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Yay! I passed my 5th kyu test yesterday! So, now I'm an official member of the USAF and I've got a new stiff neon yellow belt to wear.
The test was pretty rough, though, mainly because I'm still recovering from a nasty cold I had Tuesday and Wednesday. During practice yesterday morning before the test, I had to keep stopping because of excess nasal and throat congestion. That happened during the test too, and I couldn't stop. The result being that my mouth became incredibly dry because I couldn't breath through my nose. My endurance was also mostly gone. Stupid cold.
But, with the valiant efforts of my ukes (sensei replaced one right in the middle of the test) I managed to pull through. I'm very glad to have passed my first test, and I definetly hope that I won't be sick just days before the next one.
I was just perusing some of my older entries, and there's lots of places where I talk about my front ukemi and I thought I'd throw in a quick update. I think I can finally consider my rolls to be at the low end of the "good" grade. I pretty much don't think about them too much any more other than I always look forward to techniques where I get to do them now. I used to be terrified of front ukemi and now they're great fun!
My right side is still my "bad" side, but it's about 90% as good as my left and I don't really think too much about it any more. Every once and a while my head will touch the mat during a roll, but that's becoming more rare.
The point of this entry isn't to brag. I think it's more like, if I can learn to do front ukemi, then ANYONE can!
Does anyone else get disgusted (not really) by beginners who start off doing excellent front ukemi? I guess some people are just naturally better at it.
Yes, I'm still very much still doing Aikido, I have just been lazy about updating the journal here. I think I am enjoying Aikido now more than I have at any point since I began. I still don't feel like I'm particularly good at it, but I have noticed improvements, and I don't really expect to feel proficient for many years. Just doing Aikido is enough to keep me motivated and interested.
Some interesting things since the last time I updated:
I actually got to be uke for sensei for a demonstration for the first time ever a month and half ago or so when the class was basically just beginners. It wasn't a big huge deal, but still a first. Sensei is always picking any of us at random during class and using us for uke. It's always fun and sometimes scary. He did a shihonage on me that actually lifted me off the ground at the point where my hand went past my shoulder. That was interesting...
We are having a very important visitor lead a seminar in our dojo in March, so Sensei has been sprucing up the dojo. He bought all new mats and we worked hard last weekend getting everything set up for them. They are much harder than the old ones and everyone was afraid that doing ukemi would really suck, but now that I've worked on them for a week, they're not so bad. Just as Sensei said, I feel much more sure-footed on them which should go a long way towards saving my ankles. These mats don't fold, so there's no holes in the mats where they meet They also make the dojo l
I survived my first experience with Koshi Nage today. This is almost my 1 year anniversary since I started learning aikido (though I was out three months with my ankle injury). Today, I think maybe since I was the only white belt in class (small class today), sensei decided to teach some Koshi Nage.
In case you're not in the know, do a google image search for "Koshi Nage" or "Koshinage." In either case, you'll see scary pics of people being thrown. It means "hip throw" and it involves nage lifting uke with his hips and then throwing him on the ground. There's not a really easy way to take ukemi other than kinda sliding off nage and slapping your hand on the mat.
Not only did I survive the technique, but I thought it was kinda fun after I realized that it didn't hurt nearly as bad as it looks, though it will probably be a while before I feel comfortable with it. One time, sensei demonstrated the technique on me (oh no!!) and I did ok, but when I slapped the mat, I kind of hit my arm elbow down first, which hurt a bit and I think if I did that any faster I could have easily broken my arm.
Either way, I'm no longer a Koshi Nage virgin. Could I actually be learning break-falls next?? (probably not for a while).
In case anyone is interested, I'm still wearing the super brace for my ankle. I had been thinking that maybe it wasn't really necessary any more since my foot almost never bothers me in class, but I have noticed that if I walk around with just my sand
Sunday morning's class was pretty darned intense. We did a lot of techniques where uke was supposed to immediately get back up and attack nage over and over again without pause. This is a great exercise, but it wears me out very quickly!
After 45 minutes of practice like this (including a lot of suwari waza) I was pretty darned tired. Then sensei showed us an ushiro choke hold where uke grabs nage under the arms and tries to put his hands back around nage's throat (I think it's a half nelson). Sensei told us that it was kind of a ki exercise and that if done properly uke shouldn't be able to get his hands all the way around your neck.
I had read about how being relaxed can really help your aikido, especially with ki stuff like this. Being as tired as I was, I guess my ki was flowing rather well, because my partner couldn't lift his hands anywhere near my neck and I was exerting no effort all. It was pretty weird and cool. Maybe using ki is doing that in a situation where you aren't tired at all.
Weekend before last, my family and I went to San Diego and visited Sea World, the zoo and the Wild Animal Park. At the Zoo and Wild Animal Park I noticed that it was no big deal at all for me to go up all of the steep hills. In fact I ran up a lot of them racing my 8 year old son. It's a great feeling to be in so much better shape than before.
Yesterday in class, Lindsay (my wife) wore a hakama for the first time. Now that she's ranked she's expected to wear a hakama in class. We didn't even know this was a requirement, but apparently some traditionalists feel that it is proper, and we don't really have a problem with it. Either way, it was amusing to watch her try to figure out how to do techniques wearing all that extra fabric. I'm also a bit jealous because by the time I get to wear a hakama (10, 15 years?) she'll be an old pro. It's all good, and I'm proud of how well she's doing.
We did lots of front ukemi stuff yesterday and I didn't do too bad. I feel like I'm getting better and better, just very slowly. I've heard that lots of people have a favorite side for doing front ukemi and I'm no exception. Doing rolls feels just fine on my left side, but it just feels horribly wrong on my right side. I still do the roll ok (more or less) but going into it just feels wrong. I think the solution is about a million more rolls on my right side. I'll get right on it.
The next few months is going to be tough for me and aikido. My son starts playing baseball
This morning, I weighed myself and noticed that I've lost about 5 pounds since the last time I looked. I pretty much have to chalk this up entirely to aikido because I haven't particularly been watching what I eat and the only regular exercize I get is Aikido (2 to 3 times a week). I've also noticed much better muscle tone and I'm even getting muscle definition in places I've never had muscle definition. I'm certainly not muscle-bound, but I do think I look like I'm in much better shape than I've probably ever been in.
Last night's class was a lot of fun as usual. We concentrated on tsuki techniques including some kaiten nage stuff. While I'm doing much, much better with my front ukemi, I'm still finding ukemi in kaiten nage to be very akward. I think it's because I just haven't done it enough. My front ukemi is also frustrating because one side is super easy to roll on, but the other still feels weird. At least I'm not landing on my side anymore!
I'm looking forward to my rank promotion which should be coming up sometime in the next few months. Now that Lindsay (my wife) is ranked, she should be able to give me a lot of help. It should be fun, and I'm pretty darned confident that I'll be able to do well.
Tuesday night's class was my introduction to the wonderful world of pressure points (aside from wrist locks) in Aikido. I think Aikido is the only activity I've ever done where I can experience sharp pain and hilarity at the same time.
One technique that I got to demo with sensei involved me doing tsuki and sensei doing irimi and going down to one knee and basically pushing me down onto my stomach. From there he applied his yonkyo point to a pressure point in my calf. Ouch! Wow - that was a surprisingly intense pain which caused me to slap the mat with both hands. It was also really funny. Sensei kept applying the pressure over and over causing me to slap the mat like a fish out of water. It was more fun when I got to apply it to my uke a few minutes later.
Yesterday's class was the first class in a long time where I needed to do front ukemi and I think I did relatively well. It didn't hurt that my wife, now my sempai at gokkyu, was my nage. I can't remember the name of the technique, but it's the one where you hold uke's hand and put your other arm under their arm, lift up and throw down. Wheeee! At least I didn't get hurt and I think a few of my rolls were decent. I think after a few thousand more times I'll begin to get the hang of it.
Last night after practice, I did a bunch of front ukemi practice. Those rolls are the main thing keeping me from being confident about going to aikido class. I'm always worried that sensei is going to have us practice a technique with front ukemi. I think, though, finally, that I'm beginning to get the hang of it. The first roll I did last night was my old style barrel roll and I ended up landing pretty hard on my side. That hurts! I weigh too much to be doing that. I compensated and tried again. And again, and again and again. I didn't land on my side like that again, and according to Lindsay (now 5th kyu) I was doing pretty good. At least greatly improved.
As with all things in Aikido, I think if I can just do front ukemi another thousand ten thousand times, I'll be awesome!