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I've really been enjoying training lately, even though I have been at the dojo somewhat less to make time to work with Rainy, my horse. I look forward to classes like a kid on Christmas morning. I'm having fun with Rainy, and we're progressing well, but I miss Aikido on the days I don't go.
The connections and similarities between Aikido and horsemanship go much deeper than I had expected. That will be the subject of my next column for "The Mirror" on AikiWeb, in June. I'm constantly making wonderful discoveries in that area, and hearing virtually the same words from my horsemanship teacher and Sensei. There have been a few jaw-dropping moments with each where all I could think was "did I really just hear them say that?"
For most of this spring, summer, and probably fall I am in a really wonderful place with respect to dojo life. I'm not close to testing (my next exam will be for 4th kyu), and I'm not advanced enough to mentor others. I don't have any seminars coming up. Nothing in particular is expected of me. I feel like bread dough that's been left in a warm, quiet place to rise. The ingredients are all there, and well mixed. There's nothing to do but let them expand and mature. Just train.
I can almost feel the synapses in my brain making new connections, as the discrete skills and pieces of information I've accumulated over the past year weave themselves together. Recently, after being off the mat for a few weeks with a minor muscle strain I felt like I'd been away forever. I was sure I'd forgotten half of what I barely knew in the first place. But there it was. My body remembered.
This kind of somatic learning has been a very interesting new experience, and something I am beginning to explore in more depth. It's fascinating being the one it's happening to, and sort of watching it from the the inside.
While I do enjoy the intensity of working toward an exam, or being ready for an upcoming event, training with no particular goal is very pleasant and rewarding. I feel more able to explore different aspects of techniques, focus on ukemi, and be satisfied with improving and ingraining. Refining and deepening my understanding, rather than accumulating new pieces of information. I've also been watching how others teach, because from 4th kyu onward there's the possibility of being asked to mentor others who are preparing for their tests.
Because I have no responsibilities, I've been free to take on other little things. Cleaning this or that, bringing flowers for the shomen from time to time, getting video of some exams, and so on. We will be moving the dojo to a new location in July, and I'm looking forward to helping with that however I can.