Returning after 15 years
About 15 years ago, I began my training at Aikido in Fresno, California (USA for those not in the know) under Patrick Cassidy Sensei. I trained every week -- five days a week for about two months. Cassidy Sensei then advised that he was moving to Iwama to train and invited me to attend. So less than a month later, I found myself in Iwama as an uchi deshi. I stayed for three months and then returned home.
During my three months in Iwama, I had the most amazing time. I was the only foreign female there for the majority of the time which was its own experience in itself. As the only female, I was given O'Sensei's bedroom in which to sleep. (The dreams I had!!!) Later, when more females arrived, I was moved to the Red Room, where I oversaw other female uchideshi.
There was this weird off the mat -- on the mat dispersion of "sempai." There was rank on the mat and rank by time in the dojo. Basically, I was required to teach all newcomers with less time than me how to behave at the Iwama dojo -- regardless of the person's rank in aikido. Without anyone ever explaining it to me, I was expected to teach those higher in Aikido rank then I, but with less experience with the dojo than I, the rules of the dojo. This was harder than I expected, expecially because I did not realize it was my job until sometime in the middle of my second month -- after I got my ass chewed out in Japanese that I didn't understand by Sensei.
Have to admit, I loved it when Pat Hendricks showed up and lifted the burden of responsibility from my shoulders.....
Anyway.... we all had weapons training each morning, regular class each night and children's class each day. Other classes, personal training, and pecial seminars seemed to fill up the days. Each morning began with chores. I guess because I was the only uchideshi female when I arrived, I was given the chore of cleaning and preparing the fresh flowers for the kamiama. Sometimes sexism is cool. Thereafter we all had weapons class. Hitohiro-san was my weapons partner almost every morning. When he was not, some other yondan or higher was.... I learned so much my head still spins. Nights were filled with practice, generally with students of much high rank then I. (One trains to the level of one's opponent -- imagine always training so far above one's current level.)
Before I left Iwama, Saito Sensei informed Patrick that he would be testing me. Of course, he didn't say on what day or night he would test me and I waited with baited breath and trained accordingly for a few weeks before the test occurred. Saito Sensei granted me a 2nd kyu grade following my test.
I have to admit that I found it very hard to train once I returned to the States. I was used to warming up and practicing my ukemi before class. I was used to forty five minutes or more of actual technique instruction and I was used to the same partner through the entire class.
The level of training in Japan versus the level of training in the States made it hard to continue my training... of course, my dojo was off again on again during this time as was my income. A few years later, the dojo was established, but I lived over 40 minutes away. Given the drive time (I do live in California <wicked grin>) and my dis-satisfaction with the level of instruction (all first dans at that time), and my longing for training Japanese style, I simply abandoned my training.
Two years ago I moved to the Bay area and enrolled in a local dojo only to find out it was not the style I prefer. I had already paid the registration fee, etc. Shortly thereafter, I found a dojo in my style, but took almost a year before I decided to enroll. Unfortunately I enrolled in my current dojo only to learn that my mental beliefs sadly outstripped my physical abilities -- in other words, I could no longer perform the aikido that my mind believed it could. In other words, I needed to lose weight and improve my breath.
I had gained over eighty pounds since my training in Japan and could barely survive a class -- even one labeled as a beginner. I have since lost a great deal of weight (30+lbs.) and plan on returning to the dojo beginning in August 2005 for active training.
So.... I miss my aikido. I miss it for my health. I miss it for my mind. I miss it for my spirit. I miss it for my body. I miss it for me. I miss my aikido.
Not only has aikido provided me with a lovely expression of physical exertion, but it calms my mind ... my soul. Aikido enhances every aspect of my life. Aikido creates focus.
When I practice aikido on a regular basis, I feel more centered, more balanced, more powerful.... more healthy. I remember practicing on a daily basis....the sweat....the exhaustion....the energy....the quiet calmness.... I am always more when I train.
I love aikido.
What do I fear in my upcoming training? I fear the American-style of training. I fear practicing ukemi -- for I tend to get highly disoriented upon repeated rolls... I fear multiple training partners during each session -- which require me to focus on the partner and not the technique. I fear the
American tendency to articulate a technique -- I learn better by watching.
So here I am.... A new, sorta old student of aikido....