Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking your lumps

I managed to make the 12:15 class, which is often hard for me on Mondays. This is particularly good as Claire Keller, one of my favorite instructors, teaches that class.

I bumped into Claire on the street before class. I was coming from the gym. She surprised me very much with her opening comment: "What are you working out or something?"

"What. Can you tell?" I was kind of shocked.

Claire, never one to overindulge in complements, said, "I can see a little something."

Ha! I think that was the first time someone's noticed. It's been about six weeks, so maybe it's time, but that was a nice surprise all the same. It certainly made my day! :)

In class, we focused on shomenuchi attacks. Before long, we were doing ikkyo and my partner was unusually timid. I was trying to get him to attack and extend but he just didn't want to enter my space.

Claire came over and I thought she was going to address the situation. She had me attack her. Now, since I was just being a bit heavy with my partner to make the point, I did the same to her without thinking. I somehow misread the situation because she suddenly turned to me and said, "That's not helpful." I could see she wasn't too happy. I was actually aghast that she thought I was being unhelpful to my partner. I always try hard to help those newer folks and be a good uke to everyone (at least the best I can).

Then I tried to explain and dug myself in deeper. "Oh, no. I was just trying to get him to extend."

"Why don't you just worry about yourself and try to take good ukemi." Slam. That went down hard, let me tell you. Of course, there was nothing I could say to that, so I just said, "Hai."

Now I tend to over analyze and think too much at the best of times, so I really mulled this over. At first I was a bit upset about it, but I tried to take my ego out of it and look at it from an external viewpoint.

As soon as I did that, I realized that she was absolutely right. Yes, I may have had some other sempai do the same sorts of things to me to make a point, but is that the most constructive way of doing things? How about letting nage execute the technique and figuring it out? A lot of guys at the dojo are a bit pedantic and I don't particularly like it, either. Why emulate them?

Not only that, but I particularly admire Claire's aikido. She has a flowing style and grace that I hope to be able to do someday. So it's no surprise that she would be the one to tell me this. She didn't get that way by being heavy, that's for sure.

This was a very small and seemingly unimportant exchange on the mat. However, the more I think about it and its implications, the more I am realizing the right and wrong way to do things.

I think I have to try to be free of all preconceived ideas. It's all about opening oneself to the subtlety of the moment. I just realized how poorly I've been doing that up til now, so that's a new element to try to put into my practice. This was a valuable lesson.

One reason I like taking Claire's classes so much is that I know she'll never hesitate to tell me what she really thinks. Well, I got that today and I have to appreciate it -- even if I had to take some lumps at the same time. ;)

1 comment:

ilsa said...

When Claire comments it's surprisingly simple and always to the point. Yeah, I like that about her.

I'm beginning to understand how important it is to be a good uke to nage. Falling before you should doesn't help and neither does resisting instead of following.

Though I wonder how much, as uke, I should try to maintain my center/balance so nage needs to execute the move correctly.

Fine line, no doubt.