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Yesterday evening (Tues. 6/17/03) was my first class as a newly minted 3rd kyu. My shoulder and ankle injuries were still acting up a bit, but I was able to participate pretty fully in class. Testing is an ordeal; maybe not a horrible ordeal, but an ordeal nonetheless. I've found after each test that I have a boost in confidence that comes from knowing I can perform good technique even when tired and while being judged. I've also, of course, found areas where I feel I need to improve. For instance, the last test inspired me to focus on losing weight, gaining a bit of aerobic endurance, and trying to keep my joints healthy. I'm sure the sense of accomplishment and self-evaluation I feel is typical for the other six guys who tested on Saturday. As a result, there's a sense of increased energy at the dojo.
Interestingly, our instructor viewed the testing, at least in part, as a test of his teaching. One thing I noticed at the end of the test was that we all had a tendency to use a strong irimi motion, but very little tenkan. A few weeks ago, we were working on jiyu waza and I noticed that I was using irimi nage quite a bit. I mentioned this to Micah (or senior student) and he laughed, saying he wasn't surprised considering that Keith was our teacher. Irimi nage is a favorite of our instructor. I observed more of the same during our tests and mentioned that to Keith, who agreed that we should work more with some of the other tools available to us. It's not like we don't pract
Saturday's test went very well, and I passed both rank tests: 4th and 3rd kyu (we have an 8 kyu system). I'm feeling pretty good about it, but it was a tough, hot, and exhausting test.
Things started a bit slowly. Our sensei had a couple errands to run before the test. He would have done them sooner, but his girlfriend has been in a car accident the previous Thursday (she's okay), and his schedule got a bit messed up. Micah, our most senior student, warmed us up starting around 9:30 a.m. The test proper started around 10:45 a.m., and didn't end until about 1:30 in the afternoon.
First, we had four guys (Robert, Chris, Kurt, and Zach) testing for 7th kyu. Rich (the other 5th kyu), Aaron (3rd kyu), Micha, and I simply sat and watched during that part of the test. I was, at least in part, very nervous at that point because I knew my time was coming soon and I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to endure the heat and humidity during the test. I was afraid that I'd have to drop out and that I wouldn't be able to complete it. I worked on calming myself and focusing on just what I needed to do. I was confident that I knew the rank requirements, so I focused on that.
Three of the four guys who tested for 7th kyu also tested for 6th -- Zach was too new to test for two ranks. I took ukemi for Robert for part of his sixth kyu test. He did very well with shomenuchi kokyonage, katatetori shihonage, and katatori nikkyo. We switched ukes after that and I got a chance to rest while
Tomorrow, Saturday June 14, we are testing at my dojo, and I'm nervous. The most senior student in the dojo taught class last night and did his best to calm us down. I'm most likely testing for 4th and 3rd kyu tomorrow (we have an 8 kyu system). Our instructor may ask to see 2nd kyu techniques as well, but I doubt I'll be formally tested for three belt ranks. If so, I'll fail the 2nd kyu test because I still don't know the 22 count jo kata very well.
The reason a couple of us are getting tested for more than one belt rank is that we haven't tested in quite a long time. For the most part, that's not a problem, but it is nice to get the test and to use the time before it to focus on a certain set of techniques.
I'm feeling pretty confident that I know what I need to know. Our sempai pointed out that nobody ever does as well on a test as he or she would like, and my wife pointed out that I was nervous for the last test and I did fine. I think I'm actually less nervous than before, but we'll see.
Yesterday (5/29/03) I woke up very sore around my arms and shoulders. My elbows were sore, my wrists were sore, my neck was stiff, and my shoulders hurt. I had a fair amount of pain throughout the day, but some rest and Ibuprofen seemed to help a bit. Still, I was worried about not being able to participate much in the evening's aikido class.
On Thursdays, I get to the dojo early and open it up for an open mat session prior to the regular class starting time. This way people come early, warm up, and work on some things that they need, or would like, to work on. As I was pretty sore, I decided that I needed a warm up to my warm up. I've found the aiki taiso exercises to be a very gentle way to get my body moving and ready for more strenuous work, so that's what I did last night. Surprisingly, most of the soreness left my body, and except for some residual achy-ness, I was able to participate fully in class.
One of the things I like about the aiki taiso exercises is that they provide a chance to work on fundamental body movement principles with direct application to technique. In other words, they are not just a warm-up. The thing is, I'm not sure what the origin of these exercises are and what their stated purpose is (besides the obvious one of teaching proper body movement). I'll have to do some research.
A major conflict that I see between aikido and Christianity is that, from what I've read in the Bible and been taught throughout life, Jesus advocated a life of service to our fellow man. Most importantly, he makes no distinction based on a person's station in life. If anything, he treated criminals and other "scum" with more compassion than rich people or religious officials. In other words, he turned the social order on its head.
This is all well and good for Jesus, but how do I emulate him? More specifically, his admonition to "turn the other cheek" has always given me problems. I want to be able to defend my self and my family if threatened, but that goes against my understanding of what Jesus taught.
I see aikido as a middle way. In some of our movements, we literally turn the other cheek when responding to a strike, yet we maintain our center and have control of the conflict. Ellis Amdur wrote two things at this site that I find particularly interesting.
The first is that studying martial arts is a hobby. This is not meant in any way to denigrate the seriousness of our study. He says:
My use of the word, "hobby," is not patronizing or belittling. It is an attempt to reduce things to a proper proportion. There are survival-based activities (farming) as opposed to enriching activities (gardening). When we have accomplished survival, we have the luxury to flourish and enrich ourselves as humans.
Attacks in aikido are the source of a lot of discussions in dojos and on web bulleting boards. The major complaints are that (1) the attacks aren't done well (nage feels no threat), and even if done well, (2) they're too stylized (not realistic enough).
If attacks aren't being done well, then that's a problem with the training. The intent of strikes should be to hit nage. The intent of grabs should be to either immobilize nage, or set uke up for a follow-up strike. Strikes should be performed in such a way that they don't track nage's movement (they need to explode), and uke ends up centered after the strike -- unless his or her balance is taken. The strikes can be slowed down so that they don't hurt much) if nage messes up and the strike connects. They can also be done in such a way that they carry a bit of force even if done slowly.
I like to think of the one-handed grabs we do as simple versions of the two-handed grabs. From a technique perspective, there's not a lot of difference between a katatetori kaitenage and a ryotetori kaitenage, but the two-handed grab is more difficult to deal with. Alternately, we have an attack where uke grabs nage's shoulder with one hand and punches his face with the other. They key is learning that the technique is basically the same whether the attack utilizes one hand or two -- if uke does his or her part.
Regarding effectiveness: strikes like shomenuchi and yokomenuchi represent the kind of energy one might get in an attack. Sho
Yesterday's class (5/15/03) was really good. We started out working on ushirohijitori kotegaeshi. Both the other fellow who needs to know this technique and I were having trouble with it. Our sensei went into more detail with the technique and explained something he admits he hadn't explained as well before -- the feel for kotegaeshi from the ushiro attacks is different than from tsuki or katatekosatori. Initially I was frustrated when trying to learn the new nuances of the technique, but after a time, I started to get it. I still need to work slowly, but the technique is coming along nicely. That was the first breakthrough of the evening.
The second breakthrough was my first time as nage in full speed randori. We first did our regular slo-mo drill, and that went pretty well. Our sensei addressed my with the exercise by comparing full speed attacks to the slowed down versions we use in the slo-mo drill. Following the slo-mo drill, we did randori at full-speed.
The full-speed exercise was very interesting. For starters, I did pretty well at keeping the attackers off of me. I did slo-mo randori with four ukes, but the full speed exercise had two. I found that the experience was startlingly similar. In fact, even though things were happening much more quickly, I didn't feel overwhelmed at all. So, the slow motion exercise really did do a good job of preparing me for full-speed randori.
In a broader application, yesterday's class really reinforced for me the value of w
Things went pretty well on Thursday (5/8/03). We worked on jiyu waza (free technique, usually against an unknown attack). This is one of my requirements for the upcoming test, so it felt good to work on it. Generally, I feel I did pretty well. I ended up responding with a lot of iriminage, but I also pulled off some shihonage and kotegaeshi. The best feeling technique was when I responded to a yokomenuchi strike with a blend that led right into gokyo -- and I hadn't even planned it that way! That's what jiyu waza's all about.
The frustration came with our regular Thursday evening slow motion randori exercise. Briefly, the point of this exercise is to practice randori with everyone moving in a slow walk. The real trick to this exercise, from uke's point of view, is presenting realistic slow motion attacks and reactions. Anyway, I've slowly become frustrated with the way the exercise has been going for the last few weeks. Friday, I shared my frustrations with my instructor. He seemed to agree and has said we'll be doing more full speed exercises to we can get a better understanding of what we're simulating in slow motion. I've generally found that talking with my sensei is the best way to deal with frustration that won't go away on its own.
Saturday, we had a demonstration at a local elementary school's May Day celebration (a relatively common festival-type thingy in my area). The demo went well, but as one of the primary ukes, I got tired before the end. Still, having m
I had a good class last night even though my ankle injury had flared up. Among other things, we worked on one of the suwari waza techniques required for my next test. I did okay, but cornered my instructor after class, asked him to take ukemi for me, and only then figured out (with his instruction) what was going slightly awry. We also did some techniques after working on the sword movements that are similar to them.
Lastly, I got nailed in the nose while helping sensei demonstrate a technique. I simply did not see his arm coming in. Luckily, I did not bleed, and it didn't hurt much after five minutes or so. But, anyone who says that aikido is too soft ought to train with us for a bit. We have very few injuries at my dojo, and this particular one was just one of those things that happens. I told my instructor afterwards that I just did not see his arm at all. He said that he thinks my arm was blocking my vision a bit (a natural consequence of the technique), and he probably should have gone slower the first time or two he demonstrated. Live and learn.
This brings me to my discussion on the relationship between uke and nage. I'm not going to argue that getting injured, or even just hurt but not damaged, is desirable. However, for our training to really work (i.e. for it to really lead to mastery of aikido), there must be good, strong, ukemi. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that good ukemi is more difficult to master than good technique -- especially in the early years