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Before I got horses, I got chickens as "practice livestock," to see if I was up for the whole feeding-and-cleaning-every-day-and-night thing. I made some mistakes, and learned a lot. After a year, and still enthusiastic, I tore out trees, got the yard graded, put in a barn and fencing, and dove into horse ownership better prepared for having had that experience with the chickens.
In addition to being fun and worthwhile on its own merits, this two-week period of training at every opportunity (now at only day 5 of 16) serves a similar purpose. This time it's to help me be more prepared for the Aikido Bridge seminar in January. And true to form I've made some mistakes and am learning a lot. A few lessons so far:
Do not take on any other projects. Like grocery shopping, laundry, or cooking food. Get that stuff out of the way well beforehand.
Do not make commitments that keep you up into the wee hours. Aikido on 4 hours' sleep and 10 cups of coffee is way less fun that you might imagine.
Get plenty of sleep for at least the week before. Going into a more-intense-than-usual training period coming off a week of sleep deprivation is stupid.
Don't plan anything at all in the evenings. Feed the critters, take a hot bath, go to bed with ice packs on anything ouchy.
Eat as well as possible. Living on snacks (healthy ones though they may be) is not a good strategy for having lots of energy and endurance.
Warm up and stretch in the mornings. Being tight and achy before class us
I know, intellectually, that we need not be defined by our pasts. We can start now, where we are, and create our own futures anew. I had known that, but still felt ensnared by a litany of Perfectly Good Reasons for being who I was. They were some really solid reasons, too.
But when I sat down recently to list these things they suddenly seemed insignificant, powerless, and pointless. Not like something I should try to ignore, and move ahead in spite of, but truly meaningless, at a gut level. It felt ridiculous even to be writing them down, and so I stopped.
I'm sure there will be times when stories from my past will seem more present and real than they do right now. But I won't forget this.
On Saturday morning we had a really interesting class, with lots of fun exercises, including a sort of 6-uke slow/easy randori, which was really enlightening. Then there were exams - two for 6th kyu, and a 4th kyu. Dang, that 4th kyu test looks challenging (and exhausting).
After class we had a BBQ/potluck party, with inflatable Sumo suits. We often have some kind of party after exams, plus this time Jason and Karen (the two in the video, along with Sensei) were celebrating 10 years in Aikido. A fantastic time (and lunch) was had by all.
This is the day one of my 15-day personal Aikido Intensive. Tonight included lots to think about - refining some well-known techniques and exploring some new ones. Awesome class. After a very challenging week at work (at lot of which was engaging and rewarding, but still…), I really needed it, too.
Several of the techniques we worked on involved falling or rolling - quite a lot of it. I had been kind of stiff and achy all day, and the first few rolls I did before class weren't pretty (or pleasant) at all. But by the end of the class my partner and I were playing pretty hard (by my standards, at least), and it was sheer fun. And afterward I felt a lot better than I did when I walked in.
As I was driving home I thought about my first phone conversation with Dave Goldberg Sensei. I knew I wanted to do Aikido, and was looking into training at Aikido of San Diego. I had heard somewhere about a low-impact class, and thought that might be what I needed, since I've had an abundance of foot, arm, hand, and shoulder problems (with all the associated PT, surgery, orthotics, etc.). Sensei explained that he'd tried that kind of class at some point, but he preferred that things be more inclusive, with everyone in the same classes. He said I wouldn't be expected to do anything I couldn't handle.
Part of that conversation was some nonsense from me about only being able to train once a week, and would that even be worth doing - and would he even have me as a student if that's all I
Thanks to a happy fluke in my calendar, my next two weeks will be my own personal Aikido Intensive. It means being at work an hour early (and I am not a morning person). I'll have to kick butt on caring for Rainy and the donkeys, and on doing my strengthening exercises in the mornings and evenings. But I know it will be well worth it. It's also going to be a particularly intense time at work, with some long hours, so Aikido will be a good re-centering time each day. And that's all my days will be - sleep, chores, exercises, work, Aikido, critters, work, sleep.
It starts this Saturday with an Aikido class, watching exams, & dojo party (and making a salad Friday night). There will be Sumo suits! Naturally I'll try to get a cool photo or video to post.
Next week I plan to train Tuesday through Saturday. Sensei will be away, so the classes will be taught by several of the yudansha. I've trained with most of them before, and am looking forward to experiencing their whole spectrum of approaches to Aikido and teaching throughout the week. There's only one I have not had the opportunity to work with yet, but have been wanting to. I think he's teaching two of the classes. Woohoo!
The following week Sensei is back, so the week will have an entirely different awesome quality to it. I plan to train Monday through Saturday that week.
I hope I can do that much! I'm really excited about seeing how near-daily training is different from the sporadic 2 or 3 days a week I've be
"Create each day anew by clothing yourself with heaven and earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and love, and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature. Your body and mind will be gladdened, depression and heartache will dissipate, and you will be filled with gratitude."
Morihei Ueshiba (O Sensei), from The Art of Peace, translated and edited by John Stevens
A month ago I would've thought of this as some lovely idealistic vision, but it's becoming my real daily experience.
Note: I also posted this at www.grabmywrist.com, where the text was accompanied by a photo of a butterfly on an orange blossom in my backyard.
There's been a discussion on AikiWeb lately, "Aikido Changed My Life!" about the ways one has been changed by Aikido.
I have been practicing Aikido for only a little over 6 months. Even in that short time I have had many experiences of not recognizing myself, more so in the past few weeks.
The changes I can explain are changes I have intentionally made - better fitness, weight loss, a more disciplined approach to some things at work and home. (I shared some of these in a post before my first exam "Reflections at the First Milestone", and will share more recent ones another time.) In making these changes my practice of Aikido is a piton* in the rock face - a source of support and safety that enables me to climb higher.
But there are many changes I cannot explain. I'm happier, more settled, less cynical, more focused. I'm more aware of the emotions of people around me, more willing to be open and vulnerable with people, filled with gratitude, deeply touched by kindness. I've grown, and watched others grow. Things that were hard are easy. I never expected this.
This path is taking me through some unfamiliar but breathtaking territory.
*Pitons ("PEE-tahn") are those metal pins that mountain climbers pound into cracks and then hook onto to keep them from falling to their deaths if they slip.
Since my last post was about looking for the lesson in everything your teacher does, I'll expand on that a bit with a realization I came to recently about being a student.
I'm a user experience analyst by day, writer, former technical communicator, and amateur horse trainer for fun. In each of those contexts I hear the same kinds of statements: "They're just lazy." "They're too dumb to understand." "They're being difficult on purpose."
When you are a writer, user experience designer, teacher, or horse trainer, and your reader, user, student, or horse isn't "getting it" (let's just call that whole group "students"), it's always useful to assume that the problem lies with you.
It's not that every failure of a student is your fault, but coming from that assumption is where you find your power to influence the interaction. This is a point I've been making for years. You aren't using language they understand. You are asking more than they can do at the moment. You haven't sufficiently grabbed their attention. You haven't engaged them sufficiently in learning.
If, in your mind, your student "really is too dumb to understand" there's nothing you can do about that but whine and justify your failure. But if it's that you are presenting the subject in a way they aren't able to grasp, then you have the power to change that. By adjusting your communication style so that this student (however dumb they may "really" be) can understand, you can reach them. If users aren't readi
In any interaction with Sensei I assume there is a lesson - that Sensei knows exactly what he's doing, and there's a point to it.
In a recent class we were doing an exercise, each walking straight toward Sensei and turning tenkan to avoid his bokken swings, sideways at our midsections. I did OK the first time through, and got back in the end of the line.
The next time I was up I was ready. Was it going to be right or left? Watching for any sign... a shift of weight, tightening of arm, or settling of a hip. I knew what was coming, and was ready for it. I tried to be equally ready to tenkan out of the way to whichever side, depending on the direction of the swing. When it was my turn I moved toward Sensei trying not to favor either way. Trying to not anticipate one or the other, left or right...
And he tsuki'ed directly into me.
I'm sure he had to pull the thrust to keep me from impaling myself, even though I folded in the middle and backed off. And the class and I had a good laugh. Dammit. I didn't see that coming.
I can't say whether he really meant it as a lesson, or if he was bored with going to the left and right, or was just having a little fun. But I took it as a lesson - although it didn't quite sink in until a couple of days later, when I sort of got the joke and started laughing as I was feeding the horse and donkeys. I had been ready for something I "knew" was coming. I was planning what I was going to do, based on my expectation of what I was sure wo