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 

http://aikidoportkennedy.com/Aikdo_Port_Kennedy/Home.html

Shimamoto Shihan Seminar: A Belated Review

scan0104Thanks to the generosity of David Kolb Sensei of Bayside Budokai, a handful from Aikido Republic were lucky enough to attend the recent Shimamoto Shihan Seminar. I’m usually quick off the mark to write something by way of a review (if only for my own records), but this time… well, this time was different. Not because of Xmas or New Year – rather, the seminar, for me, was profound, and I wanted time to digest things, and to find the right words.

The initial conditions for the seminar were quite unique. There are few high ranking instructors in the world who can say they’ve actually trained with O’Sensei. There are fewer still who are also full-time Zen priests. Of these, there are even fewer who are willing to travel overseas to teach. Even fewer who then teach with great insight, good will, and flair. Shihan is remarkable in these regards. Couple these characteristics with a fantastic venue and a small group of participants from various styles, and we arrive at a recipe for something rare.

Before diving straight into Aikido technique, Shihan gave a short night-time lecture on Zazen (seated meditation). We all listened to the fundamental principles, and were given a chance to practice in the sitting position of our choice. Some chose seiza, others required chairs, but a number of us attempted half- or full-lotus. I found this to be a bit challenging at first, but after a while my legs numbed and the bottom 50% of my body lost consciousness, leaving only my spine to wonder what was going on 🙂 At one point, I found a period no greater than a few seconds where nothing happened in my head. However fleeting, this was an absolute gem for me; a glimpse of what might be possible with continued practice. So… the lecture eventually closed, people stretched their legs and went to their cars, anticipating the Aikido of following days.

My observation while seated in front of kamiza prior to Aikido practice: after the Zazen of the previous evening, I wanted to do things a bit better – to kneel and bow just a little bit better. When kneeling in front of kamiza, Shihan exhibited regal posture – profoundly earthed and centred. Moreover, he was patient before committing to the bow, taking his time to do it right. And Shihan took great care when bowing. Posture, patience, and care were to become the central themes of the weekend’s study.

Posture. Shihan put forward an excellent analogy: you should visualise yourself as a wonderful castle, protected by a wonderful moat. Shihan personified this analogy throughout the seminar. He seemed very upright, even during techniques that required a transition from standing to seiza. And his various uke could not reach the castle. They always had to attempt traversing the moat, which was like an infinitely spinning whirlpool of ki.

Patience. I never saw Shihan rush. Despite some spirited attacks from various uke, Shihan would take his time, completing a technique at his own comfortable pace. At one point I saw him perform an almost touchless sankyo, using merely a finger to control his uke. He maintained control for what seemed like minutes before finalising the technique, all in good time. At another point, I saw Shihan lead his partner to the tatami for an ikkyo pin. Many of us tend to rush this. But Shihan had absolute control of his uke for minutes before finishing. Again, this was achieved with only the slightest amount of contact. Shihan’s patience, I might add, was not limited to his performance as nage. He showed great amounts of patience (and humour) when correcting students. This was very much appreciated, especially by newbies like me.

Care. Shihan said that the nage-uke dynamic should involve no more force than a butterfly landing on a flower. This was music to my ears. I had heard something similar some time ago, and I was beginning to think that “minimum effort” Aikido was rare, if not an ever-strengthening myth. So, seeing Shihan absolutely embody this ethos brought a smile to my face. I saw Shihan guiding his uke to the tatami very gently, time after time. Irrespective of the zeal of uke, Shihan guided them downwards, very softly. I never saw Shihan use force. Not once.

It was indeed an honour and a privilege to attend the seminar. All such events, especially those featuring such esteemed teachers, serve to inspire us, challenge us, and hopefully make us want to be better people. Shihan said that Aikido is like a great treasure – we must practice diligently to keep it polished. In saying this, Shihan effectively unravelled a lot of the Aiki mystery. He taught us to maintain good posture, to be patient, to use care, and to practice earnestly.

What a wonderful gift.

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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Aikido has more to do with Gathering and less to do with Throwing away

“Aikido has more to do with Gathering and less to do with Throwing away”

That was a facebook update quote from Chicko Sensei, from the Fudoshin dojo in Noosa a few months back. Over the years we have had occasion to practice at sensei’s dojo and he was kind enough to visit us as well, he are some written up

See Takeda Satoshi Seminar report 2010 and Chicko Sensei visits the Republic

 

More recently good friend of the dojo Craig Boyd, “Big Rock” sensei caught up with good friend of the dojo Chicko Sensei for practice. He was kind enough to pass on these impressions

Aikido @ Noosa- Road trip

Sensei Thom Hansen and myself went to train with Sensei Chico Xerri at his Noosa dojo  on Saturday – If any seniors student has considered doing this and hasn’t been as yet, then I guess ,  if it makes you feel better I’m happy to tell you it was just OK ………. and you best stop reading now.

 

This was my second visit to train with Sensei Chico at his Dojo, The class ( like my first) was extremely enlightening and he and his students always make you feel most welcome and are always ready to help you grasp the lesson being taught rather than just getting bogged down in the technical aspects of the technique, and for good reason. Sensei runs  his lessons at a frantic pace so no time to have worry about anything except what he was teaching, and there was so much there,  so the lessons he was imparting are just starting to come into focus now 2 days later..

  1. Yokomen- lesson 1 enter blend  and cut the hand ( nicely demoed with a bokken) – no collision just a new option for blending, he wasn’t to hung up on what technique you do from this, he showed about 4, he was imparting a philosophy of ” do what feels right at the time” with this entry
  2. Yokomen- lesson 2- enter deeply , stepping deeply and past the attack to avoid the strike , and move to an in close position past Uke’s centre line, then put uke back on your line and execute techniques- a good way to develop this was to do sankyo on the non attacking hand- there was a great technique I will be demonstrating to a few either fortunate or unfortunate people from this position it ends with a leg lock!- this position also lead into a “no technique” technique of pure Irimi – awesome stuff!
  3.  Ryotemochi– we explored a now reoccurring theme of every art I train or have dabbled in, of getting Uke off line by you just moving your centre and breaking their balance, from there a throw was easily executed once you cut their centre or project through it- Sensei managed to make this look easy and moved probably no more than and inch or 2 – sadly I had to move the width of a Tatami to be able to get the lead and the feeling anywhere near to make it effective.

 

 I’m sure there was way more to it than that, and now I’m wondering was lesson 1 just explanation for lesson 2????  But it was a fast paced class that had a lot of training and a lot of aikido lessons, so if Sensei Thom Hanson wants to remind me of the ones I missed or forgot please let me know. I will defiantly be heading up to Noosa on a Saturday morning again though, to train.

 

Cheers

 

Craig Boyd

An Aikido Conversation in Melbourne

Aikido in Melbourne at Aiki-Centre

This past week I found myself in Melbourne for work and had opportunity to catch up with budo buddy Catherine Schnell Sensei at the Aiki-Centre, whom i met quite a few years ago during a Budo tour of Melbourne (See trip report Budo Bums Aikido in Melbourne here). During the course of that nights regular practice we shared some ‘conversation’ about Aikido. Schnell Sensei has long been a fan of describing the Uke-Nage interaction as ‘a conversation’ rather than winner/loser etc.. Its something that harks back to when Ariga sensei taught in Brisbane some years ago at the Aikikai, but I think her breadth on the topic goes wider, owing to her background in several other schools of Aikido. Schnell sensei opened the class, including warmups with some core strength components and we dialogued back and forth a few times, hosting a workshop rather than class, with everyone participating in the exercises. I think i let down a few training partners when i was paired up by asking questions of sensei rather than practicing 😦
For me it was a chance to learn sensei’s world view as well as experiment with body positioning for Kuzushi and using insights from the ‘toppling vector’ to guide how to throw Uke, – leading to the pre-formal conclusion that you must go up first to throw Uke down (See Aiki Physics II – Biomechanics of Throwing). This led to how does Uke respond? and in this context Schnell Sensei suggests the role of our core (Tanden) is in the correct and striving of an orientation and alignment that allows Uke to recover their centre and thus ‘continue the conversation’.

The development of the core is n emerging intrest of mine, as the biomechanics of throwing (the base, the topple vector etc..) suggest that this vital aspect of the power train from the ground out to the limbs is a vital component. Of course its nothing new, the martial sages and Kami have been saying this forever, but its somewhat new to me and in a different constructshowing some legMany thanks to sensei and members of the dojo for such a warm welcome, again, and for contributing to such a healthy practice and learning environment.
That night I caught up with Maruyama Sensei and had some burning questions from the Byron Seminar answered as well as some bigger picture stuff shrouded in the midsts of time. Next morning we saw Maruyama sensei and Kondo San off on their way to Wagga (Yikes they nearly boarded a plane for Kickatinalong), before heading off to Geelong for the real reason for my trip with a busy 3 days including a workshop, bootcamp and conference on sports and technology – unfortunately there wasn’t a chance to show the Hon. Kate Lundy, Minister for Sport my modest progress on Nikkyo…maybe next time 😉

Thanks also to Asunta Sensei for some nice insights too with some Kenkyukai? inspired movements. Schnell Sensei is up in Brisbane for the Shimamoto Shihan Seminar in December so I’m hoping she can teach a little on Core development at the Republic

Here are some Photos from the nights practice from the dojo camera (not sure who to credit).

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