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This is a guest post, by Michael Hancock, one our instructors at Aikido of San Diego. Originally from England, he teaches, and leads meditations, with a lovely Brit-dialect, respect for tradition, thoughtful insight, and a gentle sense of humor. Michael is an avid golfer, pilot and horseman, and when living in England was an accomplished polo player, having once been Chairman of the oldest club in the world, Silver Leys. He is an entrepreneur whose focus is on his family and community. Among other things, Michael is active in promoting and advising the Wampler Foundation, providing camp and outdoor education programs for kids with physical disabilities. Enjoy.
----- Master Pat - A True Force of Nature By Michael Hancock Written Early 2011
Because my Google search gave me little since he received an honor from the Japanese Ambassador on behalf of the Emperor in London several years back, I wrongly assumed he had since passed on. I'm back in England, and last night, by chance or providence, I'm nearby the dojo of ‘Master Pat' Stratford, my first mentor.
It was 7.25 pm for the 7.30 start and the door was still locked. He looked old to me 25 years ago, but I was still surprised to see a pensioner struggling to climb out of someone's car and stagger across on crutches at 7.29 on the dot. Yes, same face and instantly recognizable except for a few more good vintages behind him. For a fleeting moment I wondered if this was a good idea, but I reintroduced myself anyw
This is sort of a sister post to My Aikido Timeline. Here I'll try to keep track of all the teachers I've had the privilege of training under. They are listed starting at the beginning, with most recent additions at the bottom, in order by the first time I trained with each. I will be adding to this post over time. Putting this list together just reminds me of how extraordinarily fortunate I am to have had this breadth of experience.
I suppose it's a good sign that I'm too busy training to do much posting. Catching up a little, from last weekend, heres the video of my 2nd kyu exam. I couldn't do suwariwaza (goshdarnit!) because my leg kept going into spasms. Other than that, I had fun, and discovered a hundred more things to work on next.
My 2nd kyu Aikido exam, on 21 January, 2012. Many thanks to my mentor and uke, Cyril Poissonnet, 3rd Dan, whose teaching, coaching, and encouragement have been an important and happy part of my Aikido training from the beginning, and to Dave Goldberg Sensei, and all the teachers and students at Aikido of San Diego.
It's been a steady stream of "aha" moments since my exam. More to come on that soon.
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.