Think about a good timed out ai hanmi katatedori attack met properly before uke stops the movement forward, directing the energy to enter for ikkyo with a partial tenkan movement followed by a downward cut to take the first balance off uke, and positioning my free hand on my partner elbow, not gripping (never!), just feeling the elbow bone.
At that point, when uke tried to get up, my years of Endo sensei practice kicked in and I went in auto-pilot mode, so instead of doing the showed technique (that required a long step backwards and “sort of pulling uke with you”) I just used the elbow contact to redirect at once the upward energy and then leading uke straight down on the mats.
We are talking about Aikido, yeah, and last night practice with a yudansha in the local dojo, where I try to fit at best attempting always to perform a technique closest possible to the one showed by the instructor even when different from what I am more used and confident in doing. Even if when I think it goes against everything I believe, because it is not my dojo, not my style and I am basically still a visitor passing by.
My partner in the above description, taken by extremely surprised (probably expecting in both body and mind the movement they are used to do here), looked at me in a weird way and when asked if everything was alright, said: “You are (a bit) rough!“…
The comment annoyed me quite a bit and during the following minutes of practice I realized a nice improvement in myself: even feeling annoyed (can’t say really angry), this remained in my mind, while I could keep my center and Aikido totally relaxed taking an extra care of my partner and focusing more on their Aikido (way rougher from my point of view), but trying to not surprise the person I practiced with. This detachment was actually a good surprise!
At the same time I started thinking about how I did/do/would react when facing some new forms/schools of Aikido, when without a deep understanding of how they do something and why, I just feel the differences and end up in thinking different executions are rougher than what I am used to. But then I often got motivations to get a deeper look/understanding.
Among the several kind of Aikido I did practice in my life I have troubles identifying as rough the path I follow when I do not think, when I just do things as they come. But I can agree that if people is taken by surprise and suddenly out of their own path into a parallel road to the same target they might feel this as an unwanted disruption of their own peace. Resulting then in thinking something rough happened related to a different Aikido form. Or this is the way I did rationalize.
Also the school followed by this dojo is an extremely structured and formalized one, with several variations and entrances of the same technique/attack, all finely codified, and all of this is part of their graduation syllabus (reminded me a little of some Iwama Ryu seminars with like 15 variations of morote dori shihonage omote). I saw that people practicing so well formalized schools have usually more problems to “step out of it” for a tiny moment. I do not mean they do not go to seminars under different teachers: they do that and the teacher has crossed my Aikido senseis’ path more than once. But during the execution of a technique, if something does not go in the way they expect it, they have a much higher inertia to adapt to variation of style than.. me, us, “my” people..
I think that highly structured/formalized Aikido is less supple: more like a thick tree than grass, that can bend before breaking!
I can be rough. Yes, still Aikido talk! In normal life, probably I am. On the mats, during normal practice, I try to avoid doing anything rough or uncomfortable for uke. Still feelings can be difficult. Of course I want that my partner never feels my technique as being rough. But this is not easy to achieve. What it is an early sharp entrance to anticipate uke‘s attack can be seen from uke side as a violent, aggressive form.
I also know that trying to copy forms quite new to me, as in this dojo, my technique could come out rough: not understanding what it is behind the form I know that if I try only to copy I end up using force.. when I do not want to get to my softer Aikido! I have also experienced the complete opposite though: watering down their forms, since unsure how to properly do and wanting to avoid the sharp corners that make me think as rough execution, I have experienced being blocked (or at least clumsy, awkward attempts to do so) by partners that they do not realize how many openings they give me just for to do so! Openings I force myself to not take advantage off since I would be misunderstood: accepting the block with a smile has become my mental training. And I experienced more than once during this year that being nice on the mats with people I know little has been interpreted as not being able, not having an acceptable Aikido for what they think my level should be..
I try more and more to take things with a smile: at least keep inside my annoyance and work it out later. My blog has been always a good place for me and my thoughts and I have spent too little time here lately. I still got so much to say.
In conclusion though, I need to practice, my mind, my body needs Aikido, and that smile mentioned just here is a better way for my needs! I can’t have my Aikido every day (let’s see if future moves will bring me closer to this), but I can have some doses of local Aikido balanced with weekend seminars.. and, soon, a week in Indonesia with Irie sensei!!
Oh yeah, let it come!! 🙂
And I will just work more to avoid to be seen as rough!