Little House In Ise

The Path to Enlightenment …
October 27, 2008, 11:39
Filed under: Aikido | Tags:

… is paved with inch thick mats.

… is paved with tatami.

… is paved with Zebra mats. (unpaid endorsement)

… should have a sprung floor.

… is an excellent place to roll.

… is unpaved.

… passes fewer taverns than you’d expect.

… is never paved with absolutes.

… is paved by the determined works of an inspired seeker.

… broken parts.

… self knowledge.

I saw the first of these on a poster in a Kokikai dojo years ago. When I woke up this morning it was stuck in my head like a musical earworm. A little googling and the worm is now gone.


Mieken Aikidokai 20th Anniversary Practice
October 22, 2008, 10:42
Filed under: Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , ,

The occupants of the little house returned to Ise this past weekend. We all had similar goals for the trip. The kids met old friends at the central park near the old little house. Megumi met her teacher buddies, PTA buddies, other buddies and played with our rental Prius (we have developed a serious case of Prious Envy). In my case, I came for a special training session held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Mieken Aikidokai.

Osawa Shihan came from Honbu to teach. The class itself was well outside the normal experience of most of the attendees as most of them had only trained under Ueda Shihan during their Aikido career. Many were surprised at how different individual teachers can be! I had trained under Osawa Sensei two or three times previously so I knew that his Aikido had gone in a slightly different direction to that of Ueda sensei’s so the main surprise for me was how much detail he put into teaching.

From the start he addressed the group and said that from his perspective the origin of Aikido “styles” was primarily due to the personal beliefs and assumptions of individual teachers about how martial conflicts are initiated. Assumptions about how attacks of various kinds work governs how techniques unfold. So, a grab using the same hands approached from a slightly different angle would then require a slightly different response. From that subtle beginning arise the bulk of differences between one teacher and another and thus their respective “styles”. Osawa Sensei then went on to point out that what he was saying did not mean that he believes his Aikido alone to be correct and everyone else’s was wrong. It just meant that he felt certain attacks should be done in certain ways and that other people believed differently.

So, he instructed on what felt was the correct method for standing in hanmi (半身 : “half body”). He gave step-by-step almost clinical descriptions of how he felt shomenuchi (正面打ち: strike to the face — a “chop”) should be performed and why. In this case, his belief was that the hand position should end such that if the strike missed its target the attacker could still naturally grab their intended victim without significant change in posture or angle of the wrist. Sensei went into similar detail on techniques as well breaking them down into quanta of movement that could easily be compared and repeated both alone or with a partner.

The class was fun but the best part was seeing many of my old teachers and dojo buddies. It has only been nine months but there have been changes. New black belts here and there, new faces, new strength in formerly beginning level students. It was good. That evening I snuck away from the family for a short time and enjoyed some excellent sashimi, a few beers and the company of a raucous group of Aikidoka.

It was very nice to go back to the little house in Ise even if only for two days.

Yabusame in Toyama Koen (戸山公園で流鏑馬)
October 13, 2008, 18:20
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , , , ,

Toyama Koen is a largish park about five minutes walk from my house here in Tokyo. For “Physical Fitness” day, a national holiday, there was a Yabusame demonstration held there. Yabusame is horseback archery and, in some ways, the traditional definition of Bushido.

Horseback archery seems hard enough just conceptually but in this demonstration the goal was to hit three targets in succession — at a full gallop. Wow!

In one of the pictures here you will notice a group men in traditional clothing sitting to the left of the target area. My first impression was that they had paid for really cheap seats without realizing the event was free. It later occurred to me that, perhaps, they were the opposing team and, having won the coin toss, had chosen to receive… But no, they were judges of some sort. That all by itself eliminates Yabusame as a possible Olympic sport. Image what a really angry olympian would do having gotten low marks from one of the judges (see the sixth pic below)!

The Sergeant at Arms for Etiquette
October 4, 2008, 14:06
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , ,

Most groups or organizations have rules and norms of behavior that, to an extent, define their culture. Aikikai Honbu dojo has many. Some are written others are not. Many classes seem to have a sort of Sergeant-at-Arms for Etiquette. I am not sure if it is a self-appointed role but I have seen the same people counseling visitors and other new comers about behavior in the dojo. Usually people understand that they have just committed some sort of minor faux pas but often are left wondering what exactly they did wrong — I saw a French (Belgian?) visitor being chided in broken English and he clearly had no idea what he had done wrong. Here is a list of a few unwritten rules of Honbu dojo …

1 – No how matter how much sweat is pouring down your face, if Sensei is demonstrating do NOT wipe your face. Before or after is fine just NOT during.

2 – Common to many dojo that I have been in, it is considered rude to lean against the walls. Especially when sitting, keep your back straight and away from nearby walls.

3 – Also common to other dojo where I have trained, try not to have your back to the shomen when bowing.

4 – When watching (sitting or standing) don’t cross your arms. This posture is believed to indicate a challenge or perhaps lack of respect.

5 – In most classes, when sensei does informal demonstrations nearby students are expected to kneel and watch. Doshu’s classes are different. He wanders around and picks individuals to throw but he doesn’t want others to stop training to watch. So, don’t stop for him just keep on training and watch out of the corner of your eye.

6 – At Honbu dojo there are two entrances into the third floor training space. Sensei and women enter through the main door. Men are expected to enter through the door connected to the men’s locker room.

7 – Please note, if you arrive late, you will annoy sensei. However, it does happen, so make sure you bow in properly and then join the class. I have seen people wait to be acknowledged and then allowed in to practice (as is common in other schools) but that does not seem to be required here.

8 – There are signs up saying that “due to the heat wave over the summer” water bottles will be allowed in the dojo. That said, I have yet to see a single water bottle in the dojo proper. Men go to the locker area to drink and women go to the second or fourth floor fountains (fourth is closer and its downhill on the way back:-)).

9 – During clean-up after class, leave the weapons rack to the locals — there seems to be a pecking order related to who moves it (at least in morning class).

10 – It is perfectly acceptable to skip clean-up if you are running downstairs to take part in another class — just hurry so that you don’t annoy the other teacher.

These are the things that I have seen visitors bumping into. FYi …

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