I had a fun weekend being social. It is nice, though, to come back to my cave and be quiet by myself.
I'm very tired, not having slept much and having trained for the past five days, culminating in three hours of class in Redwood City this morning. It was pretty amusing, in a way--very few dojos apart from Aikido of Berkeley bother testing people for 6th kyu, more or less the lowest rank, so when I tell people in the rest of the world that I'm 6th kyu, they look at me funny and figure I just started (I've been training for seven months now). What I really need to say is "I'm studying for my 5th kyu test", which would be better, although my dojo's 6th kyu test is almost Aikido West's 5th kyu test. At any rate I forgot myself, said I was 6th kyu, and immediately won "complete beginner" status, publicly awarded by the instructor. The amusing part came during the non-weapons class, when I was happy to startle the black belt I was training with by pulling out all four of the basic take-down-and-control-the-attacker techniques (I know them all and can do the first three consistently and well), which the instructor had demonstrated and then said "Chris, you got that?".
The other amusing bit came after class when I offered to throw around one of the brown belts, and after a few minutes of me doing a bunch of techniques, the woman got the attention of a black belt who had been my assigned big-brother for the day and said, "Hey, he's been paying attention." I got the impression she thought my times at Aikido West, one class a week or less, were the only times I trained. I mentioned that I trained more often elsewhere, but sheesh. Nobody could train one day a week and do what I do.
Nope, no ego or adequacy issues here. Nuh-uh.
Yesterday, though, we got to do randori--being attacked by multiple people at once--at the end of class in Berkeley. It was finally my turn at the end, so I got Kelly and Jason, who are both great for attacking with energy. The randori started, and I sort of...got the Spirit, I guess. The feeling a randori should probably have, that was it. It was easy. I felt a connection to them as they attacked, I moved to create a physical connection, and then I just stepped out of the way and gave them a little push, and they just went flying--sometimes literally, I know they were both doing some high falls. Sensei noticed that this maybe wasn't challenging enough, so she and Brandon (one of our black belts) came over and joined in, which totally fucked me up, but there's a pretty big difference between two and four people coming at you, especially when you only thought there were two and your teacher comes out of nowhere.
It was, however, extremely fucking cool. And I can probably do it again.
A 3rd-degree black belt told me a while ago that when you reach higher ranks and tests come farther and farther apart (years, eventually), you have to find a different reason inside yourself to train and improve, other than reaching a goal. I have no idea if it's intentional or not, but I sort of feel like I've been tossed into the deep end of the pool at the dojo, and it's now up to me to sink or swim--unless I'm missing something, I'm getting little encouragement, and for the most part I feel like I'm in charge of my own training, and responsible for learning the things I need to learn for any tests or whatever. A sign of respect, maybe, or a test to see if my heart's really in it and I keep working without guidance. Or both. Either way, I'm still training and trying to be ready for my 5th kyu test, which I suspect will be in the next couple months and I have hunch will be very...complete. (A few weeks ago, Kayla-sensei gave somebody a 4th kyu test that lasted over an hour, which as far as I can tell is longer than most black belt tests; and she tends to ask for techniques that aren't on the little handout detailing what techniques are on the test, just to see what happens: it sounds mean, but in reality techniques are named by their components, the attack and then the response, so if you don't know something you can usually approximate it by thinking about the name a little bit.) So maybe I'm being set up for a challenge, I dunno.
I think about this way too much, and it's totally an ego and insecurity thing. I want to be good at aikido, which is fine, but I also want people to acknowledge that, which is still fine but nowhere near as productive in the end. So this is all good practice, I think, to find reasons and ways to train that aren't affected by my ego.
And I am good at it, which has deeper rewards than ego massage.