Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Around the Corner

For most traditional Aikido Dojos, one would run a new year's all night practice. Part of a misogi experience and part of a joyful celebration that the year has past and we're still in good health. Sadly, our dojo will not even conduct our normal Friday night practice because I think everyone wants to have a little bit of rest.

So, do take the rest because it relates to a story I've once read in Dave Lowry's book. I've lost my copy sometime back and can only hope that I can paraphrase summarise it without misleading anyone. Anyway back to the story. There was once this old man who never got sick. He was strong and healthy and a lot of people wondered what was his secret. An enterprising young man asked to be his student and stayed with the old man for a season. He did whatever the old man did and at the end of it he thought he had learned everything and so he left.

A year or two has past and he chanced upon the man again. This time however, the old man did everything that he did not do when the student was living with him. He now takes hot baths, and eats meat instead of ice cold baths and eating fish. He also stays indoors when he used to take long walks at night. So bewildered, the student asked the old man why? They old man said, that when the student lived with him in the Summer he took cold baths and eats fish to ensure his body is cool and not overheat. He also exercises at night because of the same reason. In the winter he prefers hot baths and meat so they warm him up. In effect, the old man lived by the season.

God has created seasons and seasonal bounties. Fruits, flowers and game all abide by the seasons. It is man with their supermarkets, tin food and refrigerators that can go against nature and have things out of season. With heaters and air cond, automobiles... living within the constraint of nature is a thing of the past.

Yet, our bodies remain the same. Thus naturally they crave to abide by nature's rule. Doing things in moderation, doing things in season would keep us healthy and strong. So we shall rest this holidays, but come back healthier and stronger and with more energy to practice next year.

Also, go ahead and party and celebrate. But remember that Osensei dislikes one from drinking too much. He believes that one who has studied budo should always be in control of himself. Remember, a martial artists must be ready to protect himself and his loved ones and innocents from harm. You cannot do that when drunk. Even a famous Aikido chief instructor injured himself when he fell because he was drunk. What more for us very junior Aikidokas.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I Scratched my Knee...

Just now after practice I found to my surprise both my knees has lost a bit of skin. Admittedly we were doing sorewaza techniques mostly, but it really did surprise me that it happened. Why it was so was simply because:

a. I wasn't dragging myself around since I wasn't tired. Doing proper shikko, one seldom loses skin.
b. I've been doing this for a long time. One would think the callouses would have saved me some skin by now.

Thinking about it made me realise something. Just because we've been doing something for a long time, doesn't mean we will be good at it or impervious to the hurts that come as part and parcel of it. It gives you greater tolerance and a better chance of doing it right, but until you've truly mastered something, you really can't take anything for granted really.

Also I was thinking about how mudanshas were struggling with the katadori sorewaza techniques. In particular the first movement i.e. the kuzushi. Doing it step by step, we see the form emerging. Where they should move and how to move. From that point what else do they have to do. And so on and on. The placements and maai are done in a very systematic method that gives you the base form. The form can translate to either good or bad Aikido depending on whether you apply the Aiki principles. But without the form, we tend to lose sight of the reasoning. Sure, in kino nagare especially, we apply Aiki principles to take Uke's center and throw him around. This allows us to short cut certain steps, steps that would otherwise stop the energy flow from Uke, or give him back his center. But when we concentrate to much on kino nagare, sometimes we overlook our form totally. Perhaps once mastery is achieved, true formlessness will emerge, but I believe at this point in time, we still should show good form even with kino nagare.

Having said that, application of chushin and awase together would most certainly ensure proper form is maintain. Add to it, a rigorous application of atemi waza during movement, also ensures that our movement follows proper form. If we understand that most of the waza requires us to blend with the energy, we would realise that the natural response to an attack is to move. Now with training, our ability to move is enhanced. The typical way to move would be irimi or tenkan, sometimes kaiten and sometimes a combination of each.
After the movement, we also understand that chushin is important, both for us and uke. Thus immediately after the movement, we seek to control chushin. We also understand that awase exists to ensure we have contact with uke and thus a bridge to his center without which we have absolutely no way of controlling him or his energy. Atemi waza gives us the will to attack or capture his center, it enforces our intention.

Aside from waza, ukemi also requires proper form. The last few classes, I've devoted a lot of time on improving ukemi. Ukemi requires an intelligent and resourceful uke. Uke is not a sacrificial lamb to be thrown at whim. Uke's job is to attack nage and be successful at it. If Nage employs good aiki principles and waza, Uke will be thrown. But if Nage is lax, then it is Nage that is thrown or subdued.

Uke first and foremost allows Nage to ready himself. Once Nage has offered an opening, Uke must attack that opening in the safest way possible to ensure victory. Thus this is where Uke decides to come gyaku hanmi or aihanmi, when he decides to do katate dori, or katadori, or ushiro ryotedori or hijidori or any other attack for that matter. Uke knows how to attack because Uke is not blind. Uke won't want to walk into a punch thus he attacks in a position that would allow him some safety. Also, when grabbing Nage, Uke grabs to control. If Nage were holding a knife say, the grab should allow Uke to control nage's knife hand at will allowing neither an attack to come nor an escape. Grabbing with tensed muscles only allows Nage to dominate over Uke. Thus grabbing attacks require extension, relaxation, centering and everything else we learned under Aiki principles.
Similarly when Nage performs tenkan or irimi, Uke maintains the grab and move to position of centeredness. Improper technique by Nage allows Uke to counter. Movement allows Uke to maintain the connection to Nage without losing posture and balance. This goes all the way to taking the fall. Even taking the fall does not mean submission. Rolling out leaves Uke the ability to kick with the legs or take Nage down. Coming up centered and with Zanshin means Uke is ready to deal with further attacks from Nage.

So, in doing our Keiko. We must understand that once we start we don't stop until the end of class. Uke and Nage are continuously applying Aiki principles in attacks and defence. And hopefully our continued practice will ensure that even after class, we do not stop our 'practice' of the Aiki principles. After all, we did not come to the dojo just to get scratches and bruises.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wanted: Perfect Aikidoka

I was at my Uncle's place today. They had a big do coming back from Mecca and it was in celebration of their 25 years of marriage. In his speech, he was already telling us to come for his Golden Anniversary (50 years). I've no real idea of what goes on in his marriage, but when I look at them, I can see that they're in a wonderful partnership.

I've also read in a book entitled 'Blink' that there is this doctor and his team who has developed a test to determine whether partners will stay together or divorce after a few years. So far his team has been very accurate if the test was concluded say after 2 hours. Accurate enough to get 95% correct prediction. The doctor however could get 85% accuracy within the first 5 minutes.

Anyway, that's just the anecdote. What we're looking for here today is that perfect partner. It could be a wife or a husband or a son or daughter, or it could be the perfect Aikido teacher or the perfect Aikido student. Looking for perfection in a partnership is like looking for gold at the end of a rainbow. In the end, a perfect partnership begins from both parties. Like my uncle who has every intention to make it to 50 years of happy marriage. He's not hoping to make it there, he wants it to happen. Because of that, it is likely that he'll work to get there and be rewarded faithfully. A partner feeling such an intention from the other side, would most likely reciprocate. Afterall, a good partnership is not easy to find. So its easier to work with something that's already doing well.

If we are worried that our techniques are not going down pat, or that uke is not falling the way he should or not attacking the way he should, don't be. Just give good intention and that's 50% of the partnership. Your partner might not be knowledgeable enough or coordinated enough to move like that 'perfect' uke everyone sees in Aikido videos, but sooner or later he'll catch up. In the meantime, its the sensei's job to ensure everyone in class understand his role.

Nage is the instigator for kihon practice most times. He stands in kamae, ready and centered. He extends an arm which will indicate what openings are there. Uke is ready to attack. Seeing nage extend his hand just so, indicates an Aihanmi grab instead of Gyakuhanmi. Uke grabs and is now ready to take nage's center. Uke is safe. Nage now connects with that energy and moves. Uke is thrown down. Uke backfalls and immediately tries to come up, but nage is poised and focused. Uke stops getting up and waits. Nage then kamae's into a natural stance. Uke comes up readily and maintains zanshin until nage offers an opening again.

This is what we practised today. The techniques were tenkan kokyu nage (forward), tenkan sayo nage, sumi otoshi (kihon), sumi otoshi (using drop front leg) and sumi otoshi (tenkan).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pics and Videos uploaded

Ok I've put some pics up in Flickr and the videos are in Vimeo. Both links are on the top tabs.

I've not organised everything yet, but hopefully we can start collecting videos of each of the techniques and pointers or principles of the class in training. I'll also post some of the vids I took of sensei but since I didn't take all that many, it'll be very limited. Maybe next time someone with a camcorder can record all the training session with sensei Hakim.

I'll also see if we can rip some of the vids when I get a copy of their DVD for the last 2-3 seminars in Indonesia.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Aikido in a Bottle

The modern life we live is filled with convenience. Back in the days where electricity was not common place and labour was only the manual kind, people eat what they sow (or farm). Lets not go too far and enter the barter world, but still even with money, people then still retained their craft. Sew shirts, plant crops, build barns, that sort of thing.

Now, we can get everything from the supermarket or mall. Need rice, fish, fruits, shirts, DVDs? Everything is there for the taking. Intuitively, one would think that with all these convenience on the shelf, a person would have more time for himself than before. But I'm hazarding a guess that all of us feel we're running out of time. So much so we keep trying to find more and more convenient or fast means of gratification.

Headache? Pop a pill. Need stamina? Drink energy can soda. Need to sleep? Pop a pill again.

So much so, opening something from a bottle and gulping it becomes second nature to us. More and more, we translate this to everything we do. Most people now don't have the patience to do something right if it means it'll take a lot of time. They need to accomplish greatness now and get on with life and the PS3.

Granted, our priorities are skewed nowdays. It used to be we wanted security in life and happiness with our families. Nowdays its all about money. Because its been drum into our brains that money makes the world go round and fancy cars are no longer an option. Money, a tool of convenience has taken over life as we know it. Because of the all elusive money, we know work in the office hours more than a normal person should. We get burnt out and have to go on expensive holidays to recuperate so that we get to do it all over again.

I'm not saying we don't need money. But remember that there are plenty of things money can't buy. Chiefly, happiness and health. Add to that, money can't buy skill either. So, you may be the richest man on earth but if you want to do Aikido right, you pay the mat fees and you train as much as you can, as well as you can. There's no Aikido in a bottle for you to pop in this reality.

The next time you wonder why some people just get Aikido and you don't, stop wondering. Just practice and do it. You will feel the failures and you will share the successes. More importantly, everytime you do something you will know if it works or not. Of course, don't forget the adage of the blind leading the blind. Finding a good teacher is a prerequisite.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Power and Subtleness

Most people outside of the Aikido world learned of Aikido through the exploits of Steven Seagal. Give credit where its due. Even so, a lot of people in the Aikido world like to talk behind the man, primarily because he comes off on the side of arrogant. Be it from the characters he plays in the movies or some of the interviews he's done. They play up his stories about being in the CIA, learning from Osensei himself and things like being choked out in a movie set by another renown American and a fight that never happened with the French guy who splits. (yes I know his name but I don't want the search engines to pick this up).

[Image source: Kingsugar photobucket]

Anyway, enough about Steven Seagal's juicy bits. The fact remains he gave Aikido exposure to the world that the best teachers couldn't in their many decades promoting the art. Sure each great teacher has had great impact especially to students who were in direct contact with them, but Steven Seagal made everybody else who didn't have that contact or chance to know about Aikido.

Because of that, in a lot of people's mind, when they start to learn Aikido they see it through his eyes. Or what they perceive to be his eyes. Surely we've seen his spectacular techniques, kotegaishe through the window and shihonage through a billiard table. But the most spectacular of all is his Iriminage. Probably many of his students would attest to the power in his Iriminage.

And that is why it doesn't come to a surprise when Aikidoka's have a misconception about power. When they believe that Irimi because of its linear function, is powerful and Tenkan because of its 'avoidance', graceful or soft. To me, the opposite is true with Tenkan the more powerful of the two movements. Irimi is a shadow, a subtle movement. Design to allow nage to obtain a superior place to uke but without having to enter uke's sphere of power. A subtle step that gives nage the advantage over uke. Whereas with Tenkan, one could capture uke's movement into one's own, using centrifugal force to multiply that power and return it to him many times more.

One should see the power of rotation. Gears are a fact of daily life. The speed of the earth's rotation is amazing, about 1100 miles/hour. We don't feel a thing but should that spinning stop right now this instant, everything on earth's surface will be destroyed. That's the power of tenkan.

But given that Tenkan and Irimi are primarily body movements, does the understanding stop there? We know that Osensei has talked to us about the 8 forces:

  • Movement and Stillness
  • Solidification and Fluidity
  • Extension and Contraction
  • Unification and Division
And yes it does look very familiar, almost like the Characters of Aiki. Anyway, if he talks about the 8 forces, why is it something that is not explained in our movements or waza? Its a guiding message that does not appear much in our training except for perhaps 1 or 2 aspects. Yet I believe that it is contained in each of our movement and that Tenkan and Irimi personifies those elements.

Within the movement of Irimi, there is stillness because though we have moved, the opponent doesn't perceive us to have moved. Our feet is solid and forms the base and connection to earth, but our body is fluid not hard like a rock when we touch our opponent. Without extending we could not have irimi'd properly, and when we absorb him into us, we contract (or receive). Once we are in place, we unite our center and from the fusion we translate to fission.

It is the same with Tenkan and we should think it through. We should also think why vibration, rotation, spiraling is so important and how our 4 principles allow us to achieve this understanding.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Imagination or 'men' exercises

In the beginning, in order to train the mind we cannot immediately say to someone just do, there is no try. Not everyone was born with the mitochondrian count of Skywalker.

We use imagination a lot in Aikido, at least in the beginning and sometimes even later on when we get stuck. Its a tool, a training tool. Like a child using a tracing paper to copy pictures from books. It limits your ability but for a start it gets your hand and ideas to match. Later as you get better and better, you find that your skills to draw things without external help increase and now you draw from your heart.

So we use men in the beginning.

The simple exercises we used last night was to help in other aspects of our waza.

Exercise 1: Uke stands ready to block. Punch uke with increasing speed. Uke pushes the hand away each time. Note the fastest speed that uke can still block the straight jab. Now using the same speed, shomen towards his center hara. Just brush the tips of your fingers on his gi. If you imagine the cut happening beyond your fingers/hand, that it actually starts with a blade you will see that the shomen will go through. If you physically chop your hand, that will likely result in a block. Chopping is what most beginners do because you tend to limit yourself to your hand thus you move your hand and inevitably your shoulder comes into play. But when you shomen as if you're holding a sword and cut from your center, your shomen would look the part and actually cut.

Application of this skill comes in various forms. One when in katatedori, as you extend into uke, your sword penetrates him and then cut his center down. If we try doing this by pushing and then chopping down, uke will resist. But if you cut his inner being instead of moving his hands, then you will find it easy to do.

Exercise 2: This exercise has uke cupping his hands together to form a target. Nage shomens while thinking about striking the hand. You can see that the shomen will smack the hand soundly and stop there. Next Nage forgets the hand and shomens through the body. He must use consistent speed and not suddenly increase his strength and speed. Uke too do not unconsciously try to catch nage, just maintain a relaxed cup. If done right, nage's shomen will cut cleanly through without conscious effort.

Application of this skill, this just reinforces the 1st exercise but getting this right means that later down power or weight underside will become easier to perform.

Exercise 3:Nage must walk with intention. Uke holds out his hand in a relaxed and unbendable state. Nage walks to the hand thinking of the hand. Nage will find that the hand stops him like a rubber band. Next nage looks past the hand and walks in that direction. Imagine that you're meeting your date, or going for some favourite food. Not hurrying and bulldozing through, but walking relaxedly at the same speed as before you will find that walking through uke's hand as very easy.

Exercise 3b:Now nage using this walking method becomes uke. Use 2 or more ukes. Each uke now uses nage as a starting point for his path. Uke walks naturally through nage. Uke doesn't think about nage so much as just using him to start his direction to go to. As uke gets near, nage moves off quietly and naturally. Not avoiding or dodging so much as actually taking a natural step forwards, backwards, sideways or pivoting. After doing this, periodically test by avoiding uke or dodging. Uke will feel the movement and be slightly disturb as if he wants to track nage.

Exercies 3c:Next using our method of maai training. Now uke stands ready. 2 ukes will be better. 1 standing a bit away behind the other. Ukes are now ready to deliver shomen strike to nage as he comes directly to them. Nage walks naturally like before (like when he was uke). Uke is a road that he starts in the direction of, but as he gets to the danger maai, nage now moves naturally off the path. If done naturally out of the way, uke will not track nage when he veers off the path. But if the feeling is avoidance and dodging, uke will follow nage's movement and hit him. The movement off the path is done at the tip of maai. Too early or too late will result in a hit.

There are many more men exercises that we can do to train our body and mind coordination. This becomes the foundation to awase before we add the spirit aspect. With the spirit aspect we will begin to touch on musubi training.

A short note on the waza we practised last night. Gyakuhanmi katatedori kotegaishe. Similar to the iriminage, nage needs to move enter behind uke. In static variation, nage needs to enter uke's center before cutting down to bring uke's hand down. Otherwise it'll be like a pulling struggle. Enter into without moving your body into uke's space, cut down and slide in to his side, your other hand crosses over and cuts beside uke's elbow. Tenkan and now place your closest hand on uke's wrist, extend and lead forwards not pull towards you. As he moves, return his fingers or wrist back to him, not twist the wrist over. The leading forward of uke's hand begins with atari so do it lightly and do not grab his wrist. Gradually this will become an awase movement.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The True Art, is Hidden

A classmate from another dojo asked me why he couldn't move me from katadori. Its not as if I was holding him strongly. The answer was obvious but apparently he didn't see it that way. Tonight's class was like that. The entire roster went about using brute force, or jerking, or moving about here and there, all the while putting all their effort trying to bend my arm. Its as if they've never seen the unbendable arm before.

The problem when you're using force is that if the partner is relaxed and extending, that force will rebound back to you from the partner's center. However, you can circumvent that by just connecting to him, and moving with your center. Its unfortunate that in this dojo, this basic principle isn't taught as precedent to Waza. In a way, it allows for quick progression because you get the waza numbers fast. Look at us, I've been putting so much emphasis on principles, the students really don't have much practice in their waza and even that is limited in numbers. Well the past couple of weeks we've been working on that part in preparation for the 5th kyu grading, but I digress.

Ultimately, he asked me at the end of the class to show him why he couldn't do it. I answered simply because he had no connection with me. A grab to the shoulder or lapel is not a simple matter. It is an attack. I can push him, control him and use my contact with him to deflect any atemi he wants to initiate. Simply said, I'm already on top of him. So any movement ashi sabaki or tai sabaki only serves as an impetus for me to react.

The way forward is to make the katadori his own connection to my center. Using my hand as his bridge before  even considering putting his hand on mine to do whatever. By having that connection first, what comes next is just icing on the cake or emphasis. Without the connection established, hand placement or getting out of the line doesn't matter.

Afterwards, we begin to talk. I don't know why I did it but I guess its because he was relating his experience on some Jujitsu people he knew a long time ago who really practised realisticly ("unlike in Aikido... you mean to say", I added in my mind), so being the person that I am I asked him to stand up and defend against my yokomen. It wasn't delivered with any great speed or force but I cut his neck anyway. I ask him why he couldn't stop it and he couldn't answer. After all, a yokomen attack from uke is a staple of any aikido practice. Yet, there it was, he had his hands up but mine was at his neck. I told him then that we have to understand that each thing we do in Aikido has an inner and an outer aspect. Omote and Ura maybe... funnily enough. The cutting of yokomen begins with the intention to cut. The desire to cut one's opponent without the added aggression or possession. I cut his center and that is what I do. By putting that in my intent, I moved into his center and take it over. I don't project a desire to hit him, instead I just move in to cut. I guess most people practice only the outer aspect. They move forward and swing their hands. Anyone can do that I suppose and it doesn't matter.

After I explained what I did, he went down to fold his hakama and related many stories. It was funny, a second he is down on the floor and the next he was up showing stuff. After a minute or two of this my friend being widely exposed showed me some moves his old teacher showed him. It looked very similar to an art I know but his art origins is definitely chinese kung fu unlike mine. It struck me that arts around the world show their inner selves to be about the same as each other when you take away the waza and kata. We are one and all the same really. So I told him, this is a true art your teacher taught you and you're very lucky. Unfortunately, not many teachers teach their students the 'true' art. Simply because the true art cuts right through the showy bits, the kihon you may say. It goes to the essence of any art really and that is the struggle for life and death.

Truly in Aikido, the martial way is there for anyone who wants to look for it. It is only a tiny aspect of the art really. I'm more interested in the Aiki part though, because lord knows that the 'true' art has no forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keeping yourself healthy

Ours is a martial way. If you study the history of many of Japan's greatest martial artists including Osensei himself, many took up their art when they were young for health reasons. Many of them were frail and sickly in body, but because of their spirit they took it upon themselves to get better. For most, the best way was to take up martial arts training. Back then gym and callisthenics were non-existent and most martial arts training required intensive physical training which build endurance, stamina, flexibility and strength.

However, an aspect of physical training commonly overlooked is the dietary and lifestyle part. Generally the rule of thumb is to eat in moderation. Our body is designed to breakdown food into nutrients not to gorge. Complex foods are more tedious to breakdown and worst still are 'created' foodstuff. In the early days, people eat food that's grown from the fields and from farm animals or hunts. Processed food was mostly flour turn to sweets and those were rare because it was an expensive use of food. Now with the advent of supermarkets and capitalism, the need to make money selling food requires that manufacturers attract buyers to buy their product and to keep costs low but still attractive. The cheapest way would be to make it addictive instead of nutritious. To save costs, food should also keep for a long time. Therefore chemicals like pesticide, hormones, fertilisers, preservatives, sugar, colouring, flavourings are all added into our food.

Breaking down these food into nutrition and junk creates a lot of stress in our organs. Slowly, more and more junk are absorbed by our body and causes even more inefficiency. This inevitability leads to our failing health. So a true martial artist, would take care of his diet. Taking not only essential nutrients to ensure physical growth and energy production but also avoiding junk that would screw up his system.

The other aspect is lifestyle. We are modern people with electricity, air cond, cars, mobiles and television. Because of electric light alone, most people are spending more time awake in the dark then ever before. However we are really nothing but sophisticated animals. We actually have a time to be awake and a time to sleep. We are created to benefit most from sleeping in the dark. In our stage 4 sleep and REM sleep, the body regenerates itself the most. Blood flows out form our organs and circulates more through our blood stream. Our immune system is recharged. However, if there is light, melanoma which is a natural hormone doesn't get produced and these things don't happen. So we end up using up our source like a battery that is never recharged.

On top of that, because we work in the city and travel by car, we generally skip out on the morning sun. Without sun light, all that calcium and magnesium we've been taking comes to nothing. So there goes our bones and immune system again. Not to mention, missing out on the sun actually causes us to get insomnia.

The only part where we can hold some semblance of survival is because practising martial arts is exercise. So we get this done at the very least. Still, for it to have real benefits we need to understand what our body considers as exercise. No doubt physical movement involves using up calories, but strengthening organs require special types of movement. Stretching and rolling helps with our internal organs and flexibility, but developing lung and heart strength requires good cardio work with proper breathing. Taking fluids and having a good heart rate will help flush our kidneys clean. Dynamic muscle tension helps our muscle tone.

Lastly, besides our physical health. Mental health is equally important. By practising intent, concentration, relaxation, meditation and breathing we are developing or maintaining our mental faculty. Osensei never finished high school, but towards the end of his death, among his reading material includes books by Einstein and other scholars of note. Osensei's mind was as keenly developed as his physical ability, only it was overshadowed by his mastery of Aikido and was never made known. To a large extent, even modern Japanese believe that martial artists are brutes or gangsters. Yet, a true Budoka is a refined gentleman, of fine physical prowess and mental faculties. He is a protector of the weak and the bastion against the criminal. You are unlikely to achieve that with a runny nose.

P.S. I was a scout and the reason I loved it so was because I read much on Baden Powell. He wrote in his Scouting for Boys, it is the tenderfoot that will suffer a cold so. A true scout veteran would spend many a day sleeping outdoors so he is used to the cold weather. The sun and nature would make him strong.

Truly if you feel sick, you should bath with cold water. Avoid hot water as it does nothing for your immune system.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friday and Sunday Training for Kyu test

So last Friday, I revealed our new and tentative syllabus for the Kyu grades up to Shodan. A revised version will come out on the Dojo website as soon as they are ready. Right now we are concentrating on the 6th and 5th kyu. Hopefully, if everything goes as plan, we will do it in January.

The waza we went through for 6th Kyu are Katatedori Ai-hanmi and Gyaku-hanmi: Ikkyo, Sayo-nage, Irimi-nage and Shiho-nage. Sorewaza kyoku-ho. Principles of zanshin, soft eyes, maai.

For 5th Kyu we add Katatedori Ai-hanmi and Gyaku-hanmi: Nikkyo, Sankyo and kotegaishe. Ryotedori tenchi-nage and sayo-nage. Principles of chushin.

It will be slightly confusing at first because we have many variations in the tegatana (handblade) where we can offer uke in the 3 different rotations. This has been discussed in earlier posts so we won't look at that for now. The main thing we went through today is to make sure everything begins with good centering and extension. As was experienced in class today, if you only kamae firmly, you will find that changing your legs either cause you to collapse the hand or to lose connection entirely. But if you connect well and not only push physically, your feet is easy to move about.

On Friday, we did a bit of maai revision using the paired bokken practice. This is to remind us to not enter opponents space with first cutting him.

In moving from Gyaku-hanmi to go for Sayo-nage. We imagine holding a bokken in kamae, then we move our center forward but do not disturb the location of the hand. Therefore it automatically lowers down when you come in. Be careful not to enter uke's space. His center is affected. If you only lower your hand, or push with your shoulders or do something like a tenkan movement with the hand, you will see that the bokken does not move naturally. Once you have uke's center, you extend outward and back into him. Then cut his center. Do not push him away or down.

For iriminage, we add our other hand into the equation as we lower our lead hand. The other hand also cuts uke's center but sliding across uke's elbow. The cut is aimed at his groin area but do not land there. Do not struggle to release the first hand, instead shuffle so that both your feet is in parallel to uke's feet. This movement will release your hand automatically as long as your 2nd hand is in the proper position. Now draw uke's centerline into yours and rotate on this axis bringing him inwards to your hara. Then perform irimi. Do not clothesline him. Cut him down with your center.

On shihonage. Where in aihanmi we imagined using uke's lead hand as a bokken, in Gyaku-hanmi our kamae is already in an advantageous position. So we bend our elbow, and imagine that the bokken is now at uke's neck. Slide underneath him and kaiten to execute throw. We do not pull or twist his hand. Doing so invites an attack. By connecting well, our intent will lock his center when we drop ours, and when we slide forward, his center will turn automatically so he can't hit us with his free hand or leg. His lead hand is now holding his entire weight and is locked out.

On Ikkyo we did a tenkan first for 6th kyu. From tenkan, lead uke out into a spin, atemi and grab the wrist before entering. For 5th kyu, we cut uke's hand immediately. Taking care to maintain our line for omote, and going out of line for ura. In each instance, our initial connection dictates the outcome of the cut. Without proper connection, the cut will be a struggle to bring down uke. Even as we have control of uke' arm and close to his body, the feeling would be our lead hand cutting his center through his hands, and the 2nd arm is sort of carrying his centerline through his bent arm. As we cut into him, we drop our outer hand downwards, and uke should be unable to do anything but follow you down.

Since we've done a lot of tenchinage before we won't explain much on this now. For sayonage, we start almost like tenchinage but then reverse the hand to execute the throw.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some thoughts on training and harmony...

Well, I was watching my videos of Systema today and there was Vlad explaining about how some arts or sports destroy your body. Sure when you are younger, you try to go faster and hit harder, take high falls and that sort of thing. He was explaining it in a progression kind of way. When two people go head to head, the stronger or the faster wins, but then someone then starts to use techniques and then the person with the best technique or the most number of techniques and counters wins. But as you get older and wiser, you sort of start using less and less of strength, speed and techniques, and more intuition and feeling.

Part of how systema trains its practitioners is to strengthen their joints and ligaments instead of muscle. We all know how bodybuilders build their mass. Heavy lifting destroy muscle tissue and when they rest and eat nutrients, the muscle builds up again bigger. In Systema they train instead by breathing and conditioning the body. Conditioning through slow pace dynamic isolation exercises as well as partner pairing where the other person uses touch, push and punches to various areas. The core of breathing also comes with the caveat that the body must relax completely. Sometimes we relax on one area, but inadvertently we are tensed in others. For the advance Systema practitioner, they even have multiple layers of relaxation. From muscle fascia, muscles, joints and even the bone and skeleton.

Now, look at how some of this philosophy and method correlates with how we train in Aikido. Natural movement, intuition & feeling, breathing, relaxation... all this are principles that we too adhere to. And look at the statement, as we get wiser we use less and less... ultimately, that is what we think about when we're thinking about the big circles becoming smaller and smaller until it reaches a point and then it becomes nothing and everything. The basic mechanics of that have been explained somewhat in a book entitled Small Circle Jujitsu by Wally. In fact, this idea is also dominant in Tai Chi and many other chinese arts. Just so we don't jump to the conclusion that everything is about the same thing, let me put caveats on that statement. In the most basic of sense, all the arts are probably looking at the same thing. Of course, as I understand it, the Aikido's perspective is slightly different at the endgame to the others. They too are different from each other.

Let us also look at the statement where you destroy your body or your opponents. This is a statement which intrigued me greatly about Systema several years back when I first heard of it. Sensei Hakim too said, that in practice we should improve our health, physical or mental, not destroy it. If we train and get injured a lot, something is wrong somewhere. This is not empty talk indeed, when I've seen some of his students who first came in using canes or who had psychological disorders and are now in much better condition after a few years of training under them. True martial arts or the spirit of true Aikido is about life not death.

Ok so having said that, and just for the fun of confusing you, Budo is about accepting death. Can I have just contradict myself? If you look at it deeply, training in Aikido implores that you seek life and rejuvenation. We get this because we train hard our body, mind and spirit. Most other activities only train one aspect. Say in sports we train the body, in our university lectures or discourse we train the mind and when we meditate or pray we train the spirit. But here we have an amalgamation of sorts. We train all. That is where the rejuvenation aspect comes to play. However once we have develop all these aspects in ourselves, we are more able to understand the true spirit of Budo. Budo is duty. Budo is about acceptance. That acceptance encompasses the ability to embrace death when it comes.

If we truly have achieved this level of acceptance, this is when we can say we have achieved some knowledge of harmony. Because within harmony resides a balance. With life there is death. If we only seek life, then there is no harmony. Harmony is only ever attained when we embrace life and we embrace death.

To the less spirited reader, when we talk about life and death, it is but an aspect of a whole. Certainly there other things to be said about harmony and such. We talk about life and death because to human beings, that is ultimately what we care most about. Not money, not fame, not power. When it comes to crux of it, human beings crave life and we shun death.

Lastly, the things I've said here is a philosophical aspect that we should try to understand based on our awareness and experience. Aiki in itself does not hold to any philosophical boundary. Aiki is natural. It is a way, a natural way. Once we learn to move the natural way, we can defeat the opponent because we understand him completely, more than he does himself. But we should know that Aiki is not the one all we're trying to get here. By committing to the learning of Aikido, we have to also accept that we need to train the heart. The philosophy of the heart is what differentiates Aikido from Aikijutsu.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Going to our Roots

So I mentioned training the fire within our spirits. Obviously, its not just an imaginary fire that we're talking about here. Training the physical harder aspect is integral to our learning of Aiki. Which is akin to the fire visualisation.

The last 2 training sessions we explored a bit about some jujitsu techniques. We started of with a left kick, left jab entering and followed by a technique.

1st. Enter, Right palm strike to uke's elbow, left palm strike to uke's face, right shuto into kaiten. Left knee to face so that proper posture to uke is maintained. Right hand goes behind uke's waist, nage enters in front of uke and position to do koshinage. variation includes, right leg up to uke's waist, or inside reap.
As uke flips over, left hand grabs uke's left upper arm. Uke falls below nage's feet. Right leg position close to uke's body, grab uke's hands with both hands. Left leg kicks face and steps over the neck. Fall down into arm bar.

2nd. Instead of going for kaiten, after the jab, enter from inside and grab behind uke's neck. Rotate so that nage has a firm grip on uke's neck. Drop down and position all body weight on uke's body. Transition right leg forward, left leg back for balance. Bend uke's right hand then bring right foot on his palm, cross leg to break elbow.

3rd. Uke now does jab and cross. Nage controls center line by pivoting and projecting lead hands towards uke's face. Enter deep and under on the right side. Right leg falls behind both uke's legs. Right hand infront of uke's body. Left palm collapse uke's left knee. As uke falls under, cross left leg over uke's leg and wrap on right leg. Stretch uke's knee. Right hand control uke's body, left hand control groin area. Variation, instead of falling down, Grab both knees from outside, lock, lift and throw.

4th. At the cross, counter with right elbow, then go for guillotine choke. Left hand controls uke's right arm pit. Now right hand controls uke's left arm pit and rotate downwards. Extend hand so both palm touches the floor. Maintain posture. Stretch uke's neck upwards.

5th. At the cross, go deep under for head butt at side chin. Right hand goes under uke's right arm pit and grab his upper hand. Left hand grabs his forearm. Lift and throw. Variation, drop to knee. Variation, fall flat and throw over. Pin with ude-gerami. If uke spins out, go to rear choke hold.

We also played with arm bar transitions.

Everyone was asked to look at how the jujitsu techniques apply in our daily training. One example I showed was in the typical ikkyo position. If done wrongly (but widely accepted), uke's center is not controlled, but nage relies on pressure on the elbow to keep uke down. If uke resist upwards, nage presses to apply pain on the joint. If uke doesn't resist upwards and instead lifts nage's knees, he can apply technique number 3.

So even though the drills we did are pretty basic jujitsu, we need to understand their functions and how it relate to our practice. Concentrating too much on Aikido waza and Aiki principles makes us myopic in our understanding.

Ironically, it was Osensei who said Aikido is like Fire and Water meeting and creating Steam.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Training the Fire in us...

I don't remember exactly how our conversation came to this topic, but Sensei Hakim mentioned that he was concerned on how his newer students were training. Its ironic, I think part of what makes him so appealing to me is his grasp of Aiki. But here's a teacher concerned that his students are all but myopic on that elusive subject.

I mentioned before that Sensei delved into many aspects of the art to reach where he is today. He started with the hard before becoming soft. I also remembered some sifus clearly mentioning about this two sides of the same coin debate. Internal arts of China have 2 distinctions. Hard style and Soft style. An example of a hard style is Hsing Yi. Although its a hard style, it is still an Internal Art as opposed to an art which is purely physical say for lack of a better choice, Wushu for instance. A soft style would probably be Bagua.

There are other examples and some schools have hard and soft lineage in their single style. It also has been a grand debate on what gets trained first. The soft or the hard. Logically speaking, we should train the hard style when we are younger and the soft style when we are older. Hard style when we have more physical energy and hardiness, soft style when he have accumulated enough knowledge and experience.

But then, most who join Aikido chose it because it is considered a soft style. If they wanted to do joint breaks and throws, they could have taken up Judo, Jujitsu, Chin Na what have you. Still, before we go down this long road... let us understand what we want from Aikido.

To truly understand the value of something, you must experience its antithesis. To feel the full satisfaction of food in your stomach, you must have known hunger. To feel the value of wealth, you must have lived in poverty. Similarly, in order to fully understand the 'softness', we must know of the 'hardness'.

Be that as it may, we shouldn't confuse ourselves that hard is untenable. Hard style doesn't mean its any less effective. Hard in this context means we should learn Applications waza, mechanics, basic jujitsu, atemi waza, newaza, henka waza, etc. It means we should understand the principle of center line at the very least. The ability to discern tsuki or openings in our opponents defence and in ours. The ability to exploit that opening. The ability to defend ourselves and counter. The ability to recognise attacks and their attack line. The ability to move and keep balance. Timing, distance, kuzushi, first and foremost.

After we have some basic level of this, then I believe it would be more meaningful to start on the Soft aspects. Atari, Awase, Musubi, Takemusu. One who practices Budo must know fire, its danger and its power. The heat it provides us is what makes us 'Alive' and aware. If one takes on the aspect of 'Water' alone, one becomes lifeless or cold. One doesn't have to allow the fire to be big like a bon fire. But a light that can be used as needed.

Just as we hold our kamae in a relaxed but extended way. Our spirit shines a little light from this fire in our heart. But when trouble comes, we can open a bigger hole to send our spirit blazing into him before surrounding him with our 'water' and fluidness.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some pictures from Yogja...

1st.  Group picture.
2nd. Kyoku throw
3rd. Kyoku throw
4th. Cutting uke's center, irimi
5th. Controlling centerline like we're using Ken.  

A short introduction to Aikido in Malay

Aikido adalah satu seni bela diri berasal dari Jepun yang berasaskan Aiki-Jutsu. Penaungnye, Morihei Ueshiba ataupun lebih dikenali sebagai Osensei adalah seorang pendekar yang agak hebat. Dari kecil beliau telah mendalami beberapa seni bela diri Jepun dan semasa zaman mudanya telahpun mencabari dan bergelut dengan ramai pendekar2 lain di Jepun.  

Tatkala beliau bertemu dengan Sokaku Takeda pula, beliau telah juga menemui kekalahan pertama beliau dalam dunia pertempuran. Langsung beliau terus belajar dengan Guru Takeda yang ilmunya dipanggil Daitoryu Aiki Jutsu. Sememangnya Daitoryu Aikijutsu adalah suatu seni bela yang tinggi ilmunya. Ia diturun melalui keluara Takeda yang telah bertahun2 menjadi pahlawan seorang Shogun di Jepun. Maka ilmu ini boleh dikirakan sebagai ilmu bangsawan. Manakala ilmu berentap yang diamalkan orang ramai di Jepun adalah ilmu Jujitsu, Karate, Sumo dan ilmu2 senjata yang lain.  

Perbezaan ilmu tinggi dan ilmu umum ni lah yang membuatkan Sokaku Takeda seorang pendekar tak terkalah di Jepun. Ilmu hebatnya adalah Aiki. Aiki ini jika dilihat, bermaksud Harmony. Pendekatanya adalah mengguna tenaga lawan. Jika diteliti lebih lanjut, Aiki ini akan menuju ke suatu pemahaman yang lebih halus iaitu mengenal diri dan sikap menyerah.  

Sememangnya itulah yang terjadi apabila Osensei menemui jalan yang mendekatkannya ke alam agama. Osensei sehabisnya pembelajaran Daitoryu, sempat bertemu dengan penaung agama OmotoKyo iaitu Deguchi. Dia mendapat hidayah di sana, langsung beliau menukar nama perguruanye kepada Aikido. Dimana Aikido adalah agak lain dari Daitoryu tetapi masih mempunyai rangka2 yang sama seperti asal-usulnya.  

Aikido adalah satu seni bela diri yang pada asasnya tidak mementingkan kekuatan atau kepantasan untuk menangani lawan. Pada peringkat awal, murid akan diajar prinsip latihan yang mementingkan kesatuan badan, hati dan minda. Selepas itu, teknik2 Aikido yang agak mirip Jujitsu akan diajar. Selepas itu, barulah kaedah Aiki akan diwujudkan didalam pembelajaran.  

Sewaktu membina Prinsip Aikido didalam latihan, murid itu akan mendapati kuasanya akan bertambah. Ini kerana, pada masa dulu, mungkin badan kita tidak ada kordinasi dengan minda seolah-olah orang yang cuba membuat pelbagai benda sekali gus langsung tak mampu untuk selesaikan satupun kerjanya. Selepas latihan penyatuan badan, minda dan hati, murid itu akan lebih fokus dan pergerakannya lebih mantap.  

Teknik Aikido yang berasaskan Jujitsu pada mulanya akan mementingkan kedudukan dan fokus kepada mengambil keseimbangan badan lawan. Mungkin pada awalnya, latihan ini akan menggunakan banyak tenaga dan juga pergerakan yang besar. Selepas latihan lanjutan, maka pergerakan pelatih akan mula menjadi lebih kecil dan sedikit, langsung ia akan mengurangkan perluan tenaga dan kepantasan.  

Selepas ini barulah pelatih akan mula memahami asas Aiki. Aiki ini juga terdapat beberapa peringkat latihan. Sewaktu Osensei telah matang dalam latihannya, terdapat ramai pendekar2 yang cuba mengujinya. Antaranya adalah seorang samurai yang mengguna pedang hidup untuk melawan Osensei yang tiada senjata. Namun setelah sekian lama mencuba, orang itu tercungap2 tetapi langsung tak dapat menetak Osensei. Peristiwa yang lain, mendapati beberapa askar cuba menembak Osensei dalam satu pertunjukan Aikido. Osensei mengelak ketiga2 tembakan itu dengan selamat. Bila ditanya. Osensei bilang bahawa dia hanya menyerah dirinya ke Pencipta. Badannya bergerak secara harmony dengan dunia dan alam. Maka disinilah satu2 bezanya latihan Aikido dengan amalan yang lain.  

Aikido memerlukan pelatihnya membina kesatuan badan, minda dan hati supaya dapat mengenal diri. Langsung dari situ, pelatih disuruh mengenal lawannya dan alam. Dan dari situ pula, pelatih harus belajar untuk menyerah diri ke alam ataupun Pencipta. Ini amat berbeza dengan ilmu bela diri yang lain, yang mengutamakan latihan untuk membina kekuatan diri sendiri. Maka pendekar2 tersebut akan menggunakan kekuatan tersebut untuk menghancurkan kekuatan lawannya.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Back from Yogjakarta Seminar


It begins with Rei. I remember a time maybe 10-20 years back there was discussion about bowing. Bowing is arcane, its against religion... all this when I was a kid trying to learn Tae Kwon Do. Now far from the half bow we do in Tae Kwon Do, I'm actually doing kneeling bow in Aikido. That's like throwing the gauntlet to all the nay sayers out there isn't it?

Rei in itself is not important as a form. Its actually about the spirit behind it. By attuning our spirit and respect we show that we have a harmonious intention to our opponents. This develops our Kokoro the first step in our journey in Aikido. Aiki no Kokoro.

We were discussing this martial spirit late into our last night there. It seems that Sensei is concerned of this gap between his first generation students and second generation students. Generally speaking, the first generation when through a trial of fire. Sensei was progressing from a hard form to a more softer style. (We don't confuse hard with 'powering through' a technique though, keep that in mind). The second generation saw the soft, liked it and believed that Aikido is all soft and wishy washy. To make matters worst, Sensei's 'soft' Aikido really works and it looks like magic. So everyone clamoured around and tried to be 'sof't' and found that their Aikido doesn't really work that well.

The truth is, behind the softness of Aikido when Aiki is manifested, underneath is a core of strong Budo spirit. This spirit accepts death, accepts violence, accepts conflict and manifests harmony. Harmony here is often confused with the images of graceful angels on clouds and sunny sandy beaches. We forget that nature is the true harmony and that mankind is the true discord. A tidal wave is every bit harmonious with the world, notwithstanding the thousands of lives that are lost within its awesome rage. Therefore in our practice of Aikido, we are soft on the outside but our mind/spirit is strong and powerful. We send out our intention not to over power, but to harmonise. When we harmonise, our enfold our opponents center we become the point of the hurricane. Calm, centered and tranquil. Yet on our fringes, the power rages. It does not pull, shove or struggle... it cuts a swath through natures trail.

Aikido no Genri is the 2nd stage. We learn the principles here. Center, relax, feeling ki, extend ki. The core behind whatever we do must have the principles guiding it.

Aikido no Waza is the 3rd stage. We start with Kihon. We do Kihon not because this is what we will use. But we use it to train our principles. We start with Big motion, but at each movement we understand the connection, the chushin, the kuzushi, the maai and we use awase, musubi, ki no nagare to achieve this. From the Big becomes the Small. Osensei said that the power is in the spiral with no outer limits and no inner limits. As it becomes bigger and bigger, it disappears but does not end. When it coils inwards, it continues beyond the single point and even then keeps spinning. Similarly we can project ourselves to be Big so that we enfold our opponents and our surroundings, we can also become small, so small that we are a little point in ourselves that others cannot catch hold of, yet sucks them into this black hole.

Aikido no Chikara is the 4th stage. Here we develop power. The power comes at various levels. You have body power, you have power coming from technique and leverage and timing, you have positional power and etc. You also have Ki power, the power of mind and spirit. Aikido will reveal itself when you no longer wish to fight. If you want to fight, fight. Bring out the spirit of fighting. Fight for you life and others. But do not think to do Aikido. When it comes to the point where you wish to not fight anymore. You feel you need not stoke the ego anymore, and you wish fervently to not harm your opponent, your true Aikido power will manifest.

Takemusu Aiki. The last stage. Where your Aikido is the will of the universe. You will transcend Katsu no Hayabi. The technique of here and now. You will past mushin munen. You will only Be.

I've written before but it needs reminding, Aikido is to surrender yourself. To surrender your ego. To hold a spark in your heart and protect that spark from becoming a raging flame. Yet that spark defines who you are, a servant to God or as Osensei defines it, Universe/Ki/Kami.

In the last session we had, sensei compressed all the beginning stages of practising Aiki. He started with Tai Atari. Tai Atari requires nage to inflict his power into uke, or receive power from uke. Using a combination of Receiving and projecting (or bouncing), Tai Atari is used to control and take opponents balance/center. The flipside is, a sensitive person can take control of the Atari and use it against you too.

The next is Tai no Awase. Actually sensei split Awase into 3 steps. Tai no Awase, Ashi no Awase and Sabaki no Awase. With Awase it creeps very close to musubi. But Awase is body moves the mind. Whereas Musubi is mind moves the body. Awase is much softer than atari. You start with forming your contact to 'fill' uke's body. Find the exit point and bring his body and mind there. In Ashi no Awase, my most vivid moment is 'capturing' uke's center before he reaches that point in his movement. Important thing to not forget is the constant sending out of ki and connection to uke.

Musubi, we started to practice only Ki no musubi. The 1st level. The easiest exercise was sorewaza. Extend the ki first. Once we can feel the connection, extend more but do not move the hands. We can then manipulate the 8 characters of Aiki.

Obviously, there's too much to write down. But important thing to remember is that in practising Aiki we use the Right side of the brain or the creative part. Just like our Logic side will never understand the value of abstract painting, it will also never understand Aiki. Aiki is the technique of using power of Universal Harmony. Most people lump it under Internal Strength and that is why it becomes misleading. I too am often confused. After discussing with sensei and demonstrating grounding and uprooting using the earth, center and uke connection, sensei says this is not the way of Aiki. He demonstrated that DR has this technique as well and showed me the difference. When compared there and then between Aiki grounding/extension and Internal Strength grounding/extension the latter somehow feels more invasive.

The big difference is also in that IS practitioners develop and own the Ki they use onto others. Whereas, Aiki practitioners train to bring their body in harmony with Universal power. I'm only writing this down as a reminder to myself and not to judge. You will encounter people with tremendous IS and they can do wondrous things, but it is different to Aiki as we understand it. If you seek to master that, then you need to find a different training method because Aikido will not help you there. Another aspect of mastering Aiki is that it becomes truly unconscious. You do not need to be aware of opponents and direct your ki to affect him. Osensei's power was unconscious. His sense of being permeates his surroundings so much so that none of his students could find 'openings' in his defence. 

The one thing I want to remind myself in practice is to continuously extend Ki. This is very very important. And to extend Ki, one needs to be relaxed. If we do not extend Ki, we cannot achieve awase, musubi or any meaningful resolution.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The various hand positions in kamae

I've wondered about these various hand positions and today after watching videos of Yamaguchi sensei doing tachiwaza but with a bokken in hand could this possibly be the answer.

We have many ways of offering our hands for katate dori. Besides the hanmi aspect and the height aspect of jodan, chudan and gedan, we also provide an alignment of the hands. 3 of which appear distinct.

1. Thumbs up fingers towards uke's throat/upper hara.
2. Thumbs down fingers towards uke's center/dantien.
3. Palms down/palms up.

I wonder if 1 is when we are imagining holding a ken or jo and if 2 is when we are drawing our weapon from the saya.

Some senseis have disdain on the palms up and down version and some have equal disdain for version 1. Each provide their own reasoning. One thing I've noticed however is that when we trained with weapons last night, it was easier for the beginners to find the chushin connection with uke. Even though we constantly remind ourselves to feel that when doing tachiwaza, it appears as if they totally lose the integrity of that thought without a weapon in hand.

Certainly when imagining the weapon in hand, the hand alignment is important with regards to what technique we are doing. It appears entirely inappropriate to cut up if our hands holding the imaginary weapon doesn't really allow for a realistic cut in that direction. Equally important is our ability to transfer our 'weapon' between hands to accomplish certain techniques. Visualising that really identifies each hand's unique role during the application of the technique. If say for example a sayo undo with a 'jo', we are using the alignment of the jo and our chushin to affect uke's center and not for example to sweep his head aside then the technique appears effortless. But a slight change in how we grasp the 'weapon' we could have our lower hands stab uke's center with a wakazashi and now the dynamic changes the sayo undo, it feels different but retains its effortless effectiveness.

Just a random thought of the day...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Friday and Sunday Training Digest

We are repeating our previous methodology. To train the basics before attempting further development in the Aikido syllabus.

In both classes, we now have skipped the weapons training. Instead we are focusing on the Aiki Taiso. This time we are training our body to accept load on the hips and transfer the power of uke into the ground. We are creating a path through our legs, our hara and into our hips that are in contact with Uke's power.

We are mindful not to brace our leg or push against uke's power. In the mind, we are receiving the power and giving it the earth. We are also accepting the earth and giving uke its power.

Subsequent levels of training are we have uke push on the shoulder and from the front. We then offer a hand in hanmi and have uke push and pull the hand. Now as we begin to get comfortable with this load and channelling the power into earth, we start training to extend the power from the earth into Uke, specifically into his center.

Offering the hand we start by receiving uke's power and channelling it to earth, then taking earth and giving it to Uke, entering him. He is now uprooted, then we continue this connection and enter into tenkan. We then extend or lead uke forward. We are careful not to lose connection when entering tenkan, and not to pull when leading. We then drop our center and uke's hand downwards (not pull or push) and circle upwards . Our hands are still held on by uke, we have it in alignment and not crossed. From there our other hand holds onto Uke's hands and the other hand slides into Uke's elbow. We now drop our weight onto uke's hand and bounce him down.

We practice a few of this and then compare it to a typical version of ikkyo. Here we shift stance as uke grabs. Our hand does not move only our feet which brings us offline. Our center faces uke, but uke faces an empty space. We cut with our other hand as if cutting uke's center but sliding into his profile. The cut does not cross uke's arm but slides by it. We drop center and get kuzushi. Uke's kneed should buckle slightly. Now we enter behind uke and rotate his arm. This time, our main hand rotates his elbow and torque his shoulder downwards.  Our center is behind this rotation and spears into the ground. The feedback is, this method is forceful compared to the previous.

We now look at how we enter or offer our hands into uke. We revisit irimi movement, and we look at atemi in not a purely striking version. But typical of how we offer our hands to uke. With irimi movement and the earth power added in. We compare this to a normal strike and see its power but not the violence of a strike. We also understand as we move into uke, and he takes the impact and grabs the hand, we connect with him into the prescribed 'kata' movement.

We also tried to experiment with shomen and tsuki strikes. To use downpower as generated by our body weight or earth.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Training Notes

We didn't do much variation today. It was all about practising what we've been doing in the past.

Gyaku hanmi Ikkyo

Nage extends ki into Uke's center. Neither pushing or pulling. Go into Tenkan.
Doing tenkan using center to move not the legs or body to initiate.

On tenkan, now using center, move Uke's center forward.
As he moves forward drop down using the feeling from our Aiki Taiso practice. Bring up the hands and extend
Ki to uproot Uke. Do not focus on releasing the hand but just keep the connection. Don't push Uke's hands up but just extend through the mind.

When dropping the hand initially, it is a feeling of letting go and leading at the same time, but not pulling Uke's hands. Then like a wave, you bounce up as Uke gives a resistance as a reaction to the drop.

Now at the top position, we did 2 exercises. One feel for resistance and bounce Uke's power down and down. The 2nd, initiate the upwards motion into his center and bounce down from that. To test, initially use force to bring uke down. Familiarise with the feeling of uke's resistance. As you bounce the power up and down, the leading hand serves as an outlet for dissipating uke's energy.

After doing this to practice Chushin, leading, dropping and extending ki. We did the familiar technical ikkyo.

Change feet position to ai hanmi but off center. We are facing uke but uke is now offline. When we shifted to the side, our hands did not move. Give no indication to uke. Now the cut is very fine. We do not cross uke's hands but cutting just to his side profile. Although physically we are cutting the side profile, our intention is still cutting Uke's center. The cut starts with extension of ki into Uke and then cutting in back to you.

As uke drops or his knee collapses, we cut upwards and forwards. Our top hand rotates uke's arms downwards, our bottom hand rotates power into the arms. Its either an elbow or shoulder break. Feel the resistance on uke and compare the feeling with our first technique.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Knowing, Understanding and Forgetting...

There is no secret in Aikido.

Really. If you think that all those magical aiki thing that Sensei's all over are doing is a secret than you are probably setting up yourself for a big disappointment. The truth is, everything we need to know about doing those 'Aiki' things is right there at the beginning. At least that's what they told me... :P

No seriously. Its taken me a long time to grasp an idea of what Irimi means. So all this things said like Kokyunage is a 10 year technique, Ikyyo is a 20 year technique, I don't really know what to make out of it. Its not like grade school. You graduate after 6 years and are expected to know how to speak and write, a little bit of history, some maths and sciences and occassionally paint a picture without making it look like an accident. But giving a time stamp on an Aikido technique or principle is basically saying that maturity of the mind requires 10 years of living. Not exactly precise isn't it what with Shane proving that no matter how many years you live, he'll still be a kid.

Here's the thing. Aikido is not something you can learn. Its not something that can be taught. Its something that you have to experience/live through. You can learn and teach Aikido 'techniques' yes that's true. And you can spout its principles until your mouth runs dry, true as well. You can describe all sorts of things, yet it is not Aikido until you experience it. Hence, for us we must already have this in our minds.

Why do I do this? Well, simply said... no one did it for me. It took me sometime to get that understanding and only because of help from teachers who came when they did. For all I know, in their absence I might have just continued in my ignorance for years to come or I might have come to an understanding all on my own. Regardless, I try to put it out in the open so that you have a choice that you can make. To understand ahead of time, or to go through the paces and hope understanding comes.

The only caveat here is that, now that the carrot is out in the open you still have to catch it. Meaning, I may have said something out loud. It doesn't mean its true until you have experience it. And that my friends will take however much time it takes.

Same thing with Aiki. Its there in the beginning. For some teachers, they want you to follow by rote what they do because that's what they have learned. Sometimes they have intuitive understanding but can't teach it, sometimes they have no understanding but ride along with it. Still there are some that know the theory and are unable to achieve it. Whatever the case may be, first we must know the basic underlying principles of what works and how its suppose to work. The how here is, Aikido employs natural forces. It seeks harmony thus it is 'Alive'. You have to practice Aikido like you wield a dual edged sword. To cut your opponent forcefully, you will cut yourself more. Only by moving with your center and uke's center with it, you will cut neither yourself nor him. You cut away conflict not each other.

The why is Aikido is about peaceful resolution. Not about self defence or destruction, but peaceful resolution. To achieve this in your Aikido class you must keep this in your mental state at all times. If we train to paint with watercolours, we do not use crayons or worse a typewriter. So if you wish to train for a peaceful resolution, you don't train to crank someone or throw them around. It helps to understand fighting because it gives you insight, but it doesn't require a knowledge of fighting. Many people will argue against this. I have said before that Aikido is martial. But there are many levels of martial. The highest level is winning without defeating. How can that be achieved if our only way of winning is through fighting?

How does knowing all this help you in your Aikido techniques? Well, it won't help with the form one bit. But it will form your core. Practising the outer form is necessary and to all intents and purpose it can start from hard to soft or vice versa. As long as your core spirit is true than it doesn't really matter. What that means is, you can practice Yoshinkan style, Iwama style, Yamaguichi's style, Endo's style, Takeda's style, Nishio's style, Aikikai hombu's style, Sensei Hakim's style... and in the end, the outer form is just that. Your dress. You and your spirit have to firmly, joyously, wholeheartedly embrace the Aikido way before you achieve true Aiki.

Achieving this state means you will realise your true self. Funnily enough, it took Silat to open my eyes about spirit and intent. It also showed my maai and entering. All those principles in Aikido, and after 10 years I had to see it through a different lens. Even so, Silat has a different principle overriding it. At least in the form. Though its meaning itself is peace (silaturahim), its nature of conflict resolution leaves something to be desired at least for me. That is why time and time again, I get drawn back to Aikido. At my level, Silat will definitely hurt the attacker. That is why they forbid you to use it unless necessary. But this is meaningless in the achievement of peace if you cannot use it without hurting people. I know intuitively that they can do better but having had no opportunity to see such a master at work, I cannot carry this art as my primary way. Since I have since the possibility in Aikido, I have adopted it as my path for now.

So once you have all this knowing and understanding, does that mean your journey is over? Happily enough its not over. Why do see Osensei's Aikido change so much over the years. Do we believe that in his old age, his Uke's don't really have a high opinion of him thus they give him chance when attacking? Contrary to that, by all accounts his power grew as he aged and they really did attack him to their best ability. His outer form has gone soft, but his core is stronger. When you attack yourself, you will lose. Such is Osensei's ability to be one with you that attacking him ensures you have lost before anything has happened.

So if we understood chushin and can now control uke's center we now need to forget it and look for musubi at Tai atari. After achieving musubi and being able to control uke in the flesh, we need to forget it and learn ki-musubi and kokoro-musubi. Connecting at that spiritual level, we now need to forget it and just be One again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday and Saturday training Digest

On Friday we worked on tai and ashi sabaki. This time around, Uke follows up with a 2nd or third attack after the initial contact (katate, shomen etc). Generally we are training irimi the entire time.

The big point here is how Irimi is done. We are trying to show that Irimi is not about moving forward. It can be an inch, or more or even less but Irimi is entering. The entering is done using the whole body. Today we were looking at Gyaku irimi to the outside and Aihanmi irimi to the inside. In both, nage's closest feet will have his big toe as the focus point and directed towards Uke's chushin. The movement inside and outside as mentioned before is minute, maybe 2-3 inches to begin with and we gradually whittle it down to as little as possible.

For the hands we remind ourselves not to stop the power but to receive it. The hands are actually doing atemi so is the mind. Its hard to grasp this idea of receiving power from Uke like its a gift to us and also thinking about atemi as a strike. So don't think atemi as a strike, instead think atemi as our gift to uke as well. But give it to his mind. Its almost like an imposition but not to that extent. Work on his eyes as a door to the mind but not to fixed our intent there. Much like a punch has to go through an object to achieve power, otherwise if we keep our mind at the target, the punch's power will dissipate there.

The second thing we trained on is vibration and amplitude. In the ikkyo position we have nage forcefully push uke down and then we compare it by bouncing him. Using his rebound at the peak to bounce him into a bigger amplitude until he caves quite naturally. This is a very crude way to train but its a start.

We try to apply this feeling now as uke comes to grab us again and again. Then we tried a simple experiment of 0 power. Uke grabs nage's wrist. Nage tries to wrench it away. Now nage puts 0 power into that hand and using his other hand slaps his hand away from uke. Applying ateru if possible, if not possible using the feeling of bounce. It should be very easy to release the hand this way. We remind ourselves that the Kobjutsu school emphasises movement without tension. While we have never been trained that way, we must try to move without tension. A simple lesson that sensei has taught is in the aihanmi katatetori. We move our center to the hand and not the hand itself because we don't want uke to feel the tension. However for beginners, this application is not martial. Just training of moving uke's center.

In order to help train the martial aspect we then have uke grab strongly. First we feel moving uke using force from the hands. Then we feel moving uke using our body weight dropping. Now we try to keep tension out of the hands, and extend a connection into uke. Now we try to drop out weight into Uke directly. Using the hands as a bridge. The with this exaggerated movement, we try to capture its feeling and put it into Uke each time he grabs aihanmi. As he grabs, we pour forth that feeling and then we irimi as our center closes in to our hands (like sensei's movement). By doing that action at the grab, we enhance the martial value of our training. This is because we have enacted kuzushi on uke before bringing our center close. Otherwise, we'll be moving into uke's strike.

On Saturday we practiced irimi again. Using ryotedori as our primary exercise. We didn't do a technique just a simple stretch. The emphasis is again we do not extend our hands to be grabbed. In ryotedori we want to feel that our hand atemi's uke but we allow this to be grabbed. As uke grabs, we irimi outside and bring our hands down. Here hands are not pulling. Its more like a natural drop without tension. Done right uke will lose balance. Done wrong he will feel a pull and resist. There is an element of timing here as well. In the initial contact our atemi has intruded his mind thus when he grabbed the hand it is at his disadvantage. When bring out hands down we are also doing it together with our irimi movement. Thus whilst we don't have tension in our hand, we do have power because of the unity in our movement. Now as uke has lost balance we move again and offer our other hand. In reality this is an atemi. If uke doesn't grab the hand, he will get an elbow to the face. So uke grabs hard to prevent this from happening.

Here we remain static for awhile to practice a couple of things. First we do it with force. Next we bring our hands to the center just like the our aiki exercise at the start. Our hands are rounded and relaxed with ki extended. We then make a circle with our hands to that the tip of our fingers touches a foot away from our forehead. We don't carry uke's hands we just make the circle. Be careful about how uke's grips are affected. The focus is leading. Thus if we make it awkward for uke to hold on, we'll be pulling him instead. Uke must feel a natural grasp throughout.

Then we pivot one hand up and one down. We must keep connection with uke here. Any pushing and pulling will mean that uke will let go. Once we have him facing out and we are positioned behind him, we keep our fingers pointing towards him and extended. Then we step back and invite him down. Done right uke will have no choice but to fall down. This is hard to do. Its also a great exercise to with complete beginners. They don't have the conditioned mind of not letting go. Thus you can get an honest feedback when a complete beginner doesn't let go of his hands when you invite him to fall.

We redid our acceptance of strikes. This time we used a tanto. We show that if try to move the tanto with our hands, we get cut. If we stop the hand, we get punched or kick. Thus we learn to accept the knife as a gift and inspect it and return it to uke. This lesson is not about knife fighting. Its about learning to accept a weapon as a gift and not be scared doing that. We do not shy away from a handshake. Nor do we stand there waiting for the hand shake to happen. We move into the hand shake. Its a mutual greeting. Thus we want to cultivate this feeling of mutual gifting and acceptance in our minds.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Now we've basically heard Sensei mentioning surrender many many times during his lectures. However, I think most of us probably have no clue what surrender actually means. Since the meaning is deep and I probably don't understand half of it lets begin with acceptance instead.

On Friday we trained a few move sets to begin to understand the concept of acceptance. We started with a bokken. Holding the bokken with our fingers, we accept its weight. We don't only accept the weight on our hands but we accept it willingly with our center. We have now made the bokken 'ours'.

By loosely shaking our center we begin to move the bokken. We don't shake the bokken with our hands per se although it would look like it. Think about it for a moment. We've made the bokken 'ours'. Its part of the body now. So move our center to move the bokken. We start with shaking it up and down because this movement is very subtle and 'unforced'. Then we try to translate that feeling still further by doing shomen cuts. Then so that we don't get tie the feeling too much to just shomen movement, we do some diagonal cuts upwards with movement. Then we do a full barai and cut. All the while, we are trying to move with center and make it a very natural.

Next we practiced tenchi nage. Now instead of doing what we do typically i.e. Doing tenchi nage on someone, we instead try to learn to receive the tenchi nage instead. Doing tenchi nage the 'normal' way we will be using principles of motion and leverage to achieve kuzushi. So uke's leading leg will be where we will bring his weight down. This acts to make his leading leg heavy and move his balance to where there's a missing brace i.e. the space behind his leg. The other hand we bring upwards thus now with two different directions, uke's balance and power is splayed apart. But even though we can do this efficiently or quickly or powerfully, it doesn't detract from the fact that we are forcing this tenchi nage on uke.

For it to be natural for uke, we want to receive his power and connect with it making it ours. We now raise a hand and rotate it with our center, it can be either hand irrespective of uke's hanmi. Our hands and uke's hands are aligned so that it is very comfortable for him to hold on to you. The other hand mirrors our top hand but is centered below our navel. again it is alligned with uke's but instead of tip to tip like our top hand, it is joined in one direction (like a tenkan hand).

Now through the top hand we 'enter' uke's center, and the bottom hand cut's uke's center. Both power spirals in the same direction. Not linearly but in a circular fashion. In each case we are reminded not to collapse the hand or move uke's hands away from us. All we're doing is to keep extension and connection with uke. The movement is powered by our center and not our limbs. In this manner, uke drops gracefully to the ground making it seem to be effortless.

On Friday we stopped at that level and began to explore irimi nage the three different methods practiced by sensei. In each case irimi becomes much more than an entry movement that is purely physical.

In the first method, we are joining uke's shomen upwards. As we enter into uke, the force of his hands is joined by ours going up. But the power doesn't end there instead it has the feel of an arc that will come back down upon Uke. Only thing is, nage shouldn't force this into uke, intead allow gravity to make its point. The first method is useful to train this mentality of accepting a strike instead of stopping it or just redirecting it. If we try to push uke's force upwards, this force will come down on us heavily. Just as true, if uke were to punch instead of giving us a shomen to work with. If we try to push the punch upwards, we are likely to get hit instead. The idea of accepting the force and going up together requires us to scrape our reflex to move people and instead learn to move with them.

In the 2nd method, we now rotate our center much like we did with tenchi nage. Now instead of going into uke. We stay our ground. But we rotate our center and our hand together. Meeting uke's strike as it comes to hit us and letting it pass us. We do not pull, push or collapse our hands. Just extend, connect and rotate. Uke will lose his balance past us.

In the 3rd method which I describe as the hardest we actually have to do a side irimi movement. Irimi does not necessarily mean movement forward. Sometimes, a side movement allows us to enter better thant a forward movement. Thus we do a side movement (the same side that is attacking us.) we enter and cut. So it will look like a typical ashi sabaki movement, nage facing uke in a diagonal position, uke is looking past nage in a straight line. But again, the entry is through a non physical connection and must occur before the strike is concluded. Only then are we able to be 'one' with uke but fully in control. If we advance to the side and cut uke's shomen, the position is a stalemate. Even though we are facing him and he is not, and even though our hands are above his, uke can keep attacking because we are still two seperate units. All he needs to do is adjust his positioning. This is why the third method is the hardest. Because it is very easy to do it only physically and its also hardest to get a connection because unlike the first two methods where we can adjust the connection as we physically meet each other, the 3rd one requires us to connect with uke beforce contact is made.

On Saturday we explored further the idea of acceptance. By receiving an attack like it is a gift for us. Instead of stopping it forcefully or avoiding it, we learn that when we receive a gift from uke, it is ours to do with as we wish. Thus we see how different it is to move uke when we take his hand as a gift instead of pulling or pushing it as we will. This concept is easiest to grasp when we keep calm and not think about reacting. Instead to be have as if it is a normal occurance for people to punch you when they see you. Its perfectly a fine way to greet somone and we have to honestly believe that. Then we must welcome him with a hug or a handshake and with that feeling we will be able to understand acceptance.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Walk before you run

Too often we forget to take those baby steps. A decade long research conducted in joint venture with a BBC production traces the life of a group of babies from the pregnancy stage till childhood. These types of research is not new in the West. Previously, a study was conducted that traced High IQ kids right through their lives to try and make sense of how IQ is related to success in life (they aren't, at least not all of it). One such research comes to mind. In this particular research, they found a group of adults who have painful social skills, or minor disorders especially when it comes to confidence and inferiority complex. They discovered that it was somewhat related to the fact that these adults had never really learned to walk the way other toddlers walked. In fact they mostly skipped the crawling and falling down stage. Instead, they were advanced through the process by using walking aids.

As a result, these toddlers gained muscle and strength on their legs faster and walked earlier than the 'natural process' kids. But researchers later found out, that because these toddlers didn't go through the process of crawling, standing up and falling down they have this fear of failing and also the inability of picking themselves up from disappointment. Apparently, this physical development conforms the child's psychological development as well.

Long story short, the researchers had the adults relieve this part of growing up again. Lo and behold, they had a high percentage of success to get the adults over their pschological illnesses.

Now... last night we took a step back. Last night instead of training the basics of aiki we got back to training our center and extension. The reason is simple. Everyone wants to do what Sensei does. Touch a person, and that person flip flops all over the place. Its cool, I'll get respect that way, or no one is going to touch me now! I'm thinking all those things too... but remember this. Sensei isn't about teaching magic tricks. And aiki tricks is not going to really help you except in demos with your friends and victims.

To learn a bit of aiki tricks, all you need is perseverance. You definitely won't get everything, but you'll get something. And that something maybe enough to convince you that things are going to plan. Unfortunately, that's not going to be the case. In everything there is a base and if your base is hollow, those walls are going to tumble down one day. Soon even.

So what are the basics? Well, the 4 principles of aikido which we have mentioned time and time again. But which we haven't really focused the training on. Yes, its true we have done it from time to time. Its just not enough to do it once a month. Because at the end of the day its like learning to move again. You didn't learn to walk in one day, it took you months. It started with the crawling, the standing up, the scooting, the falling and the the stumbling walks before you got to this walking around thingey.

The training we are doing now, to develop the center and extension is your brand of crawling and scooting. So make sure you do it every day. Otherwise, if you come to class each week and ask me how to feel center, I won't be able to help you. After all, no one taught you to walk but yourself.

So to recap the things we did:
1. Funakogi Undo - stand in hanmi. keep center and relax your body. Do not let your hands flip flop but have some feeling of extension in them. Move your center forward, to move your body and hands. Your body and hands are one unit. As you move your center back, your body and hand follows. Things to avoid are moving your hips, moving your bottoms, moving your hands independantly, stiffening your shoulders and other joints. Breath in and out naturally. You can time it to the movement.

Remember with Funakogi undo, the weight of your body sits on the balls of your feet or your big toes. But do not lift the heels. Just do not rest your weight there. Some people can try to derive power from the ground path. For now just link your center to your feet and move the center. Later you can try to generate power from the ground into the center into the hands and outwards. That will be the basis for you to do the 'wave' and also 'atemi'. Remember that the atemi showed was not a physical strike but it does penetrate uke.

2. Sayo undo. Hands to the side and the knees closest to the hands bent. The other leg is straight. Weight is evenly distributed and still on your toes or balls of the feet. Use your center to move side to side, not the legs or the hips. Your hands and body as one unit as you do the bending down. This is to get into your mind to not move your hands or tilt the body independantly. Instead, you are lowering your center down to move them down.

Remember how we used this to enter someone trying to knee us. Or to move freely and let the knees drive past us. This can only be done if you don't go up or down using your legs or body. Because uke is holding on to you and he can feel your body move that way. Using your center to move, your body moves as a unit and its harder for uke to react. It also makes it very light.

3. Tekubi Kosa Undo. Standing naturally feet shoulder length, arms loose and all parts of the body relaxed. Your body weight now extends into your fingers, you bring the hands to your center and out and in again side to side.

At any point, ask a partner to lift your hands up. If they can't and you're not exerting any power nor are you stiffening your shoulders, then you are doing it right. Remember the scooping pendelum motion used here.

4. Tekubi joho kosa undo. Same stance but this time the hands are swung in front of your face.

5. Ude furi undo. (actually this name is for another exercise that requires you to move, but its the same principle) Same stance. Now put one of your hands in front of you and the other one behind you. Using your center swing them around and back again. Hands are relaxed and extended but try to make sure its just loose for now. Shoulders do not move. Hips do not move. Don't sway your body. Initially you will be using the muscles around your navel to move your hands. When you get better, this physical aspect will diminish over time.

5. Ushiro Tekubi Tori Kotai Undo. Stand naturally, hands come up using center close to your body, palms down infront of you but the extension goes up. One leg steps back hands extend forward in line with your back (like bowing).

This trains your hand to move up with center and extension. It also shows you that you can extend forward even though you are moving backwards. Later this will give you an idea on how movement and extension can go different directions.

6. We also did the arm raising thing and letting gravity pull it down. Letting gravity do the work creates a weight on your hands which is natural and not derived from your muscles. This is the feeling you need to carry with you when we strike or handle uke. When you work with weapons, again you move the direction of the weapon but let gravity help with the strike.

The other exercises we did reinforces the basic exercises and principles we are training.

Aihanmi katatedori. We showed the difference of using muscle power and technique to achieve kuzushi as opposed to using gravity, extension (and unbendable arm) and center to move.

From there we practiced nikkyo. Again using strength and technique we showed that uke can resist or run away. Then we use relaxed but extended arms and center to center connection we bring down uke without pain and uke finds it difficult to move his hands away.

We then did gyaku hanmi nikkyo using the same ideas.

Then we did katedori tenkan. Using the geddan version where our fingers are pointed downwards and uke grabs the wrist from the top. Scooping our hands like we are in a river and we avoid blocking the scoop by doing irimi tenkan. The scooping is done to take the water but not the mud of the river so its very light. The shape is like a pendalum and not straight lines.

We then had uke unbalanced. And now we showed that even then, pulling and pushing just gives power back to uke. So we used our center to move in a big circle. Then we stop and then moved uke again this time we bring our hands down then up our heads then down in front of us again. Done right, the feeling uke is like a yo yo with springs. Very wave like. Uke's weight doesn't bother us and uke doesn't feel as if he's being pulled down and up.

That should mostly cover everything we did in class. Not everything, but enough so that you can work on the stuff that's important.