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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
Class tonight involved the usual suspects. Except for a very keen newbie, there were only core students in attendance.
We were back on the tatami tonight (as opposed to Tuesday nights when we have to practice in a space to which we cannot bring our mats), so back to classical aikido techniques. Did the usual warm-up stuff and then some hanmi-handachi waza. Katatetori kaitenage (uchi tenkan) was the order of the day. Everyone seemed to be working without too much difficulty. Lisa tended to raise her gripped arm almost completely extended above her head while going under uke's arm. At full length, raising her arm this way allowed uke to stand up straight and maintain balance, which of course wasn't any good. I only mentioned to her that her form was off and she self-corrected without any specific advice from me. Very good.
Jamie was feeling miserable with a stomach complaint, so she was having one of those grit your teeth and train days. Near the end of class she finally had to sit out. She was feeling really tired too, but still trained anyway. She's a great senior student to have in the dojo.
Jeremy's at that place in his training where he's feeling out the boundaries of his power in technique. Lots of "ooomph!" in how he does things on the mat -- sometimes too much for the older guys like Jim and Gary. Its interesting to watch as Jeremy tries to impose his power on them and they, in turn, attempt to slow him down. So far, I haven't had to intervene directly, but
Last night we were upstairs in the gymnasium - without our mats - and so we worked on the usual sorts of things that don't require a soft surface to land on. We swung, and twirled, and flipped our jo staffs around for a bit and then moved on to empty-hand practice.
I thought my students (and I) could benefit from some striking-focused practice so I began the class by running them through punches from full extension, then half extension, and then punches over mere inches.
Of course, before I got them smacking their fists into things I ran them through a series of exercises designed to help them feel some connection between their legs and hips and arms and increase flexibility in the shoulders and upper torso. Some were better at connecting, relaxing and flexing than others. It is still surprising to me to see how apparently unnatural it is for people (or my students, at least) to be loose through their upper torso. Most of my students have considerable amounts of tension through their shoulders and chest of which I believe they are mostly unaware. Even when I point out their tension, they are still often unable to release it. This isn't to say that they aren't improving -- they are, but there is still some way to go yet. I should say that my students really are a game bunch. The exercises I have them do to develop flexibility through the upper body are strange both in appearance and feel yet none of them balk at attempting them. You should see, though, the faces some o