Little House In Ise

Aikido Gakko
March 1, 2010, 17:44
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , , ,

Andrew Parker has a blog post about the Aikikai Honbu Dojo’s Aikido Gakko program. I’ve been very interested in hearing details about the class series and Andrew has filled in all the blanks. Take a look!


Shinjuku Cosmic Center / 新宿コスミックセンター
May 9, 2009, 22:30
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , , , ,

A group of Honbu Dojo regulars rent out the #1 Dojo at the Shinjuku-Ku Cosmic center on irregular Saturdays. Usually the training focuses on items required on tests that are rarely or never covered in classes at Honbu itself. The classic example is multiple attacker randori. It is required above black belt but it is simply not taught! So, Cosmic Center is where these extras can be tacked on.

The mat opens at 9:00 though no-one shows up until around 9:30. This gives plenty of time to take both morning classes on the Honbu 3rd floor and then haul ass (10 minutes by bicycle) to the Cosmic Center for additional training. The group has the mat until noon so there is plenty of time to abuse oneself on those Saturdays when it is reserved. Since it is not reserved every Saturday, the problem of “when” is a toughie. Almost all pre-test weekends will be reserved and almost all post-test weekends will not. So, if you are interested in going but are not sure if it is open, ask around, the news is spread mostly by word-of-mouth.

The cost is 1,000 yen but if you are preparing for a test, the additional practice and attention to test related details that sempai (5th dan senpai) provide are extremely helpful. Also, they have a wealth of experience actually taking tests at Honbu so if you are concerned about etiquette or practices that might differ from your home dojo, these are the people to ask.

To everyone testing: Good luck, stay relaxed and try to keep your feet from going numb while waiting for your turn!

Happy rolling!

Kangeiko   寒稽古
February 3, 2009, 14:09
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan | Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday is the final day of kangeiko (寒稽古) midwinter training. The goal is to attend some class every day for ten days. It doesn’t sound too difficult but life does sometimes gang up on the most innocent of plans. I ended work at one company and started work at a new one during kangeiko. There have been many late nights of farewell parties and packing. Along with, or perhaps due to, all that I have been emotionally drained. It has been a challenge for me to get my lazy butt out of bed even for normal classes and I have had to recite my mantra, “Just fucking do it” far more often than normal.

So far, the highlights of kangeiko have been training with Ninomiya sensei (二宮先生) who was described by one of my favorite instructors as a “Super 7th dan”. I’m not sure what makes him “super” as compared to the 7th dan who called him that. My lack of insight is similar to my lack of insight into the cleanliness of the upper surfaces of airplane wings in flight — they are a bit too far above me to judge. Anyway, Ninomiya sensei was mostly gentle and willing to give me pointers throughout.

That day was also fun because Doshu broke his normal pattern and threw out all sorts of wild (for him) techniques. The theme of the day mune tsuki (胸突き:chest punch) which is not one that he normally emphasizes. He then seemed to go out of his way to present head-scratcher techniques that made even gray-in-the-belt oldsters puzzled. He was smiling the whole time and looked to be having a genuinely fun time baffling everyone.

Another highlight was training under Kanazawa Shihan (金沢師範). I rarely can fit his class into my schedule but I paid extra for Sunday training this month and was able to make his morning class. Sensei explained a couple of details that put my head in a good place for Aikido. It helped that my uke was really well connected but all throughout class it felt as though I was doing real Aiki. The kinonagare (気の流れ: Flowing Ki) techniques swooped and swirled so and felt wonderful.

One more day of midwinter training to go but I will stick out the week and wait for Saturday to sleep. I hope that most of the visitors go back to their regular training schedules so, maybe, the mat will be a bit less crowded and we can really throw down!

Happy rolling!

PS Shout out to Gil from CA who stopped by to this week and many thanks to Mizuto-san for not breaking my arm!

Kagami Biraki 2009 / 2009年の鏡開き
January 18, 2009, 22:28
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This year, I participated in two Kagamibiraki (鏡開き) events. The first was held at the Aikikai Honbu Dojo on January 11th. Ueda Shihan, my teacher from Ise, and one of his deshi, Kan Ishiguro (soon to be a Honbu uchi deshi), came to participate in a national meeting of Dojo Leaders and Kagamibiraki.

That morning, when we arrived at Honbu for Kagamibiraki Keiko, we found most of the uchi deshi and many others outside in the parking area. They were pounding mochi in preparation for the events later in the afternoon. As usual, the uchi-deshi were busting their butts doing most of the hard work (mochi hammers are big and heavy) while older, more experienced members stood around giving sage advice.

Ueda Sensei had asked me to chaperon Ishiguro-san and so I offered to be his training partner. I also suggested that if he really wanted to have a good time he should grab one of the scary old men and train with them. He agreed and partnered with a very talented 5th degree black belt who is a morning class regular. They seemed to have a very pleasant (hardcore) time of it. The dojo itself was crowded with visitors from all over Japan attending that weekend’s many events. It was not quite as packed as during the All Japan Enbukai but falling was still a challenge. Class ended early in order to prepare for the afternoon and we went to lunch.

After lunch, we went back to the dojo and got in line for the Kagamibiraki ceremony itself. The line stretched about 70 meters down the street. At the front, the “cooks” were preparing oshiroko (お汁粉: a sweet bean “soup” with a lump of mochi). There were so many people attending that local high school students had been recruited to act as shoe valets. We took off our shoes in the entrance of the dojo and were given a receipt. The valets parked our shoes out in a grid marked on the concrete of the covered parking area. They were expecting between six and seven hundred attendees. On the third floor, it felt as though that was an underestimation. The dojo was filled wall-to-wall with people sitting seiza in neat rows. Uchi deshi wandered around asking people to leave their bags and coats in the locker room. We spent more than a half hour waiting for the room to fill and the ceremony to start. It was long enough for most feet in the place to be completely numb by the time the ceremony started (almost broke my foot trying to stand at the end).

Osawa Shihan acted as the MC and there were speeches by Doshu and other officials. Announcements of the Kagamibiraki promotions from shodan to hachidan were made and representatives received their certificates. There was only one hachidan announced and he came in person. After the announcements, Doshu gave a demonstration (in a very small area) that included tachi tori, jodori and san-nin gake.

After the ceremony was over, I escorted Ueda sensei back to the train station. When I returned to the dojo, I found that tables had been laid out and sake and oshiriko was being served. The second floor dojo was less crowded, this was where children’s kagami biraki was being held. Megumi, Ray and Kokoro were all there and had already eaten. The kids were very pleased with themselves as they had both received promotions (Kokoro to Jun 8 kyu and Ray to Jun 3 kyu). I grabbed a bottle of sake and made the rounds pouring for parents and then the shihan present. It was comfortable and friendly.

The next day, the Nihon Budokan held its Kagamibiraki ceremony. Kagamibiraki literally means “opening of the mirror” where the “mirror” is a pair of loaves of rice cake used traditionally as New Year’s decorations. The splitting of the rice cake was a way for upper level samurai to share their wealth with lower ranked samurai and the celebration was supposedly an important time for renewing bonds between warriors (that’s what the lit distributed at the Budokan said anyway). At the Budokan a small army dressed in Samurai era armor paraded and the Dai Shogun split the rice cake with a hammer and wedge. The Fuku Shogun had the more pleasant task of splitting the lid of a sake barrel.

After the ceremony, there were demonstrations of Kyudo, Judo, Juken (bayonet), Karate, Iaido, Shorinji Kenpo, Sumo, Naginata and Aikido. The Kyudo and Karate demonstrations were both spectacular and the Sumo demonstration was fascinating. The lethal precision of Kyudo was as beautiful and terrifying as ever. The practitioners made all of their 75 meter-ish kill shots while projecting cool control. The Karateka were as spectacular as they were brilliantly vicious and gave what I thought was the most exciting demonstration of the day. Since I have been blessed with many opportunities to see wonderful Iaido in the US, I was not particularly impressed with the Iai demonstration, it was merely professional and clean. The Judo demonstration was actually boring. It was clear that the intent was to present the most basic elements of that art as executed by masters but, to me, it seemed to lack a sense of love of the art. The Shorinji Kenpo demonstration was so energetic it was almost spastic and very difficult to follow. Sometimes, it seemed to be little more than a wild punch-fest. Juken was very disappointing with only the most obvious strikes and responses demonstrated. The Aikido portion was excellent with demonstrations by both Yokoto shihan and Sugawara shihan (yes, I am biased but they were good). I missed the Naginata demonstration because I was changing into my gi.

After the demonstrations, there was common practice with students of all arts on the floor trainiing at the same time. While this was fun and actually quite a good class (lead by Yokoto Shihan with Honbu uchi-deshi as uke) it was a little frustrating for participants who had wanted to watch the other arts training. I was definitely hoping for too much! 😉

Happy rolling!

3rd Floor Dojo During Kagamibiraki Party

3rd Floor Dojo During Kagamibiraki Party

Yokoto Shihan 横田師範

Yokoto Shihan   横田師範

2nd Floor Dojo (Kids' Kagamibiraki party)

2nd Floor Dojo (Kids’ Kagamibiraki party)

Ray, Sugawara Shihan, Kanazawa Shihan, Kokoro, Me, Suzuki Sensei

Ray, Sugawara Shihan, Kanazawa Shihan, Kokoro, Me, Suzuki Sensei

Kokoro's new rank Jun 8th kyu (pre 8th kyu)

Kokoro’s new rank Jun 8th kyu (standard 8th kyu)

Lined up at the Budokan

Lined up at the Budokan

Daishogun Kabutu

Daishogun Kabutu

Samurai vs the tub of sake ...

Samurai vs the tub of sake …

The army

The Army





Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido

Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido

Sumo -- the flexible big guys

Sumo — the flexible big guys

Sumo -- stare down

Sumo — stare down



Shorinji Kenpo -- Japanese Kung Fu

Shorinji Kenpo — Japanese Kung Fu

Shorinji in space ...

Shorinji in space …

Juken (bayonet)

Juken (bayonet)

Aikido Demo (I'm in the fourth row on the left)

Aikido Demo (I’m in the fourth row on the left)

2009年本部道場初稽古 – 2009 Honbu Dojo Hatsugeiko
January 7, 2009, 18:41
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , ,


The first morning practice of the year was held on January 6th. Unlike most morning classes this one started with all of Honbu Dojo Shihan present. They lined up in front of the shomen and spanned the mat with the most senior by the windows and the most junior by the door. Wakasensei sat in front of them all and thanked us for our hard work in the old year and congratulated us on the new year. He looked his title, young and perhaps a bit nervous, but he did his job well.

The mat was crowded with almost equal proportions of Aikikai dignitaries, college students (mostly from the nearby Waseda Daigaku) and morning class regulars. The theme was Yokomenuchi and there was no departure from the normal rhythm of Honbu morning class. It was a very good way to start the Aikido new year.

Recent Stuff at Honbu
December 22, 2008, 18:42
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , ,

I’ve been busy and so haven’t a single coherent thought to write about. Instead, here is a potpouri of Aikikai Honbu Dojo related “stuff”.

1) Morning Class Bonenkai (忘年会: forget the year party):
The location was the same as the last Morning class party and the format was similar. It was neat to see everyone wearing regular clothing and talk about Aikido with all the old foggies, pros and the occasional wannabe (me). Doshu’s speech seemed to be directed at me (isn’t that always the feeling?). His theme this time was, “If you want to learn from me, just watch what I’m doing and then do the same thing …” Ummm… yeah, I’ve been getting right on that all year and it’s still not quite gelling.

2) Pre-Test Class:

Back falls x 100
Forward rolls across mat x 6
Back rolls across mat x 6
Shiko across mat x 6
Spinning shiko across mat x 6
Shomen uchi ikyo x lots
Yokomen uchi ikyo x lots
Shomen uchi shihonage x lots
Ushiro ryote dori sankyo x lots
Kyokyu dosa x lots

Kids’ class is tough!

3) Kids testing:
No video, no cameras, no parents, OH NO?!?! The doors are closed at the start of class and parents get to hear the dramatic tales of perfect/botched waza from their kids semi frantic perspective. Can we FINALLY watch Narnia now?

4) More on Yonkyo Omote:
Start with a solid ikyo making certain the hand near uke’s wrist is well above the joint so the wrist can’t bend. Sword cut into position, use your forward knee to assist the pressure your yonkyo hand applies to the meaty part of uke’ forearm. Simultaneously lift and pull their wrist. The key point is to make certain that both of nage’s hands do not move in the same direction as though pushing a stick. The slight lift/pull by the hand on uke’s wrist turns their into a lever with the yonkyo finger as the fulcrum. Inakoshi sensei with his Yoda-like presence (and power) managed to cause severe pain but did not leave me with welts. Usually, I end up with enormous welts but experience little pain.

5) Clash of the Titans:
Recently two of the more hard-core members of differing schools-of-thought in the Honbu Dojo Morning class ended up paired off. Both are silver-haired fellows who are around fifth or sixth dan. Both are also very physical with one famous for his athletic ukemi and the other for his aggressive atemi. This was the first time I had seen them training together. One is a left mat kind of guy and the other is pretty strictly right mat (that’s just the way it is). This time, they met in the middle and the thumping was VIGOROUS! It was pretty easy to see that they were giving each other a LOT of resistance and all techniques were hard fought. I’d never seen old bulls training together like this before! Watching them do jiyu waza was pretty amazing and a little frightening — for bystanders!

Walking Targets: Uchi Deshi
December 1, 2008, 19:10
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

It seems as though some new comers to Honbu feel as though they have something to prove. The uchi deshi are the ones who bear the brunt of this testosterone fueled “training”. Hard training is fine. Tough training is fine. However intentionally pushing so hard that people get hurt is not fine — even if that someone is yourself. Mind you, pushing someone else until you hurt yourself is pretty stupid.

So far, the uchi deshi with whom I have trained have been polite, respectful and very skilled martial artists. These are the folks who are not just aspiring to be the next generation of world class Aikidoka but are actively working on becoming so. They train many hours every day with the current generation of giants of the Aikikai. They are young, tough and can dish out hard-hitting, high-speed, Aikido whoop-ass. In other words: they are shithead magnets. Any jerk that walks in the door with a chip on their shoulder will end up asking an uchi deshi to knock it off.

Today, the uchi deshi (a very nice fellow) who was training next to me had a shithead on his hands. It was clear to everyone around them that these two guys were going at it VERY hard. Since they were my neighbors they were frequently landing in my lap. Even my partner, a gentle giant himself, commented on them. He suggested to me, loud enough to be heard by all around, that they were getting scary. I agreed and went back to trying to relax as hard as possible.

Anyway, the new-comer kept on pushing the energy level up bit by bit and the uchi deshi just went along for the ride. Then there was a sickening thud and the new guy was flat on his back, eyes closed and quieter than I had heard him all morning. Shihonage (四方投げ) is a killer technique and this guy had planted the base of his own head into the forehead of another student. The other guy shook it off but the new fellow was pretty well KO’d. There was a doctor present and the newcomer was cleared of concussion and such but Doshu was furious. His anger was aimed at the uchi deshi.

Truth be told, the uchi deshi shared a lot of the blame. He did throw very hard and he did not end the engagement when the guy started to be a jerk. I don’t think it was just testosterone though. The uchi deshi ARE bad-asses (though very nice ones) and they DO attract this sort of goober regularly. I was there, I know the uchi deshi was well within his comfort zone, it was the goober who attacked with such speed that caused the accident. He got as much out of the interaction as he put into it and, in this case, there was no soft mat to cushion his stupidity.

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