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My girlfriend just bought a couple of Pilates CDs (Brooke Siler) and we've been playing with them. It's a lot of fun. Mostly it seems to have a lot to do with grounding the center of your body and then using extending out through different parts of the body in a way that engages core muscles. For me, what's really interesting right now is this idea of grounding and extending.
In Contact Improv class yesterday, we workd on strength and lightness. We focused a lot on the idea that some part of our body had to be connected to the ground (perhaps through our partner) and that other parts were not. If we could 'rebound' (or yield and push or connect solidly) from the parts that were supporting our weight, we could try to extend that out into the parts that were not. Any limb that was not actively being used for support was free to feel light and float up and away from the ground. This was actually a really powerful idea, because it put me in touch with how little I tend to think about the other limbs and also how much potential for lightness they have.
In Aikido, I guess the same ideas apply. I generally think of Aikido as being all about heaviness ('weight underside'), but, in fact, the goal here is also to work the strong connection to teh ground against a mobility, lightness and freedom in the rest of the body, particularly the limbs and the head (which I'm now used to thinkin of as another limb).
The two senseis at my dojo, Chuck Weber and Charlie Page, are not the kind who burden you down with an excess of direction. So, when Chuck tells me something I really try to listen. Sometimes it's not that easy to understand, though. I think that for a long time he has been trying to get me to work on integrating the movements of my upper and lower half. When I move, my feet lose connection to the ground and then my upper body loses connection to my feet. This shows up a lot in shomenuchi irimi nage, when the lack of connection leaves my upper body hanging back and square to the incoming blow instead of turning and slipping past like it's supposed to.
Anyway, yesterday morning, Chuck gave me an image to work with the might be really helpful with this. He had been trying to show the class something about it by having uke simply push on nage's shoulder with a bokken and telling us to allow our body to turn effortlessly into iriminage. Then he had us try the same thing when uke just walked towards us with the bokken raised, allowing our body to be turned effortlessly in response. After class, he pulled me over to work with me on it for another couple of minutes. Then he told me to imagine that my head is being hung by a string (I learned something about this recently: it helps the image to connect the string to your ears and not just the top of your head), and bend my knees a little so that my bottom part sinks down. This will cause my hips to float, with a feelin
By the way, I see that people have been viewing this journal a little. I just wanted to say that comments are welcomed. I wasn't sure, reading other people's journals what the ettiquette was, but I'm happy to hear the thoughts of others.
It even surprises me a bit that anyone would be interested in reading this.
My girlfriend lives in Troy, NY, so I occasionally find myself at the Aikikai dojo in Latham, Capital District Aikikai. They have a very nice dojo, and I've always felt quite welcomed there. It's also nice to feel the Aikikai style every so often. Anyway, on Tuesday there were no yudansha. I showed up a little late, and a guy with kyu rank named Rob was instructing the class. I haven't been there often enough to know everyone or for everyone to know me, and Rob and I hadn't met before. Still, he saw my hakama and came over and asked if I was yudansha and then asked if I was visiting the dojo. He seemed a little conflicted and a little embarassed, and then finally said, "well, I'm instructing right now." I said, "that's perfectly acceptable to me," smiled and got dressed and joined the class on the mat. At about 6:55, Rob came over to me and told me that he had to leave at 7:00 and he asked me if I wanted to teach the last half hour. Actually, he didn't ask me. He said, "maybe someone else can teach the last half hour ..." and so I volunteered.
It was interesting. I felt very off center as I started to teach. Actually, ever since making the transition from Seidokan to ASU, I've found teaching to be a confusing experience. I feel like I have one foot still back in the old world, and the other in the new world. I respect both traditions, and I wish I could show that respect by teaching my classes firmly in one tradition or in the other, possibly choosing to br
Last night I had dinner with my dance instructor, Daniel, and our friend, Deborah. Daniel and Deborah meet on Wednesdays at Starbucks when Daniel and I are between dance classes and Deborah is on her way from work to Yoga. The evening was very lovely, but after dinner they offered to make up for the fact that I'd had to miss my Aikido class in order to attend, and that I'd teach some Aikido. Actually before that, Daniel showed us a 3-minute Feldenkrais exercise he developed. It wasn't my first time doing it (an exercise the develops the connection of the head through the spine and into the legs), but I'm always amazed at how much straighter I stand after doing it.
I taught them two simple things. I taught them a simple kosa-dori ikyo, basically inviting uke in without moving the feet. Then I taught them a lovely little demonstration that I'd learned from Eli Landau. The 'attack' is katate-dori, and we start static. Nage just steps off line (changing hanmi) and then lays his hand on uke's shoulder. It's very easy, that way to achieve an unbalancing. It was a lovely little 'party trick' type of technique and Deborah's apartment was set up with a soft couch on one side of where we practicing and a bed on the other side, so it was a soft landing either way and both of them had fun falling and playing with how easy it was to let someone else fall.
I find, generally, that finding a way to bring friends into Aikido really helps me feel connected to them.