I’m finding it really fascinating, meeting my various sempai on the aikido mat and seeing how their minds work. I find that I gravitate toward certain people (and try to keep away from others), not so much because of their technique, but because of their attitude.
I find that I take ukemi better (i.e. I fall better) when a powerful and confident technique is performed on me. Hell, being thrown by Sensei is downright fun; I come up smiling almost every time. One of my sempai even commented that I’m falling much better now — I thanked him, but I really wanted to thank him for performing the technique with such finesse. It makes falling easier when my energy is honestly being shifted around, instead of just going through the motions.
Some of my sempai seem to handle me with kid gloves, and don’t put enough actual energy into the movement. It’s difficult for me to turn up the energy when faced with someone who won’t reciprocate. Just throw me. Just do the joint-lock. Don’t worry about my lack of hakama and rank; you won’t hurt me. I learn more from someone who’s doing the technique all-out, no holds barred. —Strike that. I learn more from nage doing the technique at a moderate pace, step-by-step but with a discernible flow, methodically, so I can follow.
My favorite is when I get with someone — there are a few people like this — who takes joy in aikido and puts it into the technique. Several of my lower-ranked sempai are like this. Their technique isn’t flawless, but the energy is there, and the joy is in their face, and they make me feel it, too. The higher-ranked sempai who have this spark in them are wonderful teachers; they won’t let me continue a technique wrong. They’ll just stop and let me start over, or stop and let me figure out on my own how to shift my energy properly. The lower ranks will simply start doing commentary on their own technique aloud as they throw me, so I can think the same commentary step-by-step as I throw them.
I’m not comfortable being the more experienced partner yet, though. I do have a couple of kohai — actually, I don’t know if I can really be said to have kohai, as I’m still unranked, and I’m not sure if the newer mukyu would count as my kohai. I think they would, though. At any rate, the some of the newer mukyu and even a couple of the rokyu (lowest rank) are more hesitant than I about certain techniques. I’m not comfortable trying to say anything to help; in fact, I’m pretty sure that’s inappropriate for someone of my ranklessness. Still, I could lead by example, but the temerity of my partner almost always makes me more timid.
This is all golden. I’m learning so much about myself and my interactions with other people in general.
Bottom line? I need to trust myself more, have more confidence in myself.
This is why I joined the dojo.