Review: Gleason Gasshuku


Gleason Sensei Gasshuku, Brisbane 12–14 June 2015

After attending the Sydney event in 2014, it was great to have Bill Gleason in Brisbane to continue the challenge of a whole new paradigm of aikido (or so it feels): Gleason Sensei insists it is the aikido that O-Sensei intended all along.

He certainly brings strong credibility through his initial 10 years training in Japan, fluency in the language and a deep understanding of the history and culture.

It’s hard to convey the seminar experience in words: feeling the movements and the demonstrations of the instructor and other participants first hand is obviously what it’s all about. So here are some random points which are provided with a strong dose of encouragement to seek out the source through Gleason himself, his many video demonstrations or through the Great Ocean Aikido dojos which are trying to work within this paradigm.

Over the weekend it was easy to feel quite flooded with input and frustrated with not “getting it”. However, passing on some ideas to the Alstonville crew it was really pleasing to see how receptive they were and how much they could feel that “aiki” was actually happening.

Where to start? Perhaps with the Sydney 2014 take-aways which were reinforced again:

  • Expand in six directions.
  • If we are pushing through the point of contact then aiki will not happen.
  • Internal power comes from the earth and is expressed through moving the hara (which is the whole belly) and then led through the elbows.
  • We are engaged and moving at the moment of contact.
  • Aiki is about circles and spirals which are expressed through turning of the femur and humerus and engagement of the shoulders.
  • Techniques emerge from applying these principles and cannot be planned.

And then Brisbane 2015 had some refinements of these points:

  • Always have the daling point of the hand facing the uke and the hand open and flat on top. Somehow this creates a six directions feeling in itself.
  • “Pulling silk” was mentioned last time and I got a better feel for it this time – the feeling of lightly pulling threads from the hara out in all directions. A great exercise was to have someone hold your wrist when “zipped up” and then to pull silk. Some aikido magic happens.
  • When developing the six directions as an exercise “stack it” from the chin down to the earth rather than upwards and then you will be grounded in your power.
  • Always rotate around the point of contact so the contact stays where it is and there is no feeling of additional pressure.
  • Keep the legs bent for bowing and unbowing. Too many practitioners have straight (locked) legs. This was further explained through the standing femur turning exercise where one fist extends down through the kua and the other extends outwards. Gleason recommended ongoing solo practice of this exercise (preferably with a mirror) to make sure both the pelvis and head remain straight.
  • This led to more explanation (I think than last time) about opening and closing the kua in the groin and armpit areas as a way of internally turning the upper thigh and upper arm bones.
  • Another more elaborated aspect was the ming men point in the lower back. We were encouraged to think of this point as the beginning of the arms i.e. all arm extension comes from there. One really nice exercise was to lead someone very gently while resting on their two upper arms simply by flexing the ming men point.
  • Also a lot more talk of yin and yang in how we were moving. Gleason Sensei says ki is really “intent” and intent creates yin and yang in our body. This can be expressed as some spirals are outward and these are pushing other spirals inward (and vice versa) — so if the lower left kua is opening out and turning the femur which then moves the foot, this spiral continues around behind the body and moves the arm as the shoulder rotates and the upper right kua closes. These words hardly express the body concept but they are worth trying to articulate to show the subtlety and complexity of the movements. While we practised a lot of this slowly there was no doubt that Sensei could demonstrate any of it very fast and effectively. Ukes were often on the ground as if hit by a brief light whirlwind!
  • We were reminded that nowhere in the martial arts does any master suggest we should blend with our partner. We have our own internal blending and do what we want — the uke merely follows (and hopefully falls) from what happens around them.

I hope I have conveyed that this was a very comprehensive and enlightening weekend however none of it is about the words but simply about practice — and for some of us — more and more practice!

Big thanks to Steve Seymour, the Kim Walkers and Mike Nash for all their efforts facilitating the visit.

Bill Gleason will not be in Australia next year because of his busy schedule. The nearest opportunity will be Hawaii and already several players are saving to go.

Jim Nicholls

Photo credit: Kim Walker, Aikido and Internal Power Group