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Some people talk louder than others. You hear some people talk and you think that just because the voice is dominant it's true. Or universal. Or inevitable. And when you think so, that's when everything changes. Because you have, just by believing it.
Someone told me once that there are no depths to thought. Someone else told me that everything should be doubted, that personal experience is a subjective beast. Meh, let them think so, I've already wrestled with these thoughts, so, whatever. The one that I'd been believing, though, is that the learning process travels in plateaus; along for a while, jumping up with a realisation and along again for awhile. And when I realised that I'd taken it on (well, maybe without internalising it, but certainly without questioning it), it pissed me off!!! Because if I accept that this is true, I become passive in the learning process. I become blind. My gauge for progress becomes duller because I'm waiting for 'the next big wave', when the heightened power of tidal rips actually happen under the surface.
I'll be the first one to say that I made a proper spaghetti from my 5th Kyu exam - if it was possible to stuff up, I did it. Many times. Thank goodness, get that rubbish outta the system! I think it must be easier to notice things that need working on when you're still wrestling the shape of a technique as opposed to further up (side note; let's look over that some other time). But I honestly feel in my gut, in the marrow of my bones, that I'm learning something and realizing little bits of something massive whenever I go to class. I've got that many scraps of advice talking in my ear when I try for most techniques! Except... it's not that easy to internalise them. The nature of making them natural is always changing.
Example. When I started, I was afraid of attacking. Later on I became afraid of not commiting to an attack honestly. And now? Well, I'm afraid I keep jumping (literally!) into attacks to let gravity stop me from backing out! Funny... except when it's easy to swing me over and down because of the lack of weightinesss. So I'm training myself out of it. Slowly, slowly...
No more excuses.
I know I've been learning consistently and constantly; writing about these things in this blog helps chew over these learnings so I can swallow them. I think one would become more sensitive to the learning process with practice at introspection too, so this is another learning space. The 'mind dojo' reborn.
Last night we had the pleasure of having our technical director Rosso Fernandez come over from his dojo in New Zealand (Auckland Aikikai). When I started 2 years ago he'd been coming over once a year, he's making it a biannual trip so it's lovely to see him more often. That did mean, though, that we had a grading lined up as promised. Since my hours were topped up (especially with class on Tuesday nights which started a short while ago), my name was put forward by my sensei in conversation, and when I found out I accepted. Meh. I've never felt ready to grade, what do I know about when I am.
There were a few weeks to go still, at that point. I renewed my focus in learning out of class by polishing up my collections of technique videos on Youtube (look up 'MsLinTal') and studying the way the techniques set for the exam actually worked. Knowing I was up for 4th Kyu, I also started dipping into videos for 3rd Kyu and discovered wonderful videos by teachers I'd only read of. I found the most incredible video of someone grading at 4th Kyu with cerebral palsy. I began expecting myself to be able to handle the shape of techniques for that next level (even if not the way of working with it), and as I did my attitude to approach and projection changed when I was in class. I began to ignore the dictatorship of steps and started trying to recapture the feeling and sense of relationship within the technique. I began to see my fellow students as great teachers, and my great teachers as students once more, and I found myself forgetting to remember to think. I think that's what makes me happiest.
Those several weeks until the exam passed rather quickly. I didn't have that sense of bees buzzing in my head or butterflies flapping in my stomach, it just felt like everything was... okay, somehow. I was still learning every class, I still felt ecstatic enough to fly whenever I was in class, so what else mattered? Fast forward. I walked in last night, before the grading, just found a corner away from people stressing and cramming and talking, just listened to the nature of my body as I stretched. The hour of class before the test passed as quickly as the test itself, and my peace stayed. Because somehow it wasn't about what I could see with my eyes in the dojo anymore. I can't explain it. Don't want to, but don't feel the need to.
I remember starting with 'shomen uchi ikkyo' in suwari waza, same as last time. We didn't do sankyo or yonkyo like I thought we would, but more gakku hanmi than I'd assumed. Kaiten nage was fun, kokyo ho was a puzzle. Irimi nage was like flying. I remember hearing a kind of heartbeat in my ears that paced all the way through, and also that memory flowed in time for most parts of all techniques. It felt clean, and I felt a kind of intention that seemed so simple. I was just here to make a shape. No fuss, no injuries or anything to remark over. Just me and my partner and my heartbeat.
It was over rather soon, after maybe half an hour. Class finished with Rosso's final talk about the importance of training with joy and for its own sake. As everyone started bowing out, I think the nerves finally found me! Or found my knees, more accurately, they turned to jelly and my hands started shaking like an engine and I had to sit down! I was rather pleased that my elbow had held out for the most part, and focusing on the warmth of the pain there helped take away the shakes.
I asked Rosso later on what he thought the main points to focus on until his next visit should be. I asked my main sensei Paul, and JC and Ray too, and added theirs in when I did. From Rosso, the first time it was moving out of the way, I think, and last time it was to clean up my footwork. Below is what I remember from my shopping list this time - just a little one! I've also added things I noticed myself from during the grading time, that takes up most of the 'techniques' section.
• follow hand (shiho nage)
• backwards (watch head)
• Ikkyo - blending up for the crest
• Irimi nage - neck/collar hold right through
• Tenchi nage - lower hand to back corner
• Kokyo Ho - taking balance, extending to top corner
• Nikyo ura - cleaner handwork
• Katadori - everything
Right. Glad the grading stress nonsense is over for now. More interesting things to do, like prepare for class on Sunday.