The Aiki Smorgasboard

bentoToday we teeter on the edge of the 3rd generation Aikido, that is, there isn’t the access to direct students of O’Sense,  by and large. Also many of the boundaries to training widely, such as being locked within rigid hierarchal structures have started to soften or disappear, though there are bastions of expertise, ( and ignorance) running very well. Its, I suspect, a function of the desire to get access to as direct a transmission as possible as well as the influence of global culture pushing into dojo. In fact is possible in Australia to attend seminars, from all kinds of direct lineages to the founder, every month or more. There is at times abundant opportunity to get a wide adn at times diverse views of the founders aikido from many perspectives. Issues of quality aside, it can really enhance our understanding of the art, though important to do this mindfully.

All aikido schools, and indeed dojo within schools have considerable variation on the surface. I imagine its quiet possible to devote a lifetime to studying these differences without penetrating to the core of aikido nor the founders intent. That is, to be so busy with the variation/minutiae in aikido kata, how the kata is practiced in the major schools etc.. that deep learning is somehow ancillary.

Within our own dojo we encourage everyone, once a foundation of core skills and good ukemi has been established to train widely. We think it helps to help develop robust experiences and to see what is common between the various schools and dojos rather than the differences. Its also selfish in that it improves the quality of practice within the dojo. It helps avoids ‘tunnel vision’ , avoids belief in the infallibility of sensei (mostly this is obvious at our dojo) and starts to develop a feeling for the core principles of aikido and with it confidence in practice.

The challenge of running a dojo though is how to embrace the diversity, yet avoid becoming an Aikidoka or dojo that is just based on loosely focused experiences and training pedagogy. This is where the core practice, structure from sensei and teaching team and affiliation is so important. From this we have structure, principally through syllabus and instruction pedagogy. In our school,  after 2nd Kyu the art becomes freer and more accommodating of different ways to move, a ukemi method that is compatible with free flowing training, resistance training and a dojo of thoughtful people open to the expression of ‘aiki’. If someones been to a seminar we generally like to see some review of a seminar or experience undertaken in the dojo as a structured part of information being brought back, through seeing it and feeling it expressed in the uke-nage interactions is probably where the real transmission of it is. Superficial differences aside, considerable care in ensuring it doesn’t detract from the programmed life of the dojo, nor detract from the study of the art, through the vehicle of syllabus needs to be taken.

Were it possible to be a student in daily contact with a master teacher I think the importance of training widely would be less of a consideration. The reflections on this dilemma by Peter Goldsbury are a valuable read. We have seen over the years the negative influences in restricting students exposure to the wider aikido community unduly, ultimately leading to stagnation. But also the dangers in abandoning ones self with no connection/lineage to the source and leads to unfocused aikido. There is a kind of dynamic tension between the two and the importance in having a direct teacher to maintain a particular focus is very important at both dojo and organisational level.

Thus at the aiki smorgasboard we think its wise to not over fill the plate in excitement, but instead to allow time for digestion to take place but most importantly not to go hungry.


Going out West – Perth Aikido Yuishinkai

aikido perth, aikido WA

Aikido WA

Perth Aikido Yuishinkai visit

by Craig Boyd

In my travels recently my partner and myself found the road would lead to Perth WA, so we did a quick search and found there was a Yuishinkai dojo there! So  Gi’s and weapons got packed and off we headed to the west coast. Before heading over we made contact with Sensei David Mathews who wrote a very encouraging email and very detailed instructions on how to find the dojo.

So on a Wednesday night we left Perth to head down to Port Kennedy ( the dojo location). when we arrived we found a dojo full of life and packed with children training on the tatami and Sensei Mathews leading a bunch of very keen young Aikidoka. We were greeted and welcomed in by other club members. The dojo was also a testament to Sensei Mathews dedication as the set up was excellent & had a lot of effort put into it.

We eventually found ourselves on the mat and I realised another amazing thing about the warm-ups and Aiki-tiso in Yuishinkai, in that familiarity dose help maintain a relaxed state of mind and body- doing these familiar exercises amongst other people also doing the same exercises you have only just meet, dose help to put one at ease, here we had travelled over three and half thousand Kilometres and we are all doing the same thing.

Down to training and I found every one eager to get their hands on you, and enter into a very good understanding of the Uke/Nage relationship, and look at developing their own understanding of this, I also was nicely challenged, with a great rolling exercise that warrants some more exploration- rolling over and as going over picking up the Jo as level one and then level 2 was a nice exercise of changing distance where as you walk toward the Jo someone rolls it toward you..then as you get close to the Jo you roll over and collect it. Not impossible on first attempt but I did find myself thinking way too much during this exercise.

What we discovered was a great bunch of fellow Aikidoka in realistically one of the most remote locations in the country getting on with and enjoying their training, while also dedicated to the teachings, style and the motto of Master Murayama- it was great to travel so far and discover something new, but still feel welcome  and have a certain sense of family, the only real problem was we only had one chance to visit and the lesson was great, so it felt like no time had passed before it was over.

Big thanks to Sensei David Mathews and the rest of the Port Kennedy dojo for making Susan and myself most welcome, it’s defiantly a great part of aikido that you can pack your Gi and travel, keep training and also meet great people. Win win win!


The Port Kennedy dojo details:

5/12 Endeavour Drive,

Port Kennedy    

They have classes Monday, Wednesday & Fridays nights