Little House In Ise


Ukemi (by Aida Mitsuo)
February 27, 2009, 22:28
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , , , ,

受身 (相田みつを 作)

柔道の基本は受身
受身とはころぶ練習
負ける練習 
人の前で恥をさらす練習

   Ukemi (by Aida Mitsuo trans. by me)

The basis of Judo is ukemi
Ukemi is the practice of rolling
The practice of losing
The practice of being embarassed in front of others



Performance Enhancing Substances in Aikido
February 15, 2009, 22:16
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , , ,

With pothead sumo wrestlers in the news here and the never-ending supply of professional athletes in the US who admit or get caught using various substances, I have been thinking about what would constitute a performance enhancer in AIkido. If there were such a thing, would it last? Would taking a shortcut on the path even be worthwhile?

In Judo, it is clear that the muscle, speed and, to a certain extent, endurance are important factors in winning the game. Judoka originally spurned weight-lifting and other strength training as their art was supposed to allow weaker more skilled practitioners win out over the stronger and less skilled. Practically however, weight training was shown to be an excellent way to gain a competitive edge. One would be hard pressed to find an Olympic class Judo player who does not incorporate some for of strength training into their regimen. It makes sense then that some of the strength/muscle enhancing substances could improve a Judo player’s chance of winning.

In Aikido, not using strength to execute technique is still the ideal. In fact, if a technique is performed with the external appearance of correctness but excess strength was required to make it happen then many Aikidoka would say that it was done “wrong”. At the very least, more “advanced” Aikidoka might say that the person performing the technique still didn’t “get it” (I am an example of not quite getting it). Additionally, since in Aikido there is no competition (in the main line varieties) there is no push to take technique into the realm of pure muscle common in competitive Judo. Based on these two factors it seems likely that steroids and other muscle building substances are NOT appropriate for people hoping to grow their Aikido.

Olympic archers and marksmen and possibly even chess players have discovered the benefits of Beta Blockers for reducing heart rate and panic attacks. Olympic shooters, apparently, fire between heart beats and so a reduced heart rate provides a longer window to do their thing. Chess players may or may not get any benefit from these drugs but there are reports that end game stress has caused heart-rates to shoot up into the panic range normally seen in a fight-or-fight adrenaline dump (chess may not be a sport but it IS a martial art). From what I can see, it seems likely that the use that musicians who fight stage fright with beta blockers are the closest example of how such a thing mght be used in Aikido. I know from experience that tests can be the source of extreme stress and tension. That sort of stress is the enemy of the relaxed power needed to perform Aikido properly. So, beta blockers at test time could make an Aikidoka more relaxed and able to perform. However, that gets back to the point of the test. It may not necessarily be to raise you to the next rank but rather to expose you to the sort of stress and tension that causes good Aikido to fail. In that case the point is to experience the stress and overcome it on our own rather than with doctors little helper.

I am not sure what I think of Ritalin and the drugs that seem to induce focus. That sounds like a good thing. For now I will take the Amish approach to technology and say, “No” first until more definitive information is available and then make a judgement. For my part, I have to admit there is one performance enhancing substance that I have grown very fond of.

As a morning class regular, I am now used to waking at the crack of early and hauling my sorry ass out of bed to be beaten by angry old men. To make matters worse, I seem to have left the resilience of my twenties behind, twenty years or so ago. In fact, sometimes just walking that early in the morning can be a challenge. So, I have my little helper — Ibuprofen. Known by its street name, “knee candy” this stuff gets me from limping to flying in about thirty minutes (15 spent stretching). Really, it is a chemical that makes my Aikido better.

Who am I to judge a sumo wrestler for using a little herb to get his munchies on? Those boys need their cheetohs to maintain a competitive edge!



Kangeiko   寒稽古
February 3, 2009, 14:09
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan | Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday is the final day of kangeiko (寒稽古) midwinter training. The goal is to attend some class every day for ten days. It doesn’t sound too difficult but life does sometimes gang up on the most innocent of plans. I ended work at one company and started work at a new one during kangeiko. There have been many late nights of farewell parties and packing. Along with, or perhaps due to, all that I have been emotionally drained. It has been a challenge for me to get my lazy butt out of bed even for normal classes and I have had to recite my mantra, “Just fucking do it” far more often than normal.

So far, the highlights of kangeiko have been training with Ninomiya sensei (二宮先生) who was described by one of my favorite instructors as a “Super 7th dan”. I’m not sure what makes him “super” as compared to the 7th dan who called him that. My lack of insight is similar to my lack of insight into the cleanliness of the upper surfaces of airplane wings in flight — they are a bit too far above me to judge. Anyway, Ninomiya sensei was mostly gentle and willing to give me pointers throughout.

That day was also fun because Doshu broke his normal pattern and threw out all sorts of wild (for him) techniques. The theme of the day mune tsuki (胸突き:chest punch) which is not one that he normally emphasizes. He then seemed to go out of his way to present head-scratcher techniques that made even gray-in-the-belt oldsters puzzled. He was smiling the whole time and looked to be having a genuinely fun time baffling everyone.

Another highlight was training under Kanazawa Shihan (金沢師範). I rarely can fit his class into my schedule but I paid extra for Sunday training this month and was able to make his morning class. Sensei explained a couple of details that put my head in a good place for Aikido. It helped that my uke was really well connected but all throughout class it felt as though I was doing real Aiki. The kinonagare (気の流れ: Flowing Ki) techniques swooped and swirled so and felt wonderful.

One more day of midwinter training to go but I will stick out the week and wait for Saturday to sleep. I hope that most of the visitors go back to their regular training schedules so, maybe, the mat will be a bit less crowded and we can really throw down!

Happy rolling!
e.

PS Shout out to Gil from CA who stopped by to this week and many thanks to Mizuto-san for not breaking my arm!




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