I just joined an Aikido dojo. Paid the two-month introductory fee, got my size-five gi, and now I’m primed and ready to be thrown around like a ragdoll.
I happened upon the dojo’s website this week; there was an adult class scheduled for 5:45pm today, so I decided I should go check it out. Before that, though, I did a little research online, read up, watched some videos, and was duly impressed by the art in general. I filled out the dojo’s online form last night, then showed up this evening at about the time that class was supposed to start.
I knew where the dojo was, no problem; Aaron and I drive past it just about every weekend. I showed up, removed my shoes where everyone else obviously had (before the quasi-tatami carpeted floor began), and was beckoned in by the sensei. I was shown where the restrooms and changing rooms were, told a little about the art, and invited to sit down and watch class.
The one-hour class focused on one particular throw, and various aspects of how to do it properly. Had I just known the proper way to fall and roll, I felt that I could have done both parts of the throw, thrower and throwee, by the end of the class. Tai Chi and Aikido have distinct similarities in movement and intention, and I could relate to that, having learned two separate forms of Tai Chi in college. My physical fear, the fear of having the living shit beaten out of me, was assuaged when I realized that all the loud noises were purposeful *slaps* on the mat by the person being thrown. I got the impression that it was a signal of sorts: the move is over, we’ve both completed our parts properly, now let me up. The higher-ranked people tended to be more “fun” and flamboyant with their rolls and smacking of the mat; the lower-ranked (or unranked) tended to fall with more temerity, and gently tap the mat when they’d rolled through and had enough.
The entire time I watched, I was enraptured. All I could think was, “I want to play, too!” In retrospect, I probably should have waited to fill out the paperwork until I’d actually participated in a class… but Sensei does have a policy on his website that guarantees your money back if you aren’t satisfied in the first month, or if you think that this dojo just isn’t for you. My last real fear, of sparring, was quelled by Sensei after the class, when he told me that they *never* spar. It’s all exercises like the one I’d seen: planned out, agreed-upon by both parties. So, I think I’m safe to try this thing out.
What’s bizarre to me is that, now, I just show up to a class and jump in. The next Basics seminar (which is included in my first two-month fee) isn’t until July 28th. By then, I sure hope I’ve been taught how to roll properly and all that jazz. Otherwise, I’ll be in a world of hurt.
This will be good for me, for many reasons:
- I need a social outlet besides work.
- I need a reason to exercise, and a way to make it fun.
- I need to get outside of my comfort zone more often.
- I need the mental balance and focus that a martial art can provide.
- I need to balance my ego/self-centeredness with my humility/self-deprecation.
I didn’t realize until I spoke with Sensei after class how egocentric I can be. All I wanted to do was tell him my background, what I know already, why I want to be in his dojo, how much I love Japanese culture, etc. All he wanted to do was get me signed up, give me my dogi, and thank me for joining the dojo. When I gave him my credit card to run, I told him that was the credit card that funded my trip to Japan last month. When he lit up and said, “Really,” was my response about how awesome the culture is, or how great of a time I had? No — it was an admission that I’m a bit of a Japan geek. He responded that Aikido was definitely in that same vein; but it was obvious to me that, by turning the topic toward myself and away from our shared love of things Japanese, I had failed to engage his interest.
Now, after having signed my name to the dojo list and paid by credit card, I’m feeling that “oh shit what have I done” feeling… but I know that’s just the feeling of my comfort zone being stretched a little. I’m a little boggled that I can just show up and start learning — no primer, no Aikido 101? I’m trying to decide whether I want to start with tomorrow’s class and just jump right in, or whether I want to wait until next Monday (or Saturday morning, if I get up early enough). I’ll probably just go tomorrow, to jump right in and start learning. Maybe I can show up early and get a quickie on how to roll properly, so I don’t kill myself.
By the way… the first thing I did when I got home? Tried on my dogi. I felt like the friggin’ Karate Kid, trying to figure out how the damn thing went on. It feels a little big on me, but it’s possible that the next size down would be too small; I don’t know how the sizes run, and Sensei obviously has more experience in these things than I do.
We’ll see how this works out. I’m excited, and nervous, and stoked.