What is it that they say? All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy? Indeed!

One luxury in my life is the Wednesday morning Aikido training with Barbara Sensei. If I can manage it, I am there on the tatami at 8:30 sharp. Sometimes it is just not doable, and I text her with what are clearly my very own regrets of not being able to be there.

Today we did a lot of aiki taiso and irmi nage, and I had a blast training with Charlie who happens to be just 45 kilos heavier and 30 centimeters taller than I.

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This is something that I really like about Aikido, it simply is not too terribly fair, a bit like life. You get what you get, work with it! Expand to meet the challenge!

Here I am under 60 kilos throwing around a guy who not only is over 100 kilos, he is also ten years younger than I. It is one fascinating challenge, and it is indeed about throwing my weight around. I really like having this kind of inequality on the tatami because there is absolutely no way that I can do anything by brute force when being attacked under these conditions. My hara is then what has to do the work. Today it was fantastic to go at ai-hamni katate tori irimi nage with Charlie. At first I just felt all sorts of holes – no control over my uke (attacker) – in my technique, and that if he was going down was only because he was being nice. I asked him to stop being nice and give me something to work with. I got my wish, and I got to feel my hara, and often feeling how weak it still is.

But this was when the training started to really be fun. When I was uke and he was tori doing the technique I really tried hard to give him back something to work with, so I held on to his wrist as best as I could. At this point Sensei was watching us, and asks me permission to make a nasty comparison. Of course, I gave her permission. There is always something rather sweet when she does that that goes beyond the respect that she demonstrates in asking permission. Ah, I got a demonstration of what it was that I was doing while attacking Charlie, it was something like a little pinscher trying to bite a big bear! It was hilarious, but really, it was also rather instructive. On the next round as uke I attacked Charlie with a bit more of generosity and stood tall at my 160 cm and then I could really offer him a lot more to work with. Glorious!

Note: nage is a throwing technique. That is, any technique’s name with nage at the end means that your attacker ends up being thrown on the floor. In irmi nage uke gets thrown on his/her back, that is gets to roll off to the foor on the side and with the back towards the tatami opposed to a forward roll where one would roll from one arm over the shoulders to the other arm. It is hard to put into words how one does fall while taking ukemi in Aikido, there are many techniques depending on from where the defense is coming and how one attacked to begin with. The martial aspect of this is that you train to never loose attention while receiving the defense, you roll and get back on your feet without a break in the energy, and attack again.