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I only made it to one class last week. Home buying chores kept me away last Tuesday, and a cold kept me from training on Saturday. But, tonight it's Tuesday again, the cold is shaken, and the home buying stuff is (at least temporarily) on hold. I'm going to train!
Last Thursday's class was good. We had one brand new student in addition to two of the three "not quite as new" students. Additionally, we have five regular, "older" students. It was a pretty good crowd. I felt gratified that our instructor used me to demonstrate the long version of irimi nage. That's a technique where, as uke, I've had some trouble in the past, but I seem to be doing better now. The way we do the technique, nage enters strongly to uke's rear, and then drops uke strongly to his rear while performing a tenkan movement. This is followed by a second tenkan where uke is raised up, and then a zengo undo movement where uke is bent over backwards. Nage finishes off by stepping into and sort of under uke's bent back for the throw.
The most difficult thing for me as uke is continuing the attack after being dropped so strongly with the first tenkan. This is especially true for me as I'm overweight because, quite frankly, my belly gets in the way of my legs if I don't do things right. Over time, and with some help from my instructor, I've learned how to continue my attack on that technique until I'm thrown. At times I've thought it was silly to focus so much on the ukemi for just one technique, but after a while, I've found that the skills I've learned for that technique carry over to the ukemi for other techniques. It seems self-evident to say that now, but it's one thing to know the skills should carry over, it's quite another thing for that to actually happen as the result of long hours of training.
I'm also comforted that others of my dojo-mates have similar problems despite their not being overweight. This further reinforces my observation that nearly everyone struggles with the same handful of problems at certain times in their training. Nearly everyone struggles with forward rolls and break falls, with aspects of the ukemi for ikkyo, and with the ukemi for irimi nage. These are just three examples of areas where I've been saying to my partners, "yeah, I've struggled with that too." They may be struggling for different reasons, but the solution is usually the same: more practice with occasional special attention to the rough spots.
So, despite the disadvantage I have of being overweight, I'm comforted that, like my dojo mates who have their own challenges to overcome, I can still make progress through regular practice. But more than comfort, I also look for inspiration. Inspiration seems to come to me when I'm not looking for it. Ellis Amdur made some very inspiring comments to me at the seminar I attended this past January. I certainly didn't expect them, but they've really helped me since then. They've also signaled a shift in my own perception of myself.
Other inspiration comes from very unexpected sources. I recently watched Daredevil the movie on DVD. Over and above the whole influence that superhero comics like Daredevil had on me as I was growing up was a special feature on the DVD called, "Moving Through Space: A Day with Tom Sullivan." Tom Sullivan was the sight impaired consultant for the movie. Sullivan has been completely blind since birth. The short feature on the DVD shows him playing golf, lifting weights; there are pictures from his high school days wrestling. The guy is in excellent shape -- much better than me -- he looks like he's in his early forties, but was actually born in 1947.
Anyway, the man leads a very active and seemingly good life, in spite of being totally blind. It's inspirational to see somebody with that much of a handicap doing so well. I can't help but think that if he can do it, surely I can, given my much smaller challenges.