I haven't been at it very long, and I'm definitely not very good, but I think I love aikido. I touched on the subject a little last time and I want to expand on some of those points and talk more about what it has been like for me so far. First though, I'll be assigning some aliases to the people I'll be talking about, and since I'm supposed to be using Japanese terms in class, I'm going to try and use them here so I drill them into my head.
My sensei or instructors are a husband and wife team who own the dojo. I'll be referring to the husband as R-sensei and the wife as S-sensei. So far most of my classes have been with R-sensei. The classes are in the evening usually and small, but there are two very helpful sempai or senior students DH and I usually practice with. I'll call one E-sempai. Even though he is very large E-sempai is a gentle giant and likes to joke around that the other student who I will call P-sempai, is always rough with him and that he is thankful we are there so he can practice with somebody else. P-sempai is an older woman, probably in her early 50s and both of them help walk me through the moves slowly when I'm overwhelmed or can't remember what I'm supposed to do. All of these people have been amazingly helpful, patient, and understanding! There are a few other sempai, but they aren't as good at helping/teaching me as E-sempai and P-sempai. But overall, it's so unlike just about every other physical learning experience I've ever had, and the small class size really allows for me to get the help I need and ask questions, unlike when I attempted a dance class years ago, which had many more students than this.
So some might be wondering why pick aikido out of all the physical activities I could have picked. Mostly, it's because of DH. He is the one who told me about it and why he thought it would be a good choice for me. It's also something I've never done before and is something I definitely can't become good at quickly, so I think it's a good way to tackle my need to be perfect and to improve my bodily intelligence. DH also picked out the dojo we go to awhile back in the hopes one day I would be willing to start. As last year was coming to a close I told him I would be ready to start this year. DH was right about it being a good choice for me. While I'm not sure if this is the general atmosphere of all aikido classes or just mine, but I think the lack of competitions and tournaments has a lot to do with helping create such a safe and comfortable learning environment. I am expected to make mistakes, I don't need to get it right the first time, I'm allowed to go at whatever pace I'm at as long as I show up and try, even if sometimes I'm only able to work on the first step of a move because I keep messing up. I also don't feel like I'm slowing down or seriously inconveniencing my anyone with my slow pace, which is a huge relief for a recovering people-pleaser like myself. Even E-sempai and P-sempai still get corrected on their form for beginning moves we're going over right now. They are helping us learn the beginning moves and by practicing them with us they are improving their form, so we are all benefiting from the process. I imagine this happens to our sensei when they go to seminars and practice with other instructors, too. However, I find it harder to work with the other sempai and feel myself getting anxious and teary more than I do with E-sempai and P-sempai. These other sempai haven't been around until this week, so I'm hoping as I practice with them more that it will get easier for us to work together. Everyone reassures me that when they started, they were fumbling along just like me and that in a year or two I'll be doing much better if I keep at it.
Sometimes I talk with R-sensei after class. I've told him some of my issues with perfectionism and getting frustrated with myself, that one reason I'm there is to try and work through those. He's been very understanding and told me the he thinks aikido brings up a lot of issues that you have to confront on your own since you can't take things out on an opponent. I think that's true and I'm glad, because confronting my issues is one of the reasons I'm there! As a bonus I'm learning about how to defend myself, too. All in all, even though this is a hard experience for me, I think it will help me become more confident in myself, as well as help me learn to treat myself more kindly. I'm still anxious, but I'm able to keep showing up at class instead of running away, so I already think I've made some progress and feel a little proud of myself for sticking to despite my insecurities.
If I ever have kids aikido is the extracurricular activity I'd want to involve them in!