I have just enough time to change, bolt a sandwich and get on the mat before the first session. Saito Sensei starts with the bows and claps to the kamiza (the picture of O Sensei, who invented Aikido at the front of the mat) and then a chant. We all get the numbers of claps wrong, but he doesn’t comment on it. First session is Ken (wooden sword). He explains that the most important first lesson is making a straight cut. In Japan they practice with metal swords and bamboo. Only a perfectly straight strike will cut the bamboo. Sensei Hill who is hosting translates (without adding his own embellishments as I’ve seen someone do before for a French Sensei – to the point where the French guy was standing grinning as his translator spent a good five minutes explaining a single sentence). Even without the translation Saito is an expressive teacher and his actions explain more than his words in some cases. Half way through I start to feel lightheaded every time we stand up. This continues to a few minutes before the end when I get a sudden moment of clarity. I dash for water and food and then find out we’re back on in fifteen minutes.
The second half is harder – we do some basic stuff and then quickly move into more complicated manoeuvres. I get corrected once by Saito but redeem myself by doing a role that gets a respectful nod and a ‘good ukemi’. I’m presuming he meant ‘good considering how rudimentary your grasp of the rest of it is’ but nonetheless I’m delighted. Then it’s over and we’re free for the rest of the day. I eat more food, and shower.
Considering that the cycle path is now downhill it seems stupid not to go back that way. And after all I’m in no rush and so can take my time – if the newbike will let me that is.
(Strangly it doesn't seem downhill when I cycle it, but rather uphill again. Bits of it are even lit)