San Diego Bridge Friendship Seminar 2015

Here we are on Day 2. No, you didn’t miss a post from Day 1, there was just no time to write yesterday. The opening session with Frank Doran, Hiroshi Ikeda, and Christian Tissier Senseis made for a great evening. I feel so fortunate to get to train with these three shihan-level instructors right here in San Diego, and am grateful to Jiai Aikido for hosting the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar every year. This is the 6th year I’ve participated – every year since I started training.

I managed to get home, get my chores and laundry done, and eat a bowl of cold clam chowder (I was really tired and lazy, plus I actually enjoy it cold – with a can of salmon dumped into it), and collapse into bed just in time to get 4 hours of sleep.

Up at 5:30 this morning for the first full day of training – 6 hours on the mat. Same schedule for Saturday and Sunday, and then a 2-½ hour session on Monday morning. 22-½ hours of classes in all. Whee!

Last year I went to very few seminars because I was busy with projects at home, and missed most of the Bridge seminar because I’d been sick, so it’s been both exciting and comfortably familiar to be training with everyone again. A few of the regulars couldn’t be here this year, and of course there are lots of new folks. A very good turnout, and Saturday should probably have even more people.

Many friends have congratulated me on my promotion to shodan (black belt), and on my hakama – the flowing skirt-like chaps worn by more senior students. One partner joked that I was supposed to have grasped the technique just demonstrated, because I was wearing those black pants. It’s actually kind of scary – and this is something I thought of after my exam – that the uniform a brand new shodan wears is the same as that of a high-level teacher who’s been practicing for decades. I feel like I should have training wheels, a “student driver” sign taped to my backside, or a green ribbon in my hair (an indication of a newly trained, or “green” horse) – something to indicate that “Hey, I just got this thing last month. I still don’t have any idea what I’m doing yet!”

But I do recognize that I’m catching on more quickly. I’m more able to drop my existing understanding of techniques to actually try to see and experience what the teacher in front of me is showing. I’m more patient with myself, too. In past years I’ve sort of wanted to come home with a basket of new bits of knowledge. Now just the process of learning is fun, and while I do hope to play with some things in coming weeks and months, I don’t feel so desperate to remember the details of every point I hear.

A few random highlights for me, so far:

  • The first session this morning was mostly suwari-waza – techniques done on our knees. I’m really glad I’d been practicing that lately. Still, my leg muscles are sore!
  • The instructor of that class (I’ll have to get his name…) was so enthusiastic and fun. I’ve seen this from a lot of teachers, especially Ikeda Sensei, but this teacher especially embodied the enchantment and discovery that Aikido training offers. Sort of a twinkling-eyed “isn’t it cool that this stuff works” sense to him.
  • Lots of details of a few techniques today, seen from different perspectives. A lot of it eludes me, but there are subtleties I can see from time to time.
  • Francis Takahashi Sensei is at the seminar, and I’ve gotten to spend a bit of time talking with him, with is always a privilege and a pleasure.
  • George Ledyard Sensei is here, and I got to train with him briefly during Ikeda Sensei’s class, which really helped me understand what was being demonstrated.
  • I got to punch Wilko Vriesman Sensei as part of a demonstration. He made a grand show of staggering backward halfway across the mat. Lots of fun comments on that after class.

I’d best get stuff ready for tomorrow, take a hot bath, and get to bed. As it is, 7 hours of sleep is the best I can do tonight.

Good bye, 2014. Hello, 2015.

In looking back at 2014 I see it involved a lot of completions – clearing out the old, and making room for new things – and beginnings – laying the foundations for future work. Time to head into 2015 and take advantage of all that groundwork.

Thankfully, Michael and I, and our immediate families, all stayed mostly healthy, happy, and sound all year. *whew* Plus we celebrated out 25th anniversary.

Most of the first half of the year was consumed with managing a whole-house renovation. There are still bits and pieces to be completed, but for the most part we now have a home that is much more pleasant and functional, and supports us better in our respective activities.

Throughout that time I was dealing with our donkey Eeyore’s worsening arthritis. I tried to keep him comfortable, and he had his good days, but was trending in a bad direction. Eventually, in July, we elected to give him the easy way out. Now Clementine is on her own. She was doing well, but now seems to be having trouble with tendinitis or something in her front legs. Having the vet out, again, tomorrow, to see if there’s anything we can do to help her heal and get off pain meds. Right now she’s not very happy, and I’m hoping she doesn’t follow the same trajectory as Eeyore did.

[I’m including a lot of links here because if any of this sounds like fun to to you I hope you will come out and play, too! Each link will open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place here.]

Because of other priorities and limited finances (career transitions can be hard on one’s bank account, after all) I didn’t get to as many seminars as I would have liked. But I did participate, as usual, in the Bridge Seminar in San Diego and the O Sensei Revisited Retreat with Robert Nadeau Shihan and his senior students/instructors. Both of those are really worthwhile events, and I’m glad I was able to make it to them. Also, finally, after years of wishing, I took the train to Seattle (2 days each way!) and participated in George Ledyard Sensei’s Randori Intensive at Aikido Eastside. It was a blast. Highly recommended!

I hope to be able to do all three of those seminars again this year. Definitely the San Diego Bridge Seminar, which is in just a couple of weeks. And this year there’s a new retreat that I’m really looking forward to – the Joshua Tree Evolutionary Aikido Retreat with my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei (Aikido of San Diego), Patrick Cassidy Sensei (Aikido Montreux, Switzerland), and Miles Kessler Sensei (Integral Dojo, Tel-Aviv, Israel). It’s going to be a pretty spectacular event, at a historic retreat center in the Mojave Desert in February. The Aiki Summer Retreat is reported to be happening again this year, and I hope to make it to that as well.

After the house project was done I got busy studying, and passed the test for my ACE certification as a Group Fitness Instructor, then went right on to get certified to teach SilverSneakers Classic, Circuit, and Yoga classes for seniors, and began the process for offering their FLEX Community Fitness classes.

At the same time, I clarified the concept, created branding and marketing materials, and launched my company, Fit Coach Linda. Its mission is to support people in getting moving, and living active, healthy, happy lives through better connection with their own bodies, with nature, and with others. Right now I’m designing programs and materials, and arranging for venues. I should have had that up and running for New Year’s. Alas, too much to do at once. I’ll have to catch people as their resolution motivation is waning, and they realize that a supportive group environment and accountability is more likely to lead to success than determination alone. If you want to be a part of this, you can follow my Fit Coach Linda Blog  for info and inspiration for living a more active life, and also “Like” the Fit Coach Linda page on Facebook.

As always, I enjoyed training all year at Aikido of San Diego. In December I passed my shodan (blackbelt) exam. I’m looking forward to “just training” this year, and deepening my understanding and application of Aikido. The Joshua Tree Retreat will be a huge part of that, I’m sure. I didn’t meditate as much as I would have liked in 2014 – must incorporate that into my regular practice this year, too.

Between the renovations, donkeys, studying, and training, I didn’t get as much writing done as I should have. However, I was able to make tons of progress on two books (Aikido-specific, for students, to be published in the next few months), and some progress on a third (non-fiction/self-help, maybe later in 2015). Writing – actually publishing books via my other company, Shugyo Press – is my “day job,” along with the programs I’ll be teaching for Fit Coach Linda, so I need to be diligent about actually getting that work done this year.

But before any of that, today is the first day of New Year. I’ll be celebrating by heading to the gym to work with my personal trainer, Kyle, of San Diego Strength and Conditioning. A very nice guy who knows what he’s doing, and his facility is right next to the dojo. Perfect. Part of my own strategy to make 2015 an even better year.