’t uncommon for Ken to invite various friends of his to try out a class.

“Oh nice!” Jason responded, “Do you have clothes to practice in?”

“Yeah, I got my gear right here,” I told him as I held up my gym bag.

“Awesome, you can change in the men’s dressing room in the back. We’re about to do a cardio kickboxing class in the kickboxing room, but Sensei Kylie can show you some of the basics before we start the kickboxing class,” kaçak iddaa Jason explained.

While making my way to the dressing room in the back, I noticed a door that led into the suite next door and took a peek in. Grey mats with another stereo system. The suite used for those mats was a lot smaller than the main dojo floor. Also another thing I noticed were tall standing punching bags that rock when hit.

As for what I dressed up in for training, just a long sleeve Under Armor compression shirt and a pair of MMA fight shorts. Just to give you an idea as to how I look, I stand at five foot nine. I’m fit and lean, but I’m not bulky with muscles. I’m a fighter, not a body builder and there’s a difference between the two.

I made my way to the dojo mats where Kylie introduced herself to me as I did the same. First thing she noticed was that I was wearing shorts and was worried since I was going to attend the cardio kickboxing class. “So with the punching bags in the other room, sometimes people end up hitting it with their shins instead of their foot. It might be better if you have pants on for that, it might be uncomfortable if you hit it with your shin,” Kylie explained.

“I’ll be fine,” I assured her.

“Okay, well let’s start off by seeing you fighting stance,” she said.

Being an MMA fighter, I squared up with my left side being slightly forward of my right since I fight with an orthodox stance. What that means is my right hand is my heavy had so I stand in a manner where I keep my right side back to load for a heavy hit. Both my fists up covering my head with my chin down and elbows in to protect my ribs.

“That stance wont work because you’re too open and if I wanted to, I can kick you right here,” Kylie explained as demonstrated a round kick to my abdomen area. She then explained to me the stance I should take as she demonstrated it herself. A side stance with feet spread apart, one arm covering the midsection with the other guarding the front.

Even though I’ve been involved in martial arts for a long time, I still respected Kylie and her rank in the dojo. As an MMA fighter, I have my reasons for why I would prefer not to use this stance as the front leg is not only open for leg kicks, but wrestlers would also shoot in for that leg for a take-down. Although there are a few MMA fighters in the UFC with a strong Karate background that has been able to use the side stance effectively in MMA.

Kylie spent the next ten minutes showing me various blocks, and inside block and an outside block with both arms. She then instructed me on punching, mainly a jab and a cross. Jabs are usually done with a the lead hand, meaning the hand in front. The cross is a heavy punch done with the rear hand. From there she had me do a round kick as well as a front snap kick.

Now a front snap kick is really simple to explain as the name pretty much says it all. Raise a knee up in front of you, then snap your foot kicking in an upwards motions. The round kick is a little trickier to explain. You pivot on your non-kicking foot and and raise your knee sideways and then snap your foot forward kicking in a round motion.

The difference between the style that Kylie was wanting me to do versus what I’m used to doing in MMA, which is derived from Muay Thai kick boxing is that Kylie was wanting me to snap the round kick and using the instep of my foot to kick with. In MMA and Muay Thai, we whip the kick out rather than snapping it and we use our shins to kick with rather than the instep. It was basically a quick crash course before the cardio kickboxing class.

“Okay, looks good. We want to see your level of fitness, so Sensei Jason will be watching you during the kickboxing class,” Kylie explained.

“Sounds good,” I replied.

Of course since I had my own sparring gear, that included both 16 oz boxing gloves as well as the 4 oz MMA gloves that don’t cover your fingers to allow you to grab your opponent for grappling situations. I also had shinguards and headgear, but for the sake of the kickboxing class I only used the boxing gloves. Majority of the class comprised of women of various ages looking to get fit, a few guys as well and couples looking to workout together.

The attendees that were there solely for fitness pretty much only wore active wear, as for the few that were also students of the Kenpo Karate classes, they were wearing their gi pants with a dojo t shirt. It really wasn’t that big of a class, I’d say close to twelve people including myself, therefore there were enough of the standing punching bags for everyone. As I observed before, Kylie would demonstrate the exercise which included alternating punches between our left and right hands. From there she had us jog in place for about a minute, then she had us alternating round kicks between our left and right legs.

“Okay, let’s mix it up!” she said as she demonstrated jab then cross followed with a right round kick.

Of course I resorted back to throwing jabs and crosses from my normal fight stance that I would use in MMA as well as whipping kaçak bahis my kicks out rather than snapping it out. Jason came around the corner and noticed the way I was punching and kicking. “You’ve done this before?” he asked.

“Yeah, I have,” I responded.

“Nice, where did you train before,” he asked.

“Ken and I used to train at the same dojo together in San Diego and then I got into MMA later on,” I had explained.

“That’s awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing,” he said.

I did just that, threw my jab and cross followed by a round right kick. But then Kylie switched it up, she had us switch stances. There are some fighters who can switch stances and are comfortable with it, unfortunately I’m not one of them. So now I have to switch to a southpaw stance meaning my right side is my lead side. At first jabbing with my right with a left cross followed by a power left round kick was awkward, but I focused more on form and rhythm of the combo rather than power shots.

When that round ended, Kylie had alternate the stances with the same combo, so that meant I’d do the jab-cross-round kick combo with an orthodox stance then alternate it with a southpaw stance. A very confusing transition for me, but I was able to make due with it. Overall I still enjoyed hitting the bags. But it was towards the end of the class that I really got to let loose when Kylie said, “Last minute, hit it with everything you got. Just keep going, keep moving, and keep hitting.”

I obliged her and attacked the bag throwing combos that felt natural to me. Jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, round kicks, teep kicks (front push/thrust kick), knees, skipping knees, jumping knees, spinning back kicks. I couldn’t tell you exactly which combos I did, but of the moves listed above, I definitely unleashed an arsenal of combos that got Jason excited.

“Oh damn, you got this!” Jason cheered on as I kept throwing combos.

On top of combos, I also displayed my footwork as I moved around the bag. Again, this is a standing bag that rocks when you hit it. So when I would hit the bag hard, it would swing back towards which then I would use footwork and head movement to “Slip” out of the way and counter with an attack to either begin a new combo, or slip and counter then use my footwork to evade and reset before going in to attack again.

Of course as Kylie did a countdown starting from “5,” I had to throw one of my hardest kicks on the bag, the spinning back kick. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but rather tell you what happened. I had kicked the bag hard enough that it fell over flat on the mats causing everyone to turn around. No, I wasn’t flattered with ego, instead I was actually really embarrassed. I’m used to hitting heavy bags that were suspended from an overhead frame.

Nadja was in the back office watching me the whole time. I guess she wanted to watch and see how I interacted with the others before saying hi. She also brought out a Kenpo Karate gi for me, and my new white belt. She finally explained to Jason and Kylie than she and Ken had known me from a long time ago and that I would be helping out.

I went back to the dressing room and changed my clothes into the gi when I came back out to the kickboxing mats. From there I began wrapping the white belt around my waist like I normally would in BJJ when Nadja gave me a playful smack behind my head. “Did you forget how to tie your belt the Kenpo way?” she said to me.

“Uh, yeah… I think I did,” I responded with a look of embarrassment on my face.

“Sensei Kylie will remind you how to do it the Kenpo way,” Nadja instructed.

Basically the way we tie our belts in Kenpo is to kneel down and slowly wrap it around our waist. The knot itself is not different than the way we do it in BJJ, rather it’s just done so in a more ceremonious manner to display patience. In BJJ, especially during competitions the thought is to tie it as fast as we can because the longer it takes to tie our belts, the longer our opponent has to catch their breath.

“By the way, what is ACCOMA?” I asked, “I keep seeing it at every martial arts school I’ve passed by including this one.”

“Oh, it stands for Ashford County Coalition Of Martial Arts,” Nadja explains.

“All the dojos that’s under ACCOMA are part of a county organization that hosts events like tournaments, demos, as well as gives other businesses a chance to be involved like clothing design for dojos and also fundraisers,” Jason explained.

Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to be honest. If anything, it sounded like a really good practice for unity with all the different martial arts styles and schools in the county as well as giving the community an opportunity to be involved. But there was also some drawbacks to the organization as well.

Considering the day that I arrived was Friday, which was a common sparring day, Ken had returned to the dojo, but with him were members of another dojo. Ken had walked in with the ACCOMA regional director in charge of the northeast region to include Wran and Murray as his region. The director’s name was William Stone and he was also part of the Silver Tempest Martial Arts Academy. With him were other members of Silver Tempest that wore very flashy uniforms that said, “Silver Tempest Competition Team.”

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