The thermostat said it was forty-five degrees inside Tohoku when I walked inside. Steve, apparently a plumber in his former (and perhaps current) life, was mucking around with the heating system, doing whatever it is that people who know about these things do in order to make the machines go. Sensei was sitting on a bench, talking on his cell phone in what I assume was Italian, and looking quite amused. I had a feeling it had little to do with the phone conversation.
Sure enough, Sensei viewed the cold as an opportunity to throw some extra torment our way. Before the class had even started, we were given a set of fifty pushups and fifty sit-ups “to keep us warm” while Sensei changed. We then bowed in, and started running. The run seemed longer than usual, but that may have been influenced by the fact the cold. While it wasn’t bad enough for you to see your breath, it wasn’t warm either, and I’ve always had a hard time running in the cold.
Post-running practice consisted of uchikomi, throwing practice (aka “stuntman drills”), moving uchikomi, and a few rounds of push-pull. I found the moving uchikomi practice to be extremely valuable, as it gave me an opportunity to try and figure out how to make my throws work against someone who was moving, without them giving me a very hard time about it. Up until now, most of my practice has either been with static partners, which is nice for mechanics, but doesn’t help me apply things in randori, or full-fledged randori, where there is so much resistance that form gives way to attempting to survive. The moving uchikomi seems to provide a nice bridge where the trainee can attempt to work against a little bit of resistance, without getting slammed for screwing up.
Similarly, the push-pull drill seems to work on developing some attributes and concepts that are useful in randori, without subjecting someone to the full rigors of it. It certainly works your endurance, but it all works a certain sensitivity to movement and motion that is very important, especially when faced with a larger opponent (like Steve, who outweighs me by over 50 pounds).
Put together, those two drills seem to build towards doing randori, without actually bringing the student into randori. At least, I think that’s the idea; Sapedra suggested something similar at the end of practice, and it makes some sense to me. Sensei’s pedagogy, if it exists, isn’t terribly transparent, but I find myself constantly trying to make sense of it. It’s what comes of having an education background, I suppose.
Whatever his purposes were, it was a fun class. It ended with a little speech from Sensei about the importance of showing up as often as possible; it was kind of odd, since I’ve gotten used to being on the other end of those speeches. And while I acknowledge that he’s right (I certainly do need to show up more), I’d feel a lot worse if I didn’t really have obligations keeping me away from training. There are only so many hours in the week, sadly.