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A little more than halfway through third kyu, and suddenly everything is new again. Footwork, body angles, where the hands go—I am revisiting the minor details of these movements, nitpicking to get them right. In regular keiko, sandwiched in the middle at lineup between beginners and yudansha, I had grown accustomed to training with students near my rank or lower, our pace steady as we work through and try to understand the techniques. I become the middle child, surrounded by big brothers and little sisters, for the most part overlooked and ignored.
Sensei writes me an email: "So when are you going to attend Advanced Training?" Held on Mondays and Fridays for half an hour after regular keiko, or Wednesdays for the full hour, Advanced Training is something I've always sat on the sidelines to observe since I joined the dojo. There are those students who first join the sessions and struggle with the newness and intensity, but for the most part, it consists of yudansha going at each other at full speed and strength. Sometimes, there is advanced weapon techniques, including take-aways like jo- and tachi-dori. Often, it includes lessons on reversals, how to morph ikkyo omote into sankyo ura, or yonkyo into a kokyu-ho throw. Therefore, it is a joy to watch, and a pleasure for the senses to see aikido at a natural pace, practiced by partners who look like they dance through the techniques with fluidity and simplicity.
I write Sensei back: "I know I'm overdue to join the advanc