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.