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Aiki-Log -- Class #2
Wednesday, August 5, 2004 -- 6:30pm
I decided to sit out last night's class due to my toe. I was planning on just doing Watchi-Waza for the youth and adult classes so I got there about 15 minutes before the youth class started.
I found Norbert right away. He teaches the youth class so he was waiting for the women's aerobics class to finish with up (they always run behind schedule) before he could go in the room and lay out the mats. The dojo meets in an air-conditioned room on the 2nd floor of an upscale health club. I had him check out my weapons and he assured me they were safe.
However, once he heard that I was going to Watchi-Waza he whipped out his traveling first-aid kit, taped me up and told me to get on the mat. He said to take it easy and simply don't do anything that would cause discomfort to my toe. Evidently, in addition to being 2nd Dan in Aikido and an expert woodworker, he's also a homeopathic healer. I've been told (by Sensei) that he can do some Mr. Miagi-like (Karate Kid) healing techniques. He's a great guy that is immediately easy to like and trust. I look forward to getting to know him better.
I spent the remainder of the youth class getting dressed and stretching. I lined up with everyone else when the adult class started at 7:30pm.
Class started with Washi-Waza, which I found out is actually called sogi. After the mat was clean we lined up. Seiza looked weird for me. I had to leave my left foot out behind me kind of at a right angle (resting on my inside ankle bone).
A black belt I'd never seen before was leading warm-ups. I liked his approach. He sort of narrated while he led, explaining some of the reasons for the exercises and how to do them better or more easily. I did OK, but had to stand to the side during some of the left-foot pivot activities. I cheated as much as I could and pivoted on my left heel, but in general I took it slow and easy. I still didn't make it all the way thru the backward break falls (I'm sooo out of shape!), but since he was taking things slower than Patrick did the night before I was able to do a few more.
Sensei and I both agreed that I would be excused from pukemi due to my Aiki-Toe. Also a good thing since I didn't take any Dramamine.
The first technique was very similar to the first one the day before.
Both uke and shite are in right kamae. Uke grabs with their right hand toward shite's chest. Shite performs a counter-clockwise 95-degree pivot and blocks uke's hand. Then shite does an overhand grab on uke's hand and performs a 2nd control crank / elbow lock until uke goes down on their right knee. However, instead of a zig-zag-zig, shite stays very low and leans forward to break uke's balance then takes 2 very quick steps to finish the take down. Left knee down into uke's right armpit. Spread your knees, pin.
I was having problems with the lean-forward-to-break-uke's-balance part. I was too far back when uke went to their knee so I was more off balance than uke. After a few tries, I had one of those "hazah" moments and realized I was only pivoting 45-degrees on the block! Once I fixed that, it went much better.
Sensei modified the pin by having shite put their left knee on top of uke's tricep close to the shoulder, pushing forward with the left hand to bend uke's elbow, lifting uke's right hand (very, very slowly) over shite's right knee and up toward their chest (not very far), and using both hands to press down on uke's severely contorted hand / wrist.
That was probably the most painful pin I've ever felt in Aikido! Luckily, I have a genetic connective tissue disorder leading to joint laxity (loose joints). I have quite a bit of extra range of motion, especially in my upper body. But my partner (orange belt) was pretty tight and that pin was almost too much for him before I got half way thru with it. I was very gentle and went very slowly, but it was still quite intense for him.
I offered my next partner two suggestions. I felt a little weird doing it since I was wearing a white belt and he was wearing orange. But after the 2nd time he had to pause to retie his pants I decided to say that double knotting worked well for me. Also, he was having the same problem I had with the 45-instead-of-95-degree pivot block. He seemed to appreciate my comments so I felt better.
Sensei steps us thru each technique the same way after he's demonstrated it. He counts the steps slowly the 1st time, a little faster the 2nd time, and for the 3rd time he says "One count -- do the whole technique -- that doesn't mean fast, it means smoothly." The problem is he then counts out the steps over and over getting faster and faster.
My partner at the time (another orange belt) was so focused on Sensei's tempo that he (uke) actually rushed and pushed the technique so fast that I (shite) was pulled along. I prefer to do a technique slowly and correctly. Once I've got it down I speed it up. Eventually, or sometimes (I need to pay closer attention) Sensei says "Hajime -- at your own pace" and then, of course, I can do things like I want.
I'm confused enough that I'm going to discuss it with him. Luckily, he's very accessible and willing to talk about things like this. I really like him a lot!
Next we did a technique where uke grabs toward the chest, shite does a 45-degree pivot block, overhand grab, 2nd control crank to get uke to bend their knees a bit, cross-step to a throw.
Since I wasn't going to roll, I needed to run out of the end of the technique. We were working in groups of 3 for this one, and one of my partners (brown belt) didn't appear to acknowledge / respect other people's limitations (he was giving me "whimp" looks while I was waiting out the left-foot pivot warm-ups). I'm an excellent judge of character, and I anticipate some problems later on. I plan on speaking with Sensei to see how to handle any situations that might arise in the future when I partner with this person. Extra range of motion in your upper body may sound like a good thing, but if you go too far something will dislocate.
I was getting very winded and was overheating by this time. I'm sooo out of shape! I was bending over with my hands on my knees and puffing away. Sensei told me to stand up straight and breath since I was compressing my chest while bent over.
After Sensei demonstrated the next technique, I bowed off the mat and sat out the rest of the class. I knew if I pushed it any further I would start feeling ill, so I chose not to go that far past my limit. There's wisdom in knowing when to stop.
The previous night's class had pseudo-randori sessions in it, but this was full out stuff! The black belt that led warm-ups was first. Sensei yelled "Orange belts UP! Browns, blacks!" They were permitted to do, as Sensei called it, "left and right chesty sorts of stuff." He was surrounded by about 8 students. I've never seen full out randori before. It was pretty cool! I noticed a few low kicks in there, which surprised me. Probably impromptu or due to cross-training. I'll have to ask about that. I also need to find out if I'm supposed to participate in that when my orange belt shows up. I'm not ready for the throws, falls and rolls.
The next black belt (Randy -- I told you I'd get his name) looked smoother than the 1st guy, even though Randy must be lower ranked. The brown belt I partnered with was next. Evidently, he has issues with remembering to breath properly. Sensei kept reminding him and making comments to that effect. Another brown belt was next, but he wasn't quite as good, as is to be expected when you move your way down the ranks.
I think I started to detect some personality characteristics with the warm-up leading black belt that don't seem to fit in with everyone else at the dojo. Comments he'd make and attitudes he'd project seemed derogatory and antagonistic. Though he seems to have some teaching tendencies, I'm not sure how to take him yet.
I joined the lineup and we dismissed.
1. I'm glad my weapons are safe to use.
2. I'm glad I got on the mat.
3. I'm sorer today than I was yesterday, but still nowhere near the post-brush-with-death class level.
4. I'm bummed that I couldn't do all the backward break falls, but I'm making progress.
5. I'm bummed that I had to Watchi-Waza, but I'm learning my limits.
6. Sensei and I have a few things to discuss.
7. Future journal posts must get shorter.