Little House In Ise

Shirakawaya — Martial Tailor Shop
April 29, 2009, 09:39
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , ,

Last year, I bought a new hakama at a hole-in-the-wall shop introduced to me by one of my sempai at Honbu. I didn’t catch the name of the place and didn’t really have a feeling for where it was. So, I gave his work a thumbs-up review but couldn’t really direct any business to him because I had no idea where his shop was. That has changed.

At the Honbu Dojo Kagami Birakishiki, Mr. Shirakawa staked out the corner that turns from the main road up to the dojo and passed out leaflets for his shop. I took one, tucked it into my little packet of Aikido related papers and forgot about it.

It may seem soon but considering how much training I have been doing it is not so surprising that I found three small holes in the knee of my hakama. My efforts to repair the small holes resulted in one large hole after some energetic suwari waza. So, I decided to call in an expert to patch it properly (we don’t a have a sewing machine and even if we did, I don’t know if I could drive it). Megumi found the leaflet and made an appointment for me.

On the day of our appointment, Mr. Shirakawa asked me to call ahead about a half hour early. I did and followed his instructions to get there. He is now in a new, larger (by a smidge) location that is much easier to find. He patched my Hakama for free and did a lovely job of it. His excellent work on the first hakama and his repair added up to salesmanship that I can’t resist. I ordered another dogi (how decadent!) and new hakama. I promised that I would send work his way and this post is my effort to do just that.

If you are in Tokyo and want a hand tailored hakama or dogi stop by Shirakawaya (please call a bit in advance). He also sells bokuto, iaito, jo and other buki but I have no experience with those and can not speak for their quality.

Dai 2 Katsuragi Biru 703
Nishi Waseda 3-31-9
JAPAN 169-0051
TEL 03-3207-7652
FAX 03-3207-7657

Tada Sensei
April 25, 2009, 16:26
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

It has been a couple of weeks since I attended a seminar with Tada Sensei and I am still mulling over what he presented. The technical end was practical and I can see immediately how I WANT to learn his Aikido. Though it may have been the philosophical and spiritual portion of the presentation that held the most important element of what he was teaching, it was also where I lagged behind.

On the practical, physical level, the focus of Tada Sensei’s presentation was footwork. Most of the time moving (mostly, he lectured) was spent doing footwork drills unfamiliar to most of the attendees. The first couple were fairly simple with movements that most aikidoka would recognize if not know the names for. But the drills became more and more complex. Even with his deshi, familiar with the choreography, sprinkled throughout the crowd, it was as hard for the uninitiated to follow as any new dance step. There were many collisions, apologies and stomped toes. Actually, it was frustrating.

My frustration was not of the, “Oh it’s too hard, I don’t get it” variety. It was clear from about the second set of steps that I was not going to be able to retain much. My frustration had more to do with wondering where I could find someone from whom I could study this stuff. My interest was due to the way Tada Sensei’s deshi moved. That Sensei would be tremendous was no surprise but the smooth almost effortless gliding movements of his college-student deshi was a clear indicator to me that these drills are powerful learning and teaching tools. They seem aimed at training spontaneous and martially valid movement especially well geared for jiyu-waza and randori.

On the philosophical level Sensei told us that the following concepts were the most important in Japanese Budo. This is where I have to fall back on reporting as my understanding is limited.

Knowledge and real experience regarding the movement of the spirit:

心 → 対象
    Spirit —> Target
Focus, Unity, Absorption
To be in harmony with (or so claims the dictionary,
I have always read it differently
心 ← 対象


    Spirit <— Target
Concentration, Capture, Attachment

Sensei left us with some light cleaning and me with a desire to delve further into his teachings.

The Right Way, the Wrong Way and Ninomiya Sensei’s Way
April 10, 2009, 17:06
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

This morning, Ninomiya sensei grabbed me and shoved a sword in my hand. He said his knees hurt too much and that I should act as uke for a fellow (a fifth dan, gentle giant) he was teaching. After a few throws of various sorts, Ninomiya sensei pointed out a flaw in the guy’s kotegaeshi pin (小手返し押さえ). This was about when I should have run and hid.

Unless he moves very slowly, Ninomiya Sensei’s Aikido is so subtle it usually does not register on me until I’m writhing in pain. The transition from, “That’s interesting” to “Holy shit I’m dying!” seems effortless, for him. This is how it was with kotegaeshi. The throw itself was mundane though extremely compelling — even without the bonus leg amputation/radical vasectomy that would have occurred had I not been using a training sword. However, the source of my joy was his variation of the kotegaeshi pin.

Until now I have only seen two basic variations of the kotegaeshi pin. The first, the “right way”, starts with uke on their back, nage holding one of uke’s wrists and hand (throw just completed). Uke’s slightly bent arm is corkscrewed up and around until uke rolls over on their stomach. The corkscrew part is the key. By applying the webbed part of the hand (that did the throw) between thumb and forefinger, to the inside of uke’s bent elbow, nage can rotate the elbow about uke’s head. The hand holding uke’s wrist lifts up while nage slides their body around uke’s head. The combined effect of lifting wrist and turning elbow encourage uke to want to move.

The “wrong way”, is less gentle. Uke’s arm is locked and pressure is applied against the joint as nage slides around uke’s head. In theory this works but if uke is stronger than nage this will turn into a wrestling match.

Then there is Ninomiya sensei’s way. He folds uke’s elbow so their hand is near their face, lifts their elbow up and then applies body weight to the back side of their arm (between the elbow and armpit). Doesn’t sound like much does it? When your back is arching and you are trying to lift up on your toes to prevent arm dislocation — then tell me it’s not much. The fact that I was also rolling on top of the sword certainly added to my discomfort but it was the wicked elbow/shoulder lock that got my attention.

It also got the attention of Nishino sensei who stopped by to watch and experiment. After Ninomiya sensei left, Nishino sensei continued to play. He explained to me that this variation was really just an extreme example of the “right way”. He then went on to show me how all three can be further supplemented by kicking uke in the head (stepping through rather than around their head).

Good training. These guys are awesome!

Ray : 礼
April 8, 2009, 18:14
Filed under: Aikido, Family | Tags: , , ,
Ray at Aikikai Honbu Dojo

Ray at Aikikai Honbu Dojo

Lying Eyes…
April 2, 2009, 17:57
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

Eyes lie, hands and feet deceive and feint. The chest is honest, where it goes, so goes the rest of the body. This is not my original idea, but it is a bit of martial logic that I have incorporated into my Aikido. When training, I watch uke’s breast bone just above the opening of most gi* and try to remain broadly focused.

Though hands and feet may lie, they can also deliver painful truth. Maintaining an awareness of them is critical. However, focus on one hand and get kicked in the knee. Focus on the feet and get slapped to the ground. A broad focus that encompasses the whole body is crucial.

If a blade is part of the conversation, one’s focus must be even broader yet. Many sensei and sempai have warned me of the dangers of being overly focused on the blade. Becoming absorbed by the threat is to submit to it. Since most of the disarming techniques that I have been focusing on lately have involved, essentially, throwing myself down the line of the sword as the attacker strikes (入り身:irimi, entering body), not being overly absorbed by it is the only way to avoid being cut.

In the US, I have had the pleasure of seeing Saotome Sensei demonstrate his astoundingly fluid sword-work. Not just spectacular, it is educational. Watching his sword weave and swoop, it becomes very clear that I have no idea how to deal with that sort of onslaught. In fact, anyone with a bit of experience with a sword could probably make a person of my skill level (unarmed) into bologna without a great deal of effort.

So, why the continued focus on sword disarming practice? Most people will never have to fight off an attacker armed with a sword in the first place. The purpose is really to teach timing, awareness and spacing. It can also have the benefit of teaching how to respond to adrenaline. My main take away from all this, aside from some nasty welts, has been the discovery that if eyes and hands are liars then swords are the lowest form of politician! If the point zigs the edge zags and the slow student learns another lesson.

  • I think this has irritated more than one woman. Yes, I am looking at your chest but, no, I am not looking at your chest. Does that even make sense?

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