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My "nightly" practices have flagged a bit. After a series of birthdays, camping trips, and a few different kinds of employment-related stress, I've noticed I haven't been as gung ho to go out and practice. This week I've been a bit better though. The last few nights I've practiced for about an hour each; I've also been trying to make it a point to think more about how I'm using my body throughout the day. The night before last, I was going at it more vigorously than I thought because last night certain muscles in my chest were sore. It's related to the way I tend to cut with my left arm; I tend to squeeze/slide my humorus against my body...probably with too much muscle tension?
Last night and the night before I tried to focus on balancing the left and right sides of my chest and shoulders, which seemed to relax my neck so it felt more like it was a helmet balancing on a stick (the image I try to have in mind). Barrish Sensei has told me a few different times that one feeling I should strive for is to be ready to head-butt aite at any moment. This means (and/or seems to mean) relaxing the upper torso and generally "sitting back" in my posture a bit more. So for a while I tried to do suburi with this feeling of activating my upper spine and head; experimenting a little with shomenuchi and yokomenuchi strikes. I tried little rotations of the head while doing this to see how it affected the line(s) of tension. As usual, I thought I saw some interesting dynamics, but not quite s
Today was a gorgeous day! I arrived early so quietly made my way to the changing room as Chyohai (daily ceremony) was finishing up. I helped put away the "shrine stuff" and sweep the mat before stretching and lightly warming up for keiko. We went outside because of the wonderful weather; down to the river. An island of river rocks was formed by the low river, so we kicked off our sandals and shoes and waded through the cool water to the small island before beginning an abreviated warm-up. Sensei went through a few different sequences of movements. They still feel very new to me, but slowly, bit by bit, I feel more familiarized with the different parts. I had a great time barefoot and swinging a stick around. You definately notice your feet more! The cool water was even more refreshing on the way back to the haiden.
There was a request for "gyaku hanmi katatetori kokyu ho," and after so much time spent outside we spent the remaining time working on this, first from suwari, then from tachi. I was trying to be mindful of the feeling of wrapping aite's head (how I was thinking of it, at least). I was with a newer student and one of the things that's real nice is that they don't always go where expected...although in this case it was because he was stiffening up. I had control of the situation through superior positioning, but my connection wasn't in full control, so it forced me to be more present in order to make it work. Once I got my partner to start activating the other si
Saturday's keiko was great, as usual. I arrived on time, but feeling a bit out of sorts. I had been up all night with my littlest boy and had received some information that, while not entirely unexpected, was also disconcerting and I carried it around with me a short while. It soon was washed away in sweat and efforts of concentration though.
We went outside for bokuto practice. I've been having a hard time getting the patterns down. I often omit a step or add a step, or get a movement backwards. I suppose it makes sense since the swordwork is mostly quite new to me. It was a lot of fun though. I paired up with the current uchideshi, who is pretty new to Aikido as far as I know, but he was able to remind me of a couple things I forgot.
Once we went back inside for taijutsu we worked on kansetsu waza, doing a continuous sequence of flowing into ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, yonkyo, gokyo, and rokkyo from an ai hanmi seigan initiating point. We then focused on rokkyo from an uraken attack. Periodically sensei would stop us to focus on some aspect or another. For the uraken, in this instance at least, the point wasn't to deliver a devastating blow, but to offset aite's head enough to begin entering into, and controlling, his/her structure. He made the point that someone who is well organized in their attack will be ready to spring into you the moment your hand stops its forward momentum.
We also practiced a rokkyo exercise where we used only one arm to wrap around the attacking a
Keiko yesterday was awesome. I showed up a little late, but still got quite a bit of time in on bokuto waza. I tended to sit down too deeply and arch my lumbar too much. I'm trying to press outward with my knees slightly, but seem to do it to the point of sitting down too much. The lumbar arch has been something of a condition of mine for a long time. I remember one time several years ago when I stopped by for a training, sensei had us sit upright and he walked around pushing on our backs. I wasn't trying to arch my lumbar at all but he said it was too arched. I think this has a lot to do with why I tend to lean too far forward all the time...at least, I get the feeling that it tends to put me farther forward in my structure than is ideal. This corresponds to an idea I heard Dan express (assuming I'm remembering correctly), that in using the "back-bow" it's usually easier for people to press forward and more difficult for them to push backward. I'm guessing this is because most of us are so forward-oriented in our awareness. One of the things the instructor in the beginner's class likes to emphasize is the idea of putting ki/awareness into our backs when practicing movements. It's hard, but I do notice that when I am conscious of balancing my left and right sides, along with my front and back sides, while creating/activating vertical musubi, my movements have a much more interesting dynamic. I feel more responsive and "free," which seems to give me a little more sense of bei
Today was a pleasant day all in all. To begin with, my wife takes the kids to a "moms' group" once a week in the morning and since she's working mornings during the summer school I got to be an honorary mom today. I'm only mentioning this because at one point I had to practice that age-old art of stopping kids with my "powerful" kiai ( ) as they merrily ran down a road toward some slight traffic. It stopped them dead in their tracks so my waza is clearly well-honed . We were all shouting for them to stop, but it wasn't until I focused and belted it out that they actually did.
As for the "real" Aikido today I could only make it to beginners' class as I had left the wee lads with gramma had to make it back in time for bed time. Part of what I've really been enjoying about beginners' class is the focus on rolls, which when done slowly really helps to relax my upper back and shoulders. Being able to practice rolls in slow-mo seems like a great practice in shifting weight through the body while maintaining frame shape...more or less round, in this case. In bacwards rolls, I loved the feeling of sinking my lower hip down, connecting to the ground, and then focusing on the continuous line of pressure being "drawn" along my back and shoulders as I rolled along. I have the sense that when I started (and restarted) my training, it was a series of dashes instead of that one long continuous line, which feels great and leaves me feeling renewed and physically balanced.
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.