On Thursday I found out that Les was having his 3rd Dan test at Bay Marin Aikido today. I'd missed Simone's test last May and have regretted it, so I decided to see who was up for a trip down to San Rafael this morning. Martine wanted to go so I picked her up at her house and we headed south through the morning fog.
First to arrive at the dojo, we went in, turned on the lights and stashed our weapons. Shortly I saw Sensei heading across the parking lot toward the front door. It was Martine's first visit to another dojo, and I could tell she was a little nervous, she even said so. I was thinking that she would have no trouble holding her own on the mat. She has paid attention to fundamentals, keeps a good hanmi, and has great spirit. Part of the stress of being a newcomer at an unfamiliar dojo, in addition to training insecurity, is not knowing local etiquette.
Sensei arrived and greeted us. I was happy he got a chance to meet Martine without lots of other people around. He was gracious as usual.
After weapons class Les arrived along with a cadre of other students who had all come out to support him in his test/demo. The mat was crowded for warm ups, and during class we had little room for ukemi. The attack was kata dori, which we'd worked on this week also in Petaluma. Martine was training with Karen, and then I joined them for a round of Ikkyo. Martine made Karen laugh when she plowed her hip into my ribs for the final take-down. It was truly great.
Near the end of the period Sensei told us all to relax at the edge of the mat and Les and his Ukes came out and bowed in. Les has a ferocity that he was completely in touch with today. Here he is above, throwing Rex during the Tachi Dori.
His Randori was smooth and fluid, and soon he was doing the final Kokyu Dosa. As he bowed out the whole dojo erupted in applause. His family must have been very proud of him, especially his young son, who ran around on the mat later doing mock rolls. That reminded me that part of what I love about Aikido is simply the freedom to fall down and get up without getting hurt.
On the way home Martine said she had fun, which I already knew from having stolen a glance at her training during the two hours of practice. It may end up being a field trip we make more often, especially since a few people asked me when we were going to revive the early weapons class, which I've had to put on hold this year because of my crazy schedule. I'm hoping that early next year we'll be able to start up again, at least a few weekends a month. Meanwhile, it was good to see old friends and training partners. I really have to get out more.