Rankless No More

Saturday the 26th was the long-awaited day: the day I tested for my rank of rokyu (6th kyu, the lowest actual rank) in Aikido.

The day started with a Basics Seminar from 9am to noon, wherein we spent the first two hours learning kneeling techniques. I was already familiar with most of the techniques we reviewed, although we did manage to go into more detail than I ever had previously. I also became familiar with techniques that I won’t have to know for another few ranks yet, which was fun.

After the morning session, I asked one of my classmates to help me with my rolls for a few minutes. He did so gladly, and even pulled out one of the tumbling mats for some extra cushion. With his guidance, I finally managed to figure out where I was going wrong with my rolls, although I could tell it would take some time before I could consistently fix the problem. (For those of you keeping score: I was turning myself just before my shoulder hit the mat, so my forward roll turned into more of a sideways roll. The key is to keep forward momentum and think about looking at the knot of my belt.)

The entire dojo usually goes out to lunch together after the morning session; to a local buffet, either Indian or Chinese. I ended up passing on lunch with the dojo, and instead drove home and had a light lunch with my sick hubby. Then, per Sensei’s instructions, I laid down on the couch and just chilled out for a while, letting my sore muscles rest. Once it came time to go back to the dojo for testing, Aaron actually seemed well enough to go along to watch me test. So, after running past Kroger to pick up a veggie tray for the post-testing potluck, the two of us headed over to the dojo just before 3pm.

The first half hour or so was used as a loosening-up period; we paired off and took some rolls, did some basic techniques, and Sensei answered specific technique questions from people who would be testing. Then, after a short break, formal testing began.

The five mukyu (those of us with no rank) went first. I beelined for the side of the mat closest to Aaron and furthest away from Sensei — not so Sensei wouldn’t see me, but so Aaron would. Five volunteer uke presented themselves, we made our formal bows to begin the testing, and so it began. The ten techniques I’d been so worried about flew by in a matter of minutes, and before I knew it, it was time to take my ten rolls. After the first three or four, I felt like I started to understand how forward rolls are supposed to feel, and I got into a bit of a rhythm.

(Unbeknownst to me, several people in the dojo were specifically watching me to see if my rolls had improved. From their comments after the test, it sounds like I have indeed improved. I still need to watch the video for myself, though…)

We formally ended our 6th kyu test with bows to the front of the dojo (the shomen) and to Sensei, and we were done. We returned to our places with the applause of the dojo.

Every other level of testing only had one aikidoka at a time — it just happened to work out that way. Highlights, for me, included Rich’s test for… fourth kyu? Third? I forget. At any rate, I enjoyed watching him really get into his technique. Plus, he got his glasses knocked off halfway through his test. ^_^

The real highlight of the day, though, was Andy’s test for ikkyu — first kyu, brown belt, just one step down from black belt. Not only did we get to watch Andy do sword (bokken) and staff (jo) work, but we also got to watch him perform randori, or fending off three attackers at once. I hope Sensei posts the video to YouTube; if he does, I’ll embed it here for your viewing pleasure. Because it was indeed a pleasure to watch.

After the formal end of testing, there was much congratulations by all. Then there was much food and drink, and some live music provided by members of the dojo (including Sensei, of course).

Thanks go out to Rich and Chelsea for helping me out with my forward rolls, and to Robert for volunteering to take ukemi for my testing. Thanks also to Aaron for coming to watch and cheer me on! That really meant a lot to me.

Maybe I’ll post a photo of me in my fancy hakama pants (not to be confused with Hammer pants) once I get them. ^_^

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