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And you know how that old chestnut ends.

It’s just odd. Sometimes you throw magic at things and they just don’t seem to want to happen. Other times you just idly think it would be nice if some particular thing would happen, and — voila! — it happens.

After coming out of my eighteen-year aikido retirement, and being back on the mats for only five months, and just beginning to feel like my flexibility, strength and black-belt mojo were coming back, I had the thought that I might like to teach the occasional technique in class, or even occasionally substitute for my two teachers. I expressed this desire two weeks ago, and a few days later one of my teachers broke a toe. And it was a nasty break, too. He asked me to teach for him. Bam! Idle wish becomes reality in days.

So I’m the Tuesday morning teacher until he recovers.

Yesterday my son took some videos of my class. So you can see the middle-aged Scribbler teaching.

Just so you understand a little about the clip, I’ll explain what we are doing. The techniques are called kokyu nage. Kokyu, in Japanese, means breath, and has all the metaphysical and metaphorical dimensions that word has in every language in the world (e.g. spiritus, pneuma, prana, ruach, atem, etc.). Nage means throw (roughly). So these are “breath throws”. The premise is that they only work if the attacker insists on holding on. They are not “real” techniques, in the sense that you wouldn’t do this if a 100-kilo gorilla came at you with a knife. These techniques are meant to hone your skills for other techniques, such as the infamous jiujitsu-like joint locks and rapid take-downs aikido is often known for (jiiujitsu is on of aikido’s ancestors). But the problem with practicing those types of techniques all the time is that the student ends up concentrating too much on the hands doing the joint lock, or the blocking of a punch, or grasping the partner for a throw/take-down. Then they forget to move their whole body, and to manipulate the partner’s balance and movement. Kokyu nage also teaches you to stay poised and balanced while you throw. The partner learns to fall and roll with a little oomph added by the thrower. When you master these moves, it makes the “practical” techniques all the more effective.

I see these as the aikido equivalent of a musician practicing scales, or an oil-painter drawing pencil sketches.

Watching this made me realize that I really need to work on my flexibility and on the end of my forward rolls. Being able to back roll out of a technique is something that only came back about two months ago. I was shocked I couldn’t do it anymore when I started training again. And I could stand to lose about five kilos (ten pounds). That would seriously add to my grace and precision.

But, all-in-all, I’m pleased to have worked back to where I am in five months. I can’t wait to see where I’ll be five months from now.

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