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Ah, Ikkyu: that Cruel Mistress
03-27-2009 10:08 PM
A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
So much for getting lots of sleep before last weekend's seminar.
In between preparing homemade deer jerky for the drive, Thursday night was spent going over Jodori and Tachidori as well as a couple of things that were still rather hazy in my memory. I was tired, cranky, utterly frustrated with myself and looking back on it I exhibited almost all the signs of overtraining. I didn't get to bed until 2AM. During the long drive out on Friday, I did get to sleep in fits and spurts in the car but mostly in between a great deal of visualizing - sitting there with the test and my notes in my lap, running through each technique in my mind and particularly going over in succession (without referring to my notes) all of the sets of technique that I would have to independently determine and call out (ie. the "any 5" sets, Henka Waza, Kaeshi Waza and all the weapons work).
We got into Saskatoon on Friday evening, I carb-loaded with a pasta dinner and after a bit of socializing with our billet host, settled in for the night in their basement with some mats and sleeping bags generously loaned to us and thought nothing of it. I stayed up a little to do a bit more visualizing and lay down to sleep. Or so I thought I would. Now it used to be that as recently as in my twenties I could sleep pretty much anywhere and have a great night's rest. I could sleep on a floor. I could sleep curled up in an armchair in a strange position. It didn't really matter. I'd sleep like a rock. Well, let's just say that last Friday night was a rude welcome to my early thirties. I tossed and turned all night. No matter what I tried, my bones ached, it was like I could feel the floor. Finally, I settled into a chair in the corner that reclined a bit and had a footrest. It made a huge difference, but still being awkward, I spent even more time awake and visualizing technique over and over again in my head (what else was I to do?) until I must have dropped off from sheer exhaustion. When I got up the next morning, I did a heck of a lotta stretching, let me tell you.
The human body is an incredible machine. We can put it through hell and yet it still delivers - especially with even just a little bit of care. And I was making a point to give it the best fuel possible. Aside from taking a great deal of time to stretch on Saturday morning,our host treated us to a nutritious breakfast and as planned, I took my double-dose of vitamins and supplements along with some Creatine. I was so hydrated, I was running to the washroom almost every 15 minutes before the seminar started. All this, coupled with some high-GI carb snacking over the lunch break, gave me good energy levels throughout the day. I was quite pleased.
Just before the seminar, people asked me if I was going to be testing. I just smiled and shrugged. I had no idea. At the end of the lunch break, it became clear that they wanted me to test after all and Jeremy said that he would have yelled at me if I didn't. :-) At this point, I don't think I could have felt nervous if I wanted to - what would've been the point? As the day progressed and my body slowly tired, I found my mind starting to wander back almost automatically to all the visualization it had spent so much time on recently and I would have to snap myself back into the present, to the learning at hand.
When the practice portion of the seminar ended, Kawahara sensei asked who would be testing. I took a deep breath and slowly raised my hand. A white and black sea of yudansha parted so I could sit in the front row.
"If you are busy, you can go home," said Kawahara sensei, "but if not, change and stay for a very good test." turning to look me in straight in the eye as he spoke the last three words.
"No pressure or anything," the yudansha behind me chuckled.
I was offered a 15 minute break and by golly, I took it. I grabbed my things and ran to the washroom to redo the rats nest that my hair had become, eat some energy snacks, take a couple of puffs of my inhaler and have something to drink. I took a minute for one last look at my notes and a few deep breaths and headed back in.
TESTING, TESTING, 1-2-3?
I filled out my testing form and unlike just before my Yonkyu test, I wasn't so gripped by adrenaline that I was actually able to write my name legibly. "This is great," I gleefully said to Sensei, Jeremy and Lisa, "I haven't lost fine motor control for a change."
While I was expecting to have students from another dojo taking ukemi for my test, it turned out that Jeremy and Lisa were my primary uke and did a great job. So much so that after the test, one of the yudansha complimented Jon on his students having really good ukemi. Of course, it made you wonder if he wasn't so much complimenting them as implying that I had it easy. On the other hand, I do know that there was initially some concern over the idea of Jeremy being my uke to begin with. There seemed to be the implication that Jeremy would be too large or too challenging to throw and apparently a female mudansha from another dojo was suggested but Kawahara Sensei said no. I wonder if he remembered what happened with my uke for my Gokyu test.
It's funny. I really thought I would have been nervous. But I don't think my body was going to let me. Once the test started, everything became a blur, like I was only semi-conscious. It felt like my mind was on auto-pilot and the rest of me took over - at one point, I got halfway through a technique and I almost stopped dead in my tracks with a jolt because my mind suddenly "woke up" and started to second-guess the choice that my body had made. Strange, isn't it? Stupid brain. Go back to sleep! Afterwards, Sensei told me that it looked like I wasn't having the same problem that a lot of others do on tests: usually people are so nervous that the tension effects how they perform technique, but I was moving confidently.
All in all, I guess I can't complain. The only major goofs were:
- "brainfarting" on the shortest version of Tsuki Iriminage, which - comparatively speaking - wasn't too bad since it wasn't a technical mistake so much as a memory one (the versions I did were both legitimate, but not the most basic one that we had practiced ad nauseum and that Kawahara Sensei was looking for)
- on Morotedori Ikkyo, not understanding what Kawahara Sensei meant by "Tenkan Ura"; as it happens, it's a version that my own Sensei has shown us but: 1) never knew it was called the "Tenkan" version and 2) it was a technique Kawahara Sensei corrected/didn't want to see on a recent Shodan test we've watched so we didn't really focus on it much in practice
- we totally should have spent more time doing Ushiro Ryotedori Koshinage because I completely forgot how this one went
- ditto to Ushiro Ryokatadori Koshinage, which he ended up asking me for in the "Any 5 Koshinage" section but wasn't among any of the ones I had prepared for the test :-(
Thankfully, I tend to look quite optimistically at these sorts of things, preferring to take them positively as areas for improvement and opportunities to further my knowledge. Though I did give my head a good smack over the Tsuki Iriminage thing. Yeesh.
Nonetheless, I got a fair amount of decent comments about my test (ie. that it was a very "clean" test - people liked my movement) and the Jiyu Waza portion especially seemed to impress. Kawahara Sensei started off by giving me only two attackers (Jeremy initially got three on his test); which I guess could be attributed to the fact that this would have been the first time sensei would see me do Jiyu Waza (whereas he saw Jeremy's Nikyu test). Well, I guess it became readily apparent during the first few moments that two attackers was going to be too easy so he gave me an Ikkyu from another dojo as well for a second round. After all was said and done, Kawahara Sensei asked Jon if we practiced a lot of Jiyu Waza in class (which we do - practically every day). I suppose that it's because of this that I can't really comment too much on my rounds during my test - they felt pretty typical. There were a couple of moments where I could feel my centre rise higher than it should have - ah, more practice, more practice.
When all was said and done, Kawahara Sensei took some time to clarify what he meant by the Tenkan version of Morotedori Ikkyo to me and Jon; I passed, and he called it a "very good test".
It wasn't until later on that I found out that I wasn't the only one Kawahara Sensei was "testing". Before my test, unbeknownst to me, he told Sensei that at the last Summer camp, a lot of people tested for Ikkyu but not a single one of them passed. "If Jamie doesn't do well, I'm going to fail her," he said to Jon - not once, but twice.
After it was all over, Jon asked me how it felt. I had to be honest: I was kind of disappointed. "I'm underwhelmed," I told him, and to repeat a friend's saying, "I would settle for just being whelmed." After two years of delayed preparation due to the tenuous location situation of our dojo - after all that training and visualization after visualization, I finally got to the point where I felt mentally prepared to do the entire test - all 200 or so techniques of it...and my Ikkyu test ended up lasting only 15 minutes. No Henka Waza, no Kaeshi Waza, no weapons work at all. It felt like I had worked so hard - exhausted myself mentally, physically, emotionally to memorize all of that and recall it on demand - and in the end didn't get to demonstrate this to my fullest capacity.
I think about the university students that I work with on a daily basis - students with disabilities; one of the things I often hear about how their disability or chronic illness has affected them is in how much harder they've had to work just to accomplish what everyone else can do (seemingly) so easily. Yet they take these struggles and move forward, adapting to challenges and seeming barriers like no one else I know - in the end, they don't want "special treatment" - they just want an equal opportunity to show what they know. I felt the same way about my Ikkyu test. After all the painstaking adaptations I constantly have to make being a petite woman - after all the "blood, sweat, tears and Aikikai", I just wanted to show what I knew. And especially after the few gaffes on my test, I was certain at the very least I would be able to move on and redeem myself with the rest. But the rest never came.
Apparently so many people in the CAF have been wondering why the Ikkyu test is the same test as Shodan that Kawahara Sensei has recently been shortening it on the fly. I don't quite know how I feel about this. I don't believe that lowering expectations is ever a good thing. According to the current CAF test requirements, at Ikkyu you must show that you have the ability to "apply and variate techniques" - that is, to show a wide breadth of technical knowledgeMy, which is exactly what the current Ikkyu test (in its entirety) does. My understanding was that at Shodan, you would have to not only demonstrate this but do so with more "polish". But no matter - I have no control over this; as with a great many things in life, it's 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it.
So all this aside, I'm ever the optimist. The fact is, even in not getting to demonstrate everything during our Ikkyu tests, because we've actually gone so far as to prepare for everything it has given us a really good base from which to start training for our Shodan tests (which, after each of our Ikkyu tests, Kawahara Sensei said he wants to see us do in a year from now). Also, that he's given a definite timeline for us to work with helps my periodization planning a great deal. In conclusion, to mix metaphors: I'll see the cup as "half full" (that is, except for when I'm called upon the "empty" it). Metaphors be with you...always. ;-)
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