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When my father e-mailed me about the Yoshinkan videos online, I e-mailed back some answers to his questions. It ended being an explanation of how I see aikido and Yoshinkan at this point in the kenshusei course. It might be interesting to compare at the end of the course and see if my attitudes change...
Those are great videos. The dojo has them on DVD for us to borrow and watch at home, but the DVDs are all in Japanese. I didn't know it was available in English on YouTube, so that's great!!
Yes, aikido is like ballet, gymnastics and combat. I think in real fighting, only some of the techniques would be useful, but aikido isn't really about learning how to fight. The founder of aikido, named Ueshiba (the guy with the long white beard) studied lots of styles of jujutsu, which is fighting, and combined different elements to invent aikido. I guess I would say aikido is about learning how to control your own body and also to feel and be able to control your opponent. We call it "making a connection." Once you can feel your opponents balance and tension, you can move them around or throw them effortlessly. But making a connection is not easy and takes lots of practice.
The techniques in aikido (called "waza") were originally fighting techniques that would end in a broken bone or dislocated joint or intense pain, but the way they are organized and taught in the Yoshinkan curriculum, they are for teaching you how to move your body and feel your opponent. At
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw fellow kenshusei Izzy going down in the ukemi for nikajo with a large brown spot on the back of his dogi bottoms. I thought, Oh no! Izzy's soiled himself! How embarrassing! But it turned out he was bleeding through his dogi.
In the aftermath of 1000-sit-ups-day yesterday, it turns out I'm the only one in the class who didn't have their lower back or bum rubbed raw by the sit-ups. A quick survey of the class reveals that while I wear travel underwear made from moisture-wicking nylon, everyone else is wearing cotton underwear. Even Carter-sensei had blood soaking through his gi top. Ouch!
First keiko today was ken class, working on attack and parry for yokomen uchi.
I was shinkoku toban (group leader) this week, which meant that, in addition to calling commands for opening and closing rei, I led taiso warm-ups for the whole combined kenshusei and ippan ken class this morning. At lunch, Payet-sensei complimented me on my Japanese. So I was quite happy about that!!
Second keiko was all nikajo. For some reason my knees felt terrific yesterday after the 1000 sit-ups. Izzy said his also felt better, so I'm not crazy. But today, they were back to all pain. My knee caps just feel like to lumps of bruise sitting on the front of my legs.
In third keiko, we worked on some exercises for sankajo ichi and then did the complete waza a couple times towards the end of class.
Probably I should be excited about a really good nikajo class today, including some adjustments that have me almost doing the ukemi properly.
But what I am really excited about is doing 1050+ sit-ups. Yes, 1050+ sit-ups.
In first keiko, which is our conditioning class, Carter-sensei asked us to get into sit-up position. This is how we usually start our conditioning routine. Each person counts to 10, and we do 1 or 2 rounds of an exercise. There are 3 kenshusei, plus sensei, plus sewanin Nick, so usually five people, or 50-100 repetitions of an exercise.
Today, after 2 rounds, sensei just said "Chris..." and I started counting again. We just kept going and going, each counting out 10 sit-ups... ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyu, jyu... over and over, 105 times.
They were very bad form, with the knees bent about 90 degrees, the heels in the floor, and the arms wherever they were most comfortable. But we did them continuously without stopping for almost 50 minutes.
The first 200 were the hardest. After 200, we got into a rhythm, and the cadence helped with several hundred. Then around 600 they were difficult again because of getting tired, but by 800 you could see the end in sight so they got easy again. I was the first person in the circle and Carter-sensei the last. When we reached 1000, I asked if we could do just one more round, to beat last year's kenshusei class. So we did 1050, plus there were some extra repetitions in there from
Not much interesting to report here. We practiced katate mochi nikajo osae ni. My knees were about as bad today as ever, and I have a sore throat on top of it. Basically, I can't do the kihon ukemi for this technique. I'm not sure what I can do about this.
I took a bad fall today doing the ukemi and landed on the outside edge of my left patella. I felt a strong pinching sensation, and then there was swelling. Luckily it was close to the end of class, so I didn't have to practice on it too much longer. It was bad enough that after class Nick told me to ice my knee instead of doing dojo soji. This seems very Yoshinkan--if you have a visible injury and keep going, kudos. Of course, an invisible injury might be much more serious, but no kudos.
While yesterday was a lovely day, unfortunately I forgot to hang out the zokin rags to dry at the end of keiko. Normally, I rinse them in the bathroom sink, then take them to the stairwell and put them on drying racks there. However, there is a door inside the stairwell that gets locked when everyone leaves, and as it was already locked when I was told to meet Crampton and company at the cafe, I forgot the zokin weren't out.
For the first keiko session today, we spent an hour cleaning the dojo mats with zoukin over and over. You start at one end of the dojo, get down on hands and toes, hold the zoukin flat to the mats with the palms of your hands, and push it to the other end of the dojo (running if possible). Normally, we do this each day after class, but it takes only a couple minutes. It is a little tiring after an hour.
I would love to say I will never forget the zokin again, but...
In second keiko, we worked on performing nikajo. I have felt nikkyo performed by other aikidoka and practitioners of other martial arts in the past, and I was under the impression it is supposed to hurt. Au contrare! Actually, pain in the wrist means a lousy lock that isn't connected with the body. However, it is very difficult to make a connection to the hips through the arms. I think I did it maybe once today.
In third keiko, we worked on the entire technique of katate mochi nikajo osae ichi, including some hajime geiko.
I wish I had more to say about nikajo. It is
Identify the hilarious comedy sketch from which this line comes...
"And which of these buttons calls your parents to pick you up?"
...answer at end of post.
I had a pretty decent, outstanding day today, starting off with a passable performance leading taiso warm-ups in Japanese.
The first keiko session included 200 koho ukemi (working up to 1000 or one hour, whichever I don't know...), "mae mawari ukemi Tabatas" (ukemi as fast as possible for 20 sec with 10 sec rest intervals), and bear-walking on the backs of the hands (yes, it hurts).
Keiko sessions 2 and 3 were all practice of the four waza we have covered so far:
katate mochi shihonage ichi
katate mochi shihonage ni
shomen uchi ikkajo osae ichi
shomen uchi ikkajo osae ni
Crampton-sensei gave us a jo exercise in which both partners hold onto the jo and shite performs something like the motions of shihonage ichi, while uke receives the technique through the jo. It was extremely instructive in showing where we are trying to use strength instead of form.
Crampton-sensei also stepped in to train with us and pointed out some errors you probably couldn't see but could feel--most importantly that when uke pushes in katate mochi, I tend to push back. When I stopped doing that, my whole body and technique became relaxed, uke became relaxed, and the technique improved considerably.
Finally, as I am the shinkoku toban this week, I was charged with leading shinkoku and received th
Taiso is our warm-up exercises. Starting tomorrow morning, I have to lead warm-ups for a week. Probably I will be doing well just to remember all the pieces in order, but I was hoping to learn them in Japanese, too. Here is what we've got. It starts after the opening rei. Sensei asks you to do warm-ups with some phrase like "taiso onegaishimasu."
In general, the count is 1-8 repeated twice. The leader says 1, 2 and 5, 6, while everyone counts together on 3, 4 and 7, 8. It makes for a sort of rhythmic chanting that gets everyone into a cadence:
"ichi, ni, SAN, SHI, go, roku, SHICHI, HACHI, ichi, ni, SAN, SHI, go roku, SHICHI, HACHI."
There are two places where you count 1-10 instead of 1-8, and the followers reply with "ehh!":
"ichi, EH, ni, EH, san, EH..."
Taiso Japanese , English , count
hirogate kudosai , please circle-up
choyaku , jumping (on toes) , 8x2
hisa kussin , bending the knees, 8x2
hisa mawashite , circle the knees , 8x2
shin kyaku , stretch legs , 8x2
fukaku , go lower , 8x2
zenkyo kutsu , back and forth , 8x2
taisoku , "deep sigh" to the side , 8x2
koshikara mawashite , "rotate the seat" rotating from the hip , 8x2
mune no undo , "chest exercise" opening the chest , 8x2
ude mawashite , rotate the arms , 8x2
kubi no undo , "neck exercise" head up and down , 8x2
sayu , "symmetrical pair" head to the side , 8x2
mawashite , rotate , 8x2
suwate kudosai , please sit down
ashi kubi mawashite , rotate the foot-neck (a
Note to readers: this is another complaint post. Please skip if you are getting tired of them...
I am having trouble finding work, so have to take it wherever I can find it. One place is a small English school outside Osaka. They give me a few hours work on some Saturdays. It takes me two hours to commute there from my apartment.
Today, I arrived 30 minutes early, and my student's mother was 15 minutes late. So I got paid 2 hours for taking 7 hours out of my day. Plus, my travel expense remuneration didn't cover my travel expenses, so I made about $2 per hour today. That's less than 1/10 what I was making at home. Ouch.
But wait, it gets better...
I parked my bike in a place on Karasuma-dori where there are always a lot of bikes parked, although technically you are not supposed to park there. So today, my bike was disappeared in a government round-up. I made $15 today, but I have to pay $25 to get my bike out of lock-up or $65 for a new bike at the used-bike shop. The advantage of buying a new bike is that I don't have to present my passport to the police and be recorded as a bicycle-parking-violator.
My walk home from the Imadegawa subway station was lightened only by stops on the way at Shiramine-jinja and Liquor Mountain. I noticed today that Shiramine has a lot of sports equipment that has been dedicated to the kami. Rather interesting to see.
I also took a close-up look at the wood floor of the demonstration area where our embu will be hel
My knees were feeling so good on Friday morning at ken class. I thought, "wow, no conditioning class this morning, so my knees are going into waza training fresh and strong. I'm going to have a great day!" Then we started keiko session 2 with koho ukemi practice. Dang.
Today's waza instruction was entirely by Payet-sensei. It is interesting to have classes taught alternately by Crampton-sensei and Payet-sensei as they have very different teaching styles and focus on very different aspects of the technique.
Crampton-sensei tends to focus on mechanics, as in "don't do X, or it will do Y to your muscles, and then you won't be able to do Z." Payet-sensei tends to focus on form and large principles, as in "X is not correct, so you will be off balance this way... [demonstrates]." They are both valuable instructions, but sometimes when you have 10 things on your plate already, having a new chef add another 5 can be daunting.
I found hajime geiko today to be quite helpful as it really warmed up my knees. Also, when you start getting thrown into the mat in ikkajo osae ni, you think "surely I am going to get scraped, scuffed, bruised, or battered having my face thrown into the mat over and over." But after you've done it at high speed enough times, you start to lose fear of it. I suppose this good for training, but--I would think--dangerous for beginners as well...
Keiko 1 - Friday morning ken class: work on extending and blending with sword and jo