25 months after beginning my Jujutsu journey and I have reached yet another milestone. Yesterday I passed my Nikyu (2nd brown) grading. Within the ranking system of Dentokan Aiki-Jujutsu, there are three levels of brown belt before Shodan (black belt). For my Nikyu grading I actually put in some extra hours of practice outside of my two clubs. My uke and I hired a small hall ourselves at the weekends for the two weeks prior to the grading to practice our knife-defence techniques. It was time well spent. Reflecting on the grading experience itself, I felt in control of my emotions and tried to remain as calm and clear minded as possible between techniques. I felt our timing was good and we went at a reasonably controlled pace. In times gone by I had been worried about feeling conscious of others watching me, but I believe I am beginning to develop a level of mushin - focussing purely on my uke and the attack coming into me. The grading actually went very quickly to me as I concentrated on my uke, my posture, my atemis and my breathing.
Having studied Aiki-Jujutsu for just over two years now my perception of the art and my progress has changed several times. I now have a desire to perfect the kata, which is to my mind the essence of the art and epitomises the aesthetic nature of the art. The importance of internalizing the kata has begun to unfold as I progress as a senior kyu grade. There is a lot of satisfaction in exploring the 'street' application of the waza within the variations, testing the techniques in various contexts and situations you may find yourself outside the dojo. The knife-defence section of the curriculum adds a totally new dynamic to the training and to developing maai (martial distance) so important to the successful execution of waza. I am starting to learn the subtleties and implicit principles within both the kata and waza of maai and mushin, two important elements of the martial arts.
There will be many more nuances to discover, you never stop learning and there is always room for improvement. Every lesson brings great reward and each grading passed brings rich fulfilment that I am continuing to make progress. 2013 is going to be a big year for my Jujutsu journey as I approach ever nearer my dan grade.