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One of the things we focused on in Cyril Poissonnet's class tonight was speed. We worked on training only at a pace where we could still do the technique well. We noticed how we would often get impatient and rush, and our form would fall apart. It was a really useful exercise to train keeping an awareness of that. I should incorporate it into my day-to-day training.
Cyril demonstrated doing a few things slowly, and correctly, and then speeding up to the point where they fell apart. He instructed us to go "as fast as you can," but only as fast as you can. If your technique gets sloppy, slow down to a speed where you can do it well.
It reminded me of something similar Patrick Cassidy Sensei told us during his most recent seminar at Aikido of San Diego. Cassidy Sensei asked if we knew what speed people are supposed to drive on the winding mountain roads of Switzerland. No one knew. The answer, he said, was "as fast as you can." I'm sure you can imagine the confused looks!
"And no faster."
Of course Cassidy Sensei was making the same point. Don't go faster than you are able. Important advice in many areas. We all feel pressured, we all rush, we all want to get there sooner. And as the saying goes, "the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get." We often need to slow down to do it right.
In the arena of horse training (if you'll forgive the pun), you'll hear "the more you rush, the longer it takes." I have a t-shirt from Robin Shen of Enlightened Horsemanship that says
[Note - This is the latest in a series of posts about Aikido Words. Each of them is tagged "words" here. You can also find a page listing all of them on the other version of this blog: www.grabmywrist.com/words. There are also some links to video examples there.]
Weapons work shares many words with open-hand training, but weapons also have a lot of words of their own. There are a bunch of numbered things, too, and those can be really confusing until you have a sort of framework for understanding them.
So here are some words about weapons stuff, starting with the basics. There will be another couple of posts going into jo words and bokken words. Often you'll hear technique names with the numbers in Japanese. That will be another post, too.
I'm just going to cover the wooden weapons we use in regular training here. Maybe we'll look at katana, shinai, iato, shinken, and other weapons words later.
Jo - The longer straight one that looks like a rake handle.
Bokken - The somewhat shorter one with a little curve to it, like a sword. Also sometimes referred to as just ken. You'll also hear tachi in the names of bokken or sword exercises.
Tanto - The little one, about the size of a hunting knife.
The Kinds of Things We Do with Sticks
One of the most confusing things for me, when I was first trying to figure this stuff out, was sorting out the kinds of things we were doing. Not the specific instances, but the groupings. One exercise would be a suburi, another would be a kata, sometimes we practiced awase... I couldn't figure out what was what. It's hard even to describe. Let's just get right to it.
Sensei has announced that there will be an uchi-deshi program at our dojo, beginning in mid-summer. You can contact him for details (via the Aikido of San Diego website) if you are interested in participating.
It looks to me like a rare and valuable opportunity to train intensively, deepen one's understanding of Aikido, learn to teach, test one's own limits, and discover new possibilities, all under the guidance of a truly gifted teacher.
It also looks to me like a right of passage. Forging, like seeing combat, for a future military officer. A gateway. How one moves from casual student to serious practitioner.
Right now I'm not in a place to walk through that gateway. I don't know if I ever will be. I hope, maybe, somehow, someday... There's a little fear and frustration about that. What if I'm not able? What if it's not there? A sense of loss. And there's reminding myself that upset from thwarted intention just points to a commitment.
It's OK, though. There are cracks to peek through, high places where one can see over, and a lot of space to explore on this side of the wall. For now.
Just the names conjure up tension. I have fun practicing them, and am improving (softer/safer). But I also end up with some interesting bruises and sore spots now and then, from doing them in a slappy, braced, breath-holding, brute-force-ish kind of way.
We go about learning to do them in a relaxed, easy way, but at some point between the working up to them and the doing them my brain flips from "swoosh" to "wham!"
A few days ago when one of our instructors said we were going to work on high falls (Yay!) a fellow student jokingly suggested that we should "work on low falls instead."
Huh... I think I like that idea!
The point isn't to get lots of air, it's to land comfortably, with as little impact as possible. Keep (or get) your head low to the mat. Reach over and touch the mat as you rotate into rolling down softly. No "wham!"
Thinking of them as "low falls" takes a little of the edge off, and is a handy reminder that the idea is to get low, not high.
Feedback (which I know will be constructive, on AikiWeb!) is welcome. I'm pretty happy with how I did, but of course can see lots of things to work on for next time.
I figure now that I have 4 exam videos, they deserve their own playlist. So here it is, starting at 6th kyu (in case you have nothing better to do). LOL http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0F5D81895C5E5A30
My 6th kyu exam has around 9,500 views so far. Every month or two I get a nice comment from someone who's been encouraged in some way by my exam videos (usually a new student who is freaking out about taking their first test, as I was). One of my favorite comments came in a few hours ago, and just made my day:
"You're amazing, Linda-sama. I started train Aikido last week, but before - I had lot of doubts: if I am too old, people are bad, everything will be bad. I'm waiting about two years for my first train. But i taste it, and became addicted of this art. Thank you, for recording. Good luck! (sorry about my english)"
Recently a teacher wrote a frustrated blog post about their students not training enough to really improve, not participating in seminars with visiting instructors, and not supporting the dojo community.
The context was Aikido, but it could have been music, horsemanship, or anything else. I see the same thing happen all over.
We mostly live in the same world. We have jobs, families, and other things going on in our lives. But if we want to get good at something, anything, we have to put in the hours. And if we want our teachers, schools, and arts to be around for us, and for others, they need our active participation and support.
What does that look like to me? Join, and pay your dues, even during times you can't train for a while. Pitch in and help with projects and events. Invite your friends. Promote your art publicly. When teachers are generous enough with their time to write books or produce videos, buy them. Show up and train, and support each other.
Something I've noticed about people's participation (or the relative lack thereof), is a common way of thinking and speaking about priorities. "I can't…" "I would, but…" "I have to…" It's disempowering. It robs us of the opportunity to engage fully (at whatever level is appropriate). When we're honest with ourselves about where we are, and what's true for us, we have some power in the situation. When we whine about our circumstances we become victims to the choices we've made, and powerless to change.
On Saturday morning I head off on my big Aikido adventure of the year, a road trip to the week-long Aiki Retreat at Menlo College in the Bay Area. This is my first live-in, out-of-town Aikido seminar, and I'm really excited to be going! Summer camp! Woohooo!
The instructors are Robert Nadeau Shihan, Frank Doran Shihan, and Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan, and Mary Heiny Sensei. I've been in seminars with each of them twice before, except for just one seminar with Mary Heiny Sensei. I'm looking forward to exploring their teaching in more depth.
I'll be taking two days to drive up, and two days back, visiting horsey friends along the way in Fresno, Livermore, and San Juan Bautista. Here's a map of my route, if you're into that sort of thing.
I plan to post a lot of photos, observations, insights, and other random blabbering at www.GrabMyWrist.com, from my iPhone, so my blog (only there, not here) will be rather busy and random for a while. Expect typos and incomplete thoughts! I'll be on the road June 11-19. I won't be checking email while I'm away, so use Facebook (I'm easy to find) or text messages (619 368-4333) if you want to say hi.
A friend recently gave me a book she thought I might enjoy, and I really have. It's the sort of book that whatever you open it up to, there's something relevant to whatever's going on. It's poetic without being sappy, and inspiring without being preachy. Calming. Sensible.
Just yesterday day a friend on Facebook mentioned that it must have been really sad for me to give up riding. My reply began "Surprisingly not all that sad. Trying to remain committed to something I was really no longer committed to was difficult. Finally seeing things clearly was a relief. …" And just hours later I randomly picked up the book, and opened it to this, which is also relevant to Aikido technique, and Aikido in everything:
Everyone will tell you
"Change is hard,"
Transformation is the greatest
On your spiritual journey.
But it's not true.
Change is not hard.
Resistance to change is
If you let go
Surrender into the
Open your fists and
All you are clutching
And simply be still as the
Winds of transformation
Blow through you
Then everything in you that is
Will be carried away with the
Leaves and dust and debris
Lifted into the air and
And all that will remain
If you stop trying so hard to change
Like a strong breath clearing a
Palmful of ashes
Just let the
by Nicole Grace,
from her book: Bodhisattva - How To Be Free