I was chatting with a friend at the dojo recently, and the conversation came around to personal hygiene on the mat (or lack thereof, in some cases!). She was wondering why some people just didn’t get it and how we might get the message across to those ‘hygiene holdouts’.
Later, it occurred to me that it’s just like dating; if you present yourself at the dojo in more or less the same way you would on a date, all would be well:
Wear a clean dogi. You may or may not wear your dogi on a date, but whatever you wear shouldn’t smell like it was left under your front porch and used as burrow lining by a skunk.
Brush your teeth. No one’s going to kiss you at the dojo, but panting through kihon dosa sotai dosa with dragon breath is not the way to blend.
Trim your nails, including your toenails. Whether it’s on the mat or snuggled up on the couch, it’s a real mood breaker when you gouge someone.
Use deodorant. Please.
And speaking of hygiene and dating, when last I saw Aiki-Doh!-ka, he was looking very spiffy indeed - clean dogi, fresh duct tape, and a halo of cologne. When I commented on his dapperness, he clammed up on me but I noticed that his eyes cut across the mat to the cute new white belt who just joined the dojo.
“A-D,” I said, “have you got a thing for her?”
His blush answered me.
“She had me at kamae,” he stammered.
The call to line up ended our conversation, so we’ll have to wait for more information…
Had a good time in class last night. We had lots of room, so we did a kind of jiyu waza/kakari geiko combination. We split into two groups at opposite ends of the mat and put shite (or ‘piggie’, as we called him) in the middle and then sent in attackers in alternation from the two groups. Shite would do a throw and then face a new attacker from the other group. This allowed for about 10 throws before changing out shite (new player!). In this way we practiced the first three throws in katate mochi renzoku.
After a while, I excused myself to rest my elbow and sat in seiza with my friend R who was nursing an injured shoulder. We exchanged comments and shouted out the occasional compliment or encouragement as play progressed before us. I say ‘play’ because after a time we began to feel like colour commentators at a sporting event:
R Whoa, uke really got some air on that one!
K Yeah, he’s in great form this season; it wasn’t that long ago that he was sidelined with a nasty shoulder injury.
R That’s right K. And shite’s looking good, too - he’s 9 for 9. And his suriashi is outta sight! He’s carving major grooves into the mat!
K Indeed. He’s - wait a minute! I think he forgot to step forward into kamae! That’s not going to look good on his stats for the season. Do you think Sensei saw that?
R Well, Sensei may have missed it, but we saw it and that means the fans and coaches did too. You know, there was some talk of shite being sent back down to the orange belts if he couldn’t correct that. This is a serious setback for shite…
K Yes, well we’ll have to watch this going forward, ha!ha!, get it? Going forward?
R K, get a hold of yourself, we’re doing a live broadcast.
K Oh! Er…right. OK, looks like we have a new player; let’s see how he does. He’s looking very confident as he strides out to his place on the mat…nice kamae…here comes uke with the grasp. Wait a minute! It’s not a grasp, it’s shomen uchi! Sensei’s not going to like that! And was shite ever surprised!
R That’s right K; too bad he forgot to block. But he’s recovered enough to apply sankajo to uke’s belt. That’s not a legal move, is it?
K No R, and the other players aren’t liking it; they’re stepping out onto the mats now…this doesn’t look good, there’s some smiling and pointing going on. I think they want to correct shite’s technique. Perhaps this is a good time to go to commercial, this may take a while…
I went to the dojo last night after taking a few days off. My elbow’s been a bit dodgy, and while it wasn’t yet fully healed, I felt the need for…contact.
Life’s been stressful lately. I mentioned to a friend that you can’t push the river - you’ll just get water up your nose. I could hardly breathe for the water up my nose, so I decided that the benefits of the class in terms of regaining my centre out-weighed the risk of re-injuring my elbow. I get such a lift when I go to aikido.
Sensei must’ve been mindful of my absence, as he bestowed upon me the privilege of leading warm-ups. (Don’t tell anyone, but I like to lead warm ups!)
When it was time to do kihon dosa, I directed everyone one to form up in lines, a grid of glory as it were. I suggested that there would be more power and harmony generated if we were all mindful of moving together, that…we are all one.
It’s a marvelous sight to see 30 or 40 people moving in unison. Can you picture it?
All those kamae, eagerly reaching forward to grasp the future, to grasp life…
The brisk susurrance of suriashi mingled with the gentle rustle of dogi…
The living poem of mass movement, like fields of grain swaying in the breeze..
As the scene unfolded before me, I could feel what we were creating, together, and a forgotten poem came to mind:
“Warriors, warriors we call ourselves.”
“We fight for splendid virtue,”
“for high endeavour,”
“for sublime wisdom,”
“therefore we call ourselves warriors.”
My fellow aikidoka, I salute you.