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[At our dojo we have a tradition of submitting an essay when we test for sho-dan. My exam was today, and here's what I wrote.]
13 December, 2014
Dear Ueshiba Sensei,
We have never met, Sensei, but I am a student of yours. My direct teacher is Dave Goldberg Sensei in San Diego, in the United States. His teacher is Robert Nadeau Shihan, who I am sure you remember well. Goldberg Sensei also trained in Japan with your devoted student, Morihiro Saito Sensei. Sensei has had many teachers - he has told me about a few of them - and I have learned a bit here and there from other teachers and friends as well. There are many bubbling rivulets and quiet brooks that feed into the river that is my experience of Aikido, but they all originated with you.
I owe you a debt of gratitude for this art you created. I've been practicing Aikido for a while now, and so thought I should introduce myself and share with you how my training is going.
Today I am testing for the rank of sho-dan. Some of my friends who aren't familiar with martial arts see earning one's black belt as having arrived. It is an accomplishment, of course, but it feels to me like a starting point, like being accepted into a university. Commencement. "Beginning rank," truly.
It has been a great adventure getting to this point. So many hills and valleys, forks and detours, breathtaking vantage points and mysterious deep canyons. I have traveled to seminars and camps and other dojos, and made good friends from around the world. So many kindred spirits in this community! My health is much improved, to say nothing of my attitude. I
Oh what a day! Glorious!
There's nothing better
Than a friend
Oh what a day! Glorious!
The smell of rain
Has hitched a ride
Upon the wind
I've got good friends
To the left of me
And good friends
To my right
Got the open sky above me
And the earth beneath my feet
Got a feeling in my heart
All in life is sweet
Oh what a day!
It seems like I've been checking things off to-do lists and taking care of details for days. Finally in the last few hours before exam day, and pretty much on top of things.
A few of us cleaned the dojo earlier, and set up chairs for guests last night. Someone pointed out it was my last time going home as a kyu-ranked student. Acck!
Today I had some notes to write and errands to run. I've got my gi (and new hakama) packed up and ready to go in the morning. My stuff for the dojo holiday party afterward is ready to go.
I just need to get the coffee pot set up so I don't need to fiddle with that in the morning, and have Clementine's morning food ready except for adding hot water. I have a little writing to do, and want to run through things in my head once more. And then I think I'll set every alarm clock I can find and try to get to sleep.
Taking a quick break from getting my brain, body, and environment ready for Saturday to look beyond my coming sho-dan exam. There are things I've been wanting to do, but I'm kind of living in risk-avoidance mode lately. The idea of pulling a muscle or spraining a joint doesn't stop me most of the time, but right now it would be really inconvenient. After Saturday, though... Here are some things I'm looking forward to trying in the coming months:
Learning to surf, with my friend Karen (whose brilliant idea is was). How did I grow up in Pacific Beach and not learn to surf?
Trail running. I am not a runner, by nature, but for some reason that's been calling to me for a while now.
Snowboarding, maybe. No specific plans to go, but I've always wanted to try it.
Strength training. Yeah, I've been doing my PT exercises and swinging a kettlebell a little, but I want to get a little more serious about it.
Going to the local trampoline place - wall-to-wall trampolines - and playing. Who's in?
Working more on suwari-waza and hanmi-handachi-waza (techniques from a kneeling position). I've been enjoying training in those, but don't dare overdo it.
And nothing to do with risk - I've just been busy with other things:
Gardening. The yard is starting to green up with recent rain, and more on the way. Perfect time to tidy up, and get the raised-bed veggie garden ready for planting.
Finish some house projects. OK, not really looking forward to doing those, just looking forw
A week from Saturday, on December 13, 2014, my friend David and I are scheduled to test for shodan ("beginning rank"). Tonight is the final (yikes, that word, final...) run-through.
On the one hand, it's just a test. Afterward I will show up and train just the same as before. But it's also Kind of a Big Deal. I've been training for a bit over five years, and for the past year working diligently with David and our sempai to refine and polish our techniques. I'm sure I have improved, but it's the kind of improvement where you finally catch one thing, and see two others you need to work on. It's easy to feel overwhelmed and incompetent.
As with any big deadline in life - a trip, graduation, marriage - there are a lot of little things to coordinate as it approaches.
I paid my exam fee months ago, just so I wouldn't have to have it on my mind, but still have my association fee to take care of. Shodan is the rank at which the international association starts to care that you exist, so there's a registration fee for that. Up to this point I've only been an anonymous student at my dojo, as far as the outside world is concerned.
I actually bought two hakama - those black flowing skirt-like pants-chaps things - several years ago, at 4th kyu. I knew I would get here eventually, and my favorite gi supplier was going out of business, so I snapped them up. I finally took them out of the package and tried them on a couple of weeks ago. One fits (the other needs to be tailored),
I want to write a blog post, about days flying by, and how I spend my time, and about goals and desires, and about milestones and planning. About the final stretch of preparing for my shodan exam. But first I have to clean out the run-in shed so Clementine, our donkey, will have a dry place to hang out during the predicted rain. But before that I need to check my voice mail, because I know someone called two days ago. Oh, but first I need to start my laundry or I won't have a clean gi to wear to the open mat session this afternoon. And I have to get all the critters fed, of course. Yeah, right, I have to post some content on my business site so it's not dead for the whole weekend. I can't go out to work in the yard in my PJs, so I'd best get dressed. Did I eat any breakfast? I should eat something. And now the laundry really need to be put into the dryer. And I have to tend to her sore foot - that's really most urgent. And there's still that voice mail. Only 2 hours before I have to get cleaned up and leave for the dojo. I should go clean out the run-in shed. Maybe I'll get to that blog post this evening.