Congratulations to everyone who tested today!

Here’s my 4th kyu exam. Plenty of hiccups and room for improvement, but I’ll take it. There’s always 3rd kyu, and 2nd, and … ;-)

Many thanks to Dodge and Jay for being my ukes, to Bill and R.A. for being such helpful and dedicated training partners, to Yuumi, for lots of jiyuwaza practice, to Jason Lim for being our mentor, and to Dave Goldberg Sensei. <rei>

Video, and generous moral support, by Michael Eskin. :-)

O Sensei is quoted, in The Art of Peace, as saying “No matter how heavily armed your opponent is, you can use the Art of Peace to disarm him (or her). When someone comes in anger, greet him with a smile. That is the highest kind of martial art.”

This video shows so clearly how our actions, little things each of us do individually, can affect the world. A well-timed smile or hug can change someone just a little. They can affect those around them, and so on. Juan Mann, in the video, maybe affected a few thousand people directly. Over 10,000 signed his petition. Over 100,000 commented on the video on YouTube. Over 56 million people have watched just this version of it. 56 million!

Much of what we do is like dropping a pebble in an ocean. We may never notice the affect of the waves we create, but we do create them. Practice peace.

What a long day! I’m exhausted. A hot bath and a good night sleep (and some ice packs on my knee) are at the top of the priority list, so just a quick post tonight. I need to sit down with my notebook and try to remember what we did today. It’s all in there somewhere, but describing much of it is beyond me at this point.

The guest instructor this evening was Wilco Vriesman Sensei from the Netherlands. (The video above is of him at another seminar – not today.) He had a really interesting way of breaking down the areas of the body, and which area does what. A sort of short hierarchical checklist one can go through when doing techniques to be more aware of where things are falling apart. I would love to spend more time on it (and will try to be aware of it when I’m practicing). There was a lot packed into that one hour!

I can’t resist sharing this video. This is the technique we worked on tonight in class. First time I’d seen it “live”, as best I can recall*. Our versions were a little less dramatic, but still fun to do.

Watching this reminds me all over again how excited I am that I’ll be participating in a seminar with Tissier Shihan next month. He has been practicing Aikido since the same year I was born. I am not a young ‘un. It’s hard to imagine the level of expertise one could develop in Aikido, or anything, by practicing it for my entire lifetime.

*Please see another post, updating this statement: “Iriminage – A Duh Moment”.

My 6th Kyu Aikido Exam

I did my exam for 6th kyu this morning.

[Update: Here is a page with videos of all my Aikido exams]

At our dojo, Aikido of San Diego, we start as unranked. The first test is for 6th kyu.

The exam covered:

  • Ukemi: forward & back roll
  • Katate-dori: tai no henko, shihonage (omote & ura)
  • Shomen-uchi: tenkan & irimi, ikkyo (omote & ura)
  • Jiyuwaza: grabs
  • Suwariwaza: kokyu dosa

What I’ve been telling my non-Aikidoka friends is that this test is a little like graduating from kindergarten. I had to show that I basically know my colors and can tie my own shoes. Simple stuff, but hard for a beginner to master.

Most of the feedback I got was very positive. There were a few hiccups:

  • I was mentally off-kilter from having just run back from the restroom (there had been a line). Everyone was already seated on the mat, and my exam was first. So it was run back, sit down, get up, go!
  • I was winded from rushing, and it took a few minutes to recover from that at the start.
  • I got dizzy/spaced from rolling, so blew my first hanmi (for the shomen-uchi tenkan), and then almost fell over. (D’oh!)
  • I was not expecting to have to do shikko (knee walking), so I had no idea why Sensei was asking me if my knees were injured. I think that was my only real deer-in-the-headlights, “duh” moment. I had never tried it on the mat (only once at home), but got through it OK.
  • Sensei pointed out afterward that my kokyu-dosa (suwariwaza) could be bigger, with better extension.

Overall I’m very happy. Naturally I wanted to nail every last detail, but I did OK, and didn’t embarrass my teachers. I’ll take it.

I had a great time preparing for the exam, and was lucky to work with a very capable mentor – Scott Bjerke. I have never felt so much on the receiving end of the “it takes a village” (to raise a child) concept. In addition to learning from Dave Goldberg Sensei and the other instructors, I have learned from nearly everyone in my dojo, and from others as well. Maybe I can start helping others along now and then (on simple stuff, for the moment).

Now that I have been through the testing process once, I’ll be paying attention in a slightly different way in class now (and likely taking notes after classes). And I’ll certainly be paying more attention to the names of each technique.

Having achieved this little first step, one of my next goals (in addition to working toward 5th kyu, and getting in better physical shape, of course) is to begin to explore applying what I’m learning in Aikido to my riding and other work with my horse. I’ll be posting those adventures here, too.

Many thanks for the ongoing encouragement.