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When I tested for 2nd kyu, almost a year ago now I was required to demonstrate the 31 jo kata. The 31 jo kata is a flowing series of 31 techniques with the jo, a wooden weapon that looks essentially like a rake handle. There are strikes, thrusts, blocks, and parries. The kata is sort of a pantomime of one side of a hypothetical fight against someone else similarly equipped with a jo. It's a fairly long and complex weapons exercise. The idea of the exercise, which was created by Morihiro Saito Sensei, is to demonstrate proper form and energy throughout (that is, crisp technique, good posture, and relaxed-but-focused movement and breathing). To be successful we have to understand how to do each movement well, and also memorize the order of the whole thing.
As part of training for that I had to learn to count to 31 in Japanese. We count the numbers of the techniques out loud, in front of everyone, as we do each movement of the kata. For others who will be testing for 2nd kyu, I will share here how I learned to do the counting.
It's easy to find information on numbers in Japanese. The sounds of the words are easy to make, and the rules for combining the numbers above 10 are very straightforward. It's not even a little bit confusing to understand it. Anyone can look up "how to count in Japanese," and have that information in seconds.
But you may have noticed that I didn't call this "How to Count to 31 in Japanese." Instead, I called it "How to Learn to Count Out Loud to
Today marks the beginning of the four-week countdown to my first kyu exam on March 9. I spent the afternoon training with friends , and the evening discussing training strategies, among other things, over dinner.
I've been training with my exam in mind for a good while, but the date has seemed safely distant, off in the future sometime. I haven't been too concerned with things that aren't smooth, or for that matter that I hardly know it all, because it felt like there was a lot of time left. No worries. I've been dealing with a funky nerve in my neck and arm, fighting various colds and coughs, and trying to get my first book finished and published. Just show up and train, there's no rush… But now suddenly it doesn't feel like I have much time at all! This is the time to snap out of that "whenever" thinking, and instead begin to bring a good bit more attention, precision, and fullness to everything. Now.
I have technique notes written down here and there, and a few scribbles about things I need to work on. I will feel more secure once I have them in one place, with a clear list of the things I really need help with.
But first, I promised I would finish another blog post, about counting to 31 in Japanese. So that's next, and then getting all my notes together in one place. Ready? Acck! Go!
[Originally posted January 22nd, 2013 - Catching up on a couple of missed posts here.]
Well, I've run into an interesting complication with writing. I've managed to screw up the radial nerve in my left arm. My thumb and forefingers tingle and go numb when I use my right arm for things like the trackball or the keyboard. So, I'm trying an experiment. I am using the voice to text feature on my iPhone to dictate blog posts And other writing.
The good news is that Aikido seems to loosen things up. I trained for 12 days straight at the beginning of the year, and improved continuously. My physical therapist was very impressed. Then for one day on a Sunday, I didn't train, and instead worked at the computer off and on. That about did me in! Even with frequent stops for stretching, PT exercises, and other movement, my neck and shoulders got really tight and painful.
I got back to training, slowly, with a few false starts, and yesterday managed over six hours on the mat. I'm no worse for the wear. If anything everything is a little looser. Today I have a class in the morning, and then another appointment with my orthopedic doctor. We'll see what we can figure out.
Meanwhile, I had a great time over the weekend at the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar, and at a seminar with Dave Goldberg sensei at Aikido Tijuana. I was very disappointed to not be able to take ukemi for some shodan exams there, on Sunday. Alas… I hope next time I will be able to. I am grateful that this injury at least is not keeping me off the mat, for the most part. I just need to learn how
I hope my neighbors are in their beds, dreaming their dreams, late at night.
I hope they are sound sleepers, sawing logs, not bothered by much.
I hope they are not nosy; not peering from their windows with the lights out.
It's bad enough I feed the donkeys after class, and sometimes after dinner.
The braying at 10:30 could be trying if my neighbors were awake.
The clatter of cat food into dishes, and splashing of water into large bowls,
Might not be too bad. At least the kitties are well enough behaved.
I hope my neighbors are not fearful.
They would surely wonder what that crazy Eskin lady is doing now,
out there in the dark, swinging and swirling a rake handle overhead
while the donkeys munch their hay.
"Has she at last gone completely mad?"
How could they know that practicing the 20 jo suburi in the stillness
is the perfect way to settle down before settling into bed?
If they do see, I hope my neighbors don't worry.
"Why on earth is she lying on the driveway, on her back, at 2 a.m.?"
Maybe they haven't seen the observatory in the yard.
Maybe they didn't read the news about the meteor shower.
"And why is that rake handle lying across across her chest?"
Perhaps they haven't noticed the raccoons,
Who've come to eat the cat food.
Earlier this week as I was doing a few hours of mundane chores - tasks that required no mental effort - I noticed that my mind was dwelling on random things. I wondered about the kind of person who would leave a Mercedes SUV idling for 30 minutes near the open door of the dojo, while they waited for someone shopping next door. I admired the craftsmanship in a piece of artwork as I dusted it, and thought how we can be known by the quality of our work long after we are gone. I reminded myself, again, that I really ought to clean out my car. I thought about community, and how everyone contributes in their own way. I considered patching a few little nicks in some drywall, and wondered what a stray half-inch sheet metal screw might have fallen off of.
I noticed the amount of energy and creativity that was necessary to think these pointless, and sometimes negative thoughts, and decided it would be better spent planning the kids' class I was going to be teaching later that day, or generating ideas for future writing projects. If I was going to put so much effort into thinking about something, it might as well be positive and useful, right?
So, I tried that, and within moments was off thinking about something else - maybe the design of the stepladder, or how it is that some people can't figure out which way to drive through our parking lot. I didn't even realize my mind had wandered off, of course, until later. "Hey, wait a minute… Wasn't I supposed to be outlining chapters i
In addition to writing my blog, I am part of a group of women called "The Mirror," here on AikiWeb. We write one of the monthly columns, taking turns each time. My most recent one, "What I Learned by Not Going to a Seminar" was published on December 31st. Enjoy...
"For months my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, had been planning to participate in the Dead Sea Seminar, led by Miles Kessler Sensei and Patrick Cassidy Sensei, in Israel. There were to be other stops along the way, making this a 15-day trip for him. Before the seminar, Sensei would stop in Switzerland to train, and was to teach an Aikido Without Borders class in the Ramallah, in the West Bank. A couple of dojo mates were planning to participate in the seminar as well. It was a big deal, to have a contingent from our dojo going, and it would be the longest time Sensei had been away.
I'm so excited about this year. I've spent the past 6 months, the last half of 2012, getting ready. I transitioned from full-time to part-time work so I could focus more on Aikido and writing. I've started organizing my work, found resources, learned new tools, and gotten ongoing coaching. I launched my own publishing company (which has yet to publish anything, but it'll be there when I need it), Shugyo Press. I've finished up projects, and gotten rid of things I'm not using. I've given musical instruments away, put horse stuff on consignment, and donated books. I've cleared out and cleaned up space, in my house, on my shelves, and in my mind. Yesterday, New Year's Eve, I spent the whole day cleaning, right down to the cobwebs on the ceiling and the gunk on the baseboards. Michael and I enjoyed a quiet little celebration with a long-time friend.
Now, fueled by a good night's sleep and two cups of coffee, I'm on a ridge looking over a vast plain. I have time to think and room to move. I won't try to plan out 2013 - there's too much I don't know - but I have an idea of the direction I want to take. I can see what lies just ahead pretty well, though, and I'm really excited about it. Here's what I have planned for the next few weeks:
Today, New Year's Day - Clean the dojo in preparation for a seminar this coming weekend, and then head to another local dojo, Jiai Aikido, for a joint Kagami Biraki training session and potluck with the nice folks the
2012 has been a year for taking a new direction. I turned 50, which is, even for an optimist, "halfway there." I almost certainly have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. I've developed an increasing intolerance for the idea of "getting around to it someday," and have been taking decisive action on many fronts. Years aside, I have more life ahead of me than behind. I have more choices, more resources, more opportunities, and more freedom - all the space in the world for experiencing, creating, and enjoying.
I've been letting go of lots of things - letting go of my identification with them - horse things, books, musical instruments. I'm selling a few things, and giving other things away, which is far more fun. I just took down my very outdated 180+ page personal website (www.LindaEskin.com) and replaced it with much simpler page leading to some of my other sites. I'm cleaning up physical spaces, decluttering my environment and my mind, making room and time for things that matter.
I've decided I'm going to be a writer when I grow up. More accurately, I finally noticed that I am a writer, and started acting in accordance with that. At the end of summer I stopped working full-time in user experience, and instead am focusing most of my energies on writing professionally. I started out with the goal of writing two books - a quick, short one just for fun, to learn how the pro
Give the ancient little oak ukelele to your friend at work. She'll enjoy it.
Sell your 5-string banjo, as simple as they come, in its solid case with the rope handle by which you've carried it to workshops. If you haven't learned to play it yet…
Sell the basic-but-serviceable electric guitar, even though you love the curvy shape, and dark, polished wooden body.
Return the good electric one to Michael. He can have fun playing in its dozens of alternate tunings and different voices.
Keep your favorite acoustic guitar, and another to pass around at parties.
Keep the little red electric one. It could be fun to goof around with.
Keep your mandolin and fiddle, too.
Pack up boxes of books. The programming books and cookbooks, Dilbert and Miss Manners, biographies and histories, physics and feminism.
Drop off books on dealing with an addict. Your sister has been gone for years, and someone else at the recovery center will be needing them.
Keep the books about Aikido, music, gardening, and horsemanship.
You are not going to single-handedly restore public access to trails through your community. Find someone else who can use your boxes of files, piles of notebooks, and rolls of maps. You are not the keeper of local history. Give these things to someone who is.
Take down the colorful glass suncatchers that were enchanting 20 years ago, but now just gather dust and block the view. The painting of koi can go, too.