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Sunday, 30 May - link

Green like Grasshopper

Thursday tested successfully for my green belt in Aikido - 5th kyu. When you first walk in to a class off the street, they hand you a white belt. When you've spent 40+ days training and you know irimi nage from kotegaeshi, you demonstrate your knowledge in front of your peers and then you have a rank. The bottom rank, of a long climb.

It took me a year. I made friends there, people I enjoyed training with. At the head of the dojo is an excellent teacher with an irrepressible sense of humor; he's attracted and supported a crew of like minds who roll around together weekly.

I spent the eve of my birthday there; people in white robes sang to me. After I became single late last year, sensei mentioned, "you sure are spending a lot more time at the dojo these days."

While I was there, they started a class called "inner aikido" where they study meditation and breathing. I attended that class with a number of men from an air force base nearby. I attended another class with a group of ex-Gang guys from LA, involved with HomeBoy Industries. NFL players and puppeteers, painters and guitarists. I trained at 6.30am in January for four days. I baked cookies twice and took them to class.

And all the while, dancing, smiling, breathing. I haven't had any kind of regular exercise in my adult life (aside from twitching); this exercise came with community and a kind of spiritual ethic. I could walk to this dojo through a park from my old Oakland home. Now my green belt comes with a pending departure; I wonder what kind of practice I'll find in Los Angeles?

Thanks to Julia and Liebe, some photos of my test:

5th kyu test, photo by Liebe, thanks to Julia5th kyu test, photo by Liebe, thanks to Julia5th kyu test, photo by Liebe, thanks to Julia5th kyu test, photo by Liebe, thanks to Julia5th kyu test, photo by Liebe, thanks to Julia

I passed, thanks in large part to the patience of my training partners, in particular Candace. She tested earlier that week for the last brown belt level before black. Her test was longer, and more complicated; it included two people in constant motion, coming at her with different attacks. Her eyesight is worse than mine; she said she used to freeze up when she saw the blurred bodies moving towards her. At the urging of Nikki, she took off her glasses for the test and helped those bodies to the floor with something more than plain sight.

Posted on 30 May 2004 : 09:06 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.