Two days ago we were laying in the tatami, not practicing, talking and stretching when Sensei told me he may need a favor the next day. “Is it big? Or small?” I asked. “well, it’s… medium sized.”
Ten minutes later I had the keys of the dojo and was assign a class for the next day. A children’s class.
This is the moment of the story where I scream to the sky holding chunks of my hair up.
Back when I was practicing Aikido before this time the Sensei had talked to me about giving a children’s class in the dojo but no one had kids big enough back then and it was hard to start a group if we didn’t had prospects. Now, nearly every single student has kids between the ages of 4 and 12. So the dojo started a children’s class back in June, a black belt gives it. He is very sweet and soft, but very skilled so he is perfect for it and when he is not available another student (I think he’s 4th kyu) covers him. Neither of them could do the class yesterday. So I was the victim of the casualty.
I wished very secretly that either a) no one went to the class because it was pouring rain and parents should be careful! Or b) the black belt magically appeared to give the class and I could watch him. I mean, how thankful had I been if I had an example of what I had to do?! That’s much easier than just winging it. But that was not going to be the case. I got there and there was a fellow student with his two daughters and little boy waiting. I waited 15 minutes for other students and one more came with her father (who I had never seen before), meanwhile the kids ate doughnuts. The whole time I wanted to yank them out of their mouths because do you have any idea what that amount of sugar can do to the energies of a kid?!
Then I went to the front of the dojo (the front is where O Sensei’s picture is and I think it is always hanging from the south wall, so it was more like the back) and sat, and smiled. I saw three little ladies seating perfectly in front of me and I couldn’t stop smiling. I introduced myself and asked them to do the same. To my surprise I found them all smiling too and looking up at me with this sort of glee on their faces, I then realized that I was as much of a new picture as they were to me. It must have been the first time they saw a girl in uniform and certainly the first time they saw a girl in class. I thought of those girls that have never seen a woman in Aikido before when I was getting ready and put effort into my hair and makeup because I know how much girls appreciate and like those things, and was glad to see that they kept eyeing my pink toes and my lipstick giggling.
Then I began stretches and was surprised at how much they had already memorized about the stretching routine. Actually I think they could’ve easily reminded ME what we had to do next. Which was handy because leading the routine is much different than following it and I know I forgot a stretch for the hands… and I definitely forgot to do all the head stretches *forehead slap*.
Then we did ukemi (that’s the fall movements, there are many ukemis, but we practice the two we use the most daily) and I encouraged them to do them very close to the floor and very slow. I was happy to see that they had learned how to do modified ukemi’s, fit for a kid’s body and from a seating position. Then the third girl stops before rolling to whisper “I do them standing.” And I go “what do you mean standing?” Well, she meant freaking standing. That girl could do ukemi almost better than me. Turned out she’s very capable for gymnastic movements and could copy sequences very well, so she was my partner for demonstrations.
I felt the class went fast, I kept rotating the girls so that they could all practice each technique (I did two because I thought it was a reasonable amount) with me and with each other. At the end we were all sweating, I collapsed in a sofa and breathed. I had survived a class!
I had some time alone in the dojo so I did the only thing a reasonable adult would do; I played in the mat. It had been years since I last ran from one side to the other rolling and I wanted to practice my ukemi backwards so I did. Then I played with a jo (that’s the stick) which is my favorite Aikido weapon. Minutes later Sensei came up and we talked and talked and talked and ended up not practicing because we were talking so much. That happened twice this week.
Today I threaten that there has to be practice or else I’m just gonna take a bokken (that’s the sword) and start jabbing everyone’s ribs with it. That’s the nice way of motivating someone in a dojo.