My Beautiful Dojo

I thought I’d share where I train Aikido four days a week. It’s one of the most beautiful spots I know of in Melbourne.

This is standing back, looking at our main training area (aka dojo).

This was taken in the middle of the day, so normally when we train there’s a lot more shade than this. Given that it hits 45degC (113F) here, training in the sun is really not a great idea. It also makes it hard to see when someone is about to clonk you on the nose.

The tree directly to the right is where I normally park my bike. I love that tree. In fact, here it is:

Our primary shade source, aka, the steed hitching post

I typically park my bike right under that tree (& give it an affectionate pat). It’s utterly glorious, shading both us and the grass. Shading the grass is great because it means the water doesn’t evaporate as quickly in the mornings, which keeps the ground noticeably softer for rolling on.

Looking up through the branches at the (typically) gorgeous blue Melbourne sky

Here’s what it looks like when I’m lying on my back, listening to music and gazing up at the sky, waiting for people to arrive for training.

So what does Aikido in this space look like? Well, other than the hordes of (usually Chinese/Japanese) tourists that come wandering absent-mindedly through the middle of the training sessions, excitedly taking pictures and making karate chop poses, it tends to look like this:

See the grace? The beauty under pressure? Yes, that's me, eating the grass

You can see that gorgeous tree in the background, along with my utterly kickass 6th Dan Sensei, and the two other main guys I train with. Yes, we’re all blackbelt (now, not when the pic was taken).

The great thing about this photo is that you get a real sense of the movement of Aikido, everyone circling around attacking our Sensei at once (when we’re not recovering our breath and/or spitting out grass) and getting our asses kicked in return.

We don’t normally train in hakama (the baggy trouser things we’re wearing) though, they’re too hot, fussy and would just get crazy muddy. That’s just for the photo. We do wear black gis though (very unusual for Aikidoka)- hides the dirt better, you see!

The guy on the right always, always does the V-for-victory sign anytime anyone takes a photo of us.. which gets hellishly amusing when he’s mid breakfall & someone is shooting. He always manages it though. Cracks me the hell up.

These are incredible, wonderful, beautiful people. Something about this style of Aikido seems to attract them.

Oh, and yep, that is a valid technique I’m doing (well, a front breakfall, really). I’ve just been thrown in such a way that I landed utterly horizontally (unable to roll), so you absorb the impact with your arms, then roll your body into the ground from the chest down. Most of the impact is then taken with your arms & chest, with your legs curving to the ground after you’ve mostly landed (hence feet much higher than main body)

My back should be slightly more arched, but this pic was taken a coupla years ago, so I’m sure I’m super awesome at it by now.

We used to train slightly south of here (directly behind the main tree – you can see it in the background of the above pic):

Our old training area, in the middle of a circle of five gorgeous trees

This was such an incredible place to train, right in the centre of this circle of trees. It was like we were being protected, hugged by the trees while we trained. SO great.

Unfortunately a couple of summers back things got really dry, and the groundskeepers dug up the earth in the middle to lay new water pipes, and the ground never really recovered – it’s stayed lumpy and grassless (hard to see in this pic, and really only a smallish patch, but enough that you notice when you’re trying to roll on it). Still a perfect picnic location though.

The groundskeepers also do a really interesting thing where they pile up dirt in a giant half circle several meters across, on the downward slope around each tree (like a big ‘C’ around the trunk). Then when they water, or if there’s any dew, it collects next to the dirt mounds, inside the ‘C’ & soaks into the roots of the tree, rather than just washing away. This is done because the ground gets so incredibly hard that water just runs right off without a chance to soak in, so then the trees would die. I’ve never seen that done anywhere else, but this particular garden (Fitzroy Gardens) has won awards for how much they’ve managed to do with so little water.

On the day I took this, I also visited the Botanical Gardens, and saw turtles flirting with each other:

Turtles slipstreaming each other for greater speed & energy efficiency

See now, turtles don’t do a whole lot of talking so I couldn’t quiz them what was going on, but I’ve narrowed it down to the following three possibilities:

  1. They’re in a race and slipstreaming for efficiency
  2. The back one is trying to mount the front one (who’s a bit shy)
  3. The front one has just farted and is being mean

But I’m no turtle expert, so you’d best google it for yourself.

I also saw some of these, but apparently they don’t exist:

I just loooove the light on this

Luckily, black swans almost never occur. Oh wait,  there’s one.. two.. three.. ffffff… what stocks was I long again? CRAP! (ho ho, trader humour, never goes out of fashion)