Day 6 – first blood

This post originally appeared on my AikiWeb blog…

So far, we’ve had to get out alcohol and zokin rags to clean up blood 3 times on the course, but today was the first day I personally made libation to the Yoshinkan gods. Also, today I did an ukemi.

Each week, one student is chosen to be shinkoku toban, which I think translates as something like “ceremonial leader.” Shinkoku toban leads the days’ opening and closing ceremonies and also the taiso (stretching exercises). Last week, the first week, shinkoku toban was Nick, a course sewanin. This week fellow student Izzy was chosen.

Keiko session 1 was more conditioning and ukemi work. Taiso (warm-ups) were led by Izzy and we then practiced correct taiso including work on kiai.

It was during keiko 1 that I started to bleed from my elbow. Nothing serious, just a blister that had formed last week rubbed down to a bloody spot this morning.

Keiko session 2 was shakko ho and tai no henko ichi, including tai no henko partner exercises and more repetitions with senseis instructing us to get lower, keep the back straight, the chest open, etc. All while sweat was running like rivers and the legs were cramping up. Fun stuff.

Keiko session 3 started with shikko ho, including moving backwards in shikko. This I cannot do yet. I think Crampton-sensei was visibly annoyed at the low level of performance this afternoon.

After classes ended for the day, Carter-sensei mentioned that we would be stepping up ukemi practice soon in preparation for an enbu (demonstration) at Shiramine-jinja in May. As my ukemi is far from good, he suggested I might want to spend some time practicing on my own.

Specifically, in Yoshinkan, our forward breakfall is done with a leg extended. This extended foot has a tendency to slam into the ground unless you learn to do ukemi properly, which means without slamming this foot into the ground, but keeping it up off the floor. Since the enbu is on a wooden floor, the slamming of the ankle or heel is less than ideal.

Anyhow, sensei left me alone in the dojo this afternoon and didn’t return for a good 1-1/2 hours. So I had 1-1/4 hours of continuous forward ukemi practice all on my lonesome.

I did one after another, trying to put into practice the things I had been taught. Especially, I kept trying to extend my legs to enlarge the circle of my ukemi and slow down my fall. Unfortunately, no luck. Then toward the end of my practice, I figured out that since the leg is constrained by a bone, it can’t extend; extension is all from the back. After that, it wasn’t too long before I did an ukemi and landed properly.

I wonder how long it would have taken me to figure out what I was doing improperly without the Kenshusei Course. An hour and a quarter dedicated to ukemi is what I was expecting out of the course. I think I am so thick-headed that without this sort of training, I wouldn’t be able to make any progress.

The lower back is a little sore now after the ukemi, but the knees actually feel better for some reason.