Aikido is a Japanese martial art founded by Morehei Ueshiba ("O Sensei"). Its roots stem from the brutal art of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. As with all Aikido techniques, we blend with our partner's energy and redirect that combined energy in a circular motion around our center. There is great emphasis devoted to learning how to roll and fall properly and an even greater emphasis on feeling the effects of techniques through repetitive practice. In a typical class, you will practice Aikido techniques with random partners over a hundred times. You will fall and roll at least that many times. Every roll or fall toughens your body to the point that you will eventually be able to roll or fall on almost any surface. Every bruise is a badge of honor. Every step towards progress is a victory. The beginning techniques are very simple and demonstrate basic movements. As you progress up the ranks, you will work on more sophisticated techniques, some combining more than one technique or giving you choices to deal with any situation. You will have many questions about Aikido and you will discover that the more you learn, the more questions you will have.

My Aikido journey: classes 1-100, 101-200, 201-300, 301-400

May 7, 2018 - classes 301 and 302 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura, Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura, Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura with a tanto, and Yokomenuchi grab under wrist, spin uke around, atemi to the face, atemi to the ribs Sankyo with a tanto. In the black belt class, we practiced Yokomenuchi Udekeminage, Yokomenuchi Kaiten Shihonage, Yokomenuchi Kaiten Udekeminage, and Yokomenuchi Kaiten Kokyunage wrap around Ikkyo (an "Irv Faust special"). I have a theory that the reason why I'm getting all the bruises I have on my hands and wrists after an Aikido class is because I'm resisting strongly and that causes blood restriction at the point of contact.

May 14, 2018 - classes 303 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Kosadori Kotegaeshi, Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi, Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo Nikyo Omote (Ikkyo up and step back to bring uke's arms above and in front of you), Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo Nikkyo Sankyo, Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo Nikyo Sankyo Iriminage, and Morotetori Kotegaeshi.

May 15, 2018 - classes 304 with Ken Harris - 5 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori Ikkyo, Katetori tenkan Shihonage, Katatetori tenkan Shihonage Iriminage, Morotetori Kotegaeshi, Morotetori Iriminage, and Kokyudosa.

May 21, 2018 - classes 305 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatetori Shihonage Ura, Katatetori Shihonage Ura and Omote with and without a jo, and Katatetori Kokyunage with a jo. Rather than turn and circle the hand inward, we were taught to sink the hand down with a tenkan to break uke's balance. I practiced the final jo variation with the two daredevils in the dojo, Keith and John.

May 26, 2018 - classes 306 with Roderick Johnson - 13 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote (Carlton), Shomenuchi Sankyo Omote, Tsuki Kotegaeshi Omote (Ed, Garland), and Tsuki Iriminage 3 ways (John). I have to keep uke's head pinned to my shoulder when I move him.

May 29, 2018 - classes 307 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Katatetori Iriminage, Ryotetori Tenchinage Omote and Ura, Morotetori Kokyuho, and Morotetori Ikkyo Ura (Ed). I practiced pretty intensely the past few classes, which resulted in the elbow bruises you see here. There is a third bruise on the other side of my elbow.

June 4, 2018 - classes 308 and 309 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Nikyo Omote, Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, and reversal techniques on a Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi attack that led to Iriminage, Kokyuho, Kotegaeshi, Shihonage, and more. In the advanced class, we continued our practice of reversals in Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi.

June 5, 2018 - class 310 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi, Ushiro Ryokakatori Kotegaeshi, and Katatetori reverse Kotegaeshi. Ramla was my practice partner for all of these techniques.

June 9, 2018 - classes 311 and 312 with John Holt and Roderick Johnson - 11 students. My kids earned their orange belts today. Jim and I sat with their teacher, John, as we watched the four kids test for their next rank. Matthew was a little superstar demonstrating the subtle nuances of various techniques. He even showed the six-step jo sequence! Brandon showed confidence and form that had been missing in his recent classes. I recently studied a yoga hand gesture that had two names for it, one signifying a kind, considerate approach and the other a fiery, powerful approach. Both approaches led to the same result: releasing negativity. My kids are like this yoga hand gesture. Each kid uses a different approach to achieve the same result. In my class, we practiced Kosadori Iriminage and Katatetori Kotegaeshi Ura. John encouraged Brandon to join the adult class to learn some techniques.

June 11, 2018 - class 313 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Katatetori Tenkan palm to the face, elbow to the ribs Kaitenage Omote and Katatetori tenkan palm to the face, elbow to the ribs Nikkyo Ura.

June 12, 2018 - class 314 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Yokomenuchi Gokyo Ura, Yokomenuchi Shihonage Omote, and Yokomenuchi Gokyo Ura to Sankyo. After class, Ken2 practiced his Yokomenuchi techniques in a Jiyu Waza practice.

June 19, 2018 - observed class 23 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. I watched as the students practiced Katatetori Ikkyo Omote and Ura.

June 23, 2018 - observed class 24 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. I watched as the students practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Omote and Ura and Shomenuchi Iriminage. Mark and Michelle practiced their 5th kyu exams and Jim practiced and passed his 4th kyu exam.

June 25, 2018 - observed class 25 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. I watched as the students practiced Katamenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Katamenuchi Jujinage Omote, Katamenuchi Iriminage, and Katamenuchi Ikkyo to Kokyuho.

June 26, 2018 - observed class 26 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. I watched as the students practiced Irimi Tenkan Kokyunage, Irimi Tenkan Shihonage Omote and Ura, and Irimi Tenkan Iriminage with bokken. We learned how to enter (irimi) in to disarm a bokken. As you approach your opponent, make a note of how he is holding his sword. Enter on the side where you can grab the bokkken between his hands. Cut the lower wrist and then grab the bokken and turn the hand inward. Get in a good position and throw. You can also enter on the outside for a different throw, but do not enter the wrong side and then irimi tenkan, otherwise you will be cut. The class ended with a spirited Jiyu Waza practice.

July 2, 2018 - observed class 27 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. I watched as the students practiced Katatetori Nikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, and the Nikyo techniques with a bokken. Make sure your body lean is slightly forward when you apply Nikyo. It is safer to be closer to your opponent than farther away when you apply Nikyo. Sadly, I thought I'd be ready to train today, but the doctor said to wait another week if I want my scars to heal properly.

July 7, 2018 - observed class 28 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. I watched as the students practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Nikyo Ura, Katatori Nikyo Ura, and Katatori Udekeminage Ura.

July 9, 2018 - class 315 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Katatetori Tenkan Kokyunage, Tsuki Iriminage, and Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura (slip, elbow to the chin). It was my first day back from a long rest after my surgery. I avoided rolling on my right side.

July 10, 2018 - class 316 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Sankyo Omote, Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Omote, and Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Sankyo Omote. I again avoided rolling on my right side.

The concept of a breakfall is fundamental to executing some of the more difficult techniques in Aikido. Rather than hitting the ground with a thud, a roll is used to to distribute the potentially hard impact of your body against the ground to a larger surface area. The problem with breakfalls is there is too much room for error. Rolling the wrong way or having your head or some other body part in the wrong position could result in severe damage. Hitting the mat too soon or too late could also lead to injury. I've bruised my head, neck, shoulders, elbows, fingers, hips, knees, ankles, toes, and more. If I get bruised and hurt, I will let people know, not to gain sympathy, but rather to show everyone how brutal this martial art could be and how potentially dangeous it is even when you have experience with it. There are times when I bruise a body part, or worse, damage myself so that I'm less than 100%, and then stupidly proceed to train again the next day. When you're less than 100%, you will make mistakes and these could lead to more damage. Accumulate enough spinal bruises and this begins to impair other very important aspects of your life, like teaching yoga, for instance. How terrible would it be to take a yoga class from a teacher who stupidly messed up her spine and can't even walk straight from Aikido and then have other people in her dojo tell her that being bruised this way is normal? Is not being able to turn your head more than 10 degrees from the center normal? I'm still quite enthusiastic about Aikido, however, all my crazy attempts to keep up with the guys in my dojo have led to some interesting behavior patterns. Many people assume I'm super strong and resilient, like one of the guys, but it's more like I just throw myself into situations, sometimes not caring about what happens to my body until I'm too late and I damage myself.

July 23, 2018 - class 317 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced rolling and breakfalling, Yokomenuchi Sankyo Omote, Yokomenuchi Sankyo Omote with a jo, Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Shomenuchi slip the elbow, shoulder to shoulder, push forward to force uke to step forward and around, Kotegaeshi. I need to stay closer to my opponent in the shoulder to shoulder, push forward part, otherwise he has a better chance of hitting me. I also need to make sure my opponent takes a step before applying Kotegaeshi. That step clues you in to the fact that my opponent is off balance on one leg, the most advantageous position possible to proceed with Kotegaeshi. It was really humid today. I was sweating like mad even before we got to the techniques in class.

July 24, 2018 - class 318 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Tai Sabaki movements with a partner, Tsuki Kotegaeshi Omote, Tsuki reverse Nikyo, and Tsuki reverse Nikyo to Kotegaeshi. I was having difficulty getting my opponent's arm in an armbar and reverse Nikyo.

July 25, 2018 - class 319 with Carlton Harris - 6 students. We practiced Ryotetori Shihonage, Ryotetori Nikyo Omote and Ura, and Ryotetori Nikyo to Iriminage. We were also shown the change techniques from Ryotetori Nikyo to Kotegaeshi or Iriminage. We learned about moving and throwing from your center rather than from higher up your body, to move your arms and legs with your center, and to think about applying your techniques a little lower towards the ground than you're used to. We learned that the hip drives the throw, so rather than move your arms first and your feet next, think about moving everything as one unit.

July 29 to August 4, 2018 - USAF Summer Camp 2018 - My two sons and I attended the full week of USAF Summer Camp held at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. We arrived a little after 3:00pm on Sunday, July 29 for an early check-in at the hotel. I attended Yukiko Katagiri's 4:00pm class. I had practiced with her in Summer Camp last year. The coolest thing about Aikido seminars is you get to practice with everyone from beginners to 6th dan Shihans like Katagiri Sensei. We practiced Katatori Nikyo Ura, Katatori Nikyo to Kokyunage, Katamenuchi tenkan Shihonage, and Katamenuchi arm wrap (the arm of the Katatori grab), block the Shomenuchi, grab the wrist, turn like in a backstretch, and step away and drop uke. I attended Peter Bernath's 5:00pm class. He skipped the warmup exercises and immediately jumped into techniques. We practiced Ryotetori backstretch, Ryotetori Kokyu throw, Ryotetori outside turn lead wrist and step forward, punch to the face with the back fist, and divert the energy to a Kaitenage, and Ryotetori Shihonage (two variations: #1 move in a little and pop uke up, #2 roll up and frame the face). I got my first two bruises in camp today, one on each arm.

Posted by Clare Din on Sunday, July 29, 2018

On Monday, July 30, 2018, I attended Steve Pimsleur's 6:30am class. We practiced the basics: Tai No Henko, Katatetori Kokyunage with a backstretch and then a fall, Katatetori Kotegaeshi Ura, Katatetori Sihonage, and Kokyudosa. I attended Andy Sato's 10:00am weapons class. We learn seven jo techniques and practiced them with ukes. I attended Donovan Waite's 11:00am class. We practiced Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Iriminage, and Yokomenuchi Iriminage five ways. To open up space on the mat, many of us formed groups. We started and ended our practice with Kokyudosa. I attended Hayato Osawa's 3:00pm class. We learned Tai No Henko, Kosadori reverse Iriminage (face grab), Kosadori Iriminage, Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Ura. We were asked not to tenkan back in the Ura technique. I attended Matt May's 4:00pm weapons class. Matt showed us a different way to do a Tsuki strike with a jo and we learned a sequence of six steps involving a Tsuki block, Yokomen block, a second Yokomen block, Shomen block, Tsuki block, and ending with nage striking uke with a Yokomen. I practiced with a yudansha named Marilyn for the entire class. I got six more bruises on my arms and a bloody cut on my right big toe to total nine.

On Tuesday, July 31, 2018, I attended Charlie McGinnis' 6:30am class. We practiced Kosadori backstretch, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, Yokomenuchi Udekeminage (stay connected with uke's arm, pass underneath, grab sleeve at tricep with other hand, and slowly kneel), and Yokomenuchi take uke's center, spiral around, grab wrist and shoulder from behind, and step back for the drop. We ended our practice with Kokyudosa. We learned about how a Yokomenuchi defense is not about concentrating on uke's arm, but taking his center. I practiced with a black belt who showed me how grabbing the sleeve before passing underneath in Yokomenuchi Udekeminage yields a more effective throw. I practiced with Charlie's uke for the last technique, a small woman with incredible ukemi. I believe her name was Anna. I attended Hayato Osawa's 10:00am class. We practiced Tai No Henko, Tai no Henko with a lead, Ushiro Tekubitori back drop, Ushiro Tekubitori Kokyunage, Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo Omote, Ushiro Tekubutori Sankyo Omote (two ways), and Ushiro Tekubutori Kokyuho. I practiced the last technique with Janice Taitel and Charlie McGinnis! "Much improved since last time. You've got knees!" Janice said. We practiced Kokyudosa in the end. I got to practice with Charlie. He taught me a new way to backstretch. Just like I mentioned yesterday, Aikido is cool in that the rock star who taught you in the morning might practice with you in a later class. I attended Claire Keller's 4:00pm class. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Ura, Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Ura, Shomenuchi Iriminage, cross wrist tension exercise and with a found technique, uke Shomenuchi Iriminage with a reverse to Sankyo Omote, Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi, and uke Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi with a reverse to an Iriminage. Claire corrected my form in Kotegaeshi by saying that I should try to stand upright and throw from my hips rather than roll my entire body into the throw. I practiced the cross wrist tension exercise with another rock star of the Aikido world, Sharon Kanai, the Dojo Cho of New England Aikikai. She noted that I had a lot of strength. It was really cool that she had a Zen-like practice, a stark contrast to the two ladies I practiced with in the previous technique, Shomenuchi Iriminage, as they took turns trying to faceplant me to the mat. Not cool. Isn't a black belt supposed to be able to gauge how hard I can be thrown based on the energy of my attack?

Posted by Clare Din on Tuesday, July 31, 2018

On Wednesday, August 1, 2018, my kids and I watched the dan tests. Eleven people were demonstrating their skills for the ranks of first, second, and third degree black belt. A large group of my dojo friends checked into camp today. I twisted my ankle to total ten bruises so far.

On Thursday, August 2, 2018, I attended Steve Pimsleur's 6:30am class. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori with a backstretch, Morotetori Kokyunage (entering behind without a tenkan), Morotetori Ikkyo Omote, Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Shihonage, Morotetori Kokyunage (rainbow throw), and Morotetori Iriminage. "Good! What you're doing is good, but don't step out so far. You've got all the mechanics. You've just got to put it all together," Steve commented of my Morotetori Iriminage. Uke grabs for Morotetori. I tenkan and Ikkyo up. Steve taught us to pivot and step out a little, but I'm stepping out too much before I Ikkyo over. The pivot and step blends and redirects uke towards your center. In Morotetori Ikkyo, you start with hand with thumb down and then you tenkan and raise the arm up, keep the arm up as you step around him and place your hand on the back of his head or collar, tenkan and bring your raised arm down (keep the other hand high) taking his balance. Use the momentum and bring it all back up as you hook the bicep under uke's chin and raise your arm up, over (and pull the collar down), and down with a hip turn for the throw. My son Matthew and I attended Harvey Konigsberg's 11:00am class. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Shihonage Ura, Katatetori Iriminage, and Kokyuho. Tthe class focused on keeping your center at all times and maintaining a martial aspect to your movements. "Don't let your opponent take your mind," Harvey warned. I attended Andy Demko's 5:00pm class. We practiced Katatetori Ikkyo Omote, Katatetori Nikyo Omote, Katatori Nikyo Omote, and Katatori arm lock, lapel grab for the choke. "This choke can save your life," Andy said to the class. He emphasized position, balance, and technique as the three keys to success for everything we do, whether it be Aikido or life. Andy said I shoud relax my arm more when doing the initial wrist rotation in the Katatetori grabs. Dr. John pointed out I should offer my hand palm side up first and then turn it over (moving towards him) as if I was reading my watch. I got another two bruises on my arm and foot and injured my neck to total thirteen.

Posted by Clare Din on Tuesday, August 2, 2018

On Friday, August 3, 2018, I attended Gina Zarilli's 6:30am class. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatori Ikkyo Omote, Katatori Nikyo Ura, Katatori inside arm wrap (Udegarami, similar to Andy Demko's class) Omote, Katatetori, Iriminage grab wrist with the other hand and keep it close to your hip, extend first hand up and out and step back for the Kokyunage throw, and Kokyudosa. In the Katatori techniques, Gina stepped back a lot before grabbing the wrist (and turning the hip) and moving forward. She looked like she was doing a yoga Warrior stance. This I could relate to! It turns out Gina was a dancer at one time and a practitioner of Bikram Yoga. My neck and ankle didn't feel quite right yet, so I didn't dare take another class afterwards. I watched Hal Lehrman's 4:00pm class. Hal talked about thinking of your center as a sphere around you.

On Saturday, August 4, 2018, I attended Yoshimitsu Yamada's 9:00am class. We practiced Katatetori backstretch, Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Shihonage, Katatetori Iriminage, and Katatetori Nikyo. I practiced Katatetori Iriminage with Damon from Aikido North Jersey. He showed me a really cool nerve pinch. After class, some of our dojo friends got together for a group picture in front of the kamiza. We met for brunch after camp was officially over.

Be sure to check out my USAF Summer Camp videos produced by my son, Brandon, on YouTube

August 6, 2018 - classes 320 and 321 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Kokyu throw, and Katatetori Nikyo Omote. In ukemi practice, a minor victory for me is I tried rolling on my right side. I couldn't do it for the entire set, but at least I got in a couple of rolls. In the advanced class, we practiced ukemi, entering against Tsuki attacks, two-on-one Randori with Katetotori followed by Tsuki attacks focusing on space and throwing uke1 into uke2, two-on-one Randori with Tsuki followed by Tsuki attacks focusing on throwing uke1 into uke2 and using short rather than involved techniques, and Katatori Udegarami as shown in Andy Demko's seminar class.

August 11, 2018 - class 322 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Tsuki Kaitenage Omote (3 ways), Tsuki Shihonage Omote, and a spirited Jiyu Waza at the end. The first Tsuki Kaitenage was the familiar 3rd kyu exam technique. The second Tsuki Kaitenage was a step back with the lead foot, a crossarm block of uke's tsuki with the lead hand on top transitioning to an atemi to the jaw to take his balance, the lead hand cuts uke's neck down while the other hand drives uke's arm up. Uke's head is turned with his face exposed to your knee as you step in for the throw. The third Tsuki Kaitenage is an irimi tenkan to the outside grabbing under his arm to swing him around a pivot point, atemi to the face, raise his arm, atemi to his ribs, go under, Sankyo grab and cut down, bring his arm up and you use your other hand to cut him down via his neck. Extend your arm so his raised arm goes behind his body. Turn his head so his face exposed to your knee as you step in for the throw. The Tsuki Shihonage was a Henry Smith variant. Step back with the lead foot, a crossarm block of uke's tsuki with the lead hand on top transitioning to an atemi to the jaw to take his balance, press your head into the outside of his wrist, keep his wrist against your ear, pass your head under his arm, and apply Shihonage, which basically can be done with one hand grabbing and securing his wrist.

August 18, 2018 - class 323 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Katatetori (irimi tenkan) Ikkyo, Nikyo, Sankyo, Gokyo, Katatetori (irimi tenkan atemi to the face, then to the ribs) Nikyo Ura, Kaitenage, Iriminage, and Katatetori Yonkyo. Yonkyo is about holding uke's wrist like a bokken and using the inside knuckle of the index finger to press against the exposed tendon of uke's wrist, resulting in an extreme hurt-like-hell effect.

August 20, 2018 - class 324 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Ryotetori Tenchinage irimi, irimi kaiten, Katatetori Iriminage, Ryotetori Ikkyo Ura, and Ryotetori Kotegaeshi.

August 21, 2018 - class 325 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo exercise, Morotetori Ikkyo Ura, Morotetori Kotegaeshi, and Morotetori Ikkyo to Soto Kotegaeshi.

August 27, 2018 - class 326 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura (Sam), Tsuki tenkan Tsuki-with-the-other-fist Ikkyo Omote (Farah), Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo to Nikyo Omote (Ramla), Ushiro Tekubitori Kaitenage Omote (John),Ushiro Tekubitori Kaitenage Omote (John), and Ushiro Tekubitori HIji Waza arm wrap (Ken).

August 28, 2018 - class 327 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo (John3), Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Iriminage (Ken1), Shomenuchi Iriminage (Barbara), and Katatori Kokyunage (Asamina).

September 4, 2018 - class 328 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Soto Kaitenage Omote (tenkan, atemi to the face, atemi to the ribs, go under the arm), Katatetori Soto Kaitenage Ura, Katatetori Soto Sankyo Omote, Katatetori Soto Nikyo Ura, Katatetori Soto Kokyunage, and all of the Katatetori variations with a Tsuki attack as well as Tsuki Soto Kotegaeshi.

September 8, 2018 - class 329 with Roderick Johnson - 16 students. Class was over before it started for me. A freak accident in which I got kicked in the face during ukemi practice prevented me from participating in today's class. I felt pain across my cheek to my nose. The kick left a crease in the middle of my nose where it was pushed back. That should hopefully heal. It hurts a little along the bridge of my nose when I smile. I'm just glad my nose and eye socket weren't broken. Sadly, I keep having flashbacks of the incident frequently and without warning. The class practiced Tsuki Nikyo, Tsuki Soto Sankyo, Tsuki Soto Kotegaeshi, and Tsuki Soto Henka Waza to Hanmi Handachi Kotegaeshi.

September 10, 2018 - classes 330 and 331 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Yokomenuchi Sankyo Omote with a tanto, Yokomenuchi Nikyo Omote with a tanto, and Yokomenuchi reverse Nikyo to arm break to Kotegaeshi. In the advanced class, we continued the Yokomenuchi techniques with open hand. We ended our class with a spirited randori against sempai John Holt.

September 11, 2018 - class 332 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, Yokomenuchi Gokyo Ura, and Yokomenuchi Iriminage. Yokomenuchi Iriminage - In ai hanmi, as uke steps forward with a Yokomen strike (let's say he strikes with his right hand), you make contact with his striking hand with your left, allow the strike to come through (your left arm bends). Slide forward behind uke. Your right hand moves into play and pushes uke's momentum forward as you extend your hand out. Tenkan back as you follow your right hand and guide uke's head towards your shoulder with your left hand. Press uke's head down to turn it in the same direction you are facing. Connect uke's head to your arm into one unit. Rise up, follow the hand, go over the rainbow and down as you step across uke for the throw.

September 18, 2018 - class 333 with John Porter - 9 students. We practiced Gyaku Hanmi Shomenuchi from the front foot techniques, Gyaku Hanmi Shomenuchi from the back foot techniques, Ryotetori techniques, and Jiyu Waza. Some of them were elaborate Henka Waza techniques, such as Gyaku Hanmi Shomenuchi Ikkyo uchi irimi (elbow to the face, slip under the arm) Kokyunage to Shihonage. My friend Ben, a karate teacher, noted that I'm moving a lot better now than when he first saw me as a 6th kyu.

September 29, 2018 - classes 334 and 335 with Roderick Johnson - 11 students. Today was the first day we practiced in the new dojo in East Falls. In the first class, we practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Shomenuchi Kaitenage Omote. In the second class, we practiced Shomenuchi Udekeminage and Shomenuchi Udekeminage to Kokyunage. The mat was shaped more like a square than a rectangle and the ceiling height is a little lower, so practice felt a little more congested at times. We just need to get more familiar with the new space.

October 1, 2018 - classes 336 and 337 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Ikkyo Ura, Katatetori Ikkyo Ura with a jo, Katatetori reverse Kotegaeshi Omote, Katatetori reverse Kotegaeshi Omote with a jo, and Katatetori Shihonage Omote. We learned about directing energy up to down (index fingers pointing up and rolling down to break uke's balance) in Shihonage. I learned that I need to slide underneath uke's arm a lot so that when I kaiten (turning 180 with sword cut), my arms should be extended before I tenkan. My left hand is all bruised up.

October 2, 2018 - classes 338 and 339 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Ura, Morotetori Kokyuho, Morotetori Shihonage, and Katatetori Kaitenage.

October 10, 2018 - classes 340 and 341 with Nizam Taleb - 7 students. Nizam Sensei is one of the co-founders of our version of Aikido and is one of a few who hold high rank in two disciplines, Aikido and Iaido (techniques for drawing the sword), although he humbly admits, "I am still learning." We practiced a blending exercise in which you had to lead uke around with an irimi tenkan, always staying connected, Katatori (shoulder grab) Ikkyo, Kosadori (cross-hand grab) Ikkyo, Kosadori switch hands Kotegaeshi, Kosadori Nikyo. He emphasized the irimi tenkan movement in each technique and the importance of following through with every attack as uke. We also practiced techniques with a bokken.

October 15, 2018 - classes 342 and 343 with Roderick Johnson - 1 student. As luck would have it, I was the only student in class, but this was awesome as I got lots of one-on-one attention. We practiced Katatetori Kokyunage throw, Katatetori Kaitenage Omote, and Katatetori Shihonage Omote. We also practiced the techniques using a bokken. The second class was an ukemi class. I practiced forward rolling along a straight line over and over again, trying to refine my technique each time.

October 20, 2018 - class 344 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Tai Sabaki for the Koshinage technique, Katatetori Koshinage, and Tsuki Koshinage. My hand was magically hitting the mat properly, absorbing the impact of the mat. Ed watched Farah and I and gave us some pointers on how to improve our Koshinage technique.

October 22, 2018 - class 345 with Roderick Johnson - 2 students. Barbara and I practiced Tsuki Koshinage. We focused on entering with my head and rib atemi in unison and ending with a "pinch," aligning my throwing hand at 11 o'clock, getting my feet at most shoulder width apart and pointed forward, and keeping myself upright.

October 23, 2018 - class 346 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. We practiced various Ushiro Ryokatatori techniques including Kotegaeshi Ura, Ikkyo Ura, Sankyo Omote, Kaitenage, and reverse headlock body drop. Sensei threw me in Kaitenage and, for a brief moment, it felt like I was airborne for a little longer than usual. I'm not sure if it was 100% him or maybe some combination of him with me. I think it had to be both of us because if I didn't roll correctly in midair, I'd probably find myself splattered on the mat.

October 27, 2018 - classes 347 and 348 with Roderick Johnson - 14 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote (Barbara), Tsuki Koshinage (Farah, John2), and Tsuki Nikyo Ura (Carlton). Carlton showed me that proper technique does not require a lot of strength to execute it. "Your elbows should always be lower than your shoulders. Pivot around my shoulder rather than my elbow," he advised. He and I practiced a continuous flow where he attacked me again and again without a break to help me improve my footwork and technique. After class, a group of us went to the Trolley Car Café for lunch.

November 3, 2018 - classes 349 and 350 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote (John1), Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Shihonage Omote (John2), Tsuki Koshinage (Farah), and Ushiro Kubishme Koshinage (Farah). In Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Shihonage Omote, pin uke's hand to his shoulder and then roll his hand over his shoulder joint to simulate a cut down. Do not swing the cut off center. In Tsuki Koshinage, slide in to uke and get as close as possible before turning the feet, keep the feet shoulder width apart otherwise you will need to step the lead foot back so uke doesn't fall on your knee, throwing arm must fall at 11 o'clock with you being able to see the back of your hand, uke must be able to drape himself over the small of your back so bend your knees enough for him to do so. In Ushiro Kubishme Koshinage, Ryotetori (other arm up/initial grabbed arm down) the arms, raise uke's initial grabbing arm over your face and step to the side so both your arms are extended, push your hips out the opposite direction and drape uke over your lower back.

November 10, 2018 - classes 351 and 352 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Ura (Farah), Tsuki Koshinage (Carlton), Shomenuchi (nage initiates attack with a Shomenuchi, uke blocks, and this gives you the opportunity to apply the technique) Ikkyo Ura (Franco), and reverse Yokomenuchi (slash) Sankyo Omote (John, Mark) with a tanto. In Tsuki Kotegaeshi, Carlton advised that I should swing and skeep his arm low rather than raise it high before I slide myself underneath his arm. In Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Sensei advised that I should have my inside hand closer to Franco's elbow rather than his shoulder. In reverse Yokomenuchi Sankyo Omote, it is important to get my pinky hooked around the joint where his pinky and palm meet to enable me to control his arm.

November 12, 2018 - classes 353 and 354 with Roderick Johnson - 2 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, and Tsuki Iriminage. Oddly, strangely, Mark and I were practicing the kinds of long, stretched rolls I had discussed with others recently, the ones I had dreamed about doing. In the techniques, I need to stay more hip-connected to uke. I'm still keeping too much distance between me and uke.

November 17, 2018 - classes 355 and 356 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, and Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura.

November 19, 2018 - classes 357 and 358 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote (2 pins), Morotetori Jujinage (2 ways), Morotetori Udekeminage, Morotetori tenkan Ikkyo to Sankyo Omote, and Kokyudosa.

November 24, 2018 - classes 359 and 360 with John Porter - 9 students. We practiced Tai No Henko and various Morotetori techniques. We had two opportunities to practice Jiyu Waza. A couple of people commented that the classes felt like seminars because of all of the techniques demonstrated.

November 26, 2018 - classes 361 and 362 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. We practiced Kokyudosa and various Ryotetori techniques with footwork. We also practiced a Katetori technique with a jo. We learned how to consider the pinky as the jo, the position of the hand blade in every technique, and the precise footwork needed to get our bodies in the right position. Unfortunately, I hit my head on a roll in between classes.

December 10, 2018 - classes 363 and 364 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Katatori Nikyo Ura, Katamenuchi inside Ikkyo, outside tenkan Iriminage, uchi irimi (under and between uke's arms in front), Katamenuchi Kotegaeshi (1st joint - wrist), Katamenuchi Udekeminage (2nd joint - elbow), Katamenuchi Shihonage (3rd joint - shoulder), and Katamenuchi Iriminage. In the latter, nage slide-steps forward with a lead arm block, pivots on the lead foot towards uke's outside, bisects the inside elbow joint with thumb down with the nonleading hand, and hip turns while slide-stepping forward to break through uke's unbendable arm. From the new position, nage has a choice of the different techniques mentioned. I seem to have a problem flowing smoothly from the first tep to the second. It's as if I freeze after the first step with doubt that I did it right before proceeding.

December 11, 2018 - class 365 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Ushiro Kubishme Jiyu Waza, Ushiro Kubishme Koshinage (2nd kyu), Ushiro Kubishme circular arms irim tenkan drag and drape, and Ushiro Kubishme Nikyo Ura.

On Friday, December 14, 2018, I visited a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school out of curiosity. The class was an all-levels class, but most of the students had advanced white belts to black belts. I was very impressed with the instructor and the facilities. I think crosstraining in BJJ might help me understand my Aikido better.

December 15, 2018 - classes 366 and 367 with John Porter - 11 students. We practiced various Yokomenuchi techniques and ended our practice with Jiyu Waza and Kokyudosa. Carlton taught me about tracing the energy along the path of the arm in Kokyudosa. Both arms must move in unison.

December 17, 2018 - classes 368 and 369 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Katatetori (Uchi Irimi Tenkan) Kaitenage Omote, Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage Omote (2nd kyu), and Tsuki Koshinage. In Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage Omote, I got the technique; I just need to make sure my thumb is down and my hand is gripping uke's bicep to help move him down. Tsuki Koshinage requires an uchi irimi tenkan stretching uke's arm to the side, overhead, and down and a strike to the face, elbow to the ribs, Shihonage, cast down to make him come around you, forearm strike under the armpit, slide the arm down to the waist, elbow pinch with Shihonage arm extended, look up at Shihonage grip, and place uke on your lower back with arm drop to the hip. There is a burning sensation in my left wrist that feels like I'm about to tear a tendon when I try to do a Shihonage wrist rotation.

December 17, 2018 - class 370 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Ushiro Ryokatatori Shihonage Omote, Tsuki Kotegaeshi Omote, Suwari Waza Katatori Sankyo Omote, Katatori Sankyo Ura, and Tsuki Iriminage. Sankyo must be executed fully, like a sword cut, and then in Omote, where there is a swing-around, the thumb is down while the controlling hand grips uke's upper arm. The controlling hand pushes uke down towards the ground as you step back. With great sadness, I told Sensei that I have to take a leave of absence for one month so I could have my car repaired. I will also be attending a yoga teacher training that will affect my ability to attend classes in January.

On Wednesday, January 16, 2019, I visited the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school again and watched a BJJ fundamentals class taught by an experienced MMA fighter. Both he and the owner of the school sat with me and we had thorough discussions about my goals and abilities. They made BJJ sound like a good fit for me as their school tailored their instruction to a person's physical limitations. "Not everyone is the same and we have different expectations for someone who is doing BJJ for MMA versus someone who is doing BJJ recreationally," the instructor said. I've read that there are different lineages of BJJ. For example, Gracie Barra, founded by Carlos Gracie, tends to focus on competition and rewards strength and agility. The Gracie Academy is from the Helio Gracie lineage. Helio was a smaller and reportedly sickly Gracie brother who had to redesign much of the Jiu-Jitsu to be more efficient and work for more body types. The Gracie Humaita lineage, of which the school I visited is aligned, tends to be a more self-defense based Jiu-Jitsu. Just like Aikido, the art is always evolving as new practitioners discover ways of doing things to suit their body types. Around the corner from the dojo is a fantastic place for Jamaican beef patties called Carribean Delight.

On Monday, January 21, 2019, a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school took over the old dojo space formerly occupied by Aikikai of Philadelphia. It feels almost like an omen that I should give BJJ a try. Whatever I choose to do - continue Aikido and/or begin BJJ - I will need to take some time off to think about it. I will be undergoing a surgery on April 2 that will prevent me from doing any heavy physical activity for up to 12 weeks, so realistically I'm looking at the beginning of July or August for a full recovery.

My Aikido journey: classes 1-100, 101-200, 201-300, 301-400

All images and work herein © 2007-2019 Clare Din. No reproduction without permission. All rights reserved.