Joe said that sometimes you don’t know how special something is until it’s over, and I was pretty sure I knew the particular thing he was talking about, so I asked “Do you mean sparring class?” and he said “Yes”. What made Sensei Dave O.‘s sparring class so awesome is not just the teacher himself, but the people who attended week after week during those years. Every once in awhile a group of people come together at just the right place and time. The level of trust and respect among the students of that class is something I have never felt anywhere else. We had a lot of fun while beating each other up!
There’s no question that class formed a large part of my martial identity. So many of my “firsts” took place there. My first black eye, the first time I threw up during training, the first experience I had with mat work. It was also the first place where I could really see that my training was paying off. I learned so much from that class, and many of the ideas I have towards training come directly from Sensei Dave himself.
I don’t know where I would be right now without having attended that class, without that group of people who encouraged, supported, and guided me from the very beginning of my training. I seriously doubt I would be doing Jiu-Jitsu (Dave was big on cross-training!). Each of the sparring class regulars still holds a special place in my heart, although I rarely see most of them anymore. Some have moved away, and others are focusing on different aspects of their life right now.
We attended a reception on Saturday for Shihan’s wedding, and Sensei Dave was there. It was bittersweet, because while it’s always good to see him, it was also reminder of what once was, but will never be again. I don’t think I appreciated his class as much as I should have at the time, because I didn’t realize just how special it was.