Little House In Ise


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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11 Comments so far
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Sounds like a great time! In the happo giri, was that odd step by any chance a sort of 270-degree tenkan?

Comment by Erik

Executive Pagan-san!

Yes, that was exactly it. The version that I learned (or that I remember anyway) has a much narrower pivot of about 135 degrees. The 270 thingy involved a rather complicated step around ones own foot move that I hadn’t seen before. Is that a standard variation and I am just remembering it wrong?

Comment by Eric Holcomb

It’s a variation that we practice in our dojo, along with the more straightforward irimi version… I’m thinking it’s not “standard”, at least not standard USAF, which is our affiliation. It feels… older style to me, but that’s completely subjective and should be taken for what it’s worth. 🙂

Comment by Erik

I remember affectionately the many months as uchideshi in Iwama with constant shoulder pains and other rarities… under the regime of the late Saito Sensei. But happogiri are always fun to teach – like recruits that don’t know how to turn left when the sergeant shouts and everybody are facing each other ha,ha

Comment by Thomas

Hi Thomas!

Nice to hear from you! How long was your stint as an Uchideshi? When did you do it?

Are you aware of another variation of happogiri that does not involve that 270 (225?) degree step (at cut 3 or 4)?

e.

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Hi Eric

Fun to read all about your aikido endeavours..

Lene and I was uchideshi for approx. 3 month under Saito Sensei in the Iwama dojo in 1995, 1997, 1999 and some years after the death (Saito Sensei) in 2004. In 2006 we started training in Hombu Dojo every year.

Well regarding the Happo giri!
There are three forms of this training! Zen Go Giri, Shiho Giri, Happo Giri. And with Happo Giri there are two forms – the new and the old form!

Zen Go Giri (Basic practice form for striking front and rear)

Shiho Giri ( Continuation of zen go giri, now with a turn added on were all the turns after your 180 degree zen go giri sequences are clockwise movements.

Happo Giri (8 directions)
Old version
1. Strike to the front in right hanmi (12 o´clock)
2. Turn 180 degrees and strike down in left hanmi (6 o´clock)
3. from your second strike, in left hanmi, step 90 degrees to the right with your left (front) foot (9 o´clock) while doing circular furi kaburi. Adjust your right foot and strike down in right hanmi ( 3 o´clock)
4. do your 180 degree turn from your new position and strike down for the fourth cut in left hanmi (9 o´clock)
5. step to 1:30 with your left foot to set up the rear of your new (right) hanmi. Slide your right foot to the new position and strike down in right hanmi (7:30)
6. turn to the rear and strike down in left hanmi (1:30)
7. step to 4:30 with your left foot, set up the rear of your new right hanmi, slide your foot into the new position and strike down in right hanmi 10:30
8. turn to the rear and strike down in left hanmi (4:30)

You can return to the 12 o´clock position with a final turn, but note that this is not a strike. The movement is made separately to put you in place for the next repetition of the sequence.

Happo Giri (8 directions)
New version
1. Strike to the front in right hanmi (12 o´clock)
2. turn 180 degrees and strike down in left hanmi (6 o´clock)
3. from your second strike, in left hanmi, step 90 degrees to the right with your left (front) foot (9 o´clock) while doing circular furi kaburi. Adjust your right foot into the front of your hanmi and strike down (3 o´clock)
4. do your 180 degree turn from your new position and strike down for the fourth cut in left hanmi (9 o´clock)
5. now place your left foot at a 45 degree angle to where you are standing (to 10:30) to set up the rear of your next hanmi, make your turn, adjust your right foot and strike down in right hanmi (4:30)
6. adjust your right front foot and hip to create the rear of your next hanmi, turn to the rear (10:30) adjust your left foot and strike down in left hanmi (10:30)
7. from your left hanmi stance at 10:30 step to 1:30 with your left foot. Turn the hip and foot to set up the rear of your next hanmi, adjust your right foot to the correct position and strike down in right hanmi (7:30)
8. turn to the rear and strike down in left hanmi (1:30)

Again you can return to the 12 o´clock position with a final turn, but note that this is not a strike. The movement is made separately to put you in place for the next repetition of the sequence.

I hope its not to complicated written – try it out and see if it works for you!

Thomas

Comment by Thomas

Thomas,

Thank you for your very detailed explanations!

I have played through both of those scenarios in my head and the “New” version seems closer to what I am familiar but I see that I am still going in opposite directions to you at the end.

What I remember is the same to step three.

1. In right hanmi strike t 12:00
2. Pivot 180, in left hanmi strike to 6:00
3. Step to 9:00 with right foot and pivot, strike to 9:00 in right hanmi.
4. Pivot 180, strike to 3:00 in left hanmi.
5. Pivot 135, strike to 7:30 in right hanmi.
6. Pivot 180, strike to 1:30 in left hanmi
7. Step 90, pivot and strike 4:30 in right hanmi
8. Pivot 180, strike to 10:30 in left hanmi
9. Step 45 to 12:00 and you’re back in right hanmi at the start again…

Comment by Eric Holcomb

In my days (not so long ago) the training in Iwama was very hard and vigorous. But it was also a time of good friendship and camaraderie. Life was easy in Iwama in the sense of – you only needed to clean, eat, sleep and train several times in a day. The town of Iwama was a ghosttown so when we needed to let some steam out we went to Mito or Tokyo. But I learned to appreciate that the time stood still. In some sense I think Sensei’s method was to break you down and then build you up in his image… and he had the time for it! (Not that I in any way resemble Sensei) It was rough at times, but I can’t help think back on those days with some degree of nostalgic..

Comment by Thomas

I can see how it might be both hard and vigorous! In the first taijutsu class I attended there were more koshinage than than I had taken in the previous year at Honbu (maybe an exaggeration, maybe not).

Though I was in Japan at that time I missed the chance to train with Saito Sensei. My loss.

Take care and please give my regards to Lene!

🙂
e.

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Hi Eric !!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !!!

one of the trio of Italian guys (they actually sang “O Sole Mio”) 😛

Comment by Andrea Bonesi

Hi Andre!

Buon Natale!

I remember! You said, “I can’t sing that, I’m from Roma it’s from Napoli…” 🙂

Are you still in Iwama?

Take care,
e.

Comment by Eric Holcomb




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