Little House In Ise

No More Tele-Parenting!
March 24, 2008, 13:34
Filed under: Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , ,

With Megumi and the kids in Ise and me here in Tokyo, I have been depending on Skype for my daily fix of family. Every night after work the first thing I do when get back to my “mansion” is to skype home. Usually Ray will answer. With a quick, “Hi papa” and a wave he’ll quickly go back to homework or his dinner. I miss my kids waaay more than they miss me. Sometimes though, they’ll be patient and sit in front of the computer and tell me a bit about their day. Rikimaruo-kun was mean, Ryo-kun got a new video game, Yume-chan won’t play tag if Maya-chan is going to play, etc… I eat up every word.

The other night Megumi was doing something upstairs, Ray had gone to bed early and Kokoro was having trouble with her homework. She sat in front of the computer and held her book up to the camera so I could try to figure out why she was upset. My little Sweet-Heart understood the problem and had gotten it right but when Ray had checked her work he had marked one problem and it was bothering her to tears. We played Simon-says, taking turns being Simon, until she calmed down enough to explain what was wrong. I just wanted to hug her but that technology is not yet available — even on Macintosh.

But it is over, my family moves to Tokyo this week. I will go back to Ise tomorrow (Tuesday) and we should all be in the big city by the weekend. As much as I appreciate Skype, I look forward to having my family together again. They are all going to be tired of random hugs before the week is out!


Gokyo Technote
March 17, 2008, 17:25
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , ,

Today I trained with the bionic kneed Inakoshi Sensei and experienced more of his Vulcan-death-grip pins. One was simple enough that I may even be able to explain it.

We were doing yokemenuchi gokyo (横面打ち五教) — without weapons. Rather than using the traditional gokyo wrist-to-shoulder pin, Inakoshi Sensei just peeled open my fist. Apparently thinking that was much too easy, he told me to make a stronger fist (to mimic trying to retain a knife or other small weapon), so I did. He easily peeled that open as well. I may not have an iron grip but the fact that a creaky-jointed 70+ year-old, even this one, was so readily able to open my fist, was galling. Even when I used a “baby fist” (the fingers of the fist wrap starting from the little finger) he was able to pry it open with one hand. It turns out that Inakoshi Sensei had yet another trick up his tattered sleeve.

He was using a “nerve pinch” of sorts. With my body down, face flat on the mat and the arm I tried to hit him with extended above my shoulder a bit more than 90 degrees (typical ikyo-gokyo stuff) he then used his index finger as we do with the yonkyo pressure point. Instead of the wrist area he showed me that there is another pressure point in the meaty area of the palm at the base of the thumb. He dug his yonkyo finger (near the knuckle) into the pressure point under my thumb and then slid his knuckle up until my thumb grip broke.

The traditional gokyo pin works just fine as does putting ones knee on the attackers fist and applying body weight. However, this one was so slick I had to share it.

Picking Up Crumbs
March 13, 2008, 12:49
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

Ueda Shihan once mentioned to me that it was easy to tell who would continue to grow in Aikido and who would eventually hit a plateau. The people who regularly stuck around after class and kept on practicing were the ones who would grow. Though I am paraphrasing a lot, that was the gist of his message. It goes a little beyond the “secret” of Aikido (on-going, regular practice) but not by much. I’ve been trying to follow his advice.

After ichbangeiko (一番稽古) at honbu there is a half hour break before the next class on that mat (there is beginners class on the 2nd floor that starts earlier). That half hour block is a great time to train with and take ukemi from shihan and other instructors who are always present. I have gravitated to Yamashima Shihan’s tutoring group. There is usually a line of students waiting to be thrown by him. The first time I tried it he slowly counted out twenty throws and then sent me off to imitate what he just done. The other students in the line make willing uke and we have a great time of it.

Yamashima Shihan’s Aikido is subtle and I am far from replicating even his largest movements. He absorbs with very fine shifts and rotations then redirects momentum and balance with motions so slight as to be barely visible. So far, I have learned more by being thrown than by observation of what he is doing. Since he is very fluid and formless it is often impossible to name what he is doing beyond kokyunage (呼吸投げ) so this is very much a study in principles.

Yamashima Shihan is one of the many ki wizards who daily share their experience and training. So if you visit Honbu, hang out after the first morning class. Notice where a line of students waiting to be thrown forms and go sit in the line. If that is not an option, Yamashima sensei does do seminars occasionally.

The Easy Way
March 4, 2008, 21:07
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , ,

I have heard well respected aikidoka say things along the lines of, “If you’re using muscle then it’s wrong” or more simply, “If it’s hard, it’s wrong”. This is a concept that I understand intellectually but integrating it into my daily training has taken much longer than I care to admit. The feeling of effortlessness in my waza on any kind of regular basis is quite a new phenomena for me. When I focus on how to do a technique I lose the feeling of Aikido. The movement is no longer easy and I find myself pulling or pushing my partner. Today however, I had a mini “Aha” moment.

I was stuck in the corner of the mat again, I seem to gravitate there, and, boxed in, my space was very limited. My partner was a strong young man whose technique and form were arguably much smoother than my own (I was impressed anyway). In my desire to “learn from everyone” I was doing my best to copy his form and generally making a hash of it. In doing this I would regularly find myself about to throw him into a wall or on top of another student and would have to adjust our position. Moving to make the throw safer for my uke was something I did on auto-pilot. It soon dawned on me that whenever I stopped thinking about how to do a technique and just put uke where I felt he needed to be, my Aikido flowed. There were times when uke was helping out in order to protect himself but those aside, whenever I “forgot” the technique of the moment and concentrated on where I wanted to be, I was able to guide my uke without effort. The poor guy probably had no clue as to what to make of me. My techniques were sloppy and occasionally the distinction between tenken and irimi were blurry but when I had his center he went where I wanted and it didn’t take huffing and puffing.

So, what to do with this little insight? I don’t know yet. I really do want to polish my basics and get that smooth just-so movement that I saw in my partner today. However, I also want the effortless control of uke’s balance that I see from the old guys. I need to think to make things smooth but not think to not make it right. I have to think about this… or… errr… not?

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