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Last night two new beginners, my friend Josh and another guy, joined us for the intro class. Orenaite, sumitoshi, koho tento undo, etc. It's really amazing to watch people on their very first day doing technique. I like the pace of Toyoda Sensei's intro classes because during the last fifteen minutes, they're really doing stuff they've never done before, and enjoying it the entire time. Pretty cool to watch them grow right before your eyes.
Over the weekend I'd heard that everyone had passed their kyu tests, but no scrolls were given out yet. There was a lot of whispering when we saw them on the tokonoma, but there they stayed throughout the intro class.
For the second class we did more yoko ukemi practice. I wasn't hurting much this morning when I woke up, which is my signal that I was doing SOMEthing right, whatever it may have been.
Ryotetori tenchinage, both the regular kihon waza and the tenkan versions were on the technique menu for that class. While being uke for the first one, the nage I was with insisted on really throwing me down into the yoko ukemi.
After being pounded twice, and asking to not be pounded again twice more, Sensei came over and told him that what he was actually doing was oyo waza, changing the technique. Apparently he was taught to really throw uke down at the end, instead of letting them bend back, and then falling in yoko ukemi.
Sensei mentioned that she was under the same impression, that there was a real throw at the end, but was
Thursday night with Erickson Sensei was fantastic. It was only Sensei, myself, and Matt for all three classes. I called rei for each class...which made me happy in a goofy sort of way. I think I just like shouting in Japanese.
We started with more yoko ukemi. First we did it from squatting, then standing. Then we moved on to doing it from lying on one side and flipping up and over to the other. Bang, slap, roll, stand.
I asked Sensei what to do about breathing. She said some people hold their breath, which could help them prevent having the wind knocked out of them. Personally, she said, she prefers to breathe out at the same time as the slap. I think I prefer her method because the few times I did hold my breath, I seemed to fall harder and bounce. That can't be good.
Tai sabaki toshu was the main technique we focused on after yoko ukemi, katatetori permutations. We did the basic tai sabaki movements back to get the timing and the posturing right, then sumitoshi drops, and then some throws.
Our basic movement was the katatetori grab, and nage pulls their hand into their hara like tekubikosa undo. You tenkan back, then reverse, then step forward, leading uke around. From that point, you either do a throw, the sumitoshi drop, or you cut to tell uke to release, then step back to prepare for the next grab.
Sometimes I still find myself grinning like a fool when I get a technique close to right. I'm sure that's not a bad thing per se, but it breaks my concentrati
Wow. The mats get cold in the dojo. And it was only 50F(10C) outside. What is it going to be like when it's a real winter day in Chicago?
The first class was a beginner class, a perfect segue back after a week away. There was one new student on the mats, and one familiar face from the summer kenshusei program. I was happy to see him back with us.
We did the usual koho tento undo, orenaite, and sumitoshi stuff, making our way to kotegaeshi. While the very new students were working on the techniques, Toyoda Sensei approached John and I, who have a little more experience (but not much by any means) and showed us about threatening atemi to change uke's focus.
All of the sudden, the little fake punches I'd seen in many techniques started to make a bit of sense. You don't actually intend to strike uke, but you're moving their awareness away from their active hand and forcing them to block.
Not only does it make it easier to control the hand you have, uke's balance could be upset with the push of a feather. Ok, well maybe not a feather, but John and I are so new that it totally changed the rules on us. For five minutes or so we kept at it, and every single time we both fell prey to the threat of a fist coming at our face.
It reminded me of magic tricks. You hold the attention of the audience with one hand while the other hand does something naughty or otherwise unseen. Change their focus. Control their minds.
I had a rough week fighting off a scratchy throat, so no time on the mats for me last week. I really wanted to get back to the dojo to see what the results of the tests were, but I was feeling awful and didn't want to spread my germs. I think it was the best decision to stay home and recharge my batteries all weekend.
I'm feeling much better today and am looking forward to training tomorrow evening.
Jordan, you looked great on the mats too. Thanks for that!
Alex, thanks for reading. You're so right, I'm amazed at how the legacy of Toyoda Shihan has spread around the world. To think that one man was able to bring so many people together. I guess shouldn't say "was", I should say "is". He IS able to still bring us all together. Amazing.
Garza Sensei owes me an essay about that seminar. I'll have to get on his back about it! Thanks for sharing the link.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 5am after a night of deep sleep. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to sleep because my kyuu test has been the only thing on my mind lately, but somehow I managed to fall into a very deep sleep.
The day prior I trained at my home dojo, Tenshinkan, and then had a Japanese lesson with Fujii Sensei. She invited me to ride along out to Arlington Heights to the big Japanese marketplace with Garysan and Sachikosan. Garysan is a gaijin in her intermediate class and he was interested in practicing Japanese.
The four of us spent a fun afternoon and evening in conversation with lots of shopping and eating. Perhaps it was the immense quantities of food and Japanese candy I ate, but when I got home Saturday night, I was tired. I stretched, showered, stretched again and went to bed.
Back to Sunday. I woke at 5am and decided more stretching was in order. I did some warm-ups and went for a very short jog to get my head clear and my mind moving.
The city was cool and quiet. The air was very humid but with just enough chill to remind me that indeed, fall is here. I jogged through a couple of my favorite alleys because I like absence of trees. The birds weren't even awake yet but I came across a raccoon digging in a garbage can, a grumbling possum, and a flurry of squirrels running around gathering w
Three more hours yesterday with Erickson Sensei. First class we did kyuu testing work. My katatori ikkyo isn't nearly as smooth as I'd like it while taking uke off balance, but once they are down, I can flow right into the pin softly and balanced. I know I'll be fine on the test, but I don't want to be fine. I want to be great. Prolly just a function of time.
The second class was jo. We did jo kata I, which was impressive because none of the students in the class were above 6th kyu. Yet after twenty minutes we were walking through all 22 steps pretty fluidly. From there we moved into jo dori from primarily shomenuchi attacks.
I'm noticing that the jo and even bokken don't wobble as much at the end as they did when I began. I can't say I'm solid with either, but Erickson Sensei mentioned something that sticks with me. While holding jo or bokken, you should be completedly relaxed everywhere including your hands. The only moment of tension is when you fully enter into the strike.
My shoulders used to hurt a lot after a weapons class, but now that's gone. Relaxing during any technique, weapons or not, is something I'll continue working on for the rest of my life I think. It's hard. It's hard to relax when someone is coming at you.
The last thing she talked about in class was the power of breath during strikes. Not just kiai, but how breathing from your hara sets many things in motion. I understand the concept of one point, but I can't really feel anyt
Last night I trained for the usual triple-play Tuesday classes of three hours. One intro, one mixed, and one weapons class. Erickson Sensei taught in Parks-Casey Sensei's stead for the day, but at the beginning of the mixed class, Toyoda Sensei asked me if I'd be interested in assisting with Erickson Sensei's Thursday classes.
Assisting? Me? I'm only going to take my 7th kyuu test this Sunday.
They assured me that the beginners class would be a perfect place for me to start, as I can take, more or less, all the ukemi the 6-week beginners need to learn. They also said it would be a great way for me to smooth out my ukemi and work on training while helping the new folks out. Naturally I answered with a resounding "Hai, onegaishimasu!"
I'm proud. I'm proud they asked me, and I'm proud I said yes.
This journey in Aikido I'm taking, this learning by falling, only a few months old now, has changed my life in such a short time, I'm wondering what the next year will hold.
My 7th kyuu test is this Sunday, only four days away. Two instructors have given me pre-tests and they are very confident about my testing. It's up to me to polish my movements even more on Thursday and Saturday. The test will be held at Soshinkan dojo in Burbank, IL. I've never been there, but I'm looking forward to seeing the dojo.
I keep dreaming about Aikido. I woke up last night in the middle of a dream where I was wearing a green hakama that had a gol
I was away from the mats for a week or so. I had a very bad experience with one of the teachers at the dojo and unfortunately I let that get the best of me. After speaking with the dojocho and many other aikidoka who train there, they assured me I was both doing well and to ignore the bad teachers extreme methods of teaching.
I'll only say this one more thing about the experience: Aikido is, to me, about supporting your fellow aikidoka on the mats. No matter what you are doing, no matter how often you do it, I believe you should be supportive and encouraging, even when someone is doing something "wrong" or against your way of thinking. There are a million ways to communicate with words. Chose them wisely and without ill intent. To correct someone is to truly teach them, not to demoralize their character.
After the week off the mats I was thankful that the dojocho returned to train with us. His first class back was akin to ordering pizza and watching a movie with a good friend. No, we didn't eat on the mats :-) But it was comforting and familiar, and I'm truly thankful to have a man like him as my Sensei.
It felt good to sweat again. The Chicago heat and humidity have been running high lately, but we're all training as hard as we can despite the weather. I've never trained when it's cold outside, so it'll be interesting to be on the mats when the weather begins to turn. But for now, a good sweat makes me feel on top of the world.
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