Aikido Yuishinkai – Shaken, not Stirred

aikido yuishinkai

Aikido Yuishinkai

Aikido Yuishinkai – Shaken, not Stirred*

This past week we learnt that Maruyama Sensei will be reducing his international seminar touring schedule next year, and unfortunately this means he won’t be visiting Australia in 2013. In the same week Williams Sensei also stepped down from his role as International Chief Instructor of Aikido Yuishinkai. Wot the? In one breath the organisations leadership almost disappears from the radar. So where to from here?

There are lots of questions in our mind such as
– Will Okajima sensei, Maruyama Sensei’s successor, play an increasing role? He visited Australia just a few years ago and certainly has a technical bent and is incredibly gifted, indeed he is the source of many influences to Aikido Yuishinkai in recent years. As any of the steady stream of visitors to his dojo (See Mark and Lisa’s year in Japan)  will tell you, he is an incredibly dedicated martial artist too.
– Organisationally where do we sit? We had, with some reluctance, good support for a national incorporated organisation to take care of all the  very essential stuff like accredditation, insurance etc.. Also in Australia we have a network of senior instructors that can play nice with others and can help keep up the sense of a wider vision adn sharing of knowledge. Looking to other countries some have chief instructors, some not. Some have multiple organisations (like the UK) and governing bodies?

In looking forward its worth perhaps revisiting the legacy of Williams Sensei
1. Unity through diversity
2. Excellence through learning
3. Lineage to the founder
see full article (3 pillars of Aikido Yuishinkai)
These are powerful messages and when looking around the group we see many of these things taking place, the real question is, will it happen in a cohesive manner? and does it need to? Historically our organisation is a mix of folk that have followed Williams sensei for varying periods of time, this includes members from the Ki Society, home grown Aikido Yuishinkai (yes in 10 years we now have dojos of people who have only ever done Aikido Yuishinkai and are run by only Aikido Yuishinkai Yudansha) as well as people that have joined from various other groups or been independent for some time. Will we now continue to develop as a group? With a smattering of high dan ranks in the organisation some may perhaps choose to strike out on their own. For others there is also the access to high levels teachers in other organisations (within and beyond Aikido groups), a smorgasbord as it were – that could sustain a dojo for many years. I suspect that for most though its business as usual and sitting at the crossroads to see what happens

History as a teacher.
Remembering back to the formation of Aikido Yuishinkai I remember the heady days of unbridled commitment, the excitement of learning something new that was developing rapidly (3 editions of the student guide in as many years), getting in at the ground floor and the drug of setting up something new, it brought incredible creativity, goodwill and energy which can really accelerate the personal practice of Aiki. The flip side though is in the broken ground of organisational shifts there were casualties as interpersonal relationships and practice can be set aside in the pursuit of other goals. I remember well the practice at my own dojo at Griffith University, we were for a time supporting 3 styles of Aikido – it was a terrific time for practice, but didn’t last as one by one the organisations exerted their influence to put a stop to it. It included threats, decertification, refusal to grade, and also being asked to leave. At this time only one organisation and person said ‘its Ok just keep practicing’ This was of course Williams Sensei and Aikido Yuishinkai with its light yoke yet compelling vision.

Casting an eye further afield there are historically many other dojo in Australia that have embraced independence, some have a clear vision and there is unified vision in practice, for others the tendency to become a mishmash of previous teaching remembered over the years eventually becomes somewhat stagnant or cloudy. For others that embrace learning there is the quest for knowledge through seminars and networks however there can be a tendency for a unified vision to disappear and an aikido that is ‘bitsa’ starts to appear, (‘bitsa’ this ‘bitsa’ that).

So where does that leave our own dojo. Looking around the mat there are better swordsman, better ukemi, better karate, hapkido, kempo and probably better aikido as well. We also see a mat where most of us have been going for more than 10 years and a few over twenty years interspersed with people new to the art. As first among equals I see our dojo as firm embracers of Aikido Yuishinkai. Its a terrific syllabus (see Reflections on the Aikido Yuishinkai Syllabus ) for creating foundations in static practice much like the Iwama, Yoshinkan schools in detail yet moving toward the flowing of Ki society in the higher levels and then beyond. The formal creation of five levels of technique are tremendously liberating together with a very robust weapons system. In addition whilst not in the grading and published syllabus we have the sword schools of the Kashima, Shinkage Ryu (all of which the founder had taught in his dojo) together with what Okajima sensei has brought from the Daito-ryu, Goshindo (self defence arts) and also the Shindou (healing arts). There is plenty to do!
The freedoms of Aikido Yuishoinkai emerge as somewhat interestingly the formal syllabus almost disappears at 1st Kyu and all examination techniques are freestyle beyond that. So to our Ukemi method moves from the basics Kotai approach to more sophisticated softer Ukemi, that we see manifest in our more senior instructors and is working its way into everyday practice slowly but surely. Maruyama sensei’s focus on how Uke should behave at the most recent seminars was some instruction in how to approach training. Put most clearly in Maruyama Sensei’s doka I think

“Don’t fight. Use ki. Don’t resist. Take ukemi”

So for me, whilst I enjoy many and varied seminars in other schools, I have a terrific framework as an aid to interpret (yet which seldom limits) what I see and together with other seniors can try to bring it back to the dojo in our bodies and minds in a way that is consistent to Aikido Yuishinkai practice. This is  Maruyama and Williams Sensei’s vision of ‘Aikido without Boundaries’. It means to me there are no boundaries to practice, but instead a responsibility to use the foundation of Aikido Yuishinkai and build on that, rather than start anew. Maruyama Sensei’s Doka puts it very well

Every river has a name. However, these names disappear when they flow into the great ocean.

Aikido has many styles, many names, but Aikido is Aikido.

It is my vision and hope that, like the rivers , they flow together and unite as one.

It is though a vision fraught with the possibilities of anything goes, but is tempered somewhat by a sets of taiso to instruct in basic body movements, the syllabus and of course the network of senior instructors to keep us on track. (And if your not sure if you know what you seeing is Aikido Yuishinkai, fortunately we have the grading syllabus DVD’s as well as many, many seminar DVD’s which are progressive marks in the sand of ways to practice rather than prescriptive how to’s).

I look forward to Williams Sensei’s post operative recovery, I suspect that released from organisation responsibility, that his creative Aiki may emerge. I remember a seminar he gave after returning from Fiji (at Cleveland) where his overview and systematic approach to the art, fundamental techniques was one of the finest I have seen. Next year I am back in Japan for business and packing a Gi, hopefully i can get a sense of Maruyama sensei’s practice and the future – any takers on a budo bums tour?.

Anyways look forward to hearing some thoughts from you all

NOTE:  ‘Shaken not stirred’ apparently has connotations of experimentation and breaking the traditional rules of making a martini (see Why did James Bond want his martinis shaken, not stirred?)

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Schnell Sensei visits the Republic

catherine schnell aikicentreLast night, owing to dojo renovations, we descended on the Mt Gravatt showgrounds, Eric with a ute full of mats, and in due course dojo members appeared and those from dojos across Brisbane kept coming out of the dark attracted by the bright lights of the showgrounds Pavillion (as our own dojo is being renovated with air conditioning, showers and a hot tub*). I’d say they appeared like insects to the lights, but we had those too, but using creative aiki, and selective lighting we were able to lead them out the shed by nightfall (the ants that is).

Sensei’s first session focused on personal protection and drawing on recent experiences of clients from Melbourne was able to lead us through the processes of awareness, assertiveness – though posture, control of distance voice – and finally physical escape. Drawing on the aiki skills she was able to relate them to personal protection which we all practiced.

Sensei’s second session focused on tanden development (aka core strength) and maintaing that under movement of uke, she related that through maintaining a connection to nage that doesn’t fight nor flee (two typical ukemi behaviours) but rather seeks to maintain a conversation. In this way sensei explained that this is our job in training, not to have winner nor loser but 2 persons working together to find ‘Aiki’. I especially appreciated sensei working one on one with a few of use in the group teaching environment and got to see ideas in action as a method to understand what aikido is able through working with a newer student, an experienced student from another art as well as someone thats been around the traps for a while (i.e. me). in each of these cases she talked through how uke might respond, why that might respond that way and the purpose of her style of response in uke.

In many senses the practice was challenging to our world view of ukemi but something of great importance to our art. Sensei, as a senior instructor (6th dan) in our organisation provided some terrific insights.

Its been great to share a dialogue over many years with Schnell sensei in Melbourne and Brisbane, and for my part been a rich interaction of ideas and insights into Aikido and being about to verbalise and inculcate in to the body. Its something to treasure all the more as we learn that in 2013 Maruyama Sensei won’t be able to visit Australia and that a collegiate approach may help foster continued progress in the art

* NOTE;: Actual renovations may differ from those described

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