Archive for December, 2008


Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Hi There,
I hope you don’t mind me checking in. Just because I’m not training, doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it.
At Hoa Sensei’s dojo opening the other day I was particularly interested in the distinctions of technique between Witt Sensei, Kim Sensei and Hoa Sensei. All started with the same attack, or a variation of that movement (for example tsuki and katate dori both reach out along a vector), but each executed the techniques very differently.
Witt Sensei is very grounded and solid. He moves easily, but also seems to minimize how much moving around he does. His technique comes from deep in his center, and of course years and years of training. I noticed that he lets uke come to him as much as possible, then turns that over-extension into technique.
Kim Sensei expresses great strength and power in his technique. Although he creates the opening necessary to engage uke, he also has no problem driving uke with additional momentum. At first glance, his throws look like they involve a big upper body movement. But actually it’s all driven by his hips, with his upper body following through, like a golfer or baseball batter.
Hoa Sensei’s movements are very fluid. I always saw them as cat-like. It never looks like he’s exerting great power. But as anyone who has trained with him knows, he is remarkably powerful. On Saturday I noticed his dramatic vertical movement. His hips move constantly throughout the technique, like a sine wave.
Of course, as I watched all this I wondered about my own technique. How do I express Aikido? What is my-ki-do? Well, it really isn’t hard to see: I’m very practical. I don’t like long, drawn-out technique, or highly theoretical practice. I like attacks that are strong and clear, and I want my techniques to be effective. Unfortunately, I do use strength to make up for technique, but usually I express that with big hip movement, rather than upper body strength. I’m very physical and like to mix it up on the mat.
Next time you’re on the mat, notice that everyone of us has his or her own Aikido. I try to notice, because it helps me understand what may be going on with a student’s Aikido, or even the mental or physical hurdles they face. I try to notice myself – what do I embrace or avoid.
Notice the instructors: how do they play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses? How does their Aikido reflect their personalities, their physicality, their lives?
More importantly, observe your own Aikido. How do you express yourself through Aikido? Where are you comfortable and confident, or hesitant and unsure? And perhaps, what can you do to exploit your strengths and remediate your weaknesses. I bet that if you can identify a strength in Aikido, you can track that strength to the rest of your life and use it more consciously. Or, if you can name what troubles you on the mat, you might see the same troublesome patterns in your relationships, your job and anywhere else you interract with others.
We don’t just train to execute technique. We train to be better people. Being observant of yourself and others on the mat is a wonderfully effective, safe and fun place to grow.

Serial Story Chapt 11

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Sleep really wasn’t what I needed. I needed perspective. Sleep scared the daylights out of me, even though I knew my experiences weren’t about being awake or asleep. It was different than that.

 Outside the hospital window, life looked pretty good, at least what of it I could see. People coming and going from the hospital—most tapping away on their handheld computers, pulling in and pulling out of parking spaces, meeting and greeting with professional handshakes or familiar taps on the shoulder. Maybe it was because I was still in shock, or because my awareness was heightened in general, but the sky looked beautifully blue, with the most picturesque fluffy white clouds slowly drifting by.

 A little bird landed on the windowsill. I felt a wave of panic at first, expecting it to say something or gesture in a way that would send me back to the weird purgatory. But instead, it looked around in a happily ordinary birdlike fashion, dropped a birdlike dollop of birdshit on the sill, then flitted off. Just like normal, all perfectly lovely.

 The hospital bed was a little too industrial to be comfy and, of course, I was bound which isn’t comfortable at all. But for a beat, I felt kind of safe and stable. Jeremy was trolling the hallways for cute nurses; he’d already made friends with the foodservice girl and secured for us two little pudding cups each. Then I think he went after the balloon girl, who wanted nothing to do with him. She clearly had balloons to deliver, and wasn’t about to let him slow her down. Once I saw him leaning over the counter toward the floor nurse, bobbing on his toes, trying to gain an extra inch of proximity.

 Between sorties, J poked into the room, probably just to see if I was still there, or still of this world, still in this dimension, still tuned into the here-and-now channel. Once, he peeked into the room as I was counting the little holes in the acoustic ceiling tiles. I guess my eyes rolling around like that gave him a start, and he lunged forward, yelling my name.

 “Wha’?” I asked, glancing over. Being bound made any movement more difficult. Well, yeah.

 “What the hell? Your eyes were all weird.”

 I told him, “I was counting the holes in the ceiling tiles.”

 He stopped and looked at me. “You are one weird motherfucker.”

 “There’s nothing else to do … I’m tied down, there’s no TV, what the hell …”

 “Gotta make your own fun,” he smiled, relieved. Speaking of which, I got us dates …”

 “I hope they don’t mind staying in, because I’m sure the hell not going anywhere …” and I rattled my restraints.

 He grinned broadly. “Oh … we’re staying in all right. We’ll will be staying well past visiting hours are over, long after the night nurses have made their rounds, maybe even until it’s time for a late night sponge bath …”

 “You’re not bringing … um … ladies in …,” I asked.

 “My friend,” Jeremy said, “I can’t say whether they’re ladies or not, but we don’t have to bring them in. They’re already in. Tonight you will be under the care of your own private nurse.”

 I closed my eyes for a moment and felt a delightful and familiar stirring. It’d been a long, long time since I’d been with a private nurse. Even if it was a chaste little date—which, knowing J and his taste in women, was unlikely—I was giddy just with thought of being in the company of a woman who was real, alive and safe.