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Stand up straight. Stand straight up. Keep your heels under you. Use your tegatana. More kokyu. Sticky hands. Use your thumb more. Extend. Adjust your feet if you need to. Keep moving. Push through your back foot. Pretend like you are bowling. Use your head to push. Sink into your hips. Hit him in the face. What you are doing is fine, but the more basic way is to step through. Settle at the end of the technique. Zanshin. These are just a few of the corrections and comments I have received in the past two days. Lately, attendance in the classes has been quite low. I'm not really sure why the dip in attendance all the sudden, but it is leaving the dojo mats quite empty.
Last Thursday was just me and a yudansha (and that yudansha was teaching class that night). I had an hour and a half of private lessons. We mostly worked on attacks from shomenuchi. He did his best to turn me into an aggressive aikidoka. He had me throwing elbows to his face, the back of his head and his kidneys. Of course, I wasn't actually finishing these moves, but he was trying to get me to be more aggressive with them. That Saturday, only four students showed up (me, another 5th kyu and two yudansha). The yudansha leading the class asked what I wanted to work on, so I suggested 4th kyu testing techniques. I got my wish. Sankyo, sankyo, sankyo! It was a really nice class. We mainly worked on the blending to the throws and didn't actually complete the throws. A female student who used to be in the kenshusei program came back to train. It was nice to train with a female for a change.
Tuesday it was just me and a yudansha for aikido. Sensei asked if there were any requests. I simply said I wanted to learn. The other yudansha suggested we work on 4th kyu testing requirements (he was the one who taught Saturday's class). Sensei mainly had us work on sankyo. We did some katatedori sankyo and some uchi and soto kaiten with sankyo. A few of the hand exchanges were awkward for me, so I am hoping that I get to work on them again soon. I got to work on some hanmi handachi as well. I haven't really done this other then just trying to figure it out while sensei is putting the higher rankers through their paces. We worked on gyaku hanmi katatedori shihonage and ryotedori shihonage. These were both fun and I enjoyed them quite a bit! It was nice because I had sensei there watching me fixing my major mistakes. A bit of the time, sensei was off on the side practicing suburi.
Wednesday was just me and two yudansha. Sensei had us work on 4th kyu testing requirements yet again. We worked on ikkyo, nikyo and sankyo. This time, sensei decided to have us work from shomenuchi and yokomenuchi attacks. Yokomenuchi has always been a bit problematic for me. I never seem to enter early enough and I just don't extend myself enough. At one point, sensei had the two yudansha work together and he took me off to the side to work on my extension and entering from a yokomenuchi attack. Once he was satisfied, he sent me back to rotate in with the others. Sensei was keeping a close eye on my hands today. In the very beginning of the class, he must have corrected me numerous times. Do this for ikkyo, but do it this way for nikyo. Grab here, but don't grab at all with this attack. Use your tegatana to lead uke. Use your thumb to find your way around uke's hand to get nikyo for omote. Don't give uke your thumb on sankyo. The corrections went on and on.
Normally, something like this would get to me. I am a perfectionist and when things don't go right, I tend to either get angry or pout quietly. My next reaction is to try harder, which usually ends up with worse results. For some reason though, this aikido, I don't have the same reaction. I take in all the things I am doing wrong and I try to implement them. The key word is try. I don't necessarily expect my body to do exactly what is asked of it. I have begun to realize that aikido is a long, slow and arduous endeavor. However, it is one that I look forward too and it brings joy to my life. It is one thing that gets me out of bed when I want to sleep in or call out of work (how can I justify staying home from work but going to aikido?) Because of this, I will more then likely only call out sick on a Monday or Friday! I have learned that aikido takes time for your body to digest. It is intricate and my body only can retain so much. Maybe it picks up one thing once, but forgets it and does another thing the next time. Aikido is overload to my body. I can't rush it. I just have to let myself digest one little thing at a time.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the personalized attention from sensei, who is doing his best to polish me for the 4th kyu test that is coming up "soon". I also have the rare chance to partner with yudansha for all these techniques; they are more then helpful and show an extraordinary amount of patience. They put up with my awkward techniques which I'm sure leads to them having to take some awkward ukemi…. And despite everything, they continue to look at me and ask to be my partner. I look at them and hope that they were as bad as me once and that maybe, I will become as graceful as they are today. It gives me hope and pushes me to continue on.
It's like I am walking down a dirt road that has no end in sight. At this point in my journey, I feel like I can see clearly where I am headed, but I am doing an awful lot of tripping and stumbling. I am trying to find my footing, trying to find that foundation that I need to continue forward on this path. Sometimes, when I begin to fall, sensei or another yudansha is there to catch me. Other times, they let me fall. They look down at me silently, waiting to see if I will get back up on my own. So far, I have every time. I'd like to think though, that every time I fall on this journey, that I am like a stone being tossed around in the ocean. Slowly, but surely, I am being polished into something beautiful.