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Everyone's first few days (weeks? months?) of training can be disorienting and overwhelming. You need to learn how to dress yourself, how to sit, how to stand… Acck! You also hear a lot of new words - Japanese terms and phrases. When I was hearing them for the first few times I couldn't even make sense of them enough to remember them so I could look them up later.
Here's a huge tip: Almost every dojo, including ours, has a list of common terms in the dojo handbook! Be sure to look there - it's very handy.
For my first Words post, here are some you will hear in every class. They are mostly the same from dojo to dojo. You'll be saying them often, too. Here goes:
[OWN-ah-GAH-ee-shee-mahs Note that the "u" at the end is silent. A good way to remember it is that it sounds a little like "Oh my gosh, a mouse!" To help with spelling, remember that it starts with "one".]
You will hear and say this at the beginning of class, when Sensei and the class all bow to each other, and when you approach another student to ask them to train with you (you both say it). I've heard several interpretations of it. Whatever the exact translation, in practice it is a polite request which functions as "would you please train with me?"
Domo arigato gozaimashita
[DOE-moe ahr-ee-GAH-toh GO-zah-ee-MASH-ta When I have heard native speakers say it, it sounds like there is a comma after domo, like this: "Domo, arigato gozaimashita."]
Everyone says this when Sensei and the class bow to each other at the end of class. It means "thank you very much for what you just did."
Arigato means thank you.
Domo is an polite, formal intensifier, like adding "very much" in English, except it comes first (like muchos grácias in Spanish).
Several people have asked me recently about some of the words we use at the dojo. I've sent them some info privately, but what the heck, I might as well share with everyone.
It drives me nuts to not understand what's being said. Even worse, to use words I don't understand, repeating them by rote. So I've tried my best to make sense of the terminology around Aikido. In most cases the explanations I give will simply be my own understanding of the meanings, tricks I use for remembering them, etc.
Some of the things I intend to cover include
Numbers and counting-related words
Attack and technique-related words
Names of things
Weapons technique names
Commonly-heard Japanese greetings and phrases
These posts will be as accurate as I can make them, but will all be informally based on my own very limited understanding. I will try to give some indication of how sure I am of what I'm saying, and if I'm just plain wrong please tell me so (and if appropriate I'll go back and correct things). Any pronunciation tips I give will only be for how I've heard them spoken in the context of training, not The Correct Japanese Pronunciation. In no case should anything in these posts be considered authoritative. I do hope it will be helpful, though!
When I know of solid sources of information I will point those out. There are a few very good books, websites, and podcasts, both for learning Aikido-specific terminology, and for learning to speak Japanese.
Someone on Facebook recently asked what your sensei says regularly that sticks in your mind & helps inform your Aikido or other Martial Arts practice mentally, physically, or spiritually?
I actually misinterpreted the question as asking about things Sensei says about Aikido that inform my life outside the dojo. Off-the-mat Aikido. Here are the things (not his actual words, of course) that came to mind, plus a few more, that stick with me:
Constant reminders to settle, check our own posture and alignment. Be in integrity with ourselves.
Attend to doing what we are doing as well as we can, not to trying to make it affect our partner.
Notice where we are, and where we are going. Being aware of these things is what allows opportunities for positive transitions to arise.
Keep our eyes up and see the big picture. Don't focus attention on the attack.
Work with others at their level. Help them be safe, and don't pile on information or levels of detail or finesse they are not yet able to understand.
It's not about having a soft or a hard style. It's about being appropriate to the situation.
If you operate at the mind-based level of planning each action based on if-then decisions leading to codified responses, you won't experience freedom in your actions, and you will always be limited in what you can achieve.
And one that I heard for the first time in tonight's class, that seems to fit here: If your attacker wants to retreat, build them a golden bridge on which to ge
We did a simple little cleaning project today at the dojo. The bamboo around the garden had gotten mildewy with the recent rains. It had become worn and mottled, attacked by the elements. It took only a little time and elbow grease to reveal the warm natural color and solid structure that was still there under the grime. It's beautiful again.
I took before and after photos with my iPhone. Afterward a few of us went out for lunch. We were talking about how we got started in Aikido, and how we'd changed because of it. Our Befores and Afters.
It wasn't until I thought about the photos I'd taken that the parallels came to mind. The bamboo started out shiny and fresh, as we all do. The seasons took their toll. Ugliness and disease were winning out. It had started to look like maybe we should give up, and pitch it in the dumpster. But Sensei knew what was underneath all the crud. So we worked together, put in a little effort, and brought it back.
That knowing what's under the crud that's built up, that working together, that little effort and elbow grease... That's what we do, with Sensei's guidance, in Aikido. We bring each other back.
So about that seminar, finally... I had a great time at the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar a couple of weeks ago. Doran, Ikeda, and Tissier Sensei taught again, and this time each also did a tanto (knife) class. I got to train and hang out with some really nice folks I met there last year, several of my Aikido rock star heroes, and some new friends I hope to see again soon. I even got to have a house guest for the duration. On the basic "having a good time" scale, it was way up there. Lots of fun.
I love training at the level of intensity available at seminars - really focusing on nothing else for several days, without distraction. I definitely plan to be back next year, and am looking forward to 4 days with Patrick Cassidy Sensei in February, the Aiki Summer Retreat at Menlo Park in June, Robert Nadeau Shihan some time this summer, and our dojo retreat in the mountains in the fall. And some day, on my wish list, George Ledyard Sensei's Weapons & Randori Intensive. There's something about that removal from everyday life to just train that allows for breakthroughs. More on that another time.
It was interesting to notice that this year I got more frustrated and impatient with myself. Last year I was only a 6th kyu with about 6 months of training behind me. My most fervent wish at that point was to not make a complete fool of myself - to clap at the right time when bowing in, address the instructors appropriately, and to not be an embarrassment to my dojo or teacher. Th
I'm sure I'll be writing up some blog posts here afterward, but during the seminar I'll be posting little bits and pieces from my phone each day, but only to the other version of this blog: www.grabmywrist.com, so check that out, if you're so inclined.
I am looking forward to seeing the wonderful people I met last year, and making new friends, too! If you are there and want to get in touch, you can email me at:
lindaeskiniphone at gmail.com << use the @ symbol, of course.
Or text or call me at 619 368-4333
See you there, or back here, or something. :-)
There is a very good discussion on the AikiWeb forums, about uke collusion in practice/training. It's particularly relevant for me, because I will be participating in the Aikido Bridge seminar later this week, where Ikeda Sensei will be teaching, and where there will be lots of opportunities for refining my own ukemi, and observing the ukemi of others.
One of the comments there, about how professional athletes train, brought something to mind: In horseback riding the relationship between the rider and the horse is very much like the relationship between Nage and Uke.
The rider (Nage), through their cues, posture, weight shifts, placement of attention, and so on, is able to affect the balance and motion of the horse (Uke). It should not be a battle - it should be a partnership. They are not in opposition. Horse training essentially is training the horse to be a good uke - sensitive, not reactive, not anticipating, but moving as directed when the rider makes a request correctly.
Of course, beginning riders are hopelessly uncoordinated about their weight, center, attention, posture, hands, feet, etc. A horse that refuses to budge, or who can't understand what is being asked, would only frustrate them. Thankfully there are talented, experienced, angelic horses referred to as "schoolmasters" who and understand, and who happily play along with these fumbling newbies. A good schoolmaster lets the rider get the feeling of what a correct trot, balanced halt, or smooth cant
We've recently had a few project days at the dojo - a New Year's Cleaning Day before our first training of 2011, and yesterday re-stretching the mat cover, now that it's settled in after its first 6 months in use. And back in June and July we helped prepare the new location, move there, and clean up the old place.
It's one of things I really love about our dojo, and probably about martial arts schools in general, that it truly is a community, where people pitch in to help. That we can pitch in and help. There's a sense of belonging and ownership that's comes from serving in that way, and it's available to everyone, of any rank. As a relative newbie who cannot contribute much else, personally, I really value that opportunity.
In so many of our other day-to-day experiences we pay our money, get what we paid for, and call it even. We are not allowed past the "Employees Only" signs. There are "No user serviceable parts inside." We are kept out, not authorized, not needed.
In a dojo, it's a community. When your neighbor is putting up a barn or their crop needs to be brought in before a storm, you don't wait to be asked, you pitch in and help. And sometimes you bring food, too. You get more out of service than you ever give, and more than you could ever pay for. It's how the community, your community, is created, and it's a privilege to be a part of it.
I hope everyone's holidays were peaceful and happy. Mine were laid back, no big deals. Some family, some friends, a great hike on New Year's Day… And we adopted two kitties, after being catless for a few months. All in all a nice time.
It's a new year, but there's nothing really new. The rhythms of seasons, work, and the dojo continue like heartbeats and breathing, regular and reassuring. Last year, 2010, was mostly wonderful. No big vacations, no winning the lottery. I ended the year healthier than I started it, which is great (and for which I credit my Aikido training - and not at all just the physical part). But the big thing is that the little things went well. Just regular daily life - meaningful, engaging work, things going pretty well for family and friends, and training more, and getting more out of it than I could have imagined at the start of the year, and thoroughly enjoying every minute.
Pauliina Lievonen, one of the team that writes The Mirror column on AikiWeb.com, posted this on her Facebook page at the end of the year:
"New year's resolution: More of the same. :-) "
That really hit the nail on the head. Sure, there's room for improvement. There are things I'd like to do better, goals to be met, etc. But all in all, I'm very happy, and looking forward to continuing on in the same way, as much as possible.
I hope your 2010 was like that. And whether it was or wasn't, I hope your 2011 is the kind of year that leaves you hoping for more of the same.
We had a sho-dan promotion at our dojo recently, a 73 year-old gentleman named Lloyd McClellan.
Lloyd's story is his to tell, but I'll share my own experience of Lloyd.
When I started training, at 46, I read a few things by George Leonard Sensei. Leonard Sensei had also started Aikido at 46, I believe, and had written an essay titled "On Getting a Black Belt at Age Fifty-Two." He went on to become a 5th dan. I found these bits of information very heartening. 46 was not "too late."
From my newbie perspective Lloyd has been training "forever." He is older, he is senior to me, and he is competent, kind, generous, a good teacher, and he's strong as an ox. Those things are great, and worthy of admiration, but didn't surprise me that someone who'd been training forever would have those qualities.
Lloyd is also a just plain cool guy. He wears a cowboy hat and a cowboy mustache, and he drives a pickup. It would surprise me if there weren't some cattle at some point that back up that hat.
He knows his limits on the mat - he doesn't roll a lot, doesn't sit in seiza - but he doesn't let them stop him. I've seen him frustrated, tired, and in pain, but I've never seen him discouraged.
But the most impressive thing about Lloyd didn't really strike me until his sho-dan demo came up. Lloyd started training when he was 65. I don't know if it ever crossed his mind to ask himself "what am I thinking, starting a martial art at my age?" If it did, he didn't let it stop him.