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This last couple weeks or so of my newly-regular, but still half-assed, shugyo, had some interesting stuff for me. I've been really focusing on my hips and legs. A bit too much perhaps because I have noticed some tightening in the hips and knees. After about a half an hour they loosen up though and things start to feel good again. My feet are constantly tired which probaly means I'm using too much muscle. However, a couple nights ago I have to say they felt great. It was a slight return to that stable feeling I remember having back when I was training very seriously. The biggest part of my focus in on feeling both hips at the same time and tracking how they rotate with regard to each other. I remember being told to think of "smearing" a technique into the other person by sensei and by one of my sempai and this sliding/smearing quality came to mind last night while I was rotating my legs/hips in various movements. At one point I had some personal realizations last night that kind of hit me in the face. We all need time to ourselves, but it dawned on me that I've been getting rather selfish in my own subtle ways. It's the product of having kids who take up all my time...and I've been very accustomed to operating in my own time. Having the thought has cleared up a bit of energy, and I woke up this morning after being up "all" night feeling pretty good. I should add I started my practice last night feeling under the weather and finished feeling top notch.
A few days ago the wi
The last month or so I've been solo training (suburi and other exercises) a minimum of 30 minutes every night, usually going closer to an hour. The back of our house faces west so every night around dusk I walk out the door and if the weather is good, I am greeted by subdued warm hues and the first few stars. Venus in particular shines brightly and it has been a kind of greeter, welcoming me back to another bit of practice. The newly-regular familiarity of it has added to a sense of my shugyo, meager though it is. The weather has been more cloudy as of late and the other night the sky was overcast except for a patch where Venus was nestled brightly. It shown like a pinpoint of fire, an echo of sunlight, burning through the deep, darkening, blue. I've been really enjoying this time of my day. It's become a time where I work on what little study I've acquired, have random thoughts and insights, and, in short: enjoy the sensations of the world in and around me.
The last few days, more and more I've been working on my hips. I'm noticing some effects from a lifetime of soccer and skiing. As a right-footed soccer player, I have some common postural issues in my lower back tied to the fact that my left foot/hip is more used to being planted while my right is more used to muscling through its path around that left hip and leg. My right leg, hip, and lower back feel particularly "big and tight" and I'm working on making them feel "dense and relaxed;" trying to focus on centripital
Winds upon my face
The stars silently observe
Rain coats my form
Apple blossoms swerve
Venus echos the sun
The smell of grass infused
A bird sings to the night
As bokuto bounces imbued
Right side enters
Left side leaves
The chamber is the cut
The mind wanders free
And reigned in again
The ebb and flow of prana
Bellows echoe in the soul
The breath of Kamisama
The last couple weeks have found me practicing about an hour almost every night. Sometimes only 20 minutes, but sometimes an hour and a half. I've averaged about an hour though.
Right now I'm mostly trying to get in touch with my body; to feel how different movements feel in different parts of my body; how to move "instantly" from one direction to another; mostly focusing on mugamae as a starting position and trying to remember to put ki into my back to facilitate forward extension.
Based on the last keiko, I'm going to start trying to stretch my shoulders more to loosen up their grip on my structure. This afternoon I'm going to do 100 cuts focusing on hips and shoulders relaxing...will be cutting fairly slowly.
Anyhoo, time to soak up some sun. It's a glorious day.
Oh and yesterday, after reading The Hunger Games a rabbit wandered into my yard. It didn't stand a chance: I promptly caught it (it's clearly a domesticated rabbit), and am waiting to see if anyone claims it. I'm calling him "Bugs."
Good times all around.
I was planning on attending the taisai friday and saturday, but was unable to make it saturday. Possible proof of karma, perhaps. I was looking forward to the misogi and chinkon no gyo, particularly after friday night's awesome training. It was easily one of the funnest time's I've had on the mat.
I felt like I learned a lot, but also, I felt relatively loose and much more purposeful when I moved, although nowhere near as precise as I'd like to be.
During the open-mat period I was able to train with a sempai with whome I first went to Japan over ten years ago. We had a lot of fun warming up; a mild form of jiyuwaza.
As usual, after bowing in, we began with bokuto, which is becoming more and more fun to me. We went outside and commenced. I enjoy the seriousness which comes from swinging a stick around; it sharpens the senses; speeding up the neural pathways; sharpening the body and mind in its own way. Mugamae; seigan; negaeshi uchi; etc. Each one a part of the somewhat infinite whole; each one a proverbial grain of sand through which to view the universe of action.
Thoughts on the training:
cut from a very specific place to a very specific place
have a sense of moving from and receiving toward the feet; driving through the hips
After several kata and some focus on their parts, we went inside for taijutsu. Just as we started walking through the tori back toward the haiden, the slightest bit of rain began to fall. This made me think of timing and brought
I suppose it's a good sign that a week between training sessions feels like a long time. I've been practicing suburi each night; nothing exceptional for how much time put in (approx. 15-20 min.), but I've also been trying to open up my body (approx. 15-20 min.), particularly my hips, but also my shoulders. In general, I'm trying to feel connection between knees hips and elbows as I move around. It's not what I would call a serious training regimen.
I get the feeling my years of predominantly right-footed soccer playing have made for some imbalances in my hips and how they connect to my legs and lower back. I feel a distinct difference between right and left and after intense yard work (as in the last few days), I feel so tight and inflexible in the hip area.
I'm very "front-heavy" in my movement, so I'm trying to think of putting ki into my back as I move around.
I'm enjoying the fact that my bokuto feels more familiar to my hands again. Last night I was practicing some old kata which I remember helping me with my footwork, and I think I will add that to my "dailys."
Looking forward to wearing hakama again, although I think it will feel odd at first. I put it on right after it arrived in the mail and folding the straps back up took a minute to remember. I've been wearing only keikogi and have become quite used to it. At any rate...
Ok, off to the back yard to practice. (Edit)
Last night I went out to practice in the yard when lo and behold the rains a came a fallin'
Probably nothing. However, in the spirit of starting with effort and hoping something of quality comes about from it I'll begin by saying I was so tired today I didn't want to train...but even more than that, I didn't want to not-train, so I went. And of course, I enjoyed myself. I was a little late due largely to traffic, but after bowing in I got to work with bokuto. At one point sensei said I was doing a good job and that he could tell I had been practicing on my own. I had also just had some good advice from my sempai right before the compliment, but I was so eager to say, "yes! I've actually been practicing!" that I didn't mention it was partly in thanks to the advice I had just received. I didn't even think about it until I was driving home...sheesh. When I'm on the mat I'm trying to track so many things that sometimes I barely feel present. All part of the process.
I suppose I'll just add that I continue to feel very good physically (and thus mentaly). People are not meant for inaction; usually it kills us quicker than burning the candle at both ends...or so it seems to me.
...And that thought brings so many reflections of the past, present, and future that I'm going to stop before my head explodes.
Life is beautiful; I cannot express enough how grateful I am to all the myriad factors which allow me to enjoy these moments...and that applies to the shit as well as the shinola...
Anyhow, in the great and excellent words of Rufus: be excellent to each other.
Keiko was fun last night. In the beginners' class we worked on tai no henko and gyaku hanmi katatetori. We had 3 or 4 new or newish students so it was focused on very basic things like maintaining connection; how to grab/suppress; and basic form. I tend to really like focusing on the more basic stuff. In each movement of course ideally it all has to be there, but because I'm so new again I really need those reminders. I was happy to notice a couple times while I was about to correct my partner on some points (again, very new students), my sempai and sensei made the same correction I was about to offer. I always feel unsure about making suggestions because I know it can be annoying to folks, so that felt kinda good.
Again, one of the highlights for me was getting to see my sempai. Each one has a somewhat unique perspective and way of presenting the material. I always enjoy each individual "flavor" of our overall "flavor" of aikido.
One thought I had while practicing rolls was how nice it feels to do kohotento, particularly around my lower back and hips. This used to be a daily practice for me and I think I'm going to start making that happen again.
New daily routine will be approx. 30-45+ min of: Misogi norito Ibuki undo
Ame no torifune undo Kohotento (graduating eventually to standing) Shomen uchi (focusing on femoral rotation and back-bow application) Bokuto kata
Free-flowing movement (bokuto or taijutsu)
Ok so I got my lap-top hooked up to my old pc monitor. This should work for the time being.
As I said, training last night was a blast. I'm trying to organize my thoughts so I can track my training in these blog posts, but I feel like there was so much I was working on last night that it's impossible to list them all. Of course, as a de facto beginner I'm still learning the outer form of the movements. I remember thinking at one point during the beginners' class at how I am very much still a beginner. I posted a blog entry a while back where I estimated myself as being "equal" to a one-year student, but minus the conditioning. Presently I'm thinking in different terms: I'm a beginner who isn't afraid of rolls and simple breakfalls. Everything feels new except the feeling of being thrown, which feels like it always did ("hello ground").
Some specifics I'm focusing on right now: mugamae - relax; resting sword/hands more or less on hips; squeezing into the centerline; having an expansive and strong base to free up arms and torso. seigan - relax; using the suppression to fuel subsequent movements (bouncing off the bokuto in various ways as well as working on the basic suppression itself). cutting - relax; extending out the pommel to facilitate extension out the tip of the blade; connecting the cut to the spine and hips; extending through palm chakra w/ feeling similar to "tore no kuchi" (i.e. strong palm contact). aihanmikamae (per last night's sumiotoshi(?) w/ Doug-san)
Like the title suggests, last night was pretty f-ing cool! My in-laws came over to watch the lads so I was able to make the beginners' class before going to the open class. It was good to get the extra mat-time!
My screen doesnt light up so I'm sitting here pointing a flashlight so I can just barely make things out so this will probably be short.
In the first class we worked on a (I think) seigan kirikaeshi initiating movement followed by kokyunage. This was taijutsu and I had a real hard time not trying to muscle uke in that initial "kirikaeshi" movement. The transitions afterward felt relatively good, though.
In the open class I felt like I had a small breakthrough with how to move with my feet to improve overall body integrity. I'm so tight in my shoulders and upper body it's hard just to maintain a fluid connection, so one of my sempai told me to focus more on "being in my feet and legs" to help get me out of my shoulders and upper body. Instantly the movements felt a little more free and my upper body less tight/tired.
All in all it was great fun: I got to train with some seriously great people and, while I was definately exhausted, I felt wonderful. Truly a great time; looking forward to more! It's nice to feel so motivated.
Taking a lesson from Achilles and Socrates: no matter how profound our ability, we always have a weakness that renders it pointless; on the whole we are always more ignorant than not. It's easy to look at all the great things we know; to see how they fill up the proverbial landscape like a diligently crafted Japanese garden, only to miss the vast desert which lies just over the prettiest hedge.