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This Saturday morning I will arrive at a milestone of sorts on my Aikido path - my first test, for 6th kyu. I've done 36 training days over the course of four and one half months. I can't believe it's only been that long - it feels like a lifetime (in a good way). Some reflections on my journey so far:
Early on I injured my shoulder, and I have recovered completely from that injury. I have lost 20 pounds. I worked with a personal trainer/PT to set up an exercise program, and am in better shape than I have been in years. I've made new friends at the dojo, locally, and online, and have reconnected with still more friends through Aikido. I've seen several rounds of tests, including the Sho-Dan test of one of my favorite sempai. I've learned that I like (and need, really) meditating before class. I've been to a dojo picnic, a party, and camping.
I've always enjoyed learning, so I dove into Aikido from many angles. Even before looking into local dojo I listened to all 9 episodes of the "Aikido - The Way of Harmony" podcast. I have listened to them again since, many times since, and I'm sure will many more. Together they are a great introduction to Aikido, and I hear them in a completely new way each time I listen.
I've read a nightstand-full of books, including "The Art of Peace" (O Sensei) of course, "Aikido and the New Warrior" (edited by Richard Strozzi-Heckler), "The Way of Aikido - Life Lessons from an American Sensei" (George Leonard), "Aikido for Life" (Gaku Homma
I've been working with my mentor, a senior student at the dojo, preparing for my upcoming (9/19) 6th kyu test. It never ceases to amaze me how perceptive a good teacher can be. Working with him has done my Aikido a world of good. Only 2 more sessions with him before the test. I'm nervous/excited, but not panic-stricken. Feeling pretty good about it.
This weekend (Fri-Sun) is our dojo's annual fall Aikido Retreat. 3 days of training and other fun in the local mountains. This will be the first I've gone to (I only started in May of this year). The guest instructor will be Kayla Feder Sensei, and of course our own Dave Goldberg Sensei. There's no matted area, so no rolling. Lots of weapons work, and non-falling Aikido. I have it on good authority that it's going to be a blast, and I'm really looking forward to it.
With 20 days to my first-ever (6 kyu) grading exam I've started cramming stuff into my brain, and into muscle memory.
Several months ago I copied all the requirements (for all tests through shodan) from the exam preparation page on the Aikido of San Diego web site, and pasted them into Google Docs spreadsheet. As I learn them I can make notes, and then review from time to time. Using Google Docs lets me access it from anywhere, including my iPhone when I have a spare moment.
Here's what I have to know, plus real basic-basics like etiquette & how to stand in hanmi. (Formatting/punctuation is my own. Not standard, but clearer to me.):
6 Kyu Exam Content
Ukemi: Forward roll
Ukemi: Back roll
Katate-dori: tai no henko,
Katate-dori: shihonage, omote
Katate-dori: shihonage, ura
Shomen-uchi: Ikkyo, omote
Shomen-uchi: Ikkyo, ura
Suwariwaza: kokyu dosa
I have a paragraph or two of notes on each, from big "what is this" info to little tips on the finer points of execution. Sometimes just having a few key words is a huge help. "The zig-zag one, where you end with their arm pinned flat to the floor" (katete-dori shihonage omote), or "the one where you disappear behind Uke" (...ura), or the way-more-fun-sounding-than-it-really-is "smooshing a pie in Uke's face," (suwariwaza kokyu dosa).
Now that I have the info down, I can sort of drill myself on it, mentally, and use visualization to practice each techn
This has been an intense couple of weeks. I've been at the dojo more often, have a mentor for my 6 kyu test, and I've been turned loose by my personal trainer with a set of core and shoulder exercises to do for the next few months. I'll be doing a weekend retreat in the mountains with the dojo in September - mostly weapons - and am really looking forward to that.
Through it all, I am determined to not only not neglect the other aspects of my life (home, critters, & work), but to do my best to complete projects, catch up on chores, and spend time with the beasties. It wouldn't be budo, you know, to let the rest of life fall apart. So far, so good.
I trained on Friday and Saturday, and then did a seminar on Sunday. The seminar was incredible. Not only was it plain fun and engaging, but it was the kind of experience that opens a crack in one's way of being, letting light shine on many things not directly addressed during those two hours. It's still sinking in, and will be for a long time. It's hard to put into words. I tend to think in images, and the image for this one is of hands lifting a little fish out of a tide pool and releasing it into the sea.
I'll be training 3 days a week for a couple of weeks (a lot for me), and working with my mentor after each class. I need to be spending a lot more time on the elliptical trainer, too, and remembering to breathe during jiyuwaza. I get way too winded.
I got called up for a demo for the first time today (figures it would
I have been fairly comfortably going along, slowly, as an Aikido newbie. Working diligently and mindfully, but in no hurry. Plodding. No deadlines. Well, I recently passed our association's minimum of 20 training days to test for the lowest rank, 6th Kyu. So I've been glancing with some trepidation at the dojo whiteboard, where names are posted of those who will be testing. Our next tests are on September 19th. I never thought I'd be in that batch. I thought maybe November (we have tests every 2 months, I believe). But I kept checking the board, just in case.
On Thursday I stopped by the dojo, just to drop something off, and a friend in the class turned and pointed at the board: http://www.twitpic.com/eny66
I'm about as calm and even-tempered as a person could be, but I was really stunned/delighted. I actually ran to my car, grabbed my iPhone, and tweeted a photo of the board. (Yes, I am a geek. It even says so on my license plate. )
Here's what I said on Facebook, and I stand by it: "I am here to tell you that the thoughts "It's not *that* big a deal, and nobody expects you to be perfect at this level," and "Squeeee!!! OMG, OMG, OMG!!!" Can coexist perfectly well in one mind."
It's the damnedest thing. My (very) rational mind knows that everyone who shows up long enough, and who can roll without killing themselves, tests for 6th Kyu. It's like "graduating" from kindergarten. What's interesting though, in the "watching my mind blabbering on" sense, is t
Yesterday I skipped participating in class, in favor of getting some video (potentially for the dojo's Web site). It was our new shodan's last day training with us (he's off to college), and the light was beautiful. Sensei led the class through a lot of techniques. Also I was really tired (little sleep) and dizzy (vertigo acting up), so I kind "didn't feel like" working very hard anyway. So it was a great opportunity to do the video, and it was fun doing that, but dang... I really miss having participated! In a sort of visceral "missing someone" sense. I've felt kind of off-balance since then.
Interesting how much Aikido becomes part of us (and how quickly).
I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to put together a coherent set of ideas for a post. So once again, here are some random bits:
Still digesting everything Nadeau Sensei said when he was here for a seminar. One way he suggests looking at things is that you (your body, hips, and hara) are "the vaccuum cleaner" and the techniques (what your arms and hands are doing) are just attachments. It's the horsepower/amperage that make the machine powerful, not which kind of brush you snap onto the hose.
I'm beginning to see some of the layers of the onion that Aikido is. One that seems to keep coming up in the past couple of weeks is misdirection, as in magic. Using atemi to draw uke's focus, appearing to be rooted on the line of attack while actually preparing to rotate off of it, etc. Playing with people's perceptions is fascinating stuff.
I've discovered that, in spite of trying to stay relaxed, I'm doing something during bokken work that's really hurting my neck muscles - the little ones on the front and sides. I think it's a combination of weakness there, and of using the wrong muscles to compensate for others that are weak. So I have some new strengthening and stretching exercises to do.
On of my favorite sempai, Johnathon Purcell, tested for shodan yesterday. Here is slo-mo video of his first throw in his new hakama: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEShoS3CzIg&fmt=18
He started at Aikido of San Diego when he was 11 years old. He's off to college at UC Berkele
[The sidebar on the AikiWeb forums shortened the title of my post from "Tripping over my own BRAIN" to: "Tripping over my own bra..." That would be a hilarious post, but this one is about my brain. Not nearly so funny. Maybe next time...]
First, the seminar with Nadeau Sensei was great. Enlightening, engaging, educational, and very entertaining. More on that another time.
Right now tonight's class (training day 16), or rather how I did in tonight's class, is the subject. Poorly would be a kind word for it. I couldn't get anything right for the life of me. Things I've done OK before, I got backwards, inside out, and upside down. Things I finally did right just a second ago, were wrong all over again now.
It was like I couldn't grasp what I was seeing or being told. I would swear the inside leg swept backward, but when I'd get to that point in the technique, my inside leg was already back, and what I thought I knew to do next didn't make any sense at all. So then what do you do?
And when you don't do it right the first n times, the n+1th time isn't any better. It feels like rushing through learning a song. When you learn to play or sing a song, you have to learn what's going to be coming next at each point. If you get to a point in the tune, and have to stop and check every time to see what follows, you never learn the tune. You learn to stop and check. You have to be able to think, during the line about the tree, that the next line i
I will be participating in a seminar this weekend - "Aikido as an Art of Harmony" with Robert Nadeau Shihan, at Aikido of San Diego (www.aikidosd.com). Not a huge deal, but from the "Aikido as a laboratory for life" perspective, it's a big deal for me. Having a goal with a deadline tends to focus one's attention and efforts far better than simply "getting better at this, someday" would.
Before I ever stepped onto a mat I did a lot of reading and learning while healing from a minor hand injury. Once I was OK to do physical stuff I found a dojo. Then I spent several weeks recovering from the Very Long Cold From Hell. I finally started training in May. I expected a lot from Aikido, and it's proving to be much more than that, even.
I've gotten through a few muscle injuries, a shoulder injury, and the stunning realizations that a) I was in no kind of good shape At All, and b) I really can be, if I just work at it. I've done PT, gotten massages (not the happy fun kind), and started working with a personal trainer to set up a personalized workout plan. I've made progress in leaps and bounds, compared to what I'd previous thought I could achieve.
One of my short-term goals has been to be in good enough shape to participate in this weekend's seminar. I have been rolling and falling in Aikido classes, with no problems. I've been very careful not to injure/reinjure myself, and have been doing everything I can to heal well, and quickly. Since getting back on the mat. I've been
I am going for my first consultation with a personal trainer tomorrow. www.fitnesswithoutwalls.com She's going to help me come up with a "real world" workout program I can do on my own. The goal is to be in better shape for Aikido and horseback riding (and everything else, generally), and to prevent injuries by making sure I'm doing things correctly.
I've set up a kind of blog-thing about that, with photos of places and equipment I have for working out, my goals, etc. If you're interested, you can find it here: http://fitforfun.tumblr.com/
I'll keep right on blogging here about Aikido, of course.