hakama or not to hakama

by sarah hair Email

So, considering that we will be doing aikido in different areas of the world, it seemed necessary to get used to wearing hakama. Though our dojo does not expect people to wear hakama until they are black belts, it is acceptable to wear hakama at 5th kyu if you are a woman.

Our dojo is about 50/50 with women who wear hakama at 5th kyu and those who do not. I have always been in the "those who do not" category.

I can not think of any good reason to wear hakama other than that one is expected to. Other than that, it seems more of a hinderance to those who wear it and those who are trying to learn from them. It stops others from seeing the feet of those wearing hakama, which is something of an obstacle to learning. My sensei wears hakama during class, and is constantly hiking it up and tucking it in his belt so students can see what he is doing.

At any rate, I bit the big one and borrowed a hakama from another woman at our dojo that I could get used to wearing it and not embarrass myself or my sensei when we are traveling.

I have worn it during two classes so far and my report is basically that it is not too bad. It makes my belt stay tied better and my gi stays in place better. It also makes me have an even fatter gi profile, adding about another inch or two to my already 6 inches of cloth. This makes it more difficult for me to move in class. It is difficult to imagine, but having an extra 6 inches thickness of cloth around the waiste makes bending over virtually impossible. Things I can do in real life, like touch my toes, are totally beyond me in an aikido class where a thick wad of clothing jabs me in the belly where I would need to bend over it to touch my toes.

To accommodate this I finally ordered a new gi. I have been meaning to get one for about a year, since my old gi still has never worn in properly and every time I wear it it leaves bruises on my jaw. It is a super-thick style kudo gi which will never in a million years be any more soft. Every time I turn my head it jabs into my face with the collar. It definitely makes my ukemi more of a challenge, but I really am just over it.

So, I ordered a new go from some company who advertises on ebay. It arrived yesterday. It is the most lightweight gi they had, and it arrived so well-starched that it could stand up and do ikkyo. I put in a wash of all my old gi, John's gi, and my new gi. Nothing else, just the gi. They went through one cycle and emerged with the old gi and John's old gi looking just as grubby and stained as before and the new gi was bright pink! OMG WTF?!?!

So, next time I go to class, I can wear the borrowed black hakama and a new karate gi in hot pink. This should ease any feelings of anxiety I previously had about entering a foreign dojo and embarrassing myself over my attire. Great.

Yoga and my aching body

by sarah hair Email

Still sore form aikido on THursday, I went to yoga Friday morning. I needed so desperately to stretch out the muscles which had laid in bed for the past three weeks while I had the flu.

I went in to the room at 8:30am, right on time. I put down my towel (too poor to buy a mat, and anyway, didn't I tell you I was hardcore?) near the center of the room amidst all these super-skinny and flexible housewives.

Well, for some reason, yoga is about the very most painful thing in the universe for me. Even when we are just laying on our backs, I am in so much pain that trying to listen to the voice of my instructor is out of the question.

This leads to countless instances of the instructor giving a direction and me not even hearing him since my brain is screaming in my head. So, I am the fat lady in the middle of the class who can't even touch her toes anyway, but who is still laying there on her back when everyone else has put their left leg over their head and squeezed it in and pushed it back.

I try to do the "brain yoga" and visualize this or that or whatever, but seriously, the screaming pain in my spine is always so loud that I lose it within seconds. Anyway, it is just another thing that I need more practice with.

After class, my back does feel better, but I was never one of those "work-out because it feels good when you stop" people.

Practice. More. Stretch. I am getting old.

back to aikido

by sarah hair Email

I got to do aikido today... 3 times!

For my first time on the mat in weeks, since I got sick, I took the morning class. Janet taught a great class. We did Nikkyo just about every way I could think of. I was able to do the first several techniques before I got dizzy and had to bow off. I got 40 minutes into class, counting the warm-up.

I was working with one of our awesome black belt ladies doing nikkyo, when I began to black out - everything was going all white and sparkly and I was losing my vision. I got all light-headed and dizzy. I am really needing to ease back into the world of the living.

I did take another class in the afternoon after I had stretched out some more, had some salad, had some carrot and beet juice, generally prepared to get back on the horse. I showed up for Rob's class at 4:15. Madison and Malia came as well and did their homework waiting for their class, which was to begin at 5:00.

I lined up with all the 5-8 year-old kids and managed to stay in the class the whole time! I know, what a cop-out taking a kids' class, but lemme state my case... It really is a challenge to do aikido with a partner who has twice my energy and half my size! Imagine doing techniques while having to squat down just until the burn in the thighs. Now, stay there for 40 minutes and blend with this little person!

Anyway, it was great and I even stayed for Madalia's class for 8-15 year-olds, for a total of 3 classes for the day.

Now, to take some ibuprofen to get the pain to turn down a bit. I am sore.

Great things in the Mail

by sarah hair Email

So, yesterday received a package via USPS from my friend Cheryl in Hawaii! It was so awesome to come home and see a package on the step for me!

The box itself was totally smashed, and I mean totally. No part of the box was still flat! I was a little worried about the contents, but Cheryl is a master packer after many years of selling her wonderful gifts online, so I was pretty sure that even the US post office was no match for her packing prowess!

I was right! Though the box was completely smashed in on all sides, the goodies inside were intact and amazing! There was an adorable bouquet of macadamia nut chocolates, available on her Hawaiian gifts web site and a selection of her awesome soy candles! She even sent me the "beta version" of a new soy candle gift set that was just adorable! Keep your eyes peeled for that one on her site.

Everything arrived safely and soundly, except for that poor box!

Aikido for children

by sarah hair Email

Aikido. Our dojo teaches aikido to children. Sometimes I go back and forth on wether or not this is a good thing, I know some dojos do not allow it.

I really want my kids to do aikido, and they love aikido, so I usually weigh in on the side of ya, teach it to them. I do think aikido makes us better people, so should we not start that when they are young?

Our dojo has lately been trying out these "day camp" aikido kids camp days. My kids like the crafts part, and are willing to put up with the rest of it to make an origami ball or dragonfly chopstick. For some reason there is not a lot of aikido at the camp, but rather running around and screaming on the mat or some form of dodge ball, chase, or other playground game that the kids are used to suffering through at school PE classes. This is mostly what my kids do not like.

I put out some cringes when I see children running and screaming on an area where I bow before entering and expect respect, reverence, and concentration. But, I also know that I am as well guilty of goofing off on the mat on more than one occasion between getting a massage or watching a movie (at out holiday party) so I should probably relax.

Anyway, these are the times that I think perhaps we should not teach aikido to children. I guess it is not the aikido I am opposed to teaching them, but rather the not teaching aikido which creates a problem for me.

When we joined the dojo there were two teachers there, Peter and John. I did a lot of research about the dojo, how it teaches the kids, what the curriculum was, who the instructors were, etc. and found the most awesome article with regard to teaching children aikido written by none other than the very sensei that my children would be instructed by! The gist of it is that the children learn aikido by doing aikido. They do not need fancy games or bells or toys and that aikido is enjoyable, just because it is aikido.

I like this approach, where doing the thing is what is pleasurable. The children do not need to be bribed, coaxed, prodded, begged, or manipulated into doing aikido. They do aikido because they like to do aikido and it is cool to do aikido.

Unfortunately, about a year ago our dojo began a "new" curriculum, which seems to be targeted toward bringing in people who may not be interested in aikido whatsoever. To make it fun and more marketable for children who don't like aikido, they instead play games or offer toys, crafts, or activities other than aikido as a reward for getting through all the "dull and boring and stupid" aikido.

The primary thing my children have learned in the past year is that other children don't like aikido and think it is dull and boring and stupid. Not exactly what I had in mind, but also, it seems it would be worth it to give the new students a chance to try aikido to see if they might think it is cool or fun and to stop apologizing for how boring or stupid it is with bribery of other activities.

Unfortunately for me, this "aikido camp" they come up with is just too appealing with its sparkly dragonfly clothespin crafts for them to stay away, and I find myself with my blood boiling as I wait for the current game of dodge ball to end so I can take them home.

Christmas Day Emergency Room Visit

by sarah hair Email

I have just returned form the Emergency room, where I had blood, urine, CT scan and spinal tap tests.

Though even for not having studied, I passed all but the urine test, which only determined that I have been too dehydrated through this sickness and developed a UTI.

No word really as to why I have been in extreme pain for the past month, nor why I can barely stand or even sit up without blacking out. The fever also inexplicable, but at least dropped after the hospital gave me very potent drugs.

The original guess of the doctor, as was mine and even John's, was meningitis. luckily we were all incorrect, though I NEVER want another spinal tap and if I ever suspect it again, I may try to fake through it to avoid that little bit of sunshine.

My sensitivity to light is still very much present, but for now I am really enjoying the pain killers they gave me, which lessened it significantly.

Other than that, Christmas was very Merry, complete with several rounds of "Scattegories" some violin playing of "Deck the Halls" and Malia's first flute lesson. All of this I observed from in bed, asleep, but I did wake from it remembering every note, which was just wonderful.

Upon my return from ER the girls made me some cards that were absolutely amazing! They took care of themselves and the house while I was at the hospital and they even made dinner for me (beans and soup!)

Now, all I really want is a burrito.

Wow. Seriously. Childbirth is so amazing.

by sarah hair Email

My friend found out she was pregnant on Mothers' Day. Now that she was just about ready to deliver (she had a due date of January 6th) we had been planning to do a photography session with her to get her pregnant pictures done and had set a date of Wednesday, December 17 after our children were out of school.

At around lunch time I called her to make sure we were on, and she said to me, "I am at the hospital. I think I am having the baby."

I waited until she was sure she was going to deliver that evening and I caught a bus to the hospital along with my camera. There was some chaos as to who would be in the room and who was related etc. but after it was all cleared up I was able to stay in the delivery room with my friend, her husband, and her mother.

Right after 1:00am she delivered an amazing beautiful baby boy at just over 7 lb. I took some photos of them both, and just was in awe of how awesome the whole thing was.

My friend seemed like one of those people in the movies. You know the ones who are in the hospital smiling and after a few moments a perfect baby is just there with them. She made the whole labor look like it was nothing, even though having been there myself I know she was in real pain and very real anxiety and excitement. She had an inducement too, which is no small thing.

She did everything by herself, was so strong and so brave. She was in control the whole time, never broke down, never became cross, yelled, complained, or demanded anything.

She used all her energy to restrain herself for about 30 minutes once she was really feeling the need to push and taking all of the stress of her rather intense induced contractions throughout her whole body. She shook and her muscles convulsed while she stopped her body from pushing the baby out until he was totally ready.

Once ready she pushed until about the count of "4" before the doctor told her to stop, and presented her with an absolutely perfect baby boy.

For me, having been in a delivery room exactly three times before now, my experience was limited to coming out of my mom, which I do not remember, and pushing out my daughters, which I will never forget. Watching my friend deliver her son, I thought would be interesting, but doubted would be as profound as when I delivered my own daughters. I was right, but only a little. Being on a different side of the table and having the opportunity to see this tiny person take his first breath, see his first light, hear his mother's voice for the first time, receive his first kiss, and hold his mother's hand for the first of so many times to come was in many ways more amazing than even my own daughters' births where I was too overwhelmed and exhausted to notice anything more than just that complete and total happiness that they were here and they were alive and healthy.

First Kiss

CONGRATULATIONS! He is amazing!!!

Wahine Hawaiian Petroglyph necklace

by sarah hair Email

Hawaiian petroglyph design necklace with a female figure, Wahine. I will wear this one when I am feeling womanly but tropical... So, not very often when I am in freezing Florida. Dude, where is the sun?

These are a few of the new Hawaiian jewelry designs I have been working on this week. It seems like such a little thing, but doing the illustrations take a very long time... don't even get me started about gluing the images, sanding the wooden tiles, spreading epoxy, and getting all the bubbles out. The real time consumer is waiting for epoxy to go off though. Sometimes it takes about 8 hours for it to harden properly and unless it has been at least 30 hours the tiles can not be flipped over to attach the silver plated bails for hanging. Of course once I put epoxy onto the back of the tile I have to wait for it to go off again, putting me back to that most exciting step.

Kane Warrior Hawaiian Petroglyph Necklace

by sarah hair Email

Hawaiian jewelry designs, this time a male figure depicted by this Kane warrior petroglyph design necklace.

More Hawaiian jewelry designs for this new line. THis time something a little more masculine. I was going to make a "rainbow warrior" because I like the petroglyph with the little rainbow over his head, but it would not have been as masculine, which is what I was striving for.

I was trying to remember how to say "warrior" in Hawaiian so I could include it on my listing on Etsy. I remembered that the rainbow part would be anuenue, but since I ended up doing the warrior without the rainbow, that was not such a big help after all.

John added that it might be simply Koa (also the word for strong or strength) which would somewhat make sense. Maybe it would be koa kane for "warrior man" or more literally, "strong man."

Honu Hawaiian Necklace

by sarah hair Email

I made some Hawaiian style jewelry, starting with some petroglyph designs. THis is the Honu design showing a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle.

Hawaiian jewelry designs

by sarah hair Email

Today I decided I really wanted to revert to my time in Hawaii and I spent some time making illustrations in Hawaiian themes. I made some hibiscus designs and some petroglyph designs and set them up so I can turn them into jewelry to add to my growing jewelry lines.

Up until today I had been focusing on Japanese themes and martial arts themes for jewelry and illustrations. I had done several designs of sushi, aikido techniques, and a bunch of Japanese papers and designs for jewelry pendants and earrings. They were a big hit at the Winter aikido seminar, but for some reason today I was having a hankering for Hawaii.

I lived in Hawaii for almost ten years and only left there about two years ago. My experience in Hawaii was all very creative and I survived there only by being able to sell Hawaiian gifts, like my jewelry. Both my daughters were born in Hawaii and both are very well versed in Hawaiian crafts from basket weaving to lei sewing. We will probably all carry some Hawaii in us all the time, but today some spilled out in the form of art.

I used to spend a lot of my time in Hawaii doing business; working on selling my crafts, leis, flowers, working on my web site, making products, buying products from other artists or crafters, figuring out new ways to market our art, collaborating or complaining or worrying with my fellow artists, or just plain hustling to get something made for a deadline.

The fun part was always the collaboration. There were several people I would get together with and just think up ideas for marketing or new products or just share excitement with when things were going well or get things off my chest about when things were not working out. I really miss this part sometimes, though John and the girls are a constant source of inspiration and help, it is more like they are part of me rather than a third party to share with.

Once I got some designs together, I called my good friend Cheryl, who is in Hawaii and has her own Hawaiian gift shop and makes her own Hawaiian crafts and gifts. We got to have a very nice chat about some of our newest ideas and marketing plans as well as our new products, web sites, technical things and more. It was just like old times :-)

She is now selling on etsy too, so we got to chat about that. I told her about my newest Hawaiian jewelry designs, showed her some photos online, and she has agreed to sell some of my jewelry on her Hawaiian gifts site! I am very excited to have some of my art featured on her site, since for many years I had her art featured on my site!

I will post the new designs on etsy once I have them photographed. Maybe this weekend...

Some of Cheryl's amazing crafts are her famous sushi candles.
sushi candles

You can see a huge variety of her candles, soaps, and other gifts on her site at http://doublebrush.com

Sensei's birthday

by sarah hair Email

The girls got up this morning and got ready to trudge the whole block to school despite both of them having pretty awful colds. Before they headed out, I had them sign a card for Peter Sensei, whose birthday is today. I made the card with a drawing of a woman sitting meditating and the kanji for "aikido" down one side. We gave him the green one from this set. http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=18228831

We also gave him a book of photos from this past year in our dojo. Photos from the book can be seen here http://www.sailingfamilyphotos.com/pages/galleries.html . Part of the year our dojo was at a temporary location which was really small and not very comfortable, so really, I only put in photos from our "real" dojo, so all the photos were from the last half of 2008. Some were really beautiful, some were a little less beautiful but said something else. I tried to cover as wide a variety as possible to get as many people from our dojo in the book.

Well, the real present I got him for his birthday was that I was actually going in to class to get on the mat and TRAIN. OMG! I have barely been in class for the past year after taking a miserable back injury (from washing my hands, I know, embarrassing...) so it is something of a big deal for me anyway.

John and I rode our bikes to class. We got there a few minutes late, but they had not started yet, so no harm done. The usual folks were in class, except for Sensei!! He had called in "busy" even though we had already made plans to take him out to lunch for his birthday.

Class was great, even though I had to bow off after the first half. Being out of shape, just getting over a flu (barely) and having an injured back, meant that if the big guy was not there for me to impress, I was just going to take it easy. We did some ushiro attacks, working up to a somewhat scary leg grab knee lock tripping throw and pin.

Anyway, Sensei showed up after class was over and we did take him to Jamba Juice in lieu of lunch. I was able to give him the card and book, which was a good thing, since Madison and Malia were very concerned about the whole business all day.

Madison went t the nurse's office and had to come home from school early, of course I just got Malia at the same time, since I was already there. They have both been sick or sickly for about the same time as I have. As son as I got them, they demanded information about Sensei's birthday. THey both wanted to go to their aikido class this evening to see him and wish him well, despite their being so sick still.

I had them stay home, but there was a lot of complaining. I guess I remember being young and Birthdays being such a big important thing like that. I wish we kept that a little more as adults. As it was, we had to drag Sensei to let us buy him a jamba juice, and meanwhile, another student, whose birthday is also today, could not even be talked in to coming with us.

Link to Cuong Nhu testing photos

by sarah hair Email

I got all of the images uploaded and on our shutterfly site. It is linked from our web site here http://www.sailingfamilyphotos.com in the image gallery.

It took me over 13 hours to just upload the color images! I spent more than a day uploading the others, since my connection kept insisting on failing...

Anyway, they are there and ready to be checked out!

Photos from Cuong Nhu testing

by sarah hair Email

I am just finishing the image editing of the around a thousand pictures from the Cuong Nhu testing shoot this weekend. I have been working on it since Saturday afternoon, so only a couple days for this one, not bad!

John and I shot around 500 images each, with me shooting a few more than him. I went through the images my regular way, first deciding what was worth editing and then going through to do the edits. It was very cool that more than half of the images I chose to edit were actually from what John shot on the Nikon. He usually insists that he is not an artist and that I am a better shooter than him, so this was a cool thing to share.

The shoot itself was a challenge. Not just that I did not know the people, was in a place I had never been, and was shooting an event that I had no idea as to the flow of, but also that the light was really challenging with dark blue walls and a bright yellow floor! The floors were really glossy, so there was glare from both the yellow and the blue, depending on what angle we were shooting. The light was streaking in through high windows, making areas of too much light and areas of no light to speak of. Of course they moved around pretty quickly too, so working around them was a little tough, to say the least.

We tried to get shots of everyone who was testing, but, as I mentioned, some areas of the testing area were just too weird with either glaring yellow or blue light or simply no light at all. In editing I went ahead and even edited some of those anyway, with some interesting blue or yellow saturated results.

I did the first round of editing with a bright focus and dark vignetting on the outer corners to add to the depth of the images. The end result images highlighted very well the impression we had of the martial art, including the friendliness of the participants, the passion of the testers, the scrutiny of the senseis, the intensity of the workout, and the remaining high spirits and exhaustion of the students by the end of the test.

I decided to also go through and do a black and white version of every image as well to have everything done in a more classical context. The basketball court and the bright colors were really appealing visually, but even so, I wanted to have a round of images in a more classical style to compliment the feeling of the martial art.

In the end, I have about 150 images that I edited, with the two versions of each. With that said, it was difficult for me to choose favorites, but here goes...

Den's kata warm-up

by sarah hair Email

This image has Den doing a kata as a warm-up before his test began. There was a bright strip of light which he fell into for just a moment as he went across the basketball court. It reminded me of a halo with the way it made his whole body glow against the unlit dark blue padded background.

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