Thursday, August 26, 2010 - Session Five

Oh man! I trained in a keikogi and hakama for the first time tonight. I am glad that I decided to follow the suggestion which Maestas Sensei had made, and get into the uniform earlier rather than later, because it made it a huge difference. It was heavier than the sweat pants and t-shirt I had practiced in before and gave each movement a bit more strain. It will be good for me to start out with the added weight rather than picking up that weight later on. Maestas Sensei also really put me through some paces this evening! Suri-ashi, suri-ashi, suri-ashi. Men! Men! Men! Holding center was hard. Suri-ashi while cutting men took some building up to, and my footwork and form still needs a lot of work, but it felt amazing to be doing it. It also felt exhausting but I like this kind of exhaustion. It was a real good practice but I think that I will need to rest up a bit before really dissecting and processing what I learned. It is also time to start practicing more at home.

August 27, 2010: I have had some more time to sit and compose some thoughts about practice. Early on in the practice, Maestas Sensei asked me a question. He asked me if I am an aggressive person. I had to think about it for a moment. I wanted to say yes but the honest answer had to be that I am more inclined toward flowing with others and being receptive instead. I think about that question now and I realize that there is an aggressive core running through me but it has usually only ever shown itself when my behavior has become inappropriate or cruel. I can push on people emotionally and become invasive when I feel that some emptiness is not being filled. I can also become very dominant when I feel that someone needs to be shamed in order to learn a particular life lesson. Sometimes that dominance can be unnecessary and therefore cruel. I do not like those qualities in me as much as I like the others, and so most of who I am ends up being receptive and unobtrusive. I retreat rather than advance, and I block or deflect rather than strike.

I feel as though Kendo is already giving me a tool I can use to bring out the aggressive qualities I dislike in me and mature them into something healthy and less shameful. Those qualities which might be inappropriate in normal social interaction might be wholly appropriate in a sword fight, even though the swords are wood. I do not know, but the question that Maestas Sensei asked me will be bouncing around in my head for a long time from here onward. Proper and appropriate training in the martial arts always seems to have come impact on personal character and I definitely can see how this impact will be positive for me. I was able to yell while practicing the strikes. This was unexpected. Before I began training, even thinking about yelling in a low and deep growl would make me nervous and anxious and a little afraid. But I could actually do it! I know it is just a simple little thing - easy enough to do unless one considers my personal background and how vulnerable it must feel for a woman with a voice like mine to scream - but that was a huge hurdle in my head and I was able to jump it in just one session! It makes me wonder what else I will be able to accomplish!

I do feel a little embarrassed about the inappropriate laughing that sometimes happens to me. I am someone who laughs and smiles (big wide grinning smiles) whenever I feel anxious, or when I am in any situation where smiling and laughing would be inappropriate. Funerals are an example. It is uncontrolled and not at all intentional. It does not mean that I am feeling happy or good. It just happens. Sometimes - and for no reason at all - I can start laughing hysterically and uncontrollably, and these laughing fits can last for easily thirty minutes to an hour or so. I have been doubled over in pain but still laughing because my abdominal muscles end up hurting so much, though that has not happened in a long while, which has me glad. Just to emphasize that it is not normal nervous laughter and is actually something that can take some real struggle to suppress. It has come up in practice (not the hysterics, thank goodness, just the irrepressible "giggling" and smiling) now that Maestas Sensei is present and I am receiving instruction. It makes me feel inappropriate and awkward. He does not seem to mind that I have to suppress a little laugh whenever a bokken or shinai comes anywhere near my head. Or when I am focusing on something he is teaching me. I think he understands that it is a reflex and that it is not one I can easily control, and that I am laughing not because I am amused but because the raised emotional energy triggers that particular response. That is the feeling I got from him at least. But it still makes me feel as though I am being inappropriate. It also distracts me from paying as much attention as I could because I am too occupied with fighting it in my head. I would hate to get to the point where I can start participating in shiai only to end up laughing in the middle of one and looking disrespectful. That would be terrible.

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