Little House In Ise


All Japan Children’s Aikido Training
July 21, 2009, 17:41
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , ,

Each year the Budokan hosts a series of enormous, day-long, martial arts training events for children. The martial arts are Sumo, Karatedo, Shorinji Kenpo (Japanese Kung Fu), Jukendo (way of the bayonet), Kendo, Naginatado (way of the glaive/halberd), Judo, Kyudo and Aikido. On Sunday, swarms of Aikidoka from elementary school age through junior high (US 8th grade) crowded the Kudanshita train station outside the Budokan. Many wore their keikogi on the train, others carried bags and furoshiki crammed with gear. Here and there sensei from different schools with little flags herded their troops to appointed meeting areas. This year the chaos was much more contained than last year when we had to parade around a bit to kill time before being allowed in. This time everything went smoothly and the kids were in their seats minutes after arriving.

To open the event, there were speeches praising the kids for their choice of Budo and thanks to teachers and organizations and then the kids did warm-up exercises en masse. The sea of arms and legs moving not-quite-in-sync was beautiful and disconcerting. Each age group then did about 30 minutes of training led by a different Sensei. After a technique was demonstrated the mass would split into five blobs each centered on different Honbu Shihan who would then repeat the demonstration for their own group to see more clearly.

The moments when little kids were picked out of the crowd to demonstrate techniques were particularly fun. After doing back rolls as a group, one first-grader was picked out of the mass to demonstrate shiko (膝行: knee walk). In response, he did a very cute, rather awkward, back roll which generated giggles throughout the crowd. Toshio Suzuki sensei, who led the youngest kids made it clear that making a mistake was NOT the same as being wrong and that the little guy had done a fine job of demonstrating even though it wasn’t quite what had been requested. With a bit of encouragement the first grader screwed up his courage and did shiko just fine.

After the training ended, many schools gave demonstrations which ranged from kids just messing around to excellent often with both on the same mat at once. Some of the schools had only one or two students present so it wasn’t uncommon to see a pair of white belted elementary school students demonstrating alone in the center of a mat usually reserved for famous shihan! The kids-will-be-kids atmosphere was fun for me but I was surprised that so many non-parents stayed through the whole event. Beyond the support of parents and members the most impressive aspect of the whole event was the logistics that allowed all this to work so very smoothly.

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The 47th All Japan Aikido Demonstration

The cobbled walk, moat and fortified gates of the Nippon Budokan give the place an appropriately martial feel. The view of the moat in front of what used to be a gate into the old Edo castle is slightly obscured by cherry trees. It is too late in the year for blossoms but the large trees add a bit of much needed shade. Today, the Budokan was the site of the 47th All Japan Aikido Demonstration organized by the Aikikai.

I volunteered to work instead of demonstrating and was assigned to “patrol” the 2nd and third floor. My Team (Mayumi and Tim Buerger) patrolled the 2nd and third floors. This meant that we had a lot of opportunities to chat with visitors, watch the demo and take pictures. Aside from having to wear a tie in the heat it didn’t really feel like work. At any rate, we saw some excellent Aikido, got a “free lunch” and were able to enjoy encouraging people to remove their clothes in slightly less public places (believe me, this counts a public service!). After the event, we walked through the Budokan cleaning up and then went for drinks with visiting luminaries. Pictures follow… Please note, I have promised two rather famous sensei that I would self-censor a few incriminating images (Bank number for “donations” at the end of this post 🙂 ).

The moat protecting the budokan

The moat protecting the budokan

The Outer Gate

The Outer Gate

The Inner gate

The Inner gate

Above the entrance

Above the entrance

The main arena had five large mats for the demonstrations.

The main arena had five large mats for the demonstrations.

Kudo Shihan of Tokushima -- my first sensei in Japan.

Kudo Shihan of Tokushima -- my first sensei in Japan.

Kobayashi sensei does ikyo

Kobayashi sensei does ikyo

Inagaki sensei demonstrated buki tori waza -- energetic buki tori waza ...

Inagaki sensei demonstrated buki tori waza -- energetic buki tori waza ...

I love this iriminage!

I love this iriminage!

Yokota-sensei lead the Honbu Ippan (General) Demonstrations

Yokota-sensei lead the Honbu Ippan (General) Demonstrations

Morning class regulars

Morning class regulars

Kokoro Does Irimi nage

Kokoro Does Irimi nage

Ray does irimi nage

Ray does irimi nage

Ray finishes shihonage

Ray finishes shihonage

Tada sensei does yonkyo

Tada sensei does yonkyo

Tada sensei leading

Tada sensei leading

Doshu and Waka-sensei do kotegaeshi (before)

Doshu and Waka-sensei do kotegaeshi (before)

Doshu and Waka-sensei do kotegaeshi (after)

Doshu and Waka-sensei do kotegaeshi (after)

Doshu and Suzuki sensei

Doshu and Suzuki sensei

A few pictures in the crowd …

Morning class friends

Morning class friends

Morning class regulars

Kadi (Congrats on your 1st kyu!)

Kadi (Congrats on your 1st kyu!)

Inagaki sensei 1

Hirose-san

Sakurai Sensei

The Buergers and Fujimaki sensei

The Buergers and Fujimaki sensei

Banba-san

Afterward …

Ueda sensei and the Mieken Aikidokai came for the Enbukai!

Ueda sensei and the Mieken Aikidokai came for the Enbukai!

Kokoro and friends

Kokoro and friends

Doshu and the some of the women of morning class

Doshu and the some of the women of morning class

Kanpai!

Kanpai!

Osawa Sensei and the Saito girls

Osawa Sensei and the Saito girls

Natali and Irie sensei

Morning class dudes



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!
e.

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

Kyudo

Kyudo

Karate

Karate

Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido

Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido

Sumo -- the flexible big guys

Sumo — the flexible big guys

Sumo -- stare down

Sumo — stare down

Judo

Judo

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)



30th Annual All Japan Youth Budo Demonstration
July 21, 2008, 21:43
Filed under: Aikido, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

Ray and I were on the train at 9:00 Saturday morning and met the Honbu Dojo youth group at the regular spot beside the Budokan. After waiting outside for a while and then waiting inside for a while longer it was time to dress and have lunch. Bento and tea were provided and the kids went a little stir crazy waiting for the program to kick off.

After standing for Kimigayo (the Japanese national anthem), there were several speeches by local, national and organizational dignitaries. I didn’t think this opening ceremony lasted as long as others that I’ve been through but then again, I wasn’t sitting in seiza packed shoulder to shoulder with a zillion others — Ray might have something different to say about the length of the speeches. After the ceremonial opening of the event the younger Suzuki sensei lead the whole mass of kids in slightly abridged set of traditional Aikido warm-up exercises.

The fourth grade through junior high age kids were then shooed off the mat and first through third grade students had a full class including ukemi, shiko and a handful of basic techniques. There were two other similar classes with Wakasensei teaching the fourth through sixth graders (Ray’s group) and Kanazawa sensei teaching the junior high school kids. Energy level and sophistication increased with each age level.

After the classes ended the enbu began. Students came from all over Japan to demonstrate how their schools do Aikido. There were demonstrations with one student and one teacher and others with large numbers of kids executing kata in sync. It was quite impressive and I was please with the overall level, especially that of the older junior high school kids. They did a great job!

I also found the kids-will-be-kids atmosphere in the stands fun. At one point I noticed a group of about ten kids huddled looking as though they were doing some serious plotting and planning. On closer inspection it turned out that one of the kids had brought a DS Lite and everyone was giving him advice on how to play. So much for observing the demos 🙂 At the end of the kids section Fujimaki Shihan, Sugawara Shihan and Doshu all gave demonstrations. The pictures below should tell the story better than I can describe it…

Fujimaki Shihan says its time to start the next demo!

Wakasensei shows the kids how Ikyo Ura is performed at Honbu.

Fujimaki Shihan controls the centerline…

A dynamic entry into Nikyo ura (ouch!)

Sugawara Shihan demonstrates iriminage.

Staying inside…

Doshu’s kotegaeshi

Doshu setting up kotegaeshi

This one is always a crowd pleaser –especially when the ccrowd is mostly kids!



The Kids @ The 46th All Japan Aikido Demonstration
May 24, 2008, 23:36
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

Two days ago we realized that the kids were expected to participate in the Aikido demonstration at the Budokan. We hadn’t really paid any attention to the leaflet that came from the dojo. We knew the kids weren’t eligible to test so didn’t read further than that. It turns out that we missed a quite a bit… Oops. So, the kids had their debut at the Nippon Budokan today. It turned out well. Ray knew the techniques and just did what was asked. Kokoro didn’t know what was going on so she just did ukemi the whole time. Her partner was confused at first but didn’t seem to mind once she caught on. Here are a few pics.

Ray, front row left, doing Shihonage from yokmenuchi.

Ray at 2008 All Japan Aikido Demonstration

Ray at 2008 All Japan Aikido Demonstration

Ray at 2008 All Japan Aikido Demonstration

Kokoro was on left side of the middle of the little kids mat.

There were other people demonstrating too…

I like this one of Doshu and his son.



Trip Report: All Japan Enbu & Honbu Practice w/Doshu …

budokan.jpg

Howdy!

I was in Tokyo over the weekend to see the 45th All Japan Aikido Enbu. I hopped on a train with Ueda Shihan and three other students Saturday morning and we made it to the Budokan by early afternoon. As usual for outings in Japan, I felt underdressed since about half the crowded stadium were wearing gi and hakama.

budokan2.jpg

The floor of the Budukan had five square mats, each more than twice the size of that at PSA (my home dojo in Seattle), laid out like a tic-tac-toe game. Five schools at a time would come out and demonstrate their particular take on Aikido or Aikido training. It was amazing to seeing the stylistic, habitual, attitudinal and philosophical variations that exist all within the Aikikai and all on one floor. The demos lasted a minute and a half, barely enough for a taste, then five more schools would trot out for their turn. The dojo demonstrations were interspersed between Shihan from various schools around Japan who would come out with their favorite uke and do their thing. To be very honest, I was more impressed with the ukemi than anything else. An uke as sensitive and skilled as these could make a rank beginner look like a movie ninja. 🙂

There were crowd favorites. Endo Shihan and Tada Shihan drew the biggest rounds of spontaneous applause. They were both tremendous and quite different! There was another Shihan, whose name I missed, whose very martial presentation, vigor and energy were EXCITING. Almost all of his irimi-nage were finished with the palm of his hand wrapped about his poor uke’s face. Ouch!

After spending the whole time smiling like a fool, thinking to myself, “Wow! You can do X-nage that way!!” I was simply blown away and really didn’t learn a damn thing. The only thing concrete that I came away with was a very nice jo. The vendor said it had only been swung by a little-old-lady during morning practice…

The next morning we went Honbu Dojo to attend practice with Doshu. It seemed as though everyone else in Tokyo had the same idea.

doshu.jpg

Since this was my first visit to Honbu, I was prepared to be disappointed (live in Japan long enough and you get into that habit). The architecture didn’t let me down. Honbu is a plain, four-story concrete block that is indistinguishable from other offices/apartments. It is in no way the ancient wooden structure with hidden passages that somehow was still my mental image of the place (must stop watching those damn ninja movies!). The first floor is offices and the next three each have mats (again, each about twice as large as that at PSA). Though the men’s locker room did have lockers, they were all full and even the tops were piled high with back-packs. There were luggage piles everywhere.

Dozens of us stood outside the door trying to watch one of the Honbu shihan run his class. It was so crowded that for most techniques he had half the crowd sit out while the other half trained. Hot, humid air poured out of the room blown, perhaps, by the wind from flying bodies. When that class ended and streams of students mostly _didn’t_ file out it became very clear that today’s practice with Doshu would be crowded. Once we finally got onto the mat and lined up there were ranks and ranks of students. I was in the fifth row and was close to the front of the pack.

Just before Doshu came in, a student went around turning off all of the ventilation fans (there were about six). Apparently, students are intended to experience the seasons during class. I thought it was a bit early to be experiencing July in Hell. To say we were cozy doesn’t quite cover the sensation of being in a pre-heated, extra-moist crowd. Doshu did not split the class in half and it is not an exaggeration to say that there were at least two people per tatami (tatami sized cloth quilt pads). Every technique was spent looking for a safe spot to drop your uke or covering your head in fear of falling neighbors. It was thrilling.

We ran through almost the entire basic set of Aikido techniques. We did all of the following in about this order:

suwari waza aihanmi katatetori ikyo
suwari waza shomen uchi nikyo
shomen uchi sankyo <—<<< He set the sankyo while standing w/ no shoulder into the armpit
shomen uchi yonkyo <—<<< The yonkyo was set with the uke down rather than on the fly
aihanmi katatetori kotegaeshi <—<<< The big “slap uke’s ass” variation
yokomen uchi shihonage <—<<< Big round absorption, followed by classic rounded arm extension using both hands
shomen uchi iriminage <—<<< Damned if I know, kotegaeshi clobbered me.
tenchi nage <—<<< Dynamic, I missed his footwork on the entry GRR!!!
kokyu dosa

At which point he ended the class and took off to where famous sensei often go — lunch, I think.

After all was said and done, I enjoyed the Budokan demos a lot but that hour on the mat at Honbu was wonderful. It wasn’t that Doshu was at the front or the crunchy historical location but rather all the amazing talent on the mat. Almost everyone there was shihan of some sort or a senior student hauled along as an uke. There were other just-plain-lucky folks like me in the crowd but I didn’t practice with any. Absolutely everyone that I trained with was a genuine Aikido bad-ass of one sort or another. There were the Ki-oozing-from-their-pores-old-farts; wicked fast, flexible-as-rope college dudes and tough-as-nails soldier/cop types. Whew! Next year I’ll know to bring more Pokari Sweat.

Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu!
e.

PS The current style in Harajuku is to wear clashing haori hakama and/or fake looking traditional clothing.
Jaa naa!
e.

at_honbu_w_nagasawa-san.jpg




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