Sunset Cliffs Aikido Dojo – Day Four and Five

Day Four

Moday brings the Childrens, Beginners, and Advanced classes.

Children’s Class

I was allowed to assist in the training of the children’s class. I spent more time learning than I did training in the class.  Sensei Bernice made a number of corrections in my go no awase.  As Nage I need to take a much larger step back so that only the tips of our bokken meet at the end of the counter strike.

Children’s class was also the first time I have ever attempted a high fall.  We bring out these large mats. Sensei Tim tells me to step up and follow the kids. Sensei Bernice sees me come up, shakes her head and has Tim take over. My first high fall I forget “kokyu in the legs” and almost talk at a higher octave for the next while, but I get past it. After that I performed about 10 high falls with the children.

Beginner’s Class

Sempai Ben leads the beginners class. We go through more Bokken (first seven suburi) then work on taijutsu.  Sempai Ben corrects my back falls. I need to get better and bending my legs to get lower to the ground before falling. This is a difficult adjustment for me, but one I know I need to get so that my ukemi improves.

During this time Carl and I had a brain fart and was doing the omote waza version of Shomen Uchi Sankyo when we should have been doing the ura waza version. Sempai Ben again corrects, at which point and time I stumble through an explaination of what I was trying when it dawns on me that we had not been in line with what the class was doing.  Seriously, I “know” shomen uchi sankyo ura waza well.  I messed it up on my 4th KYU test and as a result spent a good bit of time making sure I had it right.  Then flub here.  *sigh*

Advanced Class

This class contained at least seven black belts (dan) and many white belts (kyu). It was exciting to know that I have the opportunity to train with such a large variety of aikidoka.

Many of the moves we were working on were Kokyu Nages and variations on Kokyu Nage and or escapes from inconvenient grabs.  The first black belt I worked with was a bartender named Jason.  We were supposed to be doing a behind the back elbow lock with a throw.  Since I have never taken ukemi for this technique, and I was not up to the high fall that Sensei Tim performed with Sensei Bernice I was at a loss as to what to do. Sensei Bernice saw a number of us strugling with the ukemi on this move and had Tim show us how to perform a back-fall from the technique.

I failed to perform a back-fall. Instead I ended up planting my right knee right into the top of Jason’s foot.  He hopped around and sucked air for a good 20 seconds, while I knelt there feeling very small. He made a joke about it, explaining that he still had one good foot.

Finally, I worked with Don.  Come to find out later, Don has been at Sunset Cliffs for over 30 years, was a work out partner with, and friend of Sensei Tim. Many times over the course of this week I was given corrections on the throw portion of morote dori kokyu ho (two handed grab on one arm, throw to the back). It was with Don’s direction I was able to put all that advice together and get what felt like a good throw.

Afterward I was in my room trying to get my breathing normal and peeling off my wet gi I hear very familiar kiai.  Walking out I see Sensei Tim taking ukemi for one of the dojo’s prospective first degree black belts.  Like all other aspects of this trip, watching the rest of the sho dan test was educational.

Before dinner Sensei Bernice indicates that there are two “already paid for” openings for the Lake Tahoe gasshuku.   I am honored when she asks me if I would like to go. It is hard to describe how hard it is to tell Sensei Bernice “no”. I flub around it as best I can, but the reality is that I have family waiting for me that I long to see, and non-refundable plane tickets.


That evening Sensei Bernice, Sempai Ben, Sensei Tim, and I go to Sapporo for dinner. The one time I try to add to the conversation I was trying to tell the story of how Sensei Tim was able to help Taylor take me down from “Shomen Uchi Ikkyo Ura Waza”.  The problem was that I said the words “Shomen Uchi Nikkyo Ura Waza” but put my arm in the right position for Ikkyo.  I never got to finish the story.  All three of them were on me like white on sushi rice.


Did not happen this evening.

Day Five – Tuesday

Only two more days of training then I am heading back to Atlanta. It is bittersweet. I cannot wait to get home to my family.  However this lifestyle and all the training sings to me. I am in a great place mentally as I know no matter what my Aikido is stronger for the experience and my love for my family is even stronger!

Tim and I grab breakfast early. While we are talking I question the start time of the class.  Glad I did. Othewise we would have walked into the class already started without the Shomen being cleaned.  We bolt down the rest of our breakfast and head over to the dojo.  I am dressed before Tim so he sends me to attend to the Shomen. Eric (one of the uchi deshi) watches to make sure I get it right. At one point he says “Good enough, Sensei is here. Bow out.” and I obliged.  Later Tim explained that the Shomen was fine since Sensei Bernice had nothing to say about it’s condition.

Weapons this morning consisted of an hour of the fifth Kumitach.  I am the only person in the room that does not know this move. Sensei Bernice asks Tim to work with me on it solo while she moves the class through a number of henka.

For taijutsu we did an hour of katate dori kokyu ho and kokyu nage techniques.  One of my favorite techniques of the day was new to me.  From katate dori, instead of stepping at an angle into the body of the attacker, you step at an angle away from the attacker (on the same side as the grab).  While stepping away grab the lapel of the gi (or their jacket/back of neck, pony tail, etc), drop to what is now your back knee and pull them “down”.  The person taking ukemi performs a forward roll with the grabbing hand.

Since there were no classes that evening that we were required to attend we headed out and caught a showing of Battleship.  While it was somewhat entertaining, after more consideration I am going to write it down as a “don’t bother”.

Afterward Tim and I headed back to OB and had a few drinks.  If not mentioned already, the beverages of choice was a beer followed by a few shots of quality tequila.

Evening I went over the 20 jo suburi for about 40 minutes. I need to get my nomenclature down solid and then I will have all the different moves understood better.  Tim wanted to practice some ken tae jo (jo vs bokken). Shunsuke showed up and they spent about 20 minutes going over the different techniques.  It is fascinating seeing Tim in his element.

I fell asleep around 1am.  I am now fully on West coast hours.  Getting used to Eastern time is going to suck.

Sunset Cliffs Aikido Dojo – Day Six and Seven

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