Saturday, September 24, 2005


Well I've just begun my sixth week here at the New York Aikikai and I thought I'd give everyone a brief update. On the bright side of things I just moved into the Deshi quarters upstairs and got my own bed!! Good bye sofa and dump trucks (the sofa is right near the open windows)!! Things are going well as far as my general standing in the dojo. I'm getting alone well with the other Deshi and seem to be keeping up with all of the chores that they can throw at body is a different story however.

Lets start from the bottom up...

taking ukemi for Alberto (quite powerful) for iriminage as I swung my outside leg around, I slammed my right big toe into the mat. VERY jammed. That happened several weeks ago and I still can't bend it.

Spending 5-6 hours on the mat everyday has a nasty way of drying out the skin on your feet which in turn cracks...and bleeds...mmm. Glamorous I know. Makes it a little hard to walk let alone practice aikido.

Two days ago I way taking ukemi for a sandan (third degree black belt) and didn't judge the distance to the wall correctly. My right heel collided with the concrete wall at full speed. I haven't really been able to put any weight on it since then. I'm laid up icing it as I type. I just got done with one of Toshi's classes where he decided to use me as uke the entire time...we worked on jujinage and iriminage heel was not appreciative. It's quite swollen at the moment, hoping the ice will help.

What next...oh yeah, Donovan did two classes in a row this last monday with nothing but suwari waza (techniques performed on the knees). Since then at least two instructors a day have done suwari waza. Both knees have more than their fair share of blisters.

Moving on up the line...I've just stopped putting tape on both of my wrists. Worked hard with nikyo and kotegaeshi a week or so ago and I just got done paying for it. While I'm on the subject of wrists I'll tell everyone about a girl I've dubbed "wolverine." I took Harveys randori class on tuesday (which makes the count for that day 6 classes) and this particular girl was in my group of 4-5 people. The specified attack was katatetori (wrist grab). Whenever I was nage (the one being attacked) and I threw her she didn't exactly let go...she basically drug her nails down my arms and hands until she had nothing left to hold on to. My forearms and hands look like they've been mangled by some small creature. Annoying yes...but when you think about the fact that five hours a day of sweating and contact with other people grabbing your wrists prevents the formation of scabs...infuriating is a more appropriate word. And let me remind you again how much I sweat...and sweat stings in open scrapes and cuts, yes it does. One of the instructors asked what happened and my response was simply "grrrr, oh my god this girl just wouldn't let go..." the instructor cut me off right there and said "WHOAAA buddy, WAY too much information about your personal life" They've been messing with me ever since.

Anyway, two days ago I jammed my right thumb pretty bad taking ukemi, against my own knee no less. That hurts.

My left elbow is still severely hyper-extended from my first week here and Toshi popped my right elbow earlier this week. Shihonage is not fun, nor is jujinage. Did I mention that Toshi used me today for jujinage breakfall demos!

On Wednesday of this week Toshi pulled me out of a group to use me for his own curiosities. He was "experimenting" with various techniques trying to see what he wanted to teach for his next round. I'm not sure what he was trying but he rammed that pointy part of his shoulder (I think it's an extention of the collar bone?) into the left side of my ribs. That was the night he took us out for dinner...I had to milk it for all it was worth. I didn't think too much of it at the time but I'm definitely thinking that it's either a bruised rib or quite possibly a cracked one cause it's quite painful. Ukemi is hard because it hurts to use my stomach muscles and deep breaths are on the painful side of not possible. Have I mentioned that Toshi used me for breakfall demos today?

Oddly enough my back is doing ok. Let me stress the *ok* part. It's not wonderful but it's better than I expected. My shoulders seem to be doing pretty good, knock on wood. And my neck is ok. I've gotten a few bloody noses and lips, and I damn near bit the tip of my tongue off when I caught a full on atemi to the chin and my mouth was open...won't do that again.

I think it was Edwin that told me I'd have to figure out how to train and take ukemi with injuries...well I'm definitely learning. My ukemi is improving by leaps and bounds, still sucks though. I have yet to take a day off and tomorrow there is a memorial seminar for Butch, a former instructor here who recently passed away. Sensei and Steve Pimsler will be teaching for a few hours and then we're hosting a large party upstairs in the Deshi area and on the roof with much drinking and carryings-on...which the Deshi get to clean up after :)

So among all of this I'm having one of the most amazing experiences possible! This isn't pretty or glamorous and many of the members ask me why the hell I would do this to myself but I know this is exactly where I need to be.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Just thought I should post a few pictures of the people that I live with so you all can know who I'm talking about when I say stuff like "you came here to suffer!"...that one was Luke.

For starters here is Toshi. Originally from Japan Toshi, Nidan (2nd degree black belt) has been an Uchi Deshi at the New York Aikikai for five years. He is in charge of the dojo during the weekends and also teaches on occation. He's the one that teaches the awsome ukemi classes. Working with him can be pretty amazing but you'd better be ready to take a beating. He's the only guy I've ever met that nikyo doesn't work on!! Nikyo is probably one of the most painfully effective technique in aikido's repertoire.

Toshi was kind enough to take Gavin, Sanji, and I out for a traditional Japanese dinner last night. It was kind of like tapas (no sushi) and came complete with several pitchers of Japanese beer and some excellent sake. He ordered everything for us which was nice seeing as how the entire menu was in Japanese. It was in kind I am posting some of the best pictures of Toshi that I have, enjoy.

The last one there is of Toshi, Kuba, and Daniel just before Kuba left.
More to come of other Deshi.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Falling Over...Gracefurry?

Over the last week I've attended yet another 30 or so classes, several of which have been forcused on ukemi. I've also become familiar enough with several of the instructors so that I've been used as Uke (the attacker) for demonstration during class. One of my more memorable classes was one of Toshi's ukemi based classes. Toshi wants us to focus on taking breakfalls (as opposed to a basic front roll) while being "compretery sirent." One of the excersizes he uses, which may be of some interest to the folks in Atlanta, is to hold someones wrist with say your right hand and take a breakfall to that side. Think of puting your head straight down not out in front while your back leg comes straight up...DON'T jump into the fall. I used to do these kind of falls with Mike Sensei in Atlanta but Toshi adds a twist. I always had a problem with my feet slapping the mat as they came around. They slapped hard to the point of hurting my knees, ankles, and feet. Toshi and Gavin have both helped me with this and they tell me that I should think about keeping my legs "connected" to the rest of my body. Before I'd been letting my legs whip around like dead weight until the mat stopped their movement. Here's the twist...try and do those breakfall excersizes without letting your legs hit the ground. As your arm and upper body land on the mat use your core ab muscles to stop your leg movement before they get to the mat (it's a great ab workout). Once you've gotten to the point of being able to suspend your legs you can then let them down at your own pace, preventing that loud and painful SLAP. When worked together in a full speed breakfall you can (to steal Donovan's words) meet the mat softly at a controlled speed instead of slamming into it with reckless abandon.

So I'd been progressing well in Toshi's class, producing almost silent breakfalls with the excersizes I tried to describe above when he called me up for demonstration. Of course he chose a technique that absolutely required a breakfall. The first time he threw me my legs hit the mat harder than I would have liked...he threw me damn hard. It's a little harder to control when you're actually being thrown like that, but practice makes perfect. So the next time I tried to focus more on staying relaxed during the throw and then using my abs to control the fall...obviously I was thinking WAY too much. I'm not sure what I did or even how it was physically possible but in mid air I managed to kick Toshi square in the head...great. It may have gone unnoticed by the rest of the class if Toshi didn't have his long hair in a pony tail that virtually exploded as I hit it. With his now disheveled hair and half a pony tail on the side of his head Toshi gave an impatient sign for me to attack again..." it comes" I thought. This time as I attacked wtih tsuki (punch to the stomach) Toshi whipped my hand back around behind me and dropped to his knees. In mid air as I was upside down prepairing for the fall he used his other hand to thrust (hard mind you) into my chest and sent me soaring a great distance away from him. An interesting variation that he chose to use on me several more times, no doubt to make a point...don't kick the instructor in the head.

After class he gave me a little hell about it but it's been something to laugh about. I don't know how I put myself in these situations

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Farewell Kuba

Kuba was a visitor from Poland that was here when I arrived. Although I only knew him for two or three weeks I can say that he is one of the best people that I will ever come across here at the New York Aikikai! He was known to the other Uchi Deshi as "Soldier." He did more than his fair share of chores and often did extra work around the dojo in his spare time, which wasn't very much I can tell you that. In his two and a half month stay here he only took one maybe two days off. One day was to go sight seeing around NYC and the other was to give his ailing knees a break. He took good ukemi for many, if not all, of the instructors here no matter how hard he was thrown, which can be QUITE rough. Kuba also has five years of Krav Maga experience, which for those of you who don't know is Isreali armed forces tactics, serious stuff. In Poland he is the bouncer of a fairly popular night club and has the experience to back it up! He returned to Poland to finish his degree in physics and chemistry and is applying to the PhD program for physics at Columbia University here in NYC. He's also the most dangerous member of MENSA that I've ever met...have I mentioned that he's only 22?

One of the first times I met Kuba was on the mat my first or second day. I was having a truely hard time with getting used to the regiment of excersize! I was in line for a technique done in groups (one at a time) and I was leaning against the wall with my hands on my knees feeling fairly sick. Kuba was behind me in line and pulled me up by my gi and told me in a very terminator-esc voice "you must fight." I haven't leaned agaist the walls since. His attitude and determination for work was truely inspiring and he will be missed.

Last Thursday some of the members of the dojo and the other Deshi had a small going away party at Merchants, the local pub. Here's a few pics of our gathering at Merchants and a few pics of Kuba folding Yamada Sensei's Hakama for the last time this summer. He told us that he will return next summer and I really hope he does, Kuba if you're reading this you damn well better come back to the New York Aikikai, we need more brushes like you!!