Well, I survived, er, I mean passed my shodan test; it’s good to be released back into the general population again, and as I begin the healing (body sore!), I find that I’m awash in a flood of emotion and thought.
First of all, I’m very grateful to Sensei Jaimie for the opportunity and to Sensei Steve and Sensei Jon for the enormous amount of help and support they gave my partner Keith and I during our shinsa. In fact, I was buoyed through the entire process by constant well-wishes from all my fellow aikidoka at the dojo and that helped a lot. (BTW Jon passed his Sandan test the same evening - it was awesome!)
I gained many insights into my technique (and life!) from the preparation and the test, from the inane to the arcane, and I know that it will take some time to assimilate everything and express it on the mat. Our shinsa often seemed like a never-ending series of out-takes from a Jackie Chan movie; you know, at the end, when they show you how many times it took him to get over a wall or slip feet first through a teller’s wicket? Eventually, though, we got our test in shape for presentation. If I had to say there was just one thing that I learned from the test, it was this:
Expectations can trap you, and the object lesson came for me when it was time to preform jyu waza. I was shite first, and in the stress of the moment, my partner began attacking me with his left hand instead of his right. (We had a good laugh about it afterwards!)
I was completely bamboozled! It took three or four passes before I realized what was ‘wrong’ and began to adapt (I may have taken a few to the breadbasket, I honestly don’t remember!). I mean, I can do all my techniques, including jyu waza, on the left side; but we had been so thoroughly briefed and drilled on the right side that my mind froze, struggling to break free and just do aikido.
And so my training in the future will be guided, in part, by the maxim:
“Rather than have expectations, have great expectancy.”
Did you know that you can wear your dogi, like underwear, four days in a row? Frontwards, backwards, and then twice more inside out. It’s a little hard to hold a good kamae when it’s on backwards, but it can be done; in fact, it feels a little bit like a straight jacket, which you feel you need as the test looms closer and closer. And the looks of puzzlement from passersby are fun, as is the frustration of uke when he realizes he can’t grab any chest hair.
When it’s time to wash it, you may, like me, find yourself a little short of coins. Try this: many foreign coins will work - a French franc will sub for a quarter, and a euro will trick most washers that need a toonie, especially if you give a good kiai when you ram it in.
Wishing you great expectancy (and a clean dogi),