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Sensei has announced that there will be an uchi-deshi program at our dojo, beginning in mid-summer. You can contact him for details (via the Aikido of San Diego website) if you are interested in participating.
It looks to me like a rare and valuable opportunity to train intensively, deepen one's understanding of Aikido, learn to teach, test one's own limits, and discover new possibilities, all under the guidance of a truly gifted teacher.
It also looks to me like a right of passage. Forging, like seeing combat, for a future military officer. A gateway. How one moves from casual student to serious practitioner.
Right now I'm not in a place to walk through that gateway. I don't know if I ever will be. I hope, maybe, somehow, someday... There's a little fear and frustration about that. What if I'm not able? What if it's not there? A sense of loss. And there's reminding myself that upset from thwarted intention just points to a commitment.
It's OK, though. There are cracks to peek through, high places where one can see over, and a lot of space to explore on this side of the wall. For now.
Just the names conjure up tension. I have fun practicing them, and am improving (softer/safer). But I also end up with some interesting bruises and sore spots now and then, from doing them in a slappy, braced, breath-holding, brute-force-ish kind of way.
We go about learning to do them in a relaxed, easy way, but at some point between the working up to them and the doing them my brain flips from "swoosh" to "wham!"
A few days ago when one of our instructors said we were going to work on high falls (Yay!) a fellow student jokingly suggested that we should "work on low falls instead."
Huh... I think I like that idea!
The point isn't to get lots of air, it's to land comfortably, with as little impact as possible. Keep (or get) your head low to the mat. Reach over and touch the mat as you rotate into rolling down softly. No "wham!"
Thinking of them as "low falls" takes a little of the edge off, and is a handy reminder that the idea is to get low, not high.
Feedback (which I know will be constructive, on AikiWeb!) is welcome. I'm pretty happy with how I did, but of course can see lots of things to work on for next time.
I figure now that I have 4 exam videos, they deserve their own playlist. So here it is, starting at 6th kyu (in case you have nothing better to do). LOL http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0F5D81895C5E5A30
My 6th kyu exam has around 9,500 views so far. Every month or two I get a nice comment from someone who's been encouraged in some way by my exam videos (usually a new student who is freaking out about taking their first test, as I was). One of my favorite comments came in a few hours ago, and just made my day:
"You're amazing, Linda-sama. I started train Aikido last week, but before - I had lot of doubts: if I am too old, people are bad, everything will be bad. I'm waiting about two years for my first train. But i taste it, and became addicted of this art. Thank you, for recording. Good luck! (sorry about my english)"
Recently a teacher wrote a frustrated blog post about their students not training enough to really improve, not participating in seminars with visiting instructors, and not supporting the dojo community.
The context was Aikido, but it could have been music, horsemanship, or anything else. I see the same thing happen all over.
We mostly live in the same world. We have jobs, families, and other things going on in our lives. But if we want to get good at something, anything, we have to put in the hours. And if we want our teachers, schools, and arts to be around for us, and for others, they need our active participation and support.
What does that look like to me? Join, and pay your dues, even during times you can't train for a while. Pitch in and help with projects and events. Invite your friends. Promote your art publicly. When teachers are generous enough with their time to write books or produce videos, buy them. Show up and train, and support each other.
Something I've noticed about people's participation (or the relative lack thereof), is a common way of thinking and speaking about priorities. "I can't…" "I would, but…" "I have to…" It's disempowering. It robs us of the opportunity to engage fully (at whatever level is appropriate). When we're honest with ourselves about where we are, and what's true for us, we have some power in the situation. When we whine about our circumstances we become victims to the choices we've made, and powerless to change.