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I didn't train last night...much. My wife, Robin, drove me down to the dojo and waited while I opened up for the open mat session. I helped answer some questions on weapons work, empty hand technique, and ukemi. I have a lot to learn about teaching.
As soon as our sensei showed up, we talked for a few minutes, and then Robin and I went home. I had to chuckle a little bit; Robin said she doesn't like to watch me train too much because she's afriad I'll get hurt (which is a valid fear, I guess). The part that made me chuckle is that she said she had an urge to run out on the mat and tell people to be nice to me. :-D
The title of this journal entry is "Drew the fanboy", here's why. A few years back, I bought "Dueling with O'Sensei" by Ellis Amdur. At that point in my training, I found the book useful and interesting. Then, this past January, I attended a seminar of his. It was a great seminar and I learned a lot.
Ellis (as he prefers to be called) has a very intelligent and logical view on atemi that helps explain the quote that aikido is 99% (or whatever high percentage you want) atemi. His argument is perfectly explained in the book, but a lot of it didn't gel until after I had actually seen him explain it in person and worked on the exercises he gave us. I reread the book after the seminar and a whole bunch of things really fell into place.
Aside from that, there was another lesson I learned at the seminar. I'm a big guy, very stable and difficult to force into technique. At the same time, I've gotten good training in ukemi -- especially in providing a good, powerful, fluid, attack where I can be sensitive to nage's openings (and possible exploit them) and I can continue to press the attack until I'm thrown.
Some of the people at the seminar had no trouble throwing me, but others did. Especially on the second day, a lot of my partners were stopping Ellis as he walked by and asking questions on their technique. I told him after a while that I felt like the "uke who causes questions." His response to me, privately at first (after honestly underestimating my weight by about 80 lbs!), and then publicly toward the end of the day, is that size and strength can be one hell of an advantage.
This was a new idea for me. Up until then, I had thought of my size as a sever disadvantage. It never entered my mimd that it could be an advantage. While I am still working on losing weight, I have felt an incredible turn around in my attitude toward myself and my training since receiving so much encouragement from Ellis. So, yeah, I guess I'm a big fan of Ellis Amdur.
My instructor also attended the seminar, and we've talked a bit since then about my ukemi. I've come to realize that size, either big or small, presents different challenges to each of us. A small person will have different difficulties than I will, but we'll each have problems that we need to work through. But, and here's the important thing: the way we train does not automatically confer special advantages to one body type over another.