MEN CAN SAFELY READ THIS POST – it’s not about that kind of relationship talk.
My month of intense Aikido training is complete with a grand total of 55 classes, 110% of my goal of 50. I feel surprisingly good, considering at the end of the first week I wondered how I could survive three more, not to mention run two races as well. All I can say is that it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you just show up. In this post I have some additional photos from Rec & Ed class and a few I took at the main dojo of preparation for upcoming black belt testing (not mine, yet).
One theme emphasized during my April training was the importance of a correct Shite-Uke relationship. If you are in the role of technique leader (Shite) then you must lead; if you in the role of follower (Uke) then you must follow Shite’s lead. It sounds obvious, but it is easy to fall out of these roles if one is not paying attention, and the result is not a correct or harmonious technique.
Recently I was Uke for a technique where my partner (Shite) accidentally set up to receive a front strike when it was actually time for me to side strike. I should have fit with Shite’s lead and performed a front strike, but I was mindlessly following the practice pattern and did not adjust. No harm was done, but if I had been attacking faster, I might have struck him in the head. The next day our Rec & Ed class was practicing a complicated technique, and I was focused on my movements rather than on Uke. So our instructor demonstrated (with me, the senior student) how Uke must be led in the desired direction and stopped at the right time, or the technique breaks down. Then, when I failed as his Uke to follow his “stop” signal, the class got a lesson on how Uke must be attentive and go where Shite leads, not where Uke thinks he/she should go. Some things ya gotta learn the hard way…
Perhaps as coincidence I have been re-reading Nature in Horsemanship, written by a professional horse trainer who applies his lessons learned in Aikido to his approach with horses. He, too, stresses the importance of a clear relationship between horse and rider in order to provide a harmonious experience. He relates a story about a ride on a horse that seemed to read his mind; he had only to think his desired direction, and the horse would do exactly what he wanted. Some time later in an Aikido class he experienced the other side, when his Sensei made him lean, then fall to the mat, with seemingly no physical movement. “All my movement is on the inside,” the instructor explained, giving the author a key insight into how subtle communication and direction can be.
My activity for May takes me out of the dojo and onto the road for a series of bike trips. My goal will be to visit 50 towns and villages in Washtenaw and neighboring counties (and some up north), and visit and write about at least one significant feature in each one. If you know me at all, you know that good coffee and good chocolate places count as “significant”, so you can expect them to get a good portion of the press. We’ll see what other subjects I can squeeze in, including an oddly tantalizing place in Potterville.