Sunday, October 07, 2012

Just Right

With the recent move back to Sacramento we have managed to up-end our lives in so many different ways. Even though this use to be our home over a decade ago, it is now a very different place. Now that we are here and our daughter is older our lives have evolved to a point that we just do different things and now have to start all over again. With Aimee this was one of our considerations. For myself, I wanted to make sure that I had a couple of options as far as Kendo was concerned. I had recently made the rank of Ni-Kyu and wanted to continue gaining the skills and experienced needed to continue down that path and I had begun some five years earlier. For Aimee it was much more of a consideration and investment.

When she was 5 I had made the decision to introduce her to the martial arts. I had approached the task of introducting her with an empty mind. My plan was that of a children's alphabet picture book. I was going to start at the begining of the alphabet until she had a chance to see all of the arts. Well, I never made it to "B." All it took was one visit to Theresa Masteson's children's Aikido class and there was no going any further. As I tried to explain to her that the next visit would be to Brazilian JuJitsu she just shot her arm out toward the shomen and stated. "I want to take this." That was the end of it. For the next nine years Jill would drive her twice a week to lessons rain or shine (mostly shine in the valley of the sun). Aimee would go on to progress through two children's level classes to at the age of 12 go on to the adult class and go on to earn one belt short of brown belt. She ended up getting over two years of experience training with full size adults and multiple attackers. She managed to come close to perfecting her ukemi (falling and rolling) and gaining a solid grasp of all of the Kihon Waza (the inventory of Aikido moves). I know that she is my daughter, but it was amazing to see her out there during the training. For such a young person she demonstrated great skill, patience and ability when training during all of those years on the mat. Moving away from such a deep investment of time and relationship was difficult and I would often question if it was the right thing to do. We were cutting ties, setting sail to a port with out really knowing if we could get back that which we were leaving behind. I knew that there would be traditional martial arts here in Sacramento, but I did not know to what extent or if for that matter it would end up being a good fit. In talking to Aimee we agreed that we would approach the new journey with an open mind and that in reasearching it turned out that we had multiple options available to us. In preliminary searches, I was able to find that there were at least four Aikido dojos and two Kendo dojos in the greater Sacramento area. It really looked promising.

We haven't returned to Kendo with any regularity due to Aimee's school work load We are also have the option of a second school in South Sacramento.

 Finding an Aikido dojo was a different experience altogether. Having done a search for all possibilities in the area, we were able to determine that there were 4 schools that taught Aikido. So the first week after we settled in we decided to make one week a sort of Budopallooza. We would visit a different Aikido each night. The whole experience was a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The first style was too hard. The style was regimented based off of ritualistic forms and almost militaristic. The second style was too soft. It focused on energy extension and was lacking is action to the point of being meditative. The final style was just right. It had both energy and flow. It was medative but with connection to the art as a whole. It all of the people in the school were kind and were genuine in welcoming her.

 While all of the schools acknowledged how skilled she was, it was this last school that most closely matched her style as well as showed her a direction where she wanted to go. Of all of the dojos she had been to, this was also the most Japanese and had the greatest influence culturally. Having been experienced with so many years in the martial arts it was good to know that she was able to make the move and continue on the path with her studies. It was good to see that she was able to transition from a couple of great schools to new schools in Northern California that were just as great with the difference of styles providing a fresh start and a new direction.

 Each of the Sensei's from each of the dojos commented on her abilities and experience. But it was the last that noticed her abilities as a whole. After 9 years of study she had gained the ability to learn and know all of the kihon wazas (foundational forms) as well as have a strong spirit throughout the training. The last sensei her out on the floor as both uke (receiver) and nage (thrower) and put her through her paces at full speed in front of the entire class. There was quite a bit of murmering during the exercise as Aimee repeated the throwing and falling some 20 times or more in rapid succession, flowing and withoug stopping. After the class we had quite a few of the students and several of the black belts mention what a joy it was to work with her.

 We had returned a week later and when we came in over heard one of the instructors talking to another instructor telling him how great she though she was. Aimee was silently overjoied to hear the comment. It was nice to see as a matter of confirmation that she had acquired the skills to be considered an experienced and accomplished Aikidokaist. While all of her years, and rank may or may not matriculate directly into her new school, I think that all of her expreience and abilities will translate and will balance out. As the Dojo Cho put it, "I can see that she has all of the moves." Hearing that only confirmed my thoughts that Aimee had gained the skills to be able to join an adult class and keep up with all of the black belts. Some of the comments from the other black belts have been' "She has great Ki extension" or "Her ukemi flows and she is a joy to watch." All of those kind comments came as a relief to know that All of those years of practice had paid off. Not bad for a kid.
"..And though she be but little, she is fierce." Wm. Shakespeare