Maybe some cartwheels first.
Some months ago, I had to stop training at the dojo. To maintain teacher certification, it is necessary to take graduate classes in education theory, and often people pursue a master’s degree by way of certification renewal. So that’s what I’m doing. One of these classes had a number of group projects which required us to meet outside of class and work on them, and between that, the course work, the driving, and the lateness of the nights, continuing Aikido felt like too much.
The classes are over, but the money, the driving (distance, fuel cost), and the lateness of the nights remain as factors in deciding whether I want to resume training or give up. Lately I have really wanted to resume training. There is of course nothing stopping me from doing tai no henko and mae ukemi on my own. That’s something I’ll have to start doing. That and cartwheels.
I’m also worried about starting again after this long of a break. I think it was November that I stopped, and it’s May now, almost June. What’s that – 7 months? But this worrying is pointless.
I went to the Young Samurai (ages 5-10 I want to say) to help if I could, schoolteacher as I am. I’ve also noticed that some of the super basic movements and terminology are more often discussed in the kids’ class than the adults’ class. This is another reason to go to the kids’ class.
When I’m in the adults’ class, there are students of all levels there, and the difference is highly evident. I’m the least advanced so you can always see the difference. So I wondered, during the kids’ class whether I was in that role of “more advanced student” even though some of the kids have probably been training longer than I have and objectively could be said to know more than I do.
However, some of my “advanced” traits are just from being an adult. For example, I’m more patient and more likely to be sitting in seiza at the right time than the children. This doesn’t really mean I’m a more advanced student or better – it’s just a fact. Or, for example, one of the children was always framing training in terms of killing uke. I’m less likely to do that, but frankly training should have high stakes.
There was one other curious situation. I was assigned the task of getting students back into the line after they took an ukemi. Instead, one of the students was trying to grab my wrists and do a technique. I just sort of stood there and he thrashed about for a while as I exhorted him to return to the line. So, why didn’t this work? There’s a size difference but in Aikido that’s irrelevant. My conclusion is that he wasn’t acting on any received energy so there was really nowhere for him to “go along” with my motion. Or, another way, he unbalanced himself when he reached out for me in an attempt to throw me. Had I wanted, it would have been relatively easy to perform a technique using the energy he was giving me, but there wasn’t any need to do that.
It used to unnerve me if I maintained eye contact with someone for too long. I also used to startle very easily when anyone touched me. These two traits seem to be gone from my personality. I think it’s zanshin. Looking someone in the eye or being looked in the eye is all part of a general awareness and certainly not a cause for concern. Why would awareness make you worry? I’ve also become much more patient with things that used to bug me, like someone driving too slow in front of me or certain people’s personal quirks. I can’t figure these changes as anything else but a result of training.
And in daily life, this is separate from any martial intent, or at least we can assume (hope) so.
It also occurred to me the other day that martial arts were historically military training. There’s a lot of detail in the dress code, in the manner of address, and in training-specific etiquette. I read an uchi deshi program description that said the deshi should approach study as a life or death proposition. I guess that means prepare for either.
One of my colleagues and her husband teach a Vietnamese mixed martial art style called Cuong Nhu. Information on this seems sparse because it’s a relatively new style (1971) and so training seems to be when and how you can find it, as opposed to a robust organization. I went today to see what I could learn, after doing a little bit of research online.
Partly I am interested because it incorporates elements from a variety of other, better known arts. These include Judo, Aikido, Wing Chun, and Shotokan karate, from what I’ve read. Today at practice we did a few things that I remember from my less-than-one-month of Tae Kwon Do back in 1984 when The Karate Kid came out. So I don’t know. A snap kick is a snap kick I guess. There is also no tendency to nonviolence or nonaggression here. This is, I think, typical of martial arts classes and I’m not sure what I think of it. Certainly one can be in a class where aggression and offense are emphasized without becoming aggressive or belligerent.
Towards the end of practice we did an ushiro tekubitori technique. It looked like a kokyunage from where I was standing but frankly a lot of things look like kokyunage to me. The other students were not convinced of this and I could very well be wrong. About ten minutes after I left class, it occurred to me that this technique was what sensei described as “bow and arrow” some weeks ago. At least I think it’s the same technique although that may have started from ryotedori. The move made no sense till I heard that “bow and arrow” description. So, a yumi. I haven’t ever seen cuong nhu weapons but I get the feeling that understanding the weapons forms would make learning easier.
One beneficial thing about this class is that uke is really not just going along with the technique. I don’t feel at Aikido class that uke is always going along with it, but the kinds of resistance to being thrown here felt different, and that can only serve to improve form. It should be very difficult to resist a properly performed technique after all, so if uke is not thrown, then I must be doing something wrong.
Class was much less formal than I am used to. I don’t really know what the etiquette standards are in cuong nhu. Perhaps this is also an aid to training etiquette for me.
Two Fridays ago, we were learning the 31 step jo kata. In the middle of this, there is an instance where you transition from a waterfall block to jodan to shomenuchi (?). The movement seems the same as yokomenuchi nikkyo (?), where uke’s arm takes the place of the jo.
I’m calling it nikkyo because I think that’s what the wrist action is. And in fact, when sensei explained bokken and jo grip to me, he said that your hands should be ready to wring something out. We’ve done the wringing motion with nikkyo stretch before, so this is the connection I’m making.
However, the word “nikkyo” only means second teaching, and is not restricted to wrist actions. So this could very well be the first response to yokomenuchi and therefore be called yokomenuchi ikkyo, or something else completely.
I was waiting the whole time for funakogi undo because at the test practice on Saturday, I heard the term for the first time ever. We had done plenty of ikkyo undo, and I really seriously don’t remember funakogi undo. So I looked it up on youtube, as is my wont, and realized that we use the motion a great deal. So I thought, “well, I see some of the applications of this movement, so I’ll be able to do it well on the kyu test.” Instead, I did “static tenshin” when they really wanted a backwards step and there was no funakogi undo.
Speaking of tenshin, people at the dojo are in the habit of calling it “j-step.” Somehow tenshin makes more sense to me and I don’t really understand j-step. And at first I thought that some of the English language mnemonic devices they use at the dojo were not in the spirit of Japanese martial arts training.
However, today during lunch duty I was reading Art of Peace. In the foreword, John Stevens says that O Sensei admonished students to name techniques in a way that made sense to them. This would make the technique more personal. So, in Aikido, it is encouraged to make sense of techniques on one’s own terms rather than try and understand them in the terms of a foreign (in our case) culture.
Also, whenever we practiced kokyu dosa, in the past, I’ve been on flat feet and my partner has been on toes. Not by design, mind you. This makes it really hard for me. And I thought I remembered sensei telling me that all suwari waza start on toes anyway. Is kokyu dosa not a seated technique? I was trying to shikko on flat feet as well, which was really not easy at all. Much easier from toes.
The answer seems to be that whatever your partner is doing is the easiest way to do kokyu dosa. When we were both on toes, it was easy. When we were both on flat feet, it was also easy.