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Aikido Good

I finally got back to Iaido/Aikido last night, and it was great.

That's five hours of exercise this week, and more like 8 per week in upcoming weeks. I'm sore today, but it's the really good kind of sore that you get when you stretch out well, and then work out hard. I'd forgotten what it's like to feel like this. In fact, today I (physically) feel as well as I have since I moved out here - which is no doubt because I've gotten more exercise in the past week than I have at any other time since I got out here.

The first half of the class is 1 1/2 hours of iaido. The teacher is really a formidable swordswoman, her technique is so good and subtle that I can't really tell what she may or may not be doing. Bear in mind I've been studying aiki sword technique since 1988. Now, it's not quite the same, of course, but certain principles apply. So, I'm just saying, she's really good. At some point during the class we were practicing a really cool kata, and I looked around and realized I was in a room full of people with gi and hakama, practicing the very same techniques that Tokugawa's samurai must have practiced. The kata are short, elegant, and ... well, it leaves little doubt that one's opponent would be highly inconvenienced by the multitude of grievous cuts they would have sustained.

The second half of the class is Aikido. It's extremely different from Ki-no-Kawa. Ki-no-Kawa emphasized practicality, efficiency, and effectiveness. Sensei Wirth would make spirituality and "The Way" an important part of each class. He believed that only by truly relaxing and letting go of any cares or concerns one might have that truly perfect Aikido could happen. To him, we were called on to grow as people, and as we did, we could measure our progress with Aikido as a barometer. That said - the techniques were really brutal, by Aikido standards. He was constantly honing his practice to be faster, smoother, impossible to resist. Over the years I watched the changes he made - Ikkyo no longer done at the shoulder, now it is leverage towards one-point; one leg on the reverse for kote gaeshe, various other small adjustments that made everything sharper, stronger, better. Uke, in short, didn't stand a chance. And to simulate a practical situation, we expected uke to attack with a real attack, with good power behind it. Uke wasn't supposed to cooperate, unless you MADE him cooperate.

This school is different. Techniques are more formal, and involve more steps. There is cooperation between uke and nage, and as a result, one has to pay more attention to the flow of energy as uke through the entire technique. Falls are supposed to be soft and soundless rather than heavy and thumping. I definitely have things to learn, but at least the past two classes, the Aikido portion of class seems much like Iaido without a sword - an adjunct to the sword school meant to illustrate sword techniques. Most Aikido schools do the opposite - use the sword to illustrate open hand principles. And it's still a heck of a workout.

So, I'm knocking the rust off of my old Aikido technique, as well as progressing in ways that are different from my old school. I'm glad I have the grounding in Ki-no-Kawa though, as I think it's more of a practical art. And Sensei Michele certainly knows the more direct techniques, she just chooses to use the softer style. "Soft" should not be misconstrued here - it's still painful and effective - it just involves more principles of energy, and less of muscle efficiency. And it's really neat learning Iaido, too. Yet another skill I hope never to use that I will spend hundreds of hours learning...

I am glad to be back in my physical body in a way that I haven't been in quite some time. The stretching at Aikido/Iaido is very thorough, and I feel some of my flexibility coming back. I've also lost about ten pounds over the past few weeks, but obviously that's not all from exercise. Today I don't feel slothful and lazy, and that's a great improvement.

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