Little House In Ise

Collisions and Connection
October 22, 2009, 17:30
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: ,

There are times when bumping into uke during a technique is exactly what is required to make it work (e.g. an ikkyo variation with a hip-check). Usually however a collision is the sign of a mistake. Entering too sharply during irimi nage and clonking into uke may be the grossest such encounter that I cause regularly but there are other, more subtle, collisions that are just as improper.

For example, when responding to a cross-hand grab, nage may move their grabbed arm in vertical circle. Near the point where nage’s wrist crosses with uke’s, there may be a slight stopping point. This is a collision as well. Often, nage can “power through” the collision and take uke down anyway. In doing so the aiki element is lost (caveat: this is my current understanding and is subject to change).

A different sort of collision may happen in shihonage. Before the tenkan there is point where nage must extend uke’s arm as a bridge. With a strong, balanced uke the technique may end abruptly with a feeling similar to reaching the end of taught rope. Collision!

So, what to do? For each technique the fix is going to be a bit different but the method of finding the solution is shared. With a patient partner slowly play with the technique. Think of the collision points as speed bumps. When you hit them, go over them slowly while feeling for a way around the bump. Look for where uke’s balance goes and remember that the way around may start well before the bump itself! Try to find a spot or range of motion that takes you past without bumping. Keep watching your own balance and that of uke. When you have found your solution slowly increase the tempo. Repeat.


Inagaki Sensei Photos
October 12, 2009, 15:11
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

Here are the pics from my trip to Iwama. This is not an attempt to determine the LPU (Lowest Publish Unit) of Aikido related stuff but rather more of my typical sloth. I’ve always been slow developing images, apparently, this is still true even though they don’t need developing anymore.

Weapons Work in Iwama
October 6, 2009, 13:48
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , , ,

Inakoshi Sensei is aware of my recent focus on weapons training. I’ve been spending a lot of after practice mat-time working on disarming techniques (well beyond quips and opening one-liners). When the Japan-Myanmar Aikido Federation organized a weekend of weapons in Iwama, he invited me. So, on Saturday morning I packed my bags (badly — forgot my hakama!) and met up with him and Kamitani-san at the Ueno JR Station.

We took the Joban line (常磐線) bound for Ibaraki prefecture. The express doesn’t stop in Iwama so getting on the regular was important and they don’t run very frequently. Also, there are two Joban lines — the blue line was the one that we wanted but I had to rediscover that too. An hour and a half later, at the other end our ride, the dojo was just a ten minute walk from the station and we passed the Aiki Shrine on the way.

At the Iwama station we met up with several others going to the seminar. Our weapons bags stood out like sign-posts announcing to the locals, “Hello I am an Aikido Geek, I’m here to scare the birds…” Nobody gave us a second glance.

At the dojo, we all signed in and changed into keikogi. A quick blessing at the shrine was followed by two hours with Inagaki Shihan. Training was out in the field behind the dojo and the focus was very basic jo suburi and awase. We squished and slipped now and again in the mud left from the morning’s showers. Our shouts of “Eh!!! and “Hahp!!!” really did scare a few birds.

The first seven or so suburi (素振り: striking practice) came back to my arms and back quite readily. Their names and numbers, however, were a complete mess in my head despite the cramming I did before-hand (thanks Autrelle!). What surprised me the most was the Happo Giri (八方切り: 8 direction cut) had a sort of spinning step with which I was completely unfamiliar. I was left swishing in the wrong direction from around the third cut. It was, however, when we got to awase (合わせ:blending) that I really began to feel completely out of practice. Establishing proper maai (間合い: spacing) just didn’t happen. Strikes and parries didn’t connect much less blend. It was mortifying! Kamitani-san has promised me that he is willing to switch from swords to do more jo work after class.

I was assigned to help with preparing the evening meal so after the first class, I showered and went to the kitchen to chop veggies, grate other veggies, chop more veggies and kill mosquitoes (finally, a real use for suburi!). Around 6:30, I got permission to run off and change for evening class which was not part of the seminar. That class was the regular Saturday evening general training at the dojo. I really wanted to get in a few falls. The folks in the kitchen seemed to think I was being way too serious since class and dinner were scheduled to start at the same time but they told me to have fun so off I went.

Keke, one of the uchi-deshi from Myanmar, lent me a hakama so I didn’t feel naked and I rolled around with the Iwama folks. It felt foreign! It has been about 15 years since I did Iwama flavored Aikido. At that time we did kihon waza (基本技: basic techniques) and almost never kino-nagare (気の流れ: flowing techniques). In fact, I don’t recall hearing the phrase “ki no nagere” until many years later. At any rate, the Sensei (I forgot his name! 😦 ) repeatedly stopped me and told me that I have no sense of the difference between basic and flowing. Clearly! I have no recollection of having techniques broken down quite the way he was demonstrating. The point was clear and I get it on an intellectual level but my body has its habits. I tried very hard to replicate what was being demonstrated but don’t think that I succeeded.

One big technical difference that stands out most in my mind is that the Iwama Sensei stated that for morote-dori kokyunage (諸手取り呼吸投げ: throw done when ones forearm is grabbed by two hands) there is no “martially valid” tenkan variation! Since I practice a tenkan variation of that every day (really) I found that very interesting! It seems that there are some very strong, differing opinions about how things are “supposed to be done” all in the same house.

After practice I didn’t change out of my gi. Even so, I was welcomed into the kitchen with applause and beer. At least the beer was deserved (IMHO). The food was excellent and the conversation fun. There was a trio of Italian guys (they actually sang “O Sole Mio”), a German fellow, a Costariqueno, a woman from Taiwan, two uchi deshi from Myanmar and Erica (an American who I met during her year at Honbu) and the Japanese members of the dojo and organization. Afterward, there was much singing and laughing. I abused “Me and Bobby McGee” right after Erica did a stellar rendition of a Carpenters tune… my timing sucked ALL day!

The next morning started early with a big breakfast followed by swords and more swords! My confidence came back and it was enormous fun. Again the names and numbers of the suburi and awase were long gone but my body remembered how to use a sword. Even the awase were much smoother than the previous day. Once again, Inagaki sensei demonstrated enormous power and subtlety. Simply put: he was brilliant.

Sword class ended and we went almost immediately to the next taijutsu class. Once again, I was out of my comfort zone but this time reveling in it. Ideas new to me regarding foot alignment and hand position will now join the large grab bag of things that I must add to my practice. All in all the even was a great success and I look forward to going back and learning more. Perhaps next time, I will be able be able to absorb more.

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