I promise this WON’T be an aikido journal. But, I went to a three day aikido seminar in which I almost passed out more than once and came back with about six marks and black spots in my body and how can not write about that? Is not like I have anything else to write about anyway, so don’t fret.
Andrew Sato Sensei the president of the AWA comes to PR once a year for a three day seminar with all the dojos of the island, it’s one of the biggest aikido events here and we were not only going, we were highly expected because my Sensei is Sato’s friend and he wanted to meet all the new students. No pressure!
So we were given the wrong schedule time for the first day and we were late. It was the day most people practiced and we got there and everyone looked at us funny. Especially when Sato Sensei got out of class to hug my Sensei (he only does this with him), say hello to us and give us permission to step right in. Like, right in the middle of a technique practice.
I thought I would be bold and start practicing right away since I knew what they were doing so I invited a classmate to the middle of the tatami with me. It was the only empty space and everyone else was practicing so I thought no one would notice us. I was nervous but it was the kind of private nervousness I have when I have to do anything pertaining an audience, I thought I could contain it inside and all would be good. My classmate was shaking, visibly shaking in front of me and forgot how to move his body. We decided I was going to begin the technique so he could see first and then follow. Except when I started doing it I discovered that no matter how hard I tried to tell my body to move one way, it was moving the other. I had no control what so ever of what I was doing. My steps were wrong, my directions were wrong… it was like a short circuit going on in my brain. So much for hiding the nerves.
Sooner than expected we attracted the attention of Sato Sensei himself who came to move us (and I mean actually move us like puppets) and direct us towards what we were suppose to do. After he touched us my brain shut off and the rest of the night is an album of flashbacks poorly lighted in my memories. I know that we started a projection technique and my arms were simply not falling with me. I slid repeatedly after hitting the tatami and soon I felt many tender spots in my arms, legs and even my ankles which I had never before injured during practice.
It turned out that doing decent ukemi in your dojo’s mat is not enough. You have to be some sort of magical aikidoka to be able to blend with any mat. It was ironic because the mats we were using there were judo mats, they are softer and thicker than the ones in our dojo so I was really looking forward to fall in those. Only I didn’t think that those mats, without any material on top of them providing grip, were going to BURN every piece of skin that slid into them. Both my ankles have circular scraps in them because I had never experienced sliding in a mat before. Bless my ignorance.
And then I was VERY busy worrying about hitting or being hit by someone else. I said this about 32457325 times while we were there; we are not used to practice with a mat full of people and 90% of aikido accidents don’t happen between partners doing a technique, they happen during projections and falls when someone hits someone else. I know about broken mouths, noses, fingers, heads opened during unfortunate coalitions. I was freaking out so much about some kid breaking my bones I started falling into full protection stance, raised fists and all. It was ridiculous.
Later I was traumatized for the rest of my existence when I was asked by Sato Sensei to be his uke in demonstration of a technique and then the only part of my brain that had stayed ON until then collapse under the screams I made internally of “fuckingshitohshitfuckmothereffingshit”. I can’t tell you how horrible I was because I don’t remember any of it. I’m convinced I was not there but my classmates tell me I kept doing the technique and not finishing it (with a damn floor retention) until finally I did and Sensei said “Thank you!” and “you are better than your Sempai”, which was the biggest joke ever. I do remember people laughing hysterically and awfully loudly when Sensei spoke both times as if amplified by loudspeaker.
So basically I was feeling like crap because I was making such a fool of myself until the second day when I had enough courage (and body coordination) to go around and start practicing with other people, black belts from other dojos and … well, they sucked more than me. It’s something one has to see but all I can say is that there were many ‘honorary’ belts in that tatami. All colors too. Our Sensei had told us about this, in fact he insisted we went to the seminar so we could prove to ourselves that we ARE good because he was sure we would feel like we could, in other words, beat everyone’s ass, but I guess we didn’t believe him. I mean, I had seen my Sensei testing for his last rank as well as other black belts testing, and I had seen that my Sensei is, in all honesty, just better. He has many advantages, he practiced aikido all over South America with some of the best teachers of the decade. But I was doubting that our talent was enough to take full advantage of what he could give. Not anymore. I’m going to point out that one black belt plainly announced to me (when I was going to attack him) that he had no idea what he was doing/going to do so he was going to wing it.
I ended up practicing in the line were my Sensei was. I figured I never get to practice with him much anyway (during class time his ukes are black belts), so it was a cool chance. There were about seven black belts and me (still wearing my white belt because I totally refuse to add my rank to it). I greeted a Sensei that I had met before who was extremely nice (and my Sensei’s friend) and told him that I had come to give variety to the black belt line, “that’s the spirit!” he answered and I proceeded to get the rest of the marks I have with gusto because if I’m going to get marks? I want to get them from people that at least have higher degree than me. Not necessarily deserved, but still. Soon there were a couple of color belts in the line trying their luck too.
By Sunday (the third day) I was totally exhausted and could only stand by my stubborn will. Ironically it was the day I felt more ‘normal’ regarding practice. Apparently it takes me three days to warm up to practice somewhere else and this day I could actually move and perform as if I knew what I was doing which was very cool.
We did a lot of weapon movements that day and I’m still feeling the consequences. About ten minutes before the seminar finished my blood sugar betrayed me and I had to sit out until the end.
I had been the ‘official translator’ appointed by Sato Sensei during the seminar so I translated his goodbye message (which was very inspiring and I had to fight back a knot in my throat) and finally we all toasted with Nihonshu (the correct name for sake, it was delicious but I was too cranky to fully enjoy it).
We were exhausted and the amount of pain killers we had to consume the consecutive days was impressive, I for one have smell like muscle rub right now (apparently I strained my left shoulder, oh joy) but we had an amazing experience.
The best thing is that after suffering together we now feel united, just like a true dojo should be.