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A few days ago I was reading some of the past newsletter articles on the Aikido of San Diego website, and was in a writing kind of mood, so I rewrote Sensei's "Subject of the Season" article from the Spring 2009 newsletter as a poem, just for fun. (This one actually came before the one I posted a few days ago.) I thought you might enjoy it.
More Than Technique by Linda Eskin
Derived from Dave Goldberg Sensei's Spring09 Newsletter
Words are not the essence of poetry.
Techniques are not the expression of Aikido
Poetry evokes, conveys, inspires.
Aikido balances, grounds, frees.
Brushes and paint are not the artwork.
The toddler, barely walking, dances freely.
Express your Aikido fully, from the beginning.
You know how being cooped up inside all day makes you want to run and play once you get outdoors? I think writing deadly dull things like software specs does the same for my writing. I have to run around and play. I've been reading some of our dojo newsletters online, and although they are written in prose, I hear what's said as poetry. So because I tend to rewrite anything that crosses my path, I've been running around and playing with rewriting newsletters as poems. I can't say if this a "good" poetry, but I hope it touches you.
I had my exam for 6th kyu this morning. You can see the whole thing on video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZR4eKhpRXE Commentary and feedback are invited, of course. (This is the same video I posted on Facebook, in case you've already seen it there.)
At our dojo (www.aikidosd.com) we start as unranked. The first test is for 6th kyu.
The exam covered:
- Ukemi: forward & back roll
- Katate-dori: tai no henko, shihonage (omote & ura)
- Shomen-uchi: tenkan & irimi, ikkyo (omote & ura)
- Jiyuwaza: grabs
- Suwariwaza: kokyu dosa
What I've been telling my non-Aikidoka friends is that this test is a little like graduating from kindergarten. I had to show that I basically know my colors and can tie my own shoes. Simple stuff, but hard for a beginner to master.
Most of the feedback I got was very positive. There were a few hiccups:
- I was mentally off-kilter from having just run back from the restroom (there had been a line). Everyone was already seated on the mat, and my exam was first. So it was run back, sit down, get up, go!
- I was winded from rushing, and it took a few minutes to recover from that at the start.
- I got dizzy/spaced from rolling, so blew my first hanmi (for the shomen-uchi tenkan), and then almost fell over. (D'oh!)
- I was not expecting to have to do shikko (knee walking), so I had no idea why Sensei was asking me if my knees were injured. I think that was my only real deer-in-the-headlights, "
This Saturday morning I will arrive at a milestone of sorts on my Aikido path - my first test, for 6th kyu. I've done 36 training days over the course of four and one half months. I can't believe it's only been that long - it feels like a lifetime (in a good way). Some reflections on my journey so far:
Early on I injured my shoulder, and I have recovered completely from that injury. I have lost 20 pounds. I worked with a personal trainer/PT to set up an exercise program, and am in better shape than I have been in years. I've made new friends at the dojo, locally, and online, and have reconnected with still more friends through Aikido. I've seen several rounds of tests, including the Sho-Dan test of one of my favorite sempai. I've learned that I like (and need, really) meditating before class. I've been to a dojo picnic, a party, and camping.
I've always enjoyed learning, so I dove into Aikido from many angles. Even before looking into local dojo I listened to all 9 episodes of the "Aikido - The Way of Harmony" podcast. I have listened to them again since, many times since, and I'm sure will many more. Together they are a great introduction to Aikido, and I hear them in a completely new way each time I listen.
I've read a nightstand-full of books, including "The Art of Peace" (O Sensei) of course, "Aikido and the New Warrior" (edited by Richard Strozzi-Heckler), "The Way of Aikido - Life Lessons from an American Sensei" (George Leonard), "Aikido for Life" (Gaku Homma
I've been working with my mentor, a senior student at the dojo, preparing for my upcoming (9/19) 6th kyu test. It never ceases to amaze me how perceptive a good teacher can be. Working with him has done my Aikido a world of good. Only 2 more sessions with him before the test. I'm nervous/excited, but not panic-stricken. Feeling pretty good about it.
This weekend (Fri-Sun) is our dojo's annual fall Aikido Retreat. 3 days of training and other fun in the local mountains. This will be the first I've gone to (I only started in May of this year). The guest instructor will be Kayla Feder Sensei, and of course our own Dave Goldberg Sensei. There's no matted area, so no rolling. Lots of weapons work, and non-falling Aikido. I have it on good authority that it's going to be a blast, and I'm really looking forward to it.
With 20 days to my first-ever (6 kyu) grading exam I've started cramming stuff into my brain, and into muscle memory.
Several months ago I copied all the requirements (for all tests through shodan) from the exam preparation page on the Aikido of San Diego web site, and pasted them into Google Docs spreadsheet. As I learn them I can make notes, and then review from time to time. Using Google Docs lets me access it from anywhere, including my iPhone when I have a spare moment.
Here's what I have to know, plus real basic-basics like etiquette & how to stand in hanmi. (Formatting/punctuation is my own. Not standard, but clearer to me.):
6 Kyu Exam Content
Ukemi: Forward roll
Ukemi: Back roll
Katate-dori: tai no henko,
Katate-dori: shihonage, omote
Katate-dori: shihonage, ura
Shomen-uchi: Ikkyo, omote
Shomen-uchi: Ikkyo, ura
Suwariwaza: kokyu dosa
I have a paragraph or two of notes on each, from big "what is this" info to little tips on the finer points of execution. Sometimes just having a few key words is a huge help. "The zig-zag one, where you end with their arm pinned flat to the floor" (katete-dori shihonage omote), or "the one where you disappear behind Uke" (...ura), or the way-more-fun-sounding-than-it-really-is "smooshing a pie in Uke's face," (suwariwaza kokyu dosa).
Now that I have the info down, I can sort of drill myself on it, mentally, and use visualization to practice each techn
This has been an intense couple of weeks. I've been at the dojo more often, have a mentor for my 6 kyu test, and I've been turned loose by my personal trainer with a set of core and shoulder exercises to do for the next few months. I'll be doing a weekend retreat in the mountains with the dojo in September - mostly weapons - and am really looking forward to that.
Through it all, I am determined to not only not neglect the other aspects of my life (home, critters, & work), but to do my best to complete projects, catch up on chores, and spend time with the beasties. It wouldn't be budo, you know, to let the rest of life fall apart. So far, so good.
I trained on Friday and Saturday, and then did a seminar on Sunday. The seminar was incredible. Not only was it plain fun and engaging, but it was the kind of experience that opens a crack in one's way of being, letting light shine on many things not directly addressed during those two hours. It's still sinking in, and will be for a long time. It's hard to put into words. I tend to think in images, and the image for this one is of hands lifting a little fish out of a tide pool and releasing it into the sea.
I'll be training 3 days a week for a couple of weeks (a lot for me), and working with my mentor after each class. I need to be spending a lot more time on the elliptical trainer, too, and remembering to breathe during jiyuwaza. I get way too winded.
I got called up for a demo for the first time today (figures it would
I have been fairly comfortably going along, slowly, as an Aikido newbie. Working diligently and mindfully, but in no hurry. Plodding. No deadlines. Well, I recently passed our association's minimum of 20 training days to test for the lowest rank, 6th Kyu. So I've been glancing with some trepidation at the dojo whiteboard, where names are posted of those who will be testing. Our next tests are on September 19th. I never thought I'd be in that batch. I thought maybe November (we have tests every 2 months, I believe). But I kept checking the board, just in case.
On Thursday I stopped by the dojo, just to drop something off, and a friend in the class turned and pointed at the board: http://www.twitpic.com/eny66
I'm about as calm and even-tempered as a person could be, but I was really stunned/delighted. I actually ran to my car, grabbed my iPhone, and tweeted a photo of the board. (Yes, I am a geek. It even says so on my license plate. )
Here's what I said on Facebook, and I stand by it: "I am here to tell you that the thoughts "It's not *that* big a deal, and nobody expects you to be perfect at this level," and "Squeeee!!! OMG, OMG, OMG!!!" Can coexist perfectly well in one mind."
It's the damnedest thing. My (very) rational mind knows that everyone who shows up long enough, and who can roll without killing themselves, tests for 6th Kyu. It's like "graduating" from kindergarten. What's interesting though, in the "watching my mind blabbering on" sense, is t
Yesterday I skipped participating in class, in favor of getting some video (potentially for the dojo's Web site). It was our new shodan's last day training with us (he's off to college), and the light was beautiful. Sensei led the class through a lot of techniques. Also I was really tired (little sleep) and dizzy (vertigo acting up), so I kind "didn't feel like" working very hard anyway. So it was a great opportunity to do the video, and it was fun doing that, but dang... I really miss having participated! In a sort of visceral "missing someone" sense. I've felt kind of off-balance since then.
Interesting how much Aikido becomes part of us (and how quickly).