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After five hours on the mats in two days, I was a little concerned about spending another three hours training at the dojo. But, and this always happens with me, once I got there, my spirit lifted and I caught the buzz.
That seems to happen from time to time, and I'm not sure why. I'm at work, it's nearing the end of the day. I know my dogi is in my bag, and it's only a short train ride to the dojo, but I second guess myself. "Do I really feel up to it? How's my body doing? Can I make it through n number of classes today"
Of course, stepping into the dojo washes all that doubt away. Once I've got my dogi on, my training mindset clicks into place and I'm happy to be there. I see my friends. I see my sensei. I look at the picture of O Sensei and the photograph of Toyoda Shihan, and I know I chose the right path for the day.
It's kind of a mystery why I second guess myself. Every ounce of my spirit loves training, but there are moments when I ask myself if I really want to do it today.
With only one exception, when I hurt my back, I've always been up for it. Always.
Chicago is playing games with us. We had a surprisingly warm evening last night. The wind blowing off the lake was amazingly refreshing on the way to class. I arrived at the dojo about a half-hour before class and was able to relax and chat a bit with Matt in the office.
Erickson Sensei took us through warm-up exercises and sort of a break-fall roll which we call roll-outs. It's a roll, but you end up in yoko ukemi at the end. We did a very quick katatori nikkyo omote review, the technique we did last Thursday, and then moved on to something new.
Then we did lots and lots of katatetori taisabaki toshu. It was only myself and Matt for the first class and we did the taisabaki over and over again until to the outsider it must have looked like we were doing an abbreviated waltz. Grab, step back, scoop, step-in, step back. Around and around we went.
I didn't catch the name of the applied technique, but it was basically our taisabaki with a deep step in, putting one arm under uke's bicep while the other one has a sankyo-ish control grip on the wrist. I remember Sensei commenting how it looked like sankyo, but it was not called that. A deep step forward throws uke into a roll.
At some point Matt began to wince when he took any sort of roll. He had hurt his neck the day before, so we slowed everything down a lot and he made it to the end of the class.
Class two, weapons. Matt left the mats and two students joined in. We did jo suburi, which was going all well UNTIL we had to switch from left to right. Normally a shomenuchi with jo (at least how we do it) begins with the jo in front of your left foot. You lift, grab hand over hand, lift over the head, and step in to strike. I'd done it in both weapons classes I take a decent amount. Same thing with yokomenuchi strike. Swing it back into your waiting right palm, lift, hand change and spin, step in to strike.
That's all fine and good, and those are comfortable for me. But then we switched to starting everything from the right food, and the chaos ensued. Shomenuchi was just ok. But my yokomenuchi was a mess. My hands were not playing well with my feet, my strikes were wobbly, and I kept forgetting how to do the hand change.
I'm right handed, but it was like trying to write with my left hand.
Eventually, first doing it by a three count, then doing it in a single count, we all got in sync and were able to strike comfortably. My wrists kept favoring the position they normally work in from the left-start, but that's something to work on.
We did some walking suburi, back and forth across the length of the matts in many patterns...munetsuki then yokomenuchi, then gyaku yokomenuchi, then munetsuki on that side etc. Too many patterns to remember, but slowly we did them all.
Then we did one of the kumijo techniques. Not sure what the name is, nor am I sure how exactly it worked, but there were some interesting blocks with jo that I'd never done before, and my partner was quite good with both his intent to strike and his blocks.
That's the scary and the interesting part about working with weapons. I've pretty much over the fear of being hit by someone (been there, nothing serious, now I'm NEVER on the power line when the strike comes!), but I'm more worried about hitting someone when I'm the one doing the strike.
With Peter (yes, we have the same name) we really connected well when we were working together. He was striking exactly where my head should have been, and my blocks were landing right. When we switched roles, the same was happening for me. I wish we could have done it for an hour or two more because the art of weapon techniques, especially the paired ones, is one of my favorite things about Aikido. Every move, every eye-blink, and every hand grip matters. You must be hyper-aware, yet not pumped up on adrenalin. Keep weight underside, extend ki, keep one point, relax completely.
Weapons, for me, make those four concepts start to come into focus.
Class three was an intro class that focused a lot on rolling, sayu undo and sayu chouyaku undo. My forward rolls are slowly moving into the one handed realm of rolling. My right side is better than my left, but both are getting more even and straight. Sensei told me to work on not touching both hands to the mat during the roll, just use the forward one but keep the second arm unbendable and in position.
Backward rolls are coming along well, but I still seem to thump my back a bit when I go down. My polishing point, she said, was to kick my legs out and get my knees as far apart so I can land on my food during a backward roll.
If I only had mats in my apartment... :-)
Then we went onto sayu undo. Sensei gave us tons of pointers on foot placement to guide your knee, arm position, and she kept stressing the need to relax your shoulders and square them to the front.
Applying it to a katatekosatori grab became the perfect way for me to practice more yoko ukemi. I'll know tomorrow morning if I wrecked myself or not, but I suspect I did well because my landings felt right.
I just glanced at the calendar as I was writing and realized that next week on Thursday I'll have been training for six months.
Almost can't process that in my head.
Six months ago I was sweating in the summer heat on the mats, in a t-shirt and sweatpants, trying very hard to listen to Erickson Sensei through the pain in my ankles from sitting seiza.
Six months ago my evenings were filled with endless movie watching, clubbing, and internet surfing.
Six months ago I was walking around in the world, living outside my body with my eyes closed.
Six months ago I thought I knew what Aikido was.
Today it's clear that I might never know what Aikido is, but if I'm lucky, I'll get the chance to experience it bit my bit.
hontouni chiri mo tsumoreba, yama to naru
Truly, even grains of sand can form a mountain.