Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday night

Last night, we started the first aiki class in my friends dojo. Not that I had that much to teach. Its going to be more like a practice session for us to share and try to develop the necessary components and understanding of ki in Aikido.

To remind myself of what we have done I would like to post it as somewhat of a journal here. That way, I can remind myself what we have done so far and what more we can add bit by bit into the future.

We started of with an explanation on how to practice that night. The idea behind the practice is not to complete a waza or accomplish a throw. But it is to feel. Feeling your center, the connection and your opponents center. Being able to accomplish a finishing move is secondary.

We also described the stages of learning that we will be trying to achieve. Beginning with Chushin, Awase and then to Musubi and kinonagare.

The principles of relaxation, keeping one center, extending ki and focus is described and asked to be maintained throughout the session.

To being the weapons practice, we practiced shomen with the bokken. Using a 3 step shomen style. Grip the bokken with the fingers lightly, holding the bokken about 2-3 inches from hara and the tip pointing towards uke's imagined throat. Hands and shoulders relaxed, extend ki into the tip of the bokken. One step forward and raise bokken lightly using ki. Shoulders are down, elbows are down, the hilt is above our eyebrows and the bokken diagonally above our heads. Strike by first extending our forearms to fingers to bokken. Done properly it almost looks like we are casting forward. Regardless, the aim is to extend ki into the strike, thus we do not feel heavy hands, strength in shoulders or looking like a chopping movement. Done right it should feel light hands, heavy tip, relaxed arms and shoulders and the bokken will not point down at the end of the cut.

The first practice was jo and bokken paired practice. We did a shomen with a bokken, a side step with jo and extending center through the jo into the partners forearm without pushing or 'hitting' it. Through the jo and contact with the forearm, nage is to feel his center connected with uke's center. Uke is to provide feed back by, first indicating whether he feels pain (which is wrong), he feels being pushed (wrong), and whether he can move freely without nage being able to control/sense it. Lastly, if nage can manage it, he can try moving with chushin to kuzushi nage, take center and tenkan or take center and uproot etc.

The second practice was again paired practice. This time the emphasis is on awase. Nage with jo, slides right food to the back and puts 70% of weight to the front, leaning forward. The Jo is extended upwards into uke's throat. Contact is emphasised as pure awase with no blocking or avoiding. The goal is to achieve blending as uke raises bokken not as he strikes downwards. As the cut is complete, jo is touching the bokken lightly, chushin is felt, musubi is also felt on the weapons. Nage proceeds to advance lightly all the time with the feeling of extension. At any time uke feels force on his weapon, he can withdraw to strike. Nage proceeds to stand just parallel to uke and lightly perform iriminage.

I originally intended to continue with jo from there with nage taking uke's center through the jo he is holding. From there, I wanted to do uke tsukit nage and nage again controlling and playing with uke's center. But, seeing as this requires more indepth exposure to weapons for the new students, we left it for the future.

Next we did tachiwaza shihonage. Uke holds gyakuhammi. For omote, nage is asked to first extend his ki physically through his hands. Gradually he is asked to reduce the physical extension but maintain only ki extension. The idea is that physical extension usually limits our ki extension to the tip of the fingers. Once we have reduced physical extension, maintaining extended ki into uke's center at all times, we bring our center down lightly by bending the knees and we proceed to enter uke's space in front of him. Done right, uke doesn't feel force through his hands but he will be uprooted slightly. Keeping our connection through the hands, and maintaing our extension, we kaiten and extend our hands slightly. Uke should fall of his own accord. Nage should not cut down his hands as it is not necessary. This is to avoid physical pulling of uke. Unbalanced as he is, pulling down uke will not be too hard, but it voids our practice goals.

In ura waza, we do tenkan first. Again beginning with physical extension and then only ki extension. Bring our center near our hands with disturbing uke. Drop center and tenkan. The rest is the same. Only reminding ourselves to be slightly forward of uke throughout the tenkan. It is never past uke and our hands are never behind us but always extended in front of us.

Later we may practice shihonage with 2 hands. But for now, the main goal is to ensure we feel connection and extension of ki. I believe if we start with 2 hands as usual, nage will likely start using physics and power to move uke.

After this we experimented a bit with ateru as a taster to musubi practice and understanding aiki.

Then we did suwari kokyu. Starting with again physical extension and then relaxing into just ki extension. First nage just blends into uke and uproots then letting uke fall down. 2nd, uke is now asked to do something with nage's hands. Pull, push, pull down or spread apart. Nage must extend ki and connect with nage. Forgetting both his hands and uke's hands, feeling center alone, nage now feels where uke's center is offbalanced and moves the center there. The physical movement follows the center movement. Done right uke cannot resist this. It is not, if uke push nage pulls. It can be uke push, and nage actually returns back uke's hands towards him. All depends on where uke's center can be brought to off balance.

In the next class we may practice jo tsuki and bokken shomen with unarmed disarming. The practice will focus on awase and chushin.

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