When I was in college in Johnson City, Tennessee in the mid-1980s, I spent a few months training in an isshinryu karate dojo. Frankly, at that point in my life I did not yet have the patience, the persistence, or the maturity to properly commit to the art. So it didn’t take long for me to drop out once the combination of school, ROTC, and karate practice got difficult. But I trained long enough to give me a taste for the martial arts, and I knew I wanted to return someday.
But life gets in the way, and upon graduation I got commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Army, got married, and went off to my first active duty station at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Years went by and wherever the Army sent me, I looked for an isshinryu dojo where I could resume my training. Finding none, I did nothing.
Fifteen years later I found myself out of the Army and working at a small police department in Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati. Having gotten a clue after a decade and a half of not finding an isshinryu dojo, I decided that I needed to let go of that attachment and that if I wanted to train in a martial art, it was going to have to be something else.
The first dojo I visited was Aikido of Cincinnati. Having read up a bit, I was especially interested to see the pins and joint locks, which seemed more useful to me as a police officer than trying to throw a spinning taekwondo kick in a gun belt and Kevlar vest. The art was fascinating to watch, and I was interested to see people of all ages and sizes, male and female practicing at a variety of skill levels.
It was also a bit intimidating, as I could also see that this was a thing which would take time and regular practice. Though I was no longer the quitter I had been in college, and wanted an art I could commit to long term, the thought of making that commitment was frightening. But commit I did, and stepped onto the mat
I took my first aikido class on July 25th, 2001. Many aikido practitioners can tell you vivid stories about their first class, but honestly I remember nothing about that first class save one thing. I bowed onto the mat at Aikido of Cincinnati for the first time in track pants and a T-shirt because they didn’t have a dogi in my size in stock, and I wanted to get started.
The rest is history.