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It'd been more than a week since I stepped onto the mat. It was nice to be back. It was especially nice because this week there is a gashuku on at the dojo. The Ibaraki University aikido club/dojo has come down to stay at the shin dojo and train at Tanrenkan for the week.
Last night I started out working with Adam, the Australian sotodeshi who has been in Iwama for a couple years. His wife recently had a baby (his wife is Aussie as well, they both work for Nova, an English conversation school or eikawa) but that hasn't slowed him down on the mat. He's very strong but doesn't use his strength to blast through you on a technique. He is very earnest about his training and I always learn a lot working with him. He doesn't talk much but the little hints he gives every 10 minutes or so are invaluable. Most of the time he's reminding me of things he's already heard Sensei yell at me about. Once in a while he points something out those things we should all be painfully aware of -- like dropping the hips for tae no henko or keeping arms extended for ikkyo. He reminds me a bit of Jorge in that regard, except without the physical punishment Jorge sometimes uses to reinforce his point.
After doing tae no henko kihon and ki no nagare, Sensei split me and Adam up and put us with white belts from the Ibaraki University dojo. The split up was a little ambiguous since he broke up a group of three (Ibaraki U students, two white belts and a black belt, working together) and a group of two (me and Adam) so I let Adam take the two whitebelts and me and the other shodan worked together. His name is Shida and he's strong. Seriously. He's the guy who leads weapons practice on Saturday mornings at Ibaraki U if Sakatani-san isn't there.
Shida is also an earnest aikido fiend. He's not out to destroy or prove his manhood through physical feats, but he has the power and vitality of youth and we were having fun. Though he didn't have the intensity I usually prefer in a training partner (at first), he definitely wasn't letting me throw him easilly. His grabs were, I felt, not the most commited attacks to begin with, but after I grabbed him with full force a few times, he started responding in kind. My wrists are bruised but it was great fun and I'm glad to have worked with him.
We did everything from morote dori -- basic kokyu and the very direct versions of ikkyo and nikkyo.
Ikkyo urawaza - Sensei pointed out that to do the more direct method, you start like you are doing kokyu ho, all the way until you unbalance your partner, about to cut through, then pivot and capture the elbow, striking up the center; turn the hips and strike down. The problem I had at first was not striking up the center of my partner when pivoting. I would pivot and as I did so, my partner would get his balance back. Maybe not wanting to offend me, he let me get away with it a couple times, until Sensei pointed it out. After that, I made sure to keep his balance the whole time, until my knee was on the mat and he was pinned.
Nikkyo urawaza - was especially enlighting. It started the same way as kokyu ho -- stepping in and pivoting to face the way your partner was facing at the beginning of the technique. I'd done this nikkyo before but this time, after trapping your partners hand on your wrist, when pivoting back through your partner, you cut down and out farther than I expected, taking your partner's balance more fully. Sensei pointed out that if you just cut back to where you can do the basic nikkyo, you end up clashing -- your partner can apply nikkyo back to you and the strongest person wins. Instead of getting into this position, you pivot a full 180 degrees and cut your partner out before applying nikkyo with their elbow pointing up about 30 degrees from parralel with the ground. Yeah I know this description doesn't do much for you but it helps me remember...
Suwari waza kokyu - Worked with a white belt from Ibaraki U. He was very confident and very strong and very very bad at kokyu ho. His elbows were cocked at 90 degress and he would try to yank me to the side. I went, eventually, but it felt like I wanted to fall INTO him instead of to a side... it's probably how I used to do kokyu... maybe still do sometimes.
Good training -- I'm sore, got bruises on my wrists. Now I have to go teach a class... or maybe just a listening comprehension test... no big deal. More training tonight! I'd really like to keep this training journal going...