Aikido training in Japan

Lesson 35: A Night for the Whities!

This was definitely the funniest practice ever.

It was Sensei, Ueno-san for blackbelts, and then me, two lower ranking white belts, and one girl who had just started a week ago. When someone new comes in, sensei and Ueno-san take times working them one-on-one for a couple weeks on the side until they feel like they’re ready to keep up in the main group. So, for the first hour or so it was us three whities with sensei and the new girl with Ueno-san.

I guarantee you have never seen so many strange awkward movements and positions ever done in the guise of aikido ever. One of the other whities has been training for a couple months, but probably comes once or twice a week, and is, with no disrespect, one of the most awkward and less-inclined toward beautiful aikido movements people I’ve met. The other, is someone who started a couple months ago as well, and has for the past month been coming to every single practice and has started spending extra time with sensei doing kenpo … but he is naother one of the most awkward people I’ve ever met … again with absolutley no disrespect. And then there’s me who, because physical movement through sports and martial arts has been the primary focus of my free time since I was 10 years old, only barely manages to rise above these other two, but it was definitely shown that I am very much still a humble whitey.

We would be doing really simple movements, but for throwing and being ukemi both, sensei was either dead silent or tersely commenting:

What are you DOING?!?!?!?!”

“Sorry sorry sorry!”

Other SIDE!”

“OK OK sorry.”

OTHER SIDE!!!”

Ahhhh!!!”

Like this!”

“Sorry!”

I couldn’t count how many times I had to cover my mouth from revealing laughter at this entertainment. And niether could Ueno-san from the other side of the mat when she peeked over from time to time.

Eventually we switched to having Ueno-san working with us and sensei with the new girl, but it was more of the same. I don’t know which was funnier: sensei in all is skill and glory working with us who were so comedically incapable, or tiny Ueno-san wiping us all with the mat.

Sensei’s not one to let a dry joke end, so we ended up practicing an extra twenty minutes past the end time, seemingly to Ueno-san’s slight dismay and the other white belts elongated embarrassment … but I absolutley loved every second of it. It’s definitely one of the most memorable and most fun practices I’ve had.

In the end, on of the white belts said, “Gee, that must have been really boring for sensei.” But I told him that I felt this is one of the best experiences to have as a white belt from time to time, and I had a lot of fun.” I know everyone was having fun for the most part, and I am so grateful to sensei and Ueno-san … and every other highly skilled practitioner who will continually and unconditionally offer their teaching to whoever shows up.

Thanks everyone.

This was a night for the shiro-ebi.

Anyone laughing???

This is one of my favorite original Japanese-English jokes I’ve come up with.

White belt in Japanese is shiro-obi … but there’s a famous shrimp here in Toyama called shiro-ebi … white shrimp. So I always call myself a lowly shiro-ebi … but Japanese rarely laugh at this joke, I don’t know why because I think it’s brilliant.

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