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The comments on YouTube, about my 5th kyu exam, got off to a predictable start with "good luck in a street fight no offense" [sic].
From looking at the person's recent comments on other people's videos, this is one of the nicest things they've said to anyone. Most of their other comments are downright vulgar.
My reply: "None taken. In my 47 years I've never been in a street fight, and don't intend to go around starting any scraps in pubs. :-) My practice of Aikido has nothing to do with fighting."
That apparently hit a nerve with someone in Poland, who said (ellipses his - I did not edit this): "..and that this the reason this unique, interesting and demanding martial art is dying....cause people like You practice aikido with firm belief that it has nothing to do with fighting..sad..."
I could just delete their comments, but what the heck, let's see where this goes. I'm sure I won't change their minds, but others coming along and reading the comments might find the discussion interesting. I responded:
"Aikido is not dying, never mind being killed off by 'people like me.' Yes, it comes from centuries of fighting arts, and yes, it is effective. But O Sensei did not create it to help people become better street fighters.
The goal of most non-sport martial arts is not fighting. It's interesting that even in my video comments field you are trying to start one. If you want to fight, find others who want to fight, and have a great time. I'm not opposed to that, it's ju...More
The other day in a weapons class Sensei wanted to work with bokken, and before class was considering what to focus on that day. The class ended up being an intensive little workshop, essentially, with lots of emphasis on breathing, correct technique, and incorporating weapons into familiar techniques, such as ikkyo.
Sensei's classes are frequently, no, usually, like that. "Just a regular weeknight class" is never "just" anything.
After class I usually thank Sensei, if he's not busy talking to someone. "Thank you, Sensei," I say, adding something like "I really enjoyed the class," or "that was really interesting." Even, maybe especially, when the class was challenging, or even frustrating.
It's polite to thank your teacher, and sometimes I feel like it might come across as only that. Just being polite. But there's nothing contrived about my gratitude. I deeply mean every word. (And I've told him so.)
Classes are always inspired, never rote or perfunctory. Familiar techniques are presented in fresh ways, new subtleties explored. Sensei considers the response his words might elicit in a given student, knows just how much pressure or breathing room each person might need that day. He gauges the mood and abilities of the assembled students, and tailors the content of the class accordingly, on the spot. He sees endless detail in the mass of movement on the mat and offers strategic corrections, all while planning the next technique, managing the energy of the group,
If you read my post about my 5th Kyu test you may recall that when I sat down at the end of it I thought "Darn it. That wasn't how I meant to do that!" It felt mechanical, uncommitted. Sensei's feedback was that it looked like I was "being careful." That wasn't how I meant to do my test, and yet... That's exactly what I did. I've been doing a lot of thinking about that since Saturday.
Aikido provides a laboratory, in which to learn about who and how we are in many areas of life. Or maybe a mirror, in which we can see ourselves more clearly. Interactions can reflect how we are with authority, trust, risk, arrogance, and so on. We can learn what scares us, what makes us happy, where we shut down, or where we step up.
It often takes several days for a lesson to sink in, for me. I'll remember a phrase or an expression, and the significance of it will come to me, finally. I suppose it's similar to working out a problem, and a whole new way of looking at it pops into your head as you're walking to get the mail.
I had such a moment this morning, out feeding Rainy and the donkeys. I was rushing because I was running late. I meant to clean the pen before a rainstorm arrived, but I didn't have time. I was going to get up at 5:30, so I would have enough time, but I hit snooze until after 6:00. I planned to get to bed early, but didn't. I had intended to get to work on time, by 8:00, but I was late... again.
I had been thinking, since Saturday, about why I was being careful...More
I wasn't worried about passing, though. I was more interested in doing well. Or at least doing my best.
I did OK. Only one or two brain cramps on techniques, and I didn't shut down during jiyuwaza. A few minor "D'oh!" moments, but nothing horrid.
On the good side, I knew the names of everything, and the basics of how each technique went. Watching the 4th kyu test (the next one I'll have to take) I realized that I know those names and techniques, too, basically. And even a lot of the ones on the 3rd kyu test. I felt reasonably relaxed and present, and was able to breathe and focus pretty well.
On the room-for-improvement side... I really felt like something was missing, like I was "demonstrating how the techniques go" instead of *doing* the techniques. Like kind of half-singing a song to get across what the lyrics are, as opposed to really putting it out there like you mean to be heard. It felt half-hearted, uncommitted, low energy... something like that. When I sat back down in the line afterward, while watching the others, I knew I hadn't done my best, but I didn't know why. I wished I could've had a second chance, to get up there and do it like I had intended to do it. "Darn it. That wasn't how I meant to do that!" Oh well.
An interesting life lesson there... How often do I - do we - start out
My exam for 5th kyu is Saturday morning - tomorrow. When I first started working with my mentor a month ago we began with a sort of diagnostic run-through of the exam. I knew all the technique names, and basically what they were. There was plenty of room for correction and refinement, but I wasn't completely lost. I felt like I was on a pretty good trajectory for being ready by exam day.
Then in mid-January I did a seminar, which was great fun, and a tremendous experience. I loved it, but it was exhausting, and dumped a whole lot of new information into my little 6th-kyu brain.
The next couple of weeks were difficult all around, and left my confidence a bit battered. I couldn't seem to do anything right in class. Friends on Facebook were commenting that my Aikido posts had been negative lately.
I accumulated a dozen or so small injuries and ailments - a jammed thumb, a knee that didn't like to bend, sore shoulders and neck muscles, a stomped foot, assorted bruises and tight muscles, etc. I found myself stiff and guarded. Lingering symptoms from a cold in December returned, and my breathing was getting clogged up during class. One night I must have been dehydrated, and whited out (and sat right back down) when I stood up quickly from seiza.
Last Wednesday I had the worst bout of vertigo since starting Aikido. The world was spinning. I felt seasick and was tipping over and falling into things. Feeling grounded isn't even a possibility in that state. ...More