Thank you, Soobum. Yes, I know what karate is. When I was first considering what martial art to take, I looked at karate and I knew that I could not do it. It didn't feel like the right art for me.
One of our guest instructors, a sixth dan who studied at Honbu Dojo while O Sensei was still alive, tells us "everything you need to know about martial arts is in the movie The Karate Kid". And she's right!
I have to work hard to accomplish even the smallest triumphs practicing aikido... sometimes with consequences. While I can do a decent forward roll now from time to time, it's also extremely painful - when I come down, I always seem to hit that sensitive spot on my back that, when irritated sufficiently, causes really severe pain from sciatica. So I don't do forward rolls very often. (For some reason, doing back rolls doesn't hit that spot, so it doesn't hurt when I roll backward.)
I analysed the problem: my back foot just didn't want to leave the ground. So I took a ball, one that was slightly bigger than a soccer ball, but smaller than an exercise ball, and used that as a support as I went over. I did that a few times with the ball, and then suddenly I was doing it without the ball (only from a throw, though; still having trouble doing it in individual practice). I also have been spending time, 30 seconds at a time, several times a day, balancing on one leg with my body horizontal to the floor to build up my balance and strength (using my own body weight as resistance training). I have also spent almost a year rolling from both knees on the mat, feeling where my body hits the mat as I go over my shoulder and across my back onto the opposite hip. That's a trick, I can tell you: with degenerative disk disease, I have almost no flexibility in my back, and with the way I carry my weight on my hips, I tend not to roll smoothly.
I'm still dithering about whether I want to take the 1st kyu test. I'm having a problem at the moment getting a practice partner; none of the senior students have time, and the one student, slightly my junior but a good guy to practice with, that I trusted to practice with has scaled back his practice for the time being due to a medical problem.
So I'm still uncertain about taking the 1st kyu test. With the ability, shaky though it is to do a front roll, I've tackled, though not yet overcome, one obstacle. Not being permitted to teach, however, is still something I haven't quite reconciled myself to, though I think the practice itself is more important, so I'll have to work on that part of the spiritual journey.
It started just as tingling in two of my fingers, and now I've lost about 40% of the use of my left hand. I can barely get my fingers to button my shirt; right at the moment, I can't even hold a fork in my hand. Went to the hospital to see what's what and they don't know if I'll ever get my strength back. Of course, I'm flat broke so I can't go to physiotherapy. I have to get a nerve conduction test (had one of those for my leg when I had the herniated disc), but that'll be a couple of months down the road.
I still have strength in my arm; it's my hand that's not working too well at the moment.
I don't know how it happened - was it a fall I took? Is it how I work at the computer? I just don't know.
I tell you, this sucks.
I don't know what I'm going to do, at this point. I really don't want to quit aikido, but without knowing what caused the sudden lose of power and sensation in my hand, I know I shouldn't take any chances with any further injury. On the other hand, if it doesn't get any worse, that doesn't mean I can't continue, it just means I have to adapt. I can still grasp, what I don't have is fine motor control, or a lot of strength in that hand. It means I have issues with doing weapons practice, because now I don't have the strength in my hands to hold a bokken or jo.
I hope this is just a temporary setback and I will be able to get some strength back into my hand.
The function in my left hand has improved a little, though there are still things I find hard to do. At least I can button my shirts now; I've been using the squeeze ball to build up strength though at times it's almost as though I have to retrain my fingers to do what they've done before. I have a test scheduled for January 5th, so we'll see what comes out of that. Preliminary cause floated was that I had a small stroke. This is a bit worrying since I had an aunt who had series of small strokes; very small ones that only affected her in very small ways but that over time eventually permanently damaged her brain. No one could ever figure out what caused them.
In other news, I noticed in Monday's class my Sensei going through the attendance sheet and she must have seen I've accumulated 185 practice days since my last test, because when she came back on the mat she asked me when I thought I'd be taking my 1st kyu test...
We've been using the USAF requirements up until now so I had mentally prepared myself for testing after 300 practice days. However, as of the new year, we're switching over to CAF testing requirements, and the requirement for 1st kyu is only 200 days.
My breathing is still a problem. In fact it is THE problem, I'm not even bothered by my inability to do forward rolls consistently or well (at least I'm doing them, kerplunky though they might be).
So, here's the plan. After Christmas - Boxing Day! - I am starting on a super serious training regimen (I think I wasn't serious enough up until now). Goals: lose 40 lbs (realistically, that's all I can do in six months) and improve my cardio. One of the senior black belts suggested I get over my fear of getting killed in the advanced class on Monday evenings and go anyway. I already go to the Sunday advanced class, so I'm not sure I can manage two days in a row, but I'll give it a shot. Cardio without the equipment at health clubs is going to be difficult, but I'll think of something; I have six flights of stairs in my building that I can use, as well as focusing on power walking when I have to walk home from the dojo. I can't ride my bike any more because of my back, but I do have a wooden step stool I can use for step ups.
I'm also going to go to both weapons classes during the week, which means I'll be practicing six days a week.
The journey has taken an interesting direction. Let's see what happens....
The doctor did the nerve conduction test, and the results came back 'within normal'. He thinks there is something wrong with my neck, which is starving the nerves in my hands. I have naturally fused vertebrae in my neck which would explain why I'm not having any pain. Most of the function has returned to my hands, but they continue to be weak and I still have trouble with things like zippers and tying my shoelaces. I go back on February 9th for a follow up.
My Sensei is making sure I fold her hakama after class, so I guess there is no getting out of taking my 1st kyu test this year. There are six people besides me at 2nd kyu with enough hours to take the test: four who are currently practicing aren't taking the test because they don't feel they're ready (they don't come regularly, except for one young lad and unfortunately he's going to Korea for a year in February). The other two have left the dojo.
So it looks like I will be taking the test ahead of all of the others who are my sem pae.
No word yet whether I will be taking the test in-house in June in front of my Sensei or whether I will be taking it at the seminar in October.
The forward rolls are better but they are still not there. I can do them maybe once out of every half a dozen or so tries. It depends on who is throwing me, I find.
This great from you TDWoj,and nico women are very strong,whit is mind and body.
This is not a joke believes me,and woman put the paine away,when you leurn aikido.
The put the paine away,that is so,and i whis DTWoj congratulations and very much sucses and good luck my friend.
I ended up disagreeing with the doctor on the diagnosis; the symptoms and the cause/effect just weren't adding up. I realized that once I mentioned I took aikido, the doc stopped listening to anything else I had to say, and decided it was a sports injury. I've been following up the problem on my own and based on what I know of my family's history as well as the symptoms leading up to the loss of function, I believe I had what is called a TIA - a mini stroke. It would explain why my hands 'forgot' how to do things, while there was no actual damage to the nerves, and why they are better now that I worked so hard to retrain them (and aikido helped, by the way!).
There's no question that the degenerative disc disease (which I knew about already) and the spinal stenosis will play a part in the future but I don't think that it's affecting me negatively right now in my practice or that practice is accelerating the process. In fact, I think that practice is more beneficial, because my muscles are being used all the time and the stronger muscles better support the skeletal structure.
Also, the 'no break falls' rule is strictly enforced by me!
I'll have my regular doctor check me out regarding the TIA when I go in later this year. In the meantime, if I have any more dizzy spells, I'll hotfoot it straight to emerg instead of trying to tough it out.
Re: 1st kyu test.
It's official: I will be taking my test at the OAF seminar in October. For those of you who live in Toronto and might want to attend, it will be taking place at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, date as yet not determined.
There will be two others from my dojo also taking first kyu, both guys (that I've heard so far) and also two from my dojo will be taking ni-dan.
I was a bit alarmed at first at the news of where I'd be taking my test, but since then I've calmed down a lot and am working hard on my training. I was a bit disturbed when I overheard a black belt, who didn't realize I could overhear this person, say they didn't think I should be taking the test because I can't do ukemi. My thoughts on the subject these days is that if I can get to the mat safely, that's all that matters. I continue to work on my forward ukemi (some days I'm closer to the 'form', other days not so much) and if I can't do things like aiki otoshi, and ushiro my yoko kaiten, it doesn't have an impact on what I can do outside of ukemi.
It'll be interesting to see the line-up this year at the OAF testing. Last year, there were no women at all testing; hopefully, this year, there will be more than just me.
Thank you, everyone, for your continuing support in this (some folks say 'crazy') journey of mine! Aikido is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I hope I can continue for many years to come!
I probably shouldn't have reported what the black belt said; I've been getting instructed on my poor etiquette and that probably falls into the category of what not to do!
The ukemi issue might come up during the testing though; if there are other women testing for 1st kyu I might have to be someone's uke. In the meantime, I have to figure out who I can use as my uke if I end up being the only woman testing.
I still have some areas I haven't been able to learn well. For instance, we have a couple of guys that I practice with that defend when they attack, so it's impossible for me to do the technique being taught, because I can't match their physical strength. It's very dangerous for me because the one guy in his joyful "I can take her and outsmart her any time" move nearly did me a serious injury. I didn't go running off to the sensei to report this but because he defends when he attacks, I find myself getting stuck and unable to do the technique (and he does seem to enjoy seeing me struggle). If it was a real life situation, of course, I'd give him a good punch in the crotch or bash the arch of his foot, but we're supposed to play nice in class. Or the other guy that defends when he attacks: he grabs my wrists and locks his arms and comes to a dead stop, or pushes me backwards because I can't match his strength. It's all I can do not to get angry; instead I try to find some way of making him move so that I can get out of the way (hard to do atemi when both hands are locked in a death grip).
Well in general aikido is about overcoming your ego (just like most MA should be about) and sometimes we have what is called the black belt syndrome - i.e an overpowering eagerness to show off and teach rather then just shut up, guide and train.
If you feel that your partner is using muscles (and knowledge about the technique) to shut you down, AND enjoy doing so, you should just ask him - Why he/she enjoy shutting you down! Having to face a straight question on the mat, in front of others, is usually enough to make someone stop or, if the case might be, explain what you might try to fix the problem.
When it comes to the second guy - he might simply give you a strong connected (sometime this is manifested as a push into your center) grip. Better this than a strong unconnected grip - i.e. holding your wrist but not you. He might even do the same to most of you. Take it as an opportunity to train proper posture and grounding. Try this: Stand close to a wall in hanmi. Now push the wall like you would push a car that is not starting. Notice if your you're curving or buckling your back. You should relax your hip and pelvic area (it's relaxed if you can do the hula-hula freely). You should feel that the only pressure is into your back foot by the floor. Back leg need to be straight in the beginning and your back should be aligned and follow that back leg line from the floor all the way to the neck in one straight line. If you start feeling that you don't need to push with or tense your lower back or abs then you are structurally leading all that reactive force from the wall down to the ground through your back leg. Sometimes it helps to angle the pelvic back and forward until you find that middle point.
It is in this posture you should strive to be in when he comes in to grab you. Your arms should be extending out through your hands.
You could even ask him if he think you should be in a better posture so that he doesn't push you back. By asking you force him to face the consequence of his actions. By struggling you allow him to continue.
I'll give the standing against the wall exercise a try in class tomorrow. I have a bit of a problem with my pelvis because of the tilted hip on the right side (slight scoliosis has twisted my right hip out of alignment, making it weak and stiff), but I have been able to tilt my pelvis forward and back without too much trouble (or pain), so this might be a good exercise for me.
The second guy holds hard, but once he grabs, that's it; he does nothing else but stand there (or pushes me - good point about the posture, it's something I've been working on improving). The other guy, the one that's joyful when he puts one over on me, he's tried that a few times with some of the black belts. I think the day is coming when one of the black belts will present him with the consequences of his actions.
This past year, I've stopped myself from 'teaching' as you mention. However, as a senior student, I'm sometimes asked for help. I usually get the instructor's attention for the person asking for help, though I've sometimes helped if the instructor is busy with someone else (can't help myself, I'm a natural born teacher and there are a lot of students who have said what I've helped them with helped their understanding), but having been told I'll never be allowed to teach, I've been teaching myself to curtail my natural inclination to teach, even when asked.
That's why I'm at a loss as to know what to do with these two guys. On the one hand, I don't want to be running to the sensei every time I have a problem, but how do I solve the problem without asking the sensei for help?
This is the hardest part of learning.
(I did get a nice comment from a new student today, though; he told me when he practices with me, he can really feel my ki, jokingly calling it "the Force". Which again is interesting because almost right from when I started, I had several people tell me I had very strong ki. Now, if I can just get it to work with my two bete-noirs!)
We had testing on Monday at the dojo. Only two were up for their next kyu levels, leaving plenty of time for other stuff (no one testing for weapons requirements this time around). So Sensei called up a few people to do a 'pre-test'; namely, me and another guy both heading for 1st kyu in the fall, and one of the two testing for ni-dan.
We only did half the test, but a couple of interesting things came out of the process, for me.
One, if I slow my breathing down, I slow down the techniques, which in turn leaves me enough air to go on. Now, I just have to ensure I breathe IN through my nose, as I tend to breathe through my mouth (too many years of clogged sinuses from allergies).
Two, while I 'know' the techniques, I still tend to go blank (hooray for the two second pause, which gives me a chance to collect myself!).
Three, koshinage is going to kill me. Because my ankles don't bend, it's hard for me to get into the correct position, so I am really going to have to work on that.
Four, I pretty much have to work on everything, although post-test a few people said I looked very calm and collected, my posture was good (yay!) and I had the 'flow' which is the theme for the test (techniques to be done continuously, flowing, not stop and start).
Bad news is something is up with my back; I'm very much afraid the process of the spinal stenosis is starting up again. Not much pain down the leg at the moment, but my left leg is constantly feeling pins and needles, and the spot where the sciatic nerve is particularly sensitive in my back sometimes hurts so much, especially at night, that I can't sit or lie down for any length of time, which means I'm not getting a lot of sleep.
I hope this is just a temporary setback. I run through a little mental exercise where I try to convince my body it's gone as far as it can re: the stenosis and it really doesn't need to progress any further... mind over matter!
I still have about three and half months to practice before the test. I just need to get a partner to practice with because I'm losing so many free practice sessions when I can't get a partner to practice with.
Practicing hard. I've been working on fine tuning some details, and also working on the hardest techniques for me: suwari waza and hanmi handachi. Today I did hanmi handachi shomenuchi irimi nage, and it was just getting the little details right. We must have practiced at least half an hour which was murder on my toes (not the knees - it's the toes, for me, they just don't bend!). Also worked on some details re: moretetori ikkyo (that was another half hour, on just the one technique); and also did moretetori kochinage, which again, is a killer for me because of my back. However, the kochinage seemed to be much better this time around; I think it was because I got into position better and more quickly than before.
The sciatica comes and goes. I wish it would just go and stay gone....
The advanced class was very good today; I was very relaxed for some reason. I think it was because I have reduced the number of days I practice from 5 to 4 (due to work issues), and also I didn't go on Saturday, because I really, really needed a day off. Hmmm....
Oh, and I really put my foot in it last week. The big guy that I'm scared of happened to be in the dressing room when I told the instructor I was too afraid of him to practice with him. He came roaring out of the room and laid into me, calling me a liar (I'd previously apologized to him after I squawked when he nearly twisted my arm off... wait a minute. I apologized to HIM for HIM hurting me?), and bringing down his wrath upon my head as a result of my admitting I was afraid to practice with him.
Huh? Does any of that make sense?
To him, it probably does; to me, it was a perfect example of why I'm afraid of him, why I don't trust him as a practice partner, and why I want nothing to do with him on the mat. He's never been respectful to me (I'm his sem pi by at least a year) and if I should be unlucky enough to draw him as a practice partner, if I'm his uke, he ends up treating me in the most insulting manner (he's over 6 feet tall and when nage, offered his arm in such a way that I was unable to take it correctly, since I'm only 5 feet tall. When I asked him to lower his arm so that we could practice the technique being taught, he just gave me this rude stare and did nothing). I realized then how disrespectful he was; he was not going to change the way he practiced when faced with a partner of different dimensions. I'm not comfortable yet in the role of senior student, though I've had a few lectures from folks higher up in the food chain than I, and I figured the respect would come once I acquired the hakama; but then I saw how disrespectfully he dealt with the black belts, and now I know it's not just me he's disrespectful to, so getting the hakama won't make one bit of difference. So there's really nothing I can do about it regardless of my status.
And I'm still afraid of him.
So I'm ignoring him as much as he's ignoring me, and I'm concentrating on my own practice. He wasn't in the advanced class today, so I didn't have that panic stricken feeling watching him (I have to watch him; he doesn't care which direction he throws his partner in or which way he falls; I can't count the number of times I've had to yank my partner out of harm's way as a result of his carelessness and yes, frankly, occasional foolish behaviour that results in near misses and once in an injured student).
I know at some point I'll have to address that fear, but for know, I'm just letting it go by because now that he knows I'm afraid him, he flat out refuses to practice with me, whether individually or in a line.
This move towards me being a senior student is freaking me out, I have to admit.
I had an insight today about that fellow, mentioned above: that in the five years since he started practice, he hasn't yet learned how to give. I realize I see that in his practice all the time, and in all the time he has been at the dojo, he has not learned this very important aspect of aikido training.
How that's going to affect my training, I don't know yet; I'm disinclined to practice with someone I don't trust, so I guess I'm just going to have to wait and see what happens.
In other news, I was trying out kochinage today (yokumen strike) and something happened - either I wasn't in position correctly, or my partner went as far as loading up on my back and then stopped; anyway, my right hip, which is the bad hip, folded under his weight and down we went, and I wrenched my back. I thought it would be okay, but now I'm suffering from pins and needles down both my legs and I'm worried I shifted something out of alignment in my spine.
I'm always really careful not to load when I do kochinage, so I don't know what happened in this instance.
I'm going to sleep with the cell phone by my bed tonight in case something goes seriously awry during the night and I have to call for help.
The date for the test still hasn't been confirmed; I wish they would just get on with it, so I have a target date to aim for!