Aikido is obviously an art form that is expressed through the body, which gets information from our sensory awareness. That means feeling. … Feel what’s happening now, act on that information, and trust.
Aikido has been the primary focus of my thoughts and activities this year. Studying and practicing Aikido has changed my life for the better in many ways. This Thanksgiving I am particularly grateful for everyone I’ve met so far along this path. Here are a few who come to mind:
- My parents, for enrolling me in a YMCA summer Judo program in third grade. In addition to being a fun introduction to martial arts, the reflexive breakfall response probably saved my head years later in a bad fall.
- Master Fred Kenyon, my Tang Soo Do teacher in 1979, for introducing me to the side of martial arts that wasn’t about violence, even though I came to him to learn how to be violent.
- Mark Rashid, for showing me that one’s horsemanship could benefit from practicing Aikido.
- Jeff Davidson and Bob King Sensei for their “Aikido – The Way of Harmony Podcast”, and all their interviewees, for teaching me a lot about Aikido before I ever set foot in a dojo.
- My husband, Michael, for his enthusiastic support and love.
- Visiting teachers, writers of books, and producers of videos, for making a wide range of knowlege and viewpoints accessible. Way too many to list, but in particular George Ledyard Sensei, for his “Principles of Aiki” DVD series.
- Jun Akiyama, for the worldwide community of friends and teachers on AikiWeb.
- Janet, Jo, Cherie, Ashley, Tara, Mark, Robin, Carlos, Flo, Michael, Paul, Joe, Karen and a hundred others, for sharing their friendship, knowledge, and encouragement on AikiWeb, Facebook, and Twitter.
- My Aikidoka friends at work, Dennis, Tony, and Brooks, for being kindred spirits.
- Sue and Frode, for standing at the door and wondering.
- Chiyomi, for setting me on a path of fitness and correct body mechanics that I certainly would not have found so quickly, if ever, without her help.
- Doug Hoeck, the physical therapist who helped me back to soundness after I hurt my shoulder. (And a few other times, too.)
- Sheila Schneider, for coaching me in correct body mechanics and strengthening to support my Aikido and riding.
- Donovan Waite Shihan, and the team at Aikido 3D, for creating a great tool for visualizing techniques and learning their names.
- “LordOsaya” on YouTube, for posting his early training and tests. His “n00b” and “5th kyu grading” videos are an inspiration to new beginners.
- All my fellow students at Aikido of San Diego, for being great examples and good friends.
- Johnathon, for having a great deal of patience when I knew nothing at all.
- Scott, for mentoring me through my 6th kyu test, and teaching me as much about teaching as about technique.
- Daniel, for walking just far enough ahead of me on the path to give me something to reach for, and for being great fun to train with.
- Jay, for expecting a lot, and being a great example.
- Megan, for being a model of how a high level of proficiency is entirely compatible with gentleness and kindness.
- Mike, for being just the right blend of encouraging and exacting.
- Jason & Cyril, for particularly fun classes, which I sometimes think of as Aiki Playtime, although there’s a good bit of serious teaching and learning going on there.
- Andy, for steady, reliable weapons classes, where one can focus on getting the details correct.
- Karen, for clearly breaking down the details of techniques, and being a patient and kind teacher.
- My teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, for creating a dedicated community of friends, and guiding us with clarity, humor, love, and ruthless compassion, and for teaching excellent technique and much, much more.
- Robert Nadeau Shihan, for being my teacher’s teacher.
- O Sensei, for thinking this whole thing up, and for sharing it with the world.
Domo Arigato Gozaimashita
– rei –
When flying a plane, one thing a pilot does, to be sure things are working correctly, on course, and safe, is to frequently scan the instruments. Check the altitude, check the heading, check the airspeed, etc. Look around for traffic, communicate if needed… Check the altitude, check the heading, check the airspeed, and so on. Scanning the instruments lets you detect little problems quickly, and fix them before they become bigger problems.
I’m finding that paying attention to each aspect of my Aikido would be a similarly good idea. Am I breathing freely? Does my posture have integrity? Am I centered, and grounded? Am I aligned with Uke/Nage? Try to work out the next step of that new technique… Am I breathing freely? Does my posture have integrity? Am I centered, and grounded? Am I aligned with Uke/Nage? Notice the little problems quickly, and fix them.
Inattention to one aspect or another in Aikido has similar consequences to inattention in flying. Going faster than you’re capable of going safely. Heading in the wrong direction. Unintentional flight into terrain.
Doing a frequent scan of a few key points could help keep me on course. It’s something I’ll play with, and see how it goes.
[Note: Thank you to Mark De Souza for a post on his blog, Mark’s Meanderings referencing this post.]
A thought, in appreciation of my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei:
“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. To affect the quality of the day – that is the highest of arts.”
Henry David Thoreau
Happy Birthday Sensei!
Looking Back on 16 Days
Well, this post is a bit late, I meant to have it up on Sunday, but Monday will have to do.
If you’ve been reading regularly, you know that I just completed my own personal sort of 16-day Aikido Intensive. I was on my own for 16 days, so free to ignore the niceties of civilized life. Like sitting down to meals. Or having conversations. I took the opportunity to do as much Aikido as possible, to see what that would be like.
It was a sort of vacation for me – not from work (there was plenty of work done), but a vacation from normal daily life. It was a personal challenge. Could I do that many classes? Could I keep myself healthy and sound? It was a trial run, and practice, for a 4-day seminar I’ll be doing in January. It was a great opportunity, to do such a variety of classes, and gain so much experience in such a short time. It was a learning experience, in which I discovered a lot about myself. It was hard. And it was a tremendous amount of fun.
Committing to being in classes every evening meant leaving work an hour early every day. That meant getting in an hour early (and I am not a morning person). It meant kicking butt during the time I had available. And I did it. The work got done, and done well.
I learned that sleep, and days off to rest and reflect, are critical, as is eating well, both for physical endurance and healing, and for being able to mentally absorb what I was learning. I need time for lessons to sink in – time to think about what I’ve learned.
Like any adventure, I’m glad I did it, I’m glad it’s over, and I’ll miss it. Tonight will be the first night since the 5th that I could go to class, but won’t. I’ll be tending to my horse’s injured hoof, having dinner with my husband, maybe doing a bit of reading, and getting a good night’s sleep. But I’ll also be very aware of what I’m missing, and feeling a little sad about that.
Would I do it again? Not next week, no. Exactly the same way? No. But would I do it again? Hell yes.
This is a quick post about today’s classes. Tomorrow I’ll put down some thoughts about the whole 16 days.
There were 2 classes today: Weapons, and open hand.
In the weapons class we did the first 10 jo suburi. I think I’d done them all before, but at any rate none were a mystery, so I was able to focus on doing them correctly. I need to work on my timing. I was coming in ahead of the strike, which isn’t a terribly good idea. I’m feeling pretty good about most of the jo techniques I’ve learned. I’m sure they are very crude at this point, but I think I have the concepts down enough to practice a bit on my own, and recognize at least some of the things I might be doing wrong.
In the second class we worked mostly (entirely?) on preparing to do breakfalls. (Yay! Something I have done nearly none of before today.) Not exactly like this video shows, but that’s the idea. I was with a group doing really easy, low stuff (like early in that video), while most of the class did more advance practice (like later in that video). Even the “easy” stuff feels really awkward and scary at first! Like “no way, I’ll die.” LOL But by the end of class it was feeling much more natural.
It’s not that I’m in any hurry to be doing spectacular high falls, but I feel a little “at risk” not knowing the basics. Like driving a car without knowing where the brakes are. So I was really glad to start working on this a little.
More tomorrow about the whole experience of my 16-day “Personal Aikido Intensive” experiment.
This has been a very busy running-full-out kind of week at work. For some it’s been a pretty rough time. Everyone was quite ready to get started on the weekend this afternoon. For me it’s been mostly fun – the kind of work I enjoy, just lots of it, on tight deadlines. My body has had enough of sitting at a desk and using a trackball, even though I did get out for a quick walk at lunch. My brain could use a cooling-off period, too. Thankfully, I got to a good stopping point, and even entered my time for the week, before shooting out the door at 5:00.
I managed to pop a temporary crown off a molar today. At 5:10 p.m. On a Friday. While driving in heavy traffic. On my way to the dojo. That’s always the best time for that sort of thing, you know. D’oh! Naturally I just stuck it back on, smooshed it down real good, and went on to class. Now I’m being very, very careful when I eat. Great.
Tonight’s class was a lovely respite from the madness. (I just looked up “respite” on Dictionary.com to be sure I am using it correctly. I am. “a delay or cessation for a time, esp. of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief.”) I got there early enough for plenty of warming up and stretching, and for the meditation period. When class started we did a lot of very soft rolling exercises, and then one putting each other into a forward roll, and being aware of where the connection and center was. Lots of attentiveness to keeping alignment and integrity. It was a pretty meditative, mindful sort of class.
In spite of all that, it was physically a difficult class. My left upper-back/shoulder have hurt for 2 weeks, so rolling on that side (well, for the first 10 or so times each day), or breathing deeply, both feel a little like I’ve gotten the wind knocked out of me. Before class even started my left hip and right knee were unhappy (sitting for meditation didn’t help). To warm up before class I started to jump up and down a few times, and my ankle immediately hurt. One partner missed my arm doing ikkyo, and poked me right between the eyes. I almost got stepped on about 4 times, but the key word there is “almost.” Since actually getting stepped on twice this month (once on each foot) I’ve been more careful about that, and got my feet out of the way this time. And I have a few new bruises. No real harm done (although my knee worries me a bit – it’s an ongoing thing). Hooray for Arnica gel and ice packs.
There were a couple of techniques that I and my partner were both not feeling real good about yet when we had to stop practicing during class (shomen-uchi ikkyo, omote and ura), so we stayed after for a few minutes to work on them (and on katate-dori shihonage). I’m learning to be very happy with “better.” We definitely got them “better.”
I’ve been noticing the same thing in class, that I may not have a whole technique down, but I get some aspect of it right, or even if it’s not perfect, the overall thing flows a little more smoothly. Trending in the right direction is a good thing. I’ll take it.
Class ended on a more-contemplative-than-usual note, with Sensei reminding us that Aikido is not about attacking and defending, not me and you, but about the shared energy between partners. Good thoughts to take us into the weekend.
Day 14 of 16. Today at work was harsh. Plowed through work all day long, and then an hour before I had to leave, I realized there was a huge chunk more that had to be done. If my day were randori, I’d let myself end up in the middle, and all the attackers were on me. I haven’t been out walking for 2 days, and my legs felt like achy blocks of concrete. My left shoulder has been bugging me, so I was icing it at my desk. I wouldn’t have gone to class, except that I said I was going to. I didn’t figure my brain could absorb a lot more today. I was tired and overwhelmed, and really feeling the need for rest.
That all vanished after a minute or two on the mat. Everyone was in a wonderful mood. I had plenty of time to warm up. My front and back rolls were better tonight. I got most of the techniques at least halfway correct. I felt focused and centered, and had a very pleasant time in class. Yay!
Tonight was a weapons class with Sensei. We did tanto, which I think I’ve only worked with once or twice before. Even techniques that sometimes turn my mind into a pretzel seemed easier.
I was gonna go to class anyway, because I said I would, but now I’m really glad I did.
Off to dinner and a quiet evening, with more energy that I’m going to need for another intense day at the office tomorrow.
A much better day today (day 13 of 16). Not great, but better. And a lot of fun, in any case. There were two classes this evening, one with Sensei, and one with one of the yudansha. I managed to do some of the techniques reasonably well, but on the whole it was one of those days when I can’t tell front from back, in from out, or left from right. I got a few techniques inside out, upside down, or just plain screwy. Back falls weren’t happening so well, and I don’t know why. Sigh…
On the positive side, I was happier with my front rolls tonight. A little rounder, a little quieter. We did a short jiyuwaza in the second class, which was fun, and I did much better than I have done recently. And kokyu dosa really seemed to come together at the end of the second class. A nice way to end the evening.
Tomorrow night is a weapons class, with Sensei. I’ve only done one with him before – the first weapons class I ever did (I found myself in it by accident) – so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s class.
One of the woes of having the privilege to train under a teacher with an unflinching commitment to his students growth as Aikidoists is that the feedback sometimes stings.
Last night, in spite of my intention to go to class tonight, I stayed up to the wee hours to watch a meteor shower. That was stupid. Tonight, not having had enough sleep, I went to class anyway. That was arrogant and selfish.
I actually felt pretty good, and thought I was doing well for most of the class. But particularly toward the end my rolls got sloppy, and I wasn’t really focused. And I failed to notice that.
Sensei, being a perceptive and experienced teacher, noticed. He stopped class early, with a few words about how injuries are more likely when people are too tired to roll correctly, and how he doesn’t like injuries happening at his dojo.
Thank you, Sensei. It won’t happen again. My apologies to you and to my training partners.
In the words of Mark Rashid, horse trainer and aikidoka, “now I know how not to do it.”
Off to get a good night’s sleep…