Fun, yes. Easy, no. But definitely a good learning experience — in many ways.
Thankfully, Sensei started out the two-hour class with a rolling drill. Basically, he taught the basic technique for a forward roll, then a backward roll. Although I only worked on the forward roll myself, I was infinitely grateful to learn the proper technique so soon… and suspicious that the drill was for my benefit, and possibly for Brittney, the other new aikidoka. (I’d watched her in yesterday’s class — turns out she’s only in her second week of classes, so I feel a little better about being new.)
We moved into some throws after that, and my rolling technique went out the window for a while. I managed to get it back, though, to a degree, after Sensei pointed out that I was using my shoulder and elbow to break my fall, instead of rolling into it.
After the first set of throws, almost an hour into class, we went back to falls — sideways and backwards. I knew then that I was in trouble: the mat started to waver beneath my feet, and the room seemed vaguely unsteady. I ignored the discomfort and pressed on, although I knew exactly what my problem was.
I hadn’t eaten before class. And my dogi was getting very, very warm.
Truth be told, I hadn’t eaten well all day. I had a meal replacement bar for breakfast; Diet Mountain Dew as a morning “snack”; an Ostrim and three strawberries for lunch; and another Diet Mountain Dew, another meal replacement bar, and some cookies (an unexpected gift from my supervisor) for my afternoon snack. My original plan had been to order lunch out, since I hadn’t made the time this morning or the night before to make a proper lunch. Due to some snafus at work, though, I ended up scrapping the idea and just eating the snacks I’d brought. Also, I skipped dinner completely, since I had just about long enough to gather my things and head out to the dojo after Aaron left for work. This made for a poorly nourished Diana, especially one attending her first Aikido class — and a two-hour one at that, which was described by more than one person as being a bold move for my first class.
As I said, though, I pressed on, into the next set of throws. About ten minutes later, I excused myself from my partner and from the mat entirely.
Never before have I exerted myself to the point of vomiting. Not even in drum corps. It’s not something I’d care to repeat. I was glad that the gentleman yesterday had shown me where the restrooms were; I knew right where to beeline when I felt the unwelcome urgency overcome me as I left the mat.
I explained to Sensei upon my return that I hadn’t eaten, and that I was feeling unwell. He said I was welcome to take a seat at the back of the mat, and rejoin whenever I could; he said I could “make watching practice.” That was fine with me; I’d reached my breaking point for the evening. I did watch intently, but every time I gave thought to rejoining the foray, my stomach would start doing cartwheels again, and I’d quickly change my mind.
Sensei finally gestured me to rejoin for the cool-down exercises and the post-class announcements session, wherein I introduced myself to the group. Everyone was very understanding and welcoming, and seemed genuinely glad to have me in the class (even though I was a total neophyte, often needing to be reminded how the throws were done).
As we finished sweeping the mat (a tradition after each class, apparently), one of the other women in the class, Amy, suggested that we go get some Gatorade at the gas station down the street. (Can’t have me being all dehydrated and unwell and trying to drive home, after all.) After we changed back into our street clothes, that’s exactly what we did; she drove us both down to the Shell station and graciously bought Gatorades for both of us. That was an unexpected and very kind gesture, and one that I appreciated.
I did make it home OK, although I only barely sipped on my Gatorade. When I got home, I promptly beelined for the new recliner and crashed out for an entire hour. I was nauseous; I was sore; I was tired; and any movement at all reminded me of all three. Woke up to watch my favorite show on HGTV at 9pm, and continued sipping on my Gatorade. Flipped to a program on the History Channel after that, and continued sipping on my Gatorade. Never did eat dinner; I didn’t think I could keep it down. And my 32oz Gatorade is still half full as I write this.
Right now, I know that most of my soreness does indeed come from my incorrect technique. I’m not rolling properly, not rounded enough, so my shoulders and hips are sore from hitting the mat. I also discovered that I was dragging the knuckles of my left hand along the mat during some of the rolling drills, so those are rubbed raw. I also have a good deal of straight-up muscle soreness, though: arms, shoulders, back, thighs, glutes, basically any muscles involved in laying down or kneeling down or standing up.
Besides learning how to roll and fall, and how to tie my belt, I learned a few other things about myself today. I learned that I should stick with the one-hour classes for now, even if it means driving to the dojo straight from work, instead of stopping at home to see Aaron. I learned that proper nutrition is vital to getting the most out of my practice, so I need to eat a substantial afternoon snack before aikido. I learned that I do indeed have a physical breaking point, and I learned how it manifests itself.
If this had been a trial class prior to signing up, I might have been turned off and decided against it. As it is, though, I’m going to attend the one-hour classes next week and see if those treat me any better. The other two ladies seemed to think that coming to a two-hour class on my first day was definitely a bold move, so maybe that should be a hint for the immediate future.
Three hours after class, and I’m still not feeling normal yet. I’m going to crash hard in a matter of minutes.