(Our) Martial Arts History
Fall 2003 - Spring 2006, ~2 years, ages 18-20 (Usha)
Shortly after moving to California, Sonia and I were started classes in Shim Gong Do (a variation of Tae Kwon Do) and meditation at the Self Mastery Foundation. Usha joined us around fall 2003. Due to various developments at the school and in their program, we decided to move on at the start of 2006. No need to hypothesize too much drama, we left on good terms. They taught fairly good Tae Kwon Do, more practical than the standard Olympic style you commonly see, but not with significant contact, either. The meditation aspect is really the core strength of the school, and this helped Sonia and Usha a great deal. I got to red belt (with black stripe - <sarcasm>ooooh</sarcasm>), Saffy to brown (dealing with surgeries), Usha to blue. [w,y,o,g,p,bl,br,r,rb,b]
After the previous (abysmal, though I did not know it at the time) attempt at a kempo school, I was pretty happy to find a place at the local JCC that taught the same style I took before. I came in wearing my purple belt, all good and happy to be continuing without problems...
Took me a while - a few months at least - to realize I knew less than nothing. It wasn't even a sudden realization, but at some point, I stopped wearing my belt altogether. Looking back a year or two later, I realized that I had gone through unlearning everything I had learned before. After about 3 years of study, I tested directly for blue belt and got it, and a month or so before leaving for college, I tested for green and got that. [w,y,o,p,bl,g,br,b] The failure rate was about 50%, so that was a reasonably big deal to me at the time. Anyway. I consider that to have been a good school. Did forms/combinations a lot, but also did a bunch of interactive things, sparring, a bit of meditative things.
The instructor now teaches at his own school in the Boston area, it's Whidden's School of Fitness, in Marshfield, MA. Of course, I haven't seen him in ~10 years, but if you're in the area, it may be worth trying.
I went to this school pretty much immediately after getting kicked out of Uechi Ru. At the time, thought it okay, but nothing profound. Largely forms, combinations, not much spontaneous stuff. I'm not entirely sure why I left - there was that one incident with my neck, but I think some time passed after that. Anyway, looking back on it, it was a pretty terrible school, so it's just as well. I got to purple belt there (which is relevant to the next school), and I believe the ranking went w,y,o,p, but I could be mistaken.
So, for whatever reason (wish I could remember it now, but my memory never was any good), I got interested in martial arts, and my parents thought it was a good idea. So I started going to some classes at the local YMCA. It was a hard style, with sparring and so forth. I didn't speak English that well back then, mostly hung out with another Russian guy. Don't think I got much out of it, as these things go.
As to how I left... well, I got kicked out. We were doing some exercise in pairs, and my partner wasn't watching his control worth a damn, and seemed amused by it, so I punched him. He told. The instructors weren't amused. My parents were. Anyway, I think I got a yellow belt from them some time earlier. Joy.