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After a day to ponder yesterday's seminar and grading, I'm still at a loss when I try to consider how predictable I thought the day would be. I thought it would be quite straightforward - 2 or 3 hours of seminar, 1 or two hours of grading. I thought all the techniques would be tidy and only vary with the quality of execution, I thought the pressure would be greater than before since I'd 'been there, seen it all' during my 6th Kyu test in October last year. Perhaps this is part of the naivety that leads to the '5th Kyu Shihan' syndrome that I've read so much about.
That's probably what I'm most frightened about, in terms of the longevity of practice needed to become more competent in Aikido. One day I might gradually start becoming blind because of growing complacency. That, I believe, is the beginning of the end; how can you keep learning if your mind is closed and can no longer see?
I remember vague patches, like not understanding kotegaesh from gakku hanmi. Like starting the list of techniques with suwari waza ikkyo. WHY is that the flavour of the month?? Yesterday someone said something to explain it, that "Ikkyo is the beginning of all techniques". Before, "All techniques are the same". So. It's quite a good indication of all techniques then - like ikkyo, all my techniques are in their infancy. And I never knew being uke was such hard work!
It's so strange, you (well, I) can never see the heart of someone so clearly as when they step up to be your parter for something like this. The testing candidates were called to bow, facing the front. As the bows rotated to sensei, then around to our partners and class, the faces of the ones who'd stepped up for uke came into view. I've never been so humbled. Their contribution, their active support, had never seemed so precious, and I could barely make eye contact.
I remember the wave of relief as the techniques were called one by one - like a puzzle, the words of the names fit together like a puzzle. Wow, the relief that they would make a logical picture! But several times I would be confused by the attack, it would take a couple times to get into the rhythm of it. And the whole time, the rotating ukes would just smile to let you know it was okay, or grin when it went really well, or keep whispering 'Slow Down!' (guilty!), and guide you through just that beginning bit if memory got stuck. Like mine did, over and over and over! It's all good.
But the thrill when you realise that you've learned is just undescribable!!
Towards the end, despite a neck twinge, the wave of support was amazing. The best part was seeing a good friend make beautiful aikido for his 1st Kyu test right after, and a mate's surprise Shodan test too! He coped very though, and flew.
Everyone passed the day. It's a real pleasure to grade with the two others who took the test for 5th Kyu too. We took 6th together, it's great to have people come along side you on the path so you all learn and grow together. And to keep you accountable in case the testing throws your priorities out of wack.
Good experiences, great memories. A very good friend came, made everything even better. Tavern trip afterwards, double shot cordial pink lemonade to celebrate.
But right after, my sensei refocused me by talking about taking 4th Kyu at the end of the year. WHY do they always do that??!!
Will post photos as they come.