Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
 
Aikido: Completing A Move

So, I am now officially a member of the Aikido Institute.

The main move we start the class with is called Tai No Henko, and I finally caught the name well enough to look it up. After that we practiced being "thrown" again yesterday (ukemi) and for most of the class it was the same as before--an older student, my sempai, Tim, did all the offering and I did all the receiving. (Apparently as a younger student I too get a special term: kohai. These aren't really specific to Aikido so much as a thoroughly articulated part of Japanese culture.) Oddly enough, I had a much easier time yesterday than last week---but I also have a much harder time remembering exactly what I did yesterday. Perhaps going with the flow more adds up to better Aikido, but also less cerebral understanding.

Basically as uke, or receiver, I faced Tim with a triangular stance, or hanmi, grabbing his hand with both of mine. Then he took a sliding step so that he was now standing beside me, stretched my arm upwards, and then pushed me down. The goal for me was to keep my hands in front of my face, step back once he pushed me in a more controlled manner (stepping back from one hanmi position to another), going down as he pushed me and then rolling backwards on one hip--with my hads in front of my face. There's a strong instinct to reach back with one's hands when "falling" backwards, but Peter, the instructor, said that causes one to lose the curve of the back, making it less of a roll--and probably more painful.

Then I got a chance to try being nage, or the offerer. I was a bit anxious because the dojo is quite crowded and I didn't want to throw Tim into somebody else falling, even though he told me not to worry about it. It's tricky to remember to step beside the uke the correct way, because it's the opposite of the Tai No Henko we've been practicing: you have to have the same foot forward as them. It's also tricky to remember to keep your hands the right way. Tim was good at correcting me without talking to much, a problem Peter aped with Jacob:
"No, straighten your feet. Right now step beside me, no step the other way, wait keep your hands straight, drop those elbows, drop those elbows, turn like this, no, like this, try this, you know, Sensei told me this one time, you might want to try it, okay, now reconcile heaven and earth and make yourself one with the universe." Jacob blinked and then nodded sagely. You never know when someone will attain enlightenment, I suppose.

At first, as I "threw," I really sort of went down with my sempai. Peter came around and corrected me, telling me not to follow the uke down, and to keep my feet on the mat and to complete my move. "He might not end up falling. He might just stop right there, walk away. Maybe he'll go take a shower, catch a bus. You complete your move." I'm glad to say Tim did not suddenly leave to go catch a bus.

Afterwards, I watched the "advanced class" again (though in theory now I can join them, and probably will, on occasion, thereby decreasing their collective advancement significantly). They really looked like they were dancing. Just an odd dance that ended with one partner on the floor. There is one instructor, Cynthia, who particularly reminded me of an English ballroom dancer from the Regency era. I was amused by this impression at the end of the class, when Peter had everyone sit down in the back of class, Jen sit at the head, and then had the three black belts attack her in a really no-holds-barred kind of way. (Jen's dan-test, which will make her a blackbelt, is this weekend). Cynthia's enthusiasm and piercing kiai* put a whole new aspect on her grace. As she rushed Jen with an axe-like chopping motion, she reminded me of the monarch of the birds in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series--a tall and possibly deadly crane.

*The cries that martial artists use to express their breath.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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