pecunium: (Default)
The worst day on the mat, is still a damned good day.

I found out about a dojo in Ottawa. I knew there had to be at least one (no, that's not true, but in a city this size the odds were pretty good), but I didn't pack my gi and I had no intent to seek it out.

[personal profile] ironphoenix, a friend of [personal profile] commodorified turns out to be a member of Ottawa Akikai, so I headed out there last night to take a look; because having a face one knows, or at least a name to drop makes the jitters of being strange, and out of practice, fade away.

I had a hard time finding the place, so I got about 20 minutes on the mat. I was told of a dan level class (black belts; and hakama) class tonight at five, and invited to attend. Because it was a dan class, and I'm out of practice, I did.

I did that because the more experienced someone is the less likely they are to make a mistake which damages their uke. Technique, comes and goes. Even the best of us have off days. A shihan having an off-day may not be evident to anyone else; they are good enough even their mistakes work, but they still have days they aren't their best.

Ukemi is not less difficult than technique, but it's harder to lose. A night at the dojo may have five or six different techniques in an hour. Everyone of those will require ukemi. My first art was judo. Judo is all about ukemi. My ukemi is pretty good, I have, "become one with the mat" thousands of times.

Tonight was a good night. I had no technique. None. I was loose, my hands and my hara were disconnected. I was suffering from being nervous, and out of practice. It's been more than almost two years since I was on the mat. I was injured (a very junior aikidoka made a mistake, and a tendon in my shoulder was strained). I was rusty.

But I was treated as an honored guest. People sought me out and were tolerant of my stiffness.

Then we got to a randori excercise. 30 minutes of free flowing attacks, chosen by the nage. Backfalls, and highfalls, and pins, and rolls. It was great.

I was so relaxed after that. It was wonderful.

But, and this the thing which worries me. The foot I sprained in June, hurts again, just where the sprain was. The shoulder I injured, almost two years ago, twinges. I am taking my prescription, and notes; for my quarterly exam with the Rheumatologist.

This displeases me greatly. Not as much as the workout lifted my spirits, but I'd hate to go back to mat, on a regular basis, and have to train less than I want to, lest I cripple myself.

(p.s. the randori link is to a video from the Aikido West where the sensei of the CAA Division I belong to teaches)
pecunium: (Default)
I have an ace bandage around my arm, pretty much immobilizing my elbow. Typing is fun.

I got stretched, and twisted; badly, at the dojo last night. It's not the first injury I've had on the mat. A year ago (or so), I broke the tip of my little finger, in June I sprained my great toe. So I did what I do. I took it off the table, did a set on only the other side, realised it wasn't as minor as I hoped and went to the freezer for an ice pack.

Icing the point of one's elbow is interesting. It hurts, but not while the ice is on. Rather when the ice is removed, and the radial nerve (the "funny bone") starts to recover sensation, it feels like a really strong hit on the funny bone, without the excrucuating pain, just the sense that it ought to have been that way, for this lingering sense of it to remain.

Which goes away when the ice goes back on.

I iced it for forty minutes, and then drove home. I'll probably not be at the dojo tomorrow. Which is a pity because it seems I am doing well, or at least better than it seems to me.

Two weeks ago this coming Weds. I was at the dojo. No, wait, I'm not sure I gave all the set up. I think I forgot to talk about Hayashi Sensei's seminar.

She likes to play with weapons. They focus the mind. She also likes to play with the mind. She want's to instill "calm mind" at all times. So Hallowe'en weekend she was teaching. I went (seminars are, this year, covered by dojo membership. It seems we had a good run at fund-raising over the summer, before I joined).

We played with knives. I know knives. My form with a katana might be unorthodox, and leave me open to someone who has studied more of ken-jutsu than I have, but I know knives.

Which means I know aikido doesn't really teach knife techniques. We were using knives a lot, and I was forgetting to use mine in the artificial ways of aikido.

Hayashi Sensei saw this, and told me, "He's a brown belt, he can take it," and then told Adam to be aware.

After this session was over, she called me up, and had me attack her. It was interesting. She was much better than Adam at seeing where things were going. I also got some intersted looks, from the udansha (i.e. black-belts) including a whimsical eyebrow lift from McGouirk Sensei (in which dojo I now train).


Then there was the praise Sensei gave me a week ago.

So Monday, a week ago, I get to class at the last minute, and Joanne asks me to lead the warm up. Ahhh! I was in no way prepared for this. I have a full mat (the first hour on Monday is the busiest night of the week here), and am winging it, on memory; and my body's tensions, to get a balanced warmup done. That'll teach me to show up latish again. Next time I'll just wait until class has started.

After the first hour is where Joanne's classes shine. If one has an open mind, and can see training value in watching, they are fantastic. She takes a single student, and makes a decision. Then she tells them to pick an uke and gives a technique. For me it's usually a specific response. But it might also be variations. In that case the attacker keeps coming, with the same basic attack (say both hands grabbing the shoulders, from the front) and the nage has to deal with it.

And one gets to see what is going on.

And Joanne comments, gives advice, steps in; with someone else, as a visual aid, or directly, as a physical aid, to show what should be happening.

I got told to be more grounded. I have the techniques, but I am not "deep" enough, and so I am working to hard. It's true.

Some students get randori which is a pair, or more, of people coming at them. The idea is to just push them away, while not losing track of the others. Fernando (who got his 2nd kyu the Saturday before) was given this. About few minutes in, she told me to join the attackers. A couple of minutes later, she added a fourth.

Fernando is grounded. We flew.

Skip ahead to Weds. Monday and Weds. we have students who aren't, exactly, members of the dojo. They sign up for classes through the Whittier Community Center. They are usually young, and mostly angles and elbows. It's nice to watch them progress. To look at them and see what they can improve, and try to figure out how to pass it along. A couple of weeks ago I made a comment to one of them (passing along a trick that Michelle taught me) and last night I heard Jason using it. Memes spread.

So Sensei had us working on our knees, and I was paired up with one of them (he had paired them out, and we were to teach them, taking the harder part of the technigue (suwari ni-kyo an arm pin, done from the knees). So I have this student attacking me, and I deal with it. So-so, but tolerably. (suwari waza is a pain, one has a harder time being grounded, and I've not done much of it. I'm also weak on nikkyo. When Sensei stops the class, and tell them to to watch us/me.

I promptly choke. So I do it again.

It seems I was doing it ura (to the rear). We were supposed to be doing it omote (to the front). What I'd not noticed, at the level of thought, was my partner wasn't giving. Sensei had told us to take care of those who didn't know how to move, lest they get hurt, and I was doing that. When her body didn't yield one way, I turned to the other.

Last night, however, we were doing a simple move (and I with another person who knows a bit). The mat was crowded, and he wasn't as competent with the technique as I thought. I forgot, also, that he was 6th kyu only a month ago. I did this technique on my exam, but it was showing off, it's not needed to get to 5th kyu, but to get to 4th. He forced me down, when I was extended, and something slipped.

My fault, all the way. I could have slowed the practice down. I could have realised the troubles earlier weren't so much the crowded mat, as him rushing. I could have tried to find a more open piece of mat. I could have done a lot of things.

I screwed up.



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I went to the Dojo last night.

I was not a happy camper when I arrived.

For reasons various, some my fault, some simple ignorance, some the fault of poor design on the part of the Regional Transit Authority in SLO, I was late. I was late after walking some four miles. To make it worse, I did those four miles carrying about forty pounds, some on my back, some on my front.

I wasn't in a good mood.

So I resorted to ritual. Kind of like dressing to serve mass. As I donned each part of the gi, I tried to shed some small part of my internal disquiet.

And I sat for a long time, looking at the shomen trying to find some harmony. I bowed in, and Michelle sensei asked me to join the mat.

Last night was important. Two of the aikidoka were demonstrating that they were at 4th kyu (a blue belt, the third level of progression, and the first to have a distinguising feature). The crowd was immense (quite unlike Tuesday, when there were six for basic, and four for general (it was great, three udansha (i.e. black belts) and me. I managed to absorb a lot). We did centered, and centering work. Michelle and I did a tenkan blend.

Let the uke grab your same-side hand, turn, and lower your center, walk around for a bit. If you do it right it's like leading a horse, they have to follow the halter, even though they weigh five-times what you do.

Then I we did a simple grounding excercise. Same side grab, and lower your ceneter. Absorb the resting energy of the grab. I was with the newest of our members. It is a rush, and a fearful rush, for me to be with someone who is less practiced that I, I am afraid I will give them some bad habit I haven't managed to avoid.

Mary sensei, however, was watching and smiled at me, so I guess my comments weren't bad. One of the things I like about aikido is that everyone is seen as having his/her own aikido, and we share it with each other. Done right everyone helps everyone else improve, and the least skilled has something to share with the most. Last night I managed to get some of that.

Then Karen demonstrated. It isn't an exam. The work prior to the demonstration is as much of an exam as one gets. This is a chance to show off, to revel in what one can do well. Karen did that. Solid, grounded, and smiling all the while. There were times she was like a rock, other times she was still as a frozen pond, and once or twice she was as a rushing river; moving, flowing and unstoppable. All of it with a grin from ear to ear.

And we did some more. This time we were to ask the uke to give us something. A grab, a strike, a hold. We would then do what we wanted, or needed, to do with it. I also did a set with Russ, a black belt, which was about moving behind, but really was about letting the uke move past. Don't pull, just accept, then respond.

Ans Wayne demonstrated. He was wind and mountains. His uke were getting high falls, and hard drops to the mat. They were also being sent rolling away, softly and smoothly. His unscripted was to fend off Scott, and Russ, in rapid series, where Karen had to let Scot be nage to her uke

And they were given belts, and we clapped for them, and their partners, and pounded the mats for the joy of celebrating.

Afterwards, when all the comments had been made, and the cookies eaten the congratulations given, and thanks exchanged, four of us did knife work.

This is less gentle. If one makes a mistake, and gets reveresed on a grab, or pin, or throw, one rolls, falls or walks away. A knife... well one gets hurt, so the moves are faster, harder.

But this is free-form. Work with what comes, and do what one can. Knives I know. It was like the punching responses we were doing the night before. An uke is supposed to be aggressive with intent. They are not there as a rag doll to be tossed about for form's sake, they are sharing the moment. It's like a pumpkin patch, one has to be sincere. Michelle moved away before I had committed, I changed my point of aim, and tagged her. Not hard, just a touch, but the blow landed. With the knife I did the same. I even managed to reverse her once on a pin.

It was probably the best instant of the evening. I was in the moment. I felt the center, our center, and took it, lifted it and was out from under, still holding the knife, while she was pinned and vulnerable.

She laughed, a rich warm chuckle. The student had bested, if only for a moment, the master, and it was good.



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