After a pleasant picnic breakfast (kind souls have noticed our reaction to the cafeteria here and have Taken Steps) on a bench under the Virgin Mary, we said our good-byes. Both teachers and children jostle to bow at us and make many expressions of undying love. It's very sweet, and I hope our clumsy Americanisms are sufficient for the occasion.
We went to the gym to watch the Saturday aikido class. The entire school attends, I think. Imagine 80 white-clad children and teens, and 10 teachers on a gym floor, with four senseis stalking around in baggy black pants and wooden swords. Gym teacher voices seem to be universal. The kids are divided by level, with a swaggering shaved man or a teeny tiny pony-tailed woman in charge of the group. ICH'! NI! SAN! YON! they bellow (1,2,3,4).
One of the teachers appeared at our side and offered to show us what it's about. You find your own balance point and observe the opponent's balance. Then you use yours to destabilize theirs. It's about energy and leveraging power. He asked me to grab his wrist, and before I knew it, my grabbing hand was twisted around in a highly uncomfortable posture that also put pressure on my elbow. If he'd tweaked just a little more, it felt as though something would snap. He showed us a few more times, just a little motion on his part made a big thing happen anatomically.
There was an interesting cultural difference here. I think if I'd been the inventor of aikido, I would have described it in terms of human anatomy. Where do the joints and tendons go, and how can you twist so that they are damaged? A physical, scientific approach. The Japanese way of thinking, though, is intuitive and marries the abstract with the physical. Aikido is an art, not a sport. The moves have to do with balance and energy, and the specific thing that happen to ligaments and joints are a byproduct of the use of power, not the point of it.
Another thing I was struck by is how brief the demonstrations were. The senseis would give a demo, once to the more skilful group, and twice to the beginners. The students would then go through the moves. Personally, even after ten years of yoga, I don't think I could translate a visual into complex kinesthetics without a whole lot of practice.
Matsuname-san drove us to the bus station. We stopped for lunch at a covered farmers market, a strange mix of tarps and booths. Short people in farmer's smocks mingled with tourists from Tokyo. A girl in a fluffy white short skirt with a paint-splattered windbreaker illustrated the hard-soft style which started with the Meiji revolution. Back then, girls started to go to school, and graduated in costumes which blended the feminine kimono on top with baggy black man-pants on the bottom, very hard-soft.
We had three different kinds of fried fish and a bowl of rice with tempura, tasty and sane.