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These techniques done on the knees require a greater level of precision, a more forceful maneuvering through every step. Sitting kneecap-to-kneecap, there is less mai-ai--distance--between you and your partner. The cheats of using arms strength and vertical leverage do not apply, and balance becomes harder to take as your partner sits stable, closer to the ground.
Sensei explained that suwari waza techniques stemmed from the ancient samurai ways, where a warrior could not rise without permission from his lord. As a result, the samurai devised ways to attack while still seated in respectful seiza. Sensei also said it would help us learn how to move if, from a seated position, we were suddenly attacked--the rules of blocking, blending, and moving out of the way still applied, the most important lesson being, don't freeze.
I used to be good at shikko, the knee-walking that my former Sensei was so keen on using as a warm-up exercise. Now, either my knees have softened after having been out of practice, or my age comes upon me in the form of stiffer joints. My kneecaps throb and my legs burn from cut-off blood flow. I close the distance between my partner and myself, moving in tight to his body, trying to make every joint lock precise and controlled. One advantage of suwari waza is that, seated, I do not feel so much that my petite 5-foot frame is being towered over by a world of giants. Down now to my level, I slide, pivot, and pin, learning how to walk and move in an enti
The "eight direction throw" is also a bokken suburi exercise that can be used to cleanse the negative energies of the old year and usher in the new. Instead of the usual paired practice, Sensei had us spread out and taught us how to cut eight ways, facing a different direction for each cut, using the corners of the room as a guide. Suburis are meant to be practiced alone, but as a group, the collective energy became a palpable thing. Our bokkens rose and fell together, our ki-ai's were timed, and the swishing of our feet across the mat made a soft wind's song as we fed off this synergy.
A former boss once drew a helix sculpture to help me visualize synergy. He said we each go through our individual lives and different jobs, but the points where the helix met were where we communicated and what kept the structure together as a whole. So it was important not only to find the merging points, but to ride their energy.
Learning how to play a musical instrument had been one of those things that I had always meant to do but never got a chance to. "If you have a heart, "Sensei had told me, "you've got rhythm. Aikido is rhythm, and it is music."
We cut through eight directions in the dojo, like a compass star and all its sub-directions. Together, we cast our last year's sorrows, shortcomings, and negative energies out to the winds. The rain beat a staccato rhythm against the dojo walls, washing away the old year. I moved and cut with my bokken, thinking ahead to sunny days a