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I spent most of my weekend at the dojo. It's safe to say that yes, I'm addicted to Aikido. Maybe it's just the outfit, I'm not sure, but I enjoy every moment of training. Especially those little breakthroughs that signal progress.
The classes on Saturday were great. There were lots of techniques that were new to me, including henka waza. We changed from ikkyo to kotegaeshi and back. Neither my ikkyoi nor my kotegaeshi is flawless, but I can now see how it's possible to sort out what to do when things go wrong.
The biggest thing I took away were Toyoda Sensei's words "You have no right to throw until you take uke's balance." I wish I would have heard that earlier, and I wish more of the students would have taken that to heart. Of course, beginners like me are unsure of ukemi, so it's sometimes hard, but the 4th kyu folks should know what they are doing instead of plowing into their uke.
Anyway, the second class was jo work. In fact, we did jo kata two, a 22 movement kata that is required on the AAA shodan test. After watching Kirsten Sensei do the full kata, I thought I'd never be able to get it. But she broke it down into pieces and worked us through it. At the very end of the hour all the ranks did the kata as groups. First the 4th kyu's, then the 5th, then the 6th, and finally the 7th and below. I couldn't believe I made it through all 22 steps. She is truly a gifted teacher.
I spent Sunday at the dojo with Cathy transferring some Aikido videos s
The final set of kyu tests were conducted last night. I was only an observer. They conducted a 6th, 5th, and 3rd kyu test. The 6th and 5th kyu tests were interesting to watch, but I enjoyed the 3rd kyu test the most.
The kenshusei student who took the test was beyond good. Even twenty minutes into his test, when Sensei called for the first form bokken kata, he was fluid and graceful, despite all the suwariwaza and jiyuwaza he had just completed. Simply amazing.
I found it very inspirational.
Following the testing I had bokken class with Erickson Sensei. It was partnered practice, concentrating almost exclusively on taisabaki for the first half of class. Kiersten was partnered with me. As I progressed she began to swing faster and harder. My block with bokken is still a little shaky, but she gave me some good pointers on accepting the energy of the attack.
Bokken, and most weapons practice I've done thus far, seems to put everything into clearer perspective. The footwork seems clearer for some reason. I suppose it could be the real threat of getting whacked in the head with a big stick that helps me learn things a bit faster. Thankfully nothing like that happened, but the threat was there.
Following weapons class, I stayed for the 6 week intro. There was only one intro student, and since it was mostly kenshusei on the mats I knew it would be a good class.
We did lots of rolling practice, which I cannot seem to get enough of. And then we moved in
Three hours on the mats in a 90 degree dojo will not only make you sweat, it'll make you question your own sanity.
It was hot. Hot and sticky. The first class was an intro course with several new students, so there were a lot of basic tai sabaki movements to practice. Nice and slow, methodical and measured.
Class two kicked things into a higher gear. We did a lot of highly choreographed shomenuchi and yokomenuchi strike/blocking practice. When done properly, the movements are fluid, and you're always setup for the next technique.
By the latter half of that class, everyone was drenched in sweat. As we were working on katatori nikyo, you could see the shiny patches on the mats from peoples' faces as a result of the pin. My dogi was getting really heavy from sweat, and the students who were less-than-april-fresh began to add to the aromatic scent of the dojo.
Class three was bokken suburi, taught by Keith Sensei, one of the kenshusei. I really like working with weapons because it makes shomenuchi kotegaeshi very logical. You must maintain maai properly because of the bokken.
However, shomenuchi kokyunage is a lot harder for me with bokken. The concept of throwing people off the end of a stick of wood is hard for me to get my head around. And then when I'm taking ukemi, I'm terrified. I think, in part, it's because we have a very rectangular dojo. The shomen is along one of the long walls, so often we are practicing using the shorter length. I suppos
Despite my best efforts at taking loads of Vitamin C and washing my hands as if I had OCD, I managed to pick up the cold that was floating around Chicago. I woke up Saturday feeling quite bad and stayed home instead of attending the Aikido Seminar.
I'm certain it was the right thing to do, but it left me feeling very empty and depressed. I really wanted to participate. I really wanted to train at the huge beautiful Ryoshinkan dojo.
I really wanted to feel that spark of energy I felt at Toyoda Shihan's memorial.
But it wasn't meant to be this time around. There will be other seminars, and other chances to "raise the roof."
Last night I returned to the mats for the first time since last Tuesday. I had purchased another dogi from a company called Midwest Martial Arts here in Chicago. They have a storefront on Irving Park Road. This one isn't nearly as comfortable as the BuJin one, but it was able to soak up every drop of sweat I could muster up. Sadly, I think I'll save the BuJin for only special occasions, as right now I sweat like crazy. A dripping wet dogi isn't pretty.
Anyway, the first class with Toyoda Sensei was lively and enjoyable. We did lots of kotegaeshi. Ever so slightly I'm working my way into breakfalls. Kirsten, one of the two yudansha kenshusei, is really enjoyable to work with. She's recently become nidan and has been training in Aikido for a number of years. I think she's only 18 or so.
Despite the milder day we had in Chicago, the dojo was like a sauna last night. I had originally planned to stay for all three classes but my feet and my soaked gi couldn't make it to the third.
I had a lot of trouble learning the tai sabaki for the movements in the second class. Since the class was being taught in an additive way, if you don't get the movements during the first exercise, you're way off for the rest of class. Thankfully during a few of the final techniques I was grouped with Kirsten, a yudansha who is one of the best teachers I've met. She has this intuition about body movements and is quite good at coaching me through just about anything.
We ended with renzoku kokyudosa. The funniest thing after all the students lined up for the final bow was how you could see the shimmering patches of sweat on the mats in groups of four, spread out like four-leaf clovers around the dojo.
As much as I want to train again tonight, my feet aren't feeling up to it so it's time to relax. I've been using Arnica gel and cream quite a bit because I don't like taking pills, but I think I might need to augment that with some herbs. The arches of my feet aren't happy, and everybody knows that a good house needs a good foundation.
During class last night, the buzz from everyone getting ready for the upcomming testing weekend was palpable. Everyone is sorting themselves out by rank and going over their testing requirements in pairs. It's amazing to watch and feel the dedication of everyone, but I'm kind of confused.
In my head, I know all the techniques for 7th kyu. I can name them all and the tai sabaki for each one is not difficult for me. The ki tests aren't a problem either. But I've never seen a test and I'm not sure that I'm confident to test when it's all eyes on me.
One of the yudansha took me to the side and told me "Look, when you're up there to test, it's all about you. It's your show. Take control of each movement and really feel it."
Normally that's exactly what I do off the mats. I'm a DJ. I live for a crowd. I perform in front of (sometimes) hundreds of people each week and don't ever think twice about it. But DJing isn't physical, at least not in the way Aikido is.
I want to test because...hmm, I don't know that I can finish that sentence.
There's my answer I suppose. If I can't really describe why I want to test, then perhaps I shouldn't be testing yet.
In any case, my two hours on the mats last night ended with some randori demonstrations. Up to that point I'd only seen videos online. Watching a six man randori made me nervous, excited, scared, and awestruck. I could barely see any of the techniques executed, but bodies kept flying
My dogi arrived yesterday. I wanted to rip open the packages and try it all on, but I was at work and didn't think that idea was too wise. So I anxiously made my way home a bit early and ran up the stairs.
It was far more lightweight than I expected but the fabric seems very sturdy. I ordered the 8.5oz Bujin jacket but the 12oz pants. After one wash (and 30 minutes in the dryer) it was supple and comfortable. I tried to tie the belt but I really couldn't get it right. I'd have to wait for someone to show me.
On Saturday I made my way to the dojo way early to practice moving around in the uniform as best as I could. After asking five people how to tie the obi (more techniques are always better) I finally got a working system. Being in a true uniform on the mats heightened my awareness right away. It was like someone flipped a switch on.
Seiza is so much more comfortable in the dogi pants. Perhaps their stiffness helps, I'm not sure. In any case, the first class went by quickly and I found myself able to roll a bit better in the dogi than I had been in a plain shirt.
The second class was dedicated to kyu testing. There is a kyu test next weekend, but I'm a bit too green to test right now. I know the basic footwork for all three techniques we're expected to do, and the ki testing won't be a problem for me. But I'm not fluid yet and I feel like I'm thinking too much about the movements. Only for a brief moment during a previous practice was I able to re
Last night I arrived at the dojo at 5:15. Many of the kenshusei were milling about, getting ready to travel to one of the other AAA dojo's, the Burbank one I think. I began to get a little excited because no one was there except myself and them, which meant I would possibly have a private lesson with Erickson Sensei.
But, in due time, another student from my six week intro course came in and we began class. After a series of warmups, the kenshusei's ride happened to arrive, so they left the dojo and the three of us alone.
We began with *wince* breakfall practice. Sensei had us lie on the floor and practice slapping and positioning ourselves in the proper way. My shoulders aren't used to landing like that, so this is going to be a big hurdle for me. I could manage the slapping with the arm and the opposite food coming down flat, but that shoulder land is going to be a big thing to get over.
After flopping around like dead fish for a while and landing painfully several times, Erickson Sensei asked us what we wanted to work on next. I chose katatekosatori kokyunage, the other student chose katatori ikkyo.
By this time we were all pretty sweaty, and since both of us were only in tee shirts and sweatpants, we were soaked through. I didn't relish the though of placing another persons' head directly on my sweaty shirt, nor did I look forward to being smashed against someone elses' sweaty shirt, but we got through it.
In fact, ten minutes into it we were worki
I made a quick exit from work at 4:45 so I could make it to the dojo in time for the 5:45 beginners class with Toyoda Sensei. More mae ukemi roll practice, which is great because they are starting to get a little faster and a little easier for me. I'm able to somewhat do them from standing, but if I hesitate in the least I end up rolling as smooth as a flat tire...thumpa-thumpa-thump.
I decided to stay for the mixed rank class at 7 with Parks-Casey Sensei, but it turned out that another teacher, a long-time student of Toyoda Shihan, was going to teach our class. We did katatekosatori kokyunage with the head throws and some kotegaeshi as well. At that point we switched to something with iriminage and a serious throw.
One of the uchideshi gave me a good yank and a good throw and I flew into a roll and bounced back up to standing like nothing happened. He and I both had an expression of suprise because neither of us heard a thing, which meant the roll was good and I actually seemed to do it properly.
It was a breakthrough, but there's still so much more work to do.
I realized that during ukemi, if you can do it in one long exhale and totally relax, the fall/roll/etc. works so much better. I really felt like I was extending ki properly and letting the movements just happen. It felt right.
I was so energized after that, so I stayed for a third hour of training. It was going to be a bokken class, which I had never done before. A few of the kenshusei studen
In the Chicago heat I trained on Saturday, working with a newer group of beginners on forward rolls. I'm still taking a bit too much time to setup my roll, but it's getting easier and easier. At least I'm rolling straight.
We ended class by doing some katatekosatori kotegaeshi, which as I understand it is a 7th kyu requirement. The footwork is far from natural, but it's starting to make sense how I can shift my weight around and take uke's center. I left the dojo with a smile and a sheen of sweat on my forehead.
On Monday, after having a VERY late night out on Sunday (in bed by 5am!), I arrived in a rental car at Tenshinkan dojo at 8:00am. Everyone had been awake for a bit longer than me, but everyone had a long face. It was the day of Toyoda Shihan's memorial service at Ryoshinkan dojo in Palatine.
Kathy decided she would ride with me, and I couldn't have been happier. It gave us a long time to talk about Aikido and how our lives have been and are being changed by it. She has such an amazing perspective on life and how Aikido fits into hers.
Ryoshinkan is beautiful. The mat area is at least six or seven times larger than Tenshinkan, and the ceilings seem to rise up forever. The shomen is set in a gracefully curved area with two shelves. A youthful picture of Toyoda Shihan hangs on one of the other walls, and the Japanese tatami are quite comfortable.
Before the service began I sat on the mats for a while with Kathy flanking me. I tried my best to