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About 1 in 3 people I know is sick in Singapore or it could be closer to 1 in 2. It's like an epidemic but as it's a mild thing in intensity, most people just kinda go about normal and no one rings the alarm bells, thank goodness. For anyone who's had to live through the SARS epidemic, the city kinda went a bit neurotic and hysterical well after the danger had passed its peak.
So anyway, to cut a long story short, i'm sick. But die-hard enough to finally show up for class after a week of not going to class. And then discovered that about 1/3 of the class was recently or was sick like me. And like me were die hard enough to show as soon as the symptoms showed any sign of abating. I did wonder before I went if I should show up but I also figured well, it's so prevalent and the people who show up for aikido aren't high risk groups and have already probably been exposed to this. Plus by now I must have developed some level of resistance so they'd get half dead germs which is the best kind to get.
Despite that, the class was packed. 20 people I counted which for a Friday class is a record for the last 2 years. ( I should add that our normal classes for other days of the week numbers more around 50...so it's only the aikido diehards who burn their friday nights at the dojo )
I learned so much in class today...one of the yudansha took class and he seldom teaches this class so it was a refreshing change. So I'm noting down all the bits I was doing wrong so I will hopefully remember.
1. ukemi for yokomen: I should glide forward with the front foot a bit if necessary to retain balance. Also should check if I'm moving too early if nage doesn't move.
2. shihonage from a yokomen strike: do not use the blocking hand to hold. Use the other hand. It makes pushing out the uke's striking arm easier.
3. shihonage: extending uke all the way through...proved very hard with the nage I was working with but essentially i was told that I tended to give uke back his balance in the second half of the movement..but I haven't yet managed to figure out if I need to move further behind uke to achieve this or to angle uke's arm down earlier...will have to experiment i guess.
4. kotegaishi omote from katate dori: tenkan then "step out" and remember the drawing back of the front foot goes into 270 degree circle...I kept stopping well before that cos i was just too afraid of hurting uke
5. kotegaishi ura version 1: keep uke's arm clasped down close to the body at the hip and just turn by taking tiny steps on the spot and above all remember to look towards my back shoulder while doing so and turn that way.
There were other points but well, I think that's all I can clearly remember for one evening.
I've had this happy glow both today and last Monday after class. And it's just because I've had good classes in the sense that I'm learning more aikido from a point where I know enough to start playing...which is always fun...
It's also it's just at a point where I'm so comfortable with the people and there're are enough people who are just obviously happy to see me and I them...that nice glow only really comes from that kind of community spirit that's been built over years. And since that's been rather hard won, i treasure it all the more.
And then i thought, there are very few areas in my life, where it's been so easy and so rewarding to build this up...as long as I worked steadily at it. The beginning was hard but because I loved the art itself enough, that alone was enough to get me through it week after week. Other areas of my life still take a lot of hard work and it's like ploughing in rocky ground...no matter how hard I work, nothing much seems to grow and flower but scraggly little plants which are barely getting by. Aikido was like ploughing in rich soil...it still took lots of hard work to get by but the plant that grew and grew made it all worth while.
So it's just nice to have this sweet spot in my life that I can go to several times a week to recharge.
Halfway through the beginner's class, my Sensei had me punch his face but i kept pulling my punches an inch from his nose so he kept not moving and telling me to really hit him. I have to say it really takes some nerve to try and really hit him because I figure once I pass that point, I really won't be able to stop and if he doesn't move (which of course I know intellectually but it's still to grasp that at gut level), I will end up hitting him in the face in front of the entire class. Now that would really be a faux pas.
I had to try several times before he was satisfied and it was interesting to me to see how far I had to go before he'd move ie that I was executing a fully committed attack. I realised he only moved at just that point when I had just about overextended very slightly and of course that was enough for him to just take me down lightly.
It's really such a huge difference in ability and I'm not sure I'll ever get to the point he's so clearly at where he can tell immediately if I'm really coming at him or can still pull the punch. Sometimes *I* can't tell if I can control it and I'm the one throwing the punch. It's what gives him that amazing ability to time his response so that he looks like he's moving at an incredible speed but while he's moving very fast, it's actually a lot more to do with timing and knowing where his uke's going. I on the other hand have great difficulty figuring out what my uke is going to do sometimes so it's more like I
I try and wash my hakama once a month and last week since it was the Easter weekend, I decided it was a good time as there was no class on Good Friday, to wash mine. Unfortunately it also rained a fair bit at the time and my hakama somehow didn't dry out fast enough. The result was, come Sunday morning, and I discovered it smelled musty. Eeeooooowww.
Drying it in strong sunshine helped only momentarily but as it rained hard just before aikido and my gi pants became damp from me walking through the rain, the hakama in contact with my gi pants started to smell again.
So back to the drawing board. I tried washing it again last night and did a final rinse with a generous helping of vinegar. I'd rather smell of vinegar than that musty smell. It's now hung in my window so that the afternoon sun will hopefully hit it hard. Let's hope it works.
I finally learned how to do ukemi for soto kaitennage. It was one of those things I'd been doing wrong forever and didn't know it was wrong. So just as well today my friday instructor partnered me during the intermediate class and corrected me...and it was one of those he had to tell me cos I clearly wasn't noticing it on my own ...now I know why other people's ukemi while doing this looked so much smoother than mine.
Now I have to figure out nage's role better as I felt I still didn't have a lot of control over uke when performing this technique.
I was also picking up pointers on just simple throws (down and out not straight out)...and using the ken which I think I still need a lot of practice at. Anyway, inch by inch then.
What does it take to get teenagers to help lay mats I wonder. There's definitely a difference since I first started aikido 4+ years ago. While there were always those who didn't help out, I did notice there were distinctly more who did come in to help from young kids to teenagers. Now there's only one very young shodan who comes in each Sunday morning early and helps lay mats.
The young 13 year old who comes early with her dad never steps in to help even when politely invited and she has been given special permission to attend adult class during weekdays and she clearly hero worships our Sensei. Same pattern but in this case, it's clear she's there because she wants to be whereas I do have some sympathy for the kids who are dragooned into it and don't blame them for not helping out much.
I'm actually quite happy helping with mats before class and as long as I have time to do so, I will...it's also in our dojo, I do try and come to lay mats because in general it's the guys who do the heavier work of lifting and stacking them back after class so I figure it's only fair I try and do what I can before class when many others are delayed because of work.
But yeah, you know when you're getting old when you start grousing about the next generation .
We had a couple of visitors this advanced class today. One of them is from a dojo which has a good relationship with ours and the other was a visitor from Bangkok. They enjoyed the class but unfortunately they missed the opportunity to partner with the locals as they hadn't realised we don't normally change partners during a session and they kicked off by partnering each other. So I think they were kinda taken by surprise and a bit disappointed although they enjoyed the teaching and the rest of the class and they were decent enough to show up nice and early and help lay mats.
One of my mum's neophytes came to watch with a view to joining and since she liked what she saw, I introduced her to Sensei who then ordered me to get her the forms. So hopefully she'll appear on Wednesday and it'll be nice to have a new white belt woman on the mat now that the last batch have all graduated to become at least blue belts and the three i often hang out with are already brown belters and don't really need me to act as sempai any longer. I'll pray she sticks around and brings her friends to boot ...would be fun if the church crowd she often hangs out with comes along as I know and like them too...just don't spend as much time with them as she does.
For the first time, I've managed to do at least not abysmally at randori....or at least in the words of my sensei, "not bad"...which sure beats the last few times I tried .
I'm sure part of it was that I had some very good ukes but for the first time, at least for the first half of it, I was actually doing ok as in not getting stuck with ukes and remembering at least half the time to turn right around rather than turn to throw one uke and turn back. I could still do with some improvement on that front but at least it's a start.
With these ukes, it really helped that they moved in a way that helped me to concentrate on getting my placing vis-a-vis them right. So it really helped my training. I was also moving without thinking so that I actually don't remember what I did until I did start thinking at which point I faltered because I then couldn't decide which of two equidistant ukes I should take...I had no real idea where the third one was but of course in those precious split seconds, they all closed in fast and then it was all over.
So yes, definitely still lots of room for improvement and lots of mistakes at the end but hey, I got fairly far along nicely until then which is a first.