Wednesday, October 13, 2010


In the athletic building on campus, there is a decent gym that is free for staff and teachers to use. Being so convenient, I have been pretty good about going regularly. It is down on the basement level, and to get to it, I have to walk past the karate, boxing, kendo, and aikido training rooms.

All last year, whenever I walked past one of the aikido classes, I always said to myself that I should get up the nerve to ask the sensei (teacher) if I could join. Well, at the end of last semester, I did just that. I introduced myself and told him that I had studied aikido for a short time while in college and that I was interested in trying it again. He said that it would be fine and to come at the beginning of second semester.

So, we had our first real class last Friday. The first Friday class was just registration and an explanation about what the class would cover. I also arranged for Derek, a fellow teacher who also studies karate, to join the class, as well. Luckily, it turns out that one of our high-level students is taking the class, and he was able to translate many of the details for us.

Here is a brief explanation of aikido from Wikipedia:

Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on. This requires very little physical strength, as the aikidōka (aikido practitioner) "leads" the attacker's momentum using entering and turning movements. The techniques are completed with various throws or joint locks.[3] Aikido can be categorized under the general umbrella of grappling arts.

First, the sensei explained the basics of what we would be learning and how not to hurt ourselves: many of the moves involve the "attacker" ending up on the floor.

Next, after some warming up and stretching, we started with a basic move where the attack grabs your left wrist with his right hand. With a pull, push, and a twist, the end result should be the attacker smoothly rolling backwards on to the mat - emphasis on "should be."

After about an hour of this, we were quite tired and sore from rolling (falling might be more accurate) to the mat and springing back up to do it again. As a bit of a break and a demonstration, the sensei had each of us come up and "attack" him in front of the other students, allowing us to more carefully observe but also to more carefully experience what it should feel like. He is a strong and powerful man with quick but careful movements. When he demonstrated the technique on me, it was a weird feeling of being completely out of control and just along for the ride. With just a pull, push and a twist, the next thing I knew, I was gently rolling backwards on the mat. It happened about ten times in quick succession.

A little more practice and then a stretching cool down led to the end of the class. It was a really neat experience and a bit of a dream come true: to study a martial art in Japan. I am looking forward to this Friday's class.

Also, hopefully, my butt will still not be painfully sore from rolling on it countless times...

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