Originally Goto Sensei had scheduled Dojo Clean-Up Day late in December, about a month ago. But that was a day of torrential rain and serious flooding in Marin and Sonoma Counties, so the job was postponed to January 28.
Sensei generated a great turnout for clean-up day by promising that work would be followed by a feast of authentic Mochi.
All of this was preceded by two hours of class, first a weapons class followed by an hour of tai jutsu. Usually we have two weapons classes on Saturday morning, but the turnout for clean-up day was large, and there were a lot of kids, so Sensei elected to switch the second class to empty-handed training.
We defended against a two-handed grab, ryote dori, and the first technique was tenchi-nage, or "heaven and earth" throw. This technique was one of the first moves I remember doing in Aikido. I was in my first week of training, and I had paid a visit to Richard Moon's Marin Aikido dojo in Fairfax. Near the end of class he walked over to me and my training partner who had grabbed me by the arms. I was in trouble trying to muscle uke with my upper body. It was not working, and Moon Sensei waited until I'd gotten hung up reaching too high with the upper hand. He said, "just relax and sink you body." I tried it and uke folded like a wet noodle. Moon Sensei laughed and said, "good, now just do that for the next five years or so and you'll make it to black belt."
Back on the mat I'd gotten paired up with Ron, a strong Sandan who always seems to relish wailing on me. Since the mat was so crowded I had to look where I was going to fall a little before the throw because by the time Ron had begun uncoiling it would have been too late. We practiced training on a single tatami, about 3 feet by 6 feet, which Goto Sensei said was a common practice in Japan.
Goto Sensei had us do four different kote-gaishis from ryote-dori. The last one was pretty exotic; a kind of quick, reverse kote-gaishi in which a sneaky plant of uke's hand into your outside palm leads immediately to a surprise throw. Goto Sensei said, "you'll probably never be asked to do this on a test," which led everyone, myself included, to mark it as "likely to be included" in our next tests.
A great addition to class was the number of new students and kids who showed up to train. Many of the kids were children of other students who were there to clean up and eat Mochi. I ended up paired with Kevin, a youngster about 10 years old who must have stood no more than four feet tall. I prayed we wouldn't have to do shiho-nage. Sensei gave us a kokyu ho technique that involved extending hands while turning the direction of uke, then striking through to the rear. Kevin, all 70 pounds of him, stepped right through me with his hips and I went flying almost into the heater at the edge of the mat.
In Aikido size isn't everything, and actually ends up being a handicap most of the time.
Soon enough class was over, we had changed clothes, and the brooms, dust cloths, and vacuums were in use, gathering up a year's worth of dust bunnies. I looked toward the bathroom, but Bob and John had already claimed it as their own. Failing to capture that job, I occupied myself with taking down high pictures and dusting high places that most people shorter than 6'5" can't reach. The kids were busy cleaning weapons, sweeping, wiping down windows, and vacuuming the mat. The scene was a bit chaotic, with each individual acting on some local purpose, but in aggregate appearing to move randomly like so many gas molecules in a bottle.
After most of the dust had been collected and banished, Sensei called out for the tarp to be laid out over the mat. This was the signal most everyone was waiting for because it meant that Mochi-making was about to begin. We brought out tables and surfaces for the Mochi-makers, and crates and plywood to serve as tables at which to eat. I was sure that Akiko San would be overseeing the Mochi project, and having never enjoyed fresh, authentic Mochi, I was disappointed that I would have to leave before any would be ready to eat. Apparently making good Mochi is a subtle art that most of us westerners can't slow down enough to be able to get right.
As the Mochi ingredients were being assembled I had to leave, so the story of Akiko San's sublime Mochi will have to wait for another time.
As I drove away I listened to the rumbling in my stomach and ruefully unwrapped a Cliff Bar.
technorati tag aikido