I have been dabbling in martial arts and strength training since I was 17 or 18, and even before that although my recollection of it fades considerably.
The exotic and out of the ordinary fascinated me as well. So when I discovered that the legendary Frank Dux, the man who was inspiration for the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Bloodsport had a Ninjutsu school right down the street from me, I decided to take the free introduction class.
I was completely freaked out and turned off by what I saw. Frank Dux was out of shape and seemed to be only half there, phoning it in. There were numerous "kill" moves and a plethora of other techniques to use only in dire circumstances. And then there were all the "secret" and advanced techniques we would be learning in future classes.
It seemed like all the other students around me were buying this "system" hook, line and sinker, meanwhile I was getting creeped out and couldn't wait to get out of there. I wanted to get in better shape and perhaps do some sparring, not learn to gouge eyes and stomp people's head's in.
I obviously wasn't cut out to be a Ninja.
Fast-forward some 25 plus years, and I am still fascinated by the exotic and esoteric. The latest pursuit being all sorts of physical fitness and strength training that happens outside of a gym, particularly body-weight conditioning.
To this end, I have amassed an incredible collection of books and DVDs with as you can imagine varying degrees of practical and/or legitimate information.
One that seemed over-hyped and too-good-to-be-true and overpriced was The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing. But eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I paid the $49.95 to learn the "best" way to do a handstand.
It was an incredible book with amazing old photos and a rich history of a very niche study. It actually was worth the money I had paid for it.
Hand balancing was one of the many athletic interests I had recently been getting involved in and one that Skye and I had been doing in Circus class and then again in an acroyoga class near where we were living in Atlanta. However being the Jack-of-all-trades that I am, the handstand was only one of my many endeavors and I would only practice now and then; the results followed accordingly.
When I got an e-mail from Logan Christopher about a seminar he was having in LA that happened to coincide with my trip out to LA, my curiosity once again got the best of me and I signed up.
Why Cat's Have 9 Lives
I drove down from Ojai where I was camping with Skye while she attended a Shakespeare program. I had to get up super early to beat the traffic to make it to the all day workshop that started at 9 am and was to go until 5 in evening.
I knew we would be working on the handstand and some other body-weight training but beyond that I had no idea what we would be up to for 8 hours.
Beverly Hills Ninja
I was there a little early. Logan was there along with two other fellows that obviously knew him and that was it. I was told there were several last minute cancellations.
Two little video cameras were set-up. He was going to film our workshop to add to his DVD offerings.
No one else showed up and the class started.
When he pulled out the whiteboard I knew I was going to be in for a long day.
I had no idea....
After not to long he started to break-down the steps to learning the "right" way to do a handstand and went into great lengths about the difference between what gymnasts do as opposed to his technique and how walking on one's hands was not only not hand-balancing but could seriously undermine our goal of perfecting the handstand.
We went through the Frogstand and handstands against the wall and some planche stands. And after not so long all of our forearms were fatigued.
This was all being video taped. A great deal of time was spent adjusting cameras. And yet not even two hours had passed.
That's when Logan started talking about "Energy".
And that's when I started thinking about using my Ninja skills to escape.
But I stayed.
Ninja Traffic School
The next several hours were almost unbearable.
He would talk about chakras and lines and planes of energy, things that are not at all foreign to me.I lived in Venice Beach for several years, so you can only imagine the many "gurus" I've encountered.
And I will be the first to acknowledge that science and experts fall short of explaining the many mysteries of life and the human body, but I also know when someone is trying to sell me Snake Oil.
When we broke for lunch, I almost didn't come back and in 20/20 hindsight, I would have been better off.
But out of politeness and a stubborn curiosity, I was determined to stay and get my money's worth.
It never got much better.
We had some fun playing with flow movements and jumping around and swinging on a bar. All stuff I had done before but still enjoyed.
The seminar should have been 1/3 the price, around 2 hours in length at the most and focused on the handstand.
But it wasn't
And at the end he asked for a testimonial.
And then offered me the DVD of the workshop for $49.95.
When it was finally over and I got to the safety of my car, I realized how thrown off I was. Here I was in the middle of LA at 5pm on a Friday with no immediate destination. I knew I had to get back to Ojai by 10 the following morning, but the thought of heading up in Friday night traffic was a nightmare.
I couldn't think of anyway to avoid being in miserable traffic which had been the bane of my existence ever since returning to LA.
After much deliberation and an ill-conceived trip to storage, I ended up in a Vagabond Inn in Ventura just a stone's throw away from Ojai.
Oh well, as George W. famously said,
"fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."