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



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


and then seeing this image in this article  and structural mechanics analogies that Michael Nash found


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 !


The art of teaching

In the martial arts the direct transmission from teacher to student is high valued, so too in the west we find this as well. The video below shows the transmission of a western ‘battle field’ practice to a direct student. Note the challenges of cross cultural communication are at work here.

Some other opinions on teaching, learning etc… here

Aikido Techniques for teaching

Hawaiki – Mike gets some hands on IP training!

by Michael Nash

windwardaikido hawaiki hawaii-aikido-dojoWhen you first set eyes on Hawaii you feel a sense of welcome, the embrace is in the land and the people. Time slows; the spirit of Aloha overtakes you, better to let it take hold. If you have a need for rapid response times and carefully planned agenda’s you will be endlessly frustrated in Hawaii. Drinking age is 21, gambling is banned, the only place you can find a nightclub is Waikiki, no bike helmets required you can have plastic chairs in the back of the pick up truck and sit in them driving around taking in the views.


Our first stop was the North Shore area of the Oahu virtually no stores, no pubs, small population, main area of interest, the ocean. No signs or directions to the famous Pipeline or Sunset Beach, you need to ask a local if you are there or near the iconic locations once you get close. The main town is Hale’iwa you can get here on “Da Bus” or hitchhike, it is a true, time has stopped in the 70’s, type of place, a little tourist orientated but not in your face as it can be in other Pacific destinations, definitely no hard sell.


So after a case of Pacifico is purchased from Foodland along with dinner components, we retire to our beachfront bungalow and kick back and watch a sunset over the ocean, something we got very used to and will miss. 

We moved back to Waikiki, after a few days as this is my base camp for the first Dan Harden seminar. Waikiki is a place you must experience at least once, it is like Surfers Paradise on steroids but it feels safe and there are nice spots just off the tourist strip. Beware the traffic though.


The Saturday and Sunday seminars were to be held on the Windward side of the island, that is to say the Eastern side of Oahu or about 35 minute drive from Waikiki. I had no car and public transport was not an option, so some minor panic started to set in I had travelled thousands of miles to get here but those last few kilometres were out of my control. Chris Li the most gracious of hosts from Aikido Sangenkai had told me all along a ride would not be a problem. However, I needed to get set on Island time and trust Aloha, I eventually did, and all my perceived issues rolled away like a wave back into the ocean.

Dan had called a pre- seminar meeting for the Friday at 6pm down at Ala Moana Park Area 51, area 51 is actually a no go zone from what I could work out but not for the IP participants. This is Chris’s crews home away from home dojo, a massive tree lined park with ocean views, you can’t complain when you are oceanfront and training.


So, what happened from the time I made the trek down to area 51 and when we finished and I got back about 12 pm to the hotel is still a blur. No, not what you are thinking, not one skerrick of alcohol passed my lips, we trained until approx 10.30pm, (that is what Dan calls a pre- seminar meeting !). Then had a bite to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, Dan still retelling stories and explaining aspects of his concepts all through dinner.

I had meet the majority of the other participants who were there for the weekend seminar that evening, some old hands some newbie’s like me, they seemed like old friends by the time we reached the restaurant, I had a lift organised with Josh from Ohio a much more seasoned DH student than me and my head was spinning. Chris and others took me under their wing as they have all experienced the whirlwind that is Dan Harden.

Saturday and Sunday went so fast, notes, laughs, wonder, no hierarchy, no holds barred. It was literally a barrage of information. This IP stuff is not for everyone and its application to Aikido in my opinion is integral, and it would seem has been lost to some extent in what we might call modern Aikido. When IP is matched with Aiki we have a devastating combination, it is soft yet impossible to resist. While Dan demonstrated and workshopped, the link back to O’Sensie’s real teachings kept revealing themselves, I had heard a lot of it before but somehow it was making some sense this time.


What is Dan Harden like, the man I had travelled so far to spend time with.?

Well, like me you go through the years of MA training, does not really matter what style or code you are currently studying. You make it up through the ranks, you train hard, you get glimpses from time to time, you hold a wrist from time to time that says “oh! this is what it must feel like”. You go seminars, you get the flavour of the month be it technique or a concept that launches you into a new lease of life and direction. Sometimes you get disillusioned and change styles. Always on this journey up the mountain you are constantly striving and over many years if you are lucky you get an inkling of what Aiki truly is.


As others say if you are lucky you never get to the end destination. Many things are held back until you are worthy, many are never revealed, sometimes on purpose sometimes because of poor communications.

What if you meet someone who is at the top of that mountain has a beachside condo perched up there, and welcomes you in and shows you things you thought were not really achievable, and also explains there is a way to reach them. All the time there is nil rank envy, nil ego, but 100 % intent.


So your world is now upside down, instead of working your way through to some level of proficiency, you are now shown it first up. This makes it no more daunting as you are in for a lifetime of studying how to not suck at it. By now I am sounding like a born again something or other, maybe so, but once you have felt a person that has the equivalent of two six inch spiralling stainless steel cables for arms attached to a two tonne block of concrete as a body, that concrete block by the way, can also relocate in space way faster than you can think, you have no choice but to take notice.


People who can produce kuzushi on contact, at every contact, using true aiki are rare, he can achieve this.



My point is that we are talking top down learning not bottom up. For some it is too confronting and easier to dismiss. While many other martial arts were represented over the seminars for me Aikido is the one that stands to gain the most from this integration if you believe aiki is what you are striving for in the end.


Notwithstanding the strikes and counter measures Dan is capable of are breathtakingly martial. It is like witnessing the volcanoes on the Big Island or the Twelve Apostles on the great ocean road, until you get the scale of it mentally digested you cannot really describe it in words alone.


So next stop the Big Island of Hawaii. This is a completely different trip in itself we are staying waterfront again in Kona only this time the landscape is decidedly rocky, lava rock to be exact.


In Kona it feels like it is going to rain all the time but the haze, called locally vog is not cloud rather gases pushed into the air by the volcano’s Maunaloa and Kilauea that dominate the landscape. Again magical sunsets this time tinted red through purple due to the vog.


People on this island are even more laid back than Oahu and equally accommodating. Bill and Sharon were the hosts for the seminar and we trained at a little dojo outside Kona. This dojo is the home of another Hawaiian icon in the martial arts Sensei Meyer Goo, sensei is in his 90’s and had just had a hip replacement. He was friend, student and masseuse to Tohie Sensei, he has trained many well known martial artists and he also has taken ukemi from O’Sensie.


The trip to Hawaii would have been worth it just to hear some of his recollections and wisdom. Validation of the work being done by Dan came when Sensei Meyer Goo, told all of us that what he felt from Dan was similar to what he had felt from O’Sensie.

He was insistent  that he (Dan) was to keep telling people about it (aiki and how to manifest it ) no matter what obstacles were put in his way. Sensei Goo is old school and a real warrior in the true sense, he also saw active duty during the second world war.

A few of the Oahu crew backed up like Mert. My faithful new sidekick Heraldo and his mum Maria ( they live in the town called Volcano) were my drivers this time. Without them I would have been lost I hope to repay this one day when they come down under. The seminar was more of the same relentless information, some skewed for the MMA types there, as well as judo and jujitsu. The crazy thing is that this aiki, spiralling, IP stuff translates to ALL martial arts. Similar to how techniques seem to blend into each other eventually in Aikido. It becomes obvious from observation with Dan working with other MA styles the current thread is the same. When he is spiralling toward you he could be doing any form you can name, he may lack perfect technique in any particular style but the end result is not in question.


I have plenty to download with those who are interested in our dojo, as I say it is not necessarily for everyone and the issue remains that it is so difficult to pick up what Dan is putting down in such a short interaction. But we start at the basics and eventually we start to feel it and work from there.

If you ever get the chance to go to Hawaii do it…… if you ever get a chance to interact with Dan Harden …… jump….. so to get both on a trip it is the ultimate…. just pack a beginner’s mind !


Maruyama Sensei Recommends “Soul of the Samurai”

1005474_10152444792525353_2121492927_nRecently Will Reed Sensei recommended the following on his facebook page

Recommended by Maruyama Sensei to understand the core of Aikido Yuishinkai as Budo.

“Soul of the Samurai”
Modern Translations of Three Classic Works of Zen and Bushido written by Yagyu Munenori and Zen Master Takuan.

Translated by Thomas Cleary

Kindle Edition also available.

I also found it on FishPond, which is as cheap as Amazon for us Aussies, and without the postage bill (have ordered a copy for the dojo too).


I asked Reed Sensei a little more about the post, this is what he said

“Maruyama Sensei did say that everything is contained in the first paragraph of Takuan’s TAI-A KI: notes on the Peerless Sword.

It says that the art of war is not a matter of relative strength, but of penetrating the place where there is no division of yin and yang.

His lecture was pretty profound, on how Aikido is the the sound of one hand clapping. No action or reaction, just perfect synchronicity.

Or you can spend a hundred years holding hard and missing the point.”

Whilst also noting the of course Maruyama sensei works with the original Japanese text


Solo training in Aikido

Solo training in AikidoSolo training is not a new idea in aikido, when you think of all the taiso at the start of class and the weapons kata there is plenty of it. But what is relatively new (well what’s old is new anyway) is the idea of purpose behind solo training.

“Your aikido will only improve when your concept of aikido improves”
Kenjiro Yoshigasaki
Founder Ki Society Internationale

Any new idea is helpful and the idea of a purpose for solo training as new concept is something that can enrich our aikido practice. Aikido is often included in the list of internal martial arts, particularly those from China. These arts are by and large solo arts and at the interface between these arts the advantages and disadvantages of paired practice of aikido is laid bare somewhat. Local aikidoka doing these solo arts have had some terrific development in their aikido as a result, though it takes some time to integrate and in the short term has led to awkward aiki at times and some disruption to the dojo pedagogy.
So along comes the internal strength movement in the aikido circles, clearly its a new concept , or at least new packaging on elements that are already in our art. The premesis is that we need to understand our own bodys, how they move and generate and recieve power before we can hope to apply that in two person practice. And indeed it would seem to be the case, though only through paired practice can this be learnt and expressed. In this then we see that aikido kata are examples of aiki rather than the definitive set of ‘aiki’

” they see the kata as the art itself instead of a sophisticated teaching tool that is only a surface reflection of an arts core concepts” Yukiyoshi Takumura, Soke Takumara-ha Shindo Yoshin Kai

Books like Ellis Amdurs “Hidden in Plain Sight” and “Transparent Power” on the life of a Ueshiba contempory, namely Yukiyoshi Sagawa point the way to solo training as being valuable and an integral part of the founders aiki abilities.

So where does that leave AIkido Yuishinkai?  Through the window of a recent  internal strength seminar and interaction with others in this movement in and outside our school does it become clear that we have this method built into our art.
Maruyama Sensei has been teaching for years through his 10 basic forms and his tanden ball exercises much that we see in the internal strength movement, its just that we didn’t recognise it. Here are Okajima sensei’s (Maruyama Sensei’s successor) exercises we saw in Japan almost a decade ago and more recently in Australia at his first international seminar. Catherine Schnell sensei captured these then and the review of them continues to shed light..

Here we see exercises reminiscent of the wave in Systema, the centring exercises that are a precursor for reeling and winding in many of the chinese martial arts and strongly reminiscence of the exercises in the Dan Harden bodywork seminars (from what we can gather), the universal exercises of Mike Sigman’s method. Through the various testing methedologies for movement and partner feedback we see the Ki Society methods now as a tool, rather than egoic practice to reinforce the status quo or worse a tangent to the etherial adn intangaable (at least in this moment of time anyway). We see shades of theopening and closing of the creases that Bill Gleeson Shihan often  talks about

Further sharing this through the Yuishinkai community Mike Haft Sensei from the UK shares with stunning clarity here are the ‘rites of spring exercises he has been doing for 10years, through the Hikitsuki Sensei that O’Sensei reportly practiced for more than an hour every day.

Mike writes

The first exercise of the Rites of Spring is Shinkokyu which is almost identical to Okajima Sensei’s first exerecise he demonstrates in the video, the difference being that there are four claps when hands are held aloft in the Rites of Spring. Also I don’t think there’s so much leaning forwards in the RoS as Okajima Sensei does.
The third exercise in the RoS is Furu Tama which is very similar to Okajima Sensei’s third exercise, but not quite the same.

O Sensei’s stuff is clearly shinto and shingon buddhism influenced, but I’d bet that if Okajima Sensei’s exercises are DR derived then they contain some overlap. Apparently O Sensei would do practise the RoS daily from anything like several minutes to several hours.

Recentky Stan Pranin shared O’Sensei’s warmup exercises…where you can see some of these in action

So what its taken to get to this point, here at the beginning of the importance of solo practice. This slow learner, by way of the scientific method, likes to know the what and how, rather than just do and copy. The former being the pedagogy of western science and the latter the observational basis that is eastern science. Everything has advantages and disadvantages. But whats most important is here is something new (thats not new) , something to chew on and reinvigirate/reinterpret everything that Maruyama Sensei has been teaching for years but with now an understanding of the purpose and a critical eye that can help cut to some core emelments of the practice.

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.

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?)

Jutta reflects on a home invasion

Dear Aikido Friends,
Sometime ago you may have heard of the home invasion of Edwin and Jutta and the ensuing altercation. It was well reported in the media initially and followed up here, there was also considerable discussion in the Aikido community. Both Edwin and Jutta are well known in Brisbane aikido circles having practiced for many years, Edwin was a professional scholar of the East who we enjoyed in our dojo for many years, Jutta today holds a senior rank in Aikido Yuishinkai and remains the vice president of my old aikido dojo at Griffith Aikido
I think its fair to say that Aikido dojo focus on the practice of physical techniques as well as striving for a more peaceful daily life. Many are attracted to Aikido for self defence reasons, though altercations are rare in the aikido community. So there is some curosity as well as lessons in any real life encounter from someone in the community. All situations are unique but there is much that can be reflected on.
I asked Jutta if she would mind reflecting on her experiences to share with the aikido and wider community. Despite receiving no injuries its had quite a toll on their otherwise quiet lives and a reminder that violent encounters rarely have a winner. Its an account from the heart and quite sobering

“So, one finds a stranger in ones home while watching Television.   Sometimes there are noises which just need investigation, but does one expect a stranger inside ones Home and Castle.

Being a martial arts student, one should be prepared to handle such situations, but in today’s life, this could also turn out to ones disadvantage, if the intruder is armed.

The intruder stormed into my husband  – (and into the knife) holding on to several bags.   I myself was just behind my husband when this person stormed past leaving a trail of blood.   This, of course, was only noticed after the event.

Racing after this person, trying to stop him somewhere, somehow, seemed to be the only option, but he knew where he could get out.  Unknown to us he had unlocked the back door with a large metal pin/instrument.    That is where he obviously came in and this is where he stormed out, jumping down the upstairs balcony and climbing the fence gate – groaning as he did so.

The first realization to what had happened was disbelief.    Doing the right thing I called 000 and mentioned that the person was injured.

Then all hell broke loose.   Before we knew it, approximately 15 police arrived including crime Inspectors, forensic, helicopter with infrared lights, sniffer dogs.  The streets were cordoned off and we were question non-stop (separately) for hours.   Then taken to the police station and again were questions separately by another inspector.  At this stage I felt nauseate and extremely tense.

My nerves were at breaking point.  I tried very much to do some deep breathing, trying to calm myself which was not easy with all the going on and the sight of the blood on carpets and floors plus several items which were dropped in the rush by the intruder.

It was 2.30am when we were taken home by the police.   At 4am we felt the great need of sleep.

At 6am the phone rang and the reporters (7 of them) were outside the door.   And this continued all day.  Every TV station, phone interviews etc.  It was a big surprise to us, that the police had actually informed the media of the event.   But this had its reason to alert the public to be on the look-out.  All the friends and family (some we had not heard from or seen for many years) rang or emailed.   The phone did not stop for two days and this, rather than making one feel better,  caused more stress, as one had to repeat the story again and again, and was faced with the same sudden sensations of dread.

The shock and the harassment by the media made one want to hide.  I did not want to go out at all.  All I wanted was to make sure that everything, including us, were still safe.  Edwin’s attitude, when moving down the hallway to investigate the noise, was extremely calm and composed.

The police was very thoughtful and kind, but had no results to report, in finding the intruder, which caused a great unease, as the thought of retaliation was foremost on my mind.

Knowing there was a master key in my bag, we needed to change all the locks.  Before I knew it, our granddaughter emailed from Taiwan, that she had read that we had changed the locks.  No one had told this to the media or anyone else.  So, the media must have been on the watch and observed the locksmith van.

The carpets needed cleaning and all my cards, which one needs for ones daily life nowadays, needed to be replaced.   This was a real hassle as everyone would know who had been through a similar situation.  Hours were spent on the phone with interludes of music.  “Your call is important to us-please hold”.

The days after the event, I felt very angry with myself.  Asking myself, why did I not do this or that to apprehend the person.   Having been trained in martial arts one always envisages situations where the spontaneous reaction should set in.   The fact that everything happened in a narrow corridor in the dark and with tremendous speed,  may be one excuse.  Would I have reacted differently had I seen the person properly in a more spacious surrounding?

It is only due to Edwin’s training in aikido which made it possible to resist the intruder when he charged into him, as he is extremely unsteady on his feet nowadays.   It is the ki extension which kept him upright and which he used while holding the knife.

I must admit that for several weeks I was unable to approach any dark room inside the house or walk along the corridor unless I saw a light at the end of it.   I was amazed myself to what extend the whole business shattered ones nerves.    I lay awake listening very acutely to every little noise and only slept after taking ½ sleeping tablet, which I am glad to say, I stopped now, knowing the intruder  has been apprehended and put behind bars.    The sad thing is, that there was such an exposure of the house, address, phone number, names etc. that one only hopes, that it keeps other persons with similar ideas away rather than invite them to have a go at the our place also.

Now we have turned the home into “Ford Knox” and are unable to enjoy wide open doors, as we used to during the warm summer days.

Why has the whole story gone so viral, my brother in Germany asked, as these things happen on a daily basis (break-ins).     I can’t answer this correctly.  Is it the age/ the martial training/ the fact that the intruder  got stabbed?    I myself certainly can do without such fame.

Things have settled down now.    We like to live as normal as possible.  Most our neighbors  have added more security to their place in the last few weeks.    It certainly is very sad, that one has to live like this, in constant fear that it may happen again.

I always felt that the ki extension which I trained in over many years has helped me to cope with lots of things in life, has given me confidence and hopefully make me react quicker and more productive in any future skirmishes.”

Jutta Dowdy

22nd November, 2012

It seems like
 – In the moment actions and scenaris hard hard to predict, and while the community may play 20-20 hindsight, our friends are OK at the end of the day
– Keeping calm and centred is important and not in a fluffy bunny way, its a physical thing too
– That after the incident its quite complex and almost as stressfull
 – The after experience is consistent(albeit it in a less severe way) with  documented experiences of PTSD (insert link) and the writings of other professionsals show that the trauma is ongoing.