Monday, 7 September, 2015
Halfway through senseis from the regular class enter and help coach beginners. Almost a one-to-one ratio of white belts and hakama wearers.
Almost all of today’s class was familiar material. We did Ikkyo and I practiced moving off my partner’s line of force, it was much more enjoyable to do.
Worked on hanmi after warm up in a large group. Forward facing is important. Front foot should be directly facing front, and the shoulders and torso to match.
Noticeably more confident today, felt as such and was able to guide my opponents to the ground.
Partnered with a newbie today doing the hand twisty things around the head (shiho nage/four direction throw). I could simulate my movement to guide his hands, and that helped. I struggled, however, to tell him which foot he should step forward. I hadn’t a picture of his movements in my mind.
My primary abilities were to sense kinesthetically and demonstrate competency. I had a sense of independence in my movements because I knew the appropriate pattern for the technique regardless of my partner’s performance.
Earlier Evening Class
Monday, 7 September, 2015
Eight people two girls including myself.
Worked on backwards roll.
Like the morning class I felt like I could carry out everything. Even if I could not complete the actions with full understanding of each person’s part, I had no hiccups.
Later Evening Class
Monday, 7 September, 2015
25 People. Tons of students in hakama (seniors).
The instructor remained the same, but built on the techniques taught.
We did a waza (technique) from shomennuchi that had been set up, the trickiest part for me, in the previous class. Felt like a pro taking diagonal strikes from my partner, whisking her around then executing the final throw.
My learning picked up on the inter-connectivity of techniques. For the first time I saw how the backwards roll appeared as a way to receive throws I had been carrying out.
Had a great class this morning and felt a strong levelheadedness heading into the afternoon. Took many of the exercises slower, with less emphasis on rebounding quickly and more on getting each part of the technique.
Ladies Evening Class (10th Class)
Tuesday, 8 September, 2015
Evening Women Only Aikido Class
Eight of us. Including a man, who came in and bowed specifically to one of the ladies. Initially I thought he was her apprentice, that he had the task of learning specifically from her so that he could become a teacher. I dismissed other possibilities because I thought that there’s always going to be a barrier between the Japanese and myself. If this man does not bother me, then I am fine with my own analysis of his presence.
Later I would find out that he was probably her bodyguard. After class, I crossed-paths multiple times with this lady without knowing that she was the one he bowed to In the changing room, she nimbly put on her power woman three piece suit in the corner where the lockers created an inlet. Her lipstick spelt fierceness, as she exited the toilet she did not wash her hands, perhaps because I was blocking the sink, on her way out she stopped at the mirror by the vending machine and ensured her hair was in place. She wore a turquoise there piece suit, stockings, and shoes to match. I moved at a pace similar to one walking through a butterfly garden, no rush, making plain observations along the way. The two of us overtook each other several times along the course of our post-class self-grooming rituals ending with accurately spotting our membership card at the receptionist’s counter.
It was still raining when I got outside. Taking my time, I retrieved my umbrella from the rack and opened it. As she exited, she smiled and murmured a word of thanks to the reception staff. In the driveway, a black minivan sat, its engine and side door open, flanked by two men in suits, of which one carried an umbrella. He sheltered her immediately as she walked out. A couple of steps separated the car from the dryness of the concrete overhang. Flattered, she said something along the lines of: “really, it’s alright, thank you.” Her practicalities surprised me. She was a powerful woman with no need of showing her strength. Once she made it to the car, I pointed my umbrella towards the ground, put my hands in place to gracefully balloon its protective screen, when I noticed in front of me stood the man at the reception.
He had come outside to bow as her vehicle left the property, a common practice among the Japanese to see dignitaries off. The bows were some of the lowest and most prolonged I have ever seen. He made three bows in total, the car had left the driveway and was more than several houses away when he arose. I said to him: “she must be important.” He emphatically replied: “hai, she is the daijin.” A little prodding and I found out that she was a minister in the Diet (Japanese Legislature).
As I strolled back home, I realized my interpretation of the man’s presence in class was completely mistaken. I had pegged the man as having some special privilege when he was there as a security measure. There are probably many moments in which I have come up with explanations to make me feel comfortable in unfamiliar settings. These voices judge quickly.
As I was practicing one of those chin throws (irimi-nage) against shomenuchi, I found that falling with more momentum enabled my break fall hand to produce a louder sound*. This was why the experienced members had such lavish falls.
*Perhaps this is true only when you can thrust yourself to the mat or your partner gives you some momentum. Or perhaps I have not a clue how it works.
Again, I took the class slowly, paying attention to technique and comfort before speeding up the approach and receiving ends.
Learnt Sankkyo today for the first time. The pins are vastly different from that I saw online. Most important is the way the hands lock. Some of the grabs are not intuitive*, but they effectively allow you to steer your partner’s body to the ground. *Later I would find out that all grabs should be natural. With the right footwork your hands will arrive at the right configuration with your partner’s.
Wednesday, 9 September, 2015
Two evening classes today. The first was packed with a larger number of gaijin (foreigners) than usual, probably four or five of them.
The sensei was a bald older man who smiled very little and held his breath a lot. He was better in the first class where there were more of us, and he only gave instructions and left us to experiment in pairs. He taught the majority of the second class as a lecture.
Watching him talk for minutes before we got to try out a technique for ourselves drained my energy. Paying attention takes energy, and if it takes too long, I get disinterested and frustrated at my lack of learning. His primary mode of information-delivery was through speaking. When he was doing so, the physical demonstration stalled. Other instructors managed to keep the ball of curiosity and learning alive by showing and telling at the same time. At one point, he completely dropped the lesson three quarters of the way through when he ended our practicing a technique, and called us to sit down. He stood there, his chosen student demonstrator sitting patiently, looking at the ceiling and stroking his neck. His uncertainty was apparent. I felt less confident in my abilities to tackle the technique he was about to show us.
Seeing this gap in the lesson, I marvelled at the other instructors I had thus far, mostly younger that this sensei, who had been less concerned about conveying everything they knew about a topic, they simply got everyone to watch and follow on their own terms. As they made rounds, any uncertainty due to a lack of information was made up by detailed instruction, and relationship building. The intonation and delivery of coaching was uplifting. Emotions persisted whereas this old school chap had only words and feigned enthusiasm.
I learnt a lot despite his style. In the first class, I understood better the forward momentum in Ikkyo (first pin). The step forward and leg sweep back was done in a straight line. I had done so before but without maintaining the forward line of force. His emphasis on speed, stability, and proper hanmi, i.e. to the front, made it clear that I should do the same. His lesson did best when he showed one point of focus and trusted that we could fill in the blanks. This he did in the first class, whereas the second he spoke so much, and so little I understood because he used mostly words and little physical demonstration while speaking, that I tuned him out to save myself from getting overly impatient.
In the first class I got a bit more in the ‘strangle’ fall throw (irimi nage). This has been a point of curiosity of mine since I began aikido in Malaysia last summer. The interesting part is right before falling, when the uke is at a point of suspension. The back arches we do every warm up is integral here. And when you fall, you fall right down.
Attending these two classes emphasised the ‘fixed point’ in aikido where you move your body towards a fixed point, usually your outstretched hand that your opponent is already gripping. Rotating the body around the hand is an effortless move, the strength, also emphasised today, comes from the pelvis/dantian/center of gravity region.
Ladies Evening Class
Thursday, 10 September, 2015
Nine of us. Same bald sensei as yesterday. Fujimaki.
He continued with an emphasis on maintaining fixed points while moving towards your partner. Twirling technique where it’s a wipe on wipe off motion with one hand leading partner into facing you after you’ve tenkan-ed, then you wrap your arm around them and throw them down guiding their neck. I tried falling in the graceful ‘v’ shaped back roll. Still dropping like a fly.
Nikkyo with this tenkan fixed point business. Quite smooth, happy that the ura variation came easily.
Older lady is solid as a rock. She did something that made it impossible to move her in the basic tenkan motion, she made sure my force was towards her, then after she moved in to the next position, I found no barrier to push against, if I did so I would have fallen forward, she was pulling me downwards, a much more difficult position to fight against, as I would have to use my bicep muscles and she her triceps and easily her entire body.
Friday, 11 September, 2015
Twenty-one people. Packed for a morning class. Discovered the first instance of mental health instability among the Japanese. This older black-belt clapped his hands together once as I sat next to him and ritually blurted ohaiyo gozaimasu. I reciprocated. We waited a minute longer in seiza, the rest of the class was in silence, when he started snickering to himself. From the corner of my eye I could see that he smiled intermittently to himself and waffled about like a kid in a candy store unsure which kind to get.
I wondered what the autistic rate of Japanese children are. What happens to people who are not capable of Japanese social norms?
Tons of partnering today. Many different techniques including nikkyo, the back of the neck grab, tenchi waza, kneeling ikkyo in ura, shomennuchi leg swap hand pull. In that last one, I got curious about how arching the back fits into the falling.
The instructor made rounds and did each technique only twice. He changed his forcefulness with each partner gracefully. A large-set Japanese man in his late twenties, he was sturdy at all times or seemed to achieve that at the end. He would teach as you were doing. If your legs were crossed wrongly he would correct you on the spot and affirm your effort with a fully-emoted “so, so.” Unlike most other sensei, he would make eye contact at the beginning and end of each ukemi.