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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.
This is the day one of my 15-day personal Aikido Intensive. Tonight included lots to think about - refining some well-known techniques and exploring some new ones. Awesome class. After a very challenging week at work (at lot of which was engaging and rewarding, but still…), I really needed it, too.
Several of the techniques we worked on involved falling or rolling - quite a lot of it. I had been kind of stiff and achy all day, and the first few rolls I did before class weren't pretty (or pleasant) at all. But by the end of the class my partner and I were playing pretty hard (by my standards, at least), and it was sheer fun. And afterward I felt a lot better than I did when I walked in.
As I was driving home I thought about my first phone conversation with Dave Goldberg Sensei. I knew I wanted to do Aikido, and was looking into training at Aikido of San Diego. I had heard somewhere about a low-impact class, and thought that might be what I needed, since I've had an abundance of foot, arm, hand, and shoulder problems (with all the associated PT, surgery, orthotics, etc.). Sensei explained that he'd tried that kind of class at some point, but he preferred that things be more inclusive, with everyone in the same classes. He said I wouldn't be expected to do anything I couldn't handle.
Part of that conversation was some nonsense from me about only being able to train once a week, and would that even be worth doing - and would he even have me as a student if that's all I
Thanks to a happy fluke in my calendar, my next two weeks will be my own personal Aikido Intensive. It means being at work an hour early (and I am not a morning person). I'll have to kick butt on caring for Rainy and the donkeys, and on doing my strengthening exercises in the mornings and evenings. But I know it will be well worth it. It's also going to be a particularly intense time at work, with some long hours, so Aikido will be a good re-centering time each day. And that's all my days will be - sleep, chores, exercises, work, Aikido, critters, work, sleep.
It starts this Saturday with an Aikido class, watching exams, & dojo party (and making a salad Friday night). There will be Sumo suits! Naturally I'll try to get a cool photo or video to post.
Next week I plan to train Tuesday through Saturday. Sensei will be away, so the classes will be taught by several of the yudansha. I've trained with most of them before, and am looking forward to experiencing their whole spectrum of approaches to Aikido and teaching throughout the week. There's only one I have not had the opportunity to work with yet, but have been wanting to. I think he's teaching two of the classes. Woohoo!
The following week Sensei is back, so the week will have an entirely different awesome quality to it. I plan to train Monday through Saturday that week.
I hope I can do that much! I'm really excited about seeing how near-daily training is different from the sporadic 2 or 3 days a week I've be
"Create each day anew by clothing yourself with heaven and earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and love, and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature. Your body and mind will be gladdened, depression and heartache will dissipate, and you will be filled with gratitude."
Morihei Ueshiba (O Sensei), from The Art of Peace, translated and edited by John Stevens
A month ago I would've thought of this as some lovely idealistic vision, but it's becoming my real daily experience.
Note: I also posted this at www.grabmywrist.com, where the text was accompanied by a photo of a butterfly on an orange blossom in my backyard.
There's been a discussion on AikiWeb lately, "Aikido Changed My Life!" about the ways one has been changed by Aikido.
I have been practicing Aikido for only a little over 6 months. Even in that short time I have had many experiences of not recognizing myself, more so in the past few weeks.
The changes I can explain are changes I have intentionally made - better fitness, weight loss, a more disciplined approach to some things at work and home. (I shared some of these in a post before my first exam "Reflections at the First Milestone", and will share more recent ones another time.) In making these changes my practice of Aikido is a piton* in the rock face - a source of support and safety that enables me to climb higher.
But there are many changes I cannot explain. I'm happier, more settled, less cynical, more focused. I'm more aware of the emotions of people around me, more willing to be open and vulnerable with people, filled with gratitude, deeply touched by kindness. I've grown, and watched others grow. Things that were hard are easy. I never expected this.
This path is taking me through some unfamiliar but breathtaking territory.
*Pitons ("PEE-tahn") are those metal pins that mountain climbers pound into cracks and then hook onto to keep them from falling to their deaths if they slip.