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I went on the mat for my first training secession at East Bay Aikido. I picked this Dojo, because it resonated with me. The teaching style of the Sensei here seemed to work for me a little better. In saying this I am not implying anything wrong with any of the teaching at the other Dojos that I have visited. Everywhere in Aikido I have been amazed at the friendliness of the people.
The Gi purchased today is a standard off the shelf thing. Which as Sensei said; "One size fits no one!". It is good in some dimensions and not so good in others. I think I am going to have to grow another foot or so of arm so that the sleave length will work for me. I can see already why after training for a while people would consider a custom Gi even though they cost significantly more.
The first class was like magic.
It starts with the warm up exercises. I am completely off on the whole thing, I feel like everyone else has the choreography to a rockettes event, and I am trying to square dance most of the time. There is an interesting flow thing that everyone does, that includes their hands and feet moving at the same time. At the base is a two step move, that I can do if I don't try and move my hands too. If I move my hands there seems to be the real possibility that I am going to do a self pin on the mat!
I had a wonderful partner for the morning class, all of it, as there were only 4 of us in the class. Rick was super helpful, I know that he is testing week after next for 1st Kyu. I was a little worried, because there was definitely nothing on my potential roster that I could do even as a uke which he could be testing on. Rick didn't seem to care, he was genuinely happy to work with me, the whole time. We worked what must be the three most basic moves for the entire class. Since there were only 4 of us sensei came over frequently to help me correct what I was doing. WOW, I don't think that I took in 5% of anything. I think that I was doing …Ok I had three paragraphs in here explaining the things that I was doing, and none of it made any sense to me, let alone anyone else reading it, so it was deleted. I now understand why no one writes about what the techniques are, there is way too much going on, I was hoping to be able to write a quick description next to the names of the techniques. I am not capable of that yet.
At one point in one of the exercises, Rick told me to try and knock him down, really put some effort into it. It was amazing, he just was not there when I went to push. When we traded, I could see how it all flowed. Magic!
After we finished with the morning class, I got a tour of the Dojo. This was really interesting, there was a lot more to it, than I had though. Most interesting was the lounge area, the bulletin board, and the library. There is a theme of community that runs deeper than I would have guessed. I am looking forward to exploring and participating in this community.
I had previously observed that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to people wearing the Hakama in the Dojo. I asked Sensei about the Hakama. He gave me three articles to read which he felt summed up his philosophy of Hakama wearing. They were all excellent articles, the gist of which was that Hakama wearing is related to aligning yourself with the virtues represented by the pleats of the Hakama, and not about rank in this Dojo. I think that I will put off getting one for a while, as the budget is a little stretched already. I am also not sure that I could find my feet if I had one on, and tying the belt on my Gi took enough mental exertion that I was afraid I might not make it out on the mat for the evening class. I know that I would still be there, in the dressing room, in the dark, hungry, cold and tired, if I had to attempt to put on a Hakama.
I came home, washed my Gi, dried if for an hour, finished up some consulting projects, and headed back to the Dojo for the evening beginners class. There were a lot more people in this class. Didn't count them, but there had to be about 15. I worked with three or four different partners on the same techniques that I had worked on in the morning class. In the space of a few hours, I seemed to have gotten a lot worse at them. Sensei came over, and said that I was doing better than in the morning class. He later explained that as we learn we see more that we are doing incorrectly, and this makes us feel that we have gone backwards, when in fact each phase of the mastery process lets us understand more of the technique, it is this greater understanding that makes us feel that we are doing worse. We see more that we are not doing correctly, because we see more of the technique. It makes some sense, but my feet definitely felt like they were always in my way tonight. The Japanese is extremely frustrating to me, I want to be able to use the jargon of this new endeavor, and it is quite literally a foreign language.
The thing that amazes me about Aikido is that the time passes so quickly on the mat. I am concentrating on being present in every moment of my practice. This may contribute to the speed at which the classes seem to pass.
Wow there already seems so much to learn that my mind is boggled, and I know that I have not even a glimpse of the depth of Aikido.