To 4th Kyu & Beyond!

My exam for 4th kyu is one week from today. I’m excited, and starting to feel almost ready. I have gotten so much from my practice these past few months, and have been having a blast training.

Several of us who will be testing have been on the mat 4 to 5 days a week lately, staying late to train together after class, helping each other and working with our mentor, who has his hands full between me and two 3rd-kyu candidates. I’ve got a jump on the 3rd kyu test, at least, when I eventually get there! I’ve being doing ukemi for them when I can, and going through all the jo and bokken suburi that are on their test (mine are a subset of theirs). We’ve all learned and grown a lot together, and gotten closer as friends, too.

I am mentoring someone for the first time, too. She will be testing for 6th kyu, and I will be her uke. She is a joy to work with, and I’m looking forward to her test!

Since my 5th kyu exam in February I have trained 143 days (so far), helped with moving the dojo to our really nice new location, trained in two seminars – Robert Nadeau Shihan, and Mary Heiny Sensei – and assisted with the logistics of the latter. I’ve participated in two Aikido In Focus workshops with Sensei, watched a lot of exams, and enjoyed several dojo parties. I’ve gotten more comfortable with working with brand-new beginners, doing my best to provide ukemi that lets them get the feel of techniques – or at least doesn’t get in their way. I’ve been having way too much fun practicing my first breakfalls. Woohoo-whoosh-thump!

Because it’s a question a lot of people ask, yes, there is a colored belt associated with 4th kyu: Blue. There is no universal meaning to belt colors in Aikido. At our dojo 6th-5th are white, 4th-3rd are blue, and 2nd-1st at brown. Until just a couple of years ago our dojo went with the more traditional white for every rank until you get to shodan (first black belt). But it’s helpful, especially for brand new students who don’t know everyone yet, to have some indication of the level of proficiency of the person they are working with. 

Rank for its own sake is not important to me. I will be the same person, doing my best (and screwing up, too), no matter what. But rank sometimes does have its privileges; 4th-kyu students and up can participate in the advanced classes on Monday and Thursday nights. I’ve been watching them lately, sometimes glad I have the luxury of just observing, but more often itching to get out there and play, too. Soon… :-) On Monday, November 15, actually. Not that I’m counting. ;-)

The months ahead are full of even more exciting things!

In December we will have a student doing his shodan demonstration. I always enjoy training with him, and benefit from his feedback. He’s a lot of fun, doesn’t let me get away with ineffective technique, and he’s strong as an ox. He’s also 73. He has a few limitations, but does not let them stop him or ruin his fun. He has been training his butt off lately. I wanna be like him when I grow up!

In January I will be training in the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar for the second time. It’s 5 days with Ikeda, Tissier, and Doran Shihan, plus several guest instructors. I really enjoyed it last time, and met a lot of very nice people – many of whom I’ve keep in touch with on Facebook throughout the year. I am looking forward to seeing then again, and meeting others, too.

In February Patrick Cassidy Sensei from Aikido Montreux in Switzerland will be coming to Aikido of San Diego over the Presidents Day weekend. I’ve heard only great things about his teaching! He comes to our dojo about once every other year, and I just missed him when I started training 18 months ago. So this will be my first time getting to train with him.

March through May are blessedly quiet. Time to just train. Get into a steady rhythm and let it all settle in. Play with Rainy the horse more as the days get longer, and maybe build those raised veggie and herb gardens I keep promising myself.

In June I am planning to go to the 35th Annual Aiki Summer Retreat at Menlo Park for the first time. It is a week-long live-in camp at a college – Sunday evening through Saturday morning! The dates & instructors aren’t up yet, but last year it was in mid-June, with Ikeda, Doran, and Nadeau Shihan, and Mary Heiny Sensei as a guest teacher. If you’re going to be there, drop me a note, although I’m sure we’ll meet each other in any case. If you’re from Aikido of San Diego, think about going! People from our dojo, including Sensei, have gone before, and I’d love to get a group together for this year. It’s a cheap vacation, and a heck of an opportunity.

Whew… That’s what’s on the horizon. Fun times ahead. Lucky me. :-)

If I don’t post again before my test it’s because I’m busy training. Or icing things. Or stretching. Or sleeping. Or drilling myself on the names of the weapons techniques so I don’t forget them under pressure. And trying to remember to go to the wrist, the wrist, the wrist, not the elbow, in nikyo ura. Oh yeah, and breathing. In other words, having entirely too much fun.

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