Little House In Ise

48th All Japan Aikido Demonstration

Day by day for the last two weeks the mats at Aikikai Honbu dojo have grown crowded as Aikidoka from all over the world trickled into Tokyo. They have come to view and participate in the 48th All Japan Aikido Demonstration at the Nippon Budokan.

Unlike previous years, this time I attended only as a proud papa and spectator. My main goals were to watch my daughter perform (my son had a science fair) and meet Ueda Shihan from Ise. Since I went with my daughter we arrived about three hours after the event started and then spent the better part of an hour trying to find her again (I lost the whole group right away) I didn’t actually watch much of the demonstration at all. Once the kids were sorted out, I received a phone call from Sensei and met him in front.

Having seen fewer demonstrations this year than at any event previously, I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I would have liked. The few that I did take I’ve posted below.

After the demonstration, I met Ueda Sensei and the Mie-ken Aikidokai group at the Tokyo Prince Hotel — the one below the Tokyo Tower. After a bit of wandering we found a nice izakaya there in Akasaka. Over dinner, Sensei’s perspective and wisdom flowed with the beer. As usual, when spending time with him I felt as though I should have been taking notes. His ideas about Aikido, life and education are fascinating.

Two younger men sat with us at dinner and sensei quizzed them about the demonstrations. He asked the younger of the two, a new shodan, what he had been watching at the demonstration. The young man replied that he had been watching and trying to learn waza. Sensei responded that that he was crazy to try. Rather than waza, he said, manners and behavior of the uke were paramount. He said to watch how they bow. Remember how the give and receive weapons. He was especially adamant that just observing how the more senior teachers sat and stood should be food for thought.

Later on, when discussing education, sensei mentioned that he was now of an age that no one scolded him anymore and he missed it. His point was that when a teacher or parent scolds their child they are showing that they care. They are providing life lessons and, sadly, once a person reachers a certain age, the mentors in our lives seem to disappear. Becoming an adult capable of self direction and self correction is what growing up is all about but, even so, a friendly slap on the back followed by a “WHAT were you thinking when you did that?” is something that one eventually learns to miss. He told me that he hoped Doshu would scold me more.

The next day we stopped at Tully’s while his students attended Doshu geiko. He very kindly said that though we only meet once a year, it feels far more frequent than that. I agreed but do wish that I could speak with him more often. As always, I appreciated the time sensei gave me and I take his words to heart. I will endeavor to incorporate his wisdom in my life.


Evening Class
May 15, 2010, 18:07
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , ,

I had the opportunity to enjoy an evening class recently (ed. it was March). This usually just means a new set of students with whom to train but in this case it also meant a new Honbu Shihan. I had never trained under this sensei but had heard a bit of grousing about his teaching style, mind you, the harshest complaint I had heard was that he talks too much in class. For an Aikido sensei, he did talk more than I am used to but it certainly didn’t slow the class down. I actually enjoyed the slightly different flavor.

Early in the class sensei approached a student who arrived late. The student apologized for being tardy but sensei brushed that off and replied, “In the old days, teachers would get angry when students arrived late. Now we are just happy that you come at all. Thank you for coming to my class”. Hearing that sort of attitude expressed by a senior (in rank and years) sensei was refreshing.

My partner that evening was an Iranian with a particularly martial flair to his movements. Every entry and most turns had some sort of nasty little atemi. Every time I threw an atemi into him he blocked appropriately. As class progressed, we also progressively increased our intensity. Space was limited so we neither threw too high nor too hard but we did move and strike quickly. Despite the speed our Aikido itself was pretty calm and smooth (my body just moves better in the evening). Every-so-often we tried reverses but even then avoided brute force. Even so, Sensei noticed us and made a point of stopping us for a moment. He said that when we go back to our countries to teach we couldn’t just teach the “hard stuff” we also had to demonstrate soft Aikido as well.

Thoughts of home have been coming to me more frequently lately and this reminder of it in an Aikido context was oddly disconcerting. One moment I was keeping a very serious martial artist from punching my throat and the next I was thinking of family, friends and life at home — very distracting. It was flattering that he seems to expect us both to teach.

All in all, it was a good evening and my partner was brilliant. I had not trained with an Iranian before and can only believe that when he does return to his home country he will have a wealth of Aikido to teach.

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