Triumph Over the Brain

Classes 9 & 10, Tuesday and tonight (Thursday).

Boy, what a contrast… If you’ve been keeping up (not that I would expect anyone to), you know that I injured my shoulder a while back. Through the miracle of PT, massage, ice, exercise, rest, ice, stretching, ice, and time, it is better. I got the OK on Monday of last week to go back to rolling/falling, with the admonition to not land on the top of my shoulder ever again.

Last Tuesday my brain was not ready to roll at all. I couldn’t even picture what a decent roll would look like. Stupid brain.

So this Tuesday I figure I’d manage to start back to rolling, which I was doing reasonably well before my injury (thank goodness for that, so I had some good mental point of reference). Alas, Tuesday’s class comes around, and I really couldn’t bring myself to get to do it. I also couldn’t seem to do anything else right in class. Very frustrating. And everyone I worked with was trying to be very helpful. And usually they are helpful. (I’m regularly amazed at how good everyone is at teaching, even 6th/5th kyu people.) But on Tuesday I couldn’t make heads nor tails of many of the techniques, so repeating them was just annoying, because I was repeating the wrong thing, or doing it differently each time. I was so disappointed with myself that I went home and by gosh practiced re-learning how to roll (very gently and slowly) in the living room floor.

That finally seemed to remind my brain a little that “See, we do so know how to do this!” I ended on a good note, and let that sink in for a couple of days.

So today I got to do another class (I’m on vacation this week). I got there 45 minutes early, and very slowly started working on rolling. Like, from on your hand and knees, sliding your hand under and behind, until you just tip over. Easy peasy, right?

It’s amazing what our brains can do to us after a “life threatening” experience. When I was a kid I was fearless on horseback. (Still am, pretty much.) You know the deal about getting back on the horse? Well it’s true. I used to come off all the time. No biggie. But one day I tumbled off right near the gate to the pen, at the end of the day. I wasn’t hurt at all, and it wasn’t traumatic or scary. I was probably laughing. But I didn’t get back on. Didn’t think anything of it. I just turned the horse loose and went home. The next time I came out to ride I caught the horse, groomed her, and never even thought about that “fall.” But when it came time to get on, I was shaking. Thankfully, I am too stubborn to give that input much weight, but it’s interesting (and unsettling). Our brains don’t take kindly to repeating situations where we “almost got ourselves killed.”

That same thing happened to me tonight. I had a huge area to myself, with all the time in the world, and was feeling great. I’d do a simple, easy, slow roll, and my heart would be pounding. I’d stop and sit, and let myself feel happy for having done it right, and notice that I wasn’t hurt, and visualize myself doing it again, correctly. And then I’d do it again. More heart-pounding. “Thank you for sharing, Brain. Let’s go…” And then from squatting down, but on my feet… Have you ever jumped off the start of a zipline? You know you’re safe, you know it’ll be fun, but your brain is panicking? Yeah, like that. Walked around and shook it off, breathed, walked, squatted down and rolled. Got up, walked and breathed. And rolled again. Each time I’d wait until I was as relaxed as I could get, and just let myself tumble into a roll. And let myself experience that I did it, and that I was fine. Brain started to let my heart slow down a little.

Sensei reminded me that there is no rush. Maybe I should replace the “Patience My A**” sign on my office door with “There is no rush.” Great reminder, and one I need regularly.

And then class started. I’d never been to the Thursday night class, but whatever. They’re all Aikido classes, right? Uh… If I’d paid attention to what it said on the schedule, and not just the time, I might’ve noticed that it was a weapons class. I’ve been meaning to try that, but yikes… “Everybody go grab a jo.” What? Acck! OK… LOL It went really well. All the helpful people were magically helpful once again. I ended with doing techniques better than when I started, and was not confused about them (not good at them, but at least I understood what the heck I was trying to do). I even managed to very comfortably and confidently roll out of some jo techniques.

Aikido is fun again.

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