Little House In Ise

Old Bears at Play
November 16, 2009, 17:06
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

Crush! Biff! Slam! Bam! Twist, pin, wham! WHAM! Two old bears went at it like cubs this morning. Both in their seventies and one a hachi-dan (八段: eight degree black belt), these two guys tore up the mat.

I’ve seen quite a bit of very hard Aikido since I came to Honbu but I had never seen this sort of torque, balance, weight and muscle applied so aggressively before. They were friendly enough, in a “thank you for returning my eyeball” sort of way, but it wasn’t in the slightest bit soft or fuzzy.

For the last several weeks my partner, a nana-dan (七段: seventh degree black belt), has been helping me to relax during the execution of waza and today was a continuation of that training. However, with the bear-fight going on next door, relaxing was hard! The fact that my partner would occasionally toss a friendly kidney punch into the melee was also a bit distracting. The problem with being distracted is that my partner would take advantage of that and, without speeding up or changing his technique significantly, pile-drive my head into the mat.

So, I tried to keep myself from being splattered, I tried to relax and maybe learn something from the bruisers too. The big guys did a lot of nasty joint work. As an example, I saw one kote gaeshi (小手返し: Wrist return) end up with a very jujutsu flavored arm-bar, one leg across uke’s chest and the other planted across his throat. Morote-tori was fun to watch too. Uke applied a nasty yonkyo and used it try to force nage into the ground shaking and jerking nage all the while. Nage responded with a skull-buster kokyu-ho. In the midst of all that there were a few wicked low kicks but they seemed, to me, rather like lace doilies on a lace tablecloth — just a bit too much of a “good thing”…

Throughout all that they rolled or fell on us a few times — only once was it an accident. Afterward I had the great pleasure of informing two men who are so much farther beyond me technically than they are beyond me in years (both almost twice my age) that they were using too much muscle. They both laughed.


Aisatsu a Technique at the Heart of Aikido
November 9, 2009, 17:38
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , ,

“Don’t sneak out like a thief! Say goodbye to the people at the door!”
–Ueda Shihan Mieken Aikidokai during children’s class

My teacher in Ise frequently instructed children in his classes on more than just Aikido. He let the kids know that they should greet people appropriately. At the dojo that meant “hello” and “goodbye” were as much a part of practice as ukemi. He insisted that the Aikidoka he trained should give up their seats on the bus to the elderly and infirm, to give way on the sidewalk for others and, in general, to be polite. Greetings, aisatsu in Japanese, are a part of daily training — so much so that it is clear that the aisatsu form an integral part of the Do of this art.

A shout of “Hey!” may bring a smile to the face of a friend or make an irritated co-worker scowl. The energy and appropriateness of a greeting is similar to energy and appropriateness in training. A hard, fast strike might be enjoyed by one partner while a similar strike might annoy another. Establishing the energy level from “onegaishimasu” makes for good training. A friendly greeting to one’s partner is often enough to let both sides know how far practice can go.

That said, the importance of aisatsu in Aikido extends beyond the doors of the dojo. After our shoes are on and we walk our path out into the world, our greetings establish space. Maai, is set with friends and strangers alike by greetings. Whether ones culture encourages bows, handshakes or a kiss on the cheek, greetings bring people face to face. A simple “Good morning” is a powerful form of awase. Without proper awase there is little chance of establishing the musubi of conversation.

Maai, awase, musubi are all core elements of budo in general so one might say that aisatsu are integral to all martial arts. However, the intent of greeting is, if only for a moment, to bring two people together into harmony. As harmony between people is the goal of our art, it is clear that aisatsu can be considered a kihon waza of Aikido. So everyone who greets friends, family, neighbors and strangers with the positive intent of making a connection is, in a small way, spreading Aikido in the world.

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