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It's been a bit since I posted a blog and I missed last night's training due to an unpleasant medical issue with my oldest son so it seems fitting to try and recall last weeks session and refresh what I can from it.
These past couple weeks have been hectic and stressful, so I've been processing my "Aikido" in less obvious ways. Big birthday parties; reconciling unemployment; Obaa-san unable to get up from picking raspberries; last-minute changes in plans all around; all seemed to have left their mark on my ability to stay centered mentally. I've picked up an annoying tick not unlike a mild Turret's. Some embarrassing stuff and some not-so, but...c'est la vie, non? Gotta keep moving forwardly.
Last week I asked to work on katatetori uchi kaiten, which is part of the gokyu requirements I want to refresh myself on. This is actually one of the techniques I remember really feeling comfortable with, but last week I had a lot of difficulty with the transition from "uchi" to "kaiten." The pivot after entering through the armpit space felt unconnected, but it was a lot of fun working through it. I began by training with one of the more senior students who wanted me to really focus on making the whole movement "alive" and more at speed than I started with. I still have a tendancy to do a lot of start-stop-start-stop herky-jerky stuff which makes it hard to figure out how the whole body plays into the single flow. In other words I think it tends to add to the fragmentation of the bo
The school season is about at a close so the wifey has been working even more hours than she already does. As a result I wasn't able to make it to Sensei's class last night, but my mom was able to babysit so I could attend the beginners' class.
It was warm and a little muggy, so I was coated in my anti-grip solution of sodium, water, and essential oils. We worked on gyaku hanmi katate tori yonkyo nigite then applied an ushiro tenkan movement (version 1). Ushiro tenkan is one of the few waza I usually feel pretty comfortable doing, particularly that version. This was a form that harkens back to when I trained way back in the long long ago, so the muscle memory was able to kick in and help a little. As usual I started out feeling stiff, but I loosened up (relatively speaking) fairly quickly.
I made sure to bring home a list of the kyu requirements so I can practice them on my own as much as possible. Even though I've already taken the gokyu exam I'm going to start my focus there and progress onward. There are a number of changes to the way sensei does things so this way I can make sure I'm up to date. I'm more or less familiar with the waza...the basic idea to them...but getting my body to move smoothly and comfortably is the hard part. Before keiko yesterday I sat on the little deck which faces the Pilchuck river and mentally mapped how I think they would go. With few exceptions I think I had a basic idea of what to do. Now I just have to ask sensei for the definitive ans
This week was another tough one for me. I have a lot of adjustments to make in general, and my kids and I were sick so I was feeling threadbare. When I get that way, some of the old depression symptoms surface, adding to things. Not very fun, but I've begun to view times like these as challenges to be overcome; lessons to be worked on. It's funny how the lense of this mindset can make even innocuous things seem negative. C'est la vie.
So I went to the dojo yesterday feeling discombobulated. I missed misogi because I had been sick and was up late the night before. Funny how my internal clock still woke me up at the designated time though. I went to Chouhai, the daily ceremony where we read the O Harai no Kotoba. I like the focus on balancing the outflow of breath and vocalization with relaxation. I had a hard time relaxing though. I lost my place a few times, which is something I haven't done since I started learning over a decade ago, and my voice was choppy and tight instead of smooth and relaxed. It still felt good and helped me to relax more than I was beforehand.
When we started warming up for keiko I felt really tight and began sweating right away. And when we began bokuto practice I had a hard time remembering where I was at in the short sequence. It was a rough start after a rough week, but slowly, layer by layer, I felt the stress and tension diminish. By the end of keiko I felt normal again, or much closer to normal.
Sensei has been packing a lot of information
Today I finally made it back on the mat. I wanted to do the full meal deal so I did misogi at 8am, followed by the Chyohai and then Chinkon sai. Misogi always kind of typifies the concept of gyo for me: you strip down, practically naked to the world around you, and then often it is rather cold. If you haven't done it a while it's moderately uncomfortable...although, on some days it doesn't matter how long since you've last done it, it's still uncomfortable. Still, I love it. It's invigorating and provides a great opportunity to practice focusing while in a situation where it can be hard to focus. When I used to do misogi regularly (which for me meant, formally, 1-3 times a week) I would get a warm feeling in my hara while up to my shoulders in glacier run-off. I didn't get that feeling today, but it was still nice and refreshing and once I found the focus to "sink" my vocalizations into my hara (or near enough), the calm feeling I got was very pleasant, even if fleeting.
...Of course, the hot tea afterward was also very refreshing and pleasant.
In bokuto practice we worked on some of the usual kata. Sensei came over at one point and gave me some specifics to work on since I've been working on this at home so much...of course I remember him saying that better than some of the points he wanted me to focus on, but the key one that stuck was in adjusting my feet into a bit wider stance at one point in the sequence we were working on, as well as to really squeeze the elbows to
Today I was planning on attending the beginners' class at the dojo, but was reminded of another obligation I had agreed to. This whole day was one of the worst I've had in a long time. I was in a foul mood from how my body has been feeling, my lack of sleep, other things I'd rather not mention, and the fact that I wasn't going to the dojo...again. And the wee-est lad has a scream that cuts me to the quick like few things can. I was feeling like a miserable fuck, not to put too fine a point on it.
I really didn't want to do anything but crawl into a dark hole. However, by the time we were leaving our little get-together, I felt better...but still needed to blow off some of that pent-up steam, and so my son and I decided to splash in puddles the whole way back to the van. We were soaked but smiling brightly. The puddles were my misogi; his laughter like suzu bells; another day another lesson.
Sweet dreams, folks.
I'm very frustrated with my inability to train regularly. If it's not one thing it's another and the most common theme is my inability to get organized. I've been good at practicing at home, for whatever that's been worth, but it's hard not to feel like a joke after so much inconsistency.
Time to stay positive and keep plugging away: what I can; when I can.
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'