Bill Gleason rocks Sydney

aikido-sydneyI was down in Sydney for the long weekend visiting family and friends. It was very nice time to catchup with a few sisters and the obligatory lounge room tanninzygake err… Rumble with nieces and nephews too. Whilst out for a stroll I spied a beautiful dojo set in the rural environs of Terry Hills. Imagine my surprise to find an aikido seminar underway and none other than Bill Gleason Sensei – who I visited 2 years ago in Boston, leading the instruction. At the half time oranges err… mandarin break I had the good fortune to catch up with what is possibly the broadest cross section of the Australian Aikido community gathered in a single place, well done to Balmain dojo and Seymour Sensei!.

Gleason Sensei, of the Yamaguchi lineage was putting the Aiki back into aikido in what was less about technique and more about the feeling. That is about building Aiki from within rather than through technique. It was for me the next step in following the internal strength movement in aikido circles ( see). Bill sensei speaks highly of Dan Hardens method and brings a translation of it to the aiki arts.

He combined effortlessly the traditional terminalogies like earth, fire and water as analogues for the familiar square trianle and circle. He spoke his own work of tate and yoko combined with spiraling where one must use ‘just eough power but as much as is required’. The vertical and horizontal aspects together with entry resonated strongly with an emerging picture with toppling seen in biomechanics and then some i.e. to freeze the base and topple through up and through. Its a dangerous assumption to make to though fitting everything to an existing paradigm – every the trap of the tyro

I was also reminded of some of the teaching of my former school such as a) Kotai, Jutai and Ryutai levels of practice and the importance and b)  insights that can come from the Kashima sword school, really liked the neutral /support points being exlored through the sword.

For an in-depth review this by way of the Aikido Sydney Facebook page from Bill Sensei’s seminar in Auckland

One night I also managed to catch up with some budo buddies too for dinner…it brought out the boof in all of us 🙂

budo-buddies

Sadly there wasn’t opportunity to get onto the mat this time, maybe next time

Best,

Dan

 

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Farewell Aikido Yuishinkai

Aikido Yuishinkai farewellThursday night we had our dojos last Aikido Yuishinkai class. It was a nice time to examine and reminise our journey with the school and all that it had taught us, domo arigato gozai mashita!

Whilst our dojo is only comparatively new, we had the pleasure of hosting Will Reed last year to help us see under the hood a little of what makes Aikido Yuishinkai tick. Prior to these several, who had of us opened dojo and hosted several national and international seminars too.

The school’s syllabus is a fantastic progressive transition from static to movement to high level practice as one progresses in the art. The influences of  the internal practices of the Daito-Ryu and several weapons schools help bring alive the kata too. The schools doka of positive mind and ‘aikido without boundaries‘ have been inspirational.

Where to from here? We really like the founders Doka and enjoy a swim or two.

‘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.’

To our Aikido Yuishinkai friends near and far, its been a fun ride, sadly our journey lies elsewhere. We look forward to sharing the path and grabbing wrists again in the near future and the serendipity of visitors on doorsteps.

Catching up with friends

TDSC_01841he dojo was unexpectedly closed this weekend (our TKD/HKD brethren we share the space with had a 40hr training marathon for charity), so with a car load of Hakamai (plural of hakama) we headed to the North coast of NSW early Saturday morning to catch up with Aiki-friends. The occasion, a residential seminar by Williams Sensei, that we managed to sneak into.  A few Nikyo later and lunch courtesy of the NSWIS Northern Beaches High Performance Centre (always good to eat like an athlete) we headed back home.

The Aiki world has been a bit complex lately so it was really nice to take some time out, remember and enjoy the friendships we’ve made over the last 20 years or so and enjoy each others company on and off the mat.  Thanks too, to John Ward who materialised from nowhere to take some photos –  come and visit us soon sensei

DSC_01821DSC_0170 DSC_0171

 

 

Ars longa, vita brevis, The art is long, and life is short.

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Ars longa, vita brevis The art is long, and life is short.
Andrew Sunter Sensei’s guidelines for training
(Abridged and reproduced with permission)

We look forward to Sunter San’s visit to our annual Winter retreat for a special session on the nature of Budo.

 

1.Aikido is a principle-based art, not a technique-based art.

2. Everything has advantages and disadvantages

Everything has advantages and disadvantages: every person, every culture, every art, every situation and every moment. It is unreasonable to expect perfection. The only “one true way” is the tortuous path I navigate for myself through accidents, wrong turns and poor decisions, emulating the people I admire, trying to live up to my chosen ideals, and striving toward the best possible outcome for all. It is important to remember to include myself in “all”.

3. There is nothing new under the sun

There is nothing new under the sun. I do not believe this means that one group is right and the other group is wrong. Nor do I believe there are only two narrow options to choose between. We do not all live in the same house in the same street. Circumstances change and we have to deal with them as best we can. This is true for all people in all countries in all cultures and in all arts. If the “traditional”, “authentic”, “Japanese” way is to follow one teacher unquestioningly, how do new arts arise? How can there be more than one sword school? How can there be different branches and lineages within one school? This does not mean that any yudansha would be well-advised if they were to start their own independent style. Musashi Kensei said we must do a million cuts before venturing from home…

4. Boundaries without Aikido

Over time I have learned just how little I know, and I have been convinced of the value of diversity of opinion and approach, and the value of peer-review. I wish that I could train every week with my teacher, but that is not possible. Without that regular guidance, I rely on the feedback of trusted seniors, peers and juniors to guide me on my progress in the application of the principles.

5. It’s up to you

There was a time when Maruyama Sensei responded, “It’s up to you”, to all manner of questions, from the trivial to the profound. I don’t think it ever meant, “Anything you decide is OK with me.” To me it means, “You have to take responsibility for your own decisions, your own actions, your own training.” It is not up to Sensei whether or not I learn and develop as a result of his instruction. It is up to me.

6. Train joyously

It’s often said that O-Sensei exhorted us to “train joyously”. Sometimes, in training, the effortless application of a principle elicits a shout of laughter and astonishment from uke (and sometimes even from nage). For me, this suggests there is a possibility that some actual aiki might be in the offing. I will pursue this relentlessly.
7. Everything rests on the tip of motivation

A Buddhist aphorism states, “Everything rests on the tip of motivation”. I cannot know whether what I decide is for the best or not, but doing my best to ensure correct motivation makes the consequences a whole lot easier to live with.

8. The roles of uke and nage

Maruyama Sensei has taught us that our practise is kata-based and that uke’s role is to assist nage to improve their performance at every repetition. When uke does not support the learning process, I believe not only that this is a waste of time, but also that both participants are actively getting worse. They would have been better at aikido if they had stayed home.

9. The roles of teacher and student

A recent post admonished us all to read up on our responsibilities as students. What jumped out at me was not what it had to say about the responsibilities of the student, but those of the teacher. In some cultures, people believe that as they rise in rank they have more and more authority over others, that increasingly they can do what they please, that the rules apply to others and not to them, and that lesser mortals have the responsibility to suck it up.
In functional cultures, people take on more and more responsibility for others as they rise in rank, and their authority comes from the respect and trust of the people junior to them.
In Buddhist thought, a teacher is a “spiritual friend”: not someone to hang out with, but someone you can trust always to tell you the truth, and always to guide you in your own best interests, whether you recognise them or not.

10. Ars longa, vita brevis The art is long, and life is short.

O-sensei famously said, “This old man must still train and train.” I must not waste a minute. There is no time for ego. No time for competition. No time for talkie-nage.

 

Have we missed anything?..please add to the comments section below

 

4th Annual Winter Retreat, July 25-27th 2014

winter-retreat-fire winter-retreat-aikidoBrisbane Aikido Republic

Winter Retreat, July 25-27th 2014

Rathdowney  

Winter retreat is here again (its our 4th). This year again we head to the scenic rim, just 1 1/2 hrs from Brisbane where we have found a delightful country hall in a rural setting of 100 acres reserve with bunk rooms and ample space for those wanting to sleep under canvas (BYO or we have some too). Fear not, all the creature comforts of hot showers, hall and  kitchen are available for our use. And the fabulous Naughty Chef will again be tickling our tastebuds for the Saturday night meal! Snuggle in the hall or round a campfire at night!  Special guest Andrew Sunter Sensei

Aikido and the fundamental forces of the Universe

sanningakeAikido, like many an art form has been subjected to much scrutiny through combat effectiveness, ancient writings, opinion and more recently the sciences. Using the prism of western sciences it has been both praised or reviled. Many an attempt has been made by the Aiki/scientific community to successfully explain Aiki in this manner. There are the tawdry explanations of the workings of the body through the tools of Newtonian physics, where the idea that through the falling apple’s momentum, mass and force might explain the subtlies of Kuzushi, balance and the internal working of the body. This inevitably leads to the success in explaining the lesser baser martial arts but is doomed to failure in something as highly evolved as Aikido. My own humble efforts in this regard to look at power generation and unbalancing, under the scrutiny of the international aikido community has certainly experienced this mixed response, including public castigation at seminars and in retrospect rightly so.
Thus the sages of our art (indeed my own teacher has writing on the subject) look for and demonstrate the ultimate truth and beauty that is to be found in Quantum physics (arguably the highest of the sciences through its scrutiny of the fundamentals of the universe. Here, without spin, the commonalities of the art exist within the wave-particle duality can emerge, alive, like a cat out of the box, with clear confirmation of the arts ultimate truths. Whilst for myself and many a humble tyro this sartorial truth can only likely be experienced as you approach, nay pass, the level of O’Sensei, which I am told is unlikely. Working the numbers though and given the population of the earth is now 5x that of when O’Sensei was alive there must be at least 5 people with the skills.

Aspiring to be at one with the Universe, the truth then is likely to be found in the foundations of the Universe itself revealed through the fundamental forces of the universe that exist and propagate forward and backward in time, revealed to us through Schrodinger, Maxwell and others. We see evidence of this in the creation stories of many religions, the five elements of the universe and the six harmonies. Whilst Einstein suggests our understanding is relative, still we wonder how long is a piece of string as it extends through time and the dimensions as we seek these truths.

antarctic-danIt is said that everything you need to know about an art is revealed in the very first lesson and so for me to it was revealed, had I the eyes to see, in the duality of beginning study of Aikido whilst embarking on the beginning of my scientific career culminating in the *cough* Menkyo of a physics PhD. Thus somewhat unexpectedly, and more than 20yrs on I find my self re-examining my career to discover that that my masters degree in which I studied vibrations of crystals to protect us from harm had me almost on the path. Then the the wave propagation equations, investigated through the purity of the ancient and glacial icesheets of the Antarctic, with my Hakama wearing companions of the natural world, reveal to me now the importance of the fundamental forces of the universe and their transcendence of time in the practice of Aikido. While many of these secrets are yielded only through the secret language of mathematics, which like most secrets are not secret but only accessible through many years of study I arrive at the insights below. Albeit the lab bench is bit less austere than the birch whippings of a Zen temple…
The fundamental forces of the universe, not unlike the 5 elements of the Chinese arts and the 6 harmonies reveal many teachings for those that can truly see. They reside in and are central to each part of the universe and person, whereby we are all truly standing on the floating bridge between heaven and earth able to draw and call on these forces not only at will but at all times and thus manifest them in our daily lives from the time of our very birth.

Aiki = Gamma, del F ??

Aiki = Gamma, del F ??

The ‘force of gravity’, used in many an analysis of the Aikido arts, whilst presumed to be the strongest of all forces it is in fact one of the weakest, a misdirection for the aspirant. Thus typical to such misanalysis it is often applied externally and like the weaker external martial arts it is easy to miss the ultimate teaching contained therein. You see gravity applies to each and every atom of everything so whilst the force that pulls us toward the earth is seen as the ultimately manifestation, it is actually a path to the ultimate union with Ki that Tohei successfully transmitted to the West. Here the various nuclear forces of attraction exist between all parts of the body, holding it together without the necessity of the structure of bone, muscle and that much misunderstood fascisa. It also acts as an attractant and with this this Nage may use the power of gravity to draw Uke into their centre and capture it and become one at the tanden in a very physical sense. It’s governed by the gravitational constant and the mass of bodies through an inverse square law such that the closer the dynamic the stronger the attraction. It is I suspect the reason why there is apparent collision in the practice of the art and where ignorance of how to manipulate the equation leads to the inability to turnoff the attraction and complete a successful throw as Uke and Nage become locked by the forces (often mistaken as wrestling) and thus must resort to the brutality of the physical to separate from this power.

It is well known that we are all mostly space, but our visual perception is governed by the forces of electrostatics that bend and occlude the waves of light. Some of my studies occasion me to investigate visual perception, here the physiology of the eye can be manipulated and drawn to focus on detail, rather than movement, thus allowing Nage to ‘disappear, though again it is but a surface description to hide in plain sight the true mechanism at work beneath. You see these wave equations propagate both forwards and backwards in time (the wave equations are 4 dimensional and if you can manipulate matrix you can manipulate the perception of reality) and like a tachyon it is possible to not only travel faster than light but to transcend its limitations entirely and dodge that bullet before it appears. The substantive challenge is that the electrostatic forces of the body that fill the gaps between the electrons and nucleus create our perceptive reality. However understanding that these all emit waves of their own, we arrive at the conclusion that we are no more dense than the Uke who doesn’t know when he should be falling and the masters of aikido that have gone before us. All are filled within of the same empty space that exists between Uke and Nage. Thus clearly there is truly no physical confrontation it exists not physically, nor in space nor in time, nor in the vacuum that is our minds, and so when the enemy attacks I am truly no longer before him but standing behind him.

This leads only then to the nuclear interactions, both strong and weak that exist between all things, the weak can simply be discarded, like the voices of our masters and the strong willed community do with aplomb and a focus on the strong leads us to the understanding of the Buddha to just sit and gather these these forces to our tanden, where the numerics are clear, more is the ultimate truth and so beyond abdominal fat the necessity to give up the scurrilous practice of Ukemi and the basest practices of the savages. Just leave the physical practice of the art and look beyond to thus concentrate on the concentration of growing the strong nuclear interaction through growth of the Hara itself.

 

A happy new year to all, may you find the ultimate truths in these writings or discard them as some Gregorian conspiracy.

 

Addendum: This was posted April the 1st and unfortunately was a little too convincing, please see an explanation here A fools descent into aiki-madness

Another penny drops in IS training

figure_11I admit it. I have been mystified by the IS practice methodologies for quite a while now. However, much as I did with my Ki training in Shin Shin Toitsu in the ’90s, I’ve put that aside to follow the pedagogy in the hope of finding out more through doing. It proved helpful in the Ki Society, where eventually I found enough physical basis for some of the exercises (such as unbendable arm and unraisable body) that I could resolve the internal dialogue and also practice with a purpose that resonated more strongly with me.

Following the emerging literature on the fascia and the labelled ‘anatomy trains’, it was kind of making sense, but the purpose of the winding, pulling silk etc… was a big part of the mystery (and frankly still is). It took some prodding from Aran Bright on the subject of developing tension for another little penny to drop and Steve Seymour’s insights and use of other paradigms to explore IS

As near as I can understand, we have a skeletal structure (which is just a kind of fascia with minerals attached), some muscles to move it around, and then a kind of exoskeleton made up of the fascia surrounding it.

The Penny dropped on the ‘exo-skeleton’ (which is not a great choice of a word) is maybe a balloon man/ suit (as coined used by researchers such as Sigman and others) created by the fascia.

 

Anyways I saw this image in  “Low back disorders” by McGill as a model of the back

photo 1

 

which looked a lot like, and the next step, but much better than my toppling work’s own http://www.aikidorepublic.com/internal-strength/02stabilitygrounding

passive

and then seeing this image in this article  and structural mechanics analogies that Michael Nash found http://www.intensiondesigns.com/bones_of_tensegrity.html

figure_11

A chat with Sunter san, suggests exo-skeleton is not a great word as this implies ‘strength and rigidity’ maybe there is a better word that describes it as a flexible thing.

Conditioning the fascia by straining it appears to be the purpose of ‘pulling silk’ giving rise to mental models like the ‘balloon man’ and ‘the suit’.

Some scientific researchers talk about a sweet spot of strain (5-10% depending who you ask) being optimal, and from what I know of tendon research (with some involvement in this professionally), I can see that some strain is important for growth and healing, but too much causes damage and too little is just a waste of time.

 

Therefore, doing reps of straining the fascia through ballooning,skin breathing, pulling silk and so on, appear to be methods of developing just this conditioning. Once the exoskeletal structure is built and in place, you still need to be able to move, so winding and bows and similar exercises allow the muscles to move freely beneath the exoskeleton, so we can have our structure and use it too (Marie Antoinette would be proud).

 

Next up, the IS exercises of bowing and using the qua and Tanden (Dan Tien) teach us how to move properly while maintaining the structure, thus providing a way to apply it in a martial context.

Looking back on the exercise set given to our school by Okajima sensei, I see now the role of breathing (as a means to co-ordinate the strain of the fascia), the movements of the body (as bowing and Kua coordination), together with the Tanden ball exercises, the ground connection exercises (source of infinite power) and balance sensitivity exercises. What a terrific set of exercises, given context by IS training methodologies and meaning from the sciences.

 

Is it a complete picture? No way. But it’s an incremental step forward in intentionality in incorporating the exercises in our practise and validates our trust that the solo training, as a means of body conditioning and coordination development, can and will yield results in good time.

 

Of course understanding ain’t doing…but its a start for this keyboard aspirant 😉

 

Domo arigato teachers, friends and colleagues on the path. Dare to dream, dare to question, but above all, give voice and dare to collaborate and rediscover the source !

 

Target Focused Training in Sydney – The pointy end of the Stick

live-training-visual-headline-1I just heard from budo buddy  Mike Allen that there will be a TFT seminar in Sydney. TFT is making the news internationally at the moment. See https://www.targetfocustraining.com/katie-couric-show-how-to-survive-the-unthinkable/

You can find out more about the seminar here at the end of March. Don’t be put off by the US style marketing and $$$ (if you read to the end its quite reasonable)

 

Below is a review of when we had the boys up from Sydney a few years back.

“In 2008 I had the privilege of attending one of Mike’s seminars at Andrew Sunters Sydney dojo and to host him in Brisbane for a weekend seminar later. Mike has been training martial arts for not-quite 30 years and is a recognized instructor in Kempo, Aikido and Yang Mian. In real life he is also a practicing physiotherapist. Recently he has been studying a system called target focus training, which he regards as ‘the pointy end of the stick’ for personal protection. I believe it embodies many aikido principles, but with the gloves off. Mike sensei is an approachable and articulate instructor with a genuine interest in sharing this method in a safe environment.

For me the introduction to the reality of ‘Asocial violence’ was quite confronting. It was good to learn more about how our bodies and minds can and do respond as a way of being prepared for such a situation. When coupled together with some of the tools Mike presents I think this rounds out our understanding of Aikido in the realm of Personal Protection. It nicely complements the methods that Catherine Sensei will present later in February and will help prepare us even better as we continue to develop our Personal Protection workshops for the community.”

See Also Mike’s article on our self defence page on  Asocial violence

 

A Union of Opposites with Seymour Sensei

union-of-oppositesA big thankyou to Steve Seymour Sensei from Aikido Kenkyukai and Balmain dojo for his visit on the weekend. We were treated to a tour de force of Internal Strength as sensei shared from his current practice and further research into Internal Strength.

Its almost a year since we visited Seymour Sensei in Sydney to find out a bit more and embarked on the journey with our own study group.  Internal strength allows us to see what is hidden in plain sight in our schools kata and exercises given to us by Okajima and Maruyama Sensei’s.

Unfamiliar and  familiar teachings (like  keeping elbows in and closing and seperating the shoulders and hips)  were given context,  purpose and a framework.

Sensei shared and reviewed the practices of the body work seminar fundamentals and extended on our knowledge to a deeper level with insights from other arts and utilised exercises from physical therapists to increase strength and flexability in our Kua and Body

It was great to see Dave Kolb Sensei from Bayside Budokai and Kim from Brisbane Aikikai too.

We appreciated much also his insights in how to continue this practice in an integrated way with the aikido arts and to know we are (more or less) on the path.

I  think we got a B+ on the report card 😉   Many thanks Sensei for visiting, sharing you time and experiences