It’s true, I tease Aiki-Doh!-ka a lot - he’s a good sport and takes it with a smile on his face. But he gets even when he can. Last night presented an opportunity and A-D pounced on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich:
Sensei requires all black belts from nidan up to wear hakama, and after a year of hiding in the pack, I finally anted up and ordered one. It arrived last night and I had to try it on before leaving class to make sure it fit properly. I felt a little lost as I gazed at the neatly folded and tied bundle of pleats until Jon sauntered over to help me ‘install’ it. Aiki was right behind him, grinning wickedly.
“Nice man-skirt,” he offered.
“Who you taking?”
“What are you talking about? Taking…where?”
“Who you taking to the prom - you’re wearing aikido formal wear.”
The small crowd that was forming laughed.
I didn’t feel like dancing, although I was hopping around and twisting a bit as I tried to follow Jon’s instructions. Actually, I felt more like a trussed up chicken. And since my hands were busy playing cat’s cradle with the hakama ties, all I could do was glare at Aiki-Doh!-ka.
More advice came in from the other grinning black belts - turns out there’s more than one way to tie a bow.
I finally got it in place well enough to determine that it fit me, and exrticated myself as quickly as possible so that I could get on the mat and do some training. ( I had decided that I would follow the advice of my peers and practice at home a bit before making my debut on the mat.) I had a great time swinging my bokken (A-D makes a good target) and had almost forgotten about the hakama until class ended and I realized that now I had to learn how to fold it…
I arrived at Aiki-Doh!-ka’s house yesterday, and as he’d requested, I walked right in. Immediately the snap of a staple gun, the ripping of duct tape and a strange popping sound assaulted my ears. I called out warily, and heard A-D’s reply beckoning me to the basement.
I trundled down the stairs, just barely avoiding a scattering of tools, boxes and empty duct tape rolls (and the opportunity to do an unplanned ukemi). I spotted my friend at the far corner of the basement in a frenzy of activity. As I edged closer, I could see that he was taping together strips of bubble pack and stapling them to the floor.
“Hey Bud, what’re you up to”, I queried, not entirely sure I wanted an answer.
“I’m installing an upgrade to the dojo.” A-D was proud of his makeshift subterranean practice area; not sure I’d call it a dojo, though.
“So we can do breakfalls when we practice”, he volunteered. “I’m nearly finished - we can try it out in a second…”
A few more well placed staples seemed to do the trick - but I was trying not to think about the staples as I imagined rolling across the vast expanse of bubble pack.
“Ok, finished! I’ll throw you first, OK?”
I politely demurred, mumbling something about warming up, and so A-D launched himself into a front roll.
Pop-pop-pop-pop…pop! It was like the Fourth of July in the small room and I wondered for a moment if some yahoo had thrown a strip of ladyfingers down the stairs. But he looked none the worse for wear so I ventured a roll of my own.
I liked it - liked it a lot. I’d read about people who enjoyed popping bubble pack to relax; they have no idea. Aiki and I gleefully rolled back and forth to the roar of bursting plastic bubbles, cackling like madmen. After a few minutes we noticed it had become quiet and we stopped to catch our breath.
“All the bubbles are burst,” I panted. “Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!”
“We’re not finished. I have eight more boxes left…”
I paused for a moment, taking it all in. Then I grinned and picked up the staple gun…
Aiki-Doh!-ka’s back on the mat again - last week’s rating game precipitated a lot of invitations to demonstrate his jyu waza. In fact, he almost got into an impromptu jyu waza after class when everyone complained about the scores he was awarding. He managed to wiggle out of it by offering to buy everyone a beer - I guess that’s aikido too.
As class progressed, I noticed that whenever A-D was practicing a technique, he’d stop part way through and give himself a vigorous shake. This intrigued me.
I drifted over to observe and when he did it again, I asked him (against my better judgement) why he was doing that.
“I’m pretending I’m an Etch-a-Sketch.”
My look of incomprehension prompted further explanation.
“Whenever I make a mistake, I stop and shake; then I can start over fresh, just like an Etch-a-Sketch.”
I opened my mouth to say something, then realized that I wanted to shake him too, but refrained from both impulses, backing away slowly. His partner’s eyes were saying “take me with you,” but it was all I could do to save myself…
I arrived at class a little early the other day and found Aiki-Doh!-ka sitting on the sidelines because he’s still nursing a pulled hamstring. He said he was determined to get some training in by watching class, but I couldn’t help but notice he had a stack of cardboard sheets beside him.
“What are those for, A-D,” I asked.
“Oh, they’re for jyu waza,” he replied and turned them over to reveal large numbers printed in magic marker. ”I’m going to rate everyone on their performance.”
Sure enough, towards the end of class as we began to practice jyu waza, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he was holding up his improvised score cards after each ’round’. All that was missing was the hot babe in a bikini to march around the tatami with the card held high. I drifted over for a closer look.
“A-D, I thought you’d be taking notes - I didn’t think you were serious about the ratings…”
“I gave you a ‘5′.”
“A ‘5′!,” I sputtered, “That’s harsh buddy!”
“Yeah, you don’t keep your kamae after you throw your partner…”
“And you forget to step forward.”
I wanted to plead my case, but Aiki was already holding up another card for the folks still on the mat - a ‘9′.
“Good zanshin,” he commented.
I could see I was wasting my time, so I headed back out on the mat to work on my kamae…