Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hello all. I thought I'd take this lazy Sunday morning to briefly go over the New Years class with you.

I went to Colorado for Christmas to visit my parents and take a bit of a break from the mat. I had a great time but I was itching to get back! I flew back into NYC just a few days before New Years and I had several different people ask me which party I was going to. As it turns out I didn't even have to leave my home.

The annual ritual here at New York Aikikai is quite simple. On New Years Eve we have the regular morning and noon classes but not the evening classes. We shamelessly recruit anyone who is foolish enough to accept the offer of helping clean the dojo for the New Year. Now I know I said that we cleaned the dojo before the X-mas party but it got a little dirtied up with all the partying so we have to do it again...but this time for real. I dusted the ceiling. I washed the walls. Gutted and rearranged the laundry room (lets not forget that I am THE Laundry Deshi) among MANY other little intricate duties at the whim of Sensei. With the help of maybe eight to ten other people we finished just in time to have a few pieces of pizza, a beer or two, and a short nap before the real evening class started.

To my increasing surprise 50 or more peole started to crowd into the dojo around 10:30 at night getting ready for the New Year. Class started at 11:30. Sensei got onto the mat in his usual fashion and made a short-sweet and to-the-point speech and got the class started. At Midnight we had a quick celebratory pause for hugs, kisses, and cheers and then got back to hurting each other. I try not to focus on the obvious and odd contradiction of this situation. Once the class ended at 12:30 everyone jumped into the showers and put on their best partay clothes and got the party going. I barely had a chance to fold Sensei's hakama before he snagged up the deshi to prepare things. Music, lights, and alchohol are all sent down from Sensei's office to be set up. In some odd twist of fate I wound up being the designated bar tender for the evening serving wine, very nice scotch (compliments of Sensei's expensive taste) and warm sake. Throughout the evening the dojo filled up with what must have been close to 80-100 people. Good people, good music, good drinks, and good fun! I think I stumbled up stairs around 5:30 or 6 in the morning and there were still a few people singing at the karaoke machine (ouch).

Things were nicely planned seeing as how the dojo was closed for the next two days for recovery. Since then things have fallen back into their regular schedule of 30 classes a week and chores galore. Currently I am preparing to take a flight to Florida for the Florida Aikikai Winter Camp which should be a great time. Lots of people from New York are going and I hope to see some old friends from Atlanta as well. I'll be spending as much time as humanly possible at the beach and making sure that the hot tub at the hotel works properly.

I hope all is well

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Long Time'a'Coming

Wow...where to start? I know it's been quite a while since I've last posted on this thing and I hope that there are a few of you out there who still check every now and again. ALOT has been happening since I last checked in but I think I'll start with the Christmas seminar. The Christmas Seminar here at New York Aikikai is the largest seminar of the year and it takes a lot to prepare for such an event! Guess who gets to do the preparing...gee...could it be the deshi? So needless to say all of the effectively working deshi (Noam, Gavin, Sanji, and I) spent the two weeks before the seminar cleaning. Everything. I cleaned the ceilings. We took two days to pick up all of the mats and thoroughly cleaning the underside of them as well as the wood base on which they rest. We found everything from bandaids and pieces of toenail (yum) to little bits of peoples crushed egos under there.
A few days before the seminar the masses started showing up in a mecca like pilgrimage from all over the world. Australia, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, China, Newfoundland, and from all over the US. I saw a lot of old faces and got to know some new ones. Edwin, an deshi of years past who now lives in Atlanta, showed up and Gina, a good friend from DC, dropped in for some practice. It's good to see the community of aikido come together!
Of course like the last couple of seminars here the deshi are not allowed on the mat, that privilage is reserved for lagitimate paying customers and members. But with roughly 250 people on the mat I couldn't see how it was much of a practice session as it was a tightly packed social gathering. One treat that the many people got on the mat was Sugano Sensei. His first time teaching on the mat since I've been here was during that weekend and it was good to see. I've got some crappy pictures but they'll have to do!
And in aikido what comes after a hard practice? A big partay! Lots of food, drink, and music set the scene for a fantastic party throughout the entire dojo! It was great and it teetered into the wee hours of the night, and I do mean wee. Around 5am we were cleaning the mats up and getting them ready for the second round of seminar classes in the morning...yeehaw. Fewer people showed up for the second day so the deshi were allowed on the mat! I got to squeeze in a Donovan class followed by Sugano Sensei, great day!
All in all it was a great weekend with great people and it wasn't THAT bad to clean up after. OOOoo I almost forgot! Along with the X-mas seminar comes Dan tests (black belt testing). Another reason to make the trip to New York Aikikai is to test in front of the Shihan panel of Yamada Sensi, Sugano Sensei, and Donovan Waite Sensei. Most of the time when you're ready to test for your black belt you've selected your uke (partner) beforehand but one guy that was called up to test was lacking his uke. I sat up in the masses of people sitting to watch the tests and Yamada Sensei nodded approving me to jump to the occasion. I'm not entirely sure who he was (even after the test we couldn't find each other) but he had a good test and did a good job of throwing me around for the duration of the test. Noam is a deshi that had been here for about a year and a half and already had his Shodan (1st degree black belt) before he arrived. The afternoon of the test Sensei told Noam that he was to test for Nidan (2nd degree). Initially Noam asked me to be uke for his test which I took as a great honor and compliment but then it was hinted that it would be more appropriate if he had another black belt in his test so I was put by the wayside. But the initial invitation was quite flattering :D On a side note of honor, Yamada Sensei used me again for demonstration this morning! A technique that definitely required a breakfall and apparantly I did well enough. That twice and counting! Silly I know but you've gotta give me something!
Ok back to laundry and chores for me but I promise that my posts won't be so far apart, I have so much to say! The next post will be catching up on the New Years Class and Party and a few other details. Hope all is well to everyone out there!