**On the plane to Raleigh** – 9:12 AM
Four years in a row I was Grandmaster’s Assistant for these events. I was there during a key time when MAU evolved from a mind-numbing week in a single hotel conference room, to a trip into nature that was at some times magical and other times maddening. I was a special classification that kept me out of the majority of the classes and isolated with Grandmaster and one or two other chosen assistants for the event. As the assistant it was a grueling, non-stop and often nerve-wracking as every attempt had to made to preserve his mood, condition and mindset. Simply put, he had to be utterly focused on what he was going to present, so it fell on me to make everything about him. There was little time to lose focus, move slowly or relax… for essentially four straight days it was all about Grandmaster, all the time, nonstop. It was here in 2013 that in front of hundreds of my peers with Grandmaster seated directly in front of me, I shattered a block of concrete and earned my Black Belt.
And then, a bout a year and a half ago, shortly before the 2014 Martial Arts University, I left. Many people told me it was a very different Grandmaster that presented their seminars that year and the event overall was said to be a great success. I thought perhaps my departure had made some sort of impact. It remains to be seen for sure though.
One year later I am in the air over Georgia heading to Greensboro, NC by way of Raleigh. But this year it’s different. This year I am a guest, and it’s weird. I had no intention of attending this year, I have only been attending class sparingly and doing occasional favors for the company president (who is truly one of the best men I know) as I very much respect and feel I owe him. But he and Grandmaster reached out to me and went through a great deal of trouble to request my presence here. Finally, the company president asked me directly to assist him here, and I know that he needs it, so I didn’t wish to refuse. That and watching a friend and former companion of mine test for her second dan and instructor certification are my reasons for being here.
But Grandmaster is happy to have me here, so much that it is odd. I am not expected to carry his bag or hold his door. I offered my business class seat to him and he politely declined (I was keeping my free drink ticket regardless) and overall it seems like he is almost awkwardly attempting to cater to me however he can. He appreciates me, he has told me that much, even though I left him. He too, for all my previous disagreements with him (and there were more than a few) is a good man. At the same time though it is almost a little awkward to accept so much (they are paying for meals and such) while not being in direct servitude. Before it was part of the package, now it feels unearned. They have both said that the things I help them with occasionally now combined with my previous service more than make up for it. Perhaps they are right and I’m selling myself short. Just last night I lost sleep staying late in their office to help with final revisions on a flyer.
With that said, Martial Arts World supported the majority of my previous cycle, and I do feel that on some level I owe them for the great years they gave me. Those experiences and people will stay with me indefinitely. It’s also true that even now the organization makes connections for me I wouldn’t otherwise have. So how much influence it will have over my current cycle remains to be seen as well.
So I’m not really sure what to expect this round. I want to feel useful, because that’s what my mindset going into these weeks
always have been (I’m a “tool” after all.) But it seems like they want a bit of it to be about me. So I will try to take some time, try to enjoy myself while still being useful. This year I might keep my sanity intact and relax a bit. Maybe. Obviously I know what the real endgame here is; they want to bring me back into the fold. But if that’s ever going to happen it will be a long process involving a lot of evolution that I’m not certain is possible.
For now, because of the travel and unusual circumstances I am taking a break from Ramadan fasting (this is accepted in the Muslim religion anyway) and I’m having to re-adjust to operating in the daytime, so it’s a refreshing change of pace before I return to the grind. The moon is full, so the timing on the break is good and as usual everything seems to make perfect sense as it falls into place. With everything that led up to my ending up on this plane (I very nearly didn’t make it to this year several times for several reasons) I feel like I’m meant to be here. As for the “why?” is anyone’s guess, but I’ll certainly try to keep you posted.
I need to wrap this up quickly as I am utterly exhausted by my four hours of sleep in the last forty-eight hours (I’m dozing as I write this.) After the ridiculously massive lunch we had provided for us in Raleigh by Grandmaster’s good friend, it was a miracle we had room for the dinner provided to us by the camp this evening (I kept remarking that I had forgotten how much we eat on these trips.) During dinner a group of familiar faces arrived to round out the initial group of leaders. One of them sat next to me; a tall slender Korean man from another organization who had been a friend to me at many seminars in the past. He regarded me for a moment before remarking quietly: “You’ve matured.” Being that it had been at least two years since I last saw this man it was a pleasant compliment, and one without any sort of innuendo or side meaning.
After dinner we had a brief tour for those new to this location and then all met for the opening meeting. Despite my having been away for some time now, I am included in the inner-circle as I was when I worked here. The meeting drug on for a while with the familiar and predictable goals to make this year the best MAU yet while maximizing the return on next year. While many good point were brought up, the fact remains that these points are not new, they’ve just never been fully and thoroughly implemented each year. So the secret lies more in the execution than the discussion. I had been fighting dozing for a fair amount of the meeting, so afterwards I checked to be sure I could retire, showered and called it a night (this is the last thing I do before bed.) I should get a fair amount of sleep tonight (at least six hours,) but this is the calm before the storm. Everyone arrives tomorrow and MAU 2015 officially begins.