Well here we are again; Tim’s Angels have become Yellow Belt Ninja Elves!

Here is our shared journey to Yellow belt Ninja status. Haven’t we lasted longer than anticipated? Not without perseverance, post procrastination and positive determination. With a few tears on the way! Steph and I worked through the Yellow belt syllabus and learned many new techniques, some which we found challenging. I still have problems with some techniques more than others and this can be frustrating at times, but mostly, I have developed and worked on the ones required for correct self defence. The Ninja Elves also practiced Jo and Bokken Work and I can say for the both of us, we enjoy using weapons. Our experiences are included in this article to entertain and inform new people to Aikido.

The Skills we acquired for Yellow Belt Syllabus. One look at this and I freaked! How are we gonna learn all this to that level in 6 weeks? Thankfully, we were given a sheet to work from with some of the Japanese phrases and illustrations required. Be positive ‘Sensei Tim’ reminded us! Ok Tim, we will try! No, said Tim “you will “! Mmmm! Alright for Sensei Tim with numerous years of experience!! So we practiced this positivity, and guess what? It paid off!!

We began with Shihonage (the four directions throw) – developing this to a positive level appeared easy with the aim just to throw your Uki to the ground. However, Tim described the correct ways to perform this skill. We practiced the 4 directions and repeated this regularly until we stop thinking about it. Yep, we are still practising and thinking about it!

Next was Iriminage (entering throw) – I still have problems with this technique; somehow, I just can’t get it right! I am 5”2 so entering is fine but reaching the necks of taller people is sometimes impossible like going to the zoo and practising Aikido with a few Giraffes! ‘No such word as can’t’ says Tim. Mmmm – alright for you with yer black belt around your waist! But of course, there is no such word as ‘can’t’, despite the fact there are 6ft people who’s necks I cannot reach in order to place their heads on my shoulder to tenkan them into submission and pound them to the ground in the most peaceful way! Steph (being taller) appears to find this technique much easier and being on the receiving end of her Iriminage, it has a powerful impact. So with continued practice and using the advice of Tim to guide our Uki rather than pull when Tenkaning and to bring taller people down by using this had helped me improve.

The very start of an aikido life.

Kotegaeshi!(wrist turn) – Well, my favourite!! I do enjoy developing that wrist technique and with complete joy having experience putting it on accurately at times have knocked a few men off their feet! I try to gage more with women, but as I am genetically petite I naturally have that gentle touch, tends to work well. Steph is just great at this technique too! Just tone down on the Killer instinct Stephy won’t you! During grading, there were a few people rubbing their wrists, and I would just like to say … “I do apologize for any pain caused’. ‘Do NOT apologize’ says Tim. Mmmm! Ok! Well then, I can safely say that Steph and I are looking forward to perfecting our Kotegaeshi.

Kaitenage (winding throw) – There is a lot of skill with this one. But I enjoy ‘winding’ people up so I persevered. The Ninja Elves found it was a great way to learn our forward rolls, and boy didn’t we get lots of practice! During one challenging session of Aikido the Ninjas arrived home with bumps and bruises from landing on bony parts of the body, self inflicted indeed, due to faulty balancing and clumsy positioning. ‘Get the position right’, tuck yer toes’ says Tim. Alright for you to say…. just caught my toe in the mat and it all bruised! Mha Mha!! ‘You’ll survive’ Phil could you check her toe please’ says Tim with compassion. Nice, kind, sweet Sensei Phil bandaged my toe and I got straight back on the mat. I tried the one handed kitenage winding which felt like my arm was doing what my mind normally does! Why is that, Tim?

Tenchinage (heaven and earth throw) – another of my favourites. Especially, the short form which I had the opportunity to practice at our Demonstration for Community Homes. I find Heaven much easier than the Earth, particularly on taller people. One person I like to practice this with is the lovely Amy; she is the same size as me and a jolly excellent Uki!! Using that right hand technique for the earth throw needs perfecting so onward’s and upwards says our Brown belt Sean!

Now the Okyos!!

Ikkyo (first principle) – this is becoming easier with practice. It just depends on the strength of the other person. ‘No it does not’, says Tim! ‘Really, ok I believe you’ … as I keep trying to lift a very heavy, centre and relaxed arm over the 5”9 thick set Uki and guide them to the ground in a circular motion? Is that right?

Nikkyo (second principle) – Mmmm! Annoying skill but extremely useful when applied correctly. Works succinctly when I apply it to small wrists, but those thick, hardened cold hearted wrists – not affected by my weak bony structure is something requiring much more effort! Having managed to put an Uki down by using this, I wonder if these cold hearted wrists are really just kind hearted?? Is a small petite woman able to master Nikkyo with a large strong wristed man without a kind heart?? ‘Yes’, says Tim! Of which I replied ‘One Gaise masu sensei’ and ‘Rei’.

Sankkyo (third principle) – is a great technique when applied correctly! We had practiced some variations to this; although, this just added to my mind of confusion with all that merry go round! We developed our practice of basic Sankkyo to a higher standard and both myself and Steph managed that! Steph is very good at putting wrist technique on – we usually have first aid nearby!!

Remembering pins and variations – I follow Phil’s example of having a little notebook to write down some pins as I found myself using whichever came to mind during ‘those pressured moments’ that Tim put us through. Phew! ‘Come on, Man up’ says Tim. Alright for you … Being under pressure to react correctly was a great way to learn and think of variations of skill to use so it became more real to the situation. A great way to learn for me. I love the variation of Shihonage Tenkan and dropping to the knees it really brings the Uki down and I have enjoyed the ease of that, with my height being suitable. A technique taught by darling Sean. Also, the short form Tenchinage. We practiced some Munedori (chest grabs) and the Ninja Elves remembered to use some variations of Iriminage (entering throw) and Sukomen (Under Chin Throw).

Jo Work (practice with staff -13 Step Flame Kata) – The Ninja Elves are now more skilled in the art of Jo Work by practising posture, basic positions and basic strikes (Kihon) in the Dojo and when having the time with each other. We practiced in the park and did obtain quite an audience! The audience stared; the audience observed us intently, the audience was captivated! But in the Dojo, ‘Yame’ says Tim. ‘Again, again, again’. Phew! It alright for you, Grrr! A change of attitude I thought,

‘Domo arigato goza imashita sensei’ and ‘Rei’.

Bokken Work (practice with wooden sword -1st Kata ) – We began to practice this up to levels 12 and Steph found this easier to remember than me, I spent a lot of time confused over level 11-12 until I finally cracked it! Well, it only split slightly at the top. Guess what, are Bokkens were too heavy for us little wimplets! So when we were given smaller ones by Sensei David, it was like a weight being lifted off our shoulders! Ha! The Yellow Belt Ninja Elves love Bokken practice. We feel like real female samurais! If you ever!!

Overall, I would say that the Ninja Elves have had a positive learning experience from our Sensei’s and from our higher grades who have all been most accommodating and helpful followed by the repetition of developed techniques have paid off. So where do we go from here? All the way?? Well, at least to continue to enjoy Aikido and become more positive in our approach to Ukying is a start, we are told! I decided to learn the terms and techniques more thoroughly while having patience with Tim (my dear)! Or perhaps more courses, he suggests? Develop our energy, he says! All with the aim of perfecting our technique, he reminds us … The world is our Master it seems!!

In the words of Morihei Ueshiba –

‘Techniques employ four qualities that reflect the nature of our world. Depending on the circumstances, you should be hard as a diamond, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing like water, or as empty as space’

“Domo arigato goza imashita sensei” and “Rei”.

By Tam Lennox (Tamtare)

December 2012

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