Ms. Doll’s Thoughts on the August 2011 Weekend Retreat

I see some of our videos are up from the weekend-

It was as always, full of information and challenges, plus lots of fun.

I’d like to write some more thoughts about it for my post this week, this will both share more of what we did and how it affected me, and help me remember and organize my thoughts about the experience. It is amazing how much we can do in such a short time, so that I have to make an effort to even remember all of what we’ve done. The lack of sleep which I always seem to incur immediately prior to our meetings (in order to do what I need to do to get there on time) doesn’t help with the remembering (though it does contribute to the dream-like quality of the whole experience).

When I arrived at Master Pearson’s house Saturday morning (was that only yesterday?) I knew that there was “something special” in store for us, but I didn’t know what it was. I quickly learned we were to go on 2 field trips though I still didn’t know where to. We had to guess on the way- woods? Natural camoflauge? Mental camouflage? The Mall? Seabreeze? Nope- turns out we are headed to attend a class, we are white belts in Aikido at Sensei Gardner’s school. This was my first Aikido class. I began learning right away principals which will be helpful to my martial art practice. In Aikido emphasis is placed on being strong in yourself in a way that makes you hard to knock over/ move. A good way to explain this is “Unbendable Arm”- this is an exercise that Sensei Gardner had me do in the class. Master Pearson has had students (including me) do this exercise before and it is a good exercise to repeat whenever necessary. What you do is, hold your arm in front of you, bent, and have someone try to push it toward you (bend it more).  It may be hard to hold your arm still. Then have them try to push your arm again, but the second time, look at the tips of your fingers (hand is open) and visualize a line/ string attaching your fingers/ arm to a point some distance in front of you. The second time my arm was much stronger.

Unbendable Arm
Unbendable Arm

Sitting on our knees at the beginning of the Aikido class was similar to, but not exactly the same as the way we sit at Taekwondo classes. At first it appeared to be the same, but when broken down, our wrists were to be “fused to our hips” where in Taekwondo class the hands rest at a mid-point on the thighs. The weight is on the knees and you sit just above your feet, I am not sure if this means you are supposed to hold yourself up off your feet entirely (which would be very difficult) or it is just meant to remind you not to rest too hard when you are sitting- or if it is entirely different from anything I am thinking. Ah, being a beginner again-

The class proceeded with warm ups and stretches. Some were fun- spinning on the ground with one leg out comes to mind- as Master Shaffer mentioned afterward this is similar to a spinning leg sweep on the ground in our Rabbit form.  We also rolled onto our backs and stood up, in one motion, with the motion continuing up in a way that could make us stong as soon as we were standing rather than able to be pushed over immediately due to being off-balanced. Unfortunately (?) when I rolled back I think I went too far, onto the bottom part of my neck, which exasperated a pre-existing/ chronic problem in my neck which caused me to be in a bit of pain. As Master Pearson was my partner for the partner stretches and the stretches sometimes also made me feel the pain in my neck I told him that it hurt. He said “don’t worry, we’ll fix that later” and we proceeded with the class. In the class we got to do some work with the Short Staff (Jo in Japanese). There were some practical techniques for what to do if someone tries to grab it- simple-looking but more difficult to execute correctly (like much in martial arts) pull-then-push-and-twist or push-then-pull-and-twist throwing techniques. Helpfully some of these motions were familiar from my previous martial art training though it was still difficult to get each exact motion correct and clearly the practice was good for me.

The Jo in action

After Aikido we changed into regular clothes and headed back into the car for our next assignment. This one really was the Mall. We learned some pointers on following a person including following a person in a group (each person picked a portion of the Mall so we could “pass” the person to the next member of our group at the appropriate location). This was a good exercise in awareness of surroundings, expecially human surroundings. Also camouflaging focus and intention. Unfortunately I missed out on the chance to shadow an actual person, and passed the time browsing Halloween costumes (what did the kids say they want to be this year?) and reading the magazine I received as a free sample when I bought a coconut water at the GNC.

After our field trips we headed back to the training house. I couldn’t believe it was still afternoon (the day was long as I was up at 5:30). Our surprise guest speaker arrived just after 4 and stayed through dinner. Dr. Kladstrup, a Chiropractor and practitioner of many modes of healing, was our guest speaker. He was very inspirational and I will do my best to share the spirit of our conversation in another post- I’m afraid I don’t have time to do it justice right now. I do want to say though that when he arrived I realized why Master Pearson said I’d have my neck fixed “before dinner” when I asked because I was still in a good deal of pain through the day. Dr. Kladstrup found the spots in my neck and back that were making me sore, and cracked my neck (loudly) deep inside where it had never been cracked before. After that there was no pain, only a bit of soreness and my neck regained full function.

Thank you Dr. Kladstrup!

More to come soon-

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