Aikido training in Japan

Lesson 22: Small Things

Although tonight’s practice was at the Kurobe dojo, there was only Sensei, Hosogoshi, Ueno and I. The advantage of this is that we do cooler stuff and get more reps with the most talented people in class. A pretty good advantage huh? With only a half hour left of class, one of the brown belts showed up. I decided to make tonight the night I ask a couple of very basic questions that have been brewing in my brain. It’s funny that we are told about the very simple basics of a technique usually the first night their shown to us, but overtime, so many variations are shown, that one can forget actually what they are supposed to be doing.

For me, one question was where exactly do we project someone on shiho-nage? To the uke’s center? To our center? Somewhere else? The answer is somewhere else. In the finishing movement we should be in aihanmi (a front stance where are shoulders are turned a bit and belt points at a forty-five degree angle), and the throw should be executed a little in front of your front foot. This correlates to ken (wooden sword) practice on the most basic of straight downward front strike, shomen.

Another question was about doing shomen with a ken when you’re in a reverse(?) stance. While practicing the ken, at least at our dojo, you always hold it only one way: left hand at the bottom of the handle and the right hand further up a bit. If you’re in a right stance (right foot forward), you are in aihanmi and it is very natural. But when you are in a left stance, it feels a bit awkward. I wasn’t sure if in that case you have your hips square forward, or still in a 45 degree angle with the ken forward, making it more awkward feeling. The answer is you are still in aihanmi, making it seemingly more awkward. The same goes for working with the jo (short staff).

While we were working on a technique against a double hand grab, as an uke there was a point where I had my harms locked out completely straight, and Sensei immediately saw this and pointed it out. I said, of course, I know that, sorry. But he went on to explain at length about it. Honestly, it kind of pissed me off. One, because I let myself get into that position. And two, because he came off as assuming I’ve never known that before. I have been practicing martial arts for 7 years, and have been told this by every teacher from the very beginning. Again, I wish I hadn’t got myself into that position, but when Sensei acts like I don’t have any other experience, it gets on my nerves. He knows I have, but I never bring it up. Niether my language or my martial ability are perfect enough to show a lot of things immaculately, so I just don’t bother. Whatever, maybe it’s my ego, it just pisses me off and is one of the few times I just say “Ok yeah yeah I get it” to him to get to something else.

As for the brown belt coming late to class, I learned a lot from watching her … as a bad example. She is a very nice girl, and has been practicing for a while, and even has good technique when things go well, but she has so much in the way personally. She is kind of ditsy it seems, but I can’t help but think it’s accentuated a million times over because of a lack of self confidence(?) She will make a simple mistake, Sensei will point it out, and she laughs and says she’s really sorry, and then does the exact same thing again, over and over again. Each time getting more uncomfortable. She stops often in the middle of techniques when something doesn’t go right, and finishes a technique usually saying sorry or that she screwed up. Again, she is very nice, and obviously wants to do better, but it does have the effect of disrupting practice, and really pisses Sensei off. Also, she comes late very often, and inserts herself awkwardly into practice at really inoppurtune times. To me, I feel kind of bad and sympathetic, but I’ve seen cases like this in every dojo I’ve been in, and nothing seems to piss off a teacher more than these things. I’m sure she’s come a long way, and I look forward to training with her.

In Japan, typhoons are sweeping through parts of the country, but Toyama is one of the least likely places to have a real typhoon. What this does mean though, is that the seasons are changing, and it is getting cooler!!! This is the first week since early June that I have not been absolutley completely thoroughly soaking wet with sweat from practice. I don’t have to drink four bottles of water during practice, and I don’t feel like passing out either. When the sun is out, it is still hot and humid, but nothing like it has been for the past few months. I AM SO HAPPY! I’ve never been so happy to think about wearing a coat in my life … except that one time I was freezing cold and really wanted a coat to keep warm.

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