The dojo hosted a seminar by Tres Hofmeister this weekend. I last saw him in April, and I knew he was good; but my aikido has gone leaps and bounds since then, and it turns out he's actually phenomenal and I wasn't quite able to see it before. Yesterday afternoon and this morning were serious high-energy training time at the dojo: I got to take falls from him a few times, and he has this way of throwing people that makes everyone look good. I'm doing some great sorts of aerial falls these days; I haven't quite let go enough to do proper breakfalls, but I can loosen up and take a softer fall out of a harder throw. There's a nice unity to my motion and my body these days, as I'm sore all over and not just in one place. The awareness is wonderful: I can tell when I'm properly moving my body or not, when I need to be a fraction of a blink faster or slower, when I need to change a centimeter or an angle degree somewhere, or when I've got something just right.
Here's the big secret about martial arts, or soccer goalkeeping or just about any other activity where people seem to have impossibly fast reflexes: they probably don't have impossibly fast reflexes. It gets a little faster, with practice and the desired actions becoming pre-conscious; but the biggest thing is that our awareness and perception of time expands. For example, during the Mirror Incident, I fell. Normally we don't fall a lot, and when we do we typically seize up in a moment of panic or blacking-out, and the fall is out of our control. But I had spent two years practicing falling, and responding to attacks, both of which tend to bring on that deer-in-headlights response. As I fell carrying that mirror, my head was clear and I had complete awareness of what was happening, so the time of the fall, maybe a second, was expanded for me to a time when I could make decisions and act (like throwing the mirror down and kicking myself off into a roll away from the glass). I don't know that my reaction time was any faster, but my moment-to-moment awareness gave me more time to react.
So I thought I'd ask a few people to have dinner with me on my birthday, just a small group. I made the small list of people I'd *really* like to see...and there ended up being sixteen of them. We had a terrific time, though, and people brought me unsolicited cool things, like oranges and a hand-knit wool hat and a bottle of port, and Rachel made little cupcakes for everybody. Such amazing people to be friends with...it's funny to think back to before I moved out here, when I'd never felt like part of any group of people.
I'm 29 today, careening steadily out of my twenties. With the lines on my face and the grey and white streaks in the beard, I've already been having to adjust to people thinking I'm 31 or 32, so I guess that will continue. I'm having a lot of fun, overall. Life right now is not everything I want, nor do I want the steady-state of the past two years to continue forever (or too much longer, even); but we make our choices with what we have. We do the best we can. I can do that.