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Well, it has been quite some time since I have posted. Between life getting in the way and both of my laptops getting a virus I haven't really been able to do much online. I know; excuses, excuses. I had a really interesting class on Saturday the 18th. I will have to post about that another time though because I need to list all the techniques we did. I came to several realizations in that class. So stay tuned for information about that class!
Last Wednesday was the last class we had before the dojo closed until the New Year. Wednesday's class was a hectic class. We had a guy come for a visit who used to go to our dojo. He was a fantastic guy! He was very nice, amazingly smooth rolls and just an all round great person to work with. He was a very sympathetic uke and he gave a lot of feedback. If I wasn't sure about something, but was actually doing it correctly, he would say, "That's it. Keep going." I have no idea what rank he is or left at, but I would love to work with the guy again. Sensei used him as uke for a bit too, which speaks for him. Sensei doesn't just use anyone for uke. We worked a lot on techniques that required a fish like movement. You know, you stick your hand out in front of you parallel to the floor with your thumb up towards the ceiling and move your hand like a fish swimming. Amazingly enough, this analogy really helped me grasp the motion better. Before, I was doing more like a palm heel strike movement. Somehow, this extra grace and tiny change of the movement was all it took.
Sensei used me as uke for several techniques. One was where he did that "fish-like movement" to your ribs. I was letting my arm relax and allowing him to make contact with my ribs and leaning my body away from the strike as he pushed. I wasn't doing anything wrong, but he told me he wanted me to ride the motion. He said he couldn't strike me harder unless I rode his energy. I nodded. My first thought was don't let him strike me, so for this I realized that I could no longer relax my arm as much as I did before. Sensei then did his swimming fish thing and without any effort of my own, I soon found myself swimming in the river and flying across the dojo. I landed rather nicely and couldn't help but smile. There have only been a handful of times where I can truly say that I had ridden the energy completely. I got back up and quickly ran over to sensei and grabbed his wrist for more. What joy!
Sensei then had us go back and work with our partners. I was working with the guy I had previously mentioned. Once I discovered what it was like to ride out this technique, I was flying all over the mat! At one point, me and another uke had a run in. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but my head got whacked by something HARD! It may have been the other uke's head or elbow. We both got up and asked if the other way okay. Once we saw we were both alright, back to flying we went! We also worked on hanmi hidachi nikyo and a few other fun techniques.
Sensei used me to demonstrate ryotedori shihonage. This went smoothly for the most part. After I took ukemi, sensei told me to keep moving and that would help with the flow of my ukemi. I was working with a yudansha and sensei told me I had stopped moving. The next time he went to throw me, I kept my feet moving. I moved in a complete circle and then I was confused. I had walked a circle in the exact same spot, so I had walked out of shihonage. My partner did another throw to me while sensei laughed at my confusion. Once I got up he told me "You kept your feet moving, but you didn't walk anywhere." I couldn't help but return his smile as I again attempted to take more flowing ukemi.
At the end of the night sensei used me for uke again to demonstrate a few throws from ryotedori. I don't really know what they are called, but kokyunage seems like a good catch all phrase for these types of throws. He was doing a few different variations and one in particular I had a hard time keeping up with. I had never taken ukemi from either of these before. Sensei was rather patient on letting me get to where I needed to be. As soon I got that down, he went to another one. By this point, I was completely exhausted. I was feeling a bit dizzy and had a hard time catching my breath because my nose has been so stuffy and when I train it begins to run down my throat. So, I have a stuffy nose and a throat coated in mucus. Both of those things don't allow me to breathe too well. Grr…. A few of my falls must have looked pretty rough. Sensei doesn't often ask me if I am okay after taking ukemi, so when he does, I know it must have looked bad. The key to both good and bad ukemi is to relax. Even if you take bad ukemi, I find that staying relaxed is enough to keep me from getting hurt.
One thing aikido has taught me is to just go with the flow. You can't really worry about where you are going to end up. You just have to worry about moving. Luckily, I don't really have a fear of taking ukemi and I am able to just let myself move (though sometimes I am clumsy if I have never taken ukemi for it). Sometimes if I still don't get the ukemi right, sensei will have me sit and watch someone else take it. I don't really look at this as if I failed. I look at what they are doing that I am not doing. Sometimes he asks me back up to try to take ukemi again and other times he doesn't. I know I will get the chance again some day!
Anyway, after we all had our chance to do the two techniques (I stuck to just one because I had a hard time with it) the class came to a close. What a great way to end training for 2009! After class a few people walked up to me and asked if I was okay. They said I looked like I wasn't feeling well. Even my husband asked me several times if I was alright. I told everyone that I was fine, but tired. One of the yudansha told me that it is strange how your ukemi changes when you are tired. Usually I find I am more relaxed when I am tired, but obviously I am not able to just jump up and attack as quickly as I could if I weren't. Howard then asked me if I wanted to go home instead of staying for iaido. Let's face it, iaido doesn't really require that much energy, so staying wouldn't really be an issue. Instead of taking this route of logic, I swallowed my pride and told him that we could go. I really was tired and all I wanted to do was lay down. We both walked downstairs and told sensei that we weren't going to stay for iaido. I then told sensei that unfortunately we wouldn't be here for New Years training on the second because we had family coming into town. He looked a bit sad and told us that we would be missed.
We all stood around and chatted for a bit after changing. I told the guy who was in town visiting that it was a pleasure to meet him and that I really enjoyed training with him. I asked when he would be back again and he said sometime in the summer. At that point, I did something that hurt my finger. When they inquired what I did to my finger, I then told them how I must be fragile because I had hurt it the other night lifting pillows of all things. I never knew that lifting pillows could give your middle finger a strain, but it can… The visitor looked at me and said "I don't believe anything about you being fragile. If someone can take ukemi from Bluhm Sensei, then they aren't fragile at all." That made me feel a little better about my ukemi, but my injured finger does speak for itself! At that point, we all said our goodbyes, Merry Christmases and our happy new years.
As I sit here a week and a day since my last training, I can't help but reflect on my training in 2009. My first steps on the mat in March seem so far away; a distant memory. My technique and ukemi is still atrocious, but I can honestly say that I have seen improvement in myself. My ukemi is slowing getting more fluid and soft. My techniques aren't quite as rigid and choppy. I also realize that I have a lot of work before me. I have much to learn and much to improve upon. It's hard to believe that in three more months, I will have already been training at the dojo for a year! In the meantime, I am waiting for 2010 to roll around. Hopefully, it will be another rewarding year of aikido training!