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Big ideas seem to come together for me in the morning, perhaps before the rational, detail-oriented part of my brain comes online and takes charge. Earlier this week, when I was uncharacteristically up before sunrise, a larger theme came to me that will help tie my book together. And now this morning, blundering around the kitchen getting my coffee, I realized that two things I've been struggling with are really the same. I am on the verge of publishing my first book, and in a few weeks I have my first kyu exam. In both cases, I've alternately been unconcerned, and a little panicky.
One day soon I will hit the Publish button, and my first book will go live on the Amazon store. And on March 9th, Sensei will call me up in front of the class, and for about 45 minutes I will bring forth everything I've got. No do overs. No excuses. I will wish I might have had more time for editing and rewriting. I will wish I had trained harder, spend more time, focused more clearly… But it will be what it is, and I will have to leave it at that and move on.
I know I still have some time. Feeling rushed and stressed out will not help me. These are just stepping stones on much longer paths — there will be more books, and more exams in the future. No lives are on the line. In the greater scheme of what's important in the world, these are No Big Deal. In one sense this is a sane, adaptive way of looking at things. But I recognize it as a defensive strategy: "It's not that important… I wasn
It's been a bit of a disjointed week… since my post about Monday, I've helped in the little kids class on Tuesday, and participated in two classes Tuesday evening. In the second class on Tuesday, I got to make a request, so I requested that we work on timing and entries, from munetsuki and shomen-uchi. We worked on kokyu-ho, kokyu nage, and kote-gaeshi. That was really useful, and I feel a lot more comfortable with those, although I still feel like I'm only doing them in slow motion. I'd love to be able to spend some time really drilling on these techniques. I feel like a few hundred repetitions would be a good start.
Wednesday was a relatively pleasant but unproductive day. I woke up late, making up for a few nights of sleep deprivation, and then had a massage, took a hot bath, and saw the chiropractor, all in hopes of continuing the improvement in the nerve in my neck and arm. It's been doing a tiny bit better each day for a few weeks now. That sounds like a lovely, relaxed day, but I had things I needed to get done, and didn't make any progress on them at all. So in spite of appearances it was actually pretty frustrating and stressful. I helped in the older kids class, but skipped the evening training on Wednesday to go out for early Valentine's Day dinner with my husband, Michael. Wednesdays are test prep nights, and people stay late to train together, so I hated to miss it this close to an exam. But the alternative would have been to miss the weapons class and the ad
Last night's classes were all great fun, and the last one was a bit different.
First, in the kids class, we reviewed a very direct kind of kokyu-ho from gyakute-dori, focusing on extending energy out beyond Uke. It's interesting to watch the kids working on that. At first Sensei had them work by themselves, just standing in hanmi and extending energy through their outstretched, relaxed arms and fingers While they seem to get that idea of extension, when they went to working in pairs they seemed unable to trust that it alone was sufficient. Instead of simply extending their arm out past uke's center, most of them resorted almost immediately to trying to push Uke over by shoving into Uke's neck or face with their upper arm, and rotating across Uke's center, clotheslining them. We probably all do this, especially as beginners in this particular technique, but in everything really. It's hard to trust the correct energy and form will ultimately produce the best outcome, so we fall back on trying to force things to happen the way we think they should.
Next, in the all levels adult class, weworked on a few techniques from ryote-dori (grabbing both wrists from the front), including tenshi-nage, kokyu-ho, and an interesting combination of the two, where the near hand does kokyu-ho while the far hand essentially executes the top half of tenshi-nage. The class was very technical, in a kind of centering and meditative way, really focusing on the minutia of our movements. A few goo
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