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Yesterday evening I attended class at the airy dojo in Mt. Shasta, California. One thing I liked about this dojo was that there were no ranked belts or hakamas or anything to differentiate status or level-- even the teacher was a white belt. This made me feel like we were all on the same plane. I hadn't even been aware of how the belt thing changes the dynamic of a dojo. Note to self: remember about turning your partner's body in irimi nage by hooking the elbow; like driving a car: you can't drive from the passenger seat, you must be behind the wheel. Remember also this last version of yokomenuchi kokyunage; irimi- catch arm from inside, collapse your elbow for atemi, open your hip for this final graceful wave. (Oh, the techniques I have forgotten, because there is no language to remind me of them! Aikido is so impossible to capture in words.)
Last night I had a chance to train at The Aikido Center in Sacramento, California, with Matt Fluty sensei -- this is now one of my favorite dojos. Everyone was quite welcoming (they usually are, wherever you go -- I was just having breakfast with an aikidoka from Ottawa & we commented on how when you travel & do aikido, you feel like you have friends all across the country)... The dojo was filled with quotes from Thich Nath Hanh and the like about love & harmony; the atmosphere had a feeling like Naropa (Buddhist University in Boulder, Colorado) -- but not overdone; the ceiling was painted with a starry night sky... yet the whimsy was balanced by serious training & respect. This is an important balance to strike. "Look for the people who are smiling," an aikidoka in DC advised me, "and train with them." So that's what I do -- because practice should be joy -- and yet because of where I'm coming from & my Generation-whY cynicism I have this aversion to what might be called New Age fruitiness -- so it's beautiful to find a place that is joyful & grounded too.
Things I noticed:
-- There was an emphasis on "rhythm", which is something I'd not really considered, and I don't know if it's brillant or useless. There was one exercise where we as attackers had to line up and synchronise ourselves with our opponent's rhythm as she moved through the technique. On one hand, I'm not sure that a martial situation has rhythm to it-- but maybe every situation has rhythm to it, &