Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hakim Sensei's Seminar 28th March - a synopsis

Calling this a synopsis when I'm writing from memory is incredibly is really pushing it, so take it as you will.

We started with Kokyu training because I had to blab to everyone that they should get some last minute warm ups before the session starts, because Sensei practices budo. Budo does not wait for warm ups to be effective, but since we're going to be at it for the entire day I thought it would be best for them to do a little bit. It is in effect true but also just a snip snap of the entire reason why warms up are not practised under Sensei's typical class. Sensei explained that Kokyu training is enough because if we focus on the energy moving in us, we then also learn to relax our physical bodies more. Relaxing is the real way of preventing injuries in training. Whilst warming up but remaining tense just serves no purpose really.

From the Kokyu training we did a pair exercise. Uke remains static and resists. Nage is suppose to match uke's projected ki and lead him into ikkyo without using any strength at all. This is harder than it looks. I had quite a bit of trouble here especially since my uke was very earnest about resisting any movement. Which is good. So in the end I didn't do a full version and really led him typically in one direction and unto another because it prevented him from adjusting. Whilst that was interesting because it can be done without strength at all, it showed how weak my ability to lead another's ki if the guy knew what was going to happen. That also means that I still use a technical method in addition to ki/aiki in my normal ikkyo.

After that, the exercise was cut short. Because sensei saw everyone was struggling. It was a pity. Because Sensei always tries to evaluate his class before teaching. He thought he was going to start at kokyu because that's already pretty basic for his school. Apparently all of us suck bad. So we had to do ki projection. That's pretty much 10th kyu level exercises. So ok not all of us wearing coloured belts had a good Ki background.

Ki projection exercises were simple projecting it to the front and getting pushed from the front including arm bending. And then we projected to the back to see the difference. Then we did pushes from the side and accepting it to our hara, and then once we've established connection with uke, we move him by moving our center.

After that, we added a bit of awase by doing iriminage. But ushiro iriminage because of the space constraint.

Another aspect that Sensei touched on was how to take ukemi. I know many-many senseis talk about taking ukemi and some really mean uke must follow like a puppet. But taking ukemi here means understanding how to attack and how to receive the counter from nage. Imagine we have weapons instead of empty hands and a lot of the typical response from uke after being received by nage just becomes so unrealistic. Most times with uke ending up dead because of how we position our hands and body. Since a lot of students come without fighting background, this is a real problem that has to be addressed. Luckily enough our students have been drilled on this many times, but still lack of knowledge on my part on sword handling also means that I have much more to learn.

So if we look at it, the major components about being uke has been covered. Projecting Ki and realistic positioning.

Another skill we were taught later is Aiki Suikomi. Which is the method of grabbing nage. What I call grab is really best described as wrap. A good and effective Aiki Suikomi also allows nage total 360 control of uke. You can employ pulling aiki, pushing aiki, dissolving and etc as well but it is different. With Aiki Suikomi, uke doesn't feel that you're pulling him in one direction with force. Nage is also thinking like he's thread pulling not pulling a bull. Hard to describe, but I really concentrate on wrapping uke's essence and moving that instead of the body.

We did many things again, and running it one by one will be lengthy so I'll concentrate instead of identifying key points. One component is really about being relaxed. Relax means power. Sensei narrated an account of an arm wrestling competition in a university which was joined by none other than Kimura, touted to be the strongest Judoka ever. He was placed top 3 with none other than Gozo Shioda and another Karateka whose name alludes me. Finally the top place was to be decided between Kimura and Shioda. Kimura is a giant, and Shioda was barely 5ft tall. But Shioda not only won, but Kimura was practically thrown from the arm wrestling position. Kimura told Shioda, Aikido people are small but strong! Shioda told him, no I'm not strong I just use my Aikido.

Now, I won't suggest all you aikidoka's go arm wrestling tomorrow. Not until you master aiki of course. But here is the point. Strength is sometimes not all about muscles. Actually, static strength is probably all about muscles. But dynamic strength, i.e. strength against human beings, now that's where relaxing can come in handy. Because you're actually using relational strength with Aiki. You're forcing your opponent to divide his strength by fighting himself, thus you become stronger.

One way we practised that was to tenkan from katatedori and then to lead uke forwards by changing hands and having uke bend back wards. Hard to picture but I haven't sorted out all the pics yet.

Anyway... besides relaxing. Nage has to learn how to receive. We did that during kokyu practice. Learning to receive is understanding how to be harmonised. Doing the above exercise we are greeting uke and leading him. We don't greet and pull him or push him. Having that understanding in mind and focusing on that is better than trying to manipulate uke. Sensei observed some beginners find it easy to do whilst even some seniors cannot make headway on this.

Open your mind especially your right side of the brain. Empty your cup and just do. But do not let ego cloud your way.

Another thing that sensei mentioned is when you pick up a cup of water, what is it that you are using? Body? Ki? Mind? Intent? In effect its all 4. But Intent wills it. Mind directs it. Ki moves the body. The body picks up the cup.

Thus the most basic is manipulating the body. A better aikidoka would manipulate the ki thus reducing the effort. Even better is manipulating the mind and highest is to control the will. Practice and this becomes possible.

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