Day 4 – shame

This post originally appeared on my AikiWeb blog…

Last night, Nick got in to Villa Bianca late as usual and woke me up around 12:15. I must have said something critical, because I remember him saying “Whadda mean? You’ve 6 hours til you have to get up.” And I remember saying, “Nooooooo, 6 hours isn’t a whole nights sleep,” then I turned over and fell asleep again. But it was a tough one this morning. I experienced the types of aches and pain that make it difficult to get up off the floor. Especially bad were the hips. Lovely.

Keiko session 1 was conditioning again. After an hour and a half of tai no henko ichi yesterday, my deltoids and triceps were practically useless this morning, but we pumped out 60 press-ups*, only about 30 of which I could honestly call real. We are a pathetic bunch, but we are getting better. We spent a while doing what I call shrimping, which is a sort of crawl on the back that jujutsu practitioners will be familiar with. And then we practiced getting up from forward ukemi. Like everything in Yoshinkan, there is a prescribed way to do this, formed, fast, fearless, and forward. After getting the form down reasonably, we spent the rest of class doing ukemi over and over and practicing getting up.

Keiko session 2 was all tai no henko ichi and tai no henko ni. When I say “all,” I mean we spent 1.5 hours doing repetitions of these two kihon dosa. I was really dripping wet with sweat by the end. This pretty well fatigues the entire body, but it was my back and deltoids that took the brunt of it. Then at one point, Payet-sensei came over to me while I was doing tai no henko ni and pushed my chin back to straighten my spine. Poof! All the tension vanished and I could concentrate on my legs and projecting my center forward. Pretty amazing.

Payet-sensei and Crampton-sensei do most of the repetitions with us and appear to not even be fatigued, but I suspect this is because they can stay relaxed in parts of the body that I am keeping very tense. I don’t know how to relax some parts and contract only the essential muscles, but this seems to be necessary to perform kihon dosa properly. (For example, you need to push into the floor with your front leg, but relax at the hip, too. How?) It put me in mind of a recent forum post on Aikiweb where someone quoted a student of Ueshiba’s who said that the secret to his technique was muscle training. I scoffed but maybe there is a lot of truth in that.

Keiko session 2 was very difficult, but I feel I really started to understand the form of tai no henko ichi, and I put a lot into it. So lunch was very welcome, and I felt the instructors were happy as well.

Keiko session 3 did not go so well. We were introduced to the kihon dosa called hiriki no yosei ichi and ni. These are forms I have done before since I arrived in January, and no one has ever said to me anything like “that looks good” or “now you’re getting it.” And it feels that way, too. Particularly in hiriki no yosei ni, the movement just makes no sense to my body. It is very fatiguing, and there is no power or balance, and I can’t figure out how to move without doing exactly the things we’ve been told not to do. Worst, while tai no henko can be performed without bothering my knees, hiriki no yosei makes them feel like they’re going to explode. And by this point in the day, I was actually breaking form sometimes to hold up my left arm with my right.

Anyhow, this is all prelude to this story: I was standing in hiriki no yosei today in a state of confusion and desperation when Payet-sensei walked over to me and said, “that position is quite comfortable for you, no?” After that, what is there to do but go home at the end of the day with your tail between your legs? And yes, I had let my hips rise and my knee was not extended as far as it should have been, and my thighs weren’t burning in agony, so in a sense I was slacking. No doubt about it.

Tomorrow morning: ken class.

* In USA, we call these push-ups, but since Carter-sensei and Nick are English, I am picking up the lingo.