While I took classes from August 29th to September 29th 2015, my journal practice only began on September 1st. My aim was to practice Aikido daily, except for Sundays because of my chosen dojo membership. While the document below explains gaps in my practice schedule, some entries have been omitted to keep content focused on martial art techniques and non-verbal communication.
As I curated the entries, I found myself adding to the later entries and leaving the earlier ones as they were written. Sometimes I would have a different opinion about a particular technique and elaborate in a paragraph footnote marked with an asterisk (*). Several of the final posts are lengthy. Secondary titles have been added to assist with navigation.
While most Japanese terms in this article are explained to provide context, some are intentionally left without translation to suggest the reader focus on the ideas conveyed rather than the type of technique practiced.
Looking forward to your thoughts.
Women’s Class. 9 People. Male Sensei*.
*Never once have I encountered a non-male sensei at Hombu Dojo. Even the women's class is taught by a man.
Class material & highlights:
- Forward roll techniques involving holding the dogi.
- Use the thumb to arc downward, creating line of force.
- Later technique involved train piston movement to arch uke’s body, this was the first time I was offered to demonstrate. Pretty cool, Sensei knows exactly how the technique works and what both the uke and nage’s body is supposed to do. Like the Hiroshima towel guy, this sensei could throw himself at the drop of a hat, and seamlessly.
Wednesday, 2 September, 2015
All men till one lady stepped in halfway. Later I would realize that one of the more-androgynous practitioners also used the female changing room.15 people.
Highlight: Learning the term: right foot forward- migi hashi mae
I revealed towards the end of the class my minimal Japanese language skills. The instructor took a moment to reconfigure his teaching approach. He used imagery and got me to adjust myself at a moment’s consideration.
1) Foot to foot. Straight line from nage’s foot to uke’s.
2) Half face the opponent, even if the stance may lead you otherwise. Belt to belt.
The sensei knew where he should end up on the ground and simulated how an uke would receive a good throw. He showed me the best possible outcome, and I really appreciated that kind of learning. I then knew how to direct the outstretched arm to land diagonally to the shoulder, rather than perpendicular.
Wednesday, 2 September, 2015
A really difficult multi-staged handlock-to-body pin today. I had encountered this (nikkyo) before, but this time it seemed like it was more manageable, yet the technicalities were not downplayed. My partner guided me through each stage, and she knew how I ought to move.
When learning something, knowing what I am supposed to do is one part, but knowing what the other person is also supposed to do is the beginning of mastery. Aikido practitioners seem to have a strong oral/non-verbal communication skill set. They are certain of each technique, and know how to teach them so that you comprehend one step at a time. They give you ways of remembering that surpasses intellectual know-how.
Friday, 4 September, 2015
After two days of rest from stomach upset, headaches, and a slight fever, I rebounded into a packed Friday night class. The sensei, Katsurada, was the roughest I have ever seen. He emphasized using centripetal force, a term he explained to me directly in English, when throwing the partner down.
In this class we spent a lot of time on a single hand wrist grab “cut tenkan”. When the nage brings the uke around I practiced the aikido concept of harmony, rather than fight the line of force my body is thrust in, I work with it, shifting my footwork to achieve a balanced stance directly opposite my partner’s line of force.
Practicing Nikkyo tonight was much more graspable. While the Japanese students can receive oral instructions accurately, I rely on non-verbal instructions such as direct contact or imagery. One thing this sensei emphasized was the need to execute each movement to its full. Each had its characteristic, throwing partners involved moving hands in an arc around a fixed point while the two nikkyo pins involved moving the body in a bow towards the partner’s chest, and the final pin a rotating torso. The rapid fire instructions came without the time for me to think, I just did and followed.
Both partners in seiza, I found it difficult to throw my partner down. I suspected it was something to do with the fluidity of the shikkyo. Partnering with the sensei, in one swoop motion, I found myself racing towards the ground.