Hello and thank you for visiting AikiWeb, the
world's most active online Aikido community! This site is home to
over 22,000 aikido practitioners from around the world and covers a
wide range of aikido topics including techniques, philosophy, history,
humor, beginner issues, the marketplace, and more.
If you wish to join in the discussions or use the other advanced
features available, you will need to register first. Registration is
absolutely free and takes only a few minutes to complete so sign up today!
On Saturday, March 26th, my friends, family, and fellow Aikidoists will all come to watch my Sandan test, a work-in-progress 20+ years in the making, and still progressing. In other words, my community will be there to support, bear witness, and share a bowl of what promises to be mighty good soup! But, it would be wrong to suggest that this test is solely "my" endeavor, alone. Many other "cooks" helped create this "dish." Sensei's Linda, Glen, Aimen, David and Jeannie Sofen and Dennis all added necessary "ingredients" and invaluable signposts; and all the other regular members and visitors of North Bay Aikido were critical in "stirring the pot," and providing signposts of their own. I would mention you all here, but the list would number in the hundred's.
Thanks to you all, for your heartfelt training, your openness and your honesty. I could not have made this effort without your participation, your suggestions, your heartfelt ukemi.
To understand the relevance of my promotion, it is important to examine the relationship of the rank, to the larger community. Linda Sensei refers to Sandan-rank as a "pillar of the community." Since Dennis' Sandan-test, I had puzzled over that designation. Of course, other dojo's and other Aikido-styles have differing interpretations of what "Sandan" means—at its most basic, yudansha-rank refers, generally, to a qualification to teach. The higher your
Thanks to Tarik for asking this question, in the comments.
I started thinking about my test shortly after Sensei told me of her decision, around November. When I think back on the actual preparation: it's all connected, in the beginning, to events going on in the dojo, around January.
On January 1st (around 10AM), our dojo did a "New Year's Misogi," consisting of a half hour class on the beach (mostly with weapons), followed by a misogi exercise thigh-to-waist-high, in the ocean. Brrr!
I lost a sandal in the tide.
Misogi mostly consisted of "shaking hands," Rowing exercise, etc. I remember how cold it was, with the sky dramatic with threatening rain-clouds. As the misogi progressed, the rainclouds came up on us, and right when Linda Sensei yelled "Happy New Year!" the sky opened up and rain down on us all. I got out of the water, fast. The next half-hour was taken up with a very long, hot shower.
This event ties into my test-preparation on several levels. I was barely conscious on Jan 1st, but I managed to show up. My attendance was the most important thing--what I did after that was all secondary.
But, my commitment to simply be present, in all aspects of the term, cemented my commitment to my training (and test, which, in this sense, is the same thing).
I upped my level of commitment with the next big event: Kangeiko. On January 20 for one week, our dojo engages in a Japanese Aikido tradition of "cold training," in which Aikidoists
(No training for me, on Monday...but, for Tuesday--)
Morning class held several small, pleasant surprises. Aimen wasn't at the dojo for some reason, but Linda Sensei was: and she led the morning class.
The class theme loosely centered around "wide, full" blends, versus, "tight, footing-centered" blends. Iriminage was the technique mostly we primarily practiced, opening up into jiyuwaza and variations.
In the last 20minutes, Linda demonstrated aspects of randori, and using peripheral vision, instead of squarely facing down each new uke.
At the very end, she had me come up and first demonstrate eyes-closed "waza;" and then a very "flowing," continuous randori. My main focus was to be very easy, and relaxed..as relaxed and possessed of "shihan-patience," as I want to be, on Saturday. Afterwards, I received a lot of positive feedback, from the other doka watching.
After class, I practiced bo-work for an hour. I feel that I have a loong way to go to understand the bo (I never even touched a bo, before I came to this dojo, not that long ago). It's very different in many respects from the jo, which I am more comfortable.
More later. For now: I will check my email, and enjoy the laziness brought on by the rain and a day off. Perhaps I will go to tonight's class. Decisions, decisions.
Today was a light-to-medium training-day. Aimen and I were both a little late, and so no yudansha were there to start class. A brown-belt decided to take over the warm-up's. Aimen liked this format, and so he had every brown belt present lead the class in one technique (there were about ten or so, in attendance).
It was a good class: the students all were a little nervous, but they demonstrated the techniques with a feeling of humility and a "not-quite-there-yet," approach that left the ego at the door.
After class a brown belt pegged three of us to go over some specifics of randori. In his case, he needed to use his hips more, as I kept grabbing him and clamping on...must have been the leftover ebullience, from yesterday.
And then it was my turn. Mostly we did a weapons-randori (shinai) for a few rounds, followed by a straight randori. We trained for a short period (about 40 min) and then an old friend from another dojo where I used to train dropped by, and we chatted over chai for about 3 hours. It's funny, but this chat felt like training itself, in a way. We talked about Aikido, or more precisely, we talked about relationships in any given dojo.
I'd like to leave it there, partly because it was a private conversation, partly because I am still thinking on that chat. Basically, tho: she had a lot on her mind; and she needed a sympathetic ear to "ease her burden."
I'd say more (maybe I will, later, since this in large part, sans the pe
Urf. It sure was tough getting out of bed this morning. But, drag myself down to the dojo I did, and my body felt stuck in amber, as I trained. Rigid, slow. And so, I found the class, which focused on opening the hips in a series of responses to ushiro ryote dori's, more than a little challenging. I met with more stiffness than usual in other uke's, which of course meant that I was being more than usually stiff, as well.
And then, after class I did a jiyukeiko with Tarik (big, broad-shouldered yudansha), and we did a sort of continuous, soft-center extended kaishi-waza sort of freeform ukemi-waza. I don't know what you'd call it, but it loosened me up, a little.
After this I went through a dry-run of the exam. I'd say that it was all right. A little rote, maybe: but at this point I was focusing on the rythm the test will take, in the sequence of techniques I will present. I was thinking a little less of "being present," and more about pacing the test.
And then, wham. The randori killed me. In a good way, of course. We practiced starting from "clumping," where all the uke's had me grabbed already, and I had to get out.
Yeah, sure: you might have gone through this exercise and wonder what's the big deal, right? A few twists and turn and the uke's fly, right?
That's the problem with writing about Aikido, you miss the salient details. Like, my energy-level, at this point. It wasn't quite bottom, but I felt winded. My batteries weren't r
So I've been sitting here for weeks, looking at the aikiblog link (OK, so I wasn't just sitting here, staring at a link, for weeks...I DID do other things, too! sheesh) thinking about what the things I could write, to pass on the gleanings I have discovered, some sage words of wisdom for all those doka to read, reflect, and nod sagely in their newfound wisdom.
I have trouble reading other people's reflections on Aikido. It's why I don't get long-winded discussions about say, iriminage, very often. And so, I found myself procrastinating in writing this blog, not to mention the paper due in a week! :O Just call me The Procrastinator...better yet, don't.
Still, to be honest: procrastination IS a part of my M.O., especially when it comes to journalism. I wait until the last minute to write about a new adventure, and little-to-no writing about the day-to-day, normal elements of what my life is like, before the adventure.
And so, here I begin my "Sandan-ho" blog, a week before I test. It lacks the appropriate build-up, careful meditation and a recounting of the process that got me from "there," to "here," you say?
But let me take a moment here to give you the Cliff Notes. You invested in reading about my test-preparation, and an accounting you shall get. And, what a journey it has been.
I have always been adverse to the "X-treme Testing Mania" that seems to afflict us all at some point in our respective path