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One of the woes of having the privilege to train under a teacher with an unflinching commitment to his students growth as Aikidoists is that the feedback sometimes stings.
Last night, in spite of my intention to go to class tonight, I stayed up to the wee hours to watch a meteor shower. That was stupid. Tonight, not having had enough sleep, I went to class anyway. That was arrogant and selfish.
I actually felt pretty good, and thought I was doing well for most of the class. But particularly toward the end my rolls got sloppy, and I wasn't really focused. And I failed to notice that.
Sensei, being a perceptive and experienced teacher, noticed. He stopped class early, with a few words about how injuries are more likely when people are too tired to roll correctly, and how he doesn't like injuries happening at his dojo.
Thank you, Sensei. It won't happen again. My apologies to you and to my training partners.
In the words of Mark Rashid, horse trainer and aikidoka, "now I know how not to do it."
Tonight's post is being pre-empted by a meteor shower. The quick version: Two awesome classes tonight, the first with Sensei, the second with Cyril. Both flew by. It's great to have Sensei back. More later. Heading out to the back yard to stare at flying rocks.
Today, Saturday, wrapped up the first week of my 16 day Personal Aikido Intensive. I'm delighted and relieved to be able to say I've been having an awesome time, and am excited about having another full week ahead.
Next week I'll be in classes Monday through Saturday. M, W, & Sat. are two-class days. That's 9 classes, 5 of which will be with Sensei. This past week (M-Sat) he was away, and the yudansha (meet most of the teaching staff at Aikido of San Diego) taught all the classes. I really could not have picked a better time to do this, because for the past week there has been a tremendous variety to the classes, and for the next I'll have 5 days in a row of classes with Sensei.
The whole 16-day thing kicked off with a killer Friday night class with Sensei. I think he was trying to tire us out so we wouldn't be too hard on the yudansha during the week. It was an absolute blast. Sensei taught again on Saturday morning, and we did several really interesting exercises, including a walking-pace randori practice that looked like "Night of the Living Aikidoka" as 6 uke wandered, zombie-like in the general direction of each nage. Then Terry, Bill, and Doug had their exams, and there was the dojo party and potluck with the Sumo suits. (If you haven't seen the video yet, you can find it on my YouTube channel.)
The classes during the week were all as different as they could be, and offered many opportunities to try completely new things, hear familiar things explained
I'm going to keep the brief, because come hell or high water I am going to get 8 hours' sleep tonight.
Have you read the two diaries that make their way around the Internet every so often? One is by a cat, and one is by a dog. The cat reports the horrors of his captivity, while the dog is excited about everything that happens, all day long:
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
My experience of Aikido all this week has been reminding me of the dog's diary: "Woohoo! My favorite teacher. Yay! My favorite kind of class. Awesome! My favorite people to train with. Oh, good! My favorite techniques."
The teacher tonight asked me (since I've been to a lot of classes this week) what techniques we had been working on in the classes. Or at least what kind of work we had been doing. I could only come up with a very short list. I really should start being more conscious of that, I suppose. So I'll try to post a very brief summary of at least a few memorable points from each class, mostly to use for my own review.
Tonight we did a lot of bokken work:
Cutting, one direction, and then with irimi
8-directions cut (happo giri)
Front rolls, and back slap-falls (?) with bokken
We also did a bit of open-hand jiyuwaza.
A fairly large class, with a broad range of levels, learning happo giri looks a heck of
Tonight's class was weapons. We usually focus on one weapon per class, and tonight it was jo (my favorite!). We did the first 12 jo suburi, and a combination of several at the end. I think I've only done 1 through 5 or 6 before tonight. I definitely had not seen the bigger swirling-the-jo-around techniques - those were fun!
I really like weapons classes, for the opportunity to work independently and slowly. It's possible to focus on the mechanics, alignment, center/base, staying relaxed, breath, posture, and so on, without the rush of doing partner practice. I wouldn't want to train like that exclusively, but it's nice to be able to break things down and work on what you need to work on.
I also like that once I get something basically down, I can practice it at home on my own. (I keep a spare jo in the barn for that.)
Tonight I was really happy about most of what I did (not really lost at any point). I felt much more solid and settled than usual during the techniques. Between techniques, however, I caught myself being a bit busy and unfocused in the way I was moving. I've seen what that looks like in videos (it looks ridiculous and goofy ), and have been trying to be more conscious of it. So tonight I tried my "being someone else" approach (see that blog post). Sort of "how might this look and feel if I were...?" It worked beautifully. No "trying" just doing. And then feeling what it felt like to be doing things that way.
I sure didn't get everything perfect today, but I did a lot better. 5-1/2 hours of sleep instead of 4, and actual meals (big, hearty salads), meant more energy. Last night's bath, plus a few sessions with ice packs, had everything feeling better today. More water, less coffee, more focused.
Not perfect... Still not enough sleep. I didn't eat or drink enough this afternoon. Having a good dinner now, with ice packs scattered about as needed, and heading for bed ASAP. I'm glad I seem to be able to get things going in the right direction, instead of getting more sore, and more tired.
Tonight (day 6 of 16) there were two classes, so I did them both - 2 hours, total. It's the first time I've trained on a Wednesday, because I usually have another commitment in the evening. So these classes were new ones for me.
The first class (open to all students) was the biggest class I've done, aside from the Nadeau seminar in July. The second class is "only" open to 6 kyu and above. (I'm 6th kyu - that's the level where you've proven some very basic competence at simple things - graduated from kindergarten, essentially.) There really is no set pattern to how classes are run, aside from warm-ups, but this week in particular, with a variety of yudansha teaching while Sensei is on vacation, they are even more variable. It's great to hear things explained in different ways, do new exercises and techniques, and experience a little different temperament to each class.
Before I got horses, I got chickens as "practice livestock," to see if I was up for the whole feeding-and-cleaning-every-day-and-night thing. I made some mistakes, and learned a lot. After a year, and still enthusiastic, I tore out trees, got the yard graded, put in a barn and fencing, and dove into horse ownership better prepared for having had that experience with the chickens.
In addition to being fun and worthwhile on its own merits, this two-week period of training at every opportunity (now at only day 5 of 16) serves a similar purpose. This time it's to help me be more prepared for the Aikido Bridge seminar in January. And true to form I've made some mistakes and am learning a lot. A few lessons so far:
Do not take on any other projects. Like grocery shopping, laundry, or cooking food. Get that stuff out of the way well beforehand.
Do not make commitments that keep you up into the wee hours. Aikido on 4 hours' sleep and 10 cups of coffee is way less fun that you might imagine.
Get plenty of sleep for at least the week before. Going into a more-intense-than-usual training period coming off a week of sleep deprivation is stupid.
Don't plan anything at all in the evenings. Feed the critters, take a hot bath, go to bed with ice packs on anything ouchy.
Eat as well as possible. Living on snacks (healthy ones though they may be) is not a good strategy for having lots of energy and endurance.
Warm up and stretch in the mornings. Being tight and achy before class us
I know, intellectually, that we need not be defined by our pasts. We can start now, where we are, and create our own futures anew. I had known that, but still felt ensnared by a litany of Perfectly Good Reasons for being who I was. They were some really solid reasons, too.
But when I sat down recently to list these things they suddenly seemed insignificant, powerless, and pointless. Not like something I should try to ignore, and move ahead in spite of, but truly meaningless, at a gut level. It felt ridiculous even to be writing them down, and so I stopped.
I'm sure there will be times when stories from my past will seem more present and real than they do right now. But I won't forget this.
On Saturday morning we had a really interesting class, with lots of fun exercises, including a sort of 6-uke slow/easy randori, which was really enlightening. Then there were exams - two for 6th kyu, and a 4th kyu. Dang, that 4th kyu test looks challenging (and exhausting).
After class we had a BBQ/potluck party, with inflatable Sumo suits. We often have some kind of party after exams, plus this time Jason and Karen (the two in the video, along with Sensei) were celebrating 10 years in Aikido. A fantastic time (and lunch) was had by all.