Monday, December 03, 2007

The "Nickter" scale & Ueki

Well, I thought it was funny. The joke, that is, about me taking breakfalls this past weekend during Chris's test, and getting slammed.

At the annual Aikido party on Saturday night, a group of the more rambunctious aikido-ka from our dojo continued the tradition of hanging out on Sensei's back porch, overlooking the forest, and smoking cigars. This group continues to get larger with each passing year, but it is made up of the solid core that began the tradition: Craig, Carlos, Jeff, and myself. Mike S. was also key to the start of the group, but he has moved on, for now.

So there I was smoking my cigar and drinking some outrageously delicious 10-year tawny port, brought by Scotto, when Carlos and the crew began to laugh and joke about my breakfalls during the test, because I hit the mat pretty dramatically. He proposed that we should abolish the Ricter scale for earthquakes and replace it with the "Nickter" scale. And instead of points we should have faces of Nick. So, when I got launched over Chris's hip for the first koshi-nage, Carlos said that that one deserved at least 3.5 Nicks, which I thought was pretty hilarious.

But jokes aside, Chris's test was great. He put everything out there and rocked-and-rolled the way he should. For uke, the one who receives the technique and take the fall, there is also the test of giving a true attack, maintaining control, and taking the fall in a real but artful manner.

In all my "test" experience, where I was called out to receive the technique, this was one of my best moments. Everything felt tight and juiced. After Chris threw me in a kote-gaeshi breakfall, I was back on my feet as soon as he let go of the pin, pausing appropriately to maintain zanshin and martial awareness before continuing on.

Chris and I had connected twice a week plus for a month prior to prepare, so we were already in tune with each other's movements. But when you get out on a mat full of ju-ju, with 75 people in a relatively small room, examining each of your movements, each technique, watching you, you are standing in the moment of truth. There's really no time to think about what's happening. You just do it and succeed or do it and stumble. For uke, you do it and recieve.

Ueki is the art of falling, of recieving the attack. Typically, this is called Ukemi. But ueki takes ukemi to the next level. You are not merely receiving the attack and falling away from harm, you do so in a way that is beautiful and perfect, that takes something bad and turns it into something good. That is ueki.

And I feel that I tasted some of that weekend.

Over and out.


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