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I am the type of person who trains at the dojo four days a week religiously. You can pretty much bet that on any given Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday, that I will be there on the mat. Well, this all came to a tumble last week. I almost missed class Wednesday because someone had the audacity to go off and stab a few people and I had to respond to the call out to process the scene. I barely made it home in time and we were running a little late when we got to the dojo. Thursday, I had to respond to another call out (really part of the same stabbing for a vehicle process). While processing the truck, I couldn't help but realize that my throat was hurting and my nose kept running. I didn't think much of it. Thursday night I go to class and all the while during class, I can feel my congestion getting worse and the post nasal drip is making me cough more. I go home and go to bed. Wake up Friday and decide to stay home from work. Lounged around, sneezing and blowing my nose like crazy and feeling just plain exhausted.
Saturday morning, my alarm goes off at 7 a.m. and I realize that I can't go to class in my condition. I call the guy I give a ride and let him know that I won't be able to go today. I I go back to sleep and awaken three hours later. I go downstairs and sulk on the couch wishing I were in class. How am I supposed to get my aikido fix when I am stuck at home miserable!?! There is only one solution (and it is a decent one). I pop in a dvd that I am borrowing that has Chiba sensei demonstrating 5th and 4th kyu testing requirements and some other random things on there. For the most part, I found watching it helpful, but there were a few techniques that just amplified my confusion. I feel as if I saw 18 variations for nikyo for 4th kyu. As far as I know, there are only a few required for my examination. Then again, the posted requirements are not all inclusive. We have two lists and they don't match. Supposedly the two lists were combined into one, yet things are still left off this list. Not to mention, sensei has said that he likes to ask for tsuki kotegaeshi and a few other things that aren't on either of these lists. Basically, it is open to interpretation I suppose.
Well, at least I got some aikido into my day…. even if I wasn't practicing myself. Sunday pretty much went by the same. I went to work Monday feeling a bit better. Went in Tuesday feeling well enough to work, but exhausted. Part of the reason may be that I ran out of my thyroid medication. Stupid insurance plan switch and had to get a new scrip. Gah. Within a couple hours at work, I was feeling miserable. I decided that I would stick it out till noon. On my way home from work, I took a detour to get my new meds. By the time I got home, I had a full blown migraine. I go inside and try to be as quiet as possible (we put our shih tzu away in a room) in hopes that she won't realize I am home. I go upstairs and take my migraine med, which I usually refuse unless absolutely necessary and climb into bed. I put my head under the covers to block out the light and to help keep myself warm. To my surprise, Meili (the previously mentioned shih tzu) is still quiet. I close my eyes and hope the medicine kicks in soon before my head explodes.
To my utter horror, Meili begins barking. I lay in bed, hoping she will stop after thinking I am gone. After a few minutes of barking, I can't take anymore. Each bark is a sonic boom crashing into my skull. I drag myself out of bed and go to her. I lean down over the gate, pet her, give her smoochies and tell her to be good. This is usually our "good bye" routine. I am hoping that this will trick her into thinking I am leaving and be quiet. I go back into the bedroom and slide into bed. Within a few minutes she is barking again. I put my head under the covers again to wait out the pain. Luckily, after a minute she stops barking and I hear her lay down. Thank you! I close my eyes and eventually drift off to sleep (the meds have a sedative in them). I wake up around 1:30 to a rapid succession of about four "Droid" sounds (my phone's alert to text messaging). I groggily answer my friend and then turn the sound off my phone. I quickly text the guy I give a ride to and let him know that I won't be making it to class tonight and close my phone. I drift off to sleep again… the next time I wake up, I glance at my phone. To my surprise, it is after 4:30! It is a good thing I wasn't going to class since I am usually leaving at this time. I give my head a diagnostic check (feels okay) and jump out of bed. Meili has been in her room since 8 this morning. The poor thing probably has to pee!
I let her out of the room. Her tail wags and smoochies tell me that she forgave me for the error. We go downstairs and I take her out. The rest of my evening consisted of lounging on the couch and entertaining (or being entertained by) Meili. I sulk (yet again), wishing that I could be in class. Lately there have been very few people in class and I am convinced that the new kid will show up and not have a partner to work with. There really isn't anything I can do about it though, so I need to just let it be. When it is time for bed, I put clothes in the bathroom in preparation for work tomorrow. I figure if I am proactive about it, then maybe I will feel better tomorrow. I climb into bed. I wake up Wednesday morning and call work letting them know I am going to stay home. I am usually a little weird after having such a bad migraine. Turns out, I felt rather well by the end of the day. I was still pretty congested, had a runny nose and was coughing, but I decided that I was going to class tonight.
Luckily, it was a fairly slow going class. Only me and the yudansha I give a ride to were there for the first hour. So, we went slow and worked on Sansho 1. I am sad to say that I didn't remember very much from the previous time we worked on it. I have come to realization that the jo is beginning to grow on me. I used to think it was a pain in the butt, but now…. now I kind of appreciate its endless possibilities. I have also worked with it a lot more over time, so I am becoming a bit more comfortable with it. To be honest, I have kind of swung the other way and right now I like the jo a bit more then the bokken. Part of it is probably because I am having problems with my bokken, so it isn't getting any brownie points with me. New errors in my technique have begun popping up and to my dismay; I can't seem to fix them. I go from one extreme to the other without being able to find the middle. Grr….
For the second class another student came in. We took this class slow as well. We did quite a bit of suwariwaza. The other student will be testing for shodan at summer camp, so we have been doing a lot of things that will help benefit him. It is also neat for me because we do things that we don't do often. Today though, we stuck to simpler things, like katadori ikkyo and nikyo and then went on to yokomenuchi ikkyo, kotegaeshi and a few other things. Eventually, we worked on some tanto-dori techniques. I am sad to say that I am absolutely horrendous with these. We were working on techniques from a yokomenuchi attack. A few of them I was somewhat familiar with, but others were just awful. At one point I had uke bent over backwards in a headlock and I dropped to one knee and was trying to get the knife out of his hand. Well, next thing I knew, he was falling down on me. Oh well. At the end of class, I decided that I wouldn't stay for iaido. I was feeling worn out and didn't want to push my luck. After all, I am hoping to show up for tomorrow's class. I told sensei that I wasn't going to stay and told him that if I felt the same way as today, I would be here tomorrow.
Thursday is pretty much the same. Feeling a bit better, but still tired. I find myself wondering why I am tired. Am I tired because of my new meds and not taking any for two days? Am I tired because of my allergy meds? Am I tired because I am weak and am expending energy in class? The truth is, all of these are a strong possibility. In the middle of May, I go for another blood test to check my levels, so I will find out then if my medicine needs adjusting. I know the allergy medicine makes me sleepy, so that could be it. I am also fighting a battle with allergies, so my body is compromised and weak… so that could be it too.
Despite my dragging body, I decide that I am going to class. Let's face it… my name is Ashley and I am addicted to aikido. There are worse things in life I could be addicted to and I did take two days off of class! Turns out that the first hour is another small class. There's two yudansha (one is teaching), the first kyu, me and the new guy. The yudansha who is teaching pretty much works with the new guy while the other three of us work together. Luckily, the class is slow going. I had three tissues in my, so luckily, I was able to blow my nose. At one point, it was my turn to run out and grab the yudansha's wrist. I tried to hurry and he teased me by saying "Hurry up runny nose!". It was actually a good class. Towards the end we were working on ushiro ryotedori. At the very end, he just told us to do variations. All I could figure out was ikkyo, sankyo, kotegaeshi and kokyunage. I attempted a few other things, but they never really worked out. I guess that isn't bad considering I haven't done vary many techniques from that attack.
For the second hour, it was just me, the two yudansha and sensei. He had us work on a few iaido form that he did at a seminar with Didier Boyet. It seems like I have some more work cut out for me. After that, sensei had us do some partner work. For this, I was partnered with sensei for the remainder of the class. What a treat! This also allowed the yudansha to practice at a higher level as well. We did some responses and then we went to responses with someone attacking with the bokken and you empty handed. I had a bit of a problem getting my hand into the correct position at times, or not turning my hip enough. Sensei was very patient with me though. He then had me attack him and was throwing me into rolls or putting me into shihonage. It was rather fun. Before I knew it, the class was over and we were bowing out. In a way I was glad though. I was tired and I had used up all three tissues I had tucked into my gi earlier this evening.
On the way home I had a good conversation with the yudansha. I should really create aliases for everyone instead of saying yudansha and referring to kyu grades or new guy. I had created some names in the past, but I forget them! I need a cheat sheet really. We were talking about the quality of movement and how it is expected to increase as you go up in rank. Somehow we got onto the topic of testing and I mentioned that I wouldn't want to be testing for shodan this summer. The guy testing has a lot to cover before this summer. I mentioned that I wouldn't want to test for shodan unless I felt like I had everything down pat and then mentioned that I don't want to test for 4th kyu because I don't feel confident in the soundness of my techniques. He told me that when he was younger and training up through the ranks that he was often beyond the test he was testing for. I mentioned that I wish I had that problem. He looked at me and said "You do." I was skeptical and told him how I fumble with nikyo and sankyo all the time, so how could I pass a test that those are the main components.
He then went on to explain that at the lower ranks, they just want to see if you can get the technique. Can you get there and eventually complete the technique? He told me that it isn't until 2nd and 1st kyu that the quality of the technique is really an issue. At those grades, you should be able to apply the technique with more fluidity and you shouldn't stumble over the hand changes as much. I couldn't really argue with that logic, however I don't think it is much of an excuse for my lack of execution. Sure, I don't expect to look like a sandan, but geez…. I would think after doing nikyo so much that I should at least be able to get the hand locked into my shoulder and my hands in the correct position quicker then I am.
I guess in the end I am holding myself up to higher expectations. I don't see that as a bad thing. Heck, for all I know sensei and the yudansha expect more out of me as well. I stumble along, yet I continue to show up and train. Ever diligent in hopes that one day I will actually be able "see the light" and it will get a bit easier. Supposedly this 4th kyu test is coming up soon, but that has been said since I tested for 5th kyu in November. I am in no hurry. I see no rush to move up in rank. I mean, what is the point? It is like becoming another year older. I didn't really feel a difference when I was told I was now a 5th kyu. The only benefit I see about a couple of us testing for 4th kyu is to make the dojo more diverse rank-wise. We have five/six yudansha (excluding sensei) and they are mostly nidan and sandan, we have two 1st kyu, two 2nd kyu and after that there are a handful of 5th kyu and a couple 6th kyu. The 3rd and 4th kyu aren't represented, but that doesn't necessarily mean I have to fill that void….. does it?