Last night, I took the high-belt taekwondo class for the first time. Tuesday nights are usually crazy for me with kid activities, and I've been intimidated about attending that class anyway since I am currently the lowest rank permitted to attend. The real ninjas take that class! Add that to the fact that I will soon be testing for my next belt (as a consequence, some part of my skill set is being formally evaluated by a head instructor every time I take a class as part of the official qualifying-to-test process) and you have a recipe for major nerves. As Murphy's Law would have it, there weren't many students there last night either, so I had the personal attention of one of the instructors...on the bright side, two major chunks of my pre-testing evaluation have now been crossed off the list and I acquitted myself respectably on both although I was a disgusting sweatball by the end of class.
Then, because the one new class wasn't enough of a stretch for the evening, I did a quick belt change (took off my red belt, donned a white one) and stayed for an additional hour and a half to try my first-ever aikido class!! Boy, was that an eye-opener...I haven't felt that fish-out-of-water in YEARS. Not since my first TKD class, probably. :)
Aikido is purely a defensive discipline, and it focuses on the practitioner remaining calm and centered and using the attacker's force and momentum against them. Very little force is involved and the moves are often subtle. If you aren't relaxed while doing the moves, they don't work. Now, consider that fact that the TKD instructors have been telling me to relax in TKD for the last three and a half years, a style that is much more focused on action than calmness, and you can imagine the extent to which my work is going to be cut out for me in aikido if I stick with this! Talk about the proverbial bull in a china shop. Add to this the fact that white belts in aikido seem to be tossed right in with whatever everyone else is doing (in TKD, there are techniques associated with each belt level and you generally stay at your own level to avoid getting hurt) and you get a class last night in which I don't have the right sort of mindset AND I'm trying to practice completely foreign and very complicated techniques with partners I don't know! (They were all very patient with me, thank the gods.) At one point during a particularly complicated demonstration by the instructor, I looked at the head TKD instructor, who is a brown belt in aikido and happened to be kneeling next to me, and said, "I have no idea what the hell he just did!" The TKD guy laughed and said that he'd show me during the practice session, and he did, but man, there's going to be a learning curve here.
Woke up this morning with a sore and bruised left wrist (there are a lot of wrist locks in aikido) but I'm definitely going back. If personal growth comes from change and taking risks, this one should result in a LOT of growth...besides an improvement in my self-defense skills, any progress in calmness and centeredness would be good too. Proud of myself for taking that first step!