I’m just back from this morning’s seminar on Connection, and things are only just starting to sink in. So I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts (or feelings?) on this eventually. But here are a few things that stood out for me at first glance.
We did an exercise where we did shomenuchi ikkyo, ura waza, but without touching each other. Just staying together through the technique in a sort of magnetic way. It was pretty easy and slow at first, and as Nage it felt a bit like operating a marionette (a puppet operated at a distance by strings). But then we switched partners and I was working with someone doing it quite a bit faster. And I, when I was Uke, had to keep up! It required a lot more alertness, and willingness to actively move with Nage’s direction. He’d spiral backward and downward quite fast (it seemed), and I had to move to stay with him. A strange experience, throwing oneself!
A little light went on there. I have been relying on Nage to physically move me through techniques. Not actively resisting, but not actively extending into the technique, either. Shutting down. Being done unto.
Later, while doing kotegaeshi, I injured the back of my hand – I think by getting behind Nage’s motion, instead of staying with him. No biggie, but it blew up a little, so I sat out for a while to do the ice, pressure, & elevation thing. It gave me a chance to watch and let things sink in.
Everyone was working on a reversal technique, and exploring the idea that staying connected and active is what lets you be (as Uke) in a position to do the reversal. It occurred to me that staying actively engaged and connected, instead of shutting down and being done unto, is one of the things missing in my riding. I already knew this on one level – that I tend to shut down when “things get a little Western.” It’s one of the specific things I came to Aikido to work on.
Today’s work gave me a slightly different perspective on it. I’ve been thinking in terms of “don’t shut down.” But that doesn’t give me anywhere to go. “Not shutting down” is hard thing to do – because it’s a negative. (Go ahead and try not shutting down.) One of the things I know in horse training is that you can’t train a horse to not do something. You have to train it to do something else that is incompatible with the undesirable behavior. Something like “lower your head in response to rein pressure” is trainable, where “don’t toss your head” isn’t. The head lowering precludes head tossing.
I’d even thought, in my things I want to get out of Aikido, as far as “be able to take effective action in the face of overwhelming physical threat” (like when your 1,400 lb horse is bucking across an open meadow). But that’s hard to do, too, because it’s too vague. Or maybe it a consequence of something. There’s a step missing.
“Stay connected with your partner,” on the other hand, is something specific one can do. It’s specific and immediate (or ongoing, actually). It naturally precludes shutting down and being done unto. So there’s something I can work on. Staying connected with my horse. Going from “being bucked with” to “back in control” is a reversal of sorts, one that connection makes possible.
There was a lot more. It amazes me how much one can get out of two hours of focused work. I did a few things I’m kind of pleased with, some I’m not. In a few cases the things I’m pleased with were things I was doing wrong (or poorly), but could at least tell that I was doing them wrong, and was able to make some corrections. There’s a lot about what I saw on the video (no, it’s not on YouTube) that is in jarring conflict with how I see myself, and how I want to be seen. One of the things Aikido has helped me discover is that abject public mortification won’t kill me. Don’t hide from it, learn from it. There’s never any concern that I might run out of things to work on. ;-)