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I had an interesting realization this morning. It came as a result of something I was doing last night in my regular classes. I have some students who've reached a point in their training where I can no longer put off teaching them high (break) falls. So, I was taking them through the steps I went through to learn them:
Lay on the mat slapping right and left alternating. The idea is to slap hard and learn to hit the mat as hard as you can without it being painful. This isn't about toughening up your arm, it's about hitting the right way with your arm actually flat. It sounds easy, but some people really struggle at this point.
Throw yourself from side to side with your feet and slap as you land. This is hard work and I discovered it's nearly as good as situps for making the muscles in your stomach tired.
Forward roll with a slap. Instead of finishing the roll and coming up, slap the mat and stop.
Backward roll with a slap. Roll back and slap.
Then comes the real challenge. I hadn't done it in years, I realized, and I wasn't sure I still could. But, I tried. I threw myself forward into...
...a pretty respectable high fall. It didn't hurt nearly as much as I feared. My landing was a bit rusty, but mostly together. I did it a few more times to demonstrate the point even though I knew none of my students were ready for that step. They just
needed to see where these exercises were going. That's really why I kept doing it.
I'm lying now and I was lying then.
Only I didn't realize it was a lie until this morning.
Here's the thing:
When I was younger (teens, early twenties) I loved to do high falls just because it was fun and I could. No macho proving anything, no practical effort to protect myself. Nope, it just felt good. I was lighter and younger then and they didn't hurt.
They hurt a little bit now.
But they're still fun! I realized last night that the pain came from being out of practice more than from being older or fatter. And what a rush! A little practice and the pain will stop. I might get lighter as a result of the exercise as well.
So what else about Aikido do I do just because it feels good? A lot of things, when I think about it:
Wrist stretches. Most people who know my are surprised to find that I can bend my wrists nearly double. I've been accused of being double-jointed. No such luck. I've just been doing wrist stretches for so many years that it's really affected the limberness of my wrists. Why do I do them? To make my wrists more limber? Well that's nice, but no. I do them because they feel good.
Several versions of kokyu nage. If you asked me why these throws feel good I could not begin to tell you. But they do. Both as nage and uke. Personally, though, I think we are dealing with kokyu manifest.
Sankyo pin. Having someone do this pin on you may be the best shoulder stretch ever invented. I just lay there and let them stretch as far as I can. I can just feel the muscles in my back relax and go "Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!!'. Pain I didn't even realize I was experiencing goes away.
And I'm betting I could ad to this list pretty much daily for the next several months if I really wanted to. But I shouldn't think it necessary.
I'd bet I'm not alone in this. In fact, I know that I'm not. The realization this morning - for me - was how completely hedonistic I am in my practice of Aikido. I also realized that the things which have always felt good are the things I've become good at. Not a coincidence, I'm sure.
So, once again with feeling:
"Discipline is not the enemy of fun!" - Dan Matlock