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Yesterday evening (Tues. 6/17/03) was my first class as a newly minted 3rd kyu. My shoulder and ankle injuries were still acting up a bit, but I was able to participate pretty fully in class. Testing is an ordeal; maybe not a horrible ordeal, but an ordeal nonetheless. I've found after each test that I have a boost in confidence that comes from knowing I can perform good technique even when tired and while being judged. I've also, of course, found areas where I feel I need to improve. For instance, the last test inspired me to focus on losing weight, gaining a bit of aerobic endurance, and trying to keep my joints healthy. I'm sure the sense of accomplishment and self-evaluation I feel is typical for the other six guys who tested on Saturday. As a result, there's a sense of increased energy at the dojo.
Interestingly, our instructor viewed the testing, at least in part, as a test of his teaching. One thing I noticed at the end of the test was that we all had a tendency to use a strong irimi motion, but very little tenkan. A few weeks ago, we were working on jiyu waza and I noticed that I was using irimi nage quite a bit. I mentioned this to Micah (or senior student) and he laughed, saying he wasn't surprised considering that Keith was our teacher. Irimi nage is a favorite of our instructor. I observed more of the same during our tests and mentioned that to Keith, who agreed that we should work more with some of the other tools available to us. It's not like we don't practice tenkan, or other ways of blending, it's just that we seem to put a lot of, maybe subconscious, emphasis on entering strongly.
As a result, last nights class was all about tenkan. This alone was good, but sensei also instructed me to pay very specific attention to my foot placement and weight distribution so that I can avoid putting unnecessary stress on my ankles. In some ways, it felt like I was learning the tenkan movement all over again. In the end, I realized that I'm not relearning as much as I'm refining my movements. This will be quite a challenge, but a welcome one.
One other interesting thing happened in class last night. We were working on a sokomen irimi nage (from tenkan, naturally) and Rich was having a little trouble throwing me (and I, him). Right before the throw, uke ends up with his back and knees bent. A good uke will be able to bend quite a bit, mostly at the knees, before losing his balance. I can do that, but sensei thought I couldn't because it felt as though I was pretty stiff at that point in the technique. I demonstrated to him that I'm actually able to bend quite a bit. He saw, realized that he was probably trying to be too nice to me, and decided to stop being so nice. In the course of figuring this out, we concluded that it was not resistance, or stiffness that my nages were feeling, but simply my mass. To them, it felt like I was taken as far as I could go without them forcing me to bend more. To me, it felt as though I wasn't taken far enough, and I had more room to bend, but no incentive to do so.
It feels good that I can be rather fluid and flexible as uke in spite of my size. It also feels good that my size can make me more dangerous or at least more difficult to take down. I just wish my size could make me faster and give me better endurance.