Winter morning training

This year sixteen of us braved the pre-dawn cold of January for a week to have an extra aikido practice each morning at five thirty. At the end we shared a potluck breakfast and these thoughts..

Students' comments

“Years ago at work we decided to have a potluck lunch. Twenty-five or thirty people and just bring what you like. There was one salad and everything else was dessert, and most were chocolate. It was okay. But here at our potluck we have this beautiful breakfast. We got it organized, with a list of things people proposed to bring, and someone to check it and coordinate adjustments so the result would be balanced. So this is an example of how it is important to pay attention not only to our goal, but to the process of getting there as well.”
“Again this year I enjoyed Kangeiko. I took afternoons off from work to rest up from the early morning practices, and that allowed me time to prepare dinner for my family, so they enjoyed it too. I feel good. No negatives. It has given me a boost physically and mentally. Building up to doing multiple techniques over and over with our partners, that was a new experience for me and very interesting. We usually do only one technique per turn. This required new attention to the transition from each technique to the next.”
“The practice, this time it's really beyond my expectation.  The first day when Sensei introduced  Irimi - raise the hand up, at a bit of an angle - I say oh yeah,  this is you know, Hachi Mawashi. Then okay second day, we turn - See, as my expectation is, Hachi Mawashi. Then on the third day I expect you know, to bring the hand down, but No, no it's another turn and then we do Uki Chigae. So I say well it's Uki Chigae okay and maybe that’s it, right? But fourth day it becomes Hiji Kudaki so I say okay finished, okay this is nice, this is the complete set. Then the fifth day, no, another one. So my point is that no I cannot expect, because it is a martial art and we go in there you know all blending so there is a lot of opportunity looking for openings so don’t expect and just feel it and see the opportunity and go in.”
“I just realized that I did not get upset at this Kangeiko. In the past, at every clinic and every camp at one point I got very upset at someone or something though I tried not to show it. But not this year. I enjoyed this.”
"I always learn something at these practices. On Thursday I was driving here at four thirty in the morning. Later at work, at nine o’clock, I would be having a quarterly meeting with our shareholders, where I sit with the owners of the company and explain to them why they haven’t made as much money as they want to make. It’s a very difficult two to three hour conversation once a quarter and I don’t enjoy it. But I was ready for it. So I’m driving here and I realize - I forgot to shave. Good Lord. Seriously? Do I have a razor in my bag? No. Are any drug stores open? No. So I get here and all I can think about is I haven’t shaved. I go up into the change room. I take out my work clothes. I lay everything out. I realize - I forgot my belt. I’m going to go there unshaven, and my pants are going to be falling down. What am I going to do? So as the class progressed, I was stewing for the entire thing. All I could think of was - nine o’clock, no shave, no belt. What the hell am I going to do? So at the end of the class I said know what, I’m going home. I don’t care if I’m late, I’ve got to get a belt and I’ve got to shave. Then when I got to my car I said instead of being upset all the way home and back, let’s be happy to get to shower, to sit down and eat something, and then show up at that meeting feeling a whole lot better. I changed my attitude from being extremely frustrated to seeing the opportunity. In the end it all worked out great. It’s all about the attitude. So again, I did learn something.”
“Regarding the techniques we’ve been practicing, we need to pay attention to the process. It’s not all about the throw. We need to pay attention to all the steps to get there. Putting all those techniques together made me have to think that way. I have to respond to my partner along the way. Before I can apply Hiji Kudaki, I have to let my partner complete Uki Chigae. Then I can respond appropriately, rather than just run through a program, bang bang bang done, Next.”
“Kangeiko was challenging for me. Just before, I strained my back, shoveling snow. So during warm-ups I was so tight through my core that I couldn’t even lie flat on my back. But I would just keep going and during the practice it would loosen up and I would forget about it. Each day was like that and eventually it got better. Years ago I took a course in meditation, and it strikes me that everything we do in aikido is meditation, to relax and be aware and to pay attention and not be distracted by thoughts.”
“This is my first Kangeiko in about five years. Before, I would always get a sore back. I’ve been changing my diet, and my back has been good, but I was expecting Kangeiko practices to make the problem come back. It hasn’t happened. I think diet is important and I need to listen to my body. It’s another way that Kangeiko is a valuable learning experience.”
“I’ve been changing my diet too. At least before Christmas I was. But I’ve gotten back into eating the wrong foods. My back problems have come back. Quite frustrating, but I did enjoy the practice. The best thing about it for me was to make a fresh start after the excesses of the holidays. About the technical aspects I have to say that I enjoy it most when we do the simplest things, that I can manage fairly well and concentrate on polishing. But then when we get into one technique followed by another and another and another, by the end of it I can’t remember what I’m doing. So it’s chaotic, but that’s what learning a new thing is like.  At first I can’t really grasp it, but when I keep at it I can.” 

Teacher's comment

This kangeiko, it was not taught to me, but each individual part was taught to me. An artist can draw whatever he wants. A dot here, a dot there, and join together. It gives freedom to what we do as long as we don’t get stuck in habits, traditions, culture and all those things, without knowing the reasons behind them.