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This weekend was a LONG weekend for me. Friday night I helped with a seminar hosted by SCAI (I am a board member). My duty was to assist with photography (which I love doing!) Shozo Sato Sensei gave an interesting talk about "Active Empty Space" and how it is utilized in art (shodo and sumi-e). Saturday I got up at 7:15 a.m. in order to go to iaido and aikido class. Iaido went well. For aikido we worked on: uchikaiten sankyo, iriminage, kotegaeshi and a variation of sumiotoshi all from tsuki. Aikido was an abbreviated class because we had to transform the dojo into a place that would hold the shodo and sumi-e workshop that SCAI was hosting.
As soon as class was over, we pulled out a tarp and covered up the mats. Sensei then had 3 of us walk to this church a couple blocks away to pick up these heavy metal tables so we could carry them back to the dojo. Let me tell you…. those tables were abnormally heavy! It didn't help that I am shorter then the other people who were carrying the tables, so I had to lift the table up more then they did so it wouldn't drag on the ground. By the time we got those tables back to the dojo my poor arms were tired. We then set the tables up on bean bags to prevent them from damaging the mats and then placed thick mats around for the chairs to be set upon. We then brought in all the chairs. At this point I was able to take a break and I hurried up and chowed down my Olive Garden salad that I had brought with me (knowing I wouldn't be leaving the dojo till after 5 and I ate breakfast at 7:30 a.m.)
By this time Shozo Sato had arrived and I began to help finish setting up the dojo (put felt down on all the tables, set out paper towels on each table, put a bucket in the back of the room for inky water. My sensei took me downstairs and gave me some of his personal sumi-e brushes, ink well and dishes to use and then had me set up my spot right next to him. It wasn't long after that, that people began to arrive. The next four hours were a blur as we all worked diligently on the formal style of calligraphy (we had 5 characters we were each writing). I found out that I really enjoy doing calligraphy, but discovered that I am horrid at it. Shozo Sato walked around the room and helped each student. He would put his hand on top of yours and help you write the character(s) that you were working on. It was great to get the feel of the stroke. He kept saying writing calligraphy is like dancing, but this dance just kept eluding me! Practice, practice, practice…..
Sunday I arrived at the dojo at 8:30 to help prepare for the second day of the seminar. There wasn't really too much to do though, which was good because I was still half asleep. Today we were going to work on the semi-formal style of writing and we would be doing the same characters that we had been working on the day before. It is basically the equivalent of writing partly in print and partly in cursive. I had a bit of trouble at first, but by the end of the day I was really starting to get the feeling of it. I had begun to flow and my strokes began to have varying widths to them. After trying both styles of writing, I have decided that I like the semi-formal method of writing better then the traditional form. I am seriously considering taking up shodo as a hobby. The only problem is it is expensive to start out. A good quality brush is about $50 and then you have to get ink, an inkwell, paper, books, a paper weight, felt, etc. Maybe I will put a few things on my Christmas list.
Once the seminar came to an end, the clean-up process began. I went around and collected everyone's trash and put it in the recycling bin. I went around and picked up all the felt, took down the tables, picked up the bean bags and began stacking up the chairs. Thankfully, sensei said we would be taking the tables to the church in his minivan, because my arms and shoulders were sore from lifting the day before. I ended up running to the church though because he had to pick someone else up first. Running two blocks doesn't seem like much, but I was huffing and puffing a bit by the time I got there (partly because I was determined to beat them there). I despise running. I am always congested due to my allergies and when I run, my nose gets runny and my mouth and throat get all yucky from the drainage. Kind of hard to breathe with all of that in your nose and throat! I tried to be all nonchalant about it as I helped unload the tables and carry them into the churches storage area though. I thought I was going to have to run back (oh dread…) but the other guy said he would walk since it was so nice out.
Once we got back to the dojo, I helped load up all the chairs into the minivan. I asked sensei if he needed help unloading them, but he declined saying that I had done enough. The truth is, I would have gladly done more. The price of this two day seminar was around $300 and he let me attend for free. I had shown interest in it, but with the recent move, my husband and I just don't have the cash. Sensei, out of the kindness of his heart invited me to attend anyway and offered me a full scholarship. My husband says that sensei is fond of me. That may be true, but it certainly isn't because of my aikido skills. I know that I am not a great student, but I am a dedicated student and I think that plays a part. After everyone left I took some photos of the dojo. I couldn't help but look around and notice the "active empty" space that I had learned about this weekend.
I finally got home around 2:30 and then proceeded to finish up two loads of laundry that my husband wasn't able to get to. At one point I heard the washer sounding like it was unbalanced so I walked upstairs. I discovered that the leveler thingy came out from under the washer. There wasn't much I could do about it, so I watched the washer until it was done. I then went to go back downstairs…. only I didn't get there the way I planned. Somehow my foot slipped out from under me (I was in the process of stepping down and had one foot on the step and the other was in the air). Next thing I know I fall on my butt and bump and slam my way down about eight steps before I manage to stop myself. I sat there on the landing grabbing my butt as my faithful shih tzu (who witnessed the entire ordeal as she was going down the steps next to me) looks at me like "What the hell is your problem?" HAHA. Now, you may be asking "Why didn't you grab the banister?" Well, it isn't up at the moment because we had to take it down when we moved in because the furniture wouldn't make it up the stairs with it up. Putting it up to take it back down to move out and then putting it back up again will most likely make the holes in the wall big, so we have decided to keep it down. Anyway, I am fine. I had a sore butt, but other then that I was alright. I just relaxed and went with it. It could have been a lot worse (could have smacked my head or tumbled down the stairs), so I am not really complaining about it.
To close this entry, I learned a few things this weekend: the first is that backwards ukemi is quite useful when falling down stairs (I have now tested my ukemi being thrown at about 25 mph, slipping on ice, falling off of a roof and falling down stairs). I have discovered that falling really isn't that big of a deal anymore provided you stay relaxed and don't panic. Those are easier said then done, but I have managed to do both of those each time I have fallen. The second thing I learned is that shodo has great similarities with aikido and iaido. All are a beautiful dance and require perfect technique and timing. Like the sword, you must not hold the brush too tightly or too loosely. The brush is a bird that you must hold firmly enough so as to not allow it to fly away, but loose enough so that it isn't being crushed by your hands. It requires a firm, yet relaxed hand and the utmost concentration. Like aikido, shodo requires the ability to maintain constant fluidity. The brush needs to be able to move freely in all directions. The brush is constantly going up and down, left and right, and it's frequently moving towards and away from the paper in an attempt to add more or less pressure as necessary.
Like both arts, shodo requires a proper stance and breathing is of utmost importance. These are just a few of the similarities between them. I am not saying that practicing shodo will necessarily improve my martial arts abilities, but I am saying that there are a lot of concepts that are similar. Take the time to look around you and see the similarities that exist between aikido and your daily life. If you can learn to recognize or carry a concept you learned from aikido over to another area of your life, then you will be constantly enriching yourself. Before you know it, you will be practicing aikido in all aspects of your life without even being cognizant of it. That is what makes aikido so beautiful. In the end, don't we all want to be able to effortlessly dance our way through life; adapt at a moments notice and modify our steps to accommodate the change in music that life so often throws at us?