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I never liked plum wine when I tried it in America, but the plum wine in Japan is something else altogether. It comes in about a gazillion varieties with different base alcohols, pulp or no pulp, etc.
Tonight, I'm trying to research "seishin kyoiku" on the Internet while avoiding websites devoted to intricate WWII strategy games. At the same time, I'm eating "hamburgers" (Life minced beef on Lawson 105-yen bread with Delmonte Ketchup and unknown Japanese brand mayonnaise), and drinking cocktails.
Since it was recently payday at work, I am feeling rich despite living at the poverty line, so I bought some plum wine. I am drinking it with whisky (which keeps showing up in my 'fridge despite its cost) and soda water. I looked this cocktail up online and found basically nothing. There are two drinks called "Japanese Jack" and "Japanese Jim," which are plum wine with 7-Up and, respectively, Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.
Although you can find just about any anything if you look hard enough in Japan, in general, there are only a few western whiskies available. Jim Beam can be found in most convenience stores, and Jack Daniels is slightly less common, but can be found easily. Thus, these brands are using subversive advertising techniques by posting cocktail descriptions that incorporate their names.
For the poor gaijin, the best bet is to go to an import store and get Heaven Hill or Evan Williams bourbons. Beam and Jack are way overrated, and Evan WIlliams seems to be
I have experienced for the first time just plain anger toward instructors.
In the kenshusei course, we have only 3 breaks--Golden Week, Obon, and Christmas. Last Monday, we came off the Obon holiday, which meant a total of 10 days of rest and recovery. So we came back with relatively fit and pain-free bodies.
Was this used as an opportunity to get in some great strong and injury-free training? By no means.
The very first class on Monday morning was 1 hour of koho ukemi. That's one hour of back into breakfall, roll forward and stand up, back into breakfall, roll forward and stand up...
Needless to say, it is exhausting to the muscles in your upper legs and torso. It also takes a toll on your knees, hips, and back. There is the worn off skin that leaves bleeding open places along your spine, but there is also the impact of the fall, which is nominal if you do 50-100 koho ukemi, but quite significant after about 300.
It's now Thursday. I trained on Monday with absolutely no strength and for the next three days with delayed onset muscle soreness, as well as a tight and sore lower back and knee and hip pain.
What was the purpose of this experience? As far as I can tell, just sadism. Yes, there are lots of rationalisations, and it is true that this sort of endurance event is part of the course. But why do it on this day of all days, when it can do nothing but undermine your holiday recovery? There is no point to that.
A reader in the forums complains that aikido lacks a theory or a teaching in supplementary training designed to improve performance and prevent injuries. My experience and knowledge are limited, but this seems to me to be true.
In the Mugenjuku dojo in Kyoto, there is the Kenshusei program and then there is the Part-Time Kenshusei program. This takes places only on weekends and includes many older students who have jobs and lack the time to devote to the 3+-times-per-day-5-days-per-week course.
One middle-aged part-time Kenshusei got injured about 6 weeks ago. Did aikido training from the dojo include injury management advice? By no means! He was immediately out on his own, searching for special diets and lifestyles to "re-set" and "heal". I think this is par for the course in non-sport martial arts. Are there many sport judo or MMA vegetarians trying to fix damaged ligaments with healing touch and amulets? No. Why? It's not because they aren't fufu, it's because their lives are really dedicated to training and they have coaches managing their choices while keeping on eye on mid- and long-term goals.
This is a major difference between historic-era training in actual olden times, modern koryu, gendai budo, and modern athletics. Respectively, master-student relationships central to livelihood and social standing, master-student relationships of an incidental nature, sensei, and coaches.
Sorry I dropped posting. There are multiple reasons including fatigue and constant aches and pains. I've also been much shorter on time since I got a job teaching English.
Here are some important updates...
visa & job status
My Cultural Visa application was approved very quickly, despite a lot of handwringing. So for the next year, I am a resident alien in Japan. About the same time, I was offered a job teaching English, so I actually have enough income to pay rent and dojo fees and buy some food. However, I am living on the equivalent of about 110% of the US Census Bureau's poverty line. If you know anything about economics, you know what that means.
Yesterday, we had our first exam, for the "Dai Ichi" set of waza. We all passed up through 4th-kyu, although when the instructors talk to us about the test, they sometimes break eye contact, which I think means they were disappointed. I would have rather gotten a lower rank and be told straight up why, but I'm not the sensei.
So now Dai Ni begins...
knee pain, etc
My knees are just shot. I was hoping that they would get more flexible, but no luck. Sometimes I can sit in seiza properly, but usually not. It's not just pain. Sometimes the butt just can't get down to the heels. Too stiff. I can get down into seiza ho a little easier, but basically I am too crippled to do aikido properly. At
About 3 weeks ago, I got an English-teaching job. It turns out one of my students takes Aikikai aikido in Kyoto. At the beginning of each class, students go around the table and tell what news they have from the previous week. My Aikikai student has gotten in the habit of telling what's gone at her dojo, in a way that's vaguely challenging to me. I find it rather annoying.
Last class, she told about a seminar that was held at the Heian Shrine here in Kyoto. In case you don't know, the Heian Shrine is a biggy. My dojo has weekly classes at Shiramine Shrine, which is not nearly as well known as the Heian. However, both are are listed as "jingu" class of Shinto shrines. Jingu are shrines closely associated with the Imperial family. Shiramine is dedicated to two emperors and Minamoto no Tametomo, which is why it has its own dojo and multiple martial arts practice on the shrine grounds in order to mollify the martial spirits of its kami.
I'd like to snarkily invite her to do hajime geiko with us sometime, but I have a professional demeanor to maintain.
Last night, I woke up at 3:00AM. There were Kyoto mosquitoes buzzing in my ears, and the apartment's balcony screen door was open. I was so pissed off. I thought roommate Nick had left the screen door open. I thought, I'm going to f---ing open the sliding doors between our rooms and just let the mosquitoes eat him alive!
The mosquitoes in Kyoto aren't a lot larger than the ones back home in upstate New York, but their bite is nasty. (I have a theory that you get acclimated to the poison of your own indigenous mosquitoes, and that the poison of foreign 'skeeters provokes a mild allergic reaction, but I haven't researched this...) Over Golden Week, the dojo had a party on the grounds of the old Imperial Palace, and I still have scabbed-over wounds from the bites that ulcerated.
Anyhow, as I was laying in bed, I thought maybe Nick didn't do it. Maybe it was me. Whatever the case, I spent a long time last night swatting the side of my head to try to kill the buggers when they close enough to my ears. Fun.
Then today at practice I heard we had an earthquake last night. It was a small one, 3.0 on the Richter Scale--centered in Lake Biwa. It was small enough that it didn't set off Japan's earthquake warning system, which sends an alert message to everyone's smart phones. But I think it is probably what woke me up. Maybe it stirred up those mosquitoes, too.
This is the second earthquake I've experienced since I've been in Japan. That's more than or equal to
I'm starting to like hajime geiko. Okay, I can't say that is my final word on the subject, but I did state previously that I thought it was bad training and prone to re-inforcing errors and causing injuries. That may or may not be true, but I have a more positive view of it now.
All members of the class pair into shite-uke partnerships and stand in kamae.
Sensei calls out a pre-determined technique.
Sensei calls out "hajime" and the technique is performed as fast as possible by the entire class.
When the first shite-uke pair returns to the starting kamae position, sensei calls out "hajime" again and the class performs the technique again.
If you are the first shite-uke pair to finish, you get a half-second rest; otherwise, you starting falling behind and have to perform the technique continuously more and more urgently without rest.
This goes on until sensei calls "yame." Then shite-uke switch to uke-shite and start again. Then shite-uke switch again and switch to performing out of opposite leg kamae, then switch one last time.
Obviously, hajime geiko is extremely tiring as you are getting thrown around and getting down and up off the floor continuously.
The point of hajime geiko is supposedly to tire out the body so that the technique doesn't work with strength and only if shite employs correct posture and controls uke's center.
how hajime geiko is used in Kyoto Kenshusei program
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.