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Go Back   AikiWeb Aikido Forums > AikiWeb AikiBlogs > Seeking Zanshin: Blood, Sweat, Tears & Aikikai

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Seeking Zanshin: Blood, Sweat, Tears & Aikikai Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 02-24-2005 11:53 PM
One small gal + a dojo full of big guys = tons o' fun
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 270 (Private: 12)
Comments: 195
Views: 820,874

In General Rootedness on Unstable Ground...in Life Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #232 New 03-30-2008 02:58 PM
I like to think that a person's truly defining moments are found in how they handle adversity. You can either sink or swim. You can rise to the occasion, face the challenge head-on or concede defeat. Either way we choose, the process shapes us. And it's always nice to see in times like this that you're not alone.

For the past eight to nine months our dojo has gone through a huge transition. The space it has occupied for 15 years was to be demolished, leaving us without a place to practice. Last Summer was spent holding practices in the park and despite having many merits in and of itself (I found the challenge of fighting not only my own allergies but the inconsistency of environment inherent in simply being outside in various kinds of weather a valuable and eye-opening experience), it just doesn't replace traditional waza on the mats. As the saying goes, "It's a nice place to visit, I just wouldn't want to live there."

And boy, did I miss doing ukemi. Though this feeling changed somewhat --- at least for a short time --- as soon as we did find a temporary space and were able to get new mats. Forty-two, bea-uuuu-tiful brand-spanking new Zebra tatami-style mats. Hard. Tatami. Mats. Yowch. In short order, I realized just how spoiled we were with the cushy foam and fuschia vinyl deal we had at the old dojo. Really, really spoiled. But soon enough, we started getting used to them. They're what you'd call "fast" mats...though this was not necessarily a good thing initially because they were also extremely slippery. You didn't roll out most of the time so much as slide out, really. Thankfully, they are becoming less and less slippery over time (we theorize that it's all the sweat and blood that's doing it). I never found tobu ukemi so bad on them so long as you stayed and thought light. For me it was, and still is, keeping round in ushiro ukemi. They're the kind of mats that if you don't stay round, they'll inevitably make you round. By knocking all your points off, that is.

But enough about the mats. Beautiful as they are (...sooooo niiiice...*ahem* Anyway! Where was I now?) Essentially, what impresses me most about the whole ordeal is how our core group of students and even some others have really stuck through it all and have been extremely helpful and really there for the club when we needed them most --- not only in helping to find a new space, but also in just being there to practice and keep the momentum going. Although we had a number of relatively-newer members disappear through the course of the move, it's not really surprising in the case of transitions such as this. Sensei has gone through this before, where members drop off because of a change in location, but just as before the club will build itself up again in time.

Jeremy and I have gradually resumed training again for Ikkyu testing whenever class time permits, and will soon be adding to this a Saturday class in which Sensei would like to take ukemi for each of us in order to help us fine-tune our technique (and get some extra cardio out of it as well). Sweet deal, huh? I'm really looking forward to it; the few times we had been able to do this in the past were quite invaluable. It's amazing what insights and perspective on your movement that you can obtain from a skilled yudansha uke.

I'm sure I may have mentioned it here before, but I don't find myself so preoccupied by the minute technical aspects of practice as much anymore. Don't get me wrong, I don't think in the least that I've "arrived" or anything, or that I don't think about them at all --- I do, particularly when learning different versions of technique (and I have yet to memorize all the varying entries). I just notice these days that I am getting a little more conscious of where the energy is going, such as trying to make sure that there aren't any "dead spots"/breaks in the tension throughout my movement. Whereas before I think I was so concerned with what I was doing with my body, now it's more about how I'm doing it. So there have definitely been transitions all around.

Another thing I'm slowly working on is incorporating more power into my movements. I know, I know. Sensei has been saying this to me for some time now and I'm sure I've been blogging enough about how I need to do it. But I think in this particular area I really end up generating "more heat than light". Whereas Jeremy doesn't seem to be having any trouble working towards power, I find myself really faltering. See, as strange as it must seem, I'm not really what you would call an aggressive person. I'm assertive if I need to be, but often feel awkward using force. Punching is one thing (I used to box quite a bit), but in Aikido technique...sometimes it just doesn't feel right. I know Sensei says that every brown belt needs to start examining the limits of their power by throwing more powerfully. You don't learn how much is just enough until you do it. I guess I'm just scared of doing it in the first place. In part I wish we had more members in the dojo who I could feel confident about throwing without hurting anyone. I know Jeremy takes good ukemi and so does Lisa for the most part --- and yet more often than not I find myself not wanting to throw hard unless it gets to the point where Sensei has to say to me directly, "throw harder" or "go faster". Whatever the case, I need to find a way to balance practice for myself somehow, otherwise I know I'm depriving myself of an important aspect of growth in my technique. I need to work faster in order to be able to respond to faster, more powerful attacks while still maintaining balance, stability and control through it all.

It's completely different for me when it comes to close-quarters speed work. I really love having to push myself to concentrate hard and be fully in the moment in order to block fast, consecutive punches like we do during Tuesday night drills. These evenings are a really good, practical complement to the traditional practice we do the rest of the week. I guess a lot of what I like is that your responses aren't really structured --- they're free-flowing, creative and adaptive (maybe even a little Takemusu Aiki?) They really feed off your natural instincts and help you adapt and respond to random, unplanned attacks and energy. My scarred knuckles don't even mind the punching drills so much anymore. At the very least, they've become indicators that I'm punching properly.

Gosh, this was random. I guess this is what comes of not having posted in so long...there's just so much to say, it's like I want to work it all in! Suffice it to say, I'm still around --- maybe not so much on AikiWeb as I'd like --- but definitely still on the mats; still sweating, still bleeding, still crying, and of course: still seeking Zanshin.
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