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Well, fine. I can't train 6 hours a day and keep up with blogging at the same time. So, here's a bit of catching up.
The seminar was a wonderful experience, with the ouchy exception of some persistent leg muscle spasms that started a couple of weeks ago. I got through most of it, and had a good deal of fun, but was also pretty limited in what I could do, and distracted, which was unfortunate.
There were 6 guest instructors in addition to the main 3. Here's a quick summary of a few of the classes, to the best of my recollection.
Troy Farrow Sensei taught on Friday morning. We worked on a variety of swirly techniques from gyakute-dori (cross-hand grab), including one I do all the time in jiyuwaza, but can recall ever seeing anyone teach it. It was a fun, high-energy class, and a great way to get going in the morning.
Friday evening's class was led by Greg O'Conner Sensei, who I had the pleasure of training with at the Aiki Retreat last summer, too. His focus was on movements coming from sword technique, with a lot of cutting energy.
On Friday night I hustled out the door and back to my home dojo, Aikido of San Diego, because Goldberg Sensei would be teaching the 90-minute class. I miss those lately, because he usually teaches the 90-minute class on Wednesdays (my date night). These longer classes are often more seminar-like in temperament, really going into depth on some aspect of Aikido as a practice, as opposed to techniques. It was a truly inspired class, a
For the third year running, I am participating in the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar in San Diego, with Doran Sensei, Ikeda Sensei, Tissier Sensei, and 6 guest instructors. (sandiego.aikidobridge.com)
Today, Thursday, was the first of five days, and just ran from 6-8 p.m., but I'm exhausted, so this is going to be quick. :-) I'm taking vacation time (Thursday-Monday) for the seminar, so I had the whole day free. Naturally I filled it with all kinds of fun. Here's how it went:
Set the alarm for oh-dark-hundred.
Hit snooze about 6 times.
Jump out of bed, soak food for the donkeys, eat.
Shower, grab my stuff, and head to my home dojo (Aikido of San Diego).
Participate in a 90-minute conference call from the dojo (was there alone), so that I could be there on time to train with Jean, who has her 5th kyu exam coming up next week.
Train with Jean for an hour.
Participate in the the first session of our new 8-week Low Impact class, which was really a nice experience.
Hang around and chat after class.
Mozy on home. Eat a banana and raw nuts on the way.
Have a 90-minute massage, in an attempt to un-spasm my left calf and hamstrings, which seem hell-bent on preventing me from practicing suwariwaza.
Have a hearty snack of nachos, grab a fresh gi, and run out the door.
Forget my phone. Oh well.
Get to the seminar with maybe 5 minutes to spare. Change, get on the mat, bow in.
Have a fantastic time training. Get a few things easily, and totally miss a
Between work, the holidays, the server being down for a bit, and training even more than usual, I've gotten the two versions of my blog out of sync. As it's nearly midnight, on the first evening of a 5-day seminar, I will resist the urge to fix that right this minute,
When I do fix it (in a few days, I promise) I'll date those posts as of the dates I originally posted them on GrabMyWrist.com, so the two match up. That means 3-4 new posts will appear before this one.
For the next few days, though, I'll be posting about the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar, happening now (Jan. 12-16, 2012) in San Diego.
A friend from work shared a link today to this article: The Trouble with Bright Kids. It describes some research on the kind of positive, praising feedback we get when we succeed, and how that can influence our chances of success on future attempts. It's also interesting to read how girls/women and boys/men are affected differently.
It really rings true for me. Or hits a nerve. Or maybe it's both. I was one of the "high ability" kids (possessing an innate quality, as opposed to making a "strong effort"). I went through school accompanied by a litany of desperate admonishments by my teachers: "You're one of the brightest students in the class. You should be getting better grades." Mind you, no one in the school system did a thing to help me learn how to do that, they were just constantly disappointed in me.
It wasn't until college, when I took Cognitive Psychology, and Psychology of Learning & Perception, and put the principles into practice, that I figured out how to succeed in school. Went from Cs and Ds, and academic probation, to all As, on the Dean's List.
What I realized after reading the article, and thinking it over on the way to the dojo, was that the whole issue is skill-area dependent. Or at least it seems that way to me.
No one ever told me I was athletically gifted (in spite of being a very physical, coordinated kid). I was never on any teams, or competed at anything. And here I am being patient with myself, and sticking to it, learning Aikido in my l
Well, bummer. It's official. The CAA "Menlo Retreat" is on sabbatical for 2012. The hope is it will return, in some new form, in 2013.
I'm disappointed to not be going next summer. I was really looking forward to seeing everyone, and doing nothing but training for a whole week. My dorm things are still/already packed from last summer.
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience it at least that one time, to have met so many really wonderful people and participated in a warm, inclusive Aikido tradition.
I'm looking forward to 2013, and to helping create the event, in whatever way I can help. For now, we can all stay in touch and post photos and stories about past Retreats, share ideas and info about the future, and keep the soul of the event alive. If you are on Facebook, there's the Aiki Summer Retreat Fans page you can "Like" to stay in touch. And check the fan website: www.aikiretreat.com from time to time.
Please share the links with your friends from time to time, so they can be in the loop about the new 2013+ Retreat. Invite them to go, when details emerge about it. If 2013 is going to be the beginning of a new and successful event, we're going to have to support it.
Meanwhile, take the week of vacation time and the money you were planning on spending to go to the Retreat, and find another Aikido event to enjoy and support. Start with those at your own dojo, of course, and pick any other event(s) you think might be worthwhile. Go, and
"Breathe in, and enjoy breathing in."
"Breathe out, and enjoy breathing out."
Patrick Cassidy Sensei, from Aikido Montreux, was here teaching a seminar recently. While instructing us in an ukemi exercise he told us to do something (basically a way of rolling around smoothly on the mat), and then he added the instruction to "enjoy doing" what we were doing.
Until that moment I had seen enjoyment as a passive thing that might or might not happen, depending on the circumstances. But he presented enjoyment as a deliberate, volitional act. "Enjoy doing this."
It's something I've been exploring since: Enjoy driving to work. Enjoy washing your hair.
I was reminded of it this morning, when Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, was leading a meditation at the Plum Village Online Monastery, and gave the instruction above, about breathing.
As a member of the dojo community we often want to make a contribution in some way. As a beginner there's often precious little we can do. We can't teach. We often don't know enough to jump in and take on dojo projects. But there are little ways we can help out. Keeping the dojo nice is one way any of us can do a little something.
Sometimes we don't notice the little details because we are looking at them all the time. And sometimes we just don't know what do. Here are some ideas. They will of course vary between dojo. Check with your dojo cho, sensei, or sempai before taking on anything too risky (like painting the walls a new color!). These things are probably pretty safe ways to pitch in:
Pick a small area that doesn't get cleaned often, and take it on. Like a cabinet, or the strips along the walls that daily vacuuming doesn't get.
If you have a green thumb, pull weeds, deadhead the old flowers, prune what needs pruning, or maybe bring a few plants to fill in gaps in the landscaping.
Wipe down the door jambs or baseboards.
Wash the windows. Or just one window. Clean the mirrors.
Seek and destroy all the cobwebs! Escort the spiders outdoors and turn them loose.
Take the rags and towels home, wash and fold them, and return them.
Take the rugs outside (far away from any open doors) and beat the dust out of them.
Clean out the refrigerator, or the microwave.
If you have dressing room curtains, vacuum the dust off them.
[Another in my series of "Ten Things" posts. I was going to call them "Ten Tips" but some are going to be "Ten Ways," "Ten Reasons," etc.]
When I first started in Aikido weapons held no fascination for me at all. I never watched Samurai movies. I was not fascinated by Ninjas. OK, so yeah, I had a throwing star years ago, but that's about as far as it went. I wasn't planning on training with weapons at all, in fact. And then one time I had my days mixed up, and ended up in a weapons class by accident. And I loved it. Go figure.
Weapons training can help us understand open-hand techniques better, and helps develop better alignment and grounding. At our dojo we can start training in weapons right away. The classes are not reserved for advanced students. In fact one student recently did the weapons class as his very first-ever Aikido class, and he did fine.
Weapons work can seem mysterious There's more confusing etiquette and tradition to figure out, and even more new words to learn. Plus there are people swinging sticks at you! It can be a little intimidating. So if you're thinking about trying weapons classes, but are a little nervous about the whole thing, take heart, you will do just fine. Here are ten tips to help you jump in:
In my experience at our dojo, just before class the instructor will announce which kind of weapon you will be using. The long straight ones are "jo" and the shorter curved ones are "bokken." The little ones in the basket on the floor are "tanto."
Most dojo have some school weapons, that anyone may use. If you aren't sure which are OK, ask. At Aikido of San Diego these are
[I've been meaning to write up a series of "Ten Tips" posts, for all those subjects where I have a little of this and that to say. This is as good a topic as any for the first one.]
I love it when aikidoka from other dojo come play with us. It's fun to meet people from all over the world, and to learn a little about how things are done in other places. I don't travel a lot, but if I did I'd sure want to visit other dojo, meet folks there, and get my Aikido fix!
I've been to a few other dojo for seminars, talked to a lot of people from other schools, and I've been confused myself when trying to figure out how things work in new places. So here are a few pointers for figuring out "the way things are done" that might help you feel more at home when you train somewhere else:
Most dojo welcome visitors of any affiliation. Knowing the affiliation or lineage can be interesting, though. The dojo where I train for instance, Aikido of San Diego, is affiliated with Aikikai, through the California Aikido Association (CAA), under Division 3, headed by Robert Nadeau Shihan.
Notice (or ask) how are instructors and others addressed? At our dojo only Goldberg Sensei is addressed as "Sensei". At some dojo any instructor who is teaching at the moment is addressed as "Sensei."
Belt colors, if they are used, can help clue you in to the level of your training partners. We have a few belt colors (6 & 5 = white, 4 & 3 = blue, 2 & 1 = brown), and only yudansha wear hakama. In some schools, belts are white for all kyu ranks. In others, everyone wears hakama. So don't assume that people wearing white belts are newbies, or that those wearing hakama are yudansha.